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100,000s of Help to Buy ISAs opened in week before deadline – here's what to do if you missed out

Over 40% of Nationwide's Help to Buy ISA accounts were opened in the final week before the deadline, as a last-minute rush saw over 300,000 applications at the building society alone – but if you missed out, you can still boost your savings with a Lifetime ISA.

A Help to Buy ISA lets you save for a first home, and gives you a 25% boost from the state – worth up to £3,000 – on top of what you've saved.

The deadline to open one was 30 November, and both Martin Lewis and issued multiple reminders in the lead-up for people to open one, even if it was just with £1.

And the nagging paid off – Nationwide told MoneySavingExpert that 300,000 people applied for the account in the week leading up to the deadline, while 400,000 people in total applied in the month before. It now has around 700,000 of the ISA accounts on its books, meaning more than half of its Help to Buy ISA accounts were opened in the final month.

Other providers reported a similar surge in applications in the week before the deadline. Halifax says it had seven times the usual number of applications in the final week, while HSBC said account openings reached "unprecedented levels" – crediting press coverage about the account for the boost in numbers.

If you opened a Help to Buy ISA before the deadline, you'll be able to save into it until November 2029, and claim the bonus until December 2030.

But if you missed out on opening an account, you can still get a 25% bonus on savings for your first home or retirement with a Lifetime ISA – more on this below.

There's full info in our Help to Buy ISA guide if you managed to open one. If not, see our Lifetime ISA guide for another way to get a 25% boost towards your first home.

What is a Lifetime ISA?

The Lifetime ISA (LISA) lets you save up to £4,000 per tax year towards your first home or retirement. The state then adds a bonus of 25%, netting you up to £1,000 extra per year.

You can open one if you're between 18 and 39-years-old, and once it's open you can pay in until you're 50. So if you open one at age 18 and max it out until you turn 50, you could earn a total bonus of up to £33,000.

You can use your LISA savings for a home deposit if you're a first-time buyer, though you must be buying a property costing £450,000 or less.

Though remember the Lifetime ISA is much less flexible if you want to access your cash. If you withdraw money and it's not to spend on a first home or retirement, you'll pay a penalty that works out to a loss of 6.25% of what you contributed – you also lose the bonus too.

For full information on LISAs, including the top-paying cash and stocks & shares accounts, see our Lifetime ISAs guide.

What does Nationwide say?

Nationwide director of savings Tom Riley said: "We've seen unprecedented demand from potential first-time buyers looking to open a Help to Buy ISA before the 30 November deadline.

"While many are ready to start their journey to home ownership now by putting money aside on a regular basis, others are forward planning and opening the account ready for when they are in a position to start saving, knowing they have a decade to raise a deposit and claim the Government bonus. It's a fantastic product and it is really encouraging to see people getting into the true spirit of saving at a time when home ownership remains a distant dream for many."

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