'I got £2,600 in expired Childcare Vouchers back': Can you reclaim lost vouchers like MSE Jenny did?
Parents could be losing £100s or even £1,000s in Childcare Vouchers because they eventually expire – and given the break in using nurseries due to coronavirus, more people than normal may have expired vouchers. Yet if this does happen, it's easy to reclaim the money. We've full help on how to check if you're affected and what to do below, plus the story of how one of the MoneySavingExpert.com team, MSE Jenny, recouped a whopping £2,600.
Childcare Vouchers are available from employers and allow parents to pay for childcare from their pre-tax income. The scheme closed to new applicants in 2018, but many people still save £100s a year by using it.
MoneySavingExpert has found that vouchers issued by one of the major providers, Sodexo, automatically expire after 30 months, and parents say they haven't been separately notified when their vouchers expire, so may not be aware unless they log in to their account. Paper vouchers issued by Computershare expire after 12 months, though there's no expiry on its electronic vouchers.
For full info on how the scheme works, see our Childcare Vouchers guide.
MSE Jenny: 'It was scary that £1,000s could be wiped off the balance'
MSE Jenny, who gets her Childcare Vouchers from Sodexo, was stunned to realise she'd lost £1,000s of vouchers after they expired without her realising.
She said: "I'd amassed quite a lot of vouchers, mainly because I didn't need to use childcare while I was on maternity leave. However, when I logged on again, I noticed that a huge chunk was missing.
"It turns out £2,652 had expired. After a phone call and email I managed to get the credit back on my account – but it was scary that thousands could be wiped off the balance without a separate notification."
Another Sodexo customer, Emma Forster, told us that she had £180 of vouchers expire last August – and again, she says she didn't see any notification of their expiry.
Emma says that after she contacted Sodexo, the firm said it would reissue the vouchers within 10 working days. She replied that she needed them sooner than that – Sodexo then reissued them that day.
If you've lost and managed to reclaim expired Childcare Vouchers, let us know at email@example.com.
How to check if you've lost expired vouchers – and get them back
Whether or not your vouchers will expire, and what to do if they have, depends on which provider issues them:
- Sodexo told us its vouchers expire after 30 months – it said this is due to the way its systems are set up to account for vouchers. It won't tell us how many vouchers have expired, however.
How to check if you've expired vouchers: Parents we've spoken to say they haven't had a separate notification when vouchers expire, so if you've been signed up to Sodexo vouchers for more than 30 months and think you may have had some expire, you'll need to log in to your account to check.
Sodexo says you'll be able to see expired vouchers on your account – but if you can't and think you've lost out, call it to check. MSE Jenny says she wasn't immediately able to spot that vouchers had expired when she first checked her account.
How to reclaim expired vouchers: Call Sodexo on 0800 328 7411. It should take a maximum of 10 working days for vouchers to be reissued and Sodexo says parents can ask for vouchers to be reissued at "any time" after they expire.
- Computershare told us its electronic vouchers don't expire, but its paper vouchers expire after 12 months.
How to check if you've expired vouchers: Here you should just be able to check the paper vouchers themselves – they will have the expiry date printed on them.
How to reclaim expired vouchers: You can replace an expired paper voucher or turn it into an electronic voucher by calling Computershare on 0370 702 0003. We're checking if there's any time limit for reclaiming expired vouchers and will update this story when we hear back.
- Care-4, Edenred, Employers For Childcare, Gemelli Employee Benefits and KiddiVouchers all told us their vouchers don't expire.
We also contacted Fair Care, Fideliti and TEDS Group, but haven't yet received a response – we'll update this story if we hear back. If you use another Childcare Vouchers provider, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What are Childcare Vouchers?
The scheme works by 'salary sacrifice'. A few generous employers will give you the vouchers on top of your normal salary, but most will ask you to do what's called a 'salary sacrifice'. This means, if you're on basic-rate tax, you give up £1,000 of salary, but after tax and national insurance, that's only worth £700ish in your pocket. In return, you get £1,000 of vouchers, so you're £300 better off.
For full info see our Childcare Vouchers guide.