Get tax credits or child benefit paid into a Post Office card account? Set up an alternative account now or your payments will stop
Around 6,600 people who get tax credits, child benefit or guardian's allowance paid into a Post Office card account need to take action urgently as HMRC will stop making payments into these accounts after 5 April. If you have an alternative account already you must let HMRC know and if not you'll need to set one up.
Below we explain what's happening and what you need to do.
If you're unsure whether you can get any benefits, use our 10-minute benefits checker to see what you might be entitled to. You can also see our guide for more info on how Tax credits work, although these are no longer available to new claimants.
HMRC will stop payments into Post Office card accounts after 5 April
The Post Office card account (see a picture of the card below) is a very restricted bank account that enables people to collect their pension, benefit and tax credit payments by having the money paid into the account and then withdrawing it in cash via Post Office branches and Post Office branded cash machines. The service was introduced in 2003.
However, Government payments into these accounts are being phased out, starting with those made by HMRC after 5 April (the initial deadline of 30 November 2021 was extended to give users more time to switch). Payments made by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will still be paid into these accounts for now – see below for more on this.
Around 6,600 people still need to give HMRC new bank account details
The three benefits paid by HMRC into Post Office card accounts are tax credits, child benefit and guardian's allowance – so if you're in receipt of one or more of these you may be impacted.
According to HMRC, as of 28 March 2022, around 6,600 people still need to provide alternative bank account details for their benefits – though more than 143,000 have already done so.
If you miss the 5 April deadline, your money will be held by HMRC and paid once you provide the replacement account information.
If you have an alternative bank account, tell HMRC to update your details now
There are a couple of different ways to do this, depending on which payments you're currently getting:
- For child benefit or guardian's allowance, you can update your details ONLINE. Just sign in to your personal tax account to submit the new details. If you don't already have a personal tax account, you can set one up on the Gov.uk website. Alternatively, you can also update your details by calling the child benefit helpline on 0300 200 3100 or the guardian's allowance helpline on 0300 322 9080.
- For tax credits, you'll need to PHONE to update your details. You won't be able to do it online. Instead, you'll have to call the tax credits helpline on 0345 300 3900.
If you receive more than one of these benefits, you don't need to update your details more than once – just call the relevant helpline and ask the advisor to make the changes for all the relevant payments.
No alternative bank account? You'll need to set one up first
If you've been using the Post Office card account for your everyday banking, you'll need to open another account so you can continue getting your payments. Here are some of your options:
- The first thing to try is a standard current account. These come with all the features you'd expect, such as debit cards, support for direct debits and standing orders and free access to UK cash machines (unless the machine itself charges). But in addition, they often offer overdrafts and may give perks such as cashback on bills, interest on credit balances or other rewards.
See our Best bank accounts guide for our current top picks. Unfortunately you won't be able to benefit from any switching incentives as the Post Office card account isn't part of the Current Account Switch Service.
- Can't get a standard account? Try a basic one. Basic bank accounts are designed for people with poor credit histories or who otherwise struggle with getting accepted for standard accounts. You get most of the same features, though basic accounts don't offer overdrafts or perks. See our Basic bank accounts guide for more on how this type of account works and how to apply.
HMRC may call to remind you to take action – but it WON'T ask for your details
HMRC says it has written to affected Post Office card account holders several times. It will also call those who haven't responded, to remind them to phone the relevant helpline or update their details online.
However, HMRC has warned that it will NOT ask people to provide their bank details over the phone when it calls them – instead, it will encourage people to contact HMRC directly via the relevant helpline or log in to their online personal tax account to change their details.
An HMRC spokesperson said: "If someone contacts you saying they're HMRC, wanting you to urgently transfer money or give personal information, be on your guard. HMRC will never ring up threatening you with arrest. Only criminals do that." See our 25+ ways to stop scams guide for more info on what to look out for, how to protect yourself, and what to do if you're the victim of a scam.
You can keep your Post Office card account open and get other benefits paid into it – for now
It's important to note that the deadline above only applies to payments from HMRC, so if you want to keep your Post Office card account open – for example, because you still have some money left in it – you can do so, for now.
Plus, if you get any benefits from the DWP, or your state pension, paid into your Post Office card account, this will continue until November, when Post Office card accounts will be closed for good. There were around 300,000 active Post Office card accounts in October 2021, according to the latest figures available from DWP.
But if you can, it's still worth making alternative arrangements now – this will minimise the risk of unexpected delays to your payments next year. If you get any payments from the DWP, you should get a letter with a form to fill out so they can be transferred to a different account. Alternatively, you can call its dedicated helpline on 0800 085 7133.
Why are Post Office card accounts closing?
The work and pensions secretary, Thérèse Coffey, told MPs in May 2021 that uptake of the accounts had been "exceptionally low" in the previous year and that she believed "the vast majority" of people using Post Office card accounts already had an alternative bank account.