Live in Northern Ireland? You can get a free £100 to spend on the high street – here's how to apply
People living in Northern Ireland can get a completely free prepaid card topped up with £100 under a new 'Spend Local' scheme spearheaded by the Northern Irish Government. But you've only got until Monday 25 October to apply, and you can only spend the money in-store. Here's how the freebie works and how to get your hands on it.
To get the maximum value on the high street when you're spending your card, see our Shopping guides and tools to help you shop smarter and bag bargains.
What stores can I use it in?
The 'Spend Local' scheme has been launched as part of the Northern Ireland Executive's Covid-19 recovery programme. It's designed to boost the local economy by getting people to spend again.
The card offered is a prepaid Mastercard, which means you can use it anywhere that accepts Mastercard, which will be the vast majority of retailers. However, it's important to note that you can only use the card in-store and NOT online.
What can I spend the money on?
Almost absolutely anything – the exceptions are to pay for gambling or for some legal and financial services, such as mortgages, credit card payments, fines, insurance and vehicle tax. You also can't use it to withdraw cash.
You don't need to spend a certain amount to use the prepaid card either, and you also don't need to spend your own money on top. You can, however, buy something that costs more than the amount left on the card, but you've got to pay the difference. So don't spend above this limit unless you can afford to and were planning to do so anyway – it's not an excuse to overspend.
When do I have to spend it by?
You need to have used the balance on your card on or by Tuesday 30 November, as all cards expire on this date. Any remaining balance that isn't used by this deadline will be returned to Northern Ireland's Department for the Economy.
Who can get it?
Most Northern Irish residents aged 18 and over can get the prepaid card, with the only exception being prisoners in jail for the duration of the application process, which began on Monday 27 September and ends on Monday 25 October. To claim the card, you'll need to provide all of the following information when applying online or by phone:
- National insurance number
- Date of birth
- Disability status (specifying if you have a visual impairment)
- Email address
- Telephone number
- Driving licence number (this is optional, but will help to speed up the process)
How can I apply?
If you want to claim the £100 prepaid card, you'll need to follow either one of the two steps below:
- Apply online from now until 11.59pm on Monday 25 October: You need to manually enter your email address (don't use the autofill option) and your national insurance number via the link on the Northern Ireland Direct website.
Once you've filled in these details, you'll be sent an email with a link to continue the application. Check your junk mail or spam folders, as the email may go into these. Once your details have been verified, the prepaid card will be posted to you. You do not need an NIdirect (NIDA) account or to register on NIdirect to apply. You can apply on behalf of four people, including yourself.
- Apply over the phone from Monday 11 October until Monday 25 October. Phone lines are open from 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday: The telephone number you need to call will also be published nearer the time, and we'll update this story again once it's been made available. In this scenario, the agent on the phone will submit the application on your behalf. You can only apply for yourself over the phone.
You'll also need to activate the card once you've received it – details on how to do so will be provided in the letter you get with your card. If you have any queries on the scheme as a whole, you can call 08000 468 333.
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