If you live as a couple and you claim Universal Credit, you’ll get a single monthly payment for your household so you might need to make some changes to the way you budget. This page tells you more about joint Universal Credit claims.
How does Universal Credit affect couples?
Living in Northern Ireland or Scotland?
In Northern Ireland, Universal Credit works differently. Find out more on the nidirect website.
In Scotland, you might be offered some choices about how your Universal Credit is paid. Read our guide to Universal Credit in Scotland.
Universal Credit replaces some existing benefits and tax credits for people of working age who are either out of work or working and on a low income.
You can make the claim separately or together. If you fill out the online form on behalf of your spouse or partner you will need to enter their details too.
If you’re working
If either or both of you’re working, you might be able to claim Universal Credit if you take home less than £541 a month between you.
If one of you is claiming benefits
At the moment, you won’t be able to claim Universal Credit if one of you is already getting:
- Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
- Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- Incapacity Benefit (IB)
- Severe Disablement Allowance (SDA)
- Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
- Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
If one of you is claiming tax credits
Call the Tax Credit helpline
Call 0345 300 3900 or write to the Tax Credit Office to tell them you’re now claiming Universal Credit.
If you’re claiming Universal Credit and start living with a partner who claims tax credits, they’ll no longer be able to receive them.
This is because Universal Credit is based on household income and you can’t claim Universal Credit and tax credits at the same time.
Instead, you will both need to make a joint claim for Universal Credit.
As soon as you make the claim, the tax credits will stop and you might have to think about how you’ll manage for money until you get your first joint Universal Credit payment.
How Universal Credit is paid to couples
To receive Universal Credit payments, you will need to have a bank, building society or credit union account that can make and receive payments.
You’ll be asked to say which account your money should be paid into and this can be either:
- a single account in either your name or your partner’s name
- a joint account in both of your names.
Choosing an account for Universal Credit
Whether you decide to go for a joint account or to keep your money separate make sure that the account you choose is right for you and your Universal Credit payments.
Should you open a joint account?
A joint account can make budgeting a lot easier.
It gives you both equal control over the money but there are a few things you need to think about before you open one.
When a joint account might be a good idea
- You’re both quite like-minded when it comes to money and have similar spending patterns, habits and behaviours.
- You can agree on a budget or spending plan.
- You can talk about money with your partner without arguing.
- You can agree ground rules for spending, like when it’s OK to go ahead and buy something and when you have to discuss it with your partner first.
When a joint account might not be a good idea
- One of you has a problem with over-spending and finds it difficult to stick to a budget.
- Your partner has a poor credit history.
Joint accounts can affect your credit rating
Just living with someone, or being married to them, will not affect your credit score but if you open a joint bank account together you’ll be ‘co-scored’.
This could affect your own credit rating.
You are also jointly liable for any debts taken out in both your names. So if your partner runs up an overdraft on a joint bank account, you’ll also be responsible for paying it off.
For more things to consider when you’re deciding whether to manage your money together, see our guide Should you manage money jointly or separately?
Managing money as a couple on Universal Credit
There might be some things you’ll need to do differently when you’re on Universal Credit and you might need to make some changes.
Perhaps you get paid weekly or do your budget weekly. Under the new system, you’ll have to get used to getting a monthly payment instead.
If you get help with your rent, you’ll get an amount for housing costs in your single monthly payment.
You will be responsible for paying your landlord yourselves.
It’s worth thinking about to setting up automatic payments (like standing orders or Direct Debits) for all your regular bills after you get your first Universal Credit payment.
Draw up a household budget together if you haven’t got one already.
This will help you work out:
- how much you need to take care of essential payments
- who will be responsible for paying the bills, rent or mortgage
- how much will be left over to divide between you for personal spending.
Talking about money as a couple
Talking about money with our partners can be quite difficult to get right.
And for some of us it can even be a source of argument and frustration.
But if you approach it in the right way, and follow a few simple dos and don’ts, you’ll soon realise how much better you feel when you’ve got your family finances in order and any issues are out in the open.
If you’re worried about joint Universal Credit payments
Relying on a single joint payment might cause problems for some couples.
If you’re worried about your partner taking control of the money and leaving you without access to cash, it’s important to know this is financial abuse.
You don’t have to put up with it or suffer in silence.
If your partner has mental health problems or misuses drugs or alcohol, this could also lead to them taking money you’ve set aside for essentials or to overspending erratically.
If you’re worried about any of these issues talk to your work coach or the Universal Credit helpline and ask for an Alternative Payment Arrangement.
This could be either a:
- separate Payment – all of your Universal Credit payment goes into your account
- split Payment – your Universal Credit payment is split between you and paid into separate bank accounts.
The Universal Credit helpline
If you need help with your claim, call the Universal Credit helpline free on:
Telephone: 0800 328 9344
Textphone: 0800 328 1344
If you already have an online account and journal you should call the Universal Credit full service helpline on:
Telephone: 0800 328 5644
Textphone: 0800 328 1344
8am - 6pm, Monday to Friday (closed on bank and public holidays). Calls are free.
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