Joint Universal Credit payments for couples

When Universal Credit comes in, you’ll get a single payment for your household rather than individual payments for each of you. So you might need to make some changes to the way you budget, especially if you manage your money separately. You’ll also need to decide whether to open a joint account.

How will this affect you?

Universal Credit is being gradually introduced in stages and will replace current benefits and tax credits for people who are of working age and who are either out of work or on a low income.

If you and your partner are both eligible for the benefits that are being phased out, you will need to make a joint claim for Universal Credit. The Department for Work and Pensions will work out how much you are entitled to and you’ll get a single monthly payment for your household.

Universal Credit payments

To receive Universal Credit payments, you will need to have a bank, building society or credit union account. You’ll be asked to nominate which account to have your money 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

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 weigh up before you go ahead and open one.

When a joint account is a good idea

  • You are both quite like-minded when it comes to money and have similar spending patterns, habits and behaviours.
  • You’re able to agree on a budget or spending plan.
  • You can talk about money with your partner without it being a cause of friction between you.
  • You are able to agree ground rules for spending, for instance when it’s OK to go ahead and buy something and when you have to discuss it with your partner.

When a joint account is not such a good idea

  • If one of you has a problem with over-spending and finds it difficult to stick to a budget, it’s probably not a good idea to have your Universal Credit paid into a joint account.
  • If your partner has a poor credit history, you should think twice before opening a joint account with them. Just living with someone, or being married to them, will not affect your credit score but as soon as you open a joint bank account together you will be ‘co-scored’.

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?

Choosing an account that is suitable for Universal Credit

Whatever you decide to do – whether to go for a joint account or to keep your money separate – you’ll need to make sure that the account you nominate for your Universal Credit payments is suitable.

Find out which accounts are OK for Universal Credit in our guide Choosing a bank account for your benefit payments.

If you manage your money separately

If you currently manage your money separately, you will need to make some changes to how you organise things.

Although you don’t have to use a joint account, you will need to draw up a household budget together.

  • You’ll need to work out everything you have coming in each month, including benefit payments and other income you might get, such as wages if you’re working.
  • You then need to make a list of all your outgoings, including rent, bills, food and other expenses. It’s a good idea to set up automatic payments (like standing orders or Direct Debits) for all your regular bills.

Once you’ve taken care of all the essentials, you can then decide how you want to divide up anything that’s left over for spending.

For help getting to grips with your household budget, see our guide How to budget for a monthly benefit payment.

If you manage your money together

Even if you’re used to pooling your money and working out a budget together, there will probably still be some things you’ll need to do differently when Universal Credit comes in.

  • Perhaps you get paid weekly and/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, with Universal Credit you’ll start to get it in your monthly payment and will be responsible for paying your landlord yourself.

You can use our budget planner tool to sort out your finances and draw up a monthly budget.

Talking about money

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.

Worried about your financial independence?

If you’re worried about your partner taking control of the money and leaving you without access to cash, it’s important to know that this is actually a form of financial abuse. You don’t have to put up with it or suffer in silence.

You can talk to your Jobcentre Plus – or Jobs and Benefits Office in Northern Ireland – about having your Universal Credit payments split. In other words, you could be paid separately in exceptional circumstances, for example if you or your partner is at risk of domestic or financial abuse, or one of you has a history of addiction.

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