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.
You might be asked to claim Universal Credit as a couple if you live in the same household and are:
- civil partners
- living together as if you’re married.
If you’re working
Help to Claim
If you’re claiming Universal Credit for the first time, Citizens Advice has a dedicated service to help you. Call 0800 144 8444 in England or 0800 024 1220 in Wales.
For more information and to find your local Citizens Advice go to their website
In Scotland, call 0800 023 2581, via webchat on the Citizens Advice website or contact your local branch directly during their usual business hours.
There are no limits to the hours you can work if you’re on Universal Credit.
If either or both of you are working, and you have:
- dependent children, and/or
- are sick or disabled (have limited capacity for work)
you can earn a certain amount before your Universal Credit is reduced by 63p for every £1 you earn. This is called the work allowance.
For the 2021/22 tax year the work allowance is:
- £293 a month if housing costs are included in your payment
£515 a month if there are no housing costs included in your payment.
If neither of these situations apply, you won’t qualify for the work allowance.
If one of you is claiming benefits
At the moment, if one of you is already getting any of the benefits being replaced by Universal Credit, these benefits will stop as you will have to make a new claim as a couple.
If one of you is claiming tax credits
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.
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.
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.
If you have children, your work coach will tell you your Universal Credit payment should go into the bank account of the main carer.
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.
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 might have to get used to getting a monthly payment instead if you live in England or Wales.
If you live in Scotland, you can choose to be paid twice monthly
In Northern Ireland, you are automatically paid twice monthly.
Paying your rent
In England and Wales, 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.
In Scotland, you can choose whether to pay rent to your landlord yourselves or have it paid directly.
In Northern Ireland, your rent is automatically paid to your landlord but you can choose to pay it yourselves.
If you’re now going to be responsible for paying rent 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. There are domestic abuse support officers in every Jobcentre Plus in the UK. They’re trained to help you deal with these situations and offer practical support if you’re in need.
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 5644
Textphone: 0800 328 1344
8am - 6pm, Monday to Friday (closed on bank and public holidays). Calls are free.
Read more in the guide ‘Universal Credit: further information for couples’ on the GOV.UK websiteopens in new window