How Universal Credit is paid
You’ll usually get a single Universal Credit payment every month. This will be paid directly into your bank, building society or credit union account.
If you don’t have a bank account
If you don’t have a bank account you’ll need to open one. You can read more information about getting a bank account.
If you’ve tried to open an account and had your application refused, you'll need to use the Payment Exception Service. You’ll need to explain why you can’t open a bank account. If you need more advice about opening a bank account, you can talk to an adviser.
How payments work for couples
If you make a joint claim as a couple, you’ll get one payment between the 2 of you.
You should tell the Jobcentre if you want the payments to go to one of you or be split between you. The Jobcentre doesn’t have to agree to do this.
If the payments are split, the amount you’ll each get will depend on your circumstances. You can ask for payments to be split if:
- it’s in your interest, for example because one of you has trouble managing money and it’s causing financial problems
- it’s in the interest of a child you’re responsible for
- you get an amount in your Universal Credit because you care for a severely disabled person and it’s helpful for them to get paid like this
If you're self-employed
Your monthly payment will be affected by:
- how much you earn each month
- the minimum income floor - check if it applies to you
When you’ll be paid
After you apply it will usually take 5 weeks to get your first Universal Credit payment.
You can ask for an advance payment of Universal Credit if you don't think you'll have enough money to live on while you wait for your first payment.
After you’ve got your first payment, you’ll be paid monthly on the same date as the first payment.
If you're self-employed, you'll have to report your earnings each month before you can get your payment. Find out how to report your earnings to the DWP.
You might need to budget so that your money lasts from one month to the next.
You can use our budgeting calculator to help.
If you’re finding it difficult to manage on a monthly Universal Credit payment, you can change how you’re paid.
You can ask the Jobcentre to pay you twice a month instead of monthly. You can also ask for the housing costs element of your Universal Credit to be paid directly to your landlord. These are called the 'Universal Credit Scottish choices'. Read more about the Universal Credit Scottish choices.
Paying your rent or mortgage
Some of your Universal Credit will be for your housing costs - you’ll usually be expected to pay this directly to your landlord yourself. This part of your Universal Credit payment is called a 'housing element.'
If you have a mortgage, you won’t get a housing element for mortgage repayments. You might be able to apply for a Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) loan. This can help pay for the interest on your mortgage or home loan - check if you can apply for an SMI.
In Scotland, you can ask for the money for housing costs to be paid directly to your landlord. Read more about changing how your Universal Credit is paid in Scotland.
If you’re already on Housing Benefit when you apply for Universal Credit, you’ll still get Housing Benefit for 2 weeks after you submit your claim. You won’t need to pay this back.
If you think your rent or mortgage payment will be late because you’re waiting for your Universal Credit payment, you should talk to your landlord or mortgage lender. They might agree to wait for payment if you explain the situation to them.
Help with emergency expenses
If you're struggling to get by on Universal Credit, you can get emergency help with things like food or items you need for your house - for example a bed or cooker.
If you can't get help from the Scottish Welfare Fund, you can apply for food banks in your area.
Backdating your Universal Credit
You can apply to get a Universal Credit payment to cover up to 1 month before you started your claim - this is called 'backdating'. You’ll need a good reason for not claiming earlier - if you’re in a couple, you’ll both need a good reason. For example, this could be because:
- of an illness - you’ll have to show the DWP medical evidence for this
- of a disability
- you weren’t told your Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) was going to end
- the online claims system was down, and you claimed as soon as it was working again
- you've made a new claim as a single person after breaking up with your partner - check what to do if you're in this situation
- you made a joint claim that ended because your partner didn’t accept the claimant commitment - you should now be claiming as a single person
You might not have claimed in time because the DWP told you the wrong thing. If this happens you can complain and ask for compensation.
Call the Universal Credit helpline if you want to backdate your claim.
Universal Credit helpline
Telephone: 0800 328 5644
Textphone: 0800 328 1344
Telephone (Welsh language): 0800 012 1888
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm
Calls to these numbers are free. It’s best to call from the phone number you gave the DWP when you set up your Universal Credit account. You'll have a shorter wait and be put through to the same person who handled previous calls you've made.