How Universal Credit is paid

This advice applies to Scotland. See advice for See advice for England, See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Wales

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:

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 a 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.

If you're struggling with money

There are things you can do to save money on your regular living costs. Check what to do if you need help with living costs.

If you’re finding it hard to pay your bills, you can get help. Find out more about getting help with your bills.

Backdating your Universal Credit

You might be able to apply for a Universal Credit payment to cover up to 1 month before you started your claim - this is called 'backdating'.

If you moved to Universal Credit from other benefits because you got a ‘migration notice’ from the DWP, they might backdate your payments automatically. The DWP will usually backdate your payments if your old benefits stopped before your Universal Credit started.

A migration notice is a letter from the DWP that says you need to move to Universal Credit by a certain date. The date is 3 months after they sent the letter.

You’ll still need to ask for backdating if you:

  • haven’t had a migration notice from the DWP

  • have had a migration notice, but claimed more than a month after the deadline

Check if you can apply for backdating

You can apply for backdating after you’ve started receiving Universal Credit.

You’ll need a good reason for not claiming Universal Credit 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

Telephone (Welsh language): 0800 328 1744

Textphone: 0800 328 1344

Relay UK - if you can't hear or speak on the phone, you can type what you want to say: 18001 then 0800 328 5644

You can use Relay UK with an app or a textphone. There’s no extra charge to use it. Find out how to use Relay UK on the Relay UK website.

Video relay - if you use British Sign Language (BSL).

You can find out how to use video relay on YouTube.

Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Calls are free from mobiles and landlines.

Next steps

Page last reviewed on 19 June 2018