Government asking people to change from Post Office Accounts to Bank Accounts to receive benefits / tax credits

6th November 2017

Update to our original news post 21st October 2016

There has been a lot of confusion as to why the Government might be asking you to open a bank account instead of keeping your Post Office card account (otherwise known as a POCA).

A POCA doesn’t allow you to have things like Direct Debits, and anyone who might claim Universal Credit is being encouraged to change so that they can take advantage of Direct Debits to help them manage their money (because Universal Credit is paid monthly and includes rent payments). Universal Credit will replace Tax Credits as well as other means-tested benefits, so a lot of people will be on Universal Credit in the future.

The Money Advice Service has some helpful information:   https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/corporate/what-do-i-need-to-know-about-universal-credit-customers-ucrhub

It might be helpful to know that you don’t have to move from using the Post Office, because they also offer bank accounts. See: https://www.postoffice.co.uk/current-accounts

(End of Update 6th November 2017)

 

Below you can find information provided to Equal Lives from HM Government regarding the requested changes and an image of an letter you may receive asking you to do so:

Supporting DWP and HMRC customers into banking

Why are we asking customers to change from Post Office Card accounts to a bank account?

HM Government is offering support to help customers switch from a Post Office Card account to a bank account to manage their benefits and tax credits payments. Payment into a bank account offers considerable advantages such as reduced utility bills, when paying by Direct Debit, and access to other financial services. By supporting customers to switch to a bank account, the Government is demonstrating its commitment to battling financial exclusion. This is increasingly important for DWP and HMRC with the introduction of Universal Credit. Access to, and responsible use of, bank accounts by working age customers is a key element in this change to enable claimants to manage their full household income.

The banking world has changed since Post Office card account was first introduced. There are less barriers to prevent those on benefits from using bank accounts, including the recent introduction of fee-free basic banking for people who were previously unable to open a bank account. And for those who can’t access financial products and services through mainstream banks credit unions can offer a genuine alternative.

How are we contacting customers?

HM Government are writing to Post Office card account users in phases up to March 2018 about switching to a bank, building society or credit union account.
This is being co-ordinated through a cross-government free phone telephone service set up by DWP, which aims to support Post Office card account users switch to mainstream banking.

As this is a cross government initiative aimed at those who are using a Post Office card account, the letters are branded HM Government.

There have been reports that customers and representative organisations have concerns about the authenticity of letters being issued by the department asking for bank account details. Social media reports and other websites suggesting the freephone number in the letter is a ‘scam’ are inaccurate as a DWP dedicated contact centre has been set up to deal with calls to the number 0800 085 7133. It is important that customers, and representative organisations who have concerns are re-assured that this – and only this – number is genuine.

What do customers need to do?

Customers who receive a letter can call free to provide account details over the phone. Alternatively they can complete the form included with the letter and post it back free using the envelope provided. Customers will also be provided with information about the different types of accounts available to help them choose one that’s right for them. Most bank accounts are accessible at post offices so customers shouldn’t need to change how, or where, they collect their money.

The free phone number 0800 085 7133 (textphone 0800 085 7146) provided in the letter is a dedicated line to support only those customers who receive a letter about how their payments are made and should not be used for any other purpose.

DWP have worked closely with Post Office Ltd to ensure support is available through the post office network for those who require it.

Example Letter

hm-government-letter

 

78 Responses to “Government asking people to change from Post Office Accounts to Bank Accounts to receive benefits / tax credits”

  1. Hi My mum received one of these letters only the top right of the page said it was from the Department for Communities, and when she rung her local Department for Communities was advised that this is a scam. The letter had her details and national insurance number on it and asked her to call and quote the national insurance number if she wanted to speak with anyone. Can some one get back to me regarding this as this has caused a lot of confusion.

  2. Ive had 3 of the letters up to now . I do not want a bank account i like getting my payment in the post office next the goverment will be closing all post offices

    • Trudy Lee

      Hello Lisa, it appears that you can still access your money via your post office, you will need a bank account to do so. We suggest you call the Freephone number 0800 0857133 and discuss your concerns with HM Government. Thanks

    • Trudy Lee

      Hello Paul, It is something that HM Government are asking people to do (it isn’t anything we are asking people to do). It may be worth calling them on the Freephone number on your letter and talking it through with them. Thank you

      • Z JamesI think the question should be : "Can they force you"...if someone could answer that it might be a help to us all who do not wish to open a bank account.

        What if you don’t want a bank account, can they force you and is that legal please?
        I get on fine with my PO account and have no desire to change and have one thin extra to deal with…i hate banks, the queues and general idea of a current account. I’ve avoided them for two decades and i like it that way. Is the Gov now taking away my choice

  3. hi trudy lee any chance you could answer a question instead of saying ring a number? i have an elderly uncle who refuses to call up or change will his benifits just stop

    • Trudy Lee

      Hello Dave, unfortunately the request for your uncle to change over to a bank account isn’t anything we have control over; it is something HM Government are requesting. I note there is a form with the letter, it might be an idea for your Uncle to write his concerns on the form and return it to them freepost. Sorry that we cannot help any further. Regards

  4. Peter Leadill

    Following my phone call to the number listed on the letters sent out to people who have benefits and use Post Office Account Cards to obtain payment, I was informed `that it is not compulsory for now` to change over to payments through a bank account. This took much effort to get that statement, I would advise anyone else who ring that number to take great care not to give bank account details if you wish not to transfer to payment through a bank account. When I phoned up every effort was made to try to obtain my bank account details.

    • eddy underwood

      I asked if it was mandatory and was told straight away it was not. I was not pressured into giving any bank details but was advised that the contract with the post office will be coming to an end and may not be renewed. Also another letter will be forthcoming to update on this.

  5. I was sent a letter to submit my bank details which I duly sent off in February, I am still having money paid into post office. How long should the change over take?

    • Trudy Lee

      Hello Susan, I would suggest you calling them on the Freephone number they supplied in your original letter to ask them this question as we unfortunately would not know the answer to this question. Thank you

  6. Louise Johnson

    It doesn’t appear to be a scam. I originally thought it was so to be safe I changed my details over via the official tax credits website. And now I have received a letter from the same people saying I have changed over some of my social benefits to be paid into my bank account and they will now change over my remaining social security benefits to be paid into the same account without me actually having to do anything. If it was a scam they wouldn’t have known I had changed over any of my benefits. So it is NOT A SCAM but to be careful it is always best change over your details online. that way you know you are definitely safe.

    • Nowhere Man

      Online fraud (typically known as ‘Phishing’ when it’s fake websites that look like the real one to harvest data). Always familiarise yourself with the government website you are using. Always make sure it’s using the secure padlock and learn how that works. Then you will be far less likely to fall victim to any scams.

  7. I have a secondary post office card and normally collect for my husband so I presume I will not be able to collect this for him anymore as I wouldn’t get a secondary bank card. So what happens now

  8. I recently received one of those letters so I rang the free phone number to make enquiries. The lady asked if I was ringing about the letter which asks me to give out my Bank or Building Society details. I said “yes” and she went on to say that it is a SURVEY. She explained that it costs the DWP more to pay money into Post Office accounts than it does to pay into someone’s bank or building society account and the contract with the Post Office may not be renewed. She also said (without my asking) that it is NOT COMPULSORY but asked why I would not want to change. I said I am happy with things as they are and if it is not compulsory, I still want my money to be paid into a Post Office account as usual. She said that I should return the form in the freepost envelope stating that I do no wish to change. This I have done. I do feel that eventually, we will all have to change and that eventually, they will make it compulsory. I meant to ask her what would happen if i simply did not return the form at all, but it slipped my mind. Also, it occurred to me, that the person I was talking to did not sound like someone who is a regular employee of the DWP. She sounded temporary.

  9. John Morris

    My son is unable to talk,sign,write or understand words and 2 years ago we wasted alot of time trying to open a bank account for him but was turned down.The post office card account works and I would rather support the local post office to keep it open.I pay cash for council tax,tv licence ,road tax, telephone bill,gas and electric bills. Saves 10 miles to bank and NO I do not trust direct debit or internet banking…………….

    • natasha.lloyd@equallives.org.uk

      To John Morris,

      We are really sorry to hear about that. Have you tried calling one of our team to talk through some of your options? If you aren’t local, they can at least point you in the direction of someone who may be able to help. 01508 491210

  10. Geoffrey Johannes

    I have investigated what has been said in parliament about paying into post office card accounts, and whether this could be made compulsory.
    I have discovered that the contract with the Post Office is until Nov 2021 at the earliest, so that no compulsion can occur before then
    I quote
    Owen Smith Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

    To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, whether his Department plans to continue to pay benefits and pensions into Post Office card accounts until 2021.

    Hansard source
    (Citation: HC Deb, 24 October 2017, cW)

    Photo of Caroline Dinenage Caroline Dinenage The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

    In 2014 Government committed to maintain POca until at least 2021, to ensure that people who cannot use a mainstream account can continue to access their benefits and pensions.

    Government’s existing POca contract with the Post Office, which expires in November 2021, has an option to be extended for up to 3 years to 2024. A decision on any extension will be taken at the appropriate time, informed by both customers’ needs and the need to make sure the taxpayer sees Value for Money.

  11. I have never had to use a bank or building society my local Post Office was where I always received my money. Post Office have always been very helpful,switching over from Post Office to either bank or building society would be something I would have problem with. So I really would prefer to remain in the Post Office.

  12. I have a disabled friend, who I persuaded some years ago to have a POCA. It took some time for her to get used to it, but she did eventually. Also eventually, I persuaded her to claim PIP, and she receives the top rates for both care and mobility. Then I arranged Pension Credit for her, and a basic bank account. Her PIP and Pension Credit go into that, but she still has her State Pension paid into the POCA. I helped her to set up direct debit payments for all her bills from her bank. She uses the POCA for cash for shopping, and isn’t keen to change, for no reason other than that she doesn’t do change very well. We’ll deal with it in November 2021, after reading the Hansard reply. She would not be safe at a bank ATM, as she looks an easy target. Should we tell DWP, or just ignore the letter? Can they change without her authority?
    She has no problems with banks or direct debit payments, and was amazed at how much money it saves her, but any changes to her routine cause issues.

  13. I owned a Post Office in the past and slowly business has been drained away from them, paying pensions and other benefits is the back bone of their work. Post offices staff is the only contact some people have with anyone, its a friendly place. Keep Post offices open and lets continue using them!

  14. Tina MacEwan

    My mother has always had her pension payed into her post office card account, it works well for her as she is more or less housebound and I withdraw her money as and when she needs it at our local post office. Upon recieving the letter from DWP my mother had done nothing but worry and fret over it, I have tried to explain to her that we can open a bank account ( I applied for a basic account with the halifax via thier website and was told we would hear within 3 days, 10 days later no response) Why do DWP not understand that the elderly in particular worry about things like this. I will send the form backto DWP tomorrow with my comments on and will not bother with a bank account until I hear further from them.

  15. I have been informed by my local Post Office that this proposal is not compulsory All one needs to do is ring the Department of Work and Pension and tell them you don’t want to change your payment method and when you ring don’t let them talk you into changing stick to you choice. I hope this information will put many frightened pensioners minds at ease.

  16. Helen watkins

    Thanks for your help ,I really like to pick my pension up from the post office and keep it separate from my bank account. Glad to know it’s not compulsory so will be sticking with my post office account.

  17. Christopher

    To be honest be honest, I don’t know what the fuss is about my mum went to the bank on Saturday with the letter showed them it and they set the free account up then and there with no charges. I phoned up had it transferred on her behalf (After they confirmed with my mum it was ok and verifying her security questions) it took me two minutes to change the account for her and get a date of change from them so mum knows when the money is going in. I’m happy with the service.

  18. Seems to me that the more people that respond to this Government letter and move to High Street banks makes the decision easier for DWP i.e.no renewal of their contract with the Post Office after Nov 2021

  19. The reason the government wants people to change accounts is simple… It costs them 30 pence to transfer payments to post office accounts.. Where it’s about 12 pence to transfer payments into bank accounts…..

  20. M Jackson

    I have received numerous letters asking for my bank details. I phoned the Post Office today and they said that it wasn’t compulsory to change to a bank but that it was best to ring. I duly did and I have to say it was a real struggle to get a straight answer. I told them I’d rang the Post Office and asked if I was correct in quoting the Post Office who say it’s not compulsory to change. I had to keep asking as the lady just kept talking about different bank accounts you can open. Eventually I said ‘can you clarify if I can keep the Post Office account as it is’. She eventually said yes. It’s got me really wound up as I only asked a simple question and could not get a simple answer. I get in a right flap when it comes to change. I feel so old saying that – but it’s true. Why can’t people just answer the question asked, it would make things so much more simple.

  21. We have managed to retain our post office which is also a shop, it is well used and people support it so that we hopefully don’t lose it as we have virtually no public transport and the nearest alternative post office is many miles away. It is a total nightmare to open a bank account if you do not drive or have a passport as proof. I know from experience how difficult it is. I have a bank account with my post office which was not so difficult to open, perhaps this would be the answer for many while also supporting the post office.

  22. David Pascoe

    I have been in touch with gov.UK pension and was told that if i didn’t have a bank account then i would not receive any pension till I set up a bank account. I don’t trust banks so what are my options?

    • Trudy Lee

      We would not know why you have not received a letter. It may have got lost in the post perhaps. We would suggest calling the freephone number on this post and speaking to them regarding this. Thanks

  23. David Cattell

    My father received one of these letters recently dated 30th April 2018 which included his national insurance number and the contact phone number given. This looked mostly the same as your example but didn’t say ‘HM Government’ in the top right hand corner, instead says ‘Department for Work & Pensions’. Has the format changed slightly or is this a scam letter?

    • Trudy Lee

      Hello David, if the phone number quoted on your letter is the freephone number stated in our post (0800 085 7133) it is not a scam letter. We would suggest calling the freephone number stated and talking to them. Thank you

  24. Debra kemp

    My sister received one of these letters and dosen’t have a bank account,I offered to open a bank account in my name for her to have her pension paid into it but I am worried whether I will be taxed on it as I work and the lady who dealt with me told me it’s classed as my income so to be careful if I ever needed to make a tax report or claim benefits.can you help me with that

  25. Hi, just came accross this, for everyone that wants to stay with the post office you do have an option which allows staying with the post office. besides the standard card account the post office also have a current account which allows for direct debits to be taken etc, this gives you the same features as high street banks while keeping you with your local post office branch. You can also mange your account online or by using the post office app via a mobile if you so wish, any post office should be more than happy to change it over or help you set up a new one just the same as they will replace a damaged card.
    The post office current account is by J.P.Morgan, the same that provide the standard post office card account so nothing changes that much.

  26. Scott Dempsey

    I called up the helpline number & I informed the man I spoke to I would be continuing with my POCA, he was fine with that, never tried to force the issue or anything like that, I had no problem whatsoever with them at all.

  27. Michael Holmes

    Hi, my Nan recently closed her Post office account where she gets her pension Paid, she gave new bank details on the form. How long does the process take please? She will need to access her savings soon which was in this account. Thankyou.

    • Trudy Lee

      Hello Michael, I would suggest calling the freephone number on the letter as we would not know that information, and would not want to tell you the wrong information. Thank you

  28. Ron Murray

    My elderly aunt received the same letter and I advised her to pay her pension into her Bank Account. She now uses her debit card instead of POCA to draw all her pension out every week in one lump sum. Something her sister told her in case the Government changes its mind and takes it back? She only has to remember one pin number now, plus she can also draw it out as Cashback at the supermarket till. It just crossed my mind if the Winter Fuel Payment will also be paid into her Bank Account same as her pension. I can’t recall reading anything in the letter about that, has anyone heard anything? Cheers.

  29. Jayne Hyde

    Hi my mother in law has got one of these letters. She has not got a bank account as we had to close it last year. She does not have any direct debits to pay she just gets paid her pension and takes the money out. There is no need for her to have a current/bank account. Can she still keep her post office account as we would be unable to open one for her anyway due to her I’ll heath

    • Trudy Lee

      Hello Jayne, I would suggest giving the freephone number on the letter a call and discussing the options with them. We wouldn’t want to give you the wrong information, so please do contact them. Thanks

  30. My uncle has not received a letter to change over to a bank account & would like to do this do we have to wait for a letter or can we phone free phone number to discuss or is there another direction we should go

  31. Harry Crompton

    Everything subsequent to the Conservative’s Criminal Welfare Reforms is solely designed to persecute the unemployed irrespective of individual needs and predicaments. Their inhumane reforms are causative of much suffering and numerous suicides. There is nothing available to help the victims of these malicious reforms. Britain’s most vulnerable, the elderly, disabled, and sick, are being abused by a system born of hatred.

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