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Personal Finances

matthew
25th September 2020

Coronavirus: Impact on Personal Finances

Advice for consumers who are worried about the impact of COVID-19 (coronavirus) to their finances, including the latest information on sick pay, mortgages, benefits and what banks are doing to help consumers.

The information on this page was last updated on 25 September 2020.

Employment and Benefits

Information regarding sick pay, Government financial assistance and benefits.

Do I get sick pay if I get COVID-19 or if I need to self-isolate?

If you need to take time off work due to becoming unwell from coronavirus, you'll be entitled to your usual sick leave and sick pay.

If you're self-isolating on Government advice, and would usually qualify for it, you should be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). SSP currently stands at £94.25 a week – you must be employed and earn an average of at least £118 a week to be entitled to it. If you are a gig worker and/or on a zero hours contract, you may still be entitled to SSP as long as you meet the eligibility criteria, which you can find here.

Changes to the law mean that statutory sick pay is payable from day one, not day four and will apply retrospectively from Friday 13 March. Information on the changes and details about how to apply for statutory sick pay can be found on the nidirect website.

The extension in statutory sick pay relates to those self-isolating due to coronavirus. If you are off sick for any other reason, standard rules apply and statutory sick pay will apply from day four, not day one. 

You must be self-isolating for an official reason. These are if you have coronavirus or if you or someone in your household has coronavirus symptoms, or if you've been told to self-isolate by a doctor or NHS 111. 

Do not ask your GP for a fit note if you are off work because of coronavirus. Instead you can get an isolation note to send to your employer as proof you need to stay at home. Details of when and how to apply for an isolation note can be found on the NHS website here.

If you're not unwell or in quarantine but your employer asks you not to come to work – for example, because you've recently been abroad to an affected area – you should receive your full pay.

If, now that schools have been instructed to close, you need to stay at home to look after children, you should speak to your employer and explain what has happened. 

You should also read the relevant policies that exist in your place of work, as you may be able to request flexible working, emergency carers' leave, annual leave or unpaid leave.  Some organisations also have a 'special leave' policy which allows, for example, one day of paid leave in order to deal with the immediate childcare need and to organise alternative childcare for the following days or weeks. 

The important thing is to look at your workplace policies and come to an agreement with your employer.

For full help on your employment rights during the coronavirus outbreak, see the Labour Relations Agency (LRA) website.  You can also contact the LRA Workplace Information Service on 03300 555 300.

What if I don’t earn enough to be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay?

If you take home less than the Lower Earnings Limit of £118 per week – and you have COVID-19 or are advised to self-isolate, you can now more easily make a claim for Universal Credit or new style Employment and Support Allowance. Click here for advice on applying for these benefits.

If you are eligible for new style Employment and Support Allowance, it will now be payable from day 1 of sickness, rather than day 8, if you have COVID-19 or are advised to self-isolate.

To find out more, or to apply for either Universal Credit or new style Employment and Support Allowance, you can contact the Universal Credit helpline on:

  • Telephone: 0800 328 5644
  • Textphone: 0800 328 1344

What help is available for the self-employed?

Self-Employment Income Support Scheme

If you are self-employed and claimed a grant under the Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) before 13 July 2020, you are now be able to claim a second and final grant in. The new grant will be worth 70% of your average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering three months’ worth of profits, and capped at £6,570 in total.

If you’re eligible and your business has been adversely affected on or after 14 July 2020, you must make your claim for the second grant on or before 19 October 2020. More details are available on the GOV.UK website.

SEISS applies to those who were trading in the last financial year, are still trading now, and are planning to continue doing so this year. You will have made the majority of your income (over 50%) from self-employment and have a trading profit of less than £50,000 for 2018-19, or an average trading profit of less than £50,000 from 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19.

It is a taxable grant, so you will have to declare it on your Self-Assessment tax return and might have to pay Income Tax and National Insurance on it.

If you receive the grant you can continue to work or take on other employment including voluntary work.

You can find out how HMRC will work out your income and profits by visiting their Gov.uk page here.

The scheme does not apply to you if you operate under a company structure and pay yourself a salary or take dividends. However, if this is the case, from 1 November 2020 you may be eligible to claim at least 77% of your dividends through the Job Support Scheme if you’re earning through PAYE (details of this are in our Job Support Scheme section).

If you are self-employed you may also be eligible to receive Universal Credit and the new style Employment and Support Allowance. This is particularly beneficial to those who do not qualify for SEISS. Click here for advice on applying for these benefits.

To find out more, or to apply for either Universal Credit or new style Employment and Support Allowance, you can also contact the Universal Credit helpline on:

  • Telephone: 0800 328 5644
  • Textphone: 0800 328 1344

If you have COVID-19 or are advised to self-isolate, and you are eligible for new style Employment and Support Allowance, it will now be payable from day 1 of sickness, rather than day 8.

Self-Employment Income Support Scheme grant extension

The grant extension is for self-employed individuals who are currently eligible for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme and are actively continuing to trade, but are facing reduced demand due to coronavirus (COVID-19).

To be eligible for the grant extension self-employed individuals, including members of partnerships, must currently be eligible for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme although you do not have to have claimed the previous grants.

You should be currently actively trading and intend to continue to do so, and you need to declare that you are impacted by reduced demand due to coronavirus in the qualifying period (the qualifying period for the grant extension is between 1 November and the date of claim).

The extension will provide two grants and will last for six months, from November 2020 to April 2021. Grants will be paid in two lump sum instalments each covering a three-month period. The first grant will cover a three-month period from the start of November until the end of January.

HMRC will provide a taxable grant covering 20 per cent of average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering 3 months’ worth of profits, and capped at £1,875 in total. This will be broadly the same level of support for the self-employed as is being provided for employees through the Job Support Scheme.

The second grant will cover a three-month period from the start of February until the end of April. HMRC will review the level of the second grant and set this in due course.

Again, this will be a taxable grant, so you will have to declare it on your Self-Assessment tax return and might have to pay Income Tax and National Insurance on it.

Application details are not yet confirmed, but please keep checking this section of our website for updates.

What help is available if I work in the creative arts sector?

An Executive funded Creative Support Fund has reopened to support the arts, creative industries and the cultural sector.

The Creative Support Fund, which is designed to support the arts, creative industries and the cultural sector closed to individuals on 17 August 2020. Decisions will be made by Monday 28th September 2020.

The Organisations Emergency Programme in support of small to medium scale organisations in the creative industries and cultural sector affected by COVID-19 closed for applications on Thursday 17 September 2020. Decisions will be made by Friday 30th October 2020.

For further information please visit the Arts Council of Northern Ireland website.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (“Furlough Scheme”)

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme allows your employer to classify you as a “furloughed worker”. This means that the Government will pay a large percentage of your wage while you are unable to work because of COVID-19. This allows your employer to keep you on their payroll, rather than making you redundant.

The cut-off date for employers to register employees as furloughed workers has now passed. If you have been furloughed, you should not undertake work for your regular employer. This allows your employer to claim a grant of up to 80% of your wage for all employment costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month.

You will remain employed while furloughed. Your employer could choose to fund the differences between this payment and your salary, but does not have to.

If you’re on maternity or paternity leave which ends after the 1st July and you have not already been furloughed for at least three weeks before that date, you can still be considered for furlough after the registration cut-off date, but this will only apply to anyone that work for an organisation that has previously furloughed employees.

This also applies for employees returning to work following shared parental, adoption or parental bereavement leave. More information for is available here.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will run at least until the end of October 2020. From 1 July, businesses have the flexibility to bring furloughed employees back part time. Individual firms will decide the hours and shift patterns their employees will work on their return, so that they can decide on the best approach for them - and will be responsible for paying their wages while in work.

From August 2020, the level of government grant provided through the job retention scheme will be slowly tapered to reflect that people will be returning to work. That means that for June and July the government has continued to pay 80% of people’s salaries. In the following months, businesses will be asked to contribute a modest share, but, crucially, individuals will continue to receive that 80% of salary covering the time they are unable to work.

More details about the changes happening to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme over the next few months are available here.

You can work for another employer while furloughed. This has to be permitted by your employment contract and you must not be providing services to, or making money for, the employer from which you are furloughed.

Cross border workers who are temporarily laid off (furloughed workers) during the Covid-19 pandemic should stay on their employer’s payroll and be paid during this period of time.

The employer can then claim the appropriate rate from the Government.

If your salary is reduced as a result of these changes, you may be eligible for support through the welfare system, including Universal Credit. Information on how to apply is available here.

You can also contact the Universal Credit helpline on:

  • Telephone: 0800 328 5644
  • Textphone: 0800 328 1344

Job Support Scheme (November 2020)

The Job Support Scheme is designed to keep employees attached to the workforce by protecting viable jobs in businesses who are facing lower demand over the winter months due to Covid-19. The scheme will open on 1 November 2020 and run for 6 months.

Employers who make use of the scheme will continue to pay its employee for time worked, but the cost of hours not worked will be split between the employer, the Government (through wage support grant to the employer) and the employee (through a wage reduction), and the employee will keep their job.

Neither you or your employer needs to have previously used the Coronavirus Job Retention (Furlough) Scheme.

Under the scheme, for the first three months you must work at least 33% of your usual hours. After 3 months, the Government will consider whether to increase this minimum hours threshold.

For the time worked, you must be paid your normal contracted wage. The time not worked will then be split into two thirds. One third will be covered by your employer, one third by the Government and the rest will be unpaid. This means you will be paid a minimum of 77% of your normal wage.

You cannot be made redundant or put on notice of redundancy during the period within which your employer is claiming the wage support grant for you.

The scheme will open on 1 November 2020 and run for 6 months, until April 2021. Further guidance will be published shortly.

I would like to get alternative work during the coronavirus outbreak

If you’ve been furloughed, or are unable to make money from your normal work at this time, you may wish to consider looking for alternative work. There is currently high demand in Northern Ireland for labour in sectors such as health, retail and agri-food.

To see what positions are currently available you could register with Job Centre Online.

Additional help is available from the Government Careers Advice service. Due to the ongoing Covid-19 issue, the Careers Service is unable to take phone calls. However, you can still contact them via email and the webchat service, which is available Monday to Friday from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm. For information about chatting online with an adviser visit their website here.

How is my Working Tax Credit affected?

People who can't work their normal hours because of coronavirus will still receive their usual tax credits payments.

If you are working reduced hours due to coronavirus or being furloughed by your employer, you will not have your tax credits payments affected if you are still employed or self-employed.

You do not need to contact HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) about this change. They will treat customers as working their normal hours until the Job Retention Scheme and Self-Employment Income Support Scheme close, even if you are not using either scheme.

You can still report any other changes in income, childcare and hours in the normal way. However, you must tell HMRC if you or your partner lose their job, are made redundant or cease trading.

For more information, click here.

My child gets free school meals

Arrangements have been put in place to ensure families who normally receive free school meals do not suffer financial hardship over the summer due to coronavirus (COVID-19).

The summer food scheme will provide help during July and August to families who were eligible for free school meals’ direct payments up to the end of June.

These families will receive payments of £13.50 per child per week directly into their bank accounts - there is no need to apply.

For families with access to a bank account, they must make these details known to the Education Authority if they have not already done so. They can do this by emailing MealsandUniforms-Omagh@eani.org.uk . Please note, the Bank Account Name must be the same name as the claimant for free school meals, otherwise the direct payment cannot be made.

The Education Authority will work with families who do not have a bank account to ensure that food is available to vulnerable families and continue to identify and support children who would otherwise be entitled to Free School Meals but who, for whatever reason, cannot access the support that has been put in place.

Families in the Asylum Seeking community should access the school meals payments into their bank account if they have one.

Families in this community who do not have a bank account can receive a ‘top-up’ payment onto their Aspen Card. Payments will be fortnightly until the end of June, or until schools reopen (whichever comes first).

The Education Authority has released an update in relation to Free School Meals/Uniform Grants for 2020/21. From 6 July 2020, eligible families who are currently in receipt of support for the 19/20 school year will begin to receive pre-populated forms from the Education Authority which must be completed and returned. New applications will be able to be made online via the Education Authority website from 8 July 2020.

Disadvantaged pupils may be entitled to a free Wi-Fi scheme

The minister for the Department of Education announced this on 8 July 2020.

Free Wi-Fi and mobile connectivity will be provided to children and young people who may not have had access to digital technology during lockdown.

The Department of Education has been working with BT and the Education Authority to deliver the scheme which will run for up to eight months.  It is anticipated that access to free Wi-Fi will be available from the middle of August onwards for eligible pupils who meet the necessary criteria.

For more information click here.

You may be entitled to a government grant - Discretionary Support Scheme

Additional financial help may be available through the Discretionary Support Scheme if you are in a financial crisis and require extra support. Emergency measures have been introduced to include the introduction of a grant payment to assist with short-term living expenses where a person, or a member of their immediate family, has been infected by COVID-19 or told to self-isolate. There is no limit on the amount of an individual award, which will be calculated based on individual circumstances.

The Annual Income Threshold for the Discretionary Support scheme has been raised to £20,405 (this is the level of income below which a person is eligible for Discretionary Support). The debt threshold has been increased also, from £1,000 to £1,500. 

 If you are a full-time student and suffering financial hardship as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic you can now also apply for Discretionary Support.

For more information on eligibility and how to apply see the NI Direct website Discretionary Support Scheme.

How will the coronavirus affect my benefits?

Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)

All appointments at local Jobs & Benefits offices have been postponed. If you are already receiving benefits, you will continue to receive your payments. 

From 30 March 2020 until further notice, attendance at Jobs and Benefits offices for the purposes of signing for benefits has been excused. 

Work search and work availability requirements have however been reinstated from 3 August 2020 for new claims to Jobseeker’s Allowance.  

Staff in the Jobs & Benefits offices will be making calls to Jobseeker’s Allowance recipients to complete Claimant Commitments and to assist and advise on available employment services and ensure that claimants have the support they need.

If you experience a change in your needs you should contact the Department for Communities (DfC) to ensure you are receiving the correct level of support.

Carer’s Allowance

Carers will continue to be paid Carer’s Allowance when they have temporarily ceased to care for a severely disabled person due to either of them self-isolating or being infected with coronavirus.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, emotional support can also count towards the 35 hours a week you spend caring for someone who is ill or has a disability.

In line with public health advice face-to face assessments for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) will continue to be suspended and be kept under review, with telephony assessments carried out where appropriate.  Review activity will gradually resume from 21 July for PIP and Disability Living Allowance and measures have been put in place to ensure the payment of benefit continues until the review has concluded. If you experience a change in your needs, you should contact the DfC to ensure you are receiving the correct level of support.

You should not visit your Jobs and Benefits offices, but telephone them instead. The DfC has more up to date information about benefits and how you can contact your Jobs and Benefits offices here.

To speak to someone about Universal Credit, including making a new claim, you can phone the Universal Credit Helpline on 0800 012 1331.

If you are in a crisis situation you can apply for financial help by contacting the DfC Finance Support Service on 0800 587 2750 (Freephone) or 0800 587 2751 (text-phone for customers with hearing difficulties).

Benefit overpayments and loan repayments

Due to coronavirus the DfC paused recovery of overpayments and loans for three months.

From July 2020 DfC will restart the recovery of overpayments and over a period of months it will reinstate repayment arrangements that were previously agreed.

For more information, click here.

Additional help for those who receive benefits

Universal Credit Advance Payment

If you’re making a new claim for Universal Credit you will have to wait at least five weeks for the first payment, so don’t delay making a claim.

However, you can make a claim for an advance payment while you’re waiting for your Universal Credit payment. Talk to your work coach about how to do this once you’ve made your claim. More information is available here.

It must be stressed that the advance payment is a loan that will need to be paid back out of future Universal Credit payments. So make sure you only ask for what you need and can afford to pay back, as you may have difficulty in repaying which can result in further problems down the line, such as sanctions (where your Universal Credit payment is reduced for a period of time).

You can ask for your repayments to be delayed for up to 3 months if you can’t afford them. This is only allowed in exceptional circumstances.

Universal Credit Contingency Fund

A non-repayable Universal Credit Contingency Fund Short Term Living Expenses grant may be available if you are in financial difficulty (including new UC claimants).

An online living expenses grant application form is available and can be completed and submitted online without the need to download or email.  

 Further information is available here. Or you can phone using the numbers below.

Phone: 0800 587 2750

Text number: 0800 587 2751 (for deaf or hard of hearing users and customers with speech difficulties)

Budgeting Advance

You may be also be able to get a Budgeting Advance to help pay for emergency household costs.

This is a loan, and your eligibility and how much you can borrow will depend on whether or not you can pay it back.

To apply, contact the Universal Credit Service Centre via your online account or speak to your Work Coach.

For more information on either of these sources of help, visit the nidirect website.

What support is available if I suffer a spousal bereavement during the coronavirus crisis?

You may be able to get Bereavement Support Payment if your husband, wife or civil partner died on or after 6 April 2017.

You will qualify for Bereavement Support Payment if:

  • your spouse or civil partner died on or after 6 April 2017
  • you were under State Pension age when your spouse or civil partner died
  • you were resident in the UK at the time of the death or live in a country where the UK has a relevant European Union or reciprocal agreement
  • your spouse or civil partner had paid a minimum of 25 Class 1 or Class 2 National Insurance contributions in any single tax year during their working life

For more information, including how to apply, click here.

You cannot claim Bereavement Support Payment if you’re in prison.

Housing and Rates

Information on assistance available for home owners and tenants.

What if I’m struggling to pay my rent or mortgage?

If you need to self-isolate and are unable to work because of COVID-19, you may be able to claim for benefits to help you pay your rent. Contact the DfC Finance Support Service on 0800 587 2750 (Freephone) or 0800 587 2751 (textphone for customers with hearing difficulties). More information is available here.

If you are worried about being able to afford to pay your mortgage, information on what providers are doing to help people affected by the coronavirus is available in the Banks and financial services section below.

Further housing advice is available from the Housing Rights website. (Advice is also available in Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Hungarian, Bulgarian, Somali, Farsi and Arabic from this link).

What is the latest update from Northern Ireland Housing Executive?

The Northern Ireland Assembly has made a commitment to work with NIHE to ensure that any social housing tenant facing difficulties paying rent during COVID-19 will not be evicted.

The Housing Executive’s rent increase of 2.7% that was due to come into effect on 6 April will now not come into effect until 1 October 2020.

Housing Executive customers facing financial difficulties as a result of the on-going emergency should telephone their patch manager as quickly as possible for further advice. Housing Benefit payments will continue as normal.

All public reception areas in their local offices are closed until further notice. Staff will still be working and can be contacted on these telephone numbers:

  • 03448 920 900 - General enquiries
  • 03448 920 901 - Repairs
  • 03448 920 902 - Housing Benefit 

Updated information can be found on the NIHE website.

What can housing association tenants do?

The Northern Ireland Assembly has made a commitment to work with Housing Associations to ensure that any social housing tenant facing difficulties paying rent during COVID-19 will not be evicted.

If you are a housing association tenant facing financial difficulties as a result of the on-going emergency, you should contact your housing association as soon as possible. Also, please check your landlord's website and social media channels for updates. You can find contact details for housing associations on the NIFHA website.

Let your landlord know that you may have difficulty paying rent and ask what steps they are taking to help tenants at this time.

Further housing advice is available from the Housing Rights website. (Advice is also available in Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Hungarian, Bulgarian, Somali, Farsi and Arabic from this link).

What can private tenants do?

If your ability to pay rent will be affected, it’s important to have an early conversation with your landlord. Rent levels agreed in your tenancy agreement remain legally due and you should discuss with your landlord if you are experiencing difficulty meeting your rent. 

Landlords are being advised to deal sympathetically with tenants who may be finding it difficult to pay their rent. Under new legislation, landlords are required to give tenants a 12 week notice to quit period, during Coronavirus emergency period.

If necessary, the Housing Rights mediation service can assist in resolving any issues and can be accessed here.

If you are a private tenant in receipt of Housing Benefit, or the housing costs element of Universal Credit, additional financial support is available in the form of Local Housing Allowance (LHA). The rates of LHA are being increased from 1 April.

To check if you are eligible for LHA, please visit the Housing Executive website. Information about applying for LHA via Housing Benefit is available here.

Further housing advice is available from the Housing Rights website. (Advice is also available in Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Hungarian, Bulgarian, Somali, Farsi and Arabic from this link.)

I’m a student and I can’t pay my rent

If you are a student and suffering financial hardship due to rental payments you can now apply for Discretionary Support. You should also contact your landlord or letting agent to explain your situation. Only then will you be in a position to discuss flexibility in terms of payments.

Landlords are being advised to deal sympathetically with tenants who may be finding it difficult to pay their rent. If necessary, the Housing Rights mediation service can assist in resolving any issues and can be accessed here.

Further Education institutions may be able to provide support though student support funds or student hardship funds.

Queens University Belfast have increased their hardship fund to help students in financial difficulty, which can be accessed here. More helpful information is available on the Queen’s Students’ Union website.

Information for Ulster University students on a range of Covid-19 related issues, including money matters can be found here.

Further information for students can be found on the nidirect website.

You should also contact your representatives with The National Union of Students - Union of Students in Ireland (NUS-USI) who are currently lobbying the NI Executive on a number of relief giving issues such as rent suspension and access to financial support through Universal Credit.

Emergency measures to help rates payers

Following a delay to help with Covid-19 domestic rate bills will now begin to be issued.  

The domestic regional rate (the part of your rates set by the Northern Ireland Executive for regional services) has been frozen for 2020-21.  This means the cost of the regional rate for domestic customers will be no higher for 2020-21 than it was in 2019-20. However, the cost of the district rate (the part set by your District Council) will probably change.

Anyone having difficulty paying rates in the current circumstances should contact Land and Property Services (LPS) to discuss alternative payment plans. LPS contact details for people who are having trouble paying their rates can be found here.

Further details about help with paying for rates can be found here.

The Finance Minister has also announced an emergency rates package to assist NI business affected by COVID-19. Further information is available on the NI Business Info website here.

Banks and Building Societies

Banks and building societies have announced various measures to help customers adversely affected financially by the coronavirus emergency. Here are some examples of what help is on offer.

Payment holidays or reduced payments for mortgages loans, ‘Buy now, pay later’ payday loans, motor finance , pawn- broking and credit agreements

Something that mortgage providers are granting to consumers who are struggling financially due to coronavirus is a ‘mortgage payment holiday’. This means you agree with your lender that you will not have to make mortgage payments for a set amount of time.

However, it is important to remember that you still owe the amounts that you don't pay as a result of the payment holiday. Interest will continue to be charged on the amount you owe. This means that, at the end of the payment holiday, you will have to make up the missed payments. You are likely to end up paying more in the long term as a result of the payment holiday.

There will be various options for making up for the missed payments, for example by increasing your monthly payments slightly, or by adding a short extension to your term. Your lender will be able to explain to you what options it offers.

Speak to your mortgage provider if you are worried about missing mortgage payments. Explain your situation and ask what they can do to help you in the current circumstances. It is important that you speak to your mortgage provider and do not just miss a payment without communicating it to your provider, this could negatively impact your credit score.

If you have not yet taken a mortgage payment holiday, you have until 31 October 2020 to apply for one. Also, if you’ve already taken a payment holiday, but are still struggling with your payments, you also have until 31 October 2020 to apply for another payment holiday or partial payment holiday. 

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) have published information for consumers which answer a range of common mortgage related questions. This is available on the FCA website. They have also published information on what customers can expect from mortgage providers, and what the FCA expects from them, which is available here.

Similarly, new regulations have been introduced for loan, credit card providers, Buy now, pay later’ payday loans, motor finance and pawn- broking deals.  Under these updated regulations, lenders must help you if you’re having financial difficulties as a result of COVID-19. One way they can help is to allow you to take a payment holiday. See more information here.

However, it is important to remember that you still owe the amounts that you don't pay as a result of the payment holiday. This means that, at the end of the payment holiday, you will have to make up the missed payments. Also, interest will continue to be charged on the amount you owe which means that you will owe more than you did before agreeing a payment holiday.

A payment holiday may not be the best thing for you in the long run, so it is important to contact your lender to talk through which options will be. Missing a payment without communicating it to your provider could negatively impact your credit score.

If you have a personal loan, credit card, store card or catalogue credit product and you’re facing temporary payment difficulties due to coronavirus, you have until 31 October 2020 to apply for a payment freeze. 

Personal loans also include guarantor loans, logbook loans and home collected credit.

0% Interest On Bank Overdrafts Under £500

You can now contact your bank or building society and ask for the first £500 of your authorised overdraft to be interest-free for 3 months (for overdrafts under £500, the entire balance will be 0%). You can also ask for help with the costs of your overdraft above this amount if you need it. This won't affect your creditworthiness.

Some providers are already providing interest-free overdraft facilities with no need to request it, and may continue to do so. With other providers you may need to ask to access this support. To find out what your bank or building society is doing, and whether you need to act to benefit from this support, check their website. Links are provided in the list of banks and building societies below.

You can request this support until 31 October 2020. If you have already received this support for 3 months, you can request it for another 3 months.

Also, if you have an account that has an overdraft facility, but you haven’t previously requested it, you can request one of these temporary 0% overdrafts, subject to a credit score check.

Contactless Card Payment Increase

The limit for contactless card payment has increased to £45. This will help limit the need to physically touch retailer card pin pads and ATMs.

Details of what each bank or building society are doing for affected customers are listed in the section below. Click on your bank or building society’s name for more information.

Allied Irish Bank (AIB)

If you do need to visit a branch, social distancing measures have been introduced. AIB have also introduced priority banking times between 10am and 11am for older and more vulnerable customers. All other customers must access the branches after 11am.

The first £500 on your arranged overdraft is now automatically interest free. They’re not charging any interest on arranged overdrafts up to £500 until 31 October 2020.

When you go into overdraft you won’t be charged the £7 monthly fee (for arranged overdrafts) and £7 daily fee (for unarranged overdrafts) anymore.

Interest rates for overdrafts above £500 are also frozen at only 9.1% (variable).

AIB are offering payment holidays to customers who have been financially impacted by Coronavirus.

A payment holiday may not be the best thing for you in the long run, so it is important to contact AIB to talk through which options will be. Missing a payment without communicating it to AIB could negatively impact your credit score.

Mortgage customers who face difficulty can apply for a payment holiday for up to 3 months (further extensions may apply if required). The cut-off date for applications is 31 October 2020. Alternatively, you may wish to continue to pay the interest only. For further information and details on how to apply, please visit the AIB Covid-19 Support for Mortgage Customers webpage.

If you have a loan from AIB, and are struggling financially because of the coronavirus situation, you can apply for a loan payment holiday for three months. This gives you the chance to pause repayments without it impacting your credit file. You more information about applying for a loan repayment holiday, visit the AIB COVID-19 Support for Personal Loan Customers webpage here.

Similarly, AIB credit card customers can apply for a three month payment holiday here.

Branch opening times

  • 10am - 3pm Monday to Friday (closed at lunchtime from 12:30pm to 1:30pm)
  • 10am – 11am priority banking for older and more vulnerable customers

Customer Services - 0345 600 5925 (9am – 5pm Monday to Friday)

AIB’s coronavirus advice – Click here.

AIB’s branch locator – Click here.

Bank of Ireland (BOI)

Bank of Ireland (BOI) have temporarily reduced their branch opening hours during the coronavirus crisis. Branches will be open from 10am – 2pm and they have also introduced priority banking times between 10am and 11am for older customers and their carers. Alternatively, over-65s and carers can call our dedicated line on 0800 783 8591 (9.30am to 4.30pm, Mon-Fri). All other customers must access the branches after 11am.

BOI are asking customers only to visit a branch if it absolutely essential. Most everyday banking can be done on line through 365, on BOI’s mobile app or over the phone. If you do need to visit a branch, social distancing measures have been introduced.

Customers who are self-isolating can authorise a family member or close friend to withdraw cash from their account on their behalf from any branch. To nominate someone to withdraw cash on your behalf, phone 0800 783 8591 (9.30am to 4.30pm, Mon-Fri). More information is available here.

If you’re a healthcare worker, you can phone the dedicated phone line 0800 783 8591 for all your banking needs, open 9.30am to 4.30pm, Mon-Fri. Alternatively, healthcare workers can contact BOI by emailing HealthcareStaffQueries@boi.com.

If you have an overdraft on your personal current account BOI won’t charge you any interest on balances up to £500 until 5 October 2020. There is no need to apply for this as it will be applied automatically to your account. This excludes IPLS or Elective & Intercalated borrowing accounts.

BOI are offering payment holidays to customers who have been financially impacted by Coronavirus.

A payment holiday may not be the best thing for you in the long run, so it is important to contact BOI to talk through which options will be. Missing a payment without communicating it to BOI could negatively impact your credit score.

Mortgage customers are able to apply for a payment holiday. The cut-off date for applications is 31 October 2020. There may be alternative flexible arrangements you could discuss with BOI. For further information please visit the BOI Mortgage Support page on their website.

If you have a loan from BOI, and are struggling financially because of the coronavirus situation, you can apply for a loan payment holiday for three months. This gives you the chance to pause repayments without it impacting your credit file. You more information about applying for a loan repayment holiday, visit the BOI Support for Personal Loan Customers webpage here.

Similarly, BOI credit card customers can apply for a credit card payment reduction. This means you can temporarily reduce your credit card payments to £1 per month, for three months. Click here for more details.

If you’re a BOI customer who has been impacted by travel disruptions, BOI will buy back foreign currency at the rate it was sold.

Business customers may be able to obtain emergency working capital and BOI will be taking a flexible approach to payments on loans - if you are having any issues repaying back any loans please contact BOI to make them aware.

Branch opening times

  • 10am – 2pm Monday to Friday
  • 10am – 11am priority banking for over 65’s and carers

Main contact - 0345 6016 157 (8am-8pm Monday to Friday & 9am-5pm Saturday and Sunday)

Bank of Ireland’s coronavirus advice – Click here.

Bank of Ireland’s branch locator – Click here.

Barclays

Some Barclays branches are closed or have reduced opening times due to the coronavirus crisis. To see if your branch has been affected, or if you are planning on visiting your local branch, visit their branch finder as opening times could change as the coronavirus situation develops.

Barclays have urged customers who are in financial difficulty or anticipate that they will be due to Covid-19 to contact them to discuss their options.

For vulnerable customers who are isolating and require cash, Barclays have a cash delivery service for vulnerable customers who are self-isolating. Alternatively, vulnerable customers can work with Barclays to nominate a trusted third party to access banking services on their behalf. You should contact your local bank to discuss your options.

Barclays are also prioritising NHS workers and other care workers in branches and on the telephone. When you call or visit a branch, where possible, you will be taken to the front of the queue.

If your finances have been impacted as a result of COVID-19, up until 31 October 2020 you can apply for a 0% interest overdraft of up to £500 for 2 months. Barclays will also waive some of the interest on any balance higher than £500 by charging a lower annual rate of interest (EAR) of 19.51%. More information is available here.

Barclays are offering payment holidays to customers who have been financially impacted by Coronavirus.

A payment holiday may not be the best thing for you in the long run, so it is important to contact BOI to talk through which options will be. Missing a payment without communicating it to BOI could negatively impact your credit score.

Those who have a mortgage with Barclays may be offered a mortgage holiday of up to 90 days OR the opportunity to switch - however this is on a case by case basis. They have published Q&A's and recommend that customers carefully read these before applying. The cut-off date for applications is 31 October 2020. To view this information and to apply online, visit this page on their website.

To call Barclays about your mortgage, phone 0333 202 7580 Monday-Sunday: 7am-10:30pm. However, due to high call volumes they recommend applying for a payment holiday online.

They have also launched an online application form for customers wanting to apply for a Barclayloan payment holiday, you can apply here. There is no need to call them after applying online – if Barclays accept your request, they will send you a confirmation and apply it automatically.

Barclaycard (credit card) customers can also apply for a payment holiday. See here for more information or to apply. Barclays are also waiving late payment and cash advance fees for all Barclaycard customers from 19th March for 90 days.

Barclays customers who have a fixed savings account may be able to access and close the account early with no additional charges.

For business customers, Barclays are offering a number of solutions to help them through the coronavirus crisis. These include free everyday banking and overdrafts to customers with turnover up to £250k, waiving all everyday banking fees and charges until July 2020 and 12-month capital repayment holidays on existing loans over £25k.

They have a free dedicated helpline for business customers - 0800 197 1086 between 8am and 8pm Monday to Friday (except bank holidays). Further information for business customers can be found on their website, here.

Barclays also have a web page dedicated to helping customers with all manner of financial issues which can be found here.

To contact Barclays, please visit this webpage for options.

Barclays’ coronavirus advice – Click here.

Barclays’ branch locator – Click here.

Danske Bank

If you do need to visit a branch, social distancing measures have been introduced. Danske Bank have also made changes to opening times in some of their branches.

Only five of their branches across Northern Ireland will remain open on a Saturday: Donegall Square West (Belfast), Ballymena, Newry, Omagh and Altnagelvin.

The following additional branches are now closed each day between 12.30-1.30pm: Armagh, Antrim, Ballyclare, Ballymoney, Banbridge, Carrickfergus, Comber, Cookstown, Downpatrick, Hillsborough, Limavady, Lurgan, Magherafelt, Mallusk, Strabane and University Road.

The first hour of opening at each branch is reserved for vulnerable and older customers. Danske Bank are asking all other customers to plan their branch visits outside these times.

For up-to-date information about your local branch, please visit the online Danske Bank branch locator.

Danske Bank have requested customers who are worried about financial difficulties as a result of the coronavirus outbreak should get in touch with them. They will then be able to advise customers on how they can help.

Danske Bank has set up a dedicated number for NHS, emergency services and care workers. You can find the details below.

Main contact - 0345 6002 882

  • 8am-6pm Monday-Friday
  • 9am-5pm Saturday-Sunday

NHS, emergency and care worker contact – 028 9004 9263

  • 8am-6pm Monday-Friday
  • 9am-5pm Saturday-Sunday

Elderly and vulnerable customers contact – 0345 601 0089

  • 8am-6pm Monday-Friday
  • 9am-5pm Saturday-Sunday

For existing customers with an overdraft on their personal current account, the first £500 of your overdraft balance will be interest free until 31 October 2020. Danske Bank will only calculate interest on your arranged overdraft, if you use it, on overdraft balances above £500. From 1 November 2020, the temporary support measures will end and they will start to calculate interest on the full balance of your arranged overdraft.

Existing customers without an overdraft on their personal current account and who may be experiencing financial difficulties in the current circumstance are eligible to apply for a new overdraft up to £500, which will also have no interest charged up until the end of October. You can apply online through eBanking or by calling 0345 600 2882. Any new overdraft requests will be subject to the banks normal credit assessments.

For more information about Overdraft assistance during the coronavirus pandemic, please click here.

Danske Bank are offering payment holidays to mortgage, personal loan and credit card customers who have been financially impacted by Coronavirus.

A payment holiday may not be the best thing for you in the long run, so it is important to contact Danske Bank to talk through which options will be. Missing a payment without communicating it to Danske Bank could negatively impact your credit score.

Mortgage customers are able to apply for a three month payment holiday. If you would like to request a mortgage payment holiday, you can do so on their Mortgage Payment Holiday webpage, or you can speak to one of their advisers on 0345 600 2882. The cut-off date for applications is 31 October 2020.

If you are worried about making your monthly personal loan repayments Danske Bank can offer payment holidays of up to three months. If you would like to request a personal loan payment holiday, you can do so on their Personal Loan Payment Holiday webpage or you can speak to an adviser on 0345 600 2882.

Similarly, if you would like to request a Credit Card Payment Holiday you can speak to an adviser on 0345 600 2882.

Phone lines for payment holiday enquiries are open 8am-6pm; Monday-Friday and 9am-5pm; Saturday-Sunday

Business customers who are worried about their cashflow have also been advised to get in contact or liaise with their relationship manager.

Danske Bank’s coronavirus advice – Click here.

Danske Bank’s branch locator – Click here.

Halifax

Most Halifax branches are open between 10am and 2pm Monday to Friday. To find the opening time of your local branch, Halifax are advising customers to search for the branch on Google. Simply type the branch name, e.g. “Halifax Newtownabbey” for up-to-date opening times.

If you do need to visit a branch, social distancing measures have been introduced.

If your finances have been impacted as a result of COVID-19, up until 31 October 2020 Halifax current account customers can apply for a 0% interest overdraft of up to £500 for 3 months. Click here for more information.

Halifax are offering payment holidays for mortgages, loans, credit cards and car finance loans.

Payment holidays may not be right for everyone as you will pay more as you take longer to pay back the amount you borrowed, and interest will continue to accrue on the amount you owe. You should, therefore, contact Halifax to discuss your options before applying.

Mortgage customers can apply for a payment holiday. Halifax have recommended that customers considering a mortgage payment holiday, or are in financial difficulty due to Covid-19, read the advice on their website. To apply for a mortgage payment holiday, click here. The cut-off date for applications is 31 October 2020.

Halifax have a dedicated mortgage application number, however it is only to be called if you cannot fill in the form online, for those who may not be eligible for a payment holiday and for vulnerable customers - 0345 850 3705 Monday-Friday: 8am-8pm, Saturday: 9am-4pm.

If you have already missed a mortgage payment please phone the following number: 0800 023 2679 Monday-Friday: 8am-7.30pm, Saturday 8am-12.30pm.

If you are worried about making your monthly personal loan repayments Halifax can offer payment holidays of up to three months. If you would like to request a personal loan repayment holiday, you can do so on the Loan Repayment Holiday page on their website.

Similarly, if you would like to request a Credit Card Payment Holiday you can find out how to do this here.

To request a car finance loan payment holiday sign into your online car finance account and follow the instructions. Further details can be found on the Halifax coronavirus advice page available here.

If you have savings in a fixed term account, you can now access this without being charged (excludes junior cash ISAs). To access your savings please call Halifax using the below number and they will arrange for your money to be moved into an account of your choice.

The transaction limit for paying a cheque into your account via the mobile app has increased. The increase on each individual cheque is from £500 to £1,000, and the maximum daily limit of £1,000 per day to £2,000 per day.

To contact Halifax, you can call - 0345 720 3040 Monday-Sunday: 7am-11pm.

Halifax’s coronavirus advice – Click here.

Halifax’s branch locator – Click here.

HSBC

HSBC have temporarily reduced their branch opening hours during the coronavirus crisis. Branches will be open from 10am – 2pm, Monday to Friday. All branches are closed at weekends until further notice.

If your finances have been impacted as a result of COVID-19, up until 31 October 2020 you can apply for a 0% interest overdraft of up to £500 for 3 months. This is for HSBC customers holding the following current accounts:

  • Bank Account 
  • Bank Account Pay Monthly
  • Current Account
  • Advance Bank Account

Click here for more information.

HSBC are offering payment holidays to customers who have been financially impacted by Coronavirus.

A payment holiday may not be the best thing for you in the long run, so it is important to contact HSBC to talk through which options will be. Missing a payment without communicating it to HSBC could negatively impact your credit score.

Mortgage customers are able to apply for a payment holiday. The cut-off date for applications is 31 October 2020. For further information and details on how to apply, please visit the HSBC mortgage holiday webpage.

If you have a loan from HSBC, and are struggling financially because of the coronavirus situation, you can apply to defer payments for three months. This gives you the chance to pause repayments without it impacting your credit file. You can request to defer your loan repayments here.

Similarly, HSBC credit card customers can apply for a three month payment holiday here.

Existing customers can contact HSBC on 03457 404 404. Lines are open 08:00 - 20:00 every day. From outside the UK phone +44 1226 261 010.

Other ways to contact HSBC can be found here.

Branch opening times

  • 10am – 2pm Monday to Friday

HSBC’s coronavirus advice – Click here.

HSBC’s branch locator – Click here.

Marks and Spencer's (M&S)

Due to Coronavirus, all of M&S bank and Bureaux de Change branches are closed.

If you continue to be, or reasonably expect to be, affected financially by the Covid-19 pandemic, and you're experiencing a reduction in your income and/or an increase in your outgoings, you can apply for temporary arranged overdraft support on your M&S account(s) for three months. You can apply for support until 31 October 2020. Click here for more information.

If you have an M&S Additional Account, no interest free amount applies, any arranged overdraft borrowing will temporarily be charged at 19.9% EAR (variable).

M&S are offering payment holidays to customers who have been financially impacted by Coronavirus.

A payment holiday may not be the best thing for you in the long run, so it is important to contact M&S to talk through which options will be. Missing a payment without communicating it to M&S could negatively impact your credit score.

Mortgage customers are able to apply for a payment holiday. The cut-off date for applications is 31 October 2020. Alternatively, you can apply to a reduced payment arrangement, or to extending the term of your mortgage. Please call 0345 002 1127 to discuss your circumstances.

If you have a loan from M&S, and are struggling financially because of the coronavirus situation, you can apply to defer payments for three months. To request a deferral of three monthly loan repayments, you can fill out their online form.

Similarly, M&S credit card customers can apply for a three month payment holiday by filling out this online form.

In order to pay your credit card bill without the need to access a branch, M&S have advice on paying remotely here.

Customers are able to access their fixed-rate savings accounts without closure charges. If you're financially impacted by Covid-19 and need to access your savings, they are waiving access restrictions and early closure fees for the M&S Bank Fixed Rate Saver product. Customers can still close their Monthly Saver account and withdraw the funds earlier if they need to. 

M&S Bank is also allowing customers to request increase their credit card and overdraft limit - this would be reviewed and tailored on the basis of individual customer circumstances.

To contact M&S, please call their general enquiries line on:

  • Calling from the UK: 0345 600 5860
  • Calling from overseas: +44(0)1244 879080
  • Lines are open 8am-8pm
  • During 6-7pm each day, all lines are reserved for NHS workers. M&S Bank have requested that all other customers avoid calling them for their routine banking needs during these hours.

M&S’ coronavirus advice – Click here.

Monzo Bank

If you are struggling financially, Monzo would like you to contact them to see what help they can provide. They recommend doing this via their app.

Overdraft customers who use Monzo as their main account (where their income or welfare is paid) and are financially impacted by coronavirus, could request a 3 month, interest-free overdraft buffer of up to £500. You can ask for this support until 31 October 2020.

For customers who already had the £500 interest-free buffer applied to their account before 3 July 2020, Monzo have automatically extended this for an additional 3 months. From 3 July 2020, any interest charges accrued over the £500 interest-free buffer have been capped at a maximum of £15.50 per month, until the end of the 3 month £500 buffer period. Click here for more information.

If you’re a Monzo loan customer and have been financially impacted by coronavirus, you can request a 3 month payment break starting between 14 April 2020 and 14 July 2020.

A payment break may not be the best thing for you in the long run, so it is important to contact Monzo to talk through your situation. Missing a payment without communicating it to Monzo could negatively impact your credit score. Please contact them via the app to discuss if this your best option.

If you’re in financial difficulty and need to access money in your Savings Pot (fixed term savings), providers might be able to release your money early. But Monzo will need to ask for evidence to show your circumstances and then send the provider a request. Monzo won't charge any sort of penalty fee if you need to withdraw money early from your Savings Pots.

If you are sick, you are able to allow someone else to manage your account - this can be done through the Monzo app.

Monzo recommend that you use your Monzo app to contact them.

If you need to speak to them, telephone 0800 802 1281

Monzo’s coronavirus advice – Click here.

Nationwide

Nationwide have reduced their branch opening hours. Branches in Northern Ireland are open Monday to Thursday, 10am-2pm.

However, they are encouraging members to sign up for internet banking and their banking app. Details of how to do this are available here.

If you are struggling with your finances due to the impacts of the coronavirus, you can apply for a three month interest holiday on your arranged overdraft. This means you will not be charged interest on your arranged overdraft during your interest holiday. Click here to find out more.

You can apply for an interest holiday until 31 October 2020. Your interest holiday will last for 3 months from the day your application is processed. After your holiday period finishes, interest will be charged on any arranged overdraft used at your normal contractual rate.

Nationwide are offering payment holidays to customers who have been financially impacted by Coronavirus.

A payment holiday may not be the best thing for you in the long run, so it is important to contact Nationwide to talk through which options will be. Missing a payment without communicating it to Nationwide could negatively impact your credit score.

Mortgage customers are able to apply for a three month payment holiday. The cut-off date for applications is 31 October 2020. For further information and details on how to apply, please visit the Nationwide mortgage holiday webpage. They also provide details of alternative options to a payment holiday, which may be more beneficial to you.

If you have a loan from Nationwide, and are struggling financially because of the coronavirus situation, you can apply for a loan “payment holiday”. Under this loan “payment holiday”, you will be able to reduce your monthly payments to £1 per month, for three months. This gives you the chance to reduce your repayments without it impacting your credit file. You can request to apply here.

Similarly, Nationwide credit card customers can apply for a credit card payment reduction. This means you can temporarily reduce your credit card payments to £1 per month, for three months. Click here for more details.

If you have savings in a fixed term bond account, you are also able to withdraw money and close your account early without any penalties. Visit the website for more details.

Nationwide’s contact details can be found on this page of their website.

Branch opening times

  • 10am – 2pm Monday to Thursday

Nationwide’s coronavirus advice – Click here.

Nationwide’s branch locator – Click here.

Progressive Building Society

If you need to visit a branch, social distancing measures have been introduced. Progressive have also reduced their branch opening hours during the coronavirus crisis. Branches in Northern Ireland are open Monday to Friday, 9am-12pm.

Smaller Agency branches may have closed their doors to visitors, but may still be contactable via telephone and the internet. Please telephone your local Progressive branch to find out how they can help you.

If you have a Fixed or Variable Rate Savings Bond which is coming to the end of its term, he normal 14-day rollover period detailed in your maturity letter will not be enforced. Any time up to 30th June 2020, Progressive will allow you to close your savings bond, or transfer your bond to another provider, without loss of interest or penalties applying. Visit their website for more information.

Depending on the type of savings account you have, you can transfer money into the account electronically from your bank account. Click here for details of how to manage your savings account.

If you need to contact Progressive, they have an online form you can complete, they will then get back to you within 5 days of receiving your query.

If you are having problems paying your mortgage, they also have a callback form you can fill in online to request further help or information regarding mortgages, and well as savings products, or to book an appointment with a qualified mortgage advisor.

Branch opening times

9am – 12pm Monday to Friday

  • Progressive’s coronavirus advice – Click here.
  • Progressive’s branch locator – Click here.

Santander

The majority of branches have reduced their hours to 10am-2pm, Monday to Friday and no branches will be open at weekends. There are a number of exceptions to weekday opening times so please check out their branch locator.

If your finances have been impacted as a result of COVID-19, up until 31 October 2020 Santander current account customers can apply for a 0% interest overdraft of up to £500 for 3 months. Click here for more information.

Santander are offering payment holidays to customers who have been financially impacted by Coronavirus.

A payment holiday may not be the best thing for you in the long run, so it is important to contact Santander to talk through which options will be. Missing a payment without communicating it to Santander could negatively impact your credit score.

Mortgage customers are able to apply for a payment holiday. The cut-off date for applications is 31 October 2020.  For further information and details on how to apply, please visit the Santander mortgage holiday webpage.

If you have a loan from Santander, and are struggling financially because of the coronavirus situation, you can apply for a payment holiday for three months. This gives you the chance to pause repayments without it impacting your credit file. Details, and how to apply, are available here.

Similarly, Santander credit card customers can apply for a three month payment holiday here. They have also removed the late payment fee and cash advance charge on credit cards until 6 July 2020.

You can access your money held in Santander fixed rate bonds and fixed rate ISAs before the end of the fixed term without being charged any fees. 

You may also be able to get help if you have monthly payment to a Santander Home Insurance policy or a Santander Car Insurance policy. Click on each link for details on how to access help with these policies.

Santander business customers have been advised to speak to their local Relationship Manager if they are in financial difficulty due to Coronavirus.

To contact Santander, please try using online chat and social media if you can as phone lines are very busy. If you would prefer to phone them, please call 0800 912 3123 (open 24 hours a day, seven days a week).

Branch opening times

  • 10am – 2pm Monday to Friday (at majority of branches – please check details of your local branch on the branch locator below)

Santander’s coronavirus advice – Click here.

Santander’s branch locator – Click here.

Tesco Bank

Tesco Bank have removed interest charges on the first £500 of arranged overdraft borrowing until 31 October 2020, and there will be no charges for you to use your agreed overdraft.

If you don’t have an overdraft with Tesco Bank, and would like to apply for one, you can do so by logging in to Online Banking and selecting Apply for an Arranged Overdraft. Overdrafts are subject to status.

They are also offering payment holidays to customers who have been financially impacted by Coronavirus.

A payment holiday may not be the best thing for you in the long run, so it is important to contact Santander to talk through which options will be. Missing a payment without communicating it to Santander could negatively impact your credit score.

If you have a loan from Tesco Bank and are struggling financially because of the coronavirus situation, you can apply for a payment holiday for three months. Last date for applications is 14 July 2020. This gives you the chance to pause repayments without it impacting your credit file. Details, and how to apply, are available here.

Similarly, Tesco Bank credit card customers can apply for a three month payment holiday here.

Tesco Bank customers who have a Fixed Rate Saver or Fixed Rate Cash ISA are able to access and close the account early with no additional charges. To do this, call 0345 300 4547.

Tesco Bank will not be charging customers fees if they make any changes or cancel their insurance policy.

Tesco Bank is currently operating reduced opening hours and have requested that customers only call if urgent. You can also use Twitter and Facebook to send them a private message.

  • Click here to find out contact details and opening times.

Tesco Bank’s coronavirus advice – Click here.

Ulster Bank

If you are struggling with your finances due to the impacts of the coronavirus, you can apply for a three month interest holiday on your arranged overdraft, up to £500, until 31 October 2020. This means you will not be charged interest on your arranged overdraft during your interest holiday. Click here to find out more.

Ulster Bank are offering payment holidays to customers who have been financially impacted by Coronavirus.

A payment holiday may not be the best thing for you in the long run, so it is important to contact Nationwide to talk through which options will be. Missing a payment without communicating it to Nationwide could negatively impact your credit score.

Mortgage customers are able to apply for a three month payment holiday. The cut-off date for applications is 31 October 2020. For further information and details on how to apply, please visit the Ulster Bank mortgage holiday webpage.

If you have a loan from Ulster Bank, and are struggling financially because of the coronavirus situation, you can apply for a three month loan repayment deferral which won’t impact your credit score. This need to be applied for using the Ulster Bank Mobile App.

Similarly, Ulster Bank credit card customers can apply for a credit card payment reduction. This means you can temporarily reduce your credit card payments to £1 per month, for three months. Click here for more details.

They are also removing fees for late credit card payments until 30 June 2020, and providing cash advance fee refunds on request. Visit the Ulster Bank coronavirus advice page for more information.

If you have savings in a Ulster Bank fixed savings account, you are also able to withdraw money and close your account early without any penalties. To do this, please phone Ulster Bank on 03457 424 365.

  • Support for Ulster Bank business customers is available here.
  • Contact details for Ulster Bank are available here.

Ulster Bank’s coronavirus advice – Click here.

Ulster Bank’s branch locator – Click here.

Virgin Money

Virgin Money are allowing current account customers to apply for an interest free arranged overdraft buffer of up to £500. Even if you have an arranged overdraft which is less than £500, the buffer will mean that you won't pay any debit interest on the amount you choose to use up to £500. The buffer will last for 3 months from the day you apply. More details are available here.

If you don’t currently have an arranged overdraft, you can apply for one here.

Virgin Money are also offering payment holidays to customers who have been financially impacted by Coronavirus.

A payment holiday may not be the best thing for you in the long run, so it is important to contact Virgin Money to talk through which options will be. Missing a payment without communicating it to Santander could negatively impact your credit score.

Mortgage customers are able to apply for a three month payment holiday. The cut-off date for applications is 31 October 2020. For further information and details on how to apply, please visit the Virgin Money mortgage holiday webpage.

Similarly, Virgin Money credit card customers can apply for a three month payment holiday here.

To contact Virgin Money, visit their website for more information.

Virgin stores opening times have changed temporarily. Please visit their store locator below for details on your local store.

  • Virgin Money’s coronavirus advice – Click here.
  • Virgin’s store locator – Click here.

Credit Unions

Information for credit union members

If you are a member of a credit union and you have any concerns during the current crisis, we would urge you to contact them either by phone or online. Check your local credit union’s opening hours to ensure their phone lines are open, or for a quick email response.

Credit unions are remaining open. If you need to physically visit your branch, please check the opening hours in advance as they are implementing strict social distancing and other COVID-19 preventative measures.

Some branches are also making arrangements (such as dedicated access hours) for older and more vulnerable members. Please check your credit union's website for this type of information.

Many credit unions also have an online banking facility where you can login or register directly on their website.

Find your local credit union

Credit unions are affiliated to either the Irish League of Credit Unions or the Ulster Federation of Credit Unions. To find your local branch it is advisable to look on the websites of both organisations.

For more help with finances such as how to look after your money efficiently, your options for borrowing money safely and where to go to for help if you are in debt, please visit the ‘True Cost’ page on our website.

Access To Cash for Vulnerable People and Alternative Ways to Pay for Things

Access to cash for people in self-isolation

If you have been advised to stay at home under all circumstances, there are options available for you to access your cash.

The Post Office’s “Payout Now” scheme allows people who are shielded or self-isolating to maintain access to cash without having to hand over a debit card and Pin to somebody else. 

You tell your bank exactly how much you want to withdraw from your account, up to a set limit, and they will send you a one-time barcode voucher by either SMS text, email or post. This allows a family member, a trusted friend or a volunteer to collect the cash on your behalf at a Post Office branch in exchange for the voucher.

Post Office have also launched the “Fast PACE” service which allows you to name a trusted individual, such as carer or family member, to cash a pre authorised cheque on your behalf at a Post Office branch.

Please be aware that, while these Post Office services have been made available to every bank, building society or credit union in Northern Ireland, it is up to the individual financial service provider as to whether or not they use them to provide cash.

Some providers have their own access to cash process in place. Please contact your bank, building society or credit union to see what they are offering and discuss how you can access your money.

Alternative ways to pay for things

Over the coming months, at some point some of you may find yourself unable to leave your home for basic supplies – such as groceries or medical products. This may be for a short time, or it may be for an extended period if you are in a high-risk category, as specified by the UK government.

Regardless, there are several ways for you to pay for these items whether you have access to the internet or not. UK Finance have a lot of useful advice on their website which covers this.

The services offered by individual banks or building societies will differ, but providers are keeping their websites up to date with the latest information to help their customers.

Finance and Debt Advice

Advice on managing your money during the coronavirus crisis

You may have noticed your spending has changed during the coronavirus crisis. For example, you may find you are using more energy, your food bills are bigger or perhaps you are spending less on transport.

Online interactive budgeting tool

The Council Consumer has a free online interactive budgeting tool that can help you manage your money and identify areas where you can potentially make savings.

There is no need to enter any sensitive personal or banking information, as our budgeting tool is straightforward to use and only requires you to enter your income and outgoings.

The budgeting tool then provides you with a spending report that allows you to easily and transparently review your spending, see where your money is going and potentially identify key areas to cut costs. The tool will even signpost you to free tools and advice agencies to help you save money.

The interactive budgeting tool is available by visiting budgettool.consumercouncil.org.uk.

Downloadable budget planner

There is also a free downloadable budgeting planner if you prefer to review your spending on paper. You can call us on 0800 121 6022 to request a printed copy.

Energy Price Comparison Tool

We can also help you to save money on your energy bills. Our energy price comparison tool will enable you to compare electricity and gas tariffs for every supplier in Northern Ireland.

Weekly home heating oil prices

Our weekly oil survey provides the average, cheapest and dearest oil prices in Northern Ireland. Updated every week, consumers can also find the average price of home heating oil in their own locality by visiting home heating oil survey.

I’m worried about getting into debt, or my debt getting worse

You may have payment agreements with creditors (lenders) other than the main financial institutions like, banks and building societies. For example, you may have hire purchase agreements, car finance, insurance, catalogue accounts or store cards.

The Financial Conduct Authority (the regulatory body for financial services) have introduced a number of measures to help customers during the coronavirus pandemic. These changes are intended to provide help for short-term cash flow problems.

Financial service providers must help you if you’re having financial difficulties as a result of COVID-19. Under the circumstances created by the coronavirus pandemic, lenders are showing a great deal of forbearance when it comes repayments.

If you’re struggling to make your loan payments, firms should consider:

  • suspending, reducing, waiving or cancelling any further interest or charges
  • deferring payment of arrears
  • accepting smaller payments for a reasonable period of time

Contact your provider, or visit their website or social media, to see what help they may be providing to customers facing financial difficulties as a result of the on-going emergency. It is far better to do this than to miss payments without permission.

It is important to take the time to consider whether or not a payment holidays is the best option for you given your own circumstances, as it is just a suspension of payments. You will still owe the same amount of money and you will continue to accrue interest on it during the payment holiday.

If you feel that you have no option but to borrow cash fast, or your financial situation is a constant worry, there is help available.

Visit our 'True Cost' webpage here for helpful information about where to go to for help. 

A list of advice agencies that may be able to help you if you are worried about debt is available here.

I’m struggling to keep up with my motor finance payments

If you are having trouble meeting finance or leasing payments due to COVID-19, you can apply for a 3-month payment freeze.

However, it is important to remember that you still owe the amounts that you don't pay as a result of the payment freeze. This means that, at the end of the payment freeze, you will have to make up the missed payments. Also, interest will continue to be charged on the amount you owe which means that you will owe more than you did before agreeing a payment freeze.

A payment freeze may not be the best thing for you in the long run, so it is important to contact your finance provider to talk through which options will be. Missing a payment without communicating it to your provider could negatively impact your credit score.

Firms should not alter agreements in a way that is unfair. If you want to keep your vehicle at the end of your PCP agreement, but, due to COVID-19, can’t afford it, firms should work with you to find a solution.

High-cost short-term credit payments (including payday loans)

If you can’t make payments due to coronavirus, you can request a payment freeze on your high-cost short-term credit loan for at least 1 month. These loans usually charge high interest rates but under the current circumstances, the lender should not charge any additional interest.

You are able to request a payment deferral at any point up to 31 October 2020. This means that a payment deferral could go beyond that date. The application for a payment deferral can only be made once.

If you need any further support with regard to repaying your loan, you should always speak to your lender to make them aware of your financial position. The lender should then work with you to see what additional forbearance measures they can put in place.

Rent-to-own agreements

If Coronavirus has left you in financial difficulty, you can apply for a 3 month repayment freeze on your rent-to-own agreement.

However, it is important to remember that you still owe the amounts that you don't pay as a result of the payment freeze. This means that, at the end of the payment freeze, you will have to make up the missed payments. Also, interest will continue to be charged on the amount you owe which means that you will owe more than you did before agreeing a payment freeze.

A payment freeze may not be the best thing for you in the long run, so it is important to contact your finance provider to talk through which options will be. Missing a payment without communicating it to your provider could negatively impact your credit score.

Additionally, if at the end of the payment freeze period you need any further support with regard to making payments, you should always speak to your finance provider to make them aware of your financial position. The provider should then work with you to see what additional forbearance measures they can put in place.

If you need the goods during this period, they will not be repossessed. Currently rent-to-own firms are unable to collect or repossess your goods, but they should not charge you extra for this (unavoidable) extension of your agreement.

Buy-now pay-later agreements

With ‘buy now, pay later’ agreements, If Covid-19 has resulted in your finances being affected, you can ask for a 3 month freeze on repayments.

However, it is important to remember that you still owe the amounts that you don't pay as a result of the payment freeze. This means that, at the end of the payment freeze, you will have to make up the missed payments. Also, interest will continue to be charged on the amount you owe which means that you will owe more than you did before agreeing a payment freeze.

A payment freeze may not be the best thing for you in the long run, so it is important to contact your finance provider to talk through which options will be. Missing a payment without communicating it to your provider could negatively impact your credit score.

Additionally, if at the end of the payment freeze period you need any further support with regard to making payments, you should always speak to your finance provider to make them aware of your financial position. The provider should then work with you to see what additional forbearance measures they can put in place.

If you are within a promotional period, your lender should mirror that period with the length of the freeze period. During a promotional period, you do not have to make repayments each month but will be charged interest on any balance you have not paid back by the end of that period.

Pawnbroking

If you are having temporary difficulties meeting payments due to coronavirus, you can request a freeze on payments on your pawnbroking agreement for 3 months.

However, it is important to remember that you still owe the amounts that you don't pay as a result of the payment freeze. This means that, at the end of the payment freeze, you will have to make up the missed payments. Also, interest will continue to be charged on the amount you owe which means that you will owe more than you did before agreeing a payment freeze.

A payment freeze may not be the best thing for you in the long run, so it is important to contact your pawnbroker to talk through which options will be. Missing a payment without communicating it to your provider could negatively impact your credit score.

Additionally, if at the end of the payment freeze period you need any further support with regard to making payments, you should always speak to your pawnbroker to make them aware of your financial position. The pawnbroker should then work with you to see what additional forbearance measures they can put in place.

The redemption date will be extended for this period. If the date has already passed, an item you have pawned should not be sold for that period. If notice of intention to sell has been given already, the firm should suspend the sale for the period of the payment freeze.

Additional Information Sources

Which?

Which? provides further information on other lenders, available here.

Financial Conduct Authority

The Financial Conduct Authority has information on support for consumers on its website, available here.

They have also published information for customers on personal loans, credit cards and overdrafts. This is available on the FCA website.

Additional information for consumers about insurance is available here.

The Financial Conduct Authority has also outlined its expectations of firms and insurance companies during this period. You can read the guidance on its website by clicking here.

Money Advice Service

The Money Advice Service has useful information on the coronavirus and what it means for you and your money on its website, available here.

There is also a handy Money Navigator tool to help people navigate their finances in the wake of Covid-19 and avoid financial issues worsening in future.

Association of British Insurers (ABI)

ABI has produced a guide to some on the most commonly asked questions on different types of insurance and protections. You can view it on the ABI’s website here.

The Money and Pensions Service (MaPS)

MaPS website has information on how to deal with or put off any of the financial affects you might be experiencing due to the coronavirus, available here.

MaPs has also launched an online tool to help people navigate their finances in the wake of Covid-19 and avoid financial issues worsening in future. The Money Navigator tool is available on Money Advice Service website here.

UK Finance

UK Finance has a dedicated COVID-19 webpage that provides businesses and consumers with up to date details of the support available, whether in the form of business loans or assistance with mortgage payments, and where to go for advice. Click here.

They also have some guidance on making payments securely during lockdown – the different methods and how to access them, which you can see here. You can also use their online tool which will help you choose which payment options are best for you to use, which you can access here.

UK Pensions Regulator

Provides information for trustees, employers and administrators of pensions schemes. This information is available here.

Did you get the help you needed?

 

The Consumer Council is authorised and regulated by The Financial Conduct Authority to act as a credit broker. Our Firm Number is 913082.