How to claim universal credit

Universal credit advances before your first payment

You have to wait at least 5 weeks for your first universal credit payment.

You could ask for a universal credit advance if you need money during this time. For example, for food, rent, gas or electricity.

An advance is an interest free loan from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

You pay it back from your monthly universal credit payments.

You can pay the loan back over 2 years. Your monthly universal credit payment is lower while you pay back the advance.

How to get an advance

You can: 

  • ask your work coach at your jobcentre interview

  • apply through your universal credit account

  • call the universal credit helpline on 0800 328 5644

The universal credit helpline is usually very busy. It may be easier to apply online.

Information you need to provide

You need to:

  • confirm your identity

  • explain why you need the advance

  • provide your bank account details

Good examples of why you may need an advance are for rent, food or important bills.

You will usually be asked about any other money you could use instead. For example, savings, final wages or redundancy pay.

How much to ask for

The most you can get is the same as your estimated first monthly payment.

You don't have to ask for the maximum amount. Remember you have to pay it back.

Think about: 

  • any other money coming in

  • essential payments over the next 5 weeks, such as rent and food

Only ask for what you need and can afford to pay back

Fabiola shares her experience of getting a universal credit advance and offers some advice if you're thinking of doing the same.

When you get the advance

You usually get a same day decision on a universal credit advance.

The money should be paid into your bank account within 3 working days.

Ask for a same day payment if it's an emergency. For example, if you need it for food.

Paying back an advance

You pay the advance back through deductions from your universal credit, usually over 2 years.

If you stop claiming universal credit because your income goes up, you may have to repay it sooner.

You'll be told how much the monthly deductions will be when you apply.

You can ask to delay repayments for up to 3 months if you can't afford them.

If you're refused an advance

You might be refused an advance. 

For example, if a work coach or universal credit helpline adviser decides you can manage financially until your first payment comes through.  

You can ask them to reconsider a decision but there's no formal right of appeal. 

Last updated: 5 October 2021

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