25 October 2016

Post Office Card Account (POCA) holders

HMRC have advised that they are undertaking a joint exercise with DWP to encourage claimants to open bank accounts.

Letters are being sent to tax credit and benefit recipients who currently have their awards paid into a Post Office Card Account (POCA) to invite them to open a bank account instead of their POCA so that their award can be paid into the bank account.

The letters have a black HM Government branded letterhead instead of either of the more usual HMRC or DWP letterheads that claimants may be more familiar with, which may make people doubt whether they are authentic. The letter provides a DWP freephone telephone number that claimants can call for further information or advice.

There is currently no legislative requirement to change from a POCA to a standard bank account. We’re told the reason for the exercise is twofold, to help people prepare for Universal Credit and to encourage people to move away from the slightly restrictive facilities offered through POCA to use a bank account, which provides the account holder with additional services such as debit card and direct debit facilities.

Many high street banks offer a fee-free basic bank account (debit card and direct debit facility but no overdraft or other borrowing) and credit union bank accounts are also acceptable. Whilst neither DWP nor HMRC are in a position to recommend any particular account to anyone, they can advise callers what types of accounts are available and where to go for more information.

Claimants 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. 

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.

HMRC have confirmed that Post Office Card Accounts will remain available until 2021 to ensure that people who cannot use a mainstream account can continue to access their payments.