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BRITONS IN SPAIN

Can British people in Spain claim the UK’s winter fuel payment?

In the UK, there are various benefits available to help eligible people through the cold winter months – one of which is the winter fuel payment. But can Britons living in Spain claim this benefit to cover the cost of heating their Spanish homes?

Can British people in Spain claim the UK's winter fuel payment?
Can Brits living abroad still claim the winter fuel payment? Photo: he gong / Unsplash

Energy costs are on the up in Spain, and with the winter fast approaching the added cost of paying for heating when the mercury drops can result in some very high bills.

Not all of Spain has freezing winters but there are often cold spells and many houses in the country tend to get even colder than it is outside.

READ MORE: Why are Spanish homes so cold?

The average winter temperature across Spain is 8C (1981 to 2010 average). That’s higher than the average in other European countries, but in Spain’s interior and mountainous areas it can be truly chilly from November to March.  

That means that overall, there’s a chance you’ll need to use a radiator or the central heating to keep your Spanish home warm.

So are some of the 400,000+ UK nationals who reside in Spain eligible for winter fuel financial support from the UK?

What is the UK’s winter fuel payment?

The UK’s winter fuel payment is a tax-free payment to help older people with heating costs during the cold winter months.

Those eligible must have been born before September 26th 1956, according to the UK government website.

How much people receive depends on their age and whether anyone else in the household is also eligible, but the amount is usually between £250 and £600.

I’m a UK national living in Spain. Can I claim the winter fuel payment?

The UK government states that those living abroad can benefit from the winter fuel payment if:

  • You moved to an eligible country before 1st January 2021
  • You were born before September 26th 1956
  • You have a genuine and sufficient link to the UK – this can include having lived or worked in the UK, and having family in the UK

While many EU nations are on the list of eligible countries, such as Austria, Germany, Sweden, and Italy, unfortunately Spain is not on the list.

This means that if you live in Spain, you will not be able to claim the winter fuel payment at all, even if you meet the age conditions.

Why isn’t Spain on the eligible list of countries?

The UK government services website nidirect states that “you cannot get the payment if you live in Cyprus, France, Gibraltar, Greece, Malta, Portugal or Spain because the average winter temperature is higher than the warmest region of the UK”.

This is despite the fact that some parts of Spain are a lot colder than the average UK winter temperatures. This includes cities, towns and villages near mountain ranges such as the Pyrenees or Sierra Nevada, or regions in the interior like Castilla-La Mancha, Aragón​​ and Castilla y León.

According to the British government, during winter the average temperature is between 2 and 7 C in the UK.

READ ALSO: Where are the coldest places in Spain?

Foreigners in Spain used to be able to claim this financial benefit, but it was scrapped in 2015 after many UK taxpayers were angry that UK winter fuel payments were going to help people that lived in countries that were generally warmer than the UK.

READ ALSO: Which UK benefits can Brits keep if they move to Spain?

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MONEY

Why banks in Spain are obliged by law to offer a low-cost basic account

Low-cost basic accounts may not be widely advertised in Spain, but they are available and your bank must, by law, offer you one if you want.

Why banks in Spain are obliged by law to offer a low-cost basic account

According to EU law, banks must offer a “basic account” for essential operations such as depositing and withdrawing money, making transfers and receiving salaries.

The EU created this “basic account” with the aim of avoiding financial exclusion and providing everyone residing in the bloc with a current account, even if they hardly earn any money or don’t have a fixed address.

READ ALSO: What’s the maximum amount you should have in a current bank account in Spain?

What are these basic accounts?

They allow you to carry out up to 120 operations per year and have a debit card, paying only a commission of €3 per month or €36 per year to use it. 

The Bank of Spain along with consumer associations are encouraging banks in Spain to make these types of accounts more well-known to their customers. 

READ ALSO: What to be aware of before opening a shared bank account in Spain

Who are these basic accounts for? 

The accounts are ideal for those who have minimal incomes, as well as those who are not comfortable with technology such as using computers, tablets or smartphones as they don’t require you to use any apps or carry out any extra operations online. 

They are also good for vulnerable consumers, due to the fact that banks must agree to give you the account free of charge for two years, extendable two by two, provided you demonstrate that you continue to be so.

You will be considered vulnerable if: 

  • You are not part of a family unit and you do not earn more than twice the amount of the IPREM. For 2023, this will be €14,400 per year.
  • Or, if you are part of a family unit of fewer than four members and you earn less than 2.5 times the IPREM – no more than €18,000 in 2023.
  • And if none of the members of the family own property, except for the main residence, or own a company. 

Can banks refuse to give me a basic account? 

Not really, no. Banks are obliged by law to be able to provide these low-cost accounts and can’t refuse you unless they find out that you are using it to launder money or threaten national security.

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