Get help to buy food and milk (Healthy Start)

What you’ll get and how to shop

How much you’ll get

You’ll get money added onto your Healthy Start card every 4 weeks.

You’ll get:

  • £4.25 each week of your pregnancy from the 10th week
  • £8.50 each week for children from birth to 1 year old
  • £4.25 each week for children between 1 and 4 years old

Your money will stop when your child is 4 years old, or if you do not get benefits that make you eligible.

You can also get free vitamins with your card.

Shopping with your card

You should only use your card to buy certain types of milk, infant formula, fruit and vegetables.

You need to activate your card before you can use it. The first time you use your card you’ll need to use your PIN. After that, you can make contactless payments.

When you use contactless four times in a row, or spend a combined £150, you’ll need to use your PIN on the next transaction. This is to help with the security of your card.

You cannot use your Healthy Start card:

  • online
  • outside of the UK, including the Republic of Ireland
  • on your phone’s wallet app
  • to withdraw cash from an ATM
  • to get cashback

Information: Shopping with vouchers

You can use any paper Healthy Start vouchers you have up until the expiry date shown on them. You may need to ask the retailer if they can accept the vouchers.

Where to shop

You can use your card in most places that sell milk, infant formula, fruit and vegetables.

They must display a Mastercard® symbol. The symbol is normally shown on the shop door or at the till. Ask an employee inside the shop if they take Mastercard if you’re unsure.

If you try to spend the money anywhere else the card will be declined. For example at a fast food restaurant.

How to shop

You can only spend up to the balance of your card.

You can split payments between your Healthy Start card and your normal bank card or cash. Some shops will need to do this as separate transactions.

At self-checkout machines you can only split payments between your Healthy Start card and cash, not another bank card.

Do not worry if you make a mistake when using your Healthy Start card to buy healthy food with other shopping. It will not affect your benefit payments.

A shopping example

Sam has £10 left on their Healthy Start card and goes to their local supermarket.

They put £6 of fresh vegetables and £2 of plain cow’s milk in their basket. They also pick up £5 of toiletries and £5 of bread and cereal.

When Sam gets to the tills, they should pay for the:

  • £8 of vegetables and milk with their Healthy Start card
  • £10 of toiletries, bread and cereal with their bank card or cash

Refunds

If you need to get a refund on something you’ve bought, go back to the shop with your items, receipt and Healthy Start card. The money will be refunded to your Healthy Start card.

A pharmacist takes an item off a shelf

Free Healthy Start vitamins

You can get free vitamins for you and your child with your Healthy Start card

A child with knife and fork in hand about to eat a plate of vegetables

Frequently asked questions

Frequently asked questions that people may have about the Healthy Start scheme

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