Get help to buy food and milk (Healthy Start)

Using your card or vouchers

You’ll receive your card by post. It’ll come with your first payment on it and instructions on how to activate and use it.

Money will be automatically added to your card every 4 weeks.

You must keep your card if you’re still getting your benefit.

Before you use your card

You need to activate your card before you use it in a shop.

To activate your card, contact us.

You’ll need your: 

  • card
  • date of birth
  • client ID (located at the top of the letter that came with your card)

Find your PIN

You need to know your PIN before you use your card in a shop.

You can find out your PIN when you call to activate your card. To get a reminder of your PIN, contact us.

You’ll need your:

  • card
  • date of birth
  • 6-digit telephone access code

If you did not give us an email address or a phone number, then you will receive a PIN in the post. Your PIN will be sent out 2 days after your card is sent to you.

Checking your balance

You can check your balance at any cashpoint. You will need your PIN to check your balance at a cashpoint. You cannot withdraw cash.

You can also check your balance by contacting us.

You’ll need your:

  • card 
  • date of birth
  • 6-digit telephone access code
Shopping with your card

You can use your Healthy Start card to buy healthy foods on their own or with other shopping.

You cannot spend more than the balance of the card.

If you want to make a contactless payment, the first time you use your card you’ll need to insert your card and use your PIN. After that, you can make contactless payments of up to £45.

Where you can shop

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

  • supermarkets
  • convenience stores
  • grocery stores
  • drug stores and pharmacies
  • markets
  • dairy products stores
  • news dealers and newsstands
  • freezer and locker meat provisioners (such as butcher shops)
  • petrol stations

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.

If you’re buying only healthy foods

You can pay for them using your Healthy Start card, like you would with a normal contactless bank card. This means you can pay by tapping your card on the card device at checkout. You can also use your card as a chip and PIN card if you prefer. Just put it in the card device and enter your PIN.

If you’re buying healthy food with other food or drink

You can split the payment between your Healthy Start card and your normal bank card or cash. Just tell the cashier you want to do this. You’ll also need to tell them how much you want to spend on your Healthy Start card and how much you want to spend on your normal bank card or in cash.

If you’re buying healthy food at a self-checkout machine

You cannot split your payment between your Healthy Start card and another bank card at self-checkout machines. You can only part pay using your Healthy Start card if you’re paying the rest in cash.

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.


If you need to get a refund on something you’ve bought, you can get the refund in the same way as you would with any bank card. Go back to the shop with your items, your receipt and your card and ask for a refund.

Problems using your card

If you experience any problems using your card, contact us.

Lost or stolen cards

You’re responsible for all spending on your prepaid card even if someone else uses it.

You must contact us straight away if:

  • your card is lost or stolen
  • your card is being used by someone else without your permission
  • you notice a transaction that you do not recognise

A lost or stolen card will be immediately blocked so that no one else can use it.

Any transactions made before the card is reported lost or stolen will be charged to your account.

To report a card as lost or stolen, contact us.

You’ll need your:

  • date of birth
  • client ID (located at the top of the letter that came with your card)

Turning off contactless payments

If you do not want your Healthy Start card to be contactless, contact us.

This will mean that you can only use your card by entering it into the card device and using your PIN.

Using your vouchers

You’ll receive your Healthy Start vouchers by post every 4 weeks.

You’ll receive the vouchers for Healthy Start foods and Healthy Start vitamins together.

You’ll get Healthy Start food vouchers every 4 weeks, but receive a valid vitamins voucher every 8 weeks. 

If your Healthy Start vitamin voucher has “VOID” printed on it, you’re not due any Healthy Start vitamins until the next month and you cannot use the vitamin voucher.

Where you can use your vouchers

You can use your Healthy Start vouchers in any shop that is registered to take part in the scheme (Excel: 335KB). If a retailer is not on this list, please ask the retailer if they can accept vouchers directly.

Other types of shops that may accept Healthy Start vouchers include:

  • corner shops
  • food co-ops
  • greengrocers
  • market stalls
  • milk floats or vans
  • pharmacies
  • supermarkets
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