For members


Can British people in Austria claim the winter fuel payment from the UK?

It’s no secret that winter is set to be expensive with rising energy costs. But some British people in Austria might be able to access financial support through the UK benefits system.

Can British people in Austria claim the winter fuel payment from the UK?
Some British people living in Austria might be able to claim the winter fuel payment from the UK. (Photo by Suzy Hazelwood / Pexels)

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.

And, as the rising cost of living in Austria takes a chunk out of household budgets, some British people are wondering if they can still claim this benefit while living in Austria.

To find out, we took a closer look at the rules for claiming the winter fuel payment from the UK while overseas.

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What is the UK’s winter fuel payment?

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

Eligible people are those born on or before 25th September 1956 who were living in the UK during the qualifying week (starting the third Monday in September).

How much people receive depends on their age and whether anyone else in the household is also eligible, but the amount is usually between £100 and £300.

Those living in a care home or nursing home only qualify for the benefit if they are already receiving pension credit, income-based job seekers allowance or employment and support allowance.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What will happen to Austria’s property market in 2023?

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

As with most issues related to bureaucracy, the answer to the question above is: it depends.

Official guidance from the UK government states that you may be able to claim the winter fuel benefit from abroad if you are at least 68 years of age, live in Switzerland or an EEA country, have a genuine link to the UK (such as family) and you’re covered by the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

Additionally, having previously claimed the winter fuel payment in the UK before moving abroad is not a requirement.

So, in theory, some British people living in Austria will be able to claim this benefit from the UK, as long as they were already in Austria by 31st December 2020.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How does the Austrian pension system work?

However, only those that lived and worked in the UK for most of their life can claim the winter fuel payment, according to the online checker on the UK government website. 

This means if you moved to Austria for retirement and you meet the other criteria, then you probably will be eligible. But if you lived and worked in Austria for most of your adult life, maybe not.

How to claim the winter fuel payment?

To make a claim for this benefit for the first time, you will need to call the Winter Fuel Payment hotline on +44 (0)191 218 7777. The phone lines are open from Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm (UK time).

Alternatively, you can apply by post by filling in the IPCF091 form.

To apply for the winter fuel payment, you will need to provide your National Insurance number and bank details. The authorities will also ask for a copy of the Article 50 Card to prove that you were living in Austria by 31st December 2020.

Find out more about the application process at the UK government website.

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For members


What is the Austrian JÖ Karte and how can you save money with it?

If you've been to an Austrian supermarket, chances are the cashier asked you if you have a JÖ Karte. But what is it and how does it work?

What is the Austrian JÖ Karte and how can you save money with it?

Even before inflation rates hit double digits in Austria, the discount card JÖ was already very popular. In many supermarkets, drugstores and stores, you’ll hear the question “Haben Sie eine Jö Karte?” just when checking out.

They are referring to Austria’s largest discount and points card, with more than four million members, created by a company called Jö Bonus Club in 2018. The card can be used in so many establishments because the company was created as an independent company of the major REWE Group conglomerate in Austria.

That means that you can use the Jö Karte to redeem points at ADEG Kaufleute, Allianz, BAWAG, BILLA, BILLA PLUS, BILLA Reisen, BIPA, Interio, LIBRO, mjam, OMV, PAGRO DISKONT, PEARLE, PENNY, Universal, VERBUND and ZGONC, according to the club’s website.

READ ALSO: Why everything in Austria is closed on Sundays – and what to do instead

How does it work?

It’s not unlike other loyalty programs: the more you spend in the partner stores, the more points you accumulate. Each brand can choose how to convert euros to points. For example, you receive one point for every two euros spent in Billa and Billa Plus supermarkets.

When buying fuel at an OMV, every one or two litres (depending on the fuel type) will get you one point.

You can then redeem points for specific discounts in each store or reduce bills at the checkout by one euro for every 100 points accumulated. In addition, certain brands give Jö members advantages, such as discounts on car wash for 150 points at OMV, for example.

Points expire three years from the date credited to the Ö balance.

READ ALSO: COMPARED: Which supermarket is best in Austria?

How can I participate?

You can register for a free account on the official website. You will then receive a card at your home address, but you can also use the app to collect points, check your balance and get rewards.

Are there any privacy concerns?

Well, yes. In late 2022, criminals could hack into the Jö-Bonus Club and get access to 18,000 accounts using email addresses and passwords they had stolen from other sources. In 75 cases, they made purchases with stolen bonus points. At the time, the company apologised and asked customers to change their passwords.

Additionally, Austrian media has already reported on privacy concerns of discount cards. In order to accumulate points, the consumer gives companies access to their email addresses and history of purchases, which can be used to create a consumer profile.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: 10 ways to save money on your groceries in Austria

An ORF report highlighted that discounts are often “priced in” by the companies, meaning that consumers usually find many products in other stores that cost the same as the discounted offers. They can also find additional discounts that they can anonymously use, such as discount stamps offered by Spar which can help consumers save up to 20 percent on a purchase.

The report brought tips that can help you stay safe if you choose to participate in Jö Club or other loyalty programs.

First, don’t repeat passwords; use a password manager to create a strong one you won’t use again on other sites. You can also use a fake or alternative email address instead of your main one – and skip any unnecessary information boxes, such as your phone number or address, whenever possible.