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.

FOR MEMBERS: What are the rules about turning on the heating in the workplace in Austria?

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


Grocery shopping in Austria: How much could you save by switching chains?

With food prices rising in Austria the weekly grocery shopping bill has become more of a burden on households but is there anything to be saved by switching chains? David Everson-Baltas crunched the numbers.

Grocery shopping in Austria: How much could you save by switching chains?

All over the world, people are having to deal with what seems like a barrage of unending economic uncertainty and soaring prices, but Austria in particular has been grappling with some of the highest inflation rates in Europe.

Quite understandably, our initial reaction to out-of-control price hikes tends to focus on one thing: earning more money. But in our efforts to manage our money more diligently, we often forget that our choices as consumers can have just as significant an impact on our bank balances.

Where you shop for groceries is one such choice, and with inflation pushing up food prices by as much as 30 percent, you can make regular and sizeable savings simply by being more selective in where you shop.

Since the beginning of 2023, after seeing a pack of tri-colour peppers at an eye-watering €3.99, I have been making a concerted effort to reduce my household food expenses by thinking more carefully about where I shop, and in doing so have made some considerable savings.

To help you make more informed shopping decisions, I have recently conducted a price comparison of essential food shops across three major supermarket chains in Austria.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about supermarkets in Austria

The three supermarkets:

As a resident of Austria, you will likely be familiar with the market chains: Spar, Billa and Hofer.  Outlets for all three companies can be found throughout Austria, yet they differ substantially in their prices and respective reputations for variety, quality, and promotional offers.

Spar: Der österreichische Supermarkt in Ihrer Nähe! (The Austrian supermarket near you)

With over 1,500 locations across the country, Spar is central to the Austrian food shop. Whether you’re in Vienna, Vorarlberg, or an out-of-the-way mountain village, the chances are there is, indeed, a spar store “near you”.


Image by M. from Pixabay.

Particularly in the case of its larger INTERSPAR stores, the Dutch supermarket chain offers a much wider choice of products compared to Billa and Hofer, and with the introduction of its new app, shoppers can now get immediate access to a limited number of 25 percent off discounts for their most expensive items.

Billa: A portmanteau of “billiger Laden” (cheap shop)

Billa, with over 1,000 outlets in Austria, has been serving Austrians since 1953, offering a diverse range of products to meet their daily requirements. The chain often includes 25 percent off discount stickers in their mail-marketing brochures, so shoppers can enjoy regular savings on their most expensive purchases.

This, coupled with its loyalty card scheme , makes it a popular choice for those who like big promotions and exclusive offers.

Hofer: Da bin ich mir sicher (I’m sure)

Hofer, known in some parts of the world as Aldi, has revolutionized the food shopping experience with its commitment to affordability. With over 500 locations across Austria, Hofer has become synonymous with budget-friendly shopping. This discount supermarket offers no-frills shopping, focusing on the essentials with an albeit smaller range of products.

The results:

Having compiled a shopping list of general food staples and essentials, I took to the shops to see which would cause the least amount of damage to my budget. It should be noted that the products across Spar, Billa and Hofer are often from independent producers and don’t always share the same brand, so in order to maintain a fair comparison, items were compared according to quality and price level i.e., store brand bio products were always compared with other store brand bio products, as were budget brand items.

Below is the list of items that were compared across the three stores:

*Onions (1kg)

Peppers (x1)

Midi vine tomatoes (1kg)

Potatoes (1kg),

Bananas (1kg)

Apples (1kg)

*Eggs (10x L)

Butter (250g)

Full-fat Milk (1l)

Chicken (1kg)

*Olive oil (750ml)

Flour (1kg)

Sugar (1kg)

Bread roll (Kaisersemmel x1)

*Sausages (240g)

Cheese (175g)

*Adjustments in price were made to items sold in different weights or quantities.

The total bill for each shop came to:

Spar: €76,06

Billa: €76,86

Hofer: €67,79

So, there you have it. Of the three, Hofer emerges as the more economical choice with prices over 10 percent cheaper on average than those of its rivals.

But as you’ll by now be aware, each shop has its own benefits and drawbacks, and price alone might not be the sole determinant for where you decide to shop.

Which Austrian chain is best to shop in?

Image by Alexa from Pixabay

Things to consider:

No single shop provides everything: It’s crucial to note that the above comparison does not factor in the various promotional offers and discount schemes unique to each store, nor does it account for our individual tastes in choice and quality. To maximise your savings, I encourage you to take full advantage of Billa and Spar’s 25 percent off stickers, using them for items not available at Hofer or when they offer a better deal.

READ ALSO: Where to find international food in Austria 

Distance: Living in Vienna, I am fortunate enough to have all three stores within walking distance of my home, though I understand this to be the exception rather than the rule. That being said, with Hofer being the farthest of the three, I’m still forced to give up more of my time in order to benefit from the lower costs. The optimists among you may, however, join me in viewing this longer trek to the shop as an opportunity for exercise. Consider your new trip to Hofer as a means of improving both your physical and financial health.

Quality: Having shopped at all three chains for more than five years, I’ve found no substantial differences in the quality of their products, especially when it comes to essential food items. Given the significantly lower prices Hofer has to offer, any shopper who prefers Billa and Spar products may still be inclined to overlook certain drops in quality in order to save money.

Keep up-to-date: To aid consumers in battling rising food prices, the ÖVP Minister of Economic Affairs Martin Kocher has proposed a law mandating all major supermarkets to publish their food prices on comparison platforms. While they don’t yet provide a fully comprehensive list of every store’s pricing, you can compare many of your shopping list items already at