MARTIN Lewis’ moneysavingexpert.com has issued an urgent warning to first-time buyers who could miss out on £1,000 free cash.
The consumer website’s latest newsletter said those with Lifetime ISAs (LISAs) who haven’t already added the maximum £4,000 to their accounts this year should top up before April 5.
Martin Lewis’ MoneySavingExpert.com has issued an urgent warning regarding LISAs
This is the end of the current tax year, and any tax-free bonus you can get from the account doesn’t roll over into the next one.
So if you haven’t topped up your account to £4,000, you will miss out on extra free government help.
Ideally, you should transfer money into your account as soon as possible, Martin said.
This is because although the deadline is April 5, firms need time to process the money.
In the same newsletter, a moneysavingexpert.com reader, Amy, shared how she has made £6,000 in free cash since opening her LISA.
She said: “I opened a LISA when they were relatively new in 2017 (after hearing through Martin).
“I managed to pay in the maximum for six years and bought my first home in 2022. So £6,000 free money!”
What is a Lifetime ISA?
Lifetime ISAs (LISAs) are designed to help people save either for their first home or retirement.
You can open one with any bank, building society or investment manager, but you have to be 18 or over and younger than 40.
You can add a maximum of £4,000 to the account each year and receive a 25% bonus on top from the government.
The bonus is paid monthly, and the maximum amount you can earn per tax year is £1,000.
You won’t start getting the government bonus unless your LISA has been open for a year and you can pay into the account until you are 60.
If you are planning on using your LISA to pay for a first home there are some rules to follow.
It goes without saying, but you have to be a first-time buyer.
Meanwhile, the price of the home can’t exceed £450,000 and you have to plan on living in it – you won’t be able to use the money if you want to rent it out or use it as a holiday home.
But, you can still use the account to buy a first home even if you are moving in with a partner who has already bought a property.
If you have set up a Help to Buy ISA, you can transfer it to a Lifetime ISA, but bear in mind you’ll have to pay more into the account each month to get the full £1,000 bonus from the government each year.
This is because you can only add a maximum £200 per month into a Help to Buy ISA.
You can transfer money from a Lifetime ISA to a Help to Buy ISA, but you have to pay a 25% withdrawal fee.
If you want to use the money from your LISA for retirement, you can take it out when you’re 60 or over.
But if you withdraw it before this age, without buying a qualifying home, you have to pay a withdrawal fee of 25%.
Because there are a range of LISAs on the market, you should shop around to get the best deal to suit your needs.
Moneysavingexpert.com has a list of some of the best accounts on offer, as does consumer website Which?.