Help to Buy Isa providers are seeing applications surge – as aspiring first-time buyers only have until Saturday at the latest to snap up a deal.
The accounts, which first launched in December 2015, boost people’s savings by 25% – so for every £200 saved, they receive a government bonus of £50. The maximum government bonus is £3,000.
People aged 16 or over can open a Help to Buy Isa with as little as £1.
The scheme will officially close to new accounts at midnight on Saturday November 30 and existing account holders can keep on saving until autumn 2029, with bonuses needing to be claimed by December 1 2030.
However, deals are disappearing earlier than the Saturday deadline, so savers need to act fast if they want one – and check individual providers’ exact rules to make sure their applications are in on time.
Not only are Help to Buy Isa deadlines varying between providers – but they may also differ in some cases depending on whether people apply online, by phone or in branch.
Treasury figures released on Thursday show that 339,747 bonuses have been paid through the scheme so far, with an average value of £943.
On average, first-time buyers using the scheme are 28 – two years younger than the average age across all first-time buyers which is 30.
Santander told the PA news agency that it had seen a significant uplift in applications in the run-up to its deadline on Thursday November 28.
Applications were being made online to Santander up until 11.59pm on Thursday – and customers would need confirmation that their accounts had been opened on or before this time to ensure meeting Santander’s deadline.
A small minority of customers would be required to provider additional paper identification to open a Santander Help to Buy account – and so they would need to get to a branch before doors shut on Thursday.
Nationwide Building Society’s deadline for online applications is 11.59pm on Saturday November 30.
The society said applications can be received in branch up until Friday November 30, and people may want to use its online “branch finder” tool to check branch opening hours.
Those heading to a Nationwide branch may want to book an appointment as the society is expecting branches to be busy with Help to Buy applicants.
Meanwhile, NatWest has also been experiencing high volumes of applications.
Its application deadline is 5pm on Saturday, both for branches and online.
Barclays’ cut-off date is Saturday – but according to its website the exact time depends on how the account is opened – if someone is registered with the app it is 10pm through that channel, if they are registered for telephone banking it is 9pm using that method, and if it is by an appointment in branch it depends on the Saturday opening hours of the branch.
Existing Barclays customers can apply online by app or over the phone if they are registered for these services, but new customers need to book an appointment in branch to open a Help to Buy Isa.
A Barclays spokeswoman told PA: “We are making the most of the resources we have available to enable us to serve customers who want to open a Help to Buy Isa in branch.
“But, as we are so close to the deadline, it is worth noting that appointments are extremely limited.”
She said Barclays’ Help to Buy Isa has always been a popular product – and in October account openings were up by four times compared with September.
The Barclays spokeswoman said: “We have seen a steady increase in account openings as we approach the deadline.”
Information provided by Moneyfacts.co.uk about top Help to Buy Isa deals available shows Barclays is paying 2.55%, Nationwide, Virgin Money and Buckinghamshire Building Society pay 2.5%, and NatWest is paying 2.47%.
Virgin Money’s website says its account is only available to new customers until Friday November 29.
Moneyfacts finance expert Rachel Springall said: “There is little time left to open a Help to Buy Isa, so prospective first-time buyers really do need to get their skates on.”
She said that if savers do miss the boat with the Help to Buy Isa, Lifetime Isas, which also offer a government bonus, are also available.
But she said that with Lifetime Isas, savers may find they have less choice of deals and interest rates may also be lower.
Ms Springall said: “Unlike Help to Buy Isas, a Lifetime Isa could penalise savers for withdrawing their cash as it only allows access for buying a home, or once they turn 60 or become terminally ill.”