Best Start cards replace Healthy Start paper vouchers

Best Start cards

The Scottish Government has launched a new Best Start payment card to replace Westminster’s Healthy Start food vouchers north of the border.

The payment is for families with children under three who get certain low-income benefits or tax credits. Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said replacing the vouchers with a card would “enable families to access this vital support without fear of stigma”.

Customers are likely to start using the new pre-loaded chip-and-pin Mastercards from early September.

Healthy Start voucher users are being invited to apply on a phased basis between August 2019 through to the end of March 2020. It is likely retailers will continue to receive vouchers until this time. Retailers in the Borders or Dumfries and Galloway registered for the Healthy Start Voucher scheme may continue to see vouchers being used beyond then as a result of cross border usage.

The card will be used at the point of sale like a normal bank card and should be treated as such. Most of the time customers will pay using contactless when payments are under £30. They will only need to use the PIN when they spend more than £30, just like any other chip-and-pin card.

While it is encouraged that customers use the card to buy healthy foods, it’s important to note that retailers are not obliged to monitor products purchased.

The Scottish Government’s idea of healthy foods includes – but is not limited to – fresh eggs; milk (plain cow’s milk and first infant formula); fruit & veg (fresh, frozen or tinned – but not those with added salt and sugar); and pulses like peas, lentils and beans (dried, fresh, frozen or tinned).

Registered retailers should still accept valid Healthy Start Vouchers. They will be reimbursed as per existing arrangements with the UK Government. For more information email Best Start Foods Policy at or call 0131 244 8249. There’s no need for retailers to register for the new scheme – any card machine able to process Mastercard payments will accept the Best Start Foods card.

The card will not allow for the withdrawal of funds and retailers are unable to check the balance. Cardholders may check the balance at an ATM, online or via an automated telephone service.

Retailers can give a refund to the card in the same way as any other payment card. Similarly, payments may be split between Best Start Foods card and any other forms of payment.

If there is a problem with the card at point of sale, it will be the responsibility of the cardholder to contact allpay – the card provider – to rectify the issue. There should be no reason for a retailer to ask for account details or to investigate the reason for card rejection.