High Street Scheme: guidance for businesses

News article

Advice for local businesses on the High Street Scheme

A small proportion of people will not have had sufficient time to use their card due to it being delivered close to/after the scheme end date of 19 December 2021. A small number of cards were also affected by technical issues prior to the closing date of the 19 December which meant they could not spend their card in time.

The Department for the Economy has emailed those people affected and their cards will be valid for use from 9am on Friday 24 December until 11:59pm on Friday 7 January 2022. Valid cards will be authorised by the card provider.

The NI Executive has allocated £145 million for the High Street Scheme. This initiative is part of the Department for the Economy's Economic Recovery Action Plan to tackle the consequences of the pandemic for local businesses.

The High Street Scheme (HSS) aims to provide practical support in helping businesses recover from the pandemic by stimulating consumer spend to support local towns and city centres.

Its purpose is to provide an economic stimulus to boost local businesses and protect local jobs by injecting £140 million into the local economy.

To meet this objective, a Spend Local pre-paid card worth £100 will be available to all eligible individuals aged 18 and over in Northern Ireland to purchase goods and services from local businesses.

Advice for businesses

Under the High Street Scheme, there are no qualifying criteria for local businesses.

The card can be used by customers in the same way as a bank or debit card. A business will need a card reader to process payments from the Spend Local pre-paid card. Customers can use the card in person or by phone.

Before using the card for the first time, the customer will need to activate the card through an automated telephone service or by SMS. The customer's first transaction will be through a supplied PIN, and further transactions possible through contactless payment.

The pre-paid card cannot be used for online purchases, gambling, or certain financial and legal services. Access the full list of card use exclusions.

Timelines for the scheme

The timelines for the opening and closing of the scheme are:

  • 27 September 2021 – High Street Scheme portal opened to allow people to register for their pre-paid cards.
  • 4 October 2021 – First tranche of cards issued to people who successfully applied for the Spend Local pre-paid card.
  • 11 October 2021 – Telephone service opened to support applications from people not able to access or use the online portal.
  • 25 October 2021 – High Street Scheme online portal and telephone services closed.
  • 25 October 2021 – The last qualifying date for those turning 18 to be eligible to apply for a Spend Local card.
  • 12 November 2021 – Last day for applicants to provide evidence for manual processing.
  • 19 December 2021 – High Street Scheme closes and the Spend Local pre-paid cards will cease to be valid.

Local businesses can read more on the High Street Scheme.

Further guidance and FAQs

There is detailed guidance and answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) available to local businesses on the High Street Scheme, including eligibility criteria and consumer use of the card. You will find answers to questions including the following:

  • Does my business need to be registered to accept the Spend Local prepaid cards?
  • What is meant by a Northern Ireland business?
  • Does the card work in the same way as any other credit/debit card?
  • What is the six-digit Bank Identification Number (BIN) for the card?
  • Will the Spend Local MasterCard carry a four-digit pre-fix number?
  • What balance is on the Spend Local prepaid card?
  • What is the maximum transaction on the Spend Local prepaid card?
  • Are there any restrictions on the use of the Spend Local prepaid card?
  • Does the Spend Local prepaid card have a credit limit?

Access the High Street Scheme - merchant guidance and FAQs.

Retailer promotional material

The Department for the Economy has made resources available for local retailers to promote their support for the High Street Scheme, including posters, leaflets and social media graphic overlays.

Access the High Street Scheme retailer promotional material.

First published 14 September 2021