THE first Premium Bonds prize draw was held 65 years ago, when one lucky person won the top prize of £1,000 on June 1, 1957.
Today millions of savers are entered month into a draw hoping to win a jackpot of £1million – and Agent Million is the mystery person whose job it is to tell the winner the good news each month.
Since the launch of Premium Bonds, Ernie (Electronic Random Number Indicator Equipment), the machine that generates the winning numbers, has paid out more than 562 million prizes worth £22.9 billion.
But it's that big prize people really want. We picked Agent Million's brains to find out exactly what it's like to hit the jackpot.
What are Premium Bonds?
Premium Bonds are a way to save, but are different from a standard savings account because they don’t offer interest.
Instead, you’re in with a regular chance to win prizes, which range from £25 to the £1 million jackpot.
They're also popular because they're a government-backed product, which means they come with very little risk.
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Premium Bonds can be bought from National Savings & Investments (NS&I), and you can put money in and take it out whenever you want.
You need to put in a minimum of £25 to get started and you can invest up to £50,000.
The more you invest, the greater your number of Premium Bonds and the higher your chance of winning.
Each month, you can use the NS&I Premium Bond prize checker online to see if your numbers have come up.
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Do I have to invest loads of money to have a chance at winning?
No! The person with the smallest holding ever to win the jackpot was someone from Newham, London, who held just £17 in Premium Bonds, says Agent Million.
The person had held their bonds since 1959, and won in 2004, meaning they also hold the record for the longest wait to win the top prize.
In June, NS&I (National Savings & Investments), which provides the bonds, upped the Premium Bond prize fund rate from 1% to 1.4% increasing the odds of a win from 34,500-to-one to 24,500-to-one, and adding more than one million prizes to this month’s draw.
What's it like to tell someone they've won £1million?
“The best bit of the job is the adventure,” said one Agent Million, who spoke to The Sun on the condition she remain anonymous.
NS&I actually has a small team of "Agent Millions’" – not just one – who travel the country to knock on the doors of the biggest winners each month.
Agent Million told us she's been doing the role for four years, and could be sent to anywhere in the country to tell people in person that they’ve won the money.
“Inevitably you're going to change people's lives,” she said.
“I always say to my winners, I think the very best part of winning the jackpot means it gives you so many choices that you didn't have before.”
Before knocking on their door, Agent Million only knows the person’s name, address and how much they had invested in Premium Bonds.
How do people react?
Tears, shock and offers of a cup of tea are the things people almost always do when they get the news.
“You get to see such a wide range of people in different circumstances, and it's just a joy,” says Agent Million.
“First of all, it's wide-eyed shock, and then invariably there's tears and then they're asking you 'Do you want a cup of tea or some cake?'
“The champagne has been out before!”
Agent Million is also sure to turn up with plenty of proof that the person has actually won, to give people confidence that they aren’t being scammed.
What's a particularly memorable visit you've done?
“One of the nicest was the first one I went to [after things opened up a bit more] after the pandemic,” says Agent Million.
The winner had been shielding for much of the last couple years, so was cautious about asking Agent Million into the house.
“So we started the conversation in the garden.
“The winner was there with their spouse and ended up in absolute floods of tears, and they just could not believe it, especially after such a hard time.”
Winning a million pounds inevitably changes people’s lives, and Agent Million said people often want to spend the money on basics such as covering their heating bills without worrying or mending a broken fence, as well as fulfilling lifelong ambitions.
“Another lady I was talking to, had got married and had children, but had always wanted to have flying lessons,” Agent Million says.
“As she'd got older, that dream had fallen by the wayside, but when she won, she said the first thing on her list was to take flying lessons.”
Do you give winners any advice?
There is one piece of advice that Agent Million gives every winner – and that is not to tell anyone they’ve won.
“One woman took this very literally and didn’t even tell her husband for a week,” she says.
Delivering the news can be so exciting that Agent Million said she sometimes struggles to stay calm herself – but holding her nerve helps other people feel calm too.
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Still, potentially changing someone’s life is a very rewarding responsibility.
“It's just awesome, an absolute privilege.”
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