Pension Credit

Boost your retirement income with a state top-up

If you're retired and have income less than £204 a week as an individual, or £307 a week as a couple, you may be due £1,000s a year in Pension Credit. Plus, it then entitles you to a whole raft of other benefits. However, up to £2.1 billion of pension credit was unclaimed by around 880,000 eligible households. Here's how to check if you qualify... and how to claim.

What is Pension Credit?

Pension Credit is a benefit aimed at people over state pension age, offering a top-up to their income.

It's made up of two parts. While some people get both, many qualify for just one of the two. Either way, you could be due extra cash:

  • Guarantee credit – this is the main part of Pension Credit, giving you a top-up of your weekly income to a minimum guaranteed level. For 2023/24, this is £201.05 a week if you're single, and £306.85 a week if you're in a couple. See below for details on eligibility.

  • Savings credit – for those who reached state pension age before April 2016, there's an extra boost available if you've made provision for your retirement via savings, work or a private pension. This gives you up to £15.94 a week if you're single, and £17.84 if you're in a couple. To qualify, you've got to earn above a threshold amount of £174.49 if you're single and £277.12 if you're in a couple. See below for a full explanation of savings credit and how you might still qualify if you reached state pension age after April 2016. 

More than three million households are eligible for Pension Credit, but it's estimated that around 880,000 don't claim – in many cases because they don't realise they could be entitled to it.

MoneySavingExpert.com founder Martin Lewis appeared on Good Morning Britain on Wednesday 15 June 2022, calling on viewers to urgently check if they qualify – or know someone who may qualify – for Pension Credit. The amounts have changed, but the call to action hasn't...

Martin Lewis issues an urgent call to check whether you qualify for Pension Credit.
Embedded YouTube Video

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Do I qualify for Pension Credit?

To qualify for Pension Credit you must:

  • Live in the UK – England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
  • Have reached state pension age.
  • Have a weekly income below £201.05 if you're single, or £306.85 if you're in a couple.
  • If you're in a couple, you'll BOTH need to have reached state pension age. You don't have to be married or in a civil partnership, you're considered a couple if you live together. For couples, one partner applies and then provides income and savings details for both partners.

 Extra criteria for savings credit: 

  • To qualify for the savings element as well (if you're making a new claim) you also need to have reached 65 if you're a man, and 63 if you're a woman, before 6 April 2016 – the state pension ages back then.
  • You need to earn above the threshold amount of £174.49 if you're single, or £277.12 if you're in a couple.
  • However, if you're part of a couple and just one of you satisfies ALL of these conditions, you could still qualify for savings credit as a couple. You or your partner must:
    – Have been awarded savings credit before 6 April 2016.
    – Have remained entitled to savings credit at all times since 6 April 2016.

Quickly check if you qualify. Don't stall, just call!

Pension Credit is complex, so rather than trying to work out if you can get it, just get in touch online or by phone to see if you're eligible. It only takes a few minutes and can be worth thousands. The worst that can happen is they tell you you're not – and you don't get in trouble for trying.

So don't stall, just call (or go online, but we haven't got a rhyme for that).
 

  • Check quickly online. If you're comfortable using a computer, the quickest way to find out if you qualify for Pension Credit is by using the Government's free Pension Credit calculator.

    To do this, it's easiest if you have details of your current earnings, benefits and pensions to hand (for you and your partner if you live with them). It'll then give an instant estimate of how much you're due. 

  • Or, if you prefer, have a chat with someone about it (it's free). There are free government helplines you can call up to talk it through. Again, it's best with details to hand, but if you've not got them or need help with that… don't stall, just call.

     - England, Wales or Scotland. Pension Service helpline: 0800 99 1234 (8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday)

     - Northern Ireland. Pension Centre: 0808 100 6165 (9am to 4pm, Monday to Friday)

If you are 66+ and on a low income, check NOW if you're due Pension Credit. If you're eligible, and apply by 5 March 2024, you could qualify for a cost of living payment – worth £299. See more details.

What to do if you don't qualify

If you're struggling financially, but have used the government calculator or rung the helpline and been told you aren't eligible for Pension Credit, you may still be able to get support elsewhere.

For example, if you've reached state pension age but your partner hasn't, you probably won't be able to get Pension Credit, but you may be able to claim Universal Credit. Our 10-minute Benefits Calculator checks your eligibility for all benefits, including Pension Credit and Universal Credit, so it's worth trying.

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How much can I get?

The average weekly amount of Pension Credit is around £75 – or more than £3,900 a year – according to government figures. But what you'll get depends on three main things:

  • Your income. This includes your basic and additional state pension, income from other pensions, income from any jobs or social security benefits you have. If you're entitled to a personal or workplace pension but have not claimed it yet, the amount you'd expect to get still counts as income.
  • How much you have saved or invested. Any amount over £10,000 is converted into an income rate of £1 for every £500. See how this is worked out below.
  • If you're in a couple. This is defined as having a partner who you live with. The value of your combined income and savings will be taken into account.

As we say above, Pension Credit has two parts. The main part is 'guarantee credit' and this is a low income top-up. The second part is 'savings credit', which is a bonus for low-income pensioners, who have nevertheless managed to put aside a little extra towards their pension income. You can qualify for one without the other. Here's how they each work in detail:

1. Guarantee credit – top-up for those on low incomes

This one's simple – guarantee credit tops up your weekly income to a guaranteed minimum level. This amount changes each year depending on inflation. Your income's worked out as what you get from work, pensions (including state pension) and assumed income from savings (see below). Then it's topped up as follows:

  • If you're single. If your weekly income (including pension) is below £201.05/week, Pension Credit will top you up to this amount. 

  • If you're in a couple. If your joint weekly income is below £306.85/week, Pension Credit will top up your combined income to this amount. 

You might get more if you're a carer, severely disabled, responsible for a child or young person, or have certain housing costs. Check on the Gov.uk website.

2. Savings credit – a reward for those on lower incomes who have managed to build up a little extra income

If you hit state pension age before April 2016 (so you're roughly aged 72+) you may be due a top-up if you have savings, even if you're not due guarantee credit.

The name's a little misleading, as it doesn't just look at how much you have in savings. Rather it's the income level you get from your savings (see how this is worked out below), as well as additional pension pots, and any earnings from work or other sources. The idea is: the more you saved up, the more income you'll be getting from those savings. 

It's complex to work out, so most should just call to check, but here's how it works, in a nutshell:

  • If you're single. For every £1 of income (made up from your savings, and other sources) you get above £174.49 a week, you get an extra 60p of savings credit, up to a maximum of £15.94 a week. Once you hit this threshold, your Pension Credit is reduced by 40p for every £1 of income you receive above the level of your guarantee credit. 

  • If you're in a couple. For every £1 of income (made up from your savings, and other sources) you get above £277.12 a week, you get an extra 60p of savings credit, up to a maximum of £17.84/week. Once you hit this threshold, your Pension Credit is reduced by 40p for every £1 of income you receive above the level of your guarantee credit. 

If you qualify for both guarantee credit and savings credit, you can rest assured your savings credit will not be reduced, since savings credit only starts to reduce once you earn too much to qualify for any guarantee credit.

How are my savings and investments taken into account when working out my income? 

Your savings and investments do come into play when working out your eligibility for Pension Credit, but not in the way you think – it's actually about the income you're deemed to be earning from them.

  • Less than £10,000 saved or invested doesn't count. If you've less than this, it won't affect your eligibility for guarantee credit or savings credit at all.

  • More than £10,000 in savings or investments. Here, the state assumes you get an income of £1 a week per £500 (or part of £500) of savings and investments that you hold, and assesses your claim on that assumed income. Incidentally, you'd need to be earning a massive 10.4% interest to get anywhere near that.

Pension Credit success 

Pension Credit can be a welcome boost to your retirement income – and many don't realise they qualify, as reader Caroline emailed: 

I think it was last summer that I read in your weekly money tips about applying for Pension Credit. As we have some savings I didn’t think I would be eligible but following your advice I applied anyway. 

Imagine my surprise on checking our accounts last month to see a payment of over £2000 – backdated Pension Credit. Now receiving over £300 a month so am delighted and VERY grateful to your team for encouraging me to at least try!

Quick questions

  • What if the value of my savings decreases?

    The figure you initially declare for the value of your savings and investments stays on your file and is calculated at that rate in future unless you let the Pension Service know.

    Therefore, if you spend your savings or the value of your investment drops, it's important to notify the Pension Service and have the amount you're entitled to recalculated as soon as possible. You should receive any increase in benefit as soon as your paperwork is processed. You can do this by calling 0800 99 1234.

  • I'm state pension age, but my partner isn't. What do I do?

    'Mixed-age' couples, where only one partner has reached state pension age, will need to claim Universal Credit instead – worth much less for many people. Charity Age UK says the change could cost some couples up to £7,000 a year in Pension Credit. Once you're both at state pension age, you can then apply for Pension Credit (you won't be eligible for Universal Credit once you both hit state pension age).

    However, where only one partner has reached state pension age but is claiming Housing Benefit for the couple, the couple can still put in a new claim for Pension Credit.

  • Can I apply for Pension Credit if I'm a foreign national living in the UK?

    When you apply, you must be living in the UK. You must not be subject to immigration control – that is, there must be no restrictions that would stop you receiving financial help from the Government. You will also need to satisfy the 'habitual residence test'.

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How do I claim Pension Credit?

The quickest way to claim Pension Credit is via Gov.uk, or by calling the Pension Service on 0800 99 1234. It will even fill in the application form for you. (In Northern Ireland, phone the Northern Ireland Pension Centre on 0808 100 6165.)

You'll need:

  • Your national insurance number
  • Information about your income, savings and investments
  • Your bank account details

You can make a paper application if you're unable to make a claim by phone. You can get a friend or family member to call the helpline to ask for a paper application.

The earliest you can start your application for Pension Credit is four months before you reach state pension age.

Need-to-know: You can claim any time after you reach state pension age, but your claim can only be backdated for three months.

We've been hearing reports that it's taking a long time for DWP to process Pension Credit applications. According to the latest from DWP it's likely to take two months for your application to be processed – though we have heard of some people having to wait much longer. 

Quick questions

  • Could I end up losing my Pension Credit if my circumstances change?

    In short, yes. If your circumstances change you need to notify the Pension Service, including any changes to income, savings and who you live with. For example, there are some people who could end up losing Pension Credit they currently claim as a result of the rule changes for couples. This could happen if:

    • You're a single pensioner and start living with a partner who hadn't reached the qualifying age on or after 15 May 2019. This change in circumstance would mean you need to reapply as part of a couple – but since 15 May 2019, you have had to claim Universal Credit instead.

    • You stop being entitled to Pension Credit because of a change in circumstances, then become entitled again, but your partner hasn't reached the qualifying age. Again, you face having to apply for Universal Credit instead.
  • I'm unhappy with the decision that's been made about my Pension Credit, can I do anything?

    You can use the GL24 form to appeal the decision about your Pension Credit if you're unhappy with it and the decision was before 28 October 2013.

    If the decision is after this date, you'll need to ask for what's known as 'mandatory reconsideration' before you appeal – you must usually do this within one month of the date of a decision. See the Government's guidance for help.

  • Can I backdate a claim?

    Yes. The Department for Work and Pensions says that when people apply for Pension Credit or pension-age Housing Benefit, they can ask for their claim to be backdated.

    Claims for both benefits can be backdated by up to three months, provided you would have been entitled to the benefits at the earlier date.

    There is no separate form to complete – you can ask over the phone when you apply or, if you apply by post, put on the application form that you want to backdate your claim.

Other benefits you qualify for if you get Pension Credit

Even if you find out you're only entitled to a small amount of Pension Credit, it's still worth claiming as it means you can qualify for other benefits. These include:

Cash to help with cost of living – worth £299

Over eight million households will get a cash boost from the Government in 2023/24 to help with the cost of living – and this includes everyone on Pension Credit. 

This help comes in three separate payments and to qualify you'll need to have been eligible for – and claiming – Pension Credit. Unfortunately it's no longer possible to get first two payments, but it's still possible to get the final payment worth £299, if you make an eligible claim for Pension Credit by 5 March 2024 and request for it to be backdated. These will be made in spring 2024. For more details on the cost of living payments in 2023/24, see our news story.

Free TV licence for over-75s – worth £159 

An annual standard colour TV licence currently costs £159/year and, as of August 2020, most over-75s no longer get their licences for free. However, there are a few exceptions (see our TV license guide for the full list), including if you're claiming Pension Credit, in which case you're entitled to a free tv license each year.

To claim, you need to apply for a free licence via the TV licencing website. If you think you’re eligible, but can’t apply online, call the TV Licencing helpline on 0300 790 6117 and request an application form. Lines are open between 8.30am and 6.30pm, from Monday to Friday. 

Council tax reduction – potentially worth £1,000s/year

If you get the guarantee credit part of Pension Credit, you're entitled to the maximum council tax deduction. Depending on your local authority's rules, this may cover your entire council tax bill. But if you live with any adults who aren't dependent on you, then the reduction might be less.

If you get the savings credit part of Pension Credit, you might also be eligible for some discount on your council tax, but typically not as much.

To apply for a council tax reduction, you'll need to get in touch with your council. Discounts can vary depending on where you live – check how much council tax reduction you could get.

Warm home discount – worth £150/year

The warm home discount is a credit on your energy bill, normally given by the end of March each year to people on low incomes. If you get any amount of guarantee credit you are entitled to the rebate, but you need to be signed up with a supplier who is part of the scheme, and you also need to apply.

You should get a letter between October and December each year telling you what you need to do. For more details, see our Energy grants guide.

Housing Benefit – potentially worth £1,000s/year

If you rent your home and receive any amount of guarantee credit, you are eligible for the maximum Housing Benefit entitlement from your local authority. Housing Benefit isn't a fixed amount, but you could get £100s a month, and even have your rent paid in full.

If you receive savings credit but not guarantee credit, you may get some help towards rent, but not the full amount.

You may not get the full amount if there are non-dependants in your household or, for example, if your rent is considered too high.

When you claim Pension Credit, you should be asked if you want to claim Housing Benefit at the same time. If you aren't asked, contact your local authority to apply.

Cold weather payments – potentially worth £25/wk in winter

This benefit is awarded for each continuous seven-day period of very cold weather (0°C or below) between 1 November and 31 March.

If you're eligible, the money will be paid automatically into the same bank or building society account as your Pension Credit payments. See our guide for all the ins and outs on cold weather payments.

Free home insulation and boiler grants – worth £1,000s for some

Pension Credit claimants may be able to get free cavity wall and loft insulation from their energy provider.  And if your boiler is broken, you may be able to get a grant for a new one from an energy provider – you don't always even need to be a customer to qualify. See our Free insulation and boiler grants guide for details.  

Hospital travel expenses 

If you get the guarantee portion of Pension Credit, you can get help with travel expenses if you've been referred to hospital by health care professional such as a GP or a dentist. 

You should aim to travel by the cheapest reasonable form of transport, taking into account the journey, your capability, medical condition and other relevant factors. You also need to inform staff when you make the appointment that you're eligible for help with travel costs. You may also be entitled to help with the travel costs of a companion if, for medical reasons, the hospital agrees that you need someone to travel with you.

When at the hospital or treatment centre, you must be able to show your benefit award letter to the hospital receptionist as evidence that you're entitled to be reimbursed for travel costs. You must also show your ticket or receipt for the travel cost to get the refund.

Free dental treatment – worth £1,000s/year for some

If you get any amount of guarantee credit, you're entitled to free NHS dental care. This could include anything from a check-up to full dentures. You don't need to apply for it – you just need to sign a declaration form when you visit your dentist.

Voucher for glasses/contact lenses – worth £39 to £215 depending on prescription

If you get any amount of guarantee credit, you are entitled to a voucher for glasses/contact lenses. You need to ask for a form for the voucher when you have your eye test.

Other discounts

Additionally, you may be able to get other deals, such as a discount on your water bill. South West Water, for example, offers a reduction in water and sewerage charges of up to 50% for people on the guarantee element of Pension Credit. Check your local water board to see what it's offering.

There is also a range of broadband offers available to those claiming Pension Credit. This includes the BT Home Essentials broadband and phone service, which costs just £15 a month (or £10 a month for a call-only plan). There's also Hyperoptic's Fair Fibre plan, with varying broadband speeds and costs starting from £15 a month. For full details of the best broadband offers for those on Pension Credit, head to our full Broadband for those on low income guide.

We'd also always recommend you check how these offers compare with what else is on the market, just to be sure lower prices aren't available elsewhere.

Read more on pensions

State pension guide. Check if you can boost it.
Pension need-to-knows. 17 key points for retirement saving.
Pension Credit forum discussion. Share your experiences.
Voluntary NI contributionsCan you turn £800 into £5,500?

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