Pension Credit: what is it?

Edward Savage
Personal Finance Editor
May 18, 2024

In a nutshell

If your pension income is less than £218.15 per week (if you’re single), or £332.95 between you and a partner, you might be able to get a boost to your income with Pension Credit – which can boost your income up to those levels, and provide access to more cash and benefits.

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Pension Credit

If you’re in retirement (a pensioner), and over State Pension age (currently 66), and don’t have a large pension income, you might be able to get Pension Credit – which is a boost from the government to help you with your bills.

It’s entirely separate to the State Pension, which is what you’ll get when you also reach State Pension age, and if you’ve paid at least 10 years worth of National Insurance contributions, and 35 years to get the full amount.

State Pension

The full State Pension amount is currently £221.20 per week (£11,502 per year), and although that’s not a lot these days, if you’re not receiving the full State Pension (or any other income), Pension Credit could give you a little boost.

Note: you won’t get it automatically, you’ll need to apply (info below).

How much you could get

Pension Credit can top up your income to £218.15 per week if you’re single (by yourself), or if you have a partner, top up your combined weekly income to £332.95. This is called ‘Guarantee Credit’, and includes the extras below.

If you have a severe disability, you may be able to get an extra £81.50 per week.

If you care for another adult, you could get an extra £45.60 per week.

If you care for children or young people, you could get an extra £66.29 per week for each child. And if they are disabled, you can get an extra £35.93 to £112.21 per week.

Getting Pension Credit also opens the doorway to other benefits too. For instance, if you have any housing costs you may get more money – such as help with ground rent and service charges if you own a leasehold flat, alongside help with interest payments on a mortgage (separate scheme). If you rent, you may get Housing Benefit.

You might also get cold weather payments and a warm home discount to help with heating bills, and a free TV licence if you’re over 75, a council tax reduction, and potentially help with NHS costs (such as prescriptions, glasses, hospital appointments and dental treatment).

How much you’ll actually get in total across all your benefits will depend on your individual circumstances.

Savings Credit

If you reached State Pension age before 6th April 2016, and you have some earnings or savings, such as a private pension (which includes a pension you set up yourself (a personal pension) and a pension from work (a workplace pension)), you might get something called Savings Credit – possibly in addition to the Guarantee Credit part of Pension Credit, or instead of it.

Private pensions

You could get £17.01 per week if you’re single, and £19.04 per week together if you have a partner.

Pension Credit calculator

It’s all a bit confusing isn’t it? But if you head over to the government’s Pension Credit calculator, you’ll be able to get an estimate of how much you could get, and if you’re eligible for it.

Pension Credit eligibility

First of all, in order to get Pension Credit, you’ll need to be over State Pension age (currently 66), and live in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

State Pension age

Your income will be assessed, and for the standard Pension Credit payment with adjustments for your personal circumstances, it must be below £218.15 per week if you’re single, and £332.95 if you have a partner (as that’s the most it will be topped up to).

However, if your income is higher than this, and if you are a carer, have a disability or you have housing costs, you might still be able to get Pension Credit.

Income counts as:

  • The State Pension you receive
  • Any other pension income
  • Income from working a job, either employed or self-employed
  • Most ‘social security’ benefits you receive (e.g. Carer’s Allowance)

What isn’t included in your income is (not the full list):

  • Child Benefit
  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Adult Disability Payment
  • Housing Benefit
  • Personal Independence Payment
  • Attendance Allowance

Have savings?

If you have any savings and investments that are over £10,000 in total, this will affect your income total too – for every £500 over £10,000, your income will increase by £1 per week. 

For instance, if you have £15,000 in savings, £5,000 of that will be counted for your income assessment, and would count as £10 per week (£5,000 is 10 lots of £500).

Deferring your pension

You are able to defer your State Pension, and some pensions from work, which means not receiving it at State Pension age but later (or the relevant age for workplace pensions).

Deferring your State Pension

However, this doesn’t apply to Pension Credit, and the amount you should receive is counted as income, even if you aren’t receiving it.

Moving abroad

You won’t get any Pension Credit if you’re outside of the UK except for a holiday (of less than 4 weeks). So you can’t claim it if you have retired abroad.

However, if you’ve left the UK for medical treatment, or recovery, or your partner or child is leaving for medical treatment, you may be able to continue to get Pension Credit for up to 26 weeks.

How to apply for Pension Credit

The good news is you can apply online for Pension Credit, which makes things a bit easier (and over the phone too).

You can start the application up to 4 months before you turn 66 (the current State Pension age), and if you’re already over 66, you can apply any time you like, but will only get 3 months worth of missed payments (you’ll need to backdate the application by 3 months too).

To apply, you’ll need:

  • Information on your income
  • Information on any savings and investments
  • Your National Insurance number
  • Your bank account details

If you’re in England, Wales or Scotland, to apply online, simply head over to the GOV.UK website, or apply by phone by calling the Pension Credit claim line on 0800 99 1234.

You can also apply by post, with all the details on the website.

If you’re in Northern Ireland, you’ll need to apply on the nidirect website.

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