Pensioners urged to check Pension Credit eligibility - or miss out on £3,500 a year

Hundreds of thousands of pensioners are missing out on Pension Credit, which is worth £3,500 on average. It also unlocks other benefits such as cold weather payments and help with NHS costs

Senior woman using her laptop on the table at home
(Image credit: Getty images)

The government is urging pensioners to check if they qualify for Pension Credit, which is worth £3,500 a year on average, and also gives people access to other benefits, such as cold weather payments and help with NHS costs. 

Pension Credit is one of the most under-claimed benefits. Around 1.4 million pensioners in Britain receive Pension Credit, but hundreds of thousands are still not claiming this extra financial help.

This is partly due to lack of awareness, and because Pension Credit is complicated and can be difficult to understand.

Pension Credit is separate from the state pension and is paid to people of state pension age on low incomes, even if they have savings, a private pension or own their own home.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) recently tweeted about checking to see if you - or someone you know - could be eligible, and the importance of claiming what you're entitled to.

We explain what Pension Credit is, who can claim, and how much it’s worth. 

Plus, we reveal other "pensioner perks" that older people can take advantage of, regardless of their income or whether they claim Pension Credit.

What is pension credit?

Pension Credit is a payment that helps with living costs if you’re over state pension age and on a low income. 

There are two parts: guarantee credit and savings credit. Guarantee credit tops up your pension income to a certain level, and is available to those on low incomes. Savings credit is only available to those who reached state pension age before 6 April 2016 and had some money saved for retirement, for example in a personal or workplace pension.

Even if you’re only entitled to a small amount of money, it’s worth claiming as it will help you qualify for other benefits, as well as providing extra income.

If you get Pension Credit, you can get the following help:

  • Support for mortgage interest if you own the property you live in
  • Housing benefit if you rent the property you live in
  • Council tax reduction
  • A free TV licence if you’re 75 or over
  • Help with NHS dental treatment, glasses and transport costs for hospital appointments
  • Cold weather payments
  • Warm home discount
  • Christmas bonus (only for those who receive the guarantee element of Pension Credit)
  • A discount on the Royal Mail redirection service if you’re moving house
  • £301 cost of living payment (if you apply by 19 May 2023), and two further cost of living payments worth a total of £599

How much is pension credit worth?

In April, Pension Credit rose 10.1% in line with inflation, while the state pension also rose by this amount.

Pension Credit tops up the weekly income of those of state pension age to a total of £201.05 if single (or £10,454.60 a year) in the current tax year. For those with a partner, the joint weekly income is topped up to £306.85 (£15,956.20 a year). 

If you have other responsibilities and costs, you may be entitled to extra amounts that are known as ‘Guarantee Credit’.

For those with a severe disability, guarantee credit is boosted by an additional £76.40 a week. You must get one of the following benefits to be eligible: attendance allowance, the middle or highest rate from the care component of disability living allowance, the daily living component of personal independence payment, or armed forces independence payment.

If you care for another adult, you could get an extra £42.75 a week, provided you get carer’s allowance (or you’ve claimed carer’s allowance but are not being paid because you already receive another benefit paying a higher amount). If you and your partner have both claimed or are currently receiving the carer’s allowance, you can both receive this extra amount.

For those responsible for a child or young person, you could get an extra £61.88 a week. This rises to £71.31 a week for the first child if they were born before 6 April 2017. The child or young person must normally live with you and be 19 or younger. If the child or young person is disabled, you may get a further payment.

The final top-up within guarantee credit is to help with housing costs. An extra payment may be made to cover ground rent if your property is a leasehold, or service charges.

The savings credit part of Pension Credit is worth up to £15.94 a week if you’re single, or up to £17.84 a week if you have a partner.

Who can claim pension credit?

You must live in England, Scotland or Wales and have reached state pension age (which is currently 66) to be eligible for Pension Credit.

When you apply for guarantee credit, your income is calculated; if you have a partner, your income will be calculated together.

The DWP defines income as your state pension and other pensions (even if they’ve been deferred), earnings from a job or self-employment, and most benefits, such as carer’s allowance. However, not all benefits are counted as income. Attendance allowance, child benefit, disability living allowance, personal independence payment, winter fuel allowance, housing benefit, council tax reduction and the Christmas bonus are excluded.

Your savings and investments are also considered. This can include shares and any property you own (apart from the home you live in). If you have £10,000 or less, this will not affect your Pension Credit application. 

If you have more than £10,000, every £500 over £10,000 counts as £1 income a week. For example, if you have £12,000 in savings, this counts as £4 income a week.

If your weekly income is below £201.05 then guarantee credit will top you up to that amount.

If you’re claiming as a couple and your combined income is below £306.85 it will be topped up to that level.

The rules around who can claim savings credit are different. It’s only available if you reached state pension age before 6 April 2016, and you have some money in savings or a pension.

You must have a weekly income of at least £174.49 a week if you’re single or £277.12 a week if you’re claiming as a couple.

The eligibility criteria can seem incredibly complicated and is probably one of the reasons so many pensioners don’t bother claiming. 

You can use the government’s pension credit calculator to work out if you’re eligible and how much you’ll get. You’ll need details of your earnings, benefits, pensions, savings and investments. 

Unfortunately, to make matters even more complex, not everyone can use the calculator, for example if you or your partner own more than one property or are self-employed. If that’s the case, call the helpline on 0800 99 1234.

How to claim pension credit

You can apply for Pension Credit online, by phone (0800 99 1234, Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm) or by post. If you haven’t reached state pension age (which is age 66) yet, you can send in your application up to four months before this date. 

If you have reached state pension age, your application can be backdated by three months only, meaning you could get up to three months’ pension credit in your first payment.

You’ll need your National Insurance number when you apply, plus details of your income, savings and investments. If you have a partner, you’ll need the same information about them too.

If you have claimed in the past and were unsuccessful, you can claim again in the future. For example, a change in your circumstances could make you suddenly eligible for Pension Credit.

Are you one of thousands who are missing out?

Pension Credit is a very welcome boost to pensioners’ retirement income. But pensioners are missing out on this top-up payment to their pensions because they do not know the extra financial help is there. 

The government is aware of the problem, so much so that prime minister Rishi Sunak mentioned it last year when unveiling a £15 billion cost of living support package. The DWP is also running a social media campaign to raise awareness.

In August 2022, there were 1.4 million people receiving Pension Credit, representing a total of 1.6 million beneficiaries including partners, according to government figures.

In 2018-19, 920,000 pensioner households were entitled to, but not receiving, Pension Credit. A year later, the figure had fallen to 850,000.

However, this is still a huge number of people who are missing out on hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds that could really boost their income in retirement - and make a real difference at a time of soaring food, fuel and energy costs.

Stephen Lowe, group communications director at retirement specialist Just Group said: “The human story to this is the hundreds of thousands of people who are struggling to make ends meet who may not realise financial help is available or do not know how to navigate the system.”

Some pensioners may simply be unaware Pension Credit exists, while of those that do, they may think they aren’t entitled to it because they own their own home or have some savings. Others may not feel comfortable taking money from the government.

But Pension Credit isn’t just a top-up payment; it's also a gateway to receiving other benefits, like extra cost of living payments, help with paying a mortgage or rent, council tax reduction, a free TV licence if you’re 75 or over (worth £159), and help with NHS dental treatment. 



If you’re 60 or over, you can cash in on lots of deals and discounts, saving you money on everything from eating out to travel and entertainment. This is regardless of your income or whether you claim Pension Credit.

Cheap fish and chip lunch 

Harry Ramsden’s fish and chip restaurants have a Club 60 offer with a cheap fish and chip lunch for over-sixties.

Cost £10.69 for cod and chips, plus tea or coffee followed by ice-cream or bread and butter pudding. Usual price for cod and chips plus ice cream is £17.18.   

Cheap movie and theatre tickets

Some cinema chains offer special senior deals. The Odeon Silvers deal costs from £3.50 including tea and biscuits. There's also the free-to-join Silver Screen option at Picturehouse cinemas with discounted tickets and free or coffee.

Over 65s can get a 20% discount on tickets for the theatre at the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford-upon-Avon on Monday and Tuesday evenings and midweek matinees. Standard prices start from £16.

Free prescriptions 

Once you reach 60 you get free prescriptions in England – worth £9.65 each - along with free NHS eye tests. A free sight test can be worth around £25 depending on where you go.

Cheap days out 

You can get a free bus pass in England once you reach state pension age, and over 60s can buy discounted travel cards for a third off on trains and coaches.  

National Express sells a senior coachcoard for £12.50 (plus £2.50 p&p), which saves a third on fares. You can also buy a senior railcard, which costs £30 a year and saves a third off train tickets.

Ruth Emery

Ruth Emery is contributing editor at The Money Edit. Ruth is passionate about helping people feel more confident about their finances. She was previously editor of Times Money Mentor, and prior to that was deputy Money editor at The Sunday Times. A multi-award winning journalist, Ruth started her career on a pensions magazine at the FT Group, and has also worked at Money Observer and Money Advice Service. Outside of work, she is a mum to two young children, a magistrate and an NHS volunteer.