How to claim your state pension; what you need to know

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When you reach state pension age, that’s when you can start receiving your state pension. But, you won’t get it automatically. You have to claim it. Find out how to claim your state pension.

How to claim your state pension – what you’ll get

If you reach state pension age on or after April 6th 2016, you will come under the new flat rate state pension system and that means it’s hard to predict how much you might get. The single tier rate is £164.35 a week, if you have 35 years of National Insurance and weren’t contracted out of National Insurance. Many women will get less than this and some will get more.

It’s important to be aware that if you and your husband, wife or civil partner have both paid enough National Insurance to qualify for the full basic or flat rate state pension in your own right, you’ll each receive a full pension. You may receive more or less than this if you are due a SERPS or state second pension or if you’ve paid less than 30 or 35 years’ National Insurance (depending on your state pension date).

SAVVY TIP: Many people think there is a ‘married couples’ state pension and that someone who’s married or living with their partner will get less once both of them claim the state pension. That’s not true. Each of you is entitled to a state pension in your own right, as long as you have paid enough National Insurance.

Claiming your state pension

Four months before you reach state pension age, you should be sent a letter giving details about how to claim your state pension. If you’re a woman, your state pension age may be later than you expect because the state pension age is rising.

SAVVY TIP: The state pension age for women is rising from 60 to 66 between April 2010 and October 2020. It’s a two stage rise which affects women born on or after April 6th 1950. You can access a state pension age calculator at the government’s website.

If you haven’t received your letter by the time you’re three months away from your state pension age, you have three options. You can:

  1. Go to the section of the website called claim your state pension online. You can then register to use the Government Gateway. You have to sign up and get a code to activate your account in the post.
  2. You can claim your state pension over the phone by ringing the Pension Service on 0800 7317898 or 0800 731 7936 if you speak Welsh. You can find the contact details for the Pension Service on the website.
  3. You can download a state pension claim form and send it by post to your local pension centre. You can find your local pension centre online at the site.

SAVVY TIP: You can backdate your pension claim for a maximum of 12 months or three months if you’re claiming an increase for a dependant. If you’re retiring, you should also tell HM Revenue and Customs. The website includes contact information for HMRC.

Claiming your state pension by phone

The government recommends claiming your pension by phone as it’s quicker and means you’ll get your first payment on time. You’ll need certain documents with you when you make the call. They include:

  1. Your National Insurance number. There’s information on the website on how to find your NI number if you’ve lost it.
  2. Your tax reference number – if you have it.
  3. Your husband, wife or civil partner’s NI number and the date you married/entered a civil partnership.
  4. Details of the bank/building society you want your payments paid into e.g. sort code, account number etc.

How the state pension is paid

You don’t have to have your state pension paid into your bank account, there are several different options. Your state pension can be paid into:

  • Your bank or building society account.
  • A Post Office card account, which can only be used for payments of state benefits such as your state pension and pension credit.

SAVVY TIP: There are no charges on a card account, you can’t go overdrawn on it and there are no credit checks. You can only take out cash at Post Office branches using your card and PIN, although you can ask for a second card for someone else to collect your pension for you.

When you will receive your first state pension payment

If you have not deferred taking your state pension, you will be paid your state pension up to a week following the day you reach state pension age. Most people get paid their state pension every four weeks, rather than weekly, so in fact you’d probably get it later than this. But the first date that you’re eligible for your state pension payment is normally a few days after you reach state pension age.

SAVVY TIP: The actual date that you’ll get your state pension will depend on the last two digits of your National Insurance number. It works like this:

  • If your NI number ends in 00 – 19: State pension is paid on a Monday
  • If your NI number ends in 20 – 39: State pension is paid on a Tuesday
  • If your NI number ends in 40 – 59: State pension is paid on a Wednesday
  • If your NI number ends in 60 – 79: State pension is paid on a Thursday
  • If your NI number ends in 80 – 99: State pension is paid on a Friday

Deferring your state pension

If you want to put off claiming your state pension, you can put off claiming it and get a higher weekly amount when you do claim. You have to defer for at least five weeks if you want to increase your weekly pension.

SAVVY TIP: You don’t need to do anything to defer your state pension, you simply ignore the letter asking you to claim it. You can only defer taking your pension once (but you can also start claiming and then decide to defer it – but only once). You can read more about this in my article called Deferring your state pension; how much extra will you get.

Related articles:

Claiming your basic state pension on your ex husband’s National Insurance record

If you’ve not made enough National Insurance contributions to get a full state pension, you can top them up.

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