As well as the state pension, there are a host of benefits and perks that you can claim once you retire, that could be worth hundreds of extra pounds a year.
Claiming the benefits can boost your retirement income by thousands of pounds and give you generous discounts and freebies.
But many retired people are unaware of what they are eligible for, and every year, billions of pounds of benefits go unclaimed.
Subscribe to MoneyWeek
Subscribe to MoneyWeek today and get your first six magazine issues absolutely FREE
We run through a handy list of 11 perks you can claim when you become a pensioner. Some of them are universally available to all pensioners, while others are means-tested - but even so, you may be surprised to discover that you qualify for them.
1, Cost-of-living payment
Millions of pensioners are receiving cost-of-living payments worth up to £300 from the government “to help with energy bills this winter”.
This is an automatic payment that is made as a top-up to the winter fuel payment. The cost-of-living payment is worth either £150 or £300: a pensioner living alone will get £300, while a cohabiting pensioner couple will each get £150.
You should receive a letter telling you how much your total winter fuel payment will be.
The payments will land in bank accounts over the next two months.
If you don’t receive the winter fuel payment, you’ll need to claim the cost-of-living payment yourself. You can claim by phone (0800 731 0160) or by post - more details on the government website.
If you’re expecting an automatic payment but haven’t received the money by 26 January 2024, contact the Winter Fuel Payment Centre.
There are two additional cost-of-living payments worth £599 in total for households on benefits, which includes Pension Credit.
Payments are made automatically. The government finished making the first payments of £300 last month. The second - of £299 - will be made between 6 February and 22 February next year.
2, Pension Credit
Pension Credit is one of the most under-claimed and misunderstood benefits. For example, you can claim it even if you own your own home and have some savings in a pension.
It is worth £3,900 a year on average - but could be worth much more to certain households - and also unlocks access to other benefits, such as cold weather payments, help with NHS costs and extra cost-of-living payments (see above).
Up to 880,000 families who are entitled to receive the benefit are failing to claim.
Pension Credit is made up of two parts: guarantee credit and savings credit. The guarantee part tops up your pension income to a certain level, and is available to those on low incomes. The savings credit is only available to those who reached state pension age before 6 April 2016 and had some money saved for retirement.
You can find out if you’re eligible, and how much money you could get, by using the government’s Pension Credit calculator.
3, Winter fuel payment
The winter fuel payment is an annual tax-free payment for pensioners to help cover their heating costs in the colder months. It’s worth between £250 and £600.
The majority of people born before 25 September 1957 are eligible. You also usually need to live in the UK. Other exceptions include:
- if you have been in hospital getting free treatment for more than a year
- you need permission to enter the UK and your granted leave says you cannot claim public funds
- you were in prison for the whole of the week of 18 to 24 September 2023
Most eligible people receive their winter fuel payment automatically. You should get a letter in October or November each year detailing how much you’ll get; you then receive the money in November or December.
4, Council tax reduction
If you’re on a low income or you receive benefits like Pension Credit, you may be able to get a discount on your council tax bill.
Depending on your circumstances, you could have your council tax bill reduced to zero with the council tax reduction scheme (sometimes called council tax support).
The amount taken off your bill depends on a number of factors, such as where you live, your income, your UK residency status, and if any other people are living with you.
5, Cold weather payment
Some people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland may be eligible for the cold weather payment scheme. It differs from the winter fuel payment in two ways: first, you need to be receiving certain benefits to be eligible (this includes Pension Credit), and second, the weather needs to be very cold - freezing, in fact.
You’ll get a payment if the average temperature in your area is recorded as, or forecast to be, zero degrees Celsius or below over seven consecutive days.
You’ll get £25 for each seven-day period of very cold weather between 1 November 2023 and 31 March 2024.
If you live in Scotland you’re not eligible for cold weather payments; however, you may get an annual winter heating payment instead, which is made regardless of weather conditions in your area, and worth about £55.
6, Warm home discount scheme
This is another heating-related benefit. It’s worth £150, and you can qualify if you either get the guarantee credit element of Pension Credit, or are on a low income and have high energy costs.
The money isn’t paid to you - instead, it’s a one-off discount applied to your electricity bill between early October 2023 and 31 March 2024.
If you’re eligible, you’ll get a letter by early January 2024. If you don’t get a letter and you think you’re eligible, you must contact the warm home discount scheme before 29 February 2024.
7, Public transport discounts
A free bus pass is one of the most well-known pensioner perks, but it can be confusing finding out what you’re entitled to as it depends where you live.
If you live in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, you can apply for a free bus pass when you reach age 60. In England, you need to wait until you reach state pension age, unless you live in London. Those living in the capital can travel free on buses, tubes and other transport when they are 60, but only within London.
Senior citizens resident in Northern Ireland can also get free travel on all public transport throughout the island of Ireland at the age of 65.
A senior railcard is also available to everyone aged 60 and over who wants discounted train fares: this costs £30 for one year or £70 for three years and gives a third off rail tickets.
8, Free TV licence
People who are blind or in residential care can get their TV licence for a reduced cost. For example, you can get a 50% discount if you’re registered blind.
You’ll need to apply online for a free or reduced-price TV licence, or call 0300 790 6117.
9, Free eye tests
Retirees aged 60 or over are eligible for a free eye test every 24 months. In addition, if you’ve been diagnosed with either type of diabetes, you can get a free annual eye test.
If you or your partner receive the guarantee credit part of Pension Credit, you’re also automatically entitled to a voucher towards the cost of glasses or contact lenses.
10, Free prescriptions
Everyone aged 60 or over benefits from free prescriptions. You may be able to get free prescriptions earlier than this, if you’re on benefits, or you suffer from certain health conditions, including cancer, diabetes and epilepsy.
The NHS has a handy calculator to check what help you can get with prescriptions and other NHS costs.
11, Free dental care
People aged 60 and over living in Scotland and Wales are entitled to free NHS dental examinations. In England and Northern Ireland, older people don’t qualify for free dental care due to age - but you may be eligible for reduced or free dental treatment if you or your partner receive certain benefits, such as the guarantee credit part of Pension Credit.
Let the receptionist know if you receive benefits when you make an appointment. You may be asked to show proof.
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.
How to invest in solving the housing shortage
Feature Buy-to-let may be losing its shine but there are other ways to invest in the property market
By Marc Shoffman Published
Financial Conduct Authority launches £600k campaign to encourage savers to switch – how much more could you earn?
News The City watchdog wants to encourage more people to switch their savings
By Marc Shoffman Published