Basic State Pension Explained

This guide explains how to claim the basic State Pension and the amount you might get when you reach the State Pension age. There is extra information how to increase your State Pension and advice about inheritance.

UK BASIC PENSION: If you are either of the following this guide does NOT apply to you:

  • You are male and born on or after 6th of April 1951.
  • You are female and born on or after 6th of April 1953.

If so, it is the ‘new State Pension‘ guide that you need to read.

Reached State Pension Age Before 6 April 2016

The UK Government pays the basic State Pension in regular payments. To qualify you must have:

  • Reached State Pension age before the 6th of April 2016.
  • Paid National Insurance contributions or received National Insurance credits.

If you have no gaps in your National Insurance record the current payment is £141.85 per week. But, there is an annual increase in the basic UK State Pension. The increase is the greater of the following:

  • 2.5%
  • The average growth percentage in wages (earnings) in Great Britain.
  • The percentage growth in prices in the UK (calculated using the Consumer Prices Index).

UK Basic State Pension Amount

The ‘full’ basic State Pension is £141.85 per week. If you have gaps in your National Insurance contributions or wish to receive above the ‘full’ amount, there are ways to increase your State Pension. To find out your current status you can apply for a detailed State Pension statement.

Note: Your State Pension may be taxable.

Your National Insurance number determines which day the government pays the UK basic state pension.

  • Monday: NI number ending 00 to 19
  • Tuesday: NI number ending 20 to 39
  • Wednesday: Ni number ending 40 to 59
  • Thursday: NI number ending 60 to 79
  • Friday: Ni number ending 80 to 99

After you reach State Pension age your initial payment gets calculated at the end of the first four full weeks. This will not include the first week if it is not a complete 7 days.

An Example: Your National Insurance number ends in 30 so your payment day is Tuesday. You reach State Pension age on a Thursday. Your first payment gets made 4 weeks from the following Tuesday. It will not include payment from Thursday to Tuesday as this is less than a week. If you reached State Pension age on the Wednesday then this entitles you to the full week payment.

As a rule payments of your basic State Pension is every 4 weeks. These payments are made into an account you choose. Payments get paid 4 weeks ‘in arrears’. That means the payments are for the previous four weeks and not the coming four weeks.

Note: Different rules apply to the State Pension if you live abroad (outside of the United Kingdom).

Basic State Pension Eligibility

If you reach State Pension age after 5th April 2016 then you need to claim the new State Pension. You cannot receive the basic State Pension until you reach State Pension age. There is no early payment scheme.

To qualify for the full basic State Pension you must have at least 30 full years of National Insurance contributions or credits. One or more of the following must apply to you for at least 30 years total:

The UK basic State Pension will be less than £141.85 per week if you have less than 30 years. As a rule if you have gaps you can pay voluntary National contributions to top up to 30 years.

Those Who are Not Working

Those who cannot work may qualify for National Insurance credits. Examples would include if you:

Note: In some cases you may have received Home Responsibilities Protection before April 2010.

Married or Civil Partnership

What if you are not getting a ‘full’ basic UK State Pension or are ineligible? You may be able to ‘top-up’ from your spouse or civil partner’s National Insurance contributions. The maximum is £85 per week. To qualify you must meet one of these rules:

  • You are both of State Pension age.
  • Even if your spouse or civil partner has not claimed a basic State Pension they must have qualified for it.
  • Your civil partner or spouse was born after the 5th of April 1950.
  • Note: This rule does not apply if you are:
    • A woman married to a man.
    • A woman married to a female who changed their gender (legally) after your marriage started.

The Adult Dependency Increase is no longer available if you are looking after your children or they are financially dependent on you. If you have been receiving the Adult Dependency Increase before 6th April 2010 you will continue to receive it until 5th April 2020 while you qualify for it.

Those Who Do Not Qualify for State Pension

What should you do if you want to receive a basic State Pension but do not qualify for the above groups? In this case you should be able to pay voluntary NI contributions.

Men Born Before 1945 (women born before 1950)

The rules are different for these circumstances. For a full State Pension you will need more than 30 years to qualify. You will also need a minimum number of years to receive any basic State Pension.

Your Circumstances Years Needed for Full State Pension Years Needed for any State Pension
Men born before 6 April 1945 44 11
Women born before 6 April 1950 39 10

State Pension for Transgender People

If you are a transsexual your gender may affect your State Pension if you:

  • Were receiving State Pension before 4th April 2005.
  • Were born between 24th December 1919 and 3 April 1945.
  • Had your gender reassignment surgery before 4th April 2005 and can provide evidence supporting the time of surgery.

If you legally changed your gender and started claiming State Pension after 3rd April 2005 you do not need to do anything. This is because you are already claiming based on your legal gender.

Note: More information is available from the Gender Recognition Team on the government publications.

How to Claim Basic State Pension

You do not automatically get your State Pension. You need to apply to receive it. As a rule they send you a letter 4 months before your eligibility to claim the basic State Pension. The letter informs you how to claim.

If you have not received this letter you should contact the State Pension claim number. They will know your options on making your claim. There are three (3) ways to make your claim:

  1. Print and fill in the basic State Pension claim form and then post it to your local pension centre.
  2. Download and complete the form to claim your pension from abroad.
  3. By phoning the State Pension claim line.

State Pension Claim Line
Telephone: 0800 731 7898
Telephone: 0800 731 7339
Welsh language: 0800 731 7936
Welsh textphone: 0800 731 7339
Monday to Friday: 8am to 6pm
Check the cost of UK phone calls.

Note: Check to see if you should be claiming the new State Pension instead. Different rules apply for those claiming pensions in Northern Ireland.

Claim Basic Pension and Continue Working

If you continue working after retirement age you can still make your claim for the basic State Pension.

How to Increase Your State Pension

You may want to increase your basic UK State Pension if you:

  • Have gaps in your records and will not receive the ‘full’ amount.
  • Want to receive a higher payment than the ‘full’ amount.
Voluntary National Insurance Contributions

To be eligible for the ‘full’ basic State Pension you must have 30 years of National Insurance contributions. What happens if your National Insurance statements show you have gaps? In this case you can usually make voluntary National Insurance contributions to increase your pension.

Delay (defer) the State Pension

One way to increase your State Pension payments is to defer it. When you decide to claim your State Pension it will increase by 1% for every 5 weeks deferred. So if you decide to define your State Pension for one year your payment would have increased by 10.4%. You can claim the extra amount to increase future State Pension payments or as a lump sum.

Top Up the State Pension

You can apply for the State Pension top up until April 2017. The maximum you can add is £25 per week. When you retire you can claim the top up back in one of two different methods:

  1. Adding it to your full basic State Pension.
  2. As a lump sum.

Consider making voluntary NI contributions to fill the gaps before you decide to make any State Pension top ups. Please read the government guidance booklet. It will help to decide if a State Pension top-up is right for you.

Other Ways to Increase the Basic Pension

You may qualify or ‘top up’ to £82.45 per week through your spouse’s (or civil partner) National Insurance contributions. Check the eligibility section above. If you are on a low income you qualify for Pension Credit. You may also get Additional State Pension eligibility.

Note: You should always seek professional financial advice when planning your retirement income.

UK Basic State Pension Inheritance

What happens if you pass away and your spouse or civil partner is over pension age? In this case they need to contact the Pension Service for claimant advice over their entitlement to your State Pension.

If they do not receive the full basic State Pension they may be able to use your qualifying years to increase their State Pension. The rules are different if your spouse or civil partner has not reached State Pension age.

When they claim their State Pension, your qualifying years will be calculated into their payments. This only applies if, when they reach Pension age, they have neither remarried nor have a new civil partnership.

Single or Divorced

Your estate can claim up to 3 months State Pension providing you were single, divorced, or your civil partnership dissolved.

Extra Money from Deferring Your State Pension

Your spouse or civil partner may claim a lump sum or extra payments if you defer your State Pension. If your deferment was less than 12 months then they are only entitled to extra State Pension. They cannot apply for a lump sum payment.

If your deferment was more than 12 months then they are entitled to extra State Pension or a lump sum payment. This only applies if, when they reach Pension age, they have neither remarried nor have a new civil partnership.

State Pension Top Up

If you die within 90 days of the top up, they will refund your estate with the topping up contributions you made. Likewise, they will deduct any top up payments that you claimed for.

Your spouse or civil partner inherits the basic State Pension after 90 days. Your estate can claim for up to three (3) months of your pension in the absence of a spouse or civil partner. In this case, the rules for Additional State Pension would apply.

Basic State Pension Change Circumstances

If anything changes in your circumstances you must inform the Pension Service. The changes can include if you:

  • Change your bank account details.
  • Move home or move outside the United Kingdom (or return).
  • Marry or enter into a civil partnership.
  • Have a spouse or civil partner who dies.
  • Get divorced or your civil partnership dissolves.
  • Become an inpatient in a hospital or the hospital releases you.
  • Move to live in a care home.

The Basic State Pension Guide for Retirees in United Kingdom