The best things about being a pensioner

Updated on 01 October 2012 | 24 Comments

When you become a pensioner, you're suddenly eligible for lots of benefits and discounts, so make sure you know what's available and don't miss out.

Pensioners - and those approaching retirement - are getting a raw deal at the moment with a rock-bottom base rate, high inflation and Government plans to up the State Pension age.

However, one silver lining is all the benefits and discounts which become available to you once you hit the eligible age. Although there's talk of scrap some of them, right now they're still available so if you're not claiming them you need to act quickly. 

State Pension

Once you reach State Pension age, you can opt to start receiving a weekly sum. How much you get and when you start receiving it all depends on how long you’ve worked for in your life and how many years of National Insurance contributions you've made.

There’s a lot of change going on here at the moment, but right now the basic State Pension is £107.45 a week. The age when you can start claiming your pension is increasing to reach 66 for men and women by 2020. You can work out exactly when and how much you’ll get on this State Pension age calculator.

Specialist savings accounts

Trying to find a decent paying savings account can be tricky, but there are specific products which are only available for those aged over 50. Although these might not always be the most competitive, it’s worth a look as occasionally there are market-leaders in there.

Right now top of the table for instant access accounts is a 90-day notice account (The High Income Over 50 Notice) from the West Brom BS paying 2.80% with an initial deposit of £1,000. Second are two accounts from Saga, which both offer instant access and can be opened with £1, paying 2.75% and 2.40%.

Check out The best instant access savings accounts to see how they compare.

Winter fuel payments

As the weather gets colder, the winter fuel benefit kicks in as a way to help out older people through the coldest months of the year. It’s available to anyone born on or before 5th July 1951 and it’s not means tested so you can still get it if you’re working or claiming any other benefits.

The amount you can get depends on your personal circumstances. You can find out exactly what you're entitled to here but as a rule of thumb, if you live alone and were born on or before 5th July 1951 you’ll get £200, while if you’re aged 80 or over on 23rd September 2012 you’ll get £300. 

Free TV licence

When you reach the age of 75 you’ll no longer need to pay for your TV licence. To apply for one, you just need to call 0300 790 6131 and give your full name, date of birth and national insurance number. 

For those people aged 74, you can apply for a short-term licence which will last until your 75th birthday.

Free bus travel

As soon as you reach State Pension age you’re able to claim a free bus pass for use on any off-peak journeys across the country in England. This is valid between 9.30am and 11pm from Monday-Friday and all day on weekends and public holidays.

There are similar schemes available in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

These can be applied for through your local council. And if you live in London you can get what’s known as the ‘Freedom Pass’ which allows free travel on the whole of the Transport for London network.

Cheap train travel

A senior railcard is available for those aged over 60 and it costs £28 a year. It gives one third off standard and first class fares and you can use it at any time apart from peak morning services.

Free passport

To get a new standard UK passport costs £72.50, but if you were born on or before 2nd September 1929 you qualify for a free one. This applies if it’s a new passport, or if you’re renewing an old one.

You can apply either online at the Identity and Passport Service, by calling the Passport Advice line on 0300 222 0000 or by visiting your local Post Office branch.

Christmas Bonus

Everyone likes getting something extra at Christmas and if you’re a pensioner you could be entitled to a one-off £10 tax-free payment also known as the ‘Christmas Bonus’.

To be in line for this extra cash you need to already be receiving a qualifying benefit such as, attendance allowance, disability living allowance, the State Pension or a widow or widower’s pension. You can find out if you’re eligible on the DirectGov website and the money is generally paid out before Christmas directly into your bank account.

Free NHS prescriptions

Instead of forking out £7.20 (in England) for a prescription, when you turn 60 you’ll get these and eye tests free. To qualify, you just need to fill in the declaration on the back of your prescription form when you go to pick up your medication. 

Discounted tickets

There are discounts available on nearly everything when you turn 60 including the cinema, theatre, art galleries and museums. The discount is usually 10-20% off the full price.

Not having to work anymore

Although this will probably split opinions, for many people being out of the nine-to-five daily grind of the office will be a massive benefit. If your finances allow it, you now have the time to enjoy retirement.

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