How to top up your State Pension

Samantha Downes

by , Financial Journalist

22 Feb 2024 /  

Couple sitting on a sofa looking at a laptop.

Did you know you could increase the amount of the State Pension you receive by making extra National Insurance (NI) contributions? When the ‘new’ State Pension was introduced in 2016, the government announced that you could plug gaps all the way back to 2006. The deadline has been extended three times since the announcement, and you now have until 5 April 2025 to top up.

How does this top up work and would it help you?

The current full State Pension is £203.85 a week (2023/24) and to receive the full amount, you’ll need 35 qualifying years of NI contributions. However, if you’ve taken time out of the workplace, for example to raise a family or care for older relatives, you might have gaps in your NI contribution history. If you have missing contributions from 2006-2016 you can plug the gaps by making extra NI payments.

Bear in mind that if you’re over the age of 73, you’ll be receiving or eligible for the ‘old’ State Pension so you won’t need to top up.

How much does it cost?

Making up for one year of missed NI contributions will cost you up to £907.40 (2023/24), which will add about £302.64 per year (£5.82 per week) to your pre-tax State Pension. There might be occasions where you don’t need to pay the full amount. For example if you only have two months of missing contributions, you’ll only pay £151.20 (2023/24) to make up the full year.

However, the rate you pay depends on which year you’re topping up:

Tax year Rate
2006/07 - 2019/20 (inclusive) £824.20 (£15.85/week)
2020/21 £795.60 (£15.30/week)
2021/22 £800.80 (£15.40/week)
2022/23 £824.20 (£15.85/week)
2023/24 £907.40 (£17.45/week)

The above rates will remain until 5 April 2025.

If you don’t top up your State Pension you’ll get an amount proportionate to the number of years you have full NI contributions for. For example, if you have 30 years of NI contributions, then you’d get an amount worth 86% of the full State Pension. This works out at £175.30 per week (2023/24).

You can top up your NI in two ways via the gov.uk website:

It’s worth noting that you can’t pay to increase your State Pension beyond the maximum of £203.85 per week (2023/24).

Do I need to top up my State Pension?

Find out if you have any NI contribution gaps by checking your National Insurance record on the DWP website. Even if you have missing years, you may still qualify for a full State Pension. You can check this by using the government’s State Pension forecast calculator.

When not to top up your State Pension

Certain benefits automatically come with NI credits, so you may find that there are no gaps in your NI contribution record, even though you weren’t working. If you were in receipt of these benefits you may not need to top up your State Pension. Examples include:

  • if you were on Child Benefit;
  • if you were a grandparent looking after children;
  • if you were on maternity, paternity or adoption pay;
  • if you were on statutory sick pay; or
  • if you were unemployed and actively looking for work.

If you were ‘contracted out’ of the Additional State Pension, before the changes came into effect in 2016, then you’ll need to check whether topping up can help. You can find out more information on the gov.uk website.

Samantha Downes is a financial journalist and has written for most national newspapers and women’s magazines. She is also the author of two finance guides and has set up the Substack PumpkinPensions to help guide people looking to save more towards their future.

Risk warning

As always with investments, your capital is at risk. The value of your investment can go down as well as up, and you may get back less than you invest. This information should not be regarded as financial advice.

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