Could you turn £800 into £5k with a State Pension top-up? 

Did you know you can top up your State Pension by buying missing years? It could be good value. One missing year costs around £800 and could give you up to £5,000 back in State Pension.   

Currently, there’s a deadline of 5 April 2025 for buying missing years going back to 2006. After this date you’ll only be able to buy missing years for the past six years.  

How many years do I need for a full State Pension?  

The full State Pension is currently around £10,000 a year. That’s a big part of many people’s retirement income.  

To get the full amount of State Pension you usually need 35 State Pension qualifying years – that’s years when you paid the full rate of  National Insurance (NI) contributions, or received NI credits (if you’re on some types of benefit, such as carer’s allowance or universal credit). We say ‘usually’ because some people may need more years, depending on their age and NI record up to 2016 when the State Pension arrangements changed.  

Everyone should check their State Pension qualifying years, but especially women. Women tend to take time out of work to look after children or elderly relatives and could potentially be missing years of NI contributions as a result. Our research suggests women take an average of 10 years out of the workforce. 

How do I check my qualifying years? 

Start by getting a State Pension forecast. It’s easy. Go to Check your State Pension forecast on the government website and follow the instructions. You’ll need to set up a Government Gateway account if you haven’t already got one.  

Your State Pension forecast will tell you:  

  • how much State Pension you might get when you reach your State Pension age, and 
  • whether you’re on track to build up the full amount of State Pension.  

The nearer you are to State Pension age, the more accurate it’s likely to be.  

What’s my State Pension age?  

You can find out on the government website. Check your State Pension age 

Will I get a full State Pension? 

Does your forecast say you’re likely to get the full State Pension if you carry on working?  

If it doesn’t – check your NI record. This will show how many qualifying years you’ve got and where the gaps are. Again, you can do this on the government website. Check your National Insurance record. 

Check if you qualify for NI credits 

Not enough qualifying years to get a full State Pension? Start by checking if you qualify for NI credits. This won’t cost you anything.  

NI credits are a way to build up qualifying years if you aren’t in work – for example, because you are caring for someone, on long-term sick leave, or looking for a job.  

You get NI credits automatically if you’re on benefits like carer’s allowance, jobseeker’s allowance or universal credit. You can claim NI credits if, for example, you’re caring for someone but not getting carer’s allowance, or looking for a job but not getting jobseeker’s allowance. And there are other situations where you can claim NI credits – such as if you’ve been on jury service or are the partner of someone in the armed forces.  

There’s a full list of things you get NI credits for, and instructions on claiming NI credits, on the government website. Check if you can claim NI credits. 

Is it worth buying extra pension years?  

It currently costs around £824 to buy a full year’s missing NI contributions. You’d make this back as long as you get your State Pension for at least three years. Potentially, you could receive up to £5,000 extra in State Pension over your lifetime for each missing year you buy. How much extra State Pension you’d receive in total depends on how long you live.   

But – like everything to do with the State Pension – it’s complicated. Some people won’t benefit from buying extra years.  It depends on things like when you built up your State Pension and what mixture of ‘old’ (pre-2016) and current State Pension you have.  

For example, it used to be common for workplace pension schemes to ‘contract out’ of the State Pension. If you were contracted out, your workplace pension scheme was designed to replace part of your State Pension and you paid lower NI contributions. Or, some of your NI contributions were paid into a personal pension for you. So Iin some cases, buying extra years won’t get you any more State Pension. 

That’s why it’s really important to talk to the government’s Future Pension Centre first.  

Contact the Future Pension Centre 

You can contact the Future Pension Centre on 0800 731 0175 8am-6pm Monday to Friday (calls are free).  

There are reports that the lines are extremely busy and people are trying multiple times to get through. But it’s worth persevering.  

Other useful contacts 

The government website has a full list of contact details for the Future Pension Centre. 

The MoneySavingExpert website has a page on topping up State Pension. It has a calculator to help you work out how much topping up could cost and how much you could get back in State Pension.