To claim the age pension you must meet certain criteria.
- With a couple of exceptions—see the Centrelink page for more—you must be 65.
- From July 1, 2017, the qualifying age for the pension will increase to 65 and a half. It’ll then go up by six months every two years until it reaches 67 on July 1, 2013.
- The current Coalition government has signalled that it will rise to 70 by 2035.
- You can earn up to $160 a fortnight (or $284 as a couple) without any reduction to your payment.
- If you earn more than this, your pension will be reduced by 50c for each extra dollar you earn.
- Again, there are variations and exceptions to this such as the income test for Transitional Rate pensioners. Check Centrelink for more details.
- Your assets—your business, your super investments, your cars and boats and caravans etc.—can affect your eligibility for the pension. Note your principal home is excluded.
- This is pretty detailed stuff—it’s best you work through Centrelink’s exhaustive list.
- You must meet the following residency requirements.
- You must be an Aussie resident when you lodge your claim and be physically present in the country when you do so.
- You also need to have been an Australian resident for 10 years straight, or for a number of periods that exceed 10 years (with one of these being five years or more).
- There are some exceptions eg. if you are a refugee or former refugee. Centrelink has the details.
- Australia also has reciprocal pension agreements with 29 other countries which might help you if you haven’t met all the requirements above.
Making your claim
Once more Centrelink’s website has all the information you need. It’s straightforward and well-organised. You can:
- submit your claim online
- call Centrelink on 132 300 (Mon – Fri 8am – 5pm AEST/AEDT) for a claim pack
- pick up one up from your nearest service centre.
You can submit your claim up to 13 weeks before you are eligible for the pension.
You may also be eligible for a Seniors card.
Each state and territory has its own scheme—and each offers its own mix of transport concessions and discounts. There are various reciprocal arrangements in place so you can use your card when you're inter-state.
To be eligible, you must be a resident of a state or territory, be 60 years or over, and not work more than a set number of hours per week in paid work.
Commonwealth Seniors Health Card
Once you reach age pension age, you qualify for a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card. This offers discounts on prescription medicines and other services including bulk billed GP appointments, out-of-hospital medical expenses, and concessional rail travel on epic Great Southern Rail services (eg. The Indian Pacific, The Ghan and The Overland).
The card is subject to an income test. You must have an annual adjusted taxable income of less than:
- $51,500 for singles
- $82,400 for combined couples
- $103,000 for combined couples separated due to ill health, or when one partner’s in prison.
This limit’s increased by $639.60 for each dependent child you might care for.
For more info check out the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card page on Centrelink’s website.