January ushers in changes to the Pension Concession Card

Age pensioners received welcome news at the start of the new year relating to the income test and their pension payments. That change has flow-on benefits for older Australian who have a Pension Concession Card.

The new Centrelink rule, which came into effect on 1 January, makes it easier for older Australians who receive a full or part pension to work. That’s being strongly encouraged due to a nationwide labour shortage and aided by a temporary change to the Age Pension Work Bonus.

Under the 1 January rule, if you receive employment income, Services Australia can now temporarily suspend your Age Pension payment for two years if you earn more than the threshold. Previously, pensioners were cut off completely if their income exceeded the threshold and forced to reapply.

Given the complexity of applying for the pension – at least initially – the new rule is a welcome move.

Read: Work Bonus increase extended until end of 2023

Services Australia says of the switch: “We can do this [suspend the Age Pension] if your employment income goes over the cut-off point for more than six fortnights in a row.

“We can do this for up to two years. This means that you don’t have to reclaim if you start earning less, or stop working.”

Also since 1 January 2023, age pensioners and disability support pensioners are able to retain their Pensioner Concession Card and its benefits for two years if support payments are suspended due to the income test.

Currently, those two groups lose eligibility for the concession card after 12 weeks and 52 weeks respectively if their level of income goes above the thresholds.

Read: Age Pension payment rates

If temporarily absent from Australia, the maximum qualification period of up to six weeks still applies.

You can get a card if you receive an Age Pension, Carer Payment, Disability Support Pension or JobSeeker payment and are single, caring for a dependent child and looking for work.

You don’t need to apply for a Pensioner Concession Card, Centrelink will send you one if you’re eligible.

The Pensioner Concession Card entitles holders to:

  • cheaper medicine under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme
  • bulk-billed doctor visits, which will depend on your doctor if you are eligible for these
  • a bigger refund for medical costs when you reach the Medicare Safety Net
  • help with hearing services, such as the Hearing Services Program on the Department of Health and Aged Care website.
  • discounts to redirect your mail through Australia Post.

Read: Where have all the financial advisers gone?

Your state or territory government and local council may offer you more benefits, such as: discounts on utility bills, property and water rates, public transport fares and vehicle registrations.

The Pensioner Concession Card is different to the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC). The CSHC offers a big range of discounts and benefits and eligibility was extended last year meaning many more older Australians now qualify.

Do the 1 January changes make life easier for you? Was applying for the Age Pension straightforward or difficult? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

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