What are National Insurance credits?
National Insurance credits are a way of maintaining your National Insurance record when you are not making National Insurance contributions.
They help to build up 'qualifying years', which count towards your entitlement for basic state pension, and other benefits.
Am I entitled to National Insurance credits?
Generally, those who qualify for National Insurance credits are not making National Insurance contributions because they are not in paid employment.
This can be because they are taking time out to look after children, or because they are unemployed or ill.
You can also receive National Insurance credits when you are on an approved training course or doing jury service.
There are two types of credits: Class 3 credits count towards your State Pension and bereavement benefits, and Class 1 covers these as well as other benefits (like Jobseeker’s Allowance or Employment Support Allowance).
Some credits are allocated to your record automatically, while you'll need to apply for others.
Our table lists some of the most common scenarios where you can claim National Insurance credits - but the list is not exhaustive, so check the government's site on National Insurance credits to be sure.
The table is correct as of April 2020.
Childcare and National Insurance credits
Parents (aged over 16) who receive child benefit and are caring for a child under the age of 12 receive Class 3 National Insurance credits automatically.
Grandparents and other family members aged over 16 but under state pension age that provide care for a child aged under 12 may also be able to get Class 3 Specified Adult National Insurance credits.
These are not credited automatically and need to be applied for (using form CF411A).
- Find out more: Child Benefit explained – find out what you're entitled to as a parent
NI credits for carers
If you receive Carer's Allowance, you'll automatically receive Class 1 credits on your National Insurance record.
Those on Income Support automatically qualify for Class 3 benefits.
If you're not on Income Support, but are providing at least 20 or more hours a week to a sick or disabled person, you may be eligible for Class 3 credits - but you'll need to apply for them.
Unemployment and NI credits
Those people who currently receive Universal Credit will automatically qualify for Class 3 National Insurance credits.
If you are seeking work, you may be eligible for Class 1 credits. You'll automatically have these added to your record if you're already receiving Jobseeker's Allowance.
If you're not receiving Jobseeker's Allowance, but are unemployed and looking for work, you'll need to claim the Class 1 credits via your local Jobcentre.
Class 1 credits may also be available if you attend a government-approved training course that's less than one year long.
If you're sent by a JobCentre Plus, the credits will be added automatically, but otherwise you'll need to apply in writing to HMRC.
Find out more: what is Universal Credit?
Illness and disability NI credits
If you're unable to work due to illness or disability, you can automatically receive National Insurance credits if you are claiming the following benefits:
- Employment and Support Allowance
- Unemployability Supplement or Allowance.
If you are not receiving these benefits, but do meet the criteria for them, you can claim the Class 1 credit via your local Jobcentre - and you might as well claim the benefits you are entitled to at the same time.
In some cases, you may be receiving Statutory Sick Pay but not earning enough to make a qualifying year for National Insurance.
If this is the case, you may be eligible for Class 1 credits, so write to HMRC at National Insurance contributions and Employers Office, HM Revenue and Customs, BX9 1AN.
Find out more: National Insurance and benefits - how NI contributions affect your entitlements
NI credits for armed forces' spouses
Since the state pension rules changed, requiring 35 years' contributions to receive the full amount, HMRC and the Department for Work and Pensions introduced the Military spouses National Insurance credits system, which may help you maximise your state pension.
It basically works by allowing you to claim NI credits during periods when you were abroad with your spouse or civil partner on armed forces duty.
These credits aren't automatically paid - you'll need to apply, and can only claim for periods you were overseas, on or after 6 April 1975.
Jury duty and NI credits
If you've attended court for jury duty, and aren't self-employed, you may be eligible for Class 1 credits.
But you'll need to apply for these in writing from HMRC, so write to: National Insurance contributions and Employers Office, HM Revenue and Customs, BX9 1AN.