Concession Cards

Over the summer break we’ve taken the time to spell out the details of some of the main ways you can maximise your retirement income. We started with a simple explainer of the Age Pension, then superannuation, the new Work Bonus rules and now this week, we have an update on concessions cards.

Yes, this is a topic we have written on quite a few times before, but we continue to be surprised by how many Retirement Essentials members are missing out on savings because they either didn’t know about these cards, or didn’t know how to get started.

The good news is that our team is able to support you to gain access to the two main money savers – the Pension Concession Card and the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card. Other cards are also available; we’ll explain how you can get them as well.

Why do older Australians receive concessions?

That question isn’t as silly as it may sound. The reasoning behind the automatic awarding of the Pension Concession Card is that the rate of Age Pension payments for those who are eligible (people on government benefits) is quite modest. In fact, by OECD standards, it is very low. It is estimated that about one third of Age Pensioners in Australia live below the poverty line. So a concession card which delivers lower costs for medical, pharmaceutical, energy and transport costs – the essentials – is very necessary. Approximately 30% of older Australians do not receive government benefits, living off their own savings in retirement instead. So it was decided that many of these people should also receive a card which delivers some, if not all, the benefits of the Pension Concession Card. This is the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card.

Which card can you get?

It depends. The main two concession cards are issued by Services Australia, through Centrelink. The Pension Concession Card is automatically issued to all older Australians who successfully apply for a full or part-Age Pension. The Commonwealth Seniors Health Card must be separately applied for by those who do not qualify for the Age Pension. But you still need to be an Australian citizen, live in Australian and of Age Pension age. Eligibility also depends upon passing an income test. There is no assets test for this card. But income is measured by adjusted taxable income plus deemed income from account-based income streams. The income test thresholds are much higher than for the Age Pension which means most people over age 67 will qualify for this. 

And then there are the state based Seniors cards, which also require an application. They are extremely valuable for those who use public transport, with 50% discounts on many journeys.

Age restrictions apply to all of the above cards. You can check which is available to you on our handy comparison chart.

What is the value of concession cards?

This really depends upon the holder. Generally speaking Pension Concession Cards deliver the greatest benefits and discounts, particularly when it comes to medical and health needs. Commonwealth Seniors Health Cards cover similar benefits but it depends very much on your state or territory of residence as to the extent of these concessions. The value of seniors cards also depend upon the state or territory government which issues them. Those living in Queensland and Western Australia often seem to receive higher benefits through the seniors card programs. That said, sometimes you only have to ask to get a discount as many businesses are keen to encourage the patronage of older Australians. It’s also important to remember that most states and territories honour discounts for visitors, so make sure you carry your seniors card whenever interstate and use it as a matter of course.

Are you missing out?

If the above information is new to you, then it will help to read the full detail of all concession cards below. If you have an Age Pension, you will be aware of the Pension Concession Card but may still wish to obtain a seniors card for the extra product and service discounts. The Commonwealth Seniors Health Card is the least well understood. That’s probably because it was previously restricted by a lower income limit. The limits were increased significantly late in 2022 and are now generous enough to include the vast majority of self-funded Australian retirees. 

Need some help?

A comparative guide to all cards for older Australians mentioned above is on the Retirement Essentials website.

If you are unsure whether you qualify for a Pension Concession Card or a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card you can quickly check eligibility using our free Age Pension Entitlements Calculator.

Retirement Essentials can help you to apply for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card if you have yet to do so.

Are you benefitting from a concession card?

How helpful do you find it?

And do you also have a seniors card? How does your state or territory card rate in your opinion?