Health care card

A health care card can provide enormous benefits.  But it can be very confusing to know which card you can get and what the benefits will be.

We’ve decided to bring together all the different types of health care cards, the rules of entitlement and the various benefits in one article so you can quickly come up to speed on ways you can access all relevant discounts.

Here’s an overview of the various cards and their uses.

What is a health care card?

There are two definitions here. Let’s start with the general term where a health care card is one of many types of cards which allow Australians significant concessions on medical, pharmaceutical, transport and energy costs. In common parlance, a health care card has the following general characteristics:

  • Entitlement rests on factors such as age, income, assets or welfare benefits
  • Some will be automatically bestowed, others require a deliberate application
  • Most are issued by Federal or State governments and are often tied to welfare eligibility
  • Some are issued by not-for-profits or member organisations

The more narrow, specific definition of a Health Care Card is the one which is issued by Services Australia (i.e. Centrelink) to those who are on:

  • Abstudy
  • Austudy
  • JobSeeker payments
  • Parenting payments
  • Special benefits or
  • Youth Allowance.

The benefits associated with this specific Health Care Card can include:

  • cheaper prescription medicines under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme
  • bulk billing for doctor’s appointments, as decided by your doctor
  • more refunds for medical expenses through the Medicare Safety Net
  • discounted mail redirection through Australia Post.

State, territory governments and local councils or shires may also offer discounts to Health Care Card holders on :

  • energy and electricity
  • healthcare, including ambulance, dental and eye care
  • public transport
  • rates.

A health care card for retirees

The most commonly used health care cards in retirement are those issued by the Federal Government.

These concession cards are available to people on an Age Pension, but also some who are self-funded in retirement.

Here’s a quick explainer of the different cards and their features.

Health care cards for Older Australians

Pension Concession Card (PCC)

Automatically issued to those on an Age Pension, Disability Support Pension or in special circumstances, for those receiving a JobSeeker payment or Special Benefit.

Veteran Affairs Concessions Cards

A Pension Concession Card, issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) for those on a service pension. Veterans and partners may also qualify for White, Gold or Orange Veterans’ cards with additional concessions.

Health care cards for those who do not qualify for the Age Pension

Lower Income Health Care Card

As the name suggests, a health care card for those who are not on an Age Pension but are earning very low income. No assets test applies, but assets are deemed to earn income.

Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC)

As described above, for those of pension age (who do not qualify for the Age Pension), earning below the income threshold. This card is not automatically issued. To receive a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card you must meet the income thresholds of $57,761 a year if you’re single or $92,416 a year for couples (combined). Subject to legislation currently passing through Parliament these thresholds will move up to $90,000 for singles and $144,000 for couples (combined), effective September 20, 2022. Unlike the Age Pension, there are no assets thresholds for a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, but some of your assets will be ‘deemed’ to earn income which will be included in your income assessment.

When the higher thresholds are confirmed, hundreds of thousands of previously ineligible retirees will be able to apply for, and if successful, receive significant discounts on medical, pharmaceutical, transport and energy costs. You can check your current eligibility here or wait until September 20 and see your entitlements under the new thresholds.

State Government concession cards

Sometimes known as ‘Seniors Cards’, these are issued by individual state and territory governments. The rules vary from state to state, but generally speaking they are issued to those aged 60 and over, who are no longer working full-time.

We’ve linked to each state in the table below so you can check the specific detail for your own location.

Seniors Health Cards by state or territory

State or Territory Website
New South Wales
Northern Territory
South Australia
Western Australia

Quick links to your concession card entitlements.

The National Seniors concessions calculator is a handy one-stop shop for those wishing to learn more about the entitlements on offer in their state. As we mentioned, some states or territories are far more generous to older Australians than others.

We ran a quick comparison to see the benefits received by Jane in Victoria, versus those of Rosemary in Western Australia.  These benefits don’t include the valuable bulk billing and PBS benefits from the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card as they are common across both states – here’s how the additional state based benefits compare:

Jane, Victoria on mains electricity, using seniors card and Commonwealth Seniors Health Card: Total benefits $0

Rosemary, WA, on mains electricity, using same two cards: Seniors Card benefit $347.46 plus Commonwealth Seniors Health Card $1668.37.

To better understand your own mix of entitlements (combining concession and health care cards), why not check out the National Seniors Concessions Calculator and see what you might get?

We can help you with the Age Pension  – which offers the  Pensioner Concession Card – and also the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card. You can check your eligibility by clicking below.

Check Your Eligibility