Questions of Cash: I want to top up my national insurance contributions and get a better pension

 

Q. I am due to reach state retirement age of 65 in April 2015. This is before the state pension rises to £155 a week in April 2016, so I will receive a pension that is currently only £110.15 a week and increases to £113.10 next April.

I see from The Independent's coverage of the Autumn Statement that the Chancellor has announced that people in my position will be able to make additional national insurance contributions to increase the amount of state pension they receive. How will this work, who do I contact and how soon can I start to make additional contributions? SG, Hampshire.

A. A spokesman for Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs (HMRC) says: "At the Autumn Statement 2013 the Government announced its intention to introduce a scheme to allow pensioners to top up their additional state pension by paying a new class of voluntary national insurance contribution, to be known as Class 3A. T

he scheme opens in October 2015 and will be available to all pensioners who reach state-pension age before the introduction of the single-tier pension in April 2016. Class 3A will give people an option to top up their pension in a way that will protect them from inflation and offer protection to surviving spouses.

In particular, it could help women and those who have been self-employed, who tend to have low additional pension entitlement. If the reader would like to register their interest in the scheme they should email paid.caxtonhouse@dwp.gsi.gov.uk."

Virgin Holidays cancellation has left me out of pocket

Q. We booked a holiday for four people to Cairo with Virgin Holidays that was scheduled to depart on 21 July. We were told we must have holiday insurance, which we obtained with Staysure for £58. With the trouble in Cairo, we kept asking Virgin Holidays whether the holiday would be cancelled. If we had decided to cancel, we would have lost our money.

Then, 10 days before we were due to depart Virgin cancelled, saying they could not let us travel. They refunded our money, but not our travel insurance because we booked with a third party. We cancelled our insurance with Staysure straightaway, but they would also not refund our money as it was less than 28 days before departure. They offered to carry our credit balance to a new holiday-insurance policy, but only for three months.

After we spent three months complaining, Staysure would agree only to repay half. I am now out of pocket through no fault of my own. Even though Virgin Holidays left it too late for us to book another holiday, they still refused to refund the money. If Virgin Holidays had done the decent thing and cancelled earlier I could have got a full refund from Staysure. Instead they kept hanging on in the hope things would improve in Egypt. RA, Kent.

A. Neither Virgin Holidays nor Staysure will refund the balance of your insurance premium. A spokeswoman for Virgin Holidays said: "As the situation in Egypt was outside of Virgin Holidays' control we would not be able to consider claims for out-of-pocket expenses resulting from the cancellation, although we were happy to provide a full refund [of the cost of the holiday]."

A Staysure spokeswoman said: "When the customer informed us that Virgin had cancelled his break and so he may not be travelling after all, we offered to defer his policy which would allow time for new travel arrangements to be made. When he then informed us he had not made alternative arrangements, we made a goodwill gesture equivalent to half of the premium paid. There is a point of principle here in that while the customer was given time to make new arrangements following Virgin's cancellation of his holiday, his cover with us was still valid and had been in place since he purchased the policy."

Questions of Cash cannot give individual advice. But we'll do our best to help if you have a financial dilemma. Email us at: questionsofcash@independent.co.uk

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