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Compare Our Best Private UK Pension Schemes

Compare these private pension providers and their annual fees, and you could find a plan to help your money go further when you retire.

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Compare private pensions from more than 10 leading UK providers

You'll only find results from genuine companies. Our data experts check each company before we add them to our comparisons.

How to open a private pension

Private pensions let you choose exactly how much you're putting away for retirement as well as what that cash is invested in. To open one, simply:

1

Select a provider

2

Fill out some details

3

Decide your contribution levels

4

Regularly review your investments

Pensions providers

Pensions are long term investments. You may get back less than you originally paid in because your capital is not guaranteed and charges may apply.

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Pensions in the UK

There are three sorts of pension in the UK - each offering something different.

State pensions

State pensions are "qualifying benefits" where what you get is based on your National Insurance contributions.

You need 10 qualifying years to be able to claim a state pension and get the full payout after 35.

State pensions are paid out weekly to people who qualify once you pass retirement age.

Currently the full new state pension pays £179.60 a week

Private pensions

Private pensions let you pay into a pot of money yourself, or on someone else's behalf.

The Government offers a substantial tax break for money paid into private pensions.

What you pay in and where it's invested is up to you - but you can't draw on the money until you're at least 55.

You can use the money however you like once you pass a set age.

Workplace pensions

Bosses have to enrol all staff aged between 22 and 66 who make more than £10,000 a year into pensions when they join - and top up what they save too.

The money either goes into a savings pot on your behalf or into a fund run by your employer that will pay out a set percentage of your salary in retirement.

While you'll be automatically enrolled into a pensions scheme when you join, you can opt out it if you want.

If you're worried about finding the best private pension, UK wide, compare pensions using our table. Or speak to an independent pension advisor who can help.

What is a private pension?

Private pensions are a way of saving for retirement. They're pots of money that offer large tax breaks when you pay in, but you can't access until you're 55 (or 57 after 2028¹).

The Government adds 20% to your contributions if you're a standard rate taxpayer, 40% if you're a higher rate taxpayer and so on depending on your tax band until you hit the annual or lifetime limit.

If you don't pay income tax, you get 20% added to the first £3,600 paid in a year.

Any growth of money held in a private pension is free from income and capital gains tax.

When you access your pension, you can take 25% of your savings as a tax-free lump sum. After that, money withdrawn from pension funds is taxed the same way as income.

But be careful - once you've accessed your pension, you're only allowed to pay in £4,000 a year to get the tax benefits - something to watch out for if you're still working at the time.

What private pensions can I choose from?

There are two main types of private pension offered by the companies in our comparison service.

A personal pension plan

When you appoint a pension company and they choose the funds you invest in or give you a limited set of options. The money is put into investments (such as shares) on your behalf by the pension provider.

Self-invested personal pension (SIPP)

With these, you choose where you invest your cash, so it's a kind of 'DIY' method. There's a large list of funds, shares and other assets to choose from - and you can even buy property with it

If you don't want to choose your own pension funds then speak to an independent financial adviser to talk about the best pension plans for you.

"When choosing a private pension there are two main things to look at - charges and choice.

"High fees eat into your money, making any returns you make smaller, and over time the effect on your fund can be significant.

"Choice of investments is very much a personal matter - some people value the ability to pick exactly who and what they put money into highly, others would rather let someone else do it for them."

What is a workplace pension?

If you make more than £10,000 a year from a single job and are aged between 22 and 66, you will be automatically enrolled into a pension at work - although you can choose to opt out.

Your workplace pension will either pay money into a pot - which then works in much the same way as a private pension - or offer you a percentage of your salary in retirement for each year you contribute.

These are known as defined contribution (where what's paid in is guaranteed) or defined benefit (where what's paid out is set at the start).

The minimum contribution is 5% of your pre-tax salary for a defined contribution scheme, to which your boss adds 3% on top. Many firms allow you to add more than yourself that as a voluntary contribution, while others will top up your money by more than 3%.

Over your career it's likely you'll build up a few of these pots. The good news is you can transfer one pension into another - either your current workplace one or a private pension - if you want to keep things simple.

Private vs workplace pensions

Private pensions vs workplace pensions

Private pensionWorkplace pension
Choice of providerYesNo
Choice of investmentsYesMaybe
Government top upYesYes
Employer top upNoYes
FeesUncappedCapped
ContributionsFlexibleFixed

How do pension tax breaks work?

The idea behind the tax break on a pension is simple - to only tax you on the money once.

So income tax is paid back on private pensions and workplace pension contributions are taken from your salary before tax is applied. Once in a pension pot, any growth in your savings is also largely tax-free².

This is designed to compensate for the fact money you take out of your pension is generally taxed as if it was paid as income by an employer that year.

However, there are limits to the tax relief on private pensions:

  • You can only pay in the equivalent to your annual salary in any given year - with a hard limit of £40,000 no matter what you earn

  • There is a lifetime limit on what you can have saved up in your pension overall and still get tax breaks on contributions - currently £1,073,100

  • Once you start drawing on the money you've saved into your pension, the amount you can put away each year and still get a tax break on falls to just £4,000.

Is my money safe in a pension?

There are three groups looking after money held in UK pensions:

The Pensions Regulator

This looks after workplace pensions in the UK - both defined contribution and defined benefit

The Financial Conduct Authority

This regulates private pension schemes including SIPPs and personal pension plans

The Pensions Protection Fund

Protects people with defined benefit pensions, and pays out instead of them if your employer goes bust

What you get back depends on the sort of pension you have and who regulates it.

SIPP holders can claim up to £85,000 back from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme if the UK-regulated provider of the investment fails.

The FSCS can also cover 100% of the loss, with no upper limit, if your pension plan is classed as a "contract of long term insurance" - as is the case with most annuities³.

With failed defined benefit schemes, the PPF steps in. It allows people already claiming their pension to continue to receive their promised payouts, while people yet to claim are offered up to 90% of their pension.

Every pension company found in our private pension comparison is FCA-regulated.

Can you transfer a pension?

Yes. You might want to transfer your if you've changed jobs, for example, and would like to combine pensions into a single pot.

Or you might need to do a pension transfer if your current pension scheme is closing, or if you've found a better deal on another private pension.

You are allowed to transfer pensions savings between registered UK pension providers and keep all your tax-free benefits.

If you transfer your pension pot anywhere else - or take it as an unauthorised lump sum - it will be classed as "unauthorised payment" and you’ll have to pay tax on the transfer.

To transfer your pension contact your current provider and the provider you want to move your savings to. You need to check if:

  • Your existing scheme allows transfers out

  • Your new scheme will accept the transfer

However, you might need to make payments to the new scheme and be charged a fee by your existing scheme to make the transfer.

It's also possible making the switch will mean you lose the right to take your pension at a certain age or lose any rights you had to take a tax-free lump sum of more than 25%.

Your pension providers will be able to tell you if any of these will apply.

Pensions FAQs

How much can I pay into my pension?

As much as you like, but only the first £40,000 you pay will be tax free. Anything above this is taxed at your level of income tax.

How much should I pay into a private pension?

The general advice for pensions is to contribute as much as you can as early as possible. A good rule of thumb is to take your age, halve it and contribute that percentage of your income into your pension to have a comfortable retirement.

So if you're 30, then you should contribute 15% of your income to your pension.

What is a SIPP?

It is a Self Invested Personal Pension that requires you to manage and invest your pension fund without help from a financial adviser. Find out more here.

Do I need to use a financial adviser to set up a pension?

No, however you should only set up a pension if you fully understand the risks involved with managing your own investments.

Is there a limit on my pension contributions?

Technically there's no limit on how much money you can put into your private pension, UK wide. You can save as much as you like. But it's important to remember that there are limits on the tax relief you can get.

Explore private pension and retirement guides

See our full set of pensions guides here.

How does the State Pension work?

The State Pension is not the same for everyone, and understanding how much you get can be confusing. Here is how the State Pension works and what it could pay you.

Read More

How to manage auto enrolment after your staging date

Once your workplace pension scheme is up and running the work does not stop there. Here is how to manage your pension after your staging date has passed.

Read More

Which of your employees qualify for a workplace pension?

Before your staging date you need to work out which of your workers qualify for enrolment in a workplace pension. Here is how to approach each type of worker in your business.

Read More

Why compare pensions with money.co.uk?

Comparing private pensions could save you money. Our multiple award-winning comparison service makes sure you get the lowest rates possible based on your individual circumstances. Our aim is to provide you with the most up-to-date information, as well as useful tools and calculators so to help you make life's most important decisions and take control of your money.

Proud to be award winning

We have always aimed to provide the best possible services to bridge the gap between our users and our clients. Over the years, we have been thrilled to be recognised by various prestigious bodies and organisations for those efforts.

About our pensions comparison

Who do we include in this comparison?

Our comparison tables include providers we have commercial arrangements with. The number of listings in our tables can vary depending on the terms of those arrangements, as well as other market developments. They are all from providers regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Here is more information about how our website works.

How do we make money from our comparison?

We have commercial agreements with some of the companies in this comparison and get paid commission if we help you take out one of their products or services. Find out more here.

You do not pay any extra and the deal you get is not affected.

¹The age you can access your private pension is set to rise to 57 in 2028 under current Government plans, however if your pension scheme says you can access your money at 55, you will continue to be able to do that no matter what year it happens in

²Growth in money held in a pension is free from capital gains and income tax, but dividends paid by shares held in the fund do attract a 10% tax

³Full FSCS guidance on what is and isn't protected if a pension provider fails

Last updated: 17 August 2021