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PensionBee Review – easily find old pensions for free

18–21 minutes to read

PensionBee is an award-winning pension provider that will help you bring all your pension pots into one platform. This makes planning for your retirement easier and perhaps even cheaper.

It has great customer reviews but is it for you and what is pension consolidation anyway? In our PensionBee review, we cover everything you need to decide if your retirement planning could be easier.

Who is PensionBee?

PensionBee was founded in 2014 with a mission to give its customers complete control and clarity over their retirement. Its goal is to make the seemingly difficult world of pensions easy to understand for everyone.

As a result, PensionBee claims to have transformed the complicated pension transfer process that typically takes months, into a simple five-minute process, all controlled from an app on your phone.

In 2019, PensionBee won a plethora of awards including:

  • Best Robo-Advice Service SIPP Provider
  • Pension Provider of the Year
  • SIPP Provider of the Year
  • Online Business of the Year

All that great publicity has helped PensionBee win over 350,000 customers, making it a huge success. Let’s have a look at what all the fuss is about and if PensionBee is for you.

Heads up – we always aim to produce honest and accurate content. However, we are not financial advisors. If you need financial advice, Unbiased can connect you with a suitable professional for free. Some of our links may earn us a small commission to help us run the site.

Need some help understanding pensions?

If you are not sure what a pension is or how it works then check out the articles below. Your pension is one of the largest and most important financial tools you’ll ever own so it’s worth spending a few minutes to learn a bit more and make sure you are not missing out on some potentially massive gains:

How can PensionBee help with my pension?

PensionBee is primarily a pension consolidation service. If you have worked for different companies over the years, you probably have your money spread across different providers. You may not even know where all your pension pots are.

All this can make it complex to work out the total value of your pension, how much you are paying in fees and if you have enough to retire.

Through manageable steps, PensionBee makes this much easier. Best of all, PensionBee acts as your own personal assistant. You give it the information that you have about old pensions or employers and they do all the groundwork for you.

After that, PensionBee will contact your existing pension providers and transfer them all into the one platform. If PensionBee discovers that an old pension provider has transfer fees above £10, or that your pension came with special benefits or guarantees, it will seek your permission before starting the transfer process.

Should I consolidate my pensions?

If you’ve had multiple jobs during your career, then consolidating pensions into a single plan can help.  It should reduce the stress of managing multiple pots and keeping tracks on what is where. Plus, you get more transparency into the performance and the fees you’re paying.

The benefits of consolidating your pension include:

  • Ease of management – everything in one place under a single provider makes managing your pension easier. You can remove all that ‘life admin’ time that comes from managing different providers and stacks of paperwork and statements.
  • Visibility – seeing the value of your pension in one place means you don’t have to tally up different accounts to see if you’re on track.
  • Easy investment planning – having multiple pension pots usually means each is invested slightly differently. Bringing these together ensures that you can see how your portfolio is invested and change easily if required.
  • Lower fees – you may be paying too much for your old pensions. With everything in one place, your fees can be easily tracked. Plus, some providers (including PensionBee) offer discounts for larger pensions.

Things to check before consolidating your pensions:

  • Exit fees – some providers charge exit fees (PensionBee don’t after 12 months). These can be a percentage of your total pension. It’s worth checking this out before making an informed decision. PensionBee will inform you if exit fees are above £10.
  • Safe-guarded benefits – These can be very valuable and include defined benefit pensions or guaranteed growth rates. It’s best to seek professional advice if your existing pension has these.

How do I find my old pensions?

If you’ve had several different jobs, it’s likely that you’ve paid into a few different workplace pensions.

Keeping track of multiple pension pots can be difficult. This can be compounded by moving to a new house and not updating your details, meaning you no longer receive statements.

But is important. This is your money and your future. Here are some things you can do to track down previous pensions.

1. Contact your old employer

Your first step is to contact your old employer’s HR team or the pension provider. They should be able to give you the details you need by providing your National Insurance number.

2. Use the Pension Tracing System

If this fails, you can use the government’s Pension Tracing System. This is a free government service that searches a database to find the names and contact details of your pension providers. Simply fill in the online form to start the process.

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How does PensionBee work?

  • Sign up – you can download the app or sign up online with some basic details. You’ll need your National Insurance number, so have this handy.
  • Pick your plan – pick one of the nine available plans. This will determine how your pension is invested. If you’re not sure which one, the plans are listed out a bit further down. If you don’t want to pick a plan straight away, you can simply choose the most popular ‘tailored’ plan. This moves your investments into safer assets as you progress towards your pension age.
  • Transfer old pensions – navigate to ‘add a pension‘ to start migrating your old pensions. It’s surprisingly quick to get started (see the video below). The average transfer only takes around 12 weeks.

How much does PensionBee cost?

Joining PensionBee is free and you won’t get charged for transferring your old pensions, making contributions or withdrawals.

However, PensionBee does charge an annual management fee which varies depending on the plan you choose. The cost is between 0.5% and 0.95% per annum, up to a balance of £100,000. For anything above £100,000, the management charges are halved.

Example: A £200,000 pension invested in the Tracker (0.5% pa) fund carries an annual management fee of £750. The first £100,000 is charged at 0.5% resulting in a £500 fee. The next £100,000 gets the discounted 0.25% pa fee resulting in a £250 fee.

Unlike other pension providers, which charge a platform fee and a fund fee, PensionBee only charge a single fee. So, comparing platform fees doesn’t always show you the true cost of your pension. Check out the example below.

PensionBee vs Hargreaves Lansdown - fees compared

Hargreaves Lansdown is one of the largest investment platforms in the UK with around 1 million customers and £80 billion in funds. If you’re looking for a SIPP (Self Invested Personal Pension), it’s one of the go-to providers.

The standard Hargreaves Lansdown’s platform fee is 0.45% per year. However, this is just the platform cost. You need to add on the cost of a fund to invest your pension in.

If we use the Vanguard Target Retirement 2050 fund as an example investment, then we need to add another 0.24% fee for the annual management fee of this fund.

Adding the two together results in an annual charge of 0.74% and this charge stays the same no matter what size fund you have. Remember, as your pension gets above £100,000 with PensionBee, the annual costs are lowered.

PensionBee Charges Compared

So, a £200,000 pension using Hargreaves Lansdown as the platform provider with the Vanguard fund results in an annual charge of £1,480. That’s quite a difference compared with the £750 from PensionBee.

There are cheaper platforms than Hargreaves Lansdown and you may choose a different fund, but you can use the calculations above to work out how much PensionBee will cost vs an alternative. To note, we also used PensionBee‘s cheapest fund for comparison.

The advantage of using a platform like Hargreaves Lansdown is that you can pick other funds and individual stocks. PensionBee is all about keeping things simple by putting your money in just one just fund.

Is PensionBee expensive?

PensionBee is very competitively priced in the pensions market. It’s not the absolute cheapest, but its pricing and simplicity provide great value for money.

Each pension platform and fund provider will carry different fees so it’s important you check this out before transferring. Personally, I’d consider charges above 1% high. However, some actively managed funds will carry a higher cost than this alone!

For some, having a slick, easy to use platform that makes pensions hassle free is worth paying extra for. With PensionBee I feel you get all of this without having to pay over the odds.

PensionBee‘s most popular fund is the Tailored Plan. This fund aims to de-risk your investments as you get closer to pension age. Using this plan will cost you 0.70% per year, which is actually around the same as I pay for my Hargreaves Lansdown SIPP (0.45%) and a Vanguard index tracker (0.22%). Total cost 0.67%. Of course, my index tracker doesn’t de-risk me over time, which means I have to manually manage this.

Personally, I use Hargreaves Lansdown as I like to pick my investments. However, if you are not interested in the detail of investing and want that taken care of for you, you may view the 0.70% fee as actually very good value. Of course, if you have more than £100,000 this fee starts to drop further, making PensionBee even better value for money.

Is the PensionBee app good?

We feel the PensionBee app looks great. It’s intuitive, clean and easy to use. The PensionBee app has fantastic reviews from users in both the Apple App Store and Android Play Store. Both device users have awarded PensionBee 4.7 out of 5 making it one of the highest rankings apps we’ve reviewed.

In addition, customer reviews rave about the ease of use and how consolidating their pensions have made their lives much easier. Some customers have even gone as far as saying that they ‘love’ PensionBee!

PensionBee has done the seemingly impossible and made a typically boring and complex financial product…easy. Anything that helps people plan better for their retirement with more ease, we can get on board with.

The PensionBee calculator - how much should you be saving in your pension?

PensionBee has created a handy calculator to check your retirement projections. If you’re unsure how much you should be saving or if you want to see how much your pension could be worth, this calculator is a great place to start.

To use the calculator, follow this link (or click the picture below) and enter your details. You can adjust how much you save to see how much you could have in retirement, or even if you could retire early!

PensionBee Calculator

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PensionBee plans

PensionBee has nine different plans to choose from. With each plan, PensionBee does all the hard work. Once you have chosen, there are no stocks to pick. All you need to do is keep putting money in and PensionBee takes care of the rest.

Here’s a breakdown of the key points in each plan. You can find out more details directly from PensionBee here.

Tailored Plan (most popular)

Invests your money differently as you go through life, moving your money into safer investments as you get older. Designed for anyone not wanting to make regular investment decisions throughout life.

Risk and investments change as you age. The older you get, the less risky the investments becomes and the lower the mix of equities.

0.70% annual fee.

Tracker Plan

Invests your money in global shares, bonds and cash. Investments follow the world’s markets as they move. Designed for anyone that wants a cost-effective ‘set and forget’ investment.

Medium risk: 80% equities, 15% fixed income, 5% cash.

0.50% annual fee.

Fossil Fuel-Free Plan

Excludes the fossil fuel and tobacco sectors. Only invests your money in companies aligned with the Paris Agreement goals. Designed for anyone that wants their investment to make a difference by investing in a socially responsible plan that excludes violators of the UN Global Compact.

High risk: 100% equities.

0.75% annual fee.

4Plus Plan

Invests your money in a range of assets that are adjusted on a weekly basis, depending on market conditions. Designed for those getting closer to retirement age.

Low/medium risk: 20% equities, 53% fixed income, 35% cash, 3% property, 8% commodities.

0.95% annual fee.

Future World Plan

Invests your money into companies that pledge to move to an environmentally-friendly economy. Designed for investors who want to make a difference in moving to a low-carbon economy.

High risk: 100% equities.

0.95% annual fee.

Shariah Plan

Invests your money only into Shariah-compliant companies. Investments are approved by an independent Shariah committee. Designed for investors who want to invest responsibly according to their faith.

Medium risk: 100% equities.

0.95% annual fee.

Preserve Plan

Makes short-term investments into creditworthy companies. Designed for low-risk investors.

Very low risk: 100% fixed income.

0.5% annual fee.

Match Plan

Invests your money into a mix of assets, with investments following the strategies of the wider pensions industry. Designed to match what professional investors and pension fund managers are investing in.

Medium risk: 63% equities, 19% fixed income, 6% cash, 12% other.

0.6% annual fee.

Pre-Annuity Plan

Invests your money in bonds to provide you with returns that broadly correspond to the cost of purchasing an annuity. Designed for anyone considering using their pension pot to purchase an annuity or other guaranteed income product. You can experience those returns without locking your pension fund away.

Low risk: 99% fixed income, 1% cash.

0.70% annual fee.

PensionBee plan returns compared

Comparing plans can be difficult, particularly as PensionBee partners with different pension providers to manage the funds. This means the fund factsheets are presented in different formats making a direct comparison difficult.

Some of the funds are newer and as such a five-year comparison has not been possible.

The Tailored plan changes as you get older so the funds and investments change making a five-year comparison different based on your age. For this, we have simplified things and just given you the last year’s result for a 35-year-old.

It’s also worth pointing out that some of the funds have particularly low returns. While this may look bad, this is how they have been designed. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it has kept the pension away from potential downside risks.

Fund 5 Yr Performance (%) Annual Cost (%)
Tracker 45.03 0.50
Tailored * See note 0.70
Fossil Fuel Free Recently Launched 0.75
4Plus 24.01 0.95
Future World 20.22** 0.95
Shariah 127.62*** 0.95
Preserve 0.53 0.50
Match 7.42**** 0.60
Pre-Annuity 53.14 0.70

Humanity disclaimer – Please use the table above as a guide only. You should check the fund factsheets as they are updated regularly.

*Fund changes based on age, 2019 return for 35 y/o = 23.16%.

**2019 performance only, the fund was launched in 2018.

*** Opened in Jan 2016.

**** Launched in Oct 2015.

As we would expect, the plans highly focused on equities have performed better over the last five years. It’s been an extremely good time to be invested in equities. However, this might not continue. As they say, past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Which PensionBee plan should I choose?

Only you can answer this, or seek professional advice. Everyone is in a different financial situation and position in life, with different goals.

The general rule when considering investments are, as you get older you should consider reducing your risk.

Imagine getting a month away from retirement and the market crashing. For those who were still primarily invested in equities, their pension pot could take a 30% dip. As a result, you may have to dramatically change your retirement plans. Worse, you may not be able to retire when you wanted to at all.

On the flip side, for those investors in fixed income, bonds and cash it should only have a relatively minor impact.

Therefore, most pension schemes automatically de-risk your portfolio as you get older. This is probably why the PensionBee Tailored plan is the most popular.

For younger investors, who have time to recover from market crashes, the choice of plans is more open.

For investors looking for Shariah-compliant plans then there is only one choice.

If you don’t want to worry about your investment decisions or manually de-risking as you get older, then perhaps consider the Tailored Plan as it’s designed to take away this hassle.

PensionBee Shariah-compliant pension

Finding Shariah-compliant investments can be difficult. PensionBee has partnered with HSBC Global Asset Management and State Street Global Advisors to produce a Shariah-compliant pension plan.

Unfortunately, it comes at a higher cost than most of the PensionBee plans. However, this is not a main-stream product and unfortunately for investors, anything outside of the mainstream is usually penalised in some way. That being said, the costs are still very competitive compared with some pension providers and other Sharia-compliant funds.

What is impressive is the returns this fund has made. Since fund inception, in 2016, it’s made a cumulative return of 127.62% according to the fund fact sheet. The Tracker plan, by comparison, has only returned a cumulative 45% in the last 5 years. Looking at it like this makes the 0.45% difference in fees negligible.

Who owns PensionBee?

PensionBee is a privately owned company. Romina Savova, the founder and CEO, holds a 46% stake. The company also states that State Street Global Advisors, the world’s third-largest money manager, is the biggest external shareholder.

Is my money safe and protected with PensionBee?

Yes, because PensionBee is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

Additionally, your pension is protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme for 100% of the value should one of the money/plan managers fail.

PensionBee reviews

PensionBee has some great quotes from customers on their website. That’s to be expected though. They’re not likely to advertise negative reviews. So, we like to look at independent customer review sites.

Trustpilot has over 3,000 reviews from PensionBee customers who rate the service as Excellent. This rating has been backed up by 82% of the reviews giving PensionBee an overall rating of 4.7 out of 5. Not too shabby!

Digging into the negative reviews, as we like to do, shows a few unhappy customers with the pension transfer timescales. Plus, they describe problems contacting the losing provider and other general pension transfer frustrations.

As someone who has transferred pensions in the past, I know how frustrating the process can be. My SIPP transfer (not with PensionBee) took over six months and dozens of telephone calls. Unfortunately, transferring pensions is not like swapping mobile phone contracts. Some providers still require paper forms and long, formal processes to get things moving.

That said, from reading both the good and bad reviews, it appears that transfer problems are only a small minority.

Lastly, some of the reviews we’ve seen on the App Store and Play Store are some of the best reviews we’ve seen for a financial app.

PensionBee Review Trustpilot

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What we like about PensionBee

  • Easy to use website and app.
  • Makes consolidating pensions straight forward.
  • Fees are clear and easy to understand.
  • Can transfer away after one year for free (£480 if within 12 months).
  • Simplifies a complex financial product, reducing ‘life admin’.
  • Helps with retirement planning.
  • Can use to consolidate pensions and then move away.

What we don't like about PensionBee

  • Not suitable for final salary pension transfers.
  • All money is invested in one fund and you can’t balance between funds.
  • Drawdown options are limited and complex. This makes PensionBee a good place to accumulate your pension, but you might want to review your options when it comes to pension age.

I think I need help with my pension

Getting help with pensions is very common. They are one of the largest financial assets you’ll ever own, so don’t feel you have to do everything yourself.

PensionBee doesn’t offer financial advice so if you think you need some extra help, then check out our article on Unbiased. Unbiased plays matchmaker between your financial requirements and a suitable professional advisor.

Most financial advisors on Unbiased will offer a free pension health check. Additionally, Unbiased has a calculator to see how much professional advice is likely to cost. Finally, if you use Unbiased, you can get £50 off your professional advice if you choose to proceed.

Here’s our review on Unbiased to see if they can help you.

PensionBee makes consolidating pensions easy

Overall, writing this article has left me thoroughly impressed. PensionBee has created a great, easy to use service supported by an intuitive website and app.

Furthermore, PensionBee has made a complex financial product easy for most people to understand. Anything that helps simplify finances and encourage people to save and invest in their financial future we can definitely get on board with.

In summary, if you prefer your finances hassle-free and want to ensure you are not paying over the odds for your pension, then PensionBee is worth checking out. You can sign up for free, consolidate your pensions and if you don’t like it (we think you will), then you can always move away for free after a year.

You can sign up for free with PensionBee here.

If you would like to improve your personal finances and learn more about investing, saving and making money then check out our Free UK Personal Finance club on Facebook. It’s a place for like-minded money-savvy people who have the goal of improving their personal finances. I’d love to see you there.

Here’s to Financial Fitness

EatSleepMoney.co.uk does not offer financial advice and is intended for reference/information only. Remember, you should always carry out your own research and/or take specific professional advice before choosing any financial products or services or undertaking any business or financial venture. If you need financial advice Unbiased can connect you with a suitable professional for free. Investments may go up as well as down and you may get back less than you put in.