A savings account enables you to earn interest on your money – and up to £85,000 slotted away with a UK-regulated bank or building society is protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).
But however much you can save, it’s worth making your money work as hard as possible. Taking a little time to compare rates could boost the amount of interest you earn, beating inflation, or the rising cost of living.
Bear in mind that the personal savings allowance (PSA) means you can now earn £1,000 interest per year without paying tax on your savings– or £500 if you’re a higher rate taxpayer. So the vast majority of savers are no longer paying tax on their savings.
There are several factors to take into consideration when comparing rates.
In this guide
When you need the money
The best rates are typically available on fixed-rate accounts – which means you’ll need to lock your money away. But these won’t suit if you’re likely to need the cash over the short-term. Withdrawing your cash during the fixed-rate period will mean you incur a penalty – typically, loss of interest. In some cases penalties can be hefty. For example, if you lock money away in a seven-year Cash ISA, the penalty could amount to one year's worth of interest. So consider your options and search for an account that’ll work for you.
What you think will happen to rates
If you lock your money away, and the government raises interest rates, you could miss out. Conversely, if interest rates fall, you’d benefit from saving in a fixed-rate account. So take into consideration what you think will happen to interest rates.
The longer your money is locked away, the bigger the risk.
How proactive you are willing to be
Unfortunately, there are plenty of savings accounts paying a pitiful £1 on every £1,000 of savings. But comparing and switching to a better rate needn’t take more than a few minutes. You can easily open accounts online, but you may still feel you don’t have the time. Alternatively, if you’ve plenty to put away you could place a chunk in an easy access account, some in a fixed-rate account that earns more interest, and slot a portion into a regular saver – these accounts often pay a decent rate.
If you’re switching your current account There are plenty of incentives to switch current accounts – from £175 cash, to cashback and interest-free overdrafts. Also, if you’ve got a smaller amount saved – say, several thousand pounds - some current accounts pay decent rates of interest on your cash. So it’s worth checking these out.
Current account switching game:
Use the new switching service to move accounts – which takes around seven days. Contact your new account provider, and ask for a form. However, if you’re likely to apply for a large amount of credit within the next few years, you may want to stay with your current provider. Bank account stability is a factor in lending decisions, and switching accounts may impact your credit score and the rate you’re offered. You could switch several times to maximise potential incentives, although beware of the impact on your credit record. For example:
- Switch your current account to HSBC advance £175;
- Once the switch is complete and the money paid switch to First Direct, to benefit from £100 incentive
Total from incentives alone = £275
Maximising savings on £10,000
- £9,000 into Marcus (Easy Access at 1.45% AER
- Put £500 into Coventry Regular Saver paying 2.5% AER (no withdrawal restrictions)
- Put £500 into Principality Regular Saver paying 2% each month
To maximise the interest you earn, you could withdraw £1,000 from your savings with Marcus each month, saving £500 into the Coventry Regular Saver and £500 into the Principality one-year bond. Over a year, this would amount to around £190 in interest, before tax. If you’d saved the entire sum in Marcus for the year, you’d earn £135, or £55 less.
Different types of account
Instant access savings
Instant access accounts allow you to withdraw your money at any time without any restrictions. You can make as many withdrawals as you want, without penalty.
Easy access savings
Your money is easily accessible, but you may face a short delay before you can take out your money. You may also be restricted in the number of withdrawals you can make, without penalty.
Some accounts will offer higher rates of interest but only pay back the money after a notice period. Like easy access accounts, notice accounts may come with restrictions on the number of withdrawals you can make without penalties being applied.
Fixed Rate Bonds
If you put your money into a fixed-rate bond you will not usually be able to withdraw the money until the end of the fixed-rate period.
You can save up to £20,000 in the 2019/20 tax year without being subject to income tax on any interest you earn in a cash Individual Savings Account (ISA). The allowance limit is across all ISAs, so if you have a cash ISA and an investment ISA, the total placed into them may not exceed £20,000. The interest rates on Cash ISAs are not as high as on easy access accounts. So it typically onlly makes sense to save into an ISA only if you’re likely to earn more interest than your tax-free Personal Savings Allowance - and that means having more than around £60,000 in savings.
Over the long term, investment returns have typically been higher than those offered from standard savings accounts. You may earn returns of 5% a year on investments, but this is far from guaranteed, and you can lose money as well as gain money. Saving in the stock market should only be for when you’ve established a sufficient cash pot for emergencies – and with a long-term focus, such as retirement.
An ISA (Individual Savings Accounts) enables you to save with all interest and growth free from tax.
There are more ISA options than ever before, but the right type for you will depend on your personal circumstances and risk appetite.
In this guide
What is an ISA?
An ISA is a savings account that you don’t pay tax on.
You can save up to £20,000 in the 2019/20 tax year in ISAs. But you cannot put new money into more than one of the same type of ISA in a tax year.
Any interest on cash is paid tax-free, while any income or growth on investments held in an ISA are not subject to tax.
Cash ISAs are a type of savings account available from banks and building societies. Your money is protected by the Financial Service Compensation Scheme FSCS
. – which covers up to £85,000 with a single provider.
Like standard savings accounts, there are various different cash ISAs to choose from.
What are the different types of cash ISA?
Cash ISAs come in many forms. However, the most common types of cash ISAs may be described as easy access, instant access, variable, flexible, and fixed-rate. On all these accounts, interest is earned tax-free.
Instant Access & Easy Access Cash ISAs
Instant access cash ISAs allow you to withdraw your money at any time without any restrictions. You can make as many withdrawals as you want, without penalty.
With an easy access cash ISA, your money is easily accessible, but you may face a short delay before you can take out your money. You may also be restricted in the number of withdrawals you can make, without penalty.
The payoff for flexibility is that interest rates on these accounts are typically a lot lower, and variable than for fixed-rate cash ISAs.
A fixed-rate cash ISA pays a set amount of interest for a certain period. If you put your money into Fixed rate cash ISA, you should expect to pay a penalty for making withdrawals. However, rates are typically higher than for an instant or easy access cash ISA.
Beware that penalties could potentially result in you ending up with less cash than your original deposit. So if you’re saving into a fixed-rate account, it’s important to be fairly certain you won’t need access to the money over the short-term.
Many cash ISAs are now flexible. A flexible cash ISA will allow you to withdraw money from your cash ISA and provided you replace the money within the tax year, with this affecting your ISA allowance.
However, your ISA allowance remains the same, so you can only pay in money in the current tax year up to this amount.
Lifetime ISAs (LISAs) were launched in 2017 as a way of helping you save for a home, or your retirement. Put money into a LISA and the government will add 25% on top as a bonus.
However, this money must be used to buy your first home (under £450,000) or only withdrawn over the age of 60, else the 25% bonus will be taken back by the Government.
You can only open an account if you are under 40, and save a maximum of £4,000 a year into a LISA until you’re 50.
Any money you deposit into your lifetime ISA will contribute to your overall £20,000 ISA limit. So you may be restricted in how much you can deposit into other ISAs after contributing to a LISA.
LISAs have typically appealed more to wannabe first-time buyers, with the bonus boosting the amount of deposit saved.
If you’re saving towards retirement, and have access to a workplace pension, this is likely to beat a LISA. Tax relief on pension contributions combined with your employer's minimum 3% contribution will amount to more than the 25% added by government to a LISA.
Innovative finance ISA
An Innovative finance ISA enables you to hold peer-to-peer lending investments in your ISA. They are also commonly referred to as peer-to-peer ISAs, and offer tax-free returns on any and all interest generated.
Peer-to-peer (P2P) lending has been around since the early 2000s and allows you to lend money to individuals and companies through the P2P platforms, in return for interest.
To help reduce the risk, most platforms will spread your money across a number of debtors to minimise the impact of any one defaulting.
Beware that your money could be at risk from the people or businesses you've invested in defaulting or potentially as a result of issues with the peer-to-peer platform. While there may be safeguards in place, your investment isn’t protected by the FSCS.
Why invest, if money isn't protected?
The attraction of investing in innovative ISAs is that they may offer seemingly higher returns than cash ISAs, with advertised rates ranging from 5% to as much as 12%.
However, these are not cash accounts. There is no guarantee of returns, and your money can go down as well as up – like any investment.
If you're thinking about taking out an Innovative ISA, you may wish to consider seeking professional financial advice from a FCA-registered adviser.
Stocks and Shares ISA
These enable you to invest in a range of assets, such as funds and shares on the stock exchange, with returns free from tax.
They may allow you to invest in the following asset classes:
- corporate bonds
- stocks and Shares (on any recognised stock exchanges)
- open-ended investment companies (OEICs)
- investment trusts
- unit trusts
However, you will only be able to invest in the assets offered by your chosen ISA investment platform and many will not cover all the different asset classes listed.
If you take out an ISA directly with an investment manager, you will be able to invest in their funds on a self-select basis or chosen for you to match their interpretation of your risk profile. Picking a ‘ready-made portfolio’ may be a sensible option if you do not have the time to actively manage your investments, or are inexperienced.
Remember, the value of investments can go up or down. If you are unsure of where to invest, seek profesisonal financial advice from an adviser registered with the FCA.
Can anyone get an ISA?
- Minimum starting deposit
- Over the age of 16 (unless a Junior ISA)
- Over the age of 18 (specific to Stocks and Shares ISA)
- Over 18 and under 40 to open a Lifetime ISA
- Official residency in the UK
- Official, valid National Insurance Number
Can you have multiple ISAs?
You can open multiple ISAs each tax year, but you can only open one of each ISA type each tax year. However, transfers from ISAs opened in previous tax years do not count.