Is it safe to move your cash to a challenger bank?

New players offer competitive rates

closeup of stack of british...

Look at any savings rate tables, and the chances are you won't see the big five at the top.

Instead of HSBC, Barclays, Lloyds, RBS and Santander, you'll see names such as Ikano, RCI and Hampshire Trust Bank, all offering excellent rates.

But is it safe to hand over your cash to a challenger bank?

House of Fraser certainly thinks so, announcing last week that it is to invest up to £35 million in challenger bank Tandem, in a collaboration to offer financial services to shoppers.

And, like all banks that are located in the UK, it is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, with deposits covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

This means that if the bank were to go bust, savings up to £75,000 - and, soon, £85,000 - would be protected, and repaid by the scheme within a couple of weeks.

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Some challenger banks, including Ikano, Fidor and RCI, are based within the European Economic Area. These are covered by national regulations as well as a compensation scheme that means savers' money is protected up to an EU standard of €100,000.

But some of the best savings rates are offered by the likes of Punjab National Bank and the State Bank of India. They are able to offer particularly good rates, as in India interest rates are far higher.

It's worth paying UK savers two per cent or so to access cash that they can then lend out at home for six or seven per cent.

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And despite the names, the Bank of Baroda, the State Bank of India and Punjab National Bank are all covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme - meaning your money is safe.

"Savings rates are currently at rock bottom, therefore it's extra important to make sure you're getting the best deal possible," says Kevin Mountford, banking expert at MoneySuperMarket.

"You shouldn't shy away from lesser known brands, as they are still secure and trustworthy, especially as it seems the traditional banks aren't interested in giving savers better rates at the moment."

How to spread your savings across current accounts

It's worth stressing that it's highly unlikely that any of these banks actually will go under. But if you have savings of more than £75,000, you can still keep it safe by spreading your money around several banks.



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