Savings rates on the rise: best accounts for your cash

Interest rates on savings accounts are on the increase – but does that mean you should move your money? We round-up the best places to keep your savings.

Pounds

Interest rates on savings accounts are finally on the rise.

The likes of Al Rayan, Paragon Bank and UBL have recently upped their rates in a bid to reach the top of the best buy tables.

While this upward trend is welcome, the bad news is that inflation is on the rise as well, jumping from 2.7% to 2.9% in May.

That means savers still face a massive challenge if they want to avoid their cash losing value in real terms.

So, where is the best place to put your money now? Before we reveal the best options, it's worth flagging up two key recent developments that should change the way you think about savings.

A new savings landscape

The first is the Personal Savings Allowance (PSA).

Launched in April 2016, the PSA allows basic rate taxpayers to earn up to £1,000 and higher rate taxpayers to earn up to £500 in savings interest tax-free. Additional rate taxpayers do not have a PSA.

This means instant access, notice and fixed-rate bonds are now far more lucrative as providers will stop taxing savings interest at source.

The second change is the dramatic rise of current accounts as a viable home for your savings.

While banks have traditionally offered terrible rates of interest on in-credit current account balances (and many still do!), some are luring new customers by offering rates that comfortably beat the best buy savings accounts.

And, as they're also included in the PSA, you get the same tax benefits to boot.

Let's look at all of these and more to see what rates you can get and where the best place to put your cash is.

Current accounts

As discussed, some current accounts offer inflation-beating rates. The downside is they have pretty miserly deposit limits, and increasingly require you to jump through a few hoops to qualify for the headline rate.

So let's take a look at the best.

Nationwide's FlexDirect account pays 5% interest on balances up to £2,500 for the first 12 months. The only condition is you need to pay in at least £1,000 a month.

TSB's Classic Plus account pays 3% on balances of up to £1,500, provided you credit the account with £500 a month.

The Tesco Bank Current Account also pays 3%, but this applies to balances of up to £3,000. To qualify, you'll need to pay in at least £750 a month and have at least three direct debits (not including Tesco Bank savings accounts).

Bank of Scotland's Classic Account with Vantage pays 2% on balances between £1 and £5,000 if you pay in £1,000 a month and have two direct debits set up.

Lloyds Bank is offering the Club Lloyds account, which pays 2% on balances between £1 and £5,000, as long as you credit the account with £1,500 a month and set up two direct debits from it.

If you don't want to spread your money around, Santander's 123 account pays 1.5% on balances of up to £20,000. You need to pay in £500 a month, and set up at least two direct debits.

There's also a £5 a month fee on the account but you can earn cashback on some of your direct debits for household bills, which can help cover that.

Now let's look at how traditional savings accounts fare. As we noted at the top, none of these can currently beat inflation, but they do allow you to deposit far larger sums than current accounts.

Instant access savings accounts

The top rate of interest on an easy access account is currently 1.25% which you can get from Ulster Bank. You only need £1 to open an account.

Notice accounts

If you give up access to your cash for 120 days you can get a rate of 1.45% from Paragon Bank, which you can open with £500.

Cash ISAs

While the PSA has effectively made all savings accounts tax-free you should still consider using your tax-free ISA allowance (currently £20,000 for 2017/18) to save.

That's because any money you put into an ISA will stay tax-free long term, even if the interest you earn grows. With the PSA, any interest you earn beyond the £1,000/£500 limit is taxed at your marginal rate.

The best rate on an easy access ISA is available with Charter Savings Bank. It's paying 1.06% on deposits from £1,000.

What's great about Charter Savings Bank is that you can 'mix and match' its easy access and fixed-rate ISA deals.

Savers are normally only allowed to open one Cash ISA account per tax year, which means having to choose between the flexibility of an easy access deal and a better rate by locking into a fixed-rate deal.

But now those going for the Charter Savings Bank range can open a combination to benefit from the best of both worlds.

Alternatively, you could lock your money up for a year with Bank of Cyprus UK and you'll get a rate of 1.16%. You'll need £500 to open an account.

The best Cash ISA over two years is from UBL, which is offering a rate of 1.36% on balances from £2,000.

Paragon Bank is the top place to stash your cash over three years, paying a rate of 1.41%. You'll need to deposit at least £500.

UBL wins out over five years as well, offering 1.93% with a minimum deposit of £2,000.

Fixed-rate bonds

If you decide to lock your money away, you can get slightly higher returns.

Al Rayan Bank is the best option for savers looking to lock their money away for one year, paying 2.02% with a minimum deposit of £1,000.

Likewise, its two-year rate of 2.11% on deposits starting at £1,000 is the best in this category.

In reality, the Bank of London and the Middle East (BLME) tops the tables for the best three, five and seven-year bonds with 2.25%, 2.50% and 2.55% respectively. However, you'll need a minimum £250,000 deposit to open an account which is out of reach for many savers.

Instead, you can opt for the second-best accounts. Atom Bank is the runner-up over three years (2.20%) and five years (2.45%). What's more, the accounts can be opened with just £50.

The account you go for will probably be determined by the amount you have to save and whether you want instant access to your money.

What's clear though is that if you want a better return on your money in the longer term, you're better off looking beyond traditional savings accounts right now.

Willing to take on some risk for a higher rate? You could visit our investment centre.