Rising savings rates: get the best deal
Interest rates on savings accounts and Cash ISAs are continuing to rise.
Virgin Money has launched four new ISAs, two of which have pipped the competitors to top spot in the best buy tables.
However, savers still face a significant challenge if they want to avoid their cash losing value in real terms because of a high inflation rate of 2.6%.
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.
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.
If you give up access to your cash for 120 days you can get a rate of 1.21% from Al Rayan, which you can open with £250.
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).
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 Virgin Money. It's paying 1.06% on deposits from just £1.
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.
You could also lock your money up for a year with Al Rayan Bank and you'll get a rate of 1.35%. Again, you'll need £1,000 to open an account.
The best Cash ISA over two years is from Al Rayan as well, offering a rate of 1.70% on balances from £1,000.
Bank of Cyprus UK wins out over three years, offering 1.42%.
Virgin Money has stormed to the top of the five-year best buy tables, paying a rate of 2.15%. You'll need to put in at least £1.
The Bank of London and the Middle East (BLME) is the best option for savers looking to lock their money away for one year, paying 2.00%, but it has a high minimum deposit of £25,000.
The best two-year rate of 2.22% on deposits starting at £1,000 from Al Rayan Bank. It dominates the three-year tables as well, with a rate of 2.32%. Again, you'll need a £1,000 deposit.
As for the five-year, look to Atom Bank which gives you a rate of 2.50% with a minimum £50 deposit.
The lesser-known PCF Bank rules the roost for seven-year deals, with a 2.60% rate and a £1,000 deposit. It's a heck of a long time to lock your money away, but on the upside, it is the only fixed-rate account to currently match inflation.
Where to earn the most interest on your cash
Here's a table with all the top deals for you to compare at a glance.
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.
|Account||Type||Interest rate||Minimum deposit|
|Nationwide FlexDirect||Current account||5% (one year only)||£1 (max: £2,500)|
|Tesco Bank Current Account||Current account||3%||£1 (max: £3,000)|
|TSB Classic Plus||Current account||3%||£1 (max: £1,500)|
|PCF Bank Limited 7 Year Term Deposit||Seven-year fixed-rate bond||2.60%||£1,000|
|Atom Bank 5 Year Fixed Saver||Five-year fixed-rate bond||2.50%||£50|
|Al Rayan Fixed Term Deposit||Three-year fixed-rate bond||2.32%*||£1,000|
|NS&I Investment Growth Guaranteed Bond||Three-year fixed-rate bond||2.20%||£100|
|Al Rayan Bank Fixed Term Deposit||Two-year fixed-rate bond||2.22%*||£1,000|
|Virgin Money Fixed Rate Cash E-ISA 268||Five-year fixed-rate Cash ISA||2.15%||£1|
|BLME Premier Deposit Account||One-year fixed-rate bond||2.00%*||£25,000|
|Lloyds Bank Club Lloyds||Current account||2%||£1 (max: £5,000)|
|Bank of Scotland Classic Account with Vantage||Current account||2%||£1 (max: £5,000)|
|Al Rayan Bank 24 Month Fixed Term Cash ISA||Two-year fixed-rate Cash ISA||1.70%*||£1,000|
|Santander 123**||Current Account||1.50%||£1 (max: £20,000)|
|Bank of Cyprus UK Fixed Rate Cash ISA||Three-year fixed-rate Cash ISA||1.42%||£500|
|Al Rayan 12 Month Fixed Term Cash ISA||One-year fixed-rate Cash ISA||1.35%*||£1,000|
|Ulster Bank eSavings||Easy access savings account||1.25%||£1|
|Al Rayan Bank 120n Day Notice Cash ISA||120 Notice Cash ISA||1.21%*||£1,000|
|Virgin Money Defined Access E-ISA Issue 15||Easy access Cash ISA||1.06%||£1|
*Anticipated profit rate
**Current account charges a £5 monthly fee
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.