Monthly archive for June, 2017

Current accounts that give you more: cashback, interest and other benefits

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Despite us using our current account more than any other type of account, it is usually the one we review the least in terms of comparing it with the latest market offerings. With interest rates as high as 3.0% on offer, various types of cashback arrangements, as well as other financial incentives, it is quite possible that if you’ve had your current account for some time, there is a better deal on offer.

What’s more, with current account switches offering guarantees to be completed within seven working days with your new bank taking care of everything for you, it is completely different to several years ago when many were put off by the amount of work involved and keeping on top of it all. With this in mind, here we take a look at three current accounts which are proving most popular with those either making the switch, or choosing to take out a second account.

Inflation and savings rates – nowhere to hide

The rate of inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index, rose to 2.90% in May, its highest level for nearly four years. However, four years ago you could generate this level of interest from a fixed rate bond if you were prepared to tie in for the long term, whereas now the best long term deals are way below this at around 2.40% AER. In addition, according to the Bank of England the average easy access account now pays just 0.15% – that’s a fall of 65% in just one year. This makes the latest inflationary rises a serious cause for concern and means there really is nowhere to hide for savers.

Banks offering incentives

Although historically current accounts have been well known for offering paltry rates of interest, this has changed significantly in the last few years as some of the high street banks started to see the value in offering incentives in order to get new customers. What this means today is that, provided you are usually in credit with your account, you can now be rewarded with very competitive interest rates, healthy levels of cashback on your spending, as well as a range of other benefits.

Could you get more from your current account?

Many existing current accounts pay no interest at all, so with up to 3.0% AER available it is always worth comparing what the market has to offer. Staying put simply because you have all of your direct debits set up is no longer a valid reason, especially since the introduction of the current account switch guarantee (see below for further details).

Three of our most popular current accounts

Each new current account available has its own features and criteria, with different interest rates being paid for different levels of account balance depending on the offering. Most usually require a minimum amount to be paid in each month to qualify for the headline interest rate, as well as the setting up of a minimum number of direct debits. Here we take a look at three of our most popular.

TSB: 3.0% on balances up to £1,500 plus up to £120 cashback per year

TSB’s Classic Plus account offers 3.0% AER (variable) interest, paid monthly on balances up to £1,500. No interest is paid on balances above this amount and although the 3.0% is variable, it is paid ongoing (i.e. is does not drop down after a set period of time). In order to receive this rate you must pay in a minimum of £500 per month, as well as register for internet banking, paperless statements and paperless correspondence. The account also offers £5 cashback every month* just for having two active direct debits per month, with a further £5 cashback every month if you spend with your debit card at least 20 times a month. That’s up to £120 cashback each year, all with no monthly account fee.   Find out more »

Santander: 1.50% on balances up to £20,000 plus up to 3% cashback

The Santander 1|2|3 account combines a competitive rate of interest on a large cash balance, with the opportunity to receive cashback on a number of your main household bills. The account pays 1.50% AER variable on your entire balance up to £20,000, whilst you can get up to 3% cashback on selected household bills (e.g. 1% on council tax and water bills, 2% on gas and electricity, and 3% on broadband and mobile phone bills). You must pay in at least £500 per month and have at least two active direct debits to receive interest and cashback. There is a £5 monthly account fee.   Find out more »

First Direct: £100 switch incentive plus £250 interest free overdraft

First Direct is offering £100 if you switch your everyday banking to them using the current account switch service (see below) and pay in at least £1,000 within three months of opening the account. You also benefit from a £250 interest-free overdraft, have access to their award winning UK-based customer service team, and can pay in cash and cheques at HSBC and Post Office branches. No interest is paid on balances in credit with this account. There is no cost for the first six months and although there is normally a £10 monthly account fee, there are several was of avoiding this, for example by paying at least £1,000 into your account every month or maintaining an average monthly balance of £1,000.   Find out more »

7-Day Switch Guarantee

Apart from the low interest rates generally on offer, one of the main reasons many of us have stayed with our current account provider far longer than other type of account, is the fear that something would go wrong with the direct debits associated with our account. However, since the introduction of the current account switch service in September 2013, the whole process of switching banks is easier and will now be completed in seven working days – the 7-Day Switch.

Over 40 banks have signed up to the service (including TSB, Santander and First Direct), which makes sure that all outgoing payments, such as standing orders and direct debits, will be transferred across to your new bank on your behalf. The service also guarantees that should any incoming payments be sent to your old account in error, these will be automatically redirected to your new account for up to 36 months after your switch date. This means the banks do all the hard work for you, making switching smoother and faster. Over 3 million account switches have been processed since its launch.

To switch or not to switch?

The 7-Day Switch therefore offers peace of mind to anyone considering a switch from their current account provider. However, you don’t necessarily have to switch your current account – if maximising interest is your top priority, you could also consider taking one of these accounts out in addition to your existing current account, provided you still meet any of the account qualifying criteria such as paying in the minimum amount required each month or set up a certain number of direct debits.

FSCS Protected

Also remember that not only do all of the accounts featured offer full banking services and have VISA debit cards available, they are offered by high street banks and so eligible deposits are covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme up to the deposit compensation limit of £85,000 per person, per authorised firm.

Always compare

Do not let the thought of moving your current account put you off. The competition for current accounts has rocketed in the last couple of years and millions have already made the move to a new account. So as major banks and building societies compete for your custom, always remember to compare the interest rate and any other benefits your current account offers with the best market has to offer – you may be surprised at just how much difference it could make…

 

Click here for more information on TSB’s Current Plus account »

Click here for more information on Santander’s 1|2|3 account »

Click here for more information on First Direct’s 1st account »

Click here to compare current accounts »

 

* Offer ends 30 June 2018.

AER stands for Annual Equivalent Rate and illustrates what the interest rate would be if interest was paid and compounded once each year.

Gross is the interest you will receive before tax is deducted.

Investment Focus: up to 11.62% per year for up to 10 years

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Potential for up to 11.62% each year for up to 10 years…

Depending on which of the three investment options is selected, the latest issue of this popular plan from Mariana offers investors the potential for a growth return of either 6.27%, 8.72% or 11.62% per year, all dependent on the performance of the FTSE 100 Index. In addition, the plan offers the ability to mature early or ‘kick out’ each year from the end of year three onwards and is the first plan of its kind to extend the maximum term to 10 years, hence the plan name. With the potential for such high headline returns from a plan based on the FTSE only, we take a closer look at how this investment works in order to better understand the risk versus reward.

Three options

As it approaches its second anniversary since launch, the current issue of the 10:10 Plan offers the potential for double digit growth on your capital depending on the performance of the FTSE 100 Index. Investors have three options, the difference between them being the level the Index has to reach in order for the plan to make a growth payment (along with a return of your original investment).

The potential for high returns

For those targeting the higher return of 11.62% each year (not compounded), the FTSE must end the plan year at least 10% higher than its value at the start of the investment. The other two options offer 8.72% provided the FTSE is at or above its starting level, and a more defensive option offering 6.27% provided the FTSE has not fallen by more than 10%. The return is not compounded, but will be paid to you for each year the investment has been in place. If the plan does produce an investment return, your initial capital is also returned to you in full along with the growth payment.

Capital at risk

If the plan does not kick out at all, the return of your initial capital is also dependent on the FTSE 100 Index with your capital put at risk if the Index at the end of the investment term is more than 30% lower than its value at the start of the plan. If it is, your initial investment will be reduced by 1% for each 1% fall, so you could lose some or all of your capital.

Kick out investment

The term ‘kick out’ refers to the ability of the investment plan to mature early depending on the movement of the FTSE 100 Index. The 10:10 Plan has the potential to mature at the end of each plan year from year three onwards, provided the value of the Index meets one of the required levels, depending on which option you invest in.

The FTSE 100 Index

Plans linked to the FTSE 100 Index provide a potential return against what is widely recognised as the proxy benchmark for most investors and investment managers in the UK. Since the historical volatility of this stock market is familiar to many investors, they are in a better position to consider the pros and cons of the plan within the context of the underlying investment.

Investment term

The plan broke new ground when it launched in 2015 in that the maximum term is set at 10 years rather than the more common five or six years of most structured investment plans. This could be seen as an advantage over plans with a shorter term, for those investors who would prefer to stay invested should we experience a market downturn in anticipation of markets recovering.

Although the plan can be encashed prior to the end of the term, the proceeds you receive will depend on a number of market factors and could mean that you may receive less than your initial investment. Since the investment is designed to be held for the full term it should only be considered by those who are able to invest their capital for up to ten years.

Some capital protection from a falling market

Should the plan provide a growth payment then this is made to the investor along with a full return of your initial investment. However, if the plan runs the full 10 years and fails to provide any growth, the return of your initial capital is conditional on the FTSE 100 Index not falling by more than 30% below its value at the start of the investment. This is known as conditional capital protection and is measured at the end of the investment term only.

Provided the Index has not fallen below this level, you will receive a return of your initial capital, but if it has, your initial investment will be reduced by 1% for every 1% fall in the FTSE, so you could lose some or all of your capital. In this situation you would lose at least 30% of your initial capital.

Counterparty

Unlike an investment fund, this plan uses your investment to purchase securities issued by Natixis, part of the second largest banking group in France, and so their ability to be able to meet their financial obligations become an important consideration. This is known as counterparty risk (or credit risk) and means that in the event of Natixis going into liquidation, you could lose some or all of your initial investment as well as the payment of any growth return. In this event you would not be entitled to compensation from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (the ‘FSCS’).

Credit ratings and agencies

One accepted method of determining the credit worthiness of a counterparty is to look at credit ratings issued and regularly reviewed by independent companies known as ratings agencies. Standard and Poor’s is a leading credit ratings agency and as at 22nd May 2017, Natixis has been attributed an ‘A‘ rating with a stable outlook. The ‘A’ rating denotes a strong capacity to meet its financial commitments but could be more susceptible to adverse economic conditions than companies in higher-rated categories. The stable outlook indicates that the rating is unlikely to change in the short to medium term (between 6 months to 2 years).

ISA friendly

We expect this investment to be popular with both non-ISA and ISA investors. The plan is available as a new ISA up to the current limit of £20,000 and also accepts transfers from both Cash ISAs and Stocks & Shares ISAs.

Minimum investment

The minimum investment is £10,000 and investors can also split their investment across any of the three options on offer provided the total invested meets this minimum level.

Fair Investment conclusion

Oliver Roylance-Smith, head of savings and investments at Fair Investment Company, commented on the plan: “This plan offers some of the highest headline returns from a kick out investment linked to the performance of the FTSE 100 Index, although the 30% capital at risk barrier is low compared to most other plans. The three options on offer cater for a wide range of investor views as to what might happen to the FTSE in the coming years whilst the 10 year maximum term also offers some reassurance to investors who consider a downturn could affect a return on their investment.”

The plan is open now for new ISA investments (maximum £20,000), ISA transfers and non-ISA investments.

 

Click here for more information about the Mariana 10:10 Plan »

 

No news, feature article or comment should be seen as a personal recommendation to invest. Prior to making any decision to invest, you should ensure that you are familiar with the risks associated with a particular investment. If you are at all unsure of the suitability of a particular investment, both in respect of its objectives and its risk profile, you should seek independent financial advice.

Tax treatment of ISAs depends on your individual circumstances and is based on current law which may be subject to change in the future. Always remember to check whether any charges apply before transferring or switching an ISA.

This is a structured investment plan that is not capital protected and is not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) for default alone. There is a risk of losing some or all of your initial investment. There is a risk that the company backing the plan or any company associated with the plan may be unable to repay your initial investment and any returns stated. In addition, you may not get back the full amount of your initial investment if the plan is not held for the full term. The past performance of the FTSE 100 Index is not a guide to its future performance.