Archive for the ‘Instant and easy access savings’ Category

Income versus Inflation: consider your options carefully

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Last updated: 14/02/2017

As if last month’s inflation increase to its highest level for 22 months was not bad enough, the talk this month of it possibly spiking to 4% or higher next year on the back of the Brexit vote, has created a number of serious concerns for both savers and investors. The result is that the income we generate from our capital is going to become more important than ever. With this in mind, we take a closer look at the impact the ongoing economic climate could have on anyone looking to take an income from their capital, as well as review some of the more popular options being considered by income seekers.

Inflation on the rise

The Consumer Price Index rose from 0.6% to 1.0% in September, the biggest monthly rise in more than 2 years and its highest level for 22 months. Although it is still some way off the Bank of England’s inflationary target of 2%, there also seems to be a general consensus that things are likely to get worse on the inflationary front, before they get better.

“Savings rates at record lows” – no news there then…

So, as if record low savings rates weren’t enough, this recent spike to the headline rate of inflation has added further pressure to the already difficult conditions that savers have had to endure in recent years. In fact, further to this rise, less than half of all savings accounts on offer can either match or beat inflation, resulting in more and more savers seeing the spending power of their cash being eroded. According to the Bank of England, the average easy access account now pays under 0.3%. So with further cuts to savings rates on the cards, inflationary rises are a serious cause for concern.

More bad news for savers

Savers are also facing more bad news since not only did the Bank of England’s cut to the base rate in August to 0.25% offer little hope of savings rates increasing any time soon, this move also had no impact on the pound, which has since fallen significantly against many of the major currencies. Most notably is the fall of sterling against the dollar, which recently saw a 31 year low against our North Atlantic neighbours, as the reality of a hard exit from Europe starts to take hold.

Serious concerns for those in retirement

Whilst a poor exchange rate boosts export orientated businesses and manufacturing, it also drives up inflation as the price of imports rise, with the most affected likely being food, then goods and services. This means that those in retirement will be hit particularly hard since they generally spend higher proportions of their income on these essentials. In fact, inflation is consistently cited as one of the most serious concerns for pensioners, along with the cost of care, running out of money and future changes to the state pension.

How high could inflation go? – the impact of a ‘hard’ Brexit

Experts agree unanimously that the fall in the value of the pound is likely to drive prices up, and the National Institute for Economic Research expects consumer price inflation to peak to 4% in the second half of next year, a significant jump from its current level. Some fund managers believe it could go even higher, possibly reaching 5%. This also means that the Bank of England is very unlikely to increase interest rates, with some suggestions that they will remain at their record low 0.25% until at least 2019.

You must take a view on inflation

This all combines to suggest an extended period of tough times for savers and is perhaps going to be one of the most difficult couple of years for anyone relying on income generated from capital, with cash savers undoubtedly hit the hardest. Although forecasts about short term changes could prove wrong, savers should be wary of focusing on the short term when it is the longer term impact of inflation which causes the most damage.

Remember, inflation is a backward-looking measure, i.e. it measures the rate of inflation over the last 12 months. It tells us little about what will happen in the next 12 months, let alone looking beyond this timeframe, and yet 1,000s of us each day make decisions which tie us in for much longer periods without considering its impact. You must take a view on the impact inflation might have, before you act.

A note on the Personal Savings Allowance

Remember that since the start of the current tax year (6th April 2016), most people receive a personal tax free allowance for interest earnings on savings. For basic rate taxpayers, this is set at £1,000 each tax year, whilst higher rate taxpayers get an allowance of £500. Beyond these allowances, basic rate taxpayers will pay 20 percent on savings income and higher rate taxpayers pay 40 percent (additional rate taxpayers will not receive a personal allowance). Also, note that income from ISAs does not count towards your Personal Savings Allowance (it’s already tax-free).

Income options and your net return

The net return on your capital is the amount you receive after tax and inflation has been taken into account. Thanks to the Personal Savings Allowance, many savers have had the impact of tax on their returns negated. However, inflation is still a critical factor, which is why the current economic backdrop should play an important role in deciding which route you decide to take with your capital. We therefore take a look at some of our most popular income options, and see how their returns stack up against the rising cost of living.

Fixed rate bonds

Historically the cornerstone product for many savers, these accounts have probably suffered more than any other in recent times. Consistent reductions in the returns from both short and longer term fixed rates have seen many savers facing significant falls (more than half) in the income they have enjoyed from their maturing fixed rate, when compared to the best on offer from bonds with the same duration available at maturity.

Savers face losing more than 50% of their income

One group that continues to face losing more than 50% of their income is the thousands of savers in the current crop of five year fixed rates that will mature in the coming months. These savers will have enjoyed a fixed rate of interest for the last five years, for example Scottish Widows Bank was paying 4.60% AER. By comparison, our best five year fixed rate currently on offer, from Masthaven Bank, only offers 2.06% AER. That’s a reduction of a staggering 2.54% per year, equivalent to a fall in income of 55%. Needless to say there are not many of us who can withstand this sort of drop in income without it having a significant impact.

To fix or not to fix?

The picture is a similar one for shorter term fixed rates. The best 1 and 2 year fixed rate bonds are currently paying around 1.31% to 1.58%, and although all of these rates are higher than the current rate of inflation, this will not provide a real return if either you are having to use the income to supplement your cost of living (so the actual value of your capital is being eroded), or inflation rises in the coming months and years. With such sharp falls in the level of interest on offer compared to a few years ago, this also means more savers will need to use capital to supplement their income, making their situation even worse over time.

Should you ultimately decide to commit to a fixed rate, then before applying make sure you fully consider the current economic conditions and the impact they might have over the full term of your fixed rate. There are clear inflationary pressures at the moment so you should be confident that rises to the cost of living will not increase significantly during the fixed term period, otherwise any inflation beating returns may well evaporate.

Beware the instant access trap

So as you can see, fixed rate bonds remain at record lows and inflation aside, it is the fall in income that savers are experiencing, especially from longer term fixed rates about to mature, that is causing the greatest concern. This has also resulted in a number of maturing fixed rate bondholders moving away from medium to longer term fixed rates in favour of instant access accounts, on the basis that something might happen relatively soon which will then spur them on to taking further action. This course of action currently offers little or no prospect of any real growth on your capital, your income will be considerably lower than from a fixed rate bond, interest rates are unlikely to go anywhere for some time, and should inflation move upwards as expected, this could prove to be a very disastrous strategy indeed.

Moving up the risk spectrum

The reality therefore is that savers sitting in cash will therefore continue to struggle to generate a real return, regardless of whether they remain in instant access savings or commit to a fixed rate of interest. This is likely to result in a rise in the numbers looking towards riskier assets to stand any chance of generating an inflation-adjusted real return, especially for income seekers who need to maintain a higher level of income to support their cost of living.

Savers looking to investments

Whilst the combination of low fixed rates and the potential for high inflation may force more of us to consider investing, this raises the difficult question of taking on more risk in an attempt to replicate historical levels of income enjoyed from deposit based products. Although most investments only offer a variable income, the fixed monthly income (currently 0.42% per month, equivalent to 5.04% per year) from Investec’s FTSE 100 Enhanced Income Plan has been a very popular choice with our investors. The plan also includes conditional capital protection, so your capital is returned at the end of the fixed term unless the FTSE 100 Index falls by more than 50%. This plan is available as an ISA and also accepts ISA transfers and non-ISA investments.

Risk versus reward

It is important to remember that unlike deposit based savings products, this plan puts your capital at risk and if the FTSE does fall more than 50%, you could lose some or all of your initial capital. Also, since it is an investment rather than a deposit-based plan, your initial capital is not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme for default.

In conclusion …

Whatever route you decide to take, there is no escaping the impact of continuing record low savings rates and falling income levels, all to be compounded by the prospect of sharp rises to inflation and the uncertainty that may come with our exit from the European Union. It seems the trade off for capital security for some time to come will be low rates of interest and in all likelihood a negative return in real terms, whilst for those considering using some of their savings to invest, you must make sure you fully understand all of the risks involved before proceeding.

 

Click here to compare instant access accounts »

Click here to compare fixed rate bonds »

Click here for more information on the Investec Enhanced Income Plan »

Click here to visit our Income Section »

 

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. Fair Investment Company does not offer advice and any investment transacted through us in on a non-advised basis. 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.

The Investec Enhanced Income Plan is a structured investment plan which 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 or any shares listed within the Index is not a guide to their future performance. This investment does not include the same security of capital which is afforded to a deposit account.    

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 an ISA.

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

Summer sizzlers: our selection of the hottest deals on offer this summer

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Last updated: 12/09/2016

As the Olympic Games continue to keep us gripped with excitement, it’s not just the GB Team that’s sizzling this summer. The news that the Bank of England base rate has fallen to a new record low has meant the need for both savers and investors to review their options has really heated up. So to help you stay on top of all the action, we bring you a selection of the hottest savings and investment deals on offer this summer.

Interest rates

Since the recent reduction to a new record low for the Bank of England’s base rate, savings rates have started to fall at a significant pace. Needless to say the outlook for savers is not good, but it’s not just savings rates that are falling. Bond yields also face record lows whilst the share prices of many of the higher yielding FTSE 100 companies have gone up as more investors search for income. So the outlook is bleak for both savers and investors, and the need to make the most out of your capital has suddenly become priority number one this summer.

So what’s hot?

For many savers, longer term savings rates are not offering enough of an increased rate to justify tying your money up for longer, and so we see most activity is in the short term space, from instant access up to 2 years. Whilst as you might expect, with interest rates coming down, many savers inevitably start to consider taking on more risk with their capital in the hunt for higher returns, so we also cover some of our income and growth investment best sellers.

Combining every day banking with up to 5.0% interest

The fact remains that loyal bank customers are rarely rewarded and so usually face far lower rates on their savings compared to those who shop around. Well this is now also true of current accounts. Although historically these accounts have been renowned for offering very low rates of interest, this has started to change significantly in the last few years with some offering very competitive returns indeed.

Low monthly balance top pick – Nationwide’s FlexDirect account pays 5.0% AER fixed for the first 12 months on all in credit balances up to £2,500. Thereafter the rate reverts to 1.0% AER variable.

Higher monthly balance top pick – Santander’s 1|2|3 account pays 3.0% AER variable on your entire balance up to £20,000 provided your balance is at least £3,000. This rate is set to change to 1.50% AER on all balances up to £20,000 from 1st November 2016. It also offers some competitive cashback rates on a wide selection of household bills. A £5 per month account fee applies.

Instant access – market leading 1.20% AER variable

When longer terms savings rates are low, instant access accounts see far greater inflows as savers use this as a safety net whilst reviewing other options. The Freedom Access Account from RCI Bank is a market leading instant access account paying 1.20% AER variable and you can save from £100 up to £1m, with free and unlimited payments and withdrawals. RCI Bank is part of the Renault global banking group and so the first €100,000 equivalent is protected by the French deposit guarantee scheme (FGDR) rather than the UK FSCS.

For those where the UK FSCS is more of a priority, Aldermore’s Easy Access Account offers 1.00% AER variable on balances from £1,000 to £1m, whilst the B account is an innovative new banking service from Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banks which combines a current account with an instant access account, the latter offering 1% AER variable on all balances. The interest rates alone are worth a closer look but this account might particularly appeal to the more technically savvy saver due to the intuitive B banking app which forms part of the overall proposition.

Fixed rate bonds – short terms hit the top spots

Whilst instant access offers 1.20%, a top deal on a 5 year fixed rate is only offering 1.0% per year more at 2.20% AER. These are without doubt some of the lowest long term fixed rates in history and this 1% margin has resulted in more money staying in shorter term fixed rates. Here are our current top picks for those who can tie their money up for between 6 months and 3 years, all of which are eligible for the UK’s FSCS:

6 months top pick: Habib Bank 6 month Fixed Rate Deposit, offering 0.80% AER

1 year top pick: Bank of Cyprus 1 Year Fixed Rate Bond, paying 1.30% AER

2 year top pick: Bank of Cyprus 2 Year Fixed Rate Bond, paying 1.40%

3 year top pick: Bank of Cyprus 3 Year Fixed Rate Bond, paying 1.50%

The minimum deposit with Bank of Cyprus accounts is £10,000 whilst for Habib Bank it is £1,000. For those looking for a 1, 2 or 3 year fixed rate account with a lower minimum, Aldermore Bank pays 1.40% AER over 3years, 1.30% AER over 2 years and 1.20% AER fixed for one year, all with a minimum of £1,000.

Long term savings alternative – potential 24% growth return

For those looking for the potential for higher growth and are prepared to tie their money up for the longer term, the Investec 6 Year Defensive Deposit Plan offers an alternative that some savers might find attractive. By linking your return to the FTSE 100 Index, this deposit plan offers the potential for a 24% fixed return, which is paid provided the value of the Index at the end of the plan, is higher than 95% of its value at the start of the plan (subject to averaging). So the FTSE can fall up to 5% and you still receive the fixed return. However, if the Index is lower, you will only receive a return of your original capital.

The best long term fixed rate savings bonds are paying around 2.20% AER whilst by linking your deposit to the FTSE, if this Deposit Plan pays out the 24% return is equivalent to 3.65% AER. With record low longer term fixed rates forcing some savers to consider a wider range of options, the combination of capital protection plus the potential for a high growth return could be a compelling opportunity. Taxpayers can also benefit from tax free growth as the plan is also available as an ISA.

Fixed income investment

Another consequence of this sustained period of low longer term fixed rates is that savers start to consider taking on more risk with their capital in the hunt for higher returns. One such plan that has been popular in this area is the Enhanced Income Plan from Investec Bank. Unusually for an investment, it has a fixed term and offers a fixed income each year, paid to you regardless of the performance of the stock market. It also pays income each month which is the most popular payment frequency. The latest issue pays 4.92% per year, paid as 0.41% each month.

Also unusual for an investment is the inclusion of some capital protection, or ‘conditional capital protection’. This means that your initial capital is returned at the end of the investment unless the FTSE falls by more than 50% during the fixed term of the plan. If it does, and the Index also finishes below its starting level then your original capital will be reduced by 1% for each 1% fall, so you could lose some or all of your original investment.

Up to 6.0% investment income, quarterly payments

The Focus FTSE Quarterly Contingent Income Plan offers up to 6% per year which is higher than the income on the Investec plan however it is not fixed, but rather dependent on the performance of the FTSE 100 Index. A quarterly payment of 1.50% is made provided the value of the Index at the end of each quarter is at or above 75% of its value at the start of the investment. If the Index is below 75% of its opening level, no income payment will be made for that quarter.

Your initial investment is returned in full unless the FTSE has fallen by more than 40%, measured at the end of the fixed term only. If it has fallen below this level, capital will be reduced by 1% for each 1% fall and so you could lose some or all of your initial investment.

Both of these plans are available as an ISA and accept ISA transfers, in which case your income would be tax free.

Defensive growth plans

Finally, in the investment growth space, defensive plans have been popular on the back of the UK’s decision to leave the UK and the uncertainty around what impact this might have on our growth and economic prospects. These defensive plans offer the potential for investment level returns even if the stock market goes down, in some case by up to 50%. They are therefore proving popular with investors concerned about the historically high level of the FTSE and would therefore like to include a defensive element to their investment. This plan may appeal to those who think the FTSE might fall slightly, stay the same, or rise in the coming years but not significantly.

Defensive Kick Out top pick: Investec’s FTSE 100 Step Down Kick-Out Plan offers the opportunity for 8.0% for each year invested (not compounded) even if the FTSE falls up to 20% over the term of the plan. Capital is at risk is the FTSE falls by more than 50%.

Fixed term defensive growth top pick: Investec’s FTSE 100 Defensive Growth Plan offers a 33% fixed return at the end of the plan, provided the Index it at least half its value at the start of the plan (i.e. it can fall up to 50% and you still receive the 33%, along with a full return of capital). Your capital is at risk if the FTSE has fallen by more than 50%, in which case you could lose some or all of your initial investment.

 

Compare our Top 3 current accounts »

Compare instant access accounts »

Compare fixed rate bonds »

Compare income investments »

Compare growth and defensive growth investments »

 

AER stands for the 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.

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 plan. If you are at all unsure of the suitability of a particular product, both in respect of its objectives and its risk profile, you should seek professional 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 an ISA.

The investments in this article are structured investment plans that are not capital protected and are 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 due to the performance of the FTSE 100 Index or shares listed within the Index. As share prices can move by a wide margin, plans based on the performance of shares represent higher risk investments than plans based on the FTSE 100 Index as a whole.

There is also 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 or shares listed within the Index is not a guide to their future performance.

Current account focus: our Top 3 high interest current accounts

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Last updated: 27/09/2016

Although we use our current account more than any other, it is often the one that we review the least in terms of comparing it with the latest the market has to offer. But with interest rates as high as 5.0% on offer, various types of cashback and other financial incentives, along with a 7-Day Switch service that offers peace of mind to those that do switch, the market for current accounts is the best its ever been. So here we take a look at the three accounts which are proving most popular with those either making the switch, or choosing to take out a second account.

High interest

Historically, current accounts have been renown for offering paltry rates of interest, and it is only fairly recently that this has significantly started to change. What this now means is that, provided you are usually in credit with your account, you can now be rewarded with very healthy rates of interest indeed. Not only do all of the accounts featured offer full banking services and have VISA debit cards available, but because of the interest rates on offer the amount that can be achieved when compared with leading instant access and short term fixed rate bonds, can be compelling in its own right.

Current account versus savings account

Therefore, although these should be technically described first and foremost as current accounts, they also have every right to be considered amongst the range of options for savers, especially since they are predominantly offered by the main high street banks and building societies and so eligible deposits are covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

Could you get more from your current account?

Many existing accounts pay no interest at all, so with up to 5.0% 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).

Our top three selections

Each account has its own features and criteria, and most usually require a minimum amount to be paid in each month to qualify for the headline interest rate, with different rates being paid for different levels of account balance. Here we take a look at our three most popular high interest current accounts.

5.0% on balances up to £2,500 for 12 months

Nationwide’s FlexDirect is our most popular current account, mainly due to the level of interest it pays on all in-credit balances up to £2,500. The interest rate is 5.0% AER (4.89% gross p.a.) which is fixed for the first 12 months of the account being opened. To receive this rate, you must pay in a minimum of £1,000 per month (excluding internal transfers). There is no monthly account fee, a fee-free overdraft is included for the first 12 months and you can manage your account online or via automated telephone banking. After 12 months the rate reverts to 1.0% AER variable.

Fair Investment view: “The FlexDirect from Nationwide offers a market leading interest rate on balances up to £2,500 although the £1,000 you are required to pay in each month is at the higher end. There is also no monthly account fee, so all of the interest earned goes straight into your pocket. Although the rate drops to 1% variable after the first 12 months, this is still considerably more than most current accounts and not that far off some of the top easy access accounts currently on offer.”

5.0% variable on balances up to £2,000

TSB’s Classic Plus account also offers 5.0% AER (variable) interest, payable on balances up to £2,000. No interest is paid on balances above this amount and although the 5.0% 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 on your first £100 of contactless or Apple Pay payments each month (this offer ends December 2016 and terms and conditions apply).

Fair Investment view: “The 5.0% headline rate matches that from Nationwide’s account although it is a variable rate (rather than fixed) and is paid on a slightly lower account balance of £2,000 – however, the amount you are required to pay in each month is at the lower end of the high interest current accounts available. As with Nationwide’s account, there is no monthly account fee and the fact that the variable interest rate continues without a time limit could make this an attractive option for those looking beyond 12 months.”

Up to 3.0% interest and 3% cashback

The Santander 1|2|3 account combines a competitive rate of interest with the opportunity to receive cashback on a number of your main household bills. You will receive 3.0% AER variable once your balance is at least £3,000, payable on your entire balance up to a maximum of £20,000, with lower rates of interest paid on balances of less than £3,000. Please note that interest paid on the account will change to 1.50% AER on all balances up to £20,000 from 1st November 2016. You can also earn up to 3% cashback on selected household bills such as council tax, gas and electricity, broadband, mobile phones and more. 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.

Fair Investment view: “Because of the way the interest is calculated, this account is likely to appeal to those with higher in credit balances, particular those who regularly have over £3,000 available. For example, if you had £4,167 in your Santander 1|2|3 account, you would earn the same interest as you would be paid on 5.0% AER on a balance of £2,500, whilst this account continues to pay interest on higher credit balances up to £20,000. So if you’ve got savings of £3,000 or more, this account could offer a compelling overall rate of interest, as well as cashback on your monthly bills.”

7-Day Switch

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 Nationwide, Santander and TSB), 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.

To switch or not to switch?

The 7-Day Switch rules 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 – Santander is the only provider in our top three which requires you to have any active direct debits (at least two), and so if maximising interest is your top priority, you could also consider taking one of these accounts out in addition to your existing current account, thereby leaving everything you already have in place. You will of course have to make sure you pay in the minimum amount required each month in order to earn the level of interest on offer.

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 hundreds of thousands of people 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 Nationwide’s FlexDirect account »

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 to compare high interest current accounts »

 

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.

 

Our 10 best last minute ISA ideas

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With just one week to go until the deadline for using your 2015/16 ISA allowance of £15,240, this really is your last opportunity to make use of this valuable tax break and help protect your returns from the taxman. If you are yet to make use of some or all of your allowance, here we give you our 10 best last minute ISA ideas. Including both Cash ISA and Investment ISAs, as well as opportunities where you can include your 2016/17 ISA allowance (£15,240) as well, there should be something for everyone.

1.   Our best-selling Investment ISA

For those looking for growth but also with the opportunity to mature early or ‘kick out’ each year, the Enhanced Kick Out Plan offers 11.50% for each year invested provided the FTSE 100 Index at the end of each year is higher than its value at the start of the plan (subject to averaging). Capital is at risk if the FTSE falls by more than 50%. This is our best selling Investment ISA during the current ISA season and also features a Double ISA option.  Click here for more information »

2.   Fixed income Investment ISA

The Enhanced Income Plan is a regular ISA season top seller, paying a fixed income of 5.28% per year regardless of what happens to the stock market. The plan also has monthly income payments, so you know exactly how much you will paid, when, and for how long. Capital is at risk if the FTSE 100 Index falls by more than 50%. This plan features a Double ISA option.  Click here for more information »

3.   Self-select Investment ISA top seller

Barclays Stockbrokers has been voted ‘Best Execution-Only Broker’ at the Shares Awards 2015 whilst they have also been voted Self Select ISA Provider of the Year 2016 at the ADVFN International Financial Awards. Their investment ISA offers over 2,000 funds as well as a wide range of other investments including shares, exchange traded funds, investment trust, gilts and bonds.  Click here for more information »

4.   Defensive Investment ISA best seller

The Defensive Growth Plan from Investec offers a fixed return of 36% (equivalent to 5.25% compound annual growth) plus a return of your original capital, provided the FTSE 100 Index has not fallen by 50% or more at the end of the investment term. If it has, no growth will be achieved and your capital will be reduced by 1% for each 1% fall. This plan also features a Double ISA option.  Click here for more information »

5.   Income Investment ISA top seller

The FTSE Quarterly Contingent Income Plan pays a quarterly income of 1.875% for each quarter the FTSE 100 Index does not end less than 25% below its value at the start of the plan. So even if the FTSE falls up to 25% each quarter, you would still achieve 7.50% annual income. Capital is at risk if the FTSE has fallen by more than 40% at the end of the investment term. This plan features a Double ISA option.  Click here for more information »

6.   Managed and regular saver Investment ISA

The Standard Life Stocks & Shares ISA includes their ‘Easy Option ISA’, which allows investors to invest in one of their MyFolio Managed Funds run by a team of experts at Standard Life Investment Ltd. You can manage your account online and your ISA can be opened from just £50 per month with transfers from other ISAs permitted.  Click here for more information »

7.   Defensive supertracker Investment ISA

Defensive plans remain popular and the FTSE Defensive Supertracker from Meteor tracks any growth in the FTSE during the plan term and then trebles it, subject to a maximum growth return of 60%. The plan is defensive since the growth is based on any rise above 80% of the FTSE’s value at the start of the plan – that’s a 60% return even if the FTSE ends the same. Capital is at risk if the FTSE has fallen by more than 40%. This plan also features a Double ISA option.  Click here for more information »

8.   Instant access Cash ISA

For savers looking to combine a top interest rate with access to their money at all times, the Easy Access ISA from AA offers a simple, bonus-free savings rate of 1.25% AER variable. The account can be opened and managed online with just £100 and there are unlimited free withdrawals. The account also accepts transfers in. There are no penalties, notice periods or tiered interest rates, whilst interest is calculated daily and paid in March each year.  Click here for more information »

9.   Fixed rate Cash ISA

If you are looking for the reassurance of a fixed savings rate and don’t need access for your money for at least a year, fixed rate Cash ISAs are a popular option. The 1 Year Fixed Rate Cash ISA from AA currently offers 1.35% AER fixed and can be opened with a single deposit of £500. The account also accepts transfers in. Withdrawals are not permitted and 90 days loss of interest will apply if you access your money during the fixed term. You can apply and manage your account online whilst interest is calculated daily and paid at the end of your 12 month fixed rate period.  Click here for more information »

10.  Help to Buy Cash ISA

First time buyers can benefit from a 25% bonus of their Help to Buy ISA balance with a minimum bonus of £400 (so you need at least £1,600 saved) and a maximum of £3,000 (on a savings balance of £12,000) although you can have more saved. That means for every £200 you save HM Government will add £50, up to a maximum of £3,000. Eligibility criteria and Help to Buy: ISA Scheme Rules apply. Also note that any funds withdrawn before closing the account will not count towards the Government Bonus. The Nationwide Help to Buy: ISA is currently offering 2.00% AER variable with a minimum opening balance of £1.  Click here for more information »

 

Click here to compare Cash ISAs »

Click here to compare Investment ISAs »

Click here to compare our Top 10 Investment ISA plans »

 

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. Fair Investment Company does not offer advice and any investment transacted through us in on a non-advised basis. 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.

The value of investments and income from them can fall as well as rise and you may not get back the full amount invested. Different types of investment carry different levels of risk and may not be suitable for all investors. The past performance of the FTSE 100 Index is not a guide to its future performance.

Some of the investments mentioned are structured investment plans that are not capital protected and are 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.

Tax treatment of ISAs depends on your individual circumstances and is based on current law which may be subject to change in the future. ISA transfer charges may apply, please check with your provider.

Savings Focus: RCI Bank’s market leading instant access and fixed rate selections

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RCI Bank is a relative newcomer to the UK, but is currently offering some of the best deals out there. We take a closer look at their story as well as reveal their market leading and award winning instant access account and their top fixed rate bond deals.

RCI Bank

The story behind RCI Bank is a unique one since it originated from the Renault Group, one of the world’s largest car companies. Developed as their own internal bank, RCI Banque was founded in 1974 and was created in order to meet the need to help customers finance their vehicles. Forty years later and the RCI Banque group is still privately owned by the Renault Group and operates in 37 countries across every continent, lending over €12 billion a year. RCI Bank launched in the UK in 2015 in conjunction with RCI Financial Services who combined have over 200 staff and lend over £2 billion each year.

Current selections

Despite only launching earlier this year, RCI Bank already has a compelling range of award-winning products. With a range covering a market leading instant access account and fixed term savings accounts up to two years, the focus is on relatively short term cash, which should appeal to anyone with half an eye on future interest rate rises.

Market leading instant access: offering 1.65% AER

The Freedom Savings Account is currently offering 1.65% AER variable gross, which is market leading for this type of account. This top rate is available to both new and existing customers and is free from notice periods, penalties, bonus periods, tiered rates and fees (although a £15 fee for CHAPS transfers applies). What you see is what you get, which perhaps also explains why it has been given a Moneyfacts rating of Outstanding*.

The account is available as a single or joint account and is free to use so you can make unlimited payments and withdrawals without charge. You have the option of interest being paid monthly or annually which will also compound provided you don’t move it to another account. There’s no limit or fees on the number of withdrawals you can make and it can be opened with a low minimum of just £100. You can apply online and RCI Bank state opening an account takes less than 15 minutes, whilst you also benefit from full UK customer support available 7 days a week

Click here to find out more about the RCI Bank instant access account »

 

RCI Bank short term fixed rate bonds: up to 2.35% AER

For those who are able to tie their money up for a fixed period and are also looking for a competitively priced fixed and regular rate of interest, RCI Bank also offers a duo of fixed rate savings accounts, over one and two years respectively. As you would expect, the rate of interest increases with the fixed term, the 1 year fixed term deposit offering 2.06% AER while the 2 year fixed term deposit is currently paying 2.35% AER. Both accounts have a Moneyfacts rating of Excellent*.

These fixed term deposits offer a guaranteed rate so you’ll know exactly how much you will earn by the end of the fixed term, whilst interest can be paid monthly or annually and can be compounded. Both deposits also give you the flexibility of unlimited top-ups for 30 days from your application however you cannot close your account once opened or make a withdrawal before the end of the term. You can apply online and the account has a low minimum of £1,000.

Click here for more info on the RCI Bank 1 Year Fixed Term Savings Account »

Click here for more info on the RCI Bank 2 Year Fixed Term Savings Account »

 

Deposit Guarantee Scheme

Deposits held with RCI Bank are not covered by the UK Financial Services Compensation Scheme but instead fall within the scope of the French deposit protection scheme, known as the FGDR or Fonds de Garantie Dépôts et de Résolution. Eligible deposits with RCI Bank are protected, and all of the accounts above are covered by the FGDR, protecting the first €100,000 per customer within the RCI Banque group. As with the FSCS, the protection covers each customer rather than each account and for joint customers, each customer is protected up to €100,000 (so up to €200,000 between them). Since the maximum eligible is based in Euros, the UK sterling equivalent at any given time will depend on the exchange rate between the British Pound and the Euro.

Further information – FDGR

Created by law, the FGDR compensates depositors for an amount up to €100,000 per person, per institution, when a banking institution fails. This guarantee benefits all bank customers, private individuals, businesses of any size and associations. For more information and to check their status, visit www.garantiedesdepots.fr/en.

* Moneyfacts awards valid as at 01.10.2015

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

When will interest rates rise and what does this mean for savers?

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As the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) has now held the base rate at 0.5% for over six and half years (the last vote was the 79th month in succession), we take a look at if there is any chance of a rise in sight and what the current outlook might mean for savers.

When will interest rates rise?

One committee member, Ian McCafferty, once again dissented from the other 8 members of the MPC and argued that the base rate should climb by 25 basis points (a quarter of a percent) to counteract any potential risk of inflation leaping beyond the 2% target in the medium term. However, despite Mr McCafferty’s dissension, most economists are still predicting that any rise in the base rate will not occur until early next year, a consensus predominantly based on beliefs that the UK’s growth will improve in its third quarter seeing price inflation rise gradually from the end of 2015.

Bleak outlook

Rather bleakly Bank of England Chief Economist Andy Haldane last month stated that “the case for raising UK interest rates in the current environment is, for me, some way from being made. One reason not to do so is that, were the downside risks I have previously discussed materialise, there could be a need to loosen rather than tighten the monetary reins as a next step to support UK growth and return inflation to target.”

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) also warned at the end of its recent meeting in Lima that central banks risk another crash in the global economy if they do not continue to support growth with low interest rates. The future therefore remains uncertain although any interest rate rise, let alone a rise by more than 0.25 percent, seems very unlikely in the foreseeable future.

Latest inflation figures

The headline rate of UK inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) had been expected to remain at zero when official figures for September were released today (13/10/2015) however, the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics revealed a return to negative inflation as the rate fell to -0.1% today, the main contributors being a smaller than usual rise in the clothing prices and falling motor fuel prices. This will have a direct impact on the annual uprating of some benefits, of particular note the state second pension, which is linked to the September CPI rate.

Unemployment

The unemployment rate in the UK decreased to 5.5% from 5.6% in the previous period. Over the last 12 months employment levels are considerably higher with over 350,000 more in work than in the same time last year, signaling further strength of the labour market. The private sector’s annual pay growth has also risen and now exceeds 3%, however the Bank of England stated “Encouraging improvements in productivity growth have so far limited the impact of that pickup in pay growth on businesses’ overall costs, and therefore inflation.”

Short term view

In their latest report, the MPC stated the UK’s economic growth is experiencing a ‘gentle deceleration’ after peaking in 2014 and that it will ease back if the global economy weakens. However the central bank also reports that pressures in the UK’s labour market have been rising too slowly for inflation to return back to the 2% target, meaning it will likely stay below 1% until at least spring of next year.

Worst case scenario?

Against this economic backdrop, savers must consider that even when interest rates do begin to rise, will this in itself affect savings rates for the good? Certainly the traditional relationship between the Bank of England base rate and savings rates has been severed for some time and there is nothing in the economic outlook that suggests this will restored any time soon.

Savings rates in dire straits

Interest rates fell dramatically from when the Government’s Funding for Lending Scheme came into effect back in August 2012. This gave banks and building societies a cheap source of finance so they are not so reliant on savers to lend them money. Since then, banks and building societies have held a series of cuts to new savers and often, once they find themselves at the top of the best buy tables, they lower their rates to new savers as well.

Market snapshot

Despite the introduction of so called ‘challenger banks’ into the hunt for our hard earned cash, whilst the Bank of England base rate has remained unchanged at 0.5%, interest rates remain at shockingly low levels by historical standards, which continues to pose difficult questions for savers.

Headline returns on fixed rate bonds, the traditional mainstay for many savers’ portfolios, remain poor. Leading one year fixed rate bonds currently offer around 2.10%, two year fixed rates around 2.35%, three year fixed rates around 2.70% and around 3.10% if you can fix for five years. This means that many maturing bond holders are still looking at sizeable falls in income when considering taking out another bond of similar duration.

Savers in trouble

The result is that many have moved away from longer term fixed rates in favour of instant access or short term fixes on the basis that something will happen relatively soon which will then spur them on to take further action. Although understandable, the above economic snapshot highlights this could be a very dangerous strategy indeed.

Consider alternatives

There are a number of alternatives available to traditional fixed rate savings plans. Since the returns are not always guaranteed, these are not for everyone and are unlikely to be the home for your entire savings pot. However, they do offer the potential for higher returns and with the current outlook for savers looking set to create further challenges, could be a worthwhile and timely consideration. Like fixed rate bonds, your initial capital is protected and is eligible for FSCS compensation up to the normal savings limits.

Diversifying savings portfolios to include a wider range of options offers the potential to provide the level of returns savers may need over the longer term. Indeed, with the current spread of low savings rates on offer, this is the only way to attempt to mirror the yields of yester-year, previously offered by the more traditional savings plans.

Weigh up the options

Ultimately, which option or blend of options will depend entirely on your individual circumstances however, these remain unusual and challenging times and traditional savings accounts are currently falling short of meeting the pressures put on saver’s capital by the continuing economic situation. As a minimum we should make sure that all of the options available are weighed up very carefully indeed.

Compare instant access savings »

Compare fixed rate saving »

Compare alternatives to fixed rate savings »

Compare peer to peer savings »


No news, feature article or comment shou
ld 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 plan. If you are at all unsure of the suitability of a particular product, both in respect of its objectives and its risk profile, you should seek independent financial advice.

Summer Sizzlers II: Which Savings are Hot this Summer?

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Updated: 24/08/2015

For those who are looking for fixed rates or alternative savings ideas this summer, there are signs that the market is beginning to hot up by offering more competitive rates and bringing some much needed innovation. In the second of our two part summer feature, we let you know which savings accounts are performing well this summer by giving you our selection of summer sizzlers from the best the market has to offer.

Regardless of how long you can tie up your money, from instant access to long term savings alternatives, there should be something here for everyone from instant access and guaranteed fixed rates, to Cash ISAs and savings alternatives which offer the potential to beat what are still historically low savings rates.

Instant access – up to 1.40% AER variable

If you are looking for an instant access ISA, Nationwide’s Instant ISA Saver is currently paying 1.40% AER variable interest and can be opened by UK residents aged 16 and over from just £1. This simple, flexible account could be an option to consider if you are new to ISAs or are looking for a low-deposit ISA deal that is suitable for a young person over 16 who wants to start saving. For those who are seeking a non-ISA instant access savings deal and would prefer to receive monthly interest, the Online Instant Access Savings Account from State Bank of India offers an interest rate of 1.25% AER variable which is paid on a monthly basis. A minimum deposit of £500 is required to open this savings account.

Click here to find out more about instant access ISAs »

Click here to find out more about instant access savings accounts »

Instant access cash management – up to 1.63% AER variable

Savings Maximiser is a cash management service that compares the best buys from across the market and by regularly reviewing your accounts and making switches if a better rate is available, aims to secure a consistently competitive rate of interest. Aimed at those who want to retain instant access to their money at all times and have at least £25,000 to keep on deposit, the service offers full banking facilities and is simple, secure and saves you time. With the ever increasing number of savings rates on offer, the pace of change to market leading rates and potential interest rate rises on the horizon, this could be a perfect time to consider Savings Maximiser. Current rates available are up to 1.63% AER variable and there is a fixed monthly fee for this service.

Fair Investment view: “The upside to this type of account is that you have instant access to all of your money, whenever you want it, although there are still a few deals where the headline rate includes a bonus after 12 months so you may still need to plan ahead. However, we are also well into our seventh year of record low interest rates and the returns on offer from instant access are still low. With some signs that this may start to pick up, a cash management service which reviews the best rates for you could be a timely opportunity.”

Click here to find out more about Savings Maximiser »

Short term savings – 2.38% AER fixed for 2 years

For those who are able to tie up their money for two years and are also looking for a fixed rate of interest, the 2.38% AER on offer from Access Bank UK’s 2 Year Fixed Rate Bond is market leading. The minimum deposit is £5,000 and interest is paid at maturity. The account can be set up as a single or joint account and access to account information is online or via telephone. As with most fixed term accounts, no early withdrawals are permitted. You can apply online quickly and securely.

Fair Investment view: “A fixed rate bond such as this offers security for your capital, and you know exactly how much you will paid and when, but with savings rates still at some of their lowest levels of all time, even at 2.38% you could find that this type of savings account is offering significantly lower returns than the rates on offer a few years ago.” 

Click here to find out more about the Access Bank UK 2 Year Fixed Rate Bond » 
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Time for savers to face the truth

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For those who are not prepared to risk their capital to try and achieve higher returns, the ability to rely on traditional savings products has never been more challenging. Savers keen to maximise the level of FSCS protection with their capital have only really had a couple of options historically. Either accept a variable rate but have instant access to your savings, or alternatively sacrifice access and receive a higher interest rate depending on how long you are able to tie up your money.

But as savers continue to face significant falls in the level of income available, more and more of us are having to face the truth about just how serious the situation is. So what are you doing with your savings and have you questioned your decisions in the past? Here we take a look at the harsh reality being faced by savers whilst looking at the pros and cons of the options being considered. Our Head of Savings and Investments, Oliver Roylance-Smith, will also offer his own view in the context of the current savings rates on offer and the outlook for the market in the coming years.

‘Tis the season to be jolly…

Unfortunately the start of advent has not brought with it any gifts for savers. Although the plight of savings rates often takes a back seat to the more economically charged debate around when we might see a rise in interest rates, the ongoing situation for savers is a fairly easy one to square off.

The current Bank of England base rate of 0.5% is the lowest it has ever been, and with the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) voting again this month to keep it on hold, we are now in the 68th consecutive month of this record low – that’s’ over 5 and half years…  So if you’ve ever made a decision on your savings based on the hope that interest rates might go up within the next 12 months, you now have a constant reminder of how painful this can be.
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Savings Focus – Investec savings accounts offering up to 3.85% AER fixed

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Investec Bank continues to offer innovative savings plans which combine a competitive interest rate with efficient service and attractive features.  So if you have a minimum of £25,000 to deposit, and you want to take advantage of some of the highest savings rates on the market, their latest range of accounts are certainly worth reviewing. With a range including instant access and fixed terms between 1 and 5 years, there should be something for every saver. All the Investec savings accounts featured below are covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).

Investec E-asy Access – 1.30% AER

The E-asy Access Account pays 1.30% AER variable with interest paid monthly and there is no bonus included in the rate so what you see is what you continue to get. This is a no notice easy access account and so there is no restriction on the number of withdrawals or who you can pay. The account is available as a single or joint account and access to account information is via online and telephone banking. Interest is paid monthly and will therefore compound unless paid away into another account. You can apply online, request further information to be sent to you via email, or have someone from the bank call you back.

Click here to find out more about the Investec E-asy Access Account »
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