Archive for the ‘Savings alternatives’ Category

5 percent fixed for 12 months – our best selling current account…

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Last updated: 25/10/2016

With more and more high interest current account providers announcing reductions to their interest rates, the 5% fixed for 12 months from Nationwide now looks even better than before. Here we take a more detailed look at the pressures savers are facing in these difficult economic conditions, as well as help reveal why the FlexDirect continues to be our best selling current account.

Nationwide FlexDirect account summary

  • 5.0% AER (4.89% gross p.a.) fixed for 12 months
  • Paid on balances up to £2,500, no interest paid above this amount
  • 1.0% AER variable on balances up to £2,500 after 12 months
  • You must pay in £1,000 per month to qualify
  • No requirement to set up direct debits
  • Contactless Visa debit card available
  • 12 month fee-free arranged overdraft available
  • Free text alerts to help you manage your account
  • No monthly account fee
  • Covered by the Current Account Switch Guarantee and Financial Services Compensation Scheme

Savings rates in dire straits

Our market leading instant access account (RCI Bank Freedom Savings Account) is currently paying 1.0% AER variable, whilst our best long term fixed rate (Vanquis 5 Year Fixed Rate Bond) will get you 1.95% AER – that’s an increase of less than 1% per year for tying up your money for five years, albeit the rate from Vanquis is fixed for the full term. Then of course there are a load of accounts offering rates in between these, mainly fixed rate bonds of different durations. It may be repeated far too often, but unfortunately it makes it no less true – savings rates are at record lows – and it would seem this at the very least, this is set to continue, and possibly get even worse.

Inflation into the mix

If record low savings rates weren’t enough to worry about, 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. Since this rise, less than half of all savings accounts are able to match or beat this level, which means many savers are seeing the value of their cash eroded in real terms. According to the Bank of England, the average easy access account now pays under 0.3%, and with further cuts to savings rates on the cards, inflationary rises are a serious cause for concern.

High interest current accounts

Although historically, current accounts offered little if anything in the form of interest on your account balance this has changed significantly in the last few years, and against this harsh economic backdrop for savers, it is hardly surprising that the high headline rates of interest on offer have made compelling reading. Indeed, high interest current accounts have been one of the most popular safe havens for those looking to combine all of the usual account features you would expect from a full banking service with a highly competitive rate.

5% fixed for 12 months

Top of the rate table is Nationwide’s FlexDirect account which offers 5.0% AER (4.89% gross p.a.) fixed for the first 12 months. This rate is paid on all in-credit balances up to £2,500 and you must pay in a minimum of £1,000 per month to qualify (this excludes internal transfers). After 12 months the rate reverts to 1.0% AER variable. There is no monthly account fee, and with top rates on instant access and fixed term deposits ranging between 1.0% and 1.95%, it is easy to see why this account has attracted so much attention.

Others falling short

TSB Bank also offers 5.0% AER but this is variable and is only paid on balances up to £2,000, rather than the £2,500 on offer from Nationwide. The rate is, however, paid ongoing rather than for a fixed period of 12 months. But TSB has recently announced that with effect from 4th January 2017, the rate will reduce to 3.0% AER variable and will only be paid on balances up to £1,500. This follows in the footsteps of Santander who announced back in August that the 3% top tier interest rate on its flagship 1|2|3 Account would be halved to 1.50%, taking effect from 1st November this year. Lloyds has also announced that the rate on their Club Lloyds current account will halve from 4% to 2% in January 2017.

So whilst Nationwide’s main competitors are reducing their rates, this makes the FlexDirect offering even more competitive, especially since the rate is fixed for the first 12 months. Currently we are not aware that Nationwide has any plans to reduce its rate, although they state their rates are constantly under review.

Fair Investment view

Commenting on the account, Oliver Roylance-Smith, head of savings and investments at Fair Investment Company said; “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 compared to other current accounts offering competitive interest rates. 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 other current accounts and on a par with some of the top instant access accounts currently on offer. With the Current Account Switch Guarantee running alongside, there really is no excuse to finding out more.

Santander still the top choice on larger balances

With effect from 1st November, Santander’s 1|2|3 account offers 1.50% AER variable on all balances up to £20,000. If you were to compare this with the best instant access accounts on offer, it would be a clear market leader, albeit with the cap on the amount you can earn interest on. 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 also a £5 monthly account fee, which may be cancelled out if you make the most of the cashback on offer – their site has a simple calculator to help you work out how much cashback and interest you might earn, versus this monthly cost.

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 tax payers 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).

An important part to play for savers?

Even with the Personal Savings Allowance, there is no doubt that every penny counts in these days of record low rates, creeping inflation and economic pressures all round, and so the returns on offer from the best high interest current accounts cannot be ignored. 5% on £2,500 equates to £125. Our market leading instant access currently offers 1.0% and so you would need £12,500 in that account to achieve the same level of return. Although these are first and foremost current accounts, they also have every right to be considered amongst the range of options for savers.

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 and Santander), 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 offer peace of mind to anyone considering a switch from their current account provider. However, you don’t necessarily have to switch your current account – although Santander requires you to have at least two active direct debits, Nationwide does not 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.

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). As a minimum, these accounts should be considered an important contributor to the overall returns from your savings.


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 »


Please note that all rates and charges quoted are subject to change.

Overdrafts are only open to customers aged 18 or over and are subject to approval.

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.

Savings Focus: Investec Retirement Deposit Plan offering 3.75% each year

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Last updated: 08/11/2016

There’s no denying that the outlook for traditional Cash ISAs at the moment is bleak. Not only are savings rates at rock bottom, but banks don’t really want the additional cost of having to run the Cash ISA tax wrapper that goes with it – most high street banks simply do not want your Cash ISA money – and therefore for those that do, they only need to offer a low rate of interest to get it. For those looking for alternatives, this new launch Cash ISA from Investec Bank plc offers an interesting way to receive tax efficient withdrawals each year, combined with the potential to receive back an amount equal to your initial deposit at the end of the fixed term. Here we take a closer look to see how it stacks up.

Traditional Cash ISAs offering low returns

The banking and economic environment continue to create challenges for savers, brought about in the main by the impact of record low interest rates on our savings and our future. The current market for traditional Cash ISAs still offers some of the lowest rates ever seen. In fact, you are hard pushed to get much over 1.50% in return for tying up your money for five years, which is why many looking for a fixed rate are considering shorter term options.

Currently our most popular deals come from Aldermore Bank, paying 0.95% AER, 1.15% AER and 1.20% AER on their 1, 2 and 3 year fixed rates respectively. You can save from £1,000 and can transfer existing ISAs. Our leading instant access account is the AA Cash ISA Easy Access, paying 0.75% AER variable.

Cash ISA alternative – potential for higher returns

By linking the amount of capital that is returned to you at the end of the plan to the FTSE 100 Index, this structured deposit plan offers the potential for higher returns than those that are available from more traditional products such as fixed rate Cash ISAs. So the upside is the potential for higher returns, whilst the downside is that since your return is linked to the performance of the UK stock market, unlike a fixed rate it is not guaranteed. This is the trade off for the opportunity to receive higher overall returns.

Fixed payments of 3.75% each year

The Investec FTSE 100 Retirement Deposit Plan has a fixed term of 6 years and pays a fixed payment of 3.75% each year, paid to you regardless of what happens to the FTSE 100 Index. Over the six year term this equates to 22.5%.

Capital returned at the end of the plan

The aim of the plan is to withdraw fixed annual payments from your initial deposit over 6 years, and repay the remainder of your initial deposit plus an additional return at maturity. The amount of capital returned at the end of the plan therefore, is either the remaining 77.5% of your initial deposit, or the remaining 77.5% plus an additional return of 22.5%.

This additional return is paid provided the FTSE 100 is higher than 90% of its level at the start of the plan, so the Index could have fallen up to 10% and you would still receive this additional return. If the FTSE has fallen by 10% or more, the amount returned to you will only equal the remaining amount of your initial deposit (i.e. no growth will be achieved).

‘Defensive’ feature

Since the additional return on offer is dependent on the performance of the FTSE 100 Index, the defensive feature of the plan is an important one to understand. Rather than the Index having to finish higher than its value at the start of the plan, the Index can fall up to 10% and the fixed return of 22.5% is still paid.

The use of averaging

When calculating the final level of the FTSE 100 Index the plan takes the average of the closing levels of the Index on each business day during the last 6 months of the plan term. The use of averaging can reduce the adverse effects of a falling market or sudden market falls whilst it can also reduce the benefits of an increasing market or sudden increases in the market during the last six months of the plan.

Returns compared

The 3.75% annual payment is well over double any fixed rate on offer from a traditional Cash ISA. However, it is important to remember that in the case of a traditional fixed rate Cash ISA, your initial deposit is always returned in full at the end of the fixed term. Although the annual payments from the Investec plan are fixed and paid each year, it is only if the additional return is paid at the end of the plan term would you be better off overall.

Capital protection

Since the plan is a structured deposit you will receive the remainder of your initial deposit back in full at the end of the six year term regardless of what happens to the FTSE 100 Index, and as long as the deposit taker for the plan, Investec Bank Plc, is able to repay your money. The bank’s ability to stay solvent and repay your capital is known as counterparty risk and is the same risk you take with any capital deposited with an institution with a UK banking licence.

In the event that Investec is unable to meet its liabilities, this deposit plan is eligible for Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) protection. Therefore, eligible depositors could be entitled to claim up to £75,000 per person.

Investec Bank plc profile

Investec is an international specialist bank and asset manager with its main operations in the UK and South Africa. Established in 1974, they currently employ around 9,000 people and as at 31st March 2016, look after £121.7 billion of customer assets. They provide a range of financial products and services and specialise in a number of areas, particularly within the banking sector. Their banking operation looks after £24.0 billion of customer deposits and they are also a market leading provider of investment plans and structured deposits in the UK.

Cash ISA only

Please note that this plan is only available as a Cash ISA. The plan also accepts ISA transfers, from both Cash ISAs and Stocks & Shares ISAs and has a minimum deposit of £3,000 and the maximum deposit for a new current year ISA (2016/17) is the ISA limit of £15,240.

Fair Investment view

Commenting on the plan, Oliver Roylance-Smith, head of savings and investment at Fair Investment Company Limited, said: “There’s no getting around the fact that the rates on offer from traditional Cash ISA savings products remain at record lows, and this looks set to continue. This is a real challenge for savers. By combining capital protection, fixed annual payments and the potential for an additional 22.5% return at maturity, this new launch from Investec offers an interesting alternative. The best long term fixed rate Cash ISAs are currently only offering a little over 1.50%, so if this plan pays the growth return at maturity, your overall return will be well over double these top deals.”

He continued: “Both are treated the same for FSCS purposes (up to the usual deposit scheme limits) but unlike the fixed rate Cash ISA, the maturity payment on the Investec plan is dependent on the FTSE and is not therefore guaranteed. So if you are prepared to sacrifice a guaranteed rate of interest, then the potential higher returns on offer could be appealing in the current economic climate.”

This plan is open now for new ISA deposits up to the £15,240 allowance for the current tax year (2016/17), as well as Cash ISA and Stocks & Shares ISA transfers. The minimum investment is £3,000.


Click here for more information about the Investec FTSE 100 Retirement Deposit 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 deposit plan that is capital protected. There is a risk that the company backing the plan or any company associated with the plan may be unable to repay your initial capital and any returns stated. In this event you may be entitled to compensation from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), depending on your individual circumstances. In addition, you may not get back the full amount of your initial deposit 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.

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