Posts Tagged ‘interest rates’

How to tackle inflation with your savings and investment strategy

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The latest figures reported by the Office for National Statistics show that inflation reached a five year high of 3% in the 12 months to the end of September. This rate is 1% above the Bank of England’s target and is likely to continue to rise, as the Bank predicts that inflation will likely reach 3.2% when October’s figures are released later this month. This rapid rise in the level of inflation has also contributed to the Bank of England raising their base interest rate for the first time in 10 years, from 0.25% to 0.5%.

Increasing inflation and interest rate hikes can be a dangerous combination, and as the cost of living for many will rise, so we will also start to ask more of our capital than we have done for some time. The increased demand for more income and/or capital growth may make investors evaluate their financial position and review their savings and investment portfolio. So here we take a look at some of the main factors to consider when considering a change of strategy.

Savings and Investment Strategy

Whether you have just started saving, or you already have an amount of capital built up over the years, it is understood that spreading your money across a number of different areas and products in order to diversify your risk, is a better strategy than putting all your eggs in one basket. A mixture of instant access, fixed rate bonds and investment plans may therefore provide a useful framework for a savings and investment strategy.

Instant Access

For many savers and investors, putting a percentage of their capital into an instant access account may be an essential part of a diversified portfolio. These accounts normally provide a variable rate of interest (which may or may not include an introductory bonus) and usually offer unlimited withdrawals, which can be made without the need to give any notice period. One of the advantages of an instant access account is that your capital is not at risk, and this is one of the main reasons these accounts are used, with most accounts also falling within the FSCS.

Although this combination of flexibility and capital protection are attractive features, it should be noted that the best instant access account interest rates on the market, such as the 1.30% AER variable from RCI Bank’s Freedom Savings Account, are still significantly below the rate of inflation. Indeed, at 3.0% this account doesn’t even pay half the prevailing rate.

Fixed rate bonds

A fixed rate bond is an account where your capital is locked away for a set period of time, during which you are not able to access your cash. The term is known and selected at the outset, and is normally in the range of one to five years. For many years, fixed rate bonds were the corner stone of many saver’s cash portfolio.

In return for tying up your money, fixed rate bonds usually offer the saver higher interest rates than are generally on offer from instant access accounts, for example, Vanquis Bank’s 5 Year Fixed Rate Bond is currently paying 2.40% AER fixed. Since the rate is fixed, it is a guaranteed not to change for the term of the bond, whilst some bonds also allow you to choose the frequency of your interest payment, for example monthly or annually.

However, it is also important to note that even the best fixed rate bonds on the market do not provide interest rates higher than 2.5%. Therefore, with inflation currently running at 3.0%, even a long term commitment of five years would fail to allow the value of your money to keep up with the rise in the cost of living.

Cash falling short

Instant access and Fixed Rate Bonds are both cash accounts, which means that your capital is protected and returned in full when you either transfer your instant access account, or your fixed rate bond comes to the end of its term. The only risk to you not receiving your capital back is that the bank becomes insolvent, although most of these accounts are covered by the UK FSCS or a European equivalent.

However, we have also revealed that based on the current rate of 3% inflation, none of these accounts beat inflation, and so there is the additional risk with cash in that your money is losing value in real terms. Cash therefore is not without its own risks.

Investment Plans

As you can see, long gone are the days where cash products alone can generate enough interest and income for savers to effectively grow their capital whilst hedging against inflation. In an attempt to replicate some of the returns of yester-year, more and more savers are having to consider  taking on more risk. One way  to access potentially higher returns is by investing in Investment plans.

This type of plan offers a defined return (either an income, fixed or variable, or capital growth), for a defined level of risk (normally aligned to the performance of an underlying stock market index, e.g. the FTSE 100 Index.

Investment plan features

One of the main reasons for considering an investment is the potential for the attractive headline rates on offer. There are a wide range  of investment plans to choose from in today’s market and all of them  aim to provide the investor with the opportunity to access returns higher than the current rate of inflation. Two popular examples of income investment plans are the Investec FTSE 100 Defensive Income Plan offering investors with 7.25% annual income, and Investec’s FTSE 100 Enhanced Income Plan paying a fixed income of 4.35% per year. These plans normally have a term of between 5 and 10 years which is known at the outset, prior to investing.

A feature which is unique to investment plans is that they offer conditional capital protection. This means that your capital is returned at the end of the term unless the underlying investment, usually the FTSE 100 index, falls by more than fixed percentage below its value at the start of the plan. This percentage is normally in the region of 30% to 50% and so investors may still receive a full return of their capital even if the market falls up to 50%. However, if the Index has fallen below the fixed percentage, you will lose the amount the Index has fallen, so you could lose some or all of your initial investment.

Savings and Investment Portfolio Example

In this example we take a product from each of the three areas covered above (instant access, fixed rate bond and investment plans) to show you how a combination of cash and investment plans can keep your capital producing income which is in line with the current rate of 3.0% inflation. Targeting a five-year timeframe, based on a savings and investment portfolio of £100,000, the capital is split as follows:

  • £15,000 into RCI Bank’s Freedom Savings Account, paying 1.30% AER variable
  • £45,000 into Vanquis Bank’s Five Year Fixed Rate Bond, paying 2.40% AER fixed for five years
  • £40,000 into Investec’s FTSE 100 Enhanced Income Plan, paying 4.35% p.a. fixed for five years

RCI Bank and Vanquis Bank both have a monthly income option, whilst Investec’s plan pays monthly as well. RCI’s Freedom Savings Account has no fixed term whilst the other two both have a fixed term of five years.

Income achieved

Based on the above investments, the cash part of the portfolio would achieve £1,275 per year (£160.25 per month). The investment part of the portfolio would achieve £1,740 per year (£145 per month) and would be fixed for five years.

Combined, this equates to £3,015 per year (3.015% yield) or £251.25 per month, most of which would be fixed for five years except the £195 from the instant access account which could go up or down over the next five years, although you should note that any changes to the RCI Bank rate are passed on to existing customers as well as new customers. By comparison, if the investor placed all of the £100,000 into the RCI instant access account, they would only receive £1,300 per year in interest.

Treatment of capital

£60,000 would be in cash based savings accounts, with Vanquis Bank deposits eligible for the UK’s FSCS protection up to the £85,000 limit, whilst deposits held with RCI Bank are eligible for the French deposit protection scheme (the FGDR), which protects the first €100,000 per customer.

The Investec plan puts your capital at risk, with a return of your initial £40,000 dependent on the performance of the FTSE 100 Index. Your capital is returned at the end of the five years unless the FTSE has fallen by more than 40% from its value at the start of the plan. If it has, your initial capital will be reduced by 1% for each 1% fall – therefore you could lose some or all of your original £40,000 investment.

In conclusion

The above savings and investment example combines cash and investment products to give an annual yield of just over 3%, the majority of which (85%) is fixed for five years, thereby offering a high degree of predictable income of a fixed timeframe. 60% of the portfolio is in cash and so is capital protected, whilst 40% is invested and so puts your capital at risk.

Whatever you decide to do when reviewing your current savings and investments or considering options for a new investment, taking a view on inflation, what might happen to it in the future, and most importantly the impact this will have on your capital, are all sensible places to start.

 

Click here to compare Instant Access Accounts »

Click here to compare Fixed Rate Bonds »

Click here to compare Fixed Rate investments »

Click here to compare Investment 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. 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 investment plans mentioned are structured investment plans that put your capital at risk 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. The past performance of the FTSE 100 Index is not a guide to its future performance. These investments do not include the same security of capital which is afforded to deposit accounts.

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

What does an interest rate rise mean for me?

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Inflation continues at its highest rate in four years, which also means that it continues at a level way above the Bank of England’s 2% target. Despite the Bank’s indication that they will raise interest rates as early as November, any such hike is likely to coincide with further increases to the cost of living, whilst there is no certainty whatsoever that it will also contribute towards an increase in the amount of interest paid on savings accounts. Here we review the affects that rising inflation and a potential interest rate increase may have.

Soaring Inflation

The figures released last month by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed August’s inflation rate reached 2.9%, which equals a four year high in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). To make matters worse, it has been reported by the Organisation For Economic Co-Operation and Development, that the UK has the highest inflation rate in the world’s top economies, including the US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.

Not only do the inflation figures seem bleak, but many forecast them to get worse. The CPI predicts that the inflation figures will climb to at least 3% by the end of 2017. The Bank of England share the same view, as their Inflation Report in August suggested that inflation could reach 3% as early as the end of October. The figures for the 12 months to September are due on 17th October.

Interest Rate On The Rise?

In light of the recent increases to the headline rate of inflation, the Bank of England has spent some time considering the present position of the official base rate. The Bank of England’s Governor Mark Carney says that they are close to raising the base rate from 0.25% to 0.5% in November, provided “there is no sudden and unexpected deterioration in economic data”.

The Bank of England’s chief economist Mr Andrew Haldane also predicts that there will be a hike to the interest rate in November, stating that it would be a positive move to get interest rates back to normal “even if the new normal is different to the old normal”. Mr Haldane added that he sees this as “a sign that the economy is recovering”.

Although it may seem reassuring that the Bank of England feel confident enough to raise interest rates as early as November, there is an uncertainty as to how this will affect households in the UK. One of the major concerns for homeowners is how an interest hike will affect their mortgage payments.

Interest Rates Affecting Mortgages

Statistics released by the Bank of England state that 43% of homeowner mortgages are variable or tracker rate mortgages. Those on a tracker mortgage will see any interest rate increase passed directly on to them since these are usually pinned to the Bank of England’s base rate directly. Those on other types of variable rates may also have some or all of the increase added to their annual interest rate, depending on the product and the lender. As an example, on an average mortgage of £125,000 with a remaining term of 20 years, an increase of 0.25% would increase monthly payments by £15 to £665. That would amount to an extra £185 per year.

The remaining 57% of homeowners with a mortgage are on fixed rate mortgages and so will be unaffected by any interest rate rise, at least until their initial fixed rate period ends, at which point they will revert to their bank’s Standard Variable Rate and as such may well be directly affected by interest rate rises.

What This Could Mean For Savings Accounts

An interest hike of 0.25% could possibly provide a positive effect on the rates provided by savings accounts however the likelihood of this actually happening, or at least happening quickly, is very low indeed. The Bank’s base rate is only one factor that contributes towards the general level of savings rates in the UK, and since we have seen record low savings rate whilst the base rate was at 0.50%, an increase back to this level is very unlikely to create any material increase in the savings rates on offer.

What is perhaps more worrying is that even if the full 0.25% was added to every savings account in the market, not even the best five year fixed rate would offer a level of interest that is close to matching the current rate of inflation, let alone beat it.

Time For A Change Of Strategy For Savers?

Therefore, even if the interest hike goes ahead as predicted, we will still see increasing pressure on UK households as mortgage payments will increase, but there will still be no savings accounts that will be able to get anywhere near the current rate of inflation. What’s more, with inflation forecasted to increase further towards the end of the year, there appears to be only one outcome for the foreseeable future – savers will lose money in real terms. As such, it may be time for a change of strategy.

Savers who want to try and avoid losing money in real terms may wish to consider capital at risk investment plans. These products provide savers with the opportunity to receive competitive rates of interest that could potentially combat the effect of increasing inflation. The trade off for potentially higher returns is that your initial capital is at risk.

Capital At Risk Products

With a capital at risk investment plan the capital is not invested directly into the stock market, but the potential returns are generally linked to the performance of the FTSE 100 Index. This allows them to offer the opportunity to generate competitive rates of return, especially when compared to fixed term bonds.

An example of one of the investment plans is the FTSE Enhanced Income Plan. This plan provides a fixed monthly income, which is paid regardless of the performance of the stock market, however it is important to note that the return of the initial capital invested is dependent on what happens to the FTSE 100 Index.

Click here to find out more about the Enhanced Income Plan »

Risk Versus Reward

When considering a capital at risk investment plan, it is important to bear in mind that they only offer conditional protection to the capital initially invested. This means that your capital is returned unless the FTSE falls by more than a certain percentage, normally in the region of 40% to 50%. Therefore, when it comes to capital at risk products, there is always a question of risk versus reward.

The principle of risk versus reward means that the search for higher returns than those available from cash, usually leads to the need to consider putting your capital at risk. A good benchmark for assessing any such investment is to compare what you could get from a fixed rate deposit over a similar time frame, and then consider whether you are prepared to accept the level of risk to your capital in return for potentially higher levels of interest.

In Conclusion

The effect of the Bank of England’s interest rate increase along with the possibility of a further increase to inflation cannot be ignored. The hike in interest rates will result in more expensive mortgage payments, whilst savings rate are likely to continue to offer rates that fall well short of the rising cost of living.

Therefore, the trade off with savings accounts is that although they do provide you with capital protection, the interest paid remains behind inflation and so savers face losing money in real terms as a result. Investment plans may provide an opportunity for returns that combat inflation, however, it is important to fully understand all of the risks involved before considering putting your capital at risk.

Click here to compare Instant Access Accounts »

Click here to compare Fixed Rate Bonds »

Click here to compare Fixed Rate Investments »

Click here to compare Investment 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. 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 fixed income investment mentioned 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. This investment does not include the same security of capital which is afforded to deposit accounts.

Inflation falls but what does this really mean for savers?

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Figures launched today reveal that UK inflation fell to 2.6% from its five year high of 2.9% the previous month. However, despite this fall, there is gathering consensus that it could rise again in the second half of this year. This latest level also means that inflation is still well above the 2% target set by the Bank of England, and so it remains as important as ever to review your options in light of the impact inflation can have on your hard earned cash.  We take a closer look at what the latest rate of inflation really means when making decisions around our savings and investments.

Inflation latest

UK inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), dropped unexpectedly today to 2.6% according to the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS). This represents a fall of 0.3% from its previous five year high of 2.9% in the previous month – its highest level since April 2012. The rate has climbed gradually following a period of very low inflation during 2015. The latest figures provided by the CPI show there has been an increase of almost 2% over the last 12 months.

And yet despite this latest reduction, the forecast for inflation for the remainder of the year does not look bright either. Paul Hollingsworth, a UK economist at Capital Economics, explains that “it takes time for rises in producer prices to feed through to prices in the shops … we think that CPI inflation will rise a bit further in the second half of the year, peaking at about 3.2% in the fourth quarter.” Though Mr Hollingsworth accepts that inflation is likely to drop back down in 2018, the UK will feel the pinch in the second half of 2017.

The future for interest rates

In June the Bank of England predictably decided to keep interest rates at their record low of 0.25%. However, what was not so predictable was the fact that three Bank of England policymakers wanted to raise interest rates. In addition, Andy Haldane, Chief Economist and the Executive Director of Monetary Analysis and Statistics at the Bank of England, reportedly proposed that the Bank should increase rates “at a gradual pace and to a limited extent”. So although interest rates remain low, the deeper split with the Bank of England’s committee illustrates a potential rise in the near future and perhaps sooner than you might think. Whether the latest fall to the headline rate of inflation will dampen this sentiment we will have to wait and see.

Pressures mounting on households

Though, for right now, the status quo remains the same. The lowest interest rate on record coupled with relatively high levels of inflation when taking a five year view, is a combination which will make life difficult for the average UK household. Despite recent reports from the ONS that unemployment fell, wage growth is slipping to 1.8 per cent. Weak wage growth and high inflation rates means less disposable income for households, making it harder for the average UK household to make ends meet, let alone put enough money into their savings.

Impact on saving

Higher headline rates of inflation are always bad news for savers as the value of the money they hold in their accounts is eroded more quickly. The knock-on effect of higher inflation is that savings accounts will not pay enough interest to beat inflation, and this is already the case.

Whatever happens to future interest rates, with inflation currently running at 2.6%, basic rate taxpayers with the full Personal Savings Allowance available need to achieve at least this rate to match inflation, whilst taxpayers without the Personal Savings Allowance need to achieve at least 3.25% and higher rate taxpayers considerably more. A review of the savings rates we currently have on offer shows rates of around 1.25% AER on instant access, 1.70% AER and 1.90% AER for one and two year fixed rates respectively, around 2.20% AER for a three year fixed rate and 2.42% AER if you fix for five years.

This means there are no cash savings products currently on offer that get anywhere close to the rate of inflation, ensuring that with deposit based savings, you are losing money in real terms.

Always compare

Regardless of what inflationary pressure there is, the best course of action is to check the amount of interest paid on all of your savings and then take the time to compare your current savings accounts with what is currently available in the market. Even though savings rates do not currently stack up against inflation, if you want to maintain full capital protection with your money there are limited alternative options out there. But making sure the cash deals you do have are competitive has to be priority number one.

Lose money in real terms versus taking on more risk

The risk of doing nothing is that your money is losing value in real terms for the entire time that the interest rate paid is less than inflation. Due to the amount that savers have to earn to match inflation, it may be time for a change of strategy in relation to your savings. But whilst the combination of low savings rates and the potential for continuing 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 cash based products.

Beating inflation by putting your capital at risk

By putting your capital at risk you open up opportunities for potentially higher returns which in turn could combat any future rises to inflation. Although most investments only offer a variable income, the fixed monthly income available from Investec’s FTSE 100 Enhanced Income Plan has been a very popular choice with our investors. The current issue pays 0.3625% per month (equivalent to 4.35% per year) and has a five year fixed term. This plan is available as an ISA and also accepts ISA transfers and non-ISA investments. 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 40%.

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 40%, 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 should the bank default.

In conclusion …

Whatever route you decide to take, there is no escaping the impact of continuing low savings rates and falling income levels, all to be compounded by the prospect of inflation continuing well above the level of interest paid on savings accounts. 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 is 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.

Savings Focus: Ulster Bank launches market leading instant access

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Ulster Bank’s latest release of their eSavings instant access account has made a firm statement to the savings market in the UK – to be market leading. Whilst RCI Bank has long been at the forefront of instant access rates with their popular Freedom Savings Account, Ulster Bank looks set to give them a run for their money, so here we take a closer look at what this simple and yet highly competitive account has to offer.

Market leading rate: 1.25% AER Variable

The most impressive feature of the account is the rate. Ulster Bank’s eSavings account is currently offering 1.25% AER variable gross, which is market leading for an instant access account in the UK.

Earning you more

According to the Bank of England*, the average instant access account is currently paying only 0.15%, and so there are hundreds of thousands of savers out there who could benefit from the rate currently on offer from the eSavings account. Assuming a balance of £50,000, this account would pay £625 per year compared to just £75 from the average account – that’s an additional £550 per year.

One simple rate

Unlike other accounts, there are no bonus periods or tiered interest rates, just one simple market leading rate across all of your balance. Interest is calculated daily, and paid on the last business day of the month.

No minimum – start saving from just £1

There is no minimum deposit required to open the account, so you start saving from just £1. Although there is a maximum balance, this is set at £5m so should not affect many.

Instant access

The eSavings account is an instant access savings account which means that you can withdraw money at any time and no notice is required. You can withdraw money by online transfer, via the mobile app or through telephone banking. There are daily withdrawal limits in place, which are currently £20,000 per working day for payments made via online banking, and £10,000 per working day via telephone banking. You are able to transfer more than your daily limit by sending your instruction in writing.

Managing your account

You can manage your account online through Anytime Internet Banking, by telephone banking or via the mobile app. You must register for the Anytime Internet Banking service to manage your account via online, telephone or on the mobile app.

Available to all

Provided you are aged 18 or over and a UK resident, this account is open to all savers, both new and existing customer of Ulster Bank.

Easy to apply

The account has to be opened online but only takes a few minutes to apply.

Financial Services Compensation Scheme

Ulster Bank Limited is part of the Royal Bank of Scotland group and is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. As a UK regulated bank, it is also a member of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS). The Scheme can pay compensation to customers if they are eligible and Ulster Bank Limited is unable to pay claims against it, for example if it ceases to trade or becomes insolvent. The scheme will cover up to £85,000 per person for money held on deposit. For further information about this protection you can read ‘How FSCS protects your money’ or you can visit the FSCS website.

 

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

 

* Bank of England average quoted household interest rates for instant access savings, 7th June 2017

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 rate is the interest rate you are paid without the deduction of income tax. The account does not deduct tax from the interest paid. The tax treatment may be subject to change in the future and depends on your individual circumstances.

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.

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.

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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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The Investor’s Guide to Kick Out Plans

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It seems that regardless of the prevailing economic conditions, the kick out investment continues to be a popular choice with investors. Although not yet a mainstream investment when compared with investment funds, the defined return and defined risk on offer from this fixed term investment seems to make them particularly sought after when the market is at historically high levels and investors are finding it difficult to commit. We take a closer look at the kick out plan to try and understand why their popularity has continued to rise in recent years. We also consider how this might make for an attractive opportunity in the current investment climate as well as review some of the recent market trends.

Kick out investments hitting the mark

The defined return for a defined level of risk has made the structured investment an attractive addition to the range of investment options available, whilst in recent years the kick out plan has been the stand out of this type of investment in terms of popularity. Capable of adapting its structure in line with market conditions and investor demands, the inherent flexibility in how these plans can be put together is perhaps one of the main reasons for their continuing popularity, seemingly hitting the mark with a wide range of investors.

What is a kick out investment?

Kick out investments, also known as autocall investments, are fixed term investments that have the potential to mature early or ‘kick out’ provided that a predefined event takes place. This will usually be a set of predefined market conditions which need to be met in order for the investment to mature early, such as a particular barrier on a set observation date. Kick out investments are therefore linked to the performance of an underlying investment, often a stock market index such as the FTSE 100 or sometimes a small number of FTSE 100 listed shares. If the required conditions are met, the plan automatically matures early or ‘kicks out’, returning your original capital along with the defined returns offered at the outset. Should this event fail to occur, the plan keeps going to subsequent trigger anniversaries (often annually) or until the end of the fixed term. The investor therefore has the benefit of knowing at outset the conditions that need to be met in order to provide the stated returns, thus providing a defined return for a defined amount of risk.

When considering which kick out investment might meet your needs, it is important to review and compare the differences between the various plans available. Here are some of the main features to consider.

Headline return

The headline return on offer is understandably the investor’s initial focus when reviewing an investment. These are defined returns which are paid depending on the performance of the underlying investment. The headline return is normally an annual return expressed as a percentage, which is then multiplied by the number of years invested should the investment mature early or at the end of the term. It is important to note that these returns are not compounded, for example if the headline rate is 9% and the investment kicks out at the end of year 3, the growth return paid will be 27% (plus a return of your original investment).

The level of return on offer should be compared to risk free returns, perhaps those readily available from holding cash for a similar period of time. This will allow the investor to consider whether they are prepared to put their capital at risk in order to achieve the potential upside.
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2015 Cash and Investment ISA selections

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With time running out to meet the 5th April end of tax year deadline, we bring you our selection of some of the best Cash and Investment ISAs available. We also include some alternative options for those who are seeking the potential for a higher return while still protecting their money, as well as our best-selling fixed income investment, for those considering investing their existing ISAs or new ISA allowance.

New ISA Rules – Save up to £15,000 in your cash ISA

As a result of new ISA rules which came into effect on 1st July 2014, your ISA allowance for the current 2014/15 tax year is £15,000. You can put some or all of this allowance into an Investment ISA, or some or all of the allowance into a Cash ISA. Bear in mind that that these allowances are per person, so a couple can put up to £30,000 in total into a cash ISA before the end of the tax year. Make sure you remember the most important end of tax year deadline which is midnight on 5th April. Note that many ISA providers will need your application – and possibly your cleared funds – before this date and that some ISA plans have an earlier deadline for ISA transfers.

2015 Cash ISA selections

Instant access Cash ISA selection

If you want to be able to access your money in an instant, the NatWest Instant Access Cash ISA offers a rate of 1.00% (variable) on balances of over £25,000, and a rate of 0.50% (variable) on balances below £25,000. Interest is paid monthly, and transfers in are permitted, meaning that if you transfer in cash from previous years’ ISA you may well be eligible for the higher 1.00% rate as your total amount held may be greater than £25,000. The account is easy to manage in branch, by phone and online, and is open to UK residents aged 16 and over.

Click here to compare other instant access cash ISA options »

Medium term Cash ISA selection

For those looking for a medium-term ISA option, the Aldermore 3 Year Fixed Rate Cash ISA offers a return of 2.20% (gross) with a minimum deposit of £1,000. Interest is calculated daily and can be paid either monthly or annually. Transfers from other ISA providers are available, and the account can be managed by phone, by post or online. You can withdraw cash early if you need to, but be aware that to do so means that you will be subject to loss of interest.

Click here to compare other medium term fixed rate Cash ISA options »
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