Page last updated at 11:05 GMT, Thursday, 10 May 2007 12:05 UK

Q&A: Interest rate rise and you


Interest rates have risen again.

This is the fourth time the Bank of England (BoE) has raised rates since last summer as it looks to rein in inflation.

With rates now at 5.5%, many home owners will be facing higher mortgage repayments, while credit card debts may also cost more.

Savers, however, should be looking forward to better returns.

How will my mortgage be affected?

The quarter of a percentage point rise may not sound much, but with four rate rises since last summer, you may now be feeling the pinch.

Each quarter of a percentage point rise raises the cost of a 100,000 repayment mortgage by between 15 and 20.

Factor in four interest rate rises and this can really add up.

In recent years, more Britons have chosen mortgages where the interest rate is fixed for several years instead of variable rate deals, which are very susceptible to Bank of England base rate moves.

Thousands of these fixed-rate deals are now coming to an end.

As a result, large numbers of people with expiring fixed-rate deals could be in for a nasty shock, as they suddenly find that the amount of money they have to repay shoots up.

I am a saver. How will I benefit?

Well, the rate that you receive on your savings is likely to rise.

However, it is unclear when that will happen - and by how much.

Banks and other lenders tend to wait a while before passing on the benefit of higher interest rates to their customers.

Last year, research by BBC News and the financial information group Moneyfacts showed many lenders had not been passing on the benefits in full, either.

In some cases, banks do not pass on rate rises at all.

1,000 saved: 2.50 increase
10,000 saved: 25 increase
50,000 saved: 125 increase
Source: Moneyfacts

The ING group caused an uproar last year when it said that it would keep savings rates on hold, because customers appreciated "consistency" over rates.

The advice from money experts is to watch your savings account provider like a hawk.

If they fail to pass on the whole rate rise, shop around for a better deal or an account which promises to track moves in the BoE base rate.

I want to sell my house. Will this reduce my chances of finding a buyer?

Possibly. The property market in the UK has gone through an unprecedented boom in house prices.

On average, house prices have doubled since the middle of 2001 and recently, growth has once more accelerated into double figures.

But most market-watchers expect price inflation to cool as the year progresses.

A big factor in the relentless rise of house prices has been speculation - the belief that prices will continue rising, no matter what.

Should that view change, spreading fears that the market is about to slow and prices drop, then potential buyers might hold back and the predictions of a slowdown could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Will more people be driven into insolvency due to the rate rise?

For some, the rate rise may tip their finances over the edge.

UK consumers have indulged in a unprecedented credit binge in recent years.

Bank of England building
Policymakers are worried about inflation

What is more, some borrowers, who took up second mortgages for home improvements or to pay off other borrowing, are facing double jeopardy as the rate rise will hit both their first and second mortgage.

However, of late, official figures show that the rate of increase in insolvency is now slowing.

It seems that people are reining in their borrowing, as the message gets through that the cost of loans and mortgages is on the rise.

But it will take much more than a few months of caution to get many people's personal finances back on an even keel.

Is this the last rate rise or is there more pain ahead for mortgage holders?

No-one can say for certain whether or not there are further rate rises on the way.

However, many economists predict that rates will rise at least once more during 2007.

The Bank of England's main objective in raising rates is the control of inflation.

Recently, inflation has been above the threshold at which Mervyn King, the governor of the Bank of England, has to write to the chancellor and explain what the BoE is doing to reduce it.

What about me? I have several credit cards - all near their spending limit.

National Debtline: A free, confidential and independent service funded by the Department of Trade and Industry and the credit industry. Tel: 0808 808 4000
Business Debtline: Provides a free telephone debt counselling service for self-employed and small businesses, partly funded by banks. Tel: 0800 197 6026
Consumer Credit Counselling Service: Funded entirely by the credit industry, the service offers advice to people in debt. Tel: 0800 138 1111
Citizens Advice: Offers free, independent and confidential advice from more than 700 locations throughout the UK

Credit card interest rates are often high, but are less sensitive to Bank of England base rate movements than mortgages.

The rate rise may not feed through to credit card borrowers at all, particularly as the marketplace is competitive.

However, as interest rates rise, lenders tend to get twitchy about whether borrowers can afford to repay debts in the future.

In the early 1990s, the banks were accused of making an economic recession and a house price crash far worse by pulling the rug from under borrowers.

Many people found their credit card debt was called in at short notice and, as a result, got into financial hot water.

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