Page last updated at 12:26 GMT, Thursday, 28 August 2008 13:26 UK

Higher rate savings accounts grow

Cash
Access to your cash is a key consideration with savings accounts

More savings accounts offering interest rates matching or exceeding the base rate are available to consumers than in previous years.

Some 28% of easy access accounts offer a rate of 5% or more, compared with 8% that offered rates equal to, or above, the base rate two years ago.

The figures from analysts Defaqto show that banks are trying to attract savers during the credit crunch.

Meanwhile, new guidelines have been issued to quicken the transfer of Isas.

The banking industry has agreed to speed up the transfer of cash between these tax-free accounts.

Deposits

Defaqto's analysis showed that 28% of accounts were paying equal to or more than the Bank of England interest rate of 5% for deposits of 5,000.

It is encouraging to see so many accounts offering attractive headline rates but savers need to keep their wits about them to avoid choosing an unsuitable account
David Black, Defaqto

This compared with 21% at the same time last year, 8% in August 2006, and 19% in the same month of 2005.

But the group said that savers needed to be alert to the fact that relatively few accounts did not have any restrictions, such as when customers try to withdraw cash.

"It is encouraging to see so many accounts offering attractive headline rates but savers need to keep their wits about them to avoid choosing an unsuitable account," said Defaqto's banking consultant David Black.

Easy access?

Examination of 50 instant or easy access accounts paying the highest rates found that 15 of them limited the number of withdrawals or imposed penalties on some withdrawals.

Eighteen of them had introductory bonuses, which meant interest rates dropped after a set time limit expired.

Eleven of the 50 accounts had a minimum withdrawal of 100 or higher.

This left 19 out of the 50 that were free of withdrawal restrictions or introductory bonuses.

Isa boost

In a separate development, the bank and building society industry has issued guidelines to standardise the transfer of cash between Isa accounts.

This should cut the amount of time that it takes for customers to shift their cash to providers offering higher interest rates - a process that occasionally left consumers frustrated because it could take months.

The next stage is for the system to be computerised which would streamline it further.

The changes should be made "as soon as is practical", the guidelines said.


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