Page last updated at 10:45 GMT, Wednesday, 13 May 2009 11:45 UK

Savers 'forced to look long-term'

Cash
Savers have been hit by a falling Bank rate

Savers looking for better returns face having to lock up funds for long time periods after falls in interest rates.

Bank of England figures show that the average interest rate on instant access accounts - including current accounts - was 0.15% at the end of April.

That was down slightly compared with a month earlier even though the Bank rate remained unchanged.

One analyst says more competitive deals are being offered with fixed-rate bonds which can tie up funds for a few years.

Falling returns

Savers have been among the hardest hit by the plunging Bank rate, which dropped from 5% in September to the current level of 0.5%.

People such as the elderly who use interest payments on life savings to top-up their pension have been particularly vocal about the falling rates.

Figures from the Bank of England show that average returns from instant access accounts fell from 2.42% at the end of April 2008 to 0.15% a year later.

Average interest rates on tax-free Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs) stood at 0.41% at the end of April, down from 0.63% a month earlier and 4.81% a year earlier.

But Rachel Thrussell, of financial information service Moneyfacts, said more competition had emerged over fixed-rate bonds now "some of the dust had settled" after the Bank rate changes.

She said that in the past few weeks, the interest rate on four or five-year fixed-rate bonds had crept above 4%.

'Battering'

Andrew Hagger, of financial website Moneynet, said that another section of the savings market that had taken a "battering" was Child Trust Funds.

Last October, the average rate on cash-based Child Trust Funds was 6% with the top deal offering 7.75%, but now the average has now slumped to 2.38%.

Since 2002 the government has given every newborn child £250, which parents can invest for their child's future in these funds.

The Bank of England figures do provide some cheer for mortgage holders, however, with the cost of repayments dropping on average.

The average standard variable rate (SVR) being charged for home loans was 3.83% at the end of April, down from 4.06% a month earlier and 7.23% a year earlier.

Tracker deals also fell in price, but many analysts now believe that mortgage rates have reached their lowest point.



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