Personal Finance: Internet Investor

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Indy Lifestyle Online
I DID not become a millionaire courtesy of the National Lottery last week. Indeed, it is probably a fairly safe prediction to say that I will not become a millionaire this week. I suppose I could try meeting the Almighty halfway by buying a ticket but why bother with odds of 14 million to one? Mind you, I did not become a millionaire in this month's Premium Bond draw, either.

The odds against that happening are even more outrageous, around 68 million to one. But there is one significant difference - with Ernie you never lose your stake, and this key fact has made the National Savings website one of the country's most popular personal finance sites.

National Savings is actually one of the country's most important financial institutions. Some 30 million of us have invested pounds 63bn in National Savings products. But Premium Bonds have proved to be the biggest lure on the website, which was relaunched this summer. In fact, Premium Bonds totalling pounds 200,000 have been bought via forms available in the site in the last three months.

So far Ernie has created 56 millionaires, and you do not have to hold the maximum pounds 20,000 to win. The minimum purchase may now be pounds 100, but the smallest holding to make the holder a millionaire was just pounds 10. Not a bad return.

If you own Premium Bonds and changed your address more than six months ago without notifying the Department of National Savings, you may have a tax-free prize waiting to be claimed. To check, just key in your holder's number on the site's prize-finder facility. Unsurprisingly this is the most popular part of the site. In 41 years of Premium Bonds 99.5 per cent of all prizes drawn have been paid. However, that still leaves some pounds 16m worth of prizes unpaid.

You can also view the current month's "big prize winners" list. The site is busiest on the third working day of each month as people check to see if they have won a high-value prize in the monthly prize draw.

The site includes a calculator that allows you to work out how much an investment in National Savings products will earn.

However, I was a little disappointed by the Savings Selector. This is designed to help you work out which National Savings product is best for you. Nevertheless, the site only tells you about current issues of bonds. Details of earlier issues would allow for comparison with current products - and enable holders to use the savings calculator to work out their returns.

National Savings: www.nationalsavings.co.uk

Robin can be reached at RobinAmlot@aol.com

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