The steady stream of new ISA accounts just keeps coming, and there have been a couple of particularly attractive products launched this week. Nottingham Building Society has taken over the top spot in the two-year fixed-rate ISA best buys with a new account paying 3.65 per cent tax-free with the rate fixed until 31 March 2014.
This new ISA is a great opportunity for savers looking to transfer their existing ISA savings too, not something you'll always find with the best buy deals where you're limited to the current year allowance.
However, this ISA from Nottingham BS is a limited-issue account and you'll need to act quickly if you want to take advantage of the excellent rate.
The minimum needed to open the account is £500, but if you haven't yet opened an ISA for the current tax year, you have until 5 April to save up to a maximum of £5,340 tax free.
Another ISA newbie that caught my eye this week was from Leeds Building Society with a one-year fixed-rate ISA with limited access paying 3 per cent.
This hybrid product offers the best of both worlds (fixed rate plus some access) and will appeal to those who are worried about locking their entire tax-free savings balance away for the next 12 months.
As you'd expect, there are better one- year fixed rates out there with Aldermore currently leading the way at 3.35 per cent. However, the flexibility of being able to transfer in previous ISA balances and have access to 25 per cent of the initial investment at any time, without penalty, will make this Leeds Building Society deal a popular choice even if it means accepting a slightly lower return as a trade-off.
With some savers having now accumulated significant tax-free savings balances over the years, the search for the very best rate becomes increasingly important.
For someone with an ISA nest egg of £50,000, an extra 0.5 per cent on the rate equates to £250 more interest over 12 months.
We're still awaiting details of the new ISA deals from Barclays and Santander, who in the past few years have featured heavily at the top end of the best-buy tables, and it may be that some consumers are delaying their ISA selection until these two heavyweights show their hand.
Big high-street names are selling bond savers short
In this low interest rate environment, savers are eager to earn the highest return possible. One way to bag a better interest rate is to lock your money away in a fixed-rate bond rather than a standard, instant-access account. You are rewarded with an improved rate for losing access to your cash – at least that's the theory.
Research from Moneynet tells a different story and shows many of the biggest financial providers are offering savers a poor deal, particularly those looking for a one-year, fixed-rate account.
Less well-established financial providers tend to offer the same interest rate regardless of the amount involved, whether its £500 or £50,000, but that's rarely the case with the main institutions. Rates for amounts under £5,000 are particularly poor, and in some instances, such as with Lloyds TSB and HSBC, you can't open a one-year bond unless you've got at least £2,000, while with NatWest the entry level is £5,000.
Also, it's often only those with £25,000 or more to tuck away who receive a better return.
The difference in returns on these accounts can vary markedly. On a balance of £5,000, Barclays, Lloyds TSB and HSBC will pay 2 per cent for a one-year term, compared with 3.25 per cent from Post Office and M&S Money.
If banks want to encourage the savings habit and retain their less-affluent customers then they should offer competitive rates for all, not just those fortunate enough to have a five-figure lump sum at their disposal.
Andrew Hagger – Moneynet.co.uk