Savers kept waiting for a rate rise

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The Independent Online

It's been more than four weeks since the Bank of England's surprise decision to increase the base rate by a quarter of a percentage point to 4.75 per cent. Yet many savers are only just starting to feel the benefits.

While a few providers, such as National Savings & Investments, were quick to announce they were passing on the rate rise and with immediate effect, most savers had to wait until Friday to start seeing higher returns.

Nationwide building society, Bradford & Bingley and NatWest even left customers in the dark until as late as last week before announcing amendments which were introduced on Friday.

And other providers, including the Halifax, HSBC and Barclays, have still to make any announcement about rates on most of their savings accounts.

Savers have been hit hard in 2006, with banks and building societies cutting rates on many accounts even though the base rate had been frozen for almost 12 months until August. In some cases, the reductions were by as much as half a percentage point.

But while financial providers are quick to pass an interest rate rise on to mortgage borrowers, they are often far more reticent when it comes to passing rate increases on to savers.

Sue Hannums from independent financial adviser (IFA) AWD Chase de Vere says most of the "big- name institutions" have failed to raise the returns on one or more of their variable-rate savings accounts by the full quarter percentage point.

"Many savers may have already been hit with a rate cut earlier this year - months ahead of the base rate change. This means they might not actually be any better off now [after an increase]. You need to look at the bigger picture."

She points to Alliance & Leicester, which reduced the rates on its PhoneSaver and EasySaver deals the day before the Bank's announcement - and then, after the base rate rise, said it would pass on the quarter point increase.

Marks & Spencer employed similar tactics with its cash individual savings account (ISA.)

Despite that, Andrew Hagger from financial analyst Moneyfacts says, it is "refreshing" to see smaller providers such as the Yorkshire, Norwich & Peterborough, Tipton and Coseley, and Skipton building societies announcing rate increases across their whole product ranges, rather than just on selected accounts.

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