Personal Finance: Get the lowdown on savings and loan rates

MONEYEXTRA is a new venture for The Exchange, a company that specialises in supplying electronic information to independent financial advisers (IFAs). Until now financial advisers have had access to information not usually available to members of the public, including detailed data on the performance of investments, interest rates and the costs of assurance policies.

With MoneyeXtra, The Exchange is making a large percentage of that information available to anyone with an internet connection. MoneyeXtra holds up to date information on mortgages, savings accounts, investment returns and loan rates. The service runs as a standalone website via links from Money 99, Microsoft's personal financial planning software.

It has sections on home buying, investment, planning for retirement, business and "smart money", which lets users compare deals for loans, savings and current accounts.

Parts of the site are only available to registered users and the navigation between sections is less than clear. Other parts of the site appear to be aimed at financial advisers rather than individual consumers: the news section, for example, contains general business rather than personal finance stories.

Each section, including the mortgages, savings and investment areas, has a search engine that will bring up a comprehensive list of best buys based on some basic information about the user's requirements.

For example, according to MoneyeXtra, a saver looking to invest pounds 2,000 in an instant access account would receive the best rate from egg, followed by the West Bromwich and Britannia building societies.

In the same way, the system can search for mortgage rates, or personal loan prices. The Smart Money section also includes information on current account and credit card rates. In each case The Exchange's computer supplies extensive lists of suitable products, with the best deal first. This works well for anyone planning to open a new account or to take out a new investment.

For existing savers the site would benefit from a shortcut that displays an account's relative positions against rivals, instead of making users scroll through the tables.

Registered users of MoneyeXtra can use the site to track their portfolios, including stock market investments and funds, as well as cash savings. Although a growing number of investment houses offer fund tracking on their websites, MoneyeXtra is independent, so users can include details of all their holdings, even down to their current account balances.

MoneyeXtra provides its users with much of the information they need to plan their finances. For internet users who want more advice the site has links to independent financial advisers, including the facility to search for an adviser by location. MoneyeXtra has plenty of links promoting independent advice - a consequence of The Exchange's main business - but there is no need to have an adviser to use the site.

Wisemoney.com is another new, independent, on-line personal finance site. Users can request a quotation for professional indemnity insurance on line, or apply for a personal loan or commercial mortgage. For other products, such as buildings, contents, travel and motor insurance, the service works by e-mailing for a quote. Wisemoney plans to add these products to its on-line database this month. As an opening offer, users who take out a policy, register, or link to the site from their own websites are eligible for a free Orange mobile phone.

Links: MoneyExtra, http://www.moneyextra.com; Wisemoney, http://www.wisemoney.com

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