The Monetary Policy Committee's decision not to cut interest rates will have come as a relief to savers. Those looking for a mortgage needn't worry, either, as rates are at their lowest for decades, and some lenders, including the Halifax, cut them again last week.
There is now a strong case for first-time buyers and remortgagers to opt for a fixed rate. The base rate is unlikely to come down much further and there are some excellent deals available.
As for savers, mini cash ISAs still offer the best tax-free rates on instant access savings. You could also review your current account (see back page) and think about switching to one of the new-style accounts charging lower rates on overdrafts and better rates for those in credit.
Mutuals must stay
As building societies met for their annual conference in Harrogate last Wednesday, debate was raging about who offers the best savings rates. Mutuals are constantly called on to prove they give customers a better deal than plcs, in order to justify their existence and fight off carpetbaggers hoping to force them to convert.
Internet bank Intelligent Finance – which isn't a mutual – has published research showing that building societies have paid slightly lower rates on instant access savings and cut them by more than banks over the past three years. But this misses the point. Rates are not the be-all and end-all.
Norwich & Peterborough customers said in the latest annual survey that they felt it would better serve their community by remaining a regional mutual building society. They liked the regular face-to-face meetings with chief executive Matthew Bullock in the towns where they live. And the overwhelming majority prefer the branches to the telephone or internet, even though they are more expensive to run. If they had to choose between a branch or a slightly higher savings rate, most would go for the former.
It's all about priorities. If you want the best rate, there are plenty of banks offering good deals. But once they have your custom, they are likely to cut these rates, so you'll have to move on.
For those who don't want this hassle, a long-standing relationship with a cosy mutual is the answer. And shouldn't people have that choice?
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