Finding the best possible interest rate is a priority for any saver. But with rising inflation and low base interest rates, it’s getting harder to find great rates.
Here’s what you need to know about saving your money in 2022.
Are interest rates rising?
Though interest rates are rising, they’re still being outpaced by inflation. At the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, the Bank of England cut the ‘base’ rate of interest to just 0.1% so businesses and individuals could access more affordable loans to stay afloat.
As the economy has rebounded, and inflation has soared to 40-year highs, the Bank of England has raised the base rate five times since December 2021 to currently stand at 1.25%.
Rising interest is good for savers but bad news for borrowers. If you have a savings account but also some form of debt, such as a loan, credit card or mortgage, you may actually end up worse off due to higher interest payments.
Banks are passing on higher interest rates to savers but, unsurprisingly, they are also passing them on to borrowers.
How much interest can I earn?
The amount of interest you can earn on your savings is constantly changing. At the time of writing in July 2022, a quick scan of the market suggests the highest rate currently on offer is around 1.5% on a notice account. However, you're prepared to lock away your money for three years, you could receive around 3% per annum.
The average easy access account is barely around 1%. You'll need to browse the market at the time you’re looking to open an account for an accurate picture as rates can change from month to month.
How is inflation impacting savings?
Inflation is massively diminishing the power of savings. The UK's main measure of inflation, consumer prices index, hit 9.1% in June, its highest level in four decades. Inflation is expected to continue on this trajectory and surge into double digits as the year progresses.
This is significantly decreasing how far each person’s money can go towards covering the cost of living.
In simple terms, inflation makes things more expensive and impacts everything from food and clothing to fuel. Even though it doesn’t reduce the amount of money in your pocket, it means £1,000 will no longer buy you as much as it used to – we'll explain more on this in a moment.
What are the different types of savings account?
Broadly speaking, there are five different types of savings account.
Easy access savings accounts – The most common type of cash savings account allows you to add money and withdraw it virtually as you like (within the limits of each particular account). But you’ll pay a price for this instant access, as these accounts typically have the poorest interest rates. It’s best to use an easy access savings account for something like a six-month emergency fund, where you’re more concerned about accessibility than interest rates.
Notice accounts – Somewhere between easy access and fixed rate is the notice account. You won’t be able to instantly withdraw your money, but you can request to take it out following a ‘notice period’. Generally, this will be between 30 days and 180 days (six months). If you don’t anticipate you’ll need the amount you’re saving urgently and want higher interest rates, but don’t want to pay a penalty for choosing to withdraw, this is a good option.
Fixed-rate savings accounts – You can have either a fixed-rate savings account or ISA, but the premise is the same regardless. You’ll lock in a certain interest rate, which is typically higher than that offered by easy access accounts, for a certain period of time. If you take the money out before the end of the term you’ll face a financial penalty, so it’s best to only save money you can afford not to access for a few years.
Regular saver accounts – These accounts ask that you put in a set amount each month for a period that’s typically around 12 months. You could face a penalty if you miss even one month’s payment, and you generally won’t be allowed to take the money out at all until the end of the term.
Individual savings accounts (ISAs) - You can save up to £20,000 tax-free per financial year into an ISA, which can be both easy access and fixed rate. There are a few different types, from cash, stocks & shares to innovative finance. Find out which is right for you in our guide to ISAs.
Is investing better than saving?
Both investing and saving have pluses and minuses - which one is right for you will generally hinge on how long you wish to save or invest for. In short, if you're happy to tuck your money away for five years or more, then investing is likely to be the better option.
When investing, your money will go into things like stocks and shares that can rise and fall in value. The longer you invest for the better chance you have of riding the stock market ups and downs and seeing your money grow.
This differs to saving which tends to involve sticking money in cash-based accounts. But while any money in cash cannot reduce in value, and grows by the addition of interest, it's not risk free. If inflation is higher than the amount of interest you receive, which is the case right now, the real value of your money will reduce.
For instance, if you put £10,000 in your account, you will still have that £10,000 (plus interest) in your account in five, 10- or 20-years’ time. However, that £10,000 may not go as far as it would’ve when you first deposited it.
According to the Bank of England’s inflation calculator, goods or services that cost £10,000 in 1990 would cost around £24,000 today.
A further risk to cash savings is the bank of building society going bust. The Financial Services Compensation Scheme guarantees to protect up to £85,000 per person per banking group (e.g. Lloyds Banking Group) in the event of this happening, meaning any savings above this figure could be lost.
Should I save or pay off debts?
If you can, it’s generally wise to try and clear debts before saving – but there are two exceptions. The first is if the interest rate on your debts is lower than your savings interest rate.
In this economic climate, this will typically only be the case on interest-free credit cards, which can allow you to sensibly build credit and earn a small amount of interest on your savings.
The second exception is if you have a large debt that will penalise you for paying it off too soon, like a mortgage or large personal or business loan.
Overpay as much as you can and leave the rest of your money in a savings account to grow until the penalty is either removed or negligible.
Whatever you choose to do, try and leave yourself an emergency buffer fund that you can draw on in case of financial emergencies.
If you pay off all your debts only to have an unexpected breakdown a week later, you could find yourself back in debt without some savings to cover your costs.