Choosing a savings account
First published 16 October 2017 • Updated 26 September 2018
When you’re saving for something big, getting the right savings account can make a huge difference to how quickly you’re able to grow your pot of money.
It’s about more than just getting the highest interest rate. Here are the sorts of questions you need to consider when you’re choosing the best account to reach your goal.
Which account is right for me?
There’s no one size fits all when it comes to choosing a savings account – it all starts with want you want to achieve. Knowing how much you need to save and when you’ll need to use it means you can work out which account will get you where you need to be – whether that’s one with the highest interest, or one with other benefits such as flexible withdrawal terms, or deposit requirements that suit your needs.
Is there a specific account for my goal?
Depending on what you’re saving for, you might find that there’s a special type of account out there already. For example, if you’re saving to buy a house or for retirement, you could choose a Help to Buy or Lifetime ISA. Or if you’re looking for the best way to save for a child, you might look at Junior ISAs. These schemes can bring other returns such as cash injections from the government or tax-free interest.
Is it best to find a tax-efficient account?
For most cash savings accounts, you won’t pay tax on the interest you earn unless this exceeds your personal savings allowance. If interest rates rise, however, this becomes more likely unless you have a cash ISA, which is completely tax-free.
Growth on non-cash investments is taxable, so it’s best to shelter these inside a stocks & shares ISA.
Does it matter when the interest is paid?
When the interest is calculated and paid can make a huge difference to how quickly and by how much your money grows. If it is paid more regularly, such as every month, you can then earn interest on a larger pool of money. This compound interest can bring you bigger returns than a higher rate, so it’s important to do your sums before taking out an account.
I need easy access to my money
The accounts with the highest interest rates tend to have restrictions on how and when you can access your money, such as fixed-term deposit and rate and index-lined accounts. If you need to get hold of your money in an emergency (or any sooner than the date in the terms & conditions) you could be charged a fee for taking it out early. Always check first and be realistic about when you’ll want the money.
I’m not sure I can make regular deposits
Regular savings accounts tend to pay the highest rates of interest, but you have to make a minimum regular deposit. If your income or outgoings are less predictable, then you may want to avoid these and choose the best value flexible savings account. If you're just struggling to find the spare cash each month, then check out our top money saving tips.
If you’re not sure which type of savings account to choose, discuss your needs with your financial adviser.