Hunt Down The Best Savings Rates!
Savings providers have slashed their rates -- but you can still get an instant access account paying at least 6%.
Last month's dramatic cut in the Bank of England base rate saw savings rates across the board quickly plummet.
Several fixed rate bonds, which had provided a generous savings staple, were quickly withdrawn following the announcement, leaving less savvy savers to pick up the pieces.
Instant access accounts have proven a slightly different kettle of fish. With several savings pundits predicting another cut this Thursday, some providers have still not shown their hands regarding interest rates.
However, as my Foolish colleague Neil Faulkner reported earlier this week, many have already given their savings the snip, and my guess is many rates will continue to fall before the year end.
Even Premium Bonds have become a victim of the rate cull. As the banking crisis unfolded, many flooded National Savings & Investments with new deposits, mainly because of the 100% guarantee offered by the government.
But, following the rate cut, the Premium Bond prize fund rate was lowered to a paltry 1.8% per annum, meaning the odds of winning a prize were slashed from 24,000 to 1 to a less attractive 36,000 to 1.
Clouds and silver linings
However, it hasn't all been bad news for savers, and the first wave of Icesave customers got their money back last month in what has been a pretty smooth operation by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.
But, whether you're looking for a new home for your hard-earned Icesave cash, or just want to know where the best deals are at the moment, here are the top six instant access accounts at the moment:
Provider and Account
Interest Rate (AER)
Nottingham BS Sleep Easy Saver
Rate includes 1% bonus, as long as you make no more than six withdrawals per year.
Tesco Personal Finance Internet Saver
Rate includes 1.5% bonus for first 12 months.
Akbank N.V. AK Savings Account
Principality BS e-Saver
As you can see, the rates offered today are very different to those you would have seen last month. Still, top of the picks Nottingham BS Sleep Easy Saver pays a generous 6.5% AER on balances from £1,000. However, in order to get this rate, you can't make more than six withdrawals per year, otherwise the rate drops down to 5.5%.
One other account I like is the Anglo Irish Bank Easy Access Deposit Issue 2. The account does pay a lesser 5.25%, but not only are all your deposits guaranteed by the Irish government until 28 September 2010, but Anglo Irish will send any withdrawals you make to you by CHAPS, meaning it is guaranteed to hit your nominated account on the same day (providing the request is made before 2pm).
This is a handy feature for those who may need quick access to their money, and is both quicker and more reliable than the traditional BACS and newer (and often sporadic) Faster Payments system. It is also provided completely free of charge by Anglo Irish.
Stamina over sexy rates
If you are concerned that your savings rate may fall within a few months, perhaps it's time to turn away from those accounts in the best buy tables and focus on the most consistent accounts instead.
According to Moneyfacts, the most consistent internet account over 36 months is Sainsbury's Internet Saver. It currently pays 3.5% AER, which is around two-thirds the interest rate paid by other accounts listed above, but it has proven robust over the long term and has provided the best returns on £1,000 over three years.
If you'd prefer to place your money in a non-internet account, Beverley Building Society's Postal Account comes up top dog in terms of consistency, and currently pays 3.75% on balances from £5,000.
Wherever you decide to stash your cash, at the moment the most important thing is to keep your eye on the ball and be prepared to switch should your savings rate suddenly lag behind. Of course, we'll be on hand to inform you of the best of the rest, but if your account isn't paying what you deserve, make sure you switch and save!