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If you have a sum of money that you don't intend to spend for a while and you want to see it grow, it's well worth checking out the best fixed savings accounts. These can be one of the best ways of guaranteeing a good rate for an agreed amount of time, without risking your initial capital.
In fact they guarantee you an interest rate for the entire term, usually ranging from one to five years. At the end of the term - known as the maturity date - the rate will no longer be guaranteed and the funds you've invested will be available for withdrawal.
There are a few questions you'll need to ask yourself to ensure you choose the right account for you.
You'll find that the best fixed saving rates are available on the accounts that have the longest terms. You need to be careful though - as well as guaranteeing their rates, these accounts usually restrict your access to the funds.
You can open accounts where withdrawals will incur a fee or an interest penalty, others where you have to give notice to withdraw, and some that don't allow any withdrawals whatsoever until the account matures.
If you think you may require access to your money at short notice, you could be better off choosing a savings account that allows withdrawals at any time. Although these rarely offer such high interest rates, their flexibility is attractive if you need it.
One risk with fixed term savings accounts is that if interest rates were to increase during your account's term, your account's rate would still be fixed until its maturity date, so you would end up stuck with less competitive interest until then.
That said, if the market's rates were to drop, you would continue to earn a higher return than what you might find elsewhere.
The most important thing to consider is how long you can happily leave your money tied into the account without being able to withdraw it. If you don't need to spend it in the foreseeable future, you'll be in a better position to invest in an account with a longer term.
Although longer terms will offer you the best fixed savings rates, they will also tie you to their rates the longest. If you think that interest rates are likely to go up, a bond with a shorter term will allow you to take advantage of those higher rates sooner.
If you like to be able to manage your savings accounts directly, online access or telephone banking can be useful. With a bond, though, you are unlikely to require any transactions until the end of the term, so this applies more to how you'd prefer to open the account.
You'll also want to consider how you can have your interest paid. Don't forget that you can invest in an ISA without having to pay any tax on the interest you earn, which will give you a much better return. There are Fixed Rate ISAs available, but remember that you can only invest in one ISA per tax year.
Likewise, some accounts will offer a choice of annual and monthly interest payments, and you may be able to choose between it being paid to your bank account or compounded back onto the bond.
However, the interest rate is likely to be your main priority; the higher the rate, the higher the return you'll get. Check the minimum and maximum balance, and whether the headline rate is only paid to balances above a certain level. You can rule out any account where your savings won't qualify, then use our fixed rate savings comparison table to find the best rate, duration and terms that suit you.
Finally, don't forget to make a note of when the account's term comes to an end. Some banks and building societies will transfer your account to a lower rate once it matures. Others will give you a window in which you can withdraw, and then tie the funds into a new fixed term bond, so make sure you're ready to look into what you want to do with your money before it matures!
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