With so many savings accounts paying low interest rates you may need to think outside the box in order to make your money generate the best return.
Here are 10 ways to make sure your savings are reaching their full potential.
1. Check what your savings are paying now
Whenever you review the profitability of your savings you need to start by finding out what you're currently earning on each of your existing savings accounts.
This allows you to get an accurate picture of where your money is deposited and what you are getting in return - think of it as a benchmark which you can look to improve on.
Check your latest statements or contact your bank to find out your current balances and the rate of interest paid on each of your savings accounts.
List all your savings accounts in order of the amount of interest you earn from each, this will enable you to clearly see which accounts are still offering a good return and which now pay little more than a pittance.
To make this list as accurate as possible you should check the net rate of interest you are paid as, assuming you pay tax on your savings, this will represent the actual amount that you're earning.
You should also check whether any of your savings are locked in for a fixed term and if you need to give a notice period before you withdraw your money. Make a note of any withdrawal restrictions next to each account on your list so that you can see how much of your money you're able to move around without penalty.
If you find that your money is tied into a long term account then you'll need to wait until they expire before looking for a more profitable home, so make a note in your diary so you know when to look again.
2. Repay your debts
In general, the interest you pay on your debts will cost you far more than what your savings can earn in interest.
This means you can make the money in your savings accounts work significantly harder by using them to clear expensive debts, such as credit cards.
An average a credit card will charge somewhere between 17-22% APR, unless covered by an introductory 0% offer. Compare that to even the most competitive of savings accounts, which are struggling to reach over 5%, and you can see there is a clear gap between the two.
So if you are not saving towards a particular goal and have debts which are accruing interest, it makes sense to look at whether you can use some of your savings to pay off some or all of what you owe.
To maximise the benefit you should find out which of your debts is charging you the highest rate of interest and use your savings to clear as much of it as you can - providing you won't be penalised for doing so.
Before you use your savings to repay any outstanding personal loans you need to check whether you will be penalised for doing so. If this is the case you'll need to work out whether the amount you'll save by clearing the debt now and incurring the fees is less than you'll pay overall by continuing with the loan.
Credit cards are more flexible and should allow you to clear your balance at any point without being charged.
However, before you use any of your savings to pay off your debts you need to make sure that you have a back up plan that will allow you to cope financially should you be faced with emergency expenses.
If you don't have access to money elsewhere (be it on a low interest credit card or through some other means) you should keep a small cushion of cash in an accessible savings account just in case.
For more help and advice read our guide Should I Use My Savings To Pay Off My Debts?
3. Use your ISA allowances
Making full use of your full tax free ISA allowance each year is an easy way to maximise the return on your savings.
Cash ISAs are the same as ordinary savings accounts but protect the interest you earn from tax, so you get to keep everything you earn.
The profit on any money you invest through investment ISAs will also be protected from tax and, providing you're happy to commit your money for a longer period, could give you access to significantly better returns than a cash- based account (although this is by no means guaranteed).
As of 2014/15 you can save up to £15,000 in a Cash ISA each tax year.
4. Transfer your existing ISAs
If you have savings in Cash ISAs from previous tax years, there is a good chance that the rate of interest paid on your money will have changed, usually to your detriment.
If this is the case don't despair; you can transfer the money in your old Cash ISAs to a new account to get a better interest rate.
However, you must arrange the transfer through your ISA providers rather than by withdrawing the cash in person, otherwise your money will lose its tax free status.
Providing you do this, transferring will not use up any of your current year's tax free savings allowance, or restrict your ability to subscribe to a different Cash ISA this tax year.
Many ISAs don't accept transfers from previous tax years, so you need to make sure that your chosen ISA accepts transfers in before applying for the account.
5. Overpay your mortgage
A mortgage is likely to be the biggest financial commitment you make during your working life. Because of the size of the debt it will also cost you a significant amount in interest until it is paid off.
Overpaying your mortgage could not only save you hundreds or thousands of pounds over the term, but could also mean that you're mortgage free years earlier than you originally thought.
For this reason using excess savings to clear some of your mortgage is a very attractive option for many homeowners; just think what you could do each month if you didn't have a mortgage to repay!
However, many mortgages limit how much you can overpay each year, usually up to 10%, without incurring an early repayment charge - although some mortgage deals don't allow any overpayments whatsoever.
Check your mortgage terms and conditions to see if there are any restrictions on whether, and how much you can overpay.
If you find that you have a more flexible mortgage you could transfer a lump sum from your savings onto your mortgage.
If you are restricted in what you can repay, you could set up a standing order from your savings so that you reduce your mortgage on an ongoing basis.
However, before using your savings to clear down part of your mortgage you need to consider whether you have any other outstanding debts that are more expensive and should be cleared first. You'll also need to be comfortable with the fact that you're unlikely to be able to draw on the money you pay off your mortgage so you'll need a contingency plan to cope with emergency finance situations.
For more help deciding if overpaying your mortgage is the best choice read our guide: Should I Overpay on My Mortgage?
6. Make pension contributions
You can no longer rely on the state to support you in retirement so investing your savings in a pension could give you peace of mind that your income in retirement will be boosted.
There are also tax benefits of depositing your savings into a pension, as you can claim tax relief up to your annual earnings on your contributions.
Essentially this means that if you were a basic rate tax payer and deposited £30,000 of savings into a pension you would actually end up with £36,000 in your pension fund. If you are a higher rate tax payer then the benefits are even greater.
The downside of using your savings to make pension contributions is that you won't be able to access the money again until you retire. This means that you should only consider this option if you are confident that you won't need to use the money in the short term and are happy to lock it away until you finish work.
For more help choosing a pension, try reading our guide Should I get a pension?
7. Consider investing
If you have no immediate plans for your savings and are uninspired by the interest rates on offer from cash savings accounts, you may want to consider investing your savings instead.
In the past, the performance of investments over long term periods has tended to outperform the interest available from a cash account, although this is no guarantee that this will always be the case in the future.
There is always a certain element of risk associated with investing your money as the return you get depends on how your investments perform. If they perform really poorly you could see you initial deposit drop in value.
For this reason, you should only consider investing your savings if you are happy to leave them untouched for several years, usually at least 5 years is recommended. You will also need to be comfortable with the idea that your capital will face some risk, although how much can largely be controlled by the type of investments you make.
If you feel you may want to use your money sooner, then the fees you will have to pay are likely to use up a significant amount of your profits, make investing a less attractive proposition.
If you are happy to take on some risk and leave your money untouched, then an Investment ISA is a great way to start investing and also has the benefit of being tax free.
For more help deciding if investing is the right choice for your finances, read our guide: 9 Steps to Finding an Investment Fund That Will Maximise Your Profit.
Our guide How to Start Investing in Shares explains more about your options and shows you how to get started.
8. Check the return on high interest current accounts
The competition amongst banks to acquire and retain current account customers has meant more and more banks now offer attractive interest rates or monthly credits on their current accounts.
Some current accounts will pay a monthly cash sum or a high interest rate for a fixed period providing you credit the account with a minimum amount.
While these types of accounts aren't a traditional way to maximise the return from your savings, the cashback and attractive interest rates can make using these ultra competitive current accounts an attractive option to house low level savings.
Most will only pay an elevated interest rate on a certain sum so it's only worth keeping this much in the account and housing the remainder of your money elsewhere.
Check out the range of high interest or reward current accounts on offer and if they will pay you more in interest than you can get on a current account they are work considering.
However, you will need to make sure you adhere to any restrictions or terms and conditions so that you're able to make the most of the transfer offers.
You should also make a note of when the introductory offers will end and look to move your money again when the time is up.
9. Investigate social lending
If you are looking to do something slightly different with your savings and are happy to move your money away from the traditional banks and buildings societies, the growing social lending market could be a option that suits.
Over the past few years social lending has become an increasingly popular enterprise for people with savings seeking a better return for their money.
It works by depositing your money with a social lending website and setting your lending criteria.Your money is then pooled with other lenders' cash and lent to a selection of different borrowers looking for a cheap and flexible loan.
This means that your money isn't simply lent to one individual but spread across hundreds of different people that meet your lending criteria meaning your risk is also spread.
People who wish to borrow but are perceived as a greater risk are charged a higher interest rate, so are more profitable. Obviously the risk to your money is significantly greater too so this is something you need to consider.
For more information read our guide Social Lending - Is it Worth the Risk?
10. Use account sweeping
Current account sweeping is the process by which money is automatically moved from one account to another when it is not required, in order to benefit from a higher interest rate. It can take one of two forms: overnight sweeping and monthly sweeping.
Overnight sweeping lets you set a limit so that if the money in your account goes above a certain level it will automatically be 'swept' into a special savings account overnight to earn more interest for you. Similarly, when your account is running low, money will be 'swept' back, topping it up to cover your payments.
Monthly Sweeping lets you set a limit and a date each month so that if the money in your account goes above a certain level on that date it will automatically be 'swept' into a special savings account to earn more interest for you. As with overnight sweeping, you can also maintain a minimum balance in your account as money will be 'swept' back on the agreed date if the balance falls below an agreed amount.
Finally.... review regularly
Once you have exhausted all the above options, and have ensured that your savings are lodged in the best place possible, whether this is a high interest savings account or somewhere else, it makes sense to make a note in your diary to review your savings on a regular basis.
Once every 6 months should be sufficient to ensure that you keep on top of any changes to interest rates and circumstance so that you can make sure your savings continue to work as hard as possible.