Tax free savings accounts let you keep every penny earned in interest and potentially pocket a tasty profit. Here’s how to find the best tax free haven for you savings.
If you want to get one over on the taxman and make your money work hard, there’s no better way to do so than with a tax free savings account.
If you take full advantage of these accounts, you can make hundreds of pounds without breaking a sweat.
Maximise the potential of ISAs
They do have limitations, but if you use them wisely you can still earn a good deal of interest and keep the lot. Broadly speaking ISAs come in two forms:
Cash ISAs let you deposit a load of cash and leave it, until the account matures and you get out more than you put in.
There is a limit on how much money you can deposit in a Cash ISA during each tax year (which begins every 6th April), which for 2013/14 is £5,760.
However, if you use up your full allowance and pick a fixed rate tax free savings UK account, you are guaranteed to make a profit.
These investment accounts, otherwise called Stocks and Shares ISAs, are different to Cash ISAs as your money is invested in active markets, rather than simply locked away in an account.
There is an element of risk involved with these investment products, as you are essentially playing the stock market – meaning the value of your deposited money could go down as well as up.
Investment ISAs should be seen as more long-term investments, lasting for five or more years to get the best return. If you will need your cash in the meantime, a regular Cash ISA might be better for you.
Having said that, they do offer the potential for outdoing even the best interest rates available elsewhere, and if you play the long game you could make a sizeable profit.
You can save a total of £11,520 in a Stocks and Shares ISA in the tax year, or whatever amount is left after deducting anything saved in a Cash ISA. Read our guide What are Investment ISAs? for more information.
Finding the best tax free savings account
- Term duration
- Interest rates
Opening your account
When you take out an account, depending on who it’s with, you’ll need to pay in a minimum initial amount.
If you’re planning to open the account and regularly filter money into it, you may find it easier to choose a provider who’s asking for a smaller initial deposit.
If you have more cash to deposit you won’t need to worry about the minimum deposit. It really depends on your circumstances and what you can afford.
Duration of your account
To get the highest rates for the best tax free savings, you need to leave your cash untouched for longer.
The amount of time you can lock your cash away for varies, from one year up to four or five. If you pick one or two years, you’ll get your money and it’s accrued interest back faster, which might suit you if you’re after a quick profit.
However, you won’t be given an interest rate as high as those offered with longer terms.
You need to think about how long you can afford to be without it and whether interest rates are likely to rise in that time.
If they do and you could earn more elsewhere, you might not be able to move your money very easily to take advantage.
The amount of access you’re allowed varies from account to account – some allow withdrawals to be made at any time, such as instant access ISAs. However, for the privilege of being given access, those accounts will pay less interest.
Others are stricter and won’t allow you to get to your money, while some will let you take it out but charge you so many days interest for doing so.
It’s important to shop around before settling on your preferred account and make sure you understand the finer details before you say yes, to know what access you’re allowed.
Interest rates – fixed and variable
Once you’re confident you’ve settled on the right type of account for your savings you’ll want to earn as much interest as you can and this means you’ll want the highest rate.
However this isn’t simply a case of picking the highest number you can find, you’ll need to take into account whether the rate is fixed or variable.
Fixed rate savings mean the rate you’re offered at the beginning will stay consistent throughout the account’s duration, so you can calculate how much you’ll get.
If you want to play it safe and ensure you earn a profit, you might want to consider this option.
Variable rates can change in line with general interest rates. These offer the potential for earning more money if rates increase but if they go down you may lose out. You need to think about what might happen in the future and whether you’re willing to risk earning a smaller amount of interest.