The Bank of England base rate influences all loan and mortgage interest rates in the UK. When the BoE decreases the bank rate, interest rates usually decrease as well. This means borrowing gets cheaper - but returns on savings will go down as well.
The Bank of England base rate is currently 0.1%.
The base rate, sometimes known as the bank rate or interest rate, is the most important interest rate in the UK.
Set by the Bank of England (BoE), the base rate influences the interest rates offered by other banks and building societies. If the base rate goes up, then most mortgage, loan, and savings rates will go up by a similar amount - and vice versa if it goes down.
By changing the UK's base rate, the BoE can influence how Brits use their money - whether we're more inclined to spend money or save it.
Generally, if the BoE reduces the base rate, it becomes cheaper to get a mortgage or loan, and you're more likely to buy a house or car.
If the base rate goes up, mortgage repayments and loan repayments become more expensive - but you'll earn more interest on your savings.
If you have a fixed rate mortgage, changes to the base rate won't impact your monthly repayments until the fixed rate period ends. When your initial term ends, though, you should consider remortgaging to another fixed rate mortgage deal.
The current base rate is 0.1% marking the lowest it's ever been in UK history. In an unscheduled meeting on 19 March 2020, the BoE decided to make a further cut to the base rate to counter the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Previously, the BoE monetary policy meeting met on 10 March 2020 and decided to cut it down to 0.25%.
At 0.25%, it marked the second time the BoE base rate had been cut down to this rate. The last time it was cut to 0.25% was in August 2016 following the Brexit referendum.
Up until 11 March 2020 the BoE base rate had climbed to 0.75%, which was still considered very low and why mortgage interest rates in the UK stayed low.
The average mortgage interest rate for a two-year fixed mortgage was around 1.9%. A few years ago, before the financial crisis in 2008, the cheapest mortgage rates were more like 5%.
On a mortgage of £150,000, that's the difference between a monthly repayment of £629 vs £877 - or almost £3,000 per year.
On the flip side, the low base rate means the current interest rate for savings is also very low.
It's very hard to find a conventional cash ISA, easy access, or fixed rate savings account that will give you more than 1.5%. To get an interest rate of 2.1%, to match the current rate of inflation, you need to lock your savings away and not touch them for at least five years.
The BoE can change the base rate at Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meetings, which generally happen eight times a year.
It's difficult to predict exactly when the Bank of England will change the interest rate, though they do try to control expectations by issuing guidance on whether the base rate will go up or down over the next year.
Because the financial sector and the rest of the country is so heavily impacted by base rate changes, it's rare for a base rate change to be a surprise, but it can happen as an emergency measure to tackle unexpected economic conditions. The BoE uses the base rate to keep inflation at around 2%, so if Brits start spending too much or too little, an interest rate change is usually around the corner.
The BoE has been setting the interest rate in the UK since way back in 1694.
Following the global financial crisis in 2008, the BoE gradually cut the base rate from 5.5% down to just 0.25% in August 2016 - historically the lowest interest rate the UK had ever seen until that point in time.
The Bank of England base rate had been slowly climbing since then, to 0.5% in November 2017 and then 0.75% in August 2018.
Before the financial crisis of 2008, the history of the UK interest rates is a lot more fluid. In 1984 the base rate changed 14 times, starting at 8.8%, rising to 12%, and then falling back to 9.5%.
Historically mortgage rates have usually followed the base rate, with the average mortgage rate generally around 2% higher than the base rate.
This graph shows how the base rate has risen or fallen over the past 12 years:*
If you're a first time buyer or looking to move house or remortgage, we can help you find the best mortgage deal to suit your needs.