A cash ISA is a type of savings account, but you don't pay any tax on the interest you earn. You're limited on how much you can put in.

ISA stands for 'individual savings account'. We're here to help you find the best cash ISA for your needs.

How does a cash ISA work?

Everyone has a cash ISA limit of 20,000 per tax year. This means you can pay up to 20,000 into your cash ISA each year, and you won't pay any tax on the interest you receive.

Pros and cons of cash ISA accounts

  • Cash ISAs are tax free, so you get to keep all the interest you earn.

  • Easier access to your money if you need to make a withdrawal for any reason.

  • Protected by Financial Services Compensation Scheme (up to 85,000).

  • Average interest rates aren't very high.

Types of cash ISA

Before you do a cash ISA comparison to find the best cash ISA rates, you'll need to decide what type of ISA account you want. There are many different types of cash ISA to choose from.

  • Instant access cash ISA: You can withdraw and deposit your money whenever you like.

  • Easy access cash ISA: You can withdraw funds at any time, but it can take a few days to get your money.

  • Notice cash ISA: You have to give notice to withdraw money. If you don't, you'll be penalised. This notice could be up to 60 days.

  • Regular saver cash ISA: To qualify for the interest rate, you have to save money every month.

  • Fixed cash ISA: You put your money in and it must stay there for a specific length of time. This could be around one to five years.

Cash ISA vs. stocks and shares ISA

There are two main types of ISAs to choose from. One's a cash ISA and the other's a stocks and shares ISA, but there are also some specialist ISAs to choose from.

A cash ISA is probably the best easy access ISA you'll find. It means you withdraw and deposit funds whenever you like. You have to leave your money in a cash ISA for a fixed term.

The other option is to choose a stocks and shares ISA. This is a tax-efficient investment account. It lets you put your ISA allowance of 20,000 into a range of different investments. You could earn more money by doing this but you could also risk losing money too, because the stock market is unpredictable. You don't pay income tax on any money you make.

Other types of ISA include a junior ISA, a help to buy ISA and an innovative finance ISA.

Cash ISA rules

Cash ISA limit

Everyone has a cash ISA limit of 20,000 per tax year.

Tax-free ISA allowance

Your cash ISA limit means you can pay up to 20,000 into your cash ISA each year. Any interest you receive will be tax free.

Whether you're a basic rate taxpayer, a higher rate tax payer or an additional rate tax payer, your cash ISA limit is the same.

Your cash ISA allowance renews on the first day of each new tax year. The tax year runs from 6th April one year to 5th April the following year. If you don't use all of your cash ISA allowance before the end of the tax year, it disappears. This means you can't carry over your unused cash ISA allowance from one year to the next.

Can you have more than one ISA account?

You can have more than one ISA account, but you can open only one ISA accounts in a year. This can leave you with multiple accounts. But this doesn't increase your allowance. You can only pay into one per year.

You can transfer funds into your ISA accounts from a previous year's ISA account. As long as it's a transfer, it doesn't count as having more than one.
But if you choose an ISA that only lets you pay in your ISA allowance for that year, you might get a better rate.

ISA age limit

If your child is under 16, they can't open an adult ISA and you can't open one for them. You would have to open a junior cash ISA for them instead.

They can't open an adult stocks and shares ISA or lifetime ISA until even later, when they turn 18.

Junior cash ISAs

A junior cash ISA is a special ISA you can open on behalf of your child. It has its own ISA allowance (4,368), and cannot be touched until your child turns 18 years old.

How to run a cash ISA comparison

If you want to compare isa rates, there are just a few simple steps to follow to help you find the best ISA accounts.

At the top of this page you'll find a cash ISA comparison table. It tells you about the term of the account and the top ISA rates. It also covers how much you need to put into the bank account when you open it and whether money transfers are accepted.

You can use the 'refine results' button to make your search more specific. For example, you might be looking for the best instant access ISA. If so, you can choose to see only instant access ISAs.

You can use the 'sort results' button to put your results in the order you prefer. For example, you might be looking for the best ISA interest rates. If so, you can choose to see the highest interest rates at the top.

Hover over each option to see if you meet the criteria for that particular ISA account. When you've done your cash ISA comparison click 'see deal' on the right-hand side. You'll be able to find out more and apply for your account.

What is the best cash ISA rate?

When you look at cash ISAs, you'll notice that there are lots of cash ISA rates to choose from. The best cash ISA rates pay you the highest interest on your balance. So look for the top ISA rates on the accounts that give you the access you need to your money.

How to open an ISA account

Once you've researched cash ISA rates and found the best ISA accounts, it's very simple to open one. Here are some steps you can follow.

  1. Use the comparison table at the top of this page to find the best ISA accounts for your needs. Decide which you'd like to open.

  2. You can open your ISA in a bank, online, by post or over the phone. This might depend on what type of account you want.

  3. To open it, you'll need to put some money in the account. The minimum amount can vary from as low as 1 to around 1,000.

  4. You'll need to give personal details. This includes your name, address, National Insurance number and dated signature.

  5. Plus, you'll have to read an ISA declaration. This tells you how the ISA allowance and rules work. You should read it carefully as it might contain important information. For example, it might explain any penalties you'd need to pay if you withdrew money before the end of your fixed term.

Are cash ISAs safe?

Once you've found the best cash ISA, and you're happy that you've got the best cash ISA rates available, you can start saving your money knowing it's safe. This is because your cash ISA will be with a bank and most banks are backed by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS). This scheme protects your money up to 85,000 in a single institution.

ISA alternatives

There are lots of alternatives to opening an ISA. These include the following:

  • Personal savings allowance: Everyone has a personal allowance on how much interest they can earn without paying tax. A basic rate tax payer can earn up to 1,000 in interest without paying tax. This drops to 500 for higher rate taxpayers. These figures are correct for the 2018/19 tax year.

  • Interest-paying current accounts: Top-paying current accounts will pay as much as five per cent on your money. The amount you can save is usually capped a lot lower than with an ISA. The cap tends to be 1,000-3,000.

  • Premium bonds: These let you save money with the chance of winning cash prizes from monthly draws. Every 1 you invest is given a unique number which is entered into the draw. If one of your unique numbers is chosen, you could win a tax-free prize ranging from 25 to 1 million.

Cash ISA FAQs

Q

Can I take money out of an cash ISA and put it back in again?

A

Some ISAs let you withdraw money and replace in during the same tax year without using up any more of your ISA allowance, find out more here.

Q

Can I take my money out of my ISA whenever I want?

A

Only if the ISA allows withdrawals but there are restrictions on paying money back in, find out more here.

Q

Can I have an ISA if I have bad credit?

A

Yes, your finances are not checked when you open a savings account. If you need help choosing the right savings account, read this guide.

Q

Do I have to tie my money up to save?

A

No, you can choose how much access you have to your money by picking the right savings account. This guide explains which accounts are available.

About our cash ISAs comparison

Q

Who do we include in this comparison?

A

We include cash ISAs listed in our panel. They are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Here is more information about how our website works.

Q

How do we make money from our comparison?

A

We have commercial agreements with some of the companies in this comparison and get paid commission if we help you take out one of their products or services. Find out more here.

You do not pay any extra and the deal you get is not affected.