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Last week, the Governor of the Bank of England suggested that people shouldn't be holding their breaths for a base rate rise anytime soon, which is bad news for savers as an increase in base rate could be what finally boosts savings rates up again. And a boost is very much needed, especially for the ever-popular easy access account, with our research showing that over a third pay less than the base rate of 0.25%.
Easy access accounts have always been considered an ideal place to stash emergency funds, but the motivation to keep this pot untouched except when absolutely necessary has been waning as easy access rates have fallen.
It's disheartening to find that not only has the percentage of the market offering accounts that pay less than 0.25% increased from 22% a year ago to 34% today, but the number of top accounts on offer, those paying an interest rate of 1% or more, has decreased from 31% last June to a mere 10% now. And the table below shows that this fall is even greater when compared to five years ago, when 49% of the market paid a rate of at least 1%. We're certainly a long way down from where we used to be.
|Easy access accounts paying 1% or more||49%||31%||10%|
|Easy access accounts paying less than 1%||51%||69%||90%|
|Easy access accounts paying 0.25%||7%||8%||13%|
|Easy access accounts paying less than 0.25%||25%||22%||34%|
To make matters worse, FCA data has revealed that 80% of easy access accounts have not been switched in the last three years, which means a lot of savers could be sitting in the 34% of accounts that pay under 0.25%, rather than vying for the 10% that still pay 1% or more.
Rachel Springall, finance expert at moneyfacts.co.uk, says it's "devastating" that 90% of easy access accounts don't even pay a 1% interest rate. She then points out that "the big four banking groups have a combined 70% market share of the current account market, according to the Competition and Markets Authority.
"Many of these offer an easy access account that neatly sits alongside a current account – so some savers could be forgoing better interest for the convenience. To illustrate, NatWest's easy access account pays just 0.01%, while Ulster Bank pays 1.25%, a substantial difference."
Now it's pretty clear that 1.25% is better than 0.01%, but if you're not proactively monitoring your account and switching every time the bonus on your easy access expires, you may not realise what kind of rate you're getting. More importantly, you might not realise what you're missing out on.
Still, it's difficult to blame savers for their apathy given the state of the savings market. "These are testing times and savers who are frustrated with earning very little in cash might turn to alternative investments," said Rachel. "For example, the average return on cash ISAs over the past year was just 0.97%, while over the same period the average stocks & shares ISA returned growth of 16.5% [according to Lipper]." Just remember that past performance is no guarantee for the future and the stock market could see your initial savings pot increase as well as decrease.
If you'd rather not risk your money, and you're still eager to keep an easy access account, be sure to keep an eye on the Best Buys. Switching your savings account may be less hassle than you think, especially as a lot of the top-paying accounts at the moment can be easily managed online, and it could make all the difference for your future returns.
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