Final call for ISAs!

You literally have a matter of days left to use up your ISA allowance for this tax year which ends on April 5, or it’ll be lost forever.

Don’t assume you can leave it right to the last minute to submit your 2013/14 ISA application, though, especially if you are considering a postal account, as many of these close their doors a few days ahead of the April 5 deadline.

Remember too, that if you want to make a branch-based application, because the end of the tax year falls on a Saturday, many banks and building societies will have shorter opening hours on that day, so you’ll need to check timings before leaving home. You should also ask whether or not you’ll need to book an appointment to make your application.

Here’s our round up of some of the best ISA deals, and the deadlines you’ll need to beat.

Top variable rate ISAs

If you want to be able to make withdrawals from your ISA, you’ll need to choose a variable rate ISA account. However, always read the small print, as many of these carry restrictions, with some only permitting a set number of penalty-free withdrawals a year, or requiring savers to give notice before they take cash out.

For example, the market-leading variable rate cash ISA is Hanley Economic Building Society’s Cash ISA 60 Day Notice account which pays 1.85% tax-free on a minimum deposit of £100 and can only be operated by post or in branches. You must give 60 days’ notice if you want to make a withdrawal, or you will lose the equivalent amount of interest. This account accepts transfers from existing ISAs.

Hanley Economic says all cash ISA applications should be made as soon as possible, as there is a chance the account may be withdrawn before the end of the tax year. Anyone who wants to open the account in a branch of the building society should call first to make an appointment.

Similarly, Earl Shilton Building Society’s Cash ISA 90 Days’ Notice Account pays 1.80% on a minimum investment of £10, and can only be operated by post or in branches. You must give 90 days’ notice before making a withdrawal.  The building society is accepting applications in either of its Leicester-based branches until April 5, but these are only open from 9am-12pm on that date as it is a Saturday.

Nationwide Building Society pays a lower rate of 1.50% tax-free on an investment of £1,000 made into its Instant ISA Saver account, but you can make withdrawals from this account at any time without giving notice, and you can open this ISA either online or in branches.  Nationwide said its ISAs will be available in branches up to and including April 5. A spokesperson said: “Our branches are usually open until 5pm, but it varies depending on your location.”

If you can’t get to a branch, then Nationwide will accept applications made online up to and including April 5, right up until midnight on that day.

Remember to check what your own bank is offering in terms of ISAs too, as often they will give you access higher rates if you are an existing customer. For example, Nationwide offers its Flexaccount customers the Nationwide Flexclusive ISA Issue 7, which pays 1.75% tax-free on a minimum investment of £1. This account can be operated both online and in branches.

Best fixed rate ISAs

If you’re happy to tie up your cash for a set period of time, again some of the best rates on offer are available to existing customers only.

For example, Santander’s two year fixed rate ISA pays a market-leading 2.30% tax-free if you are an existing Santander 123 Current Account, Cashback Credit Card or Select customer, or 2.00% if you aren’t a Santander customer. This account can be opened with a minimum investment of £500 and accepts transfers from existing ISAs.

Santander said that its ISAs can be opened in branches up to and including April 5. Customers should check branch closing times before going, however, as these can vary depending on the location of the branch. Phone applications will be accepted until 9pm on April 4, and if you are applying online, your application must be completed and submitted by 11.59pm on April 4, the day before the end of the tax year.

A spokesperson for Santander said that the reason the deadline for online applications is April 4 is because if there are any issues with the application, there is then time to try and remedy this in branch if needs be.

Other competitive fixed rate ISAs include Halifax’s three-year ISA Saver Fixed account, which pays 2.25% again on a minimum investment of £500, and also accepts transfers from existing ISAs. Halifax also has an 18-month Fixed Rate ISA which pays a market-leading tax-free rate of 2.00% on £500 or more.

Under current rules, Halifax fixed rate ISA savers have 60 days in which to fund their accounts after they have applied. However, following last week’s Budget changes to ISAs, Halifax has just tripled this to 180 days. This means that anyone applying for a fixed rate ISA at the start of next tax year on April 6 will be able to top it up to the new £15,000 limit which is being introduced on July 1.

Those wanting to use this year’s allowance have until 7pm on Thursday April 3, Friday April 4, and until 4pm on Saturday April 5 if they want to submit their application at a Halifax branch. The final deadline for phone applications is 4pm on April 5, and 11.59pm on April 5 if you are making an online ISA application.

Remember…

If you are making a branch-based ISA application, you will need to take proof of identity and proof of address with you. Your passport and driving licence are usually the preferred forms of ID, while a utility bill and council tax statement are often suggested as proof of address. You won’t be able to open an account without this information.

Where to save next

If you have used this year’s ISA allowance and have next year’s ready to go, perhaps it’s time to have a think about peer to peer lending? This growing industry will be regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) from April 1 this year. Your money still won’t be protected in the same way as if it were held in a bank or building society, but returns on your cash can be much greater. Read more about what happens when you invest in peer to peer with Laura Howard’s article.

If you decide that peer to peer is for you, shop around for the best deal on our dedicated channel. It’s also worth knowing you can currently land yourself £25 cashback if you open any of RateSetter’s savings accounts exclusively via MoneySuperMarket.

Please note: any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.

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