New tax year, new ISA allowance

The new tax year has begun, and savers shouldn’t delay if they are looking to make the most of their higher 2011/2012 ISA allowance.

You may have only just got round to using last year’s allowance before the last tax year finished on April 5, but the sooner you invest your allowance for the new tax year, the sooner you will start earning tax-free returns. This year you can invest up to £10,680 in ISAs, of which half can be invested in cash, and half in stocks and shares. Alternatively, you can choose to invest the whole allowance in stocks and shares only.

The good news is that there are plenty of great accounts and funds available for early bird investors – here, we take a look at some of the best cash ISAs currently available.

Our favourite ISAs for the new tax year…

Many savings providers launch their most competitive deals right at the end of the tax year to entice people to use their annual allowance, but plenty of these accounts are still available to savers this tax year too. What's more, we've seen some new ISAs launched for the early-bird savers to take advantage of.

Kevin Mountford, head of banking at said: “A lot of savers tend to make a decision about their ISA towards the end of the financial year and as a result, banks and building societies traditionally launch high profile promotional campaigns in the weeks leading up to 5 April. However, this year we have seen several providers keeping their good deals available beyond the ISA deadline and have even seen some new market-leading products being introduced.”

For savers wanting easy access to their money, Santander is still offering its Flexible ISA Issue 3, which pays an impressive 3.30% on a minimum deposit of £1. Bear in mind, however, that this rate includes a 2.80% bonus for 12 months, so you will need to move your money when that disappears. Investing the maximum £5,340 permitted in this Isa would earn £176.22 in interest over the year.

Barclays Golden ISA is also well worth a look, and pays a marginally lower 3.25% annual interest tax-free, again on a minimum investment of £1.

Top easy access ISAs for transfers

Neither of the above accounts accept transfers from existing ISAs, so if you do want to move money across from another account as well as using this year’s allowance, you might want to consider Nationwide Building Society’s e-ISA account. This pays 3.10%, including a 1.35% bonus until the end of August next year, and can be opened with a minimum investment of £1. The e-ISA is available online to existing Nationwide customers with a card-based account. 

Alternatively, Halifax’s ISA Direct Reward ISA also accepts transfers, and pays 3.00% which includes a 2.5% bonus for 12 months. Existing Halifax current account customers earn a higher rate of 3.20%.


Best short term fixed rate ISAs

Recent days have seen a flurry of fixed rate ISA launches for savers wanting to lock into competitive rates at the start of the tax year. Remember, however, that if you plan on locking in for a long period of time, rates which look impressive now may not seem quite as appealing when interest rates start to rise.

For savers who only want to tie up their money for a short period of time, Principality Building Society has introduced a one year Fixed Rate ISA paying 3.10% annual interest tax-free on a minimum investment of £500, but this account doesn’t accept transfers in from other providers.

The highest rate currently available on a one-year Fixed Rate ISA is from bank of Cyprus, at 3.30% on a minimum investment of £1.
If you can lock in for longer, Halifax has launched a market-leading two year Fixed Rate Isa Saver account offering a tempting 3.65% annual interest tax-free, again on a minimum investment of £500.

Favourite fixed rate ISAs for three years or more

For those wanting to tie up their money for three years, Leeds Building Society has launched a three year fixed rate ISA paying 4.20% annual tax-free interest which, unusually for a fixed rate account, allows savers to withdraw 25% of funds at any time without notice or penalty. This account can be opened with a minimum investment of £1, and you cannot make transfers in from existing ISAs.

Nationwide Building Society is offering the same high rate of 4.20% on its new limited edition three-year fixed rate ISA, but this account is only available to existing savers who have had a minimum of £1 in any of Nationwide’s savings accounts for at least three months prior to application. The account pays up to 0.35% more than Nationwide’s current three-year Fixed Rate ISA and can be opened with a minimum investment of £1. No transfers from existing ISAs are allowed.

Alternatively, Principality Building Society’s three-year Fixed Rate ISA pays 4.17% on a minimum investment of £500, and accepts transfers in from existing ISAs.

Other competitive Fixed Rate ISAs include Kent Reliance Building Society’s three- year Fixed Rate ISA which pays 4.00% annual interest tax-free on a minimum investment of £100, and Bank of Cyprus’s three-year Cash ISA Bond which pays 4.10% on a minimum investment of £1.

Savers who want to tie up their money for even longer might want to consider BM Savings’ five year Fixed Rate ISA, which pays a massive 5.00% annual interest tax-free on a minimum investment of £500. A monthly interest option is available at 4.89%, which is useful for savers looking to supplement their income.

Kevin said; “Savvy savers looking to generate some good returns on their hard earned cash should take advantage of these great rates whilst they’re still around, as many could disappear quickly. In addition, if you have old ISA funds sitting on a low rate of interest it is worth transferring to a new deal, however be aware that some offers don’t allow this.

“With little movement expected in the market, by shopping around and comparing the range of products that best suits their circumstances, savers could be better off taking advantage of the good rates now as they will benefit from accruing interest immediately rather than waiting for a better deal at a higher rate.”

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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