While you won’t earn interest on your bonds, you will be eligible for the monthly prize draws – and could even become one of two monthly millionaire winners (if you’re super-lucky that is).
Premium Bonds are run by NS&I, which itself is run by the government. Instead of earning interest, you get the chance to win a tax-free prize.
Each bond costs £1, so if you invest the minimum amount allowed – £100 – you’ll have 100 bonds that’ll be entered into the monthly prize draws.
Over 21 million people in the UK hold an eye-popping £53 billion-worth of Premium Bonds, with their money protected by HM Treasury safeguards.
Here’s everything you need to know about Premium Bonds, including some info on this ERNIE character that always seems to crop up...
1. Investment limits:
From the beginning of June, the maximum you can invest increases from £40,000 to £50,000. Last June the limit was raised from £30,000, and since then the total invested in Premium Bonds has increased by £6 billion.
2. How to buy:
You can buy Premium Bonds online through the NS&I website, by phone, at a Post Office branch or by post. The minimum investment is £100 a time, or £50 if you are buying by standing order.
Did you know? Sir Cuthbert Ackroyd (who later became Lord Mayor of London) bought the first Premium Bond on 1 November 1956. By the end of that first day, £5 million worth had been sold.
3. Keeping it in the family:
Parents and grandparents are able to purchase and manage Premium Bonds for kids until they reach the age of 16. Previously, these bonds could only be bought via postal application or at Post Office branches, but phone and online applications are now accepted.
4. Savings alternative:
Premium Bonds are attractive as wins are tax-free. Interest on savings accounts is taxed in most cases, although ISAs are tax-free (the annual investment limit is £15,240). From next year, everyone will have a Personal Savings Allowance which will mean basic rate taxpayers can earn £1,000 interest tax-free each year. The figure for higher rate taxpayers is £500.
Did you know? Currently, the Premium Bond prize-fund rate is equivalent to an interest rate of 1.35% a year. This means that if you held every single premium bond there is, your winnings would work out at 1.35% of the amount you invested.
5. No notice required to get your cash:
There’s no charge to cash in some or all of your bonds, and you are not required to give any notice.
6. Against the odds:
In a typical draw, each bond has a one in 26.2 BILLION chance of winning £1m. The odds of each bond winning ANY prize are better - but still not great - at 26,000 to 1.
Did you know? An ‘Agent Million’ at the NS&I has the responsibility of telling the good news to millionaire winners. According to NS&I, one Agent Million has told over 100 new millionaires about their good fortune.
7. Timing of the draws:
For your bond number to be entered into the prize draw you need to have had it for a full calendar month after the month of purchase. Therefore Bonds bought in June will be entered automatically into the August draw.
8. Number selection:
Each month, prize winners are selected at random by the NS&I’s computer ERNIE (Electronic Random Number Indicator Equipment). Bond numbers can vary between 8-11 digits long, but ERNIE has been programmed to give each number a separate and equal chance of winning.
Did you know? ERNIE was developed by one of the original Bletchley Park code breakers. Since its creation in 1956, the time it takes ERNIE to generate a number has fallen from 52 days to two and a half hours. NS&I revealed that over the years ERNIE – who resides in Blackpool – has developed a celebrity-like status and receives yearly Valentine's and Christmas Cards
9. 24-hour access:
Your Premium Bonds can be managed online, as well as through NS&I’s Prize Checker app. NS&I will also send you a Bond record every time you invest. This information is also available online if you opt to go paperless.
What are the drawbacks to Premium Bonds?
While there are advantages to investing in Premium Bonds, it’s worth taking into account other factors which could possibly deter you.
Premium Bonds will not provide you with a regular income nor will they guarantee a return on your cash. The odds of winning a prize speak for themselves so you’d have to be prepared that you might not win anything at all.
Equally, the purchasing power of your cash could be steadily eroded over the years by inflation (the rising cost of living).
And unless you are buying for you child or grandchild, Premium Bonds can’t be purchased as gifts.