NS&I withdraws inflation-linked savings accounts
Savers have run out of time to open National Savings & Investments inflation-linked savings certificates.
Both the fixed-interest and index-linked accounts have been withdrawn in another blow to savers trying to combat rising inflation and poor interest rates.
NS&I stopped taking new sales yesterday but postal applications received today will still be honoured.
500,000 NS&I buyers
The accounts went on sale in May and were extremely popular due to their high interest rates and tax-free savings opportunities. During the past four months, nearly 500,000 savers bought the government-backed certificates.
However, the products have now been withdrawn as the amount of money invested in them has reached the limit set by the government. Jane Platt, chief executive of NS&I, says: "The volume of sales over the past few months is such that our forecasts show we were at risk of exceeding the top end of the Net Financing range, so we needed to take action to reduce sales."
Body blow for savers
Patrick Connolly, spokesperson for AWD Chase de Vere, says this news is a real "body-blow" for savers worried about inflation eroding the value of their savings: "Savers face the unwanted dilemma of keeping their money in cash and accepting it will lose value in real terms or taking more risk to try to generate better returns, though with the current weaknesses in the economy and the stockmarket this won't be a welcome prospect for many people."
With interest rates at rock bottom and inflation still running over double the Bank of England's target there are few accounts left after the NS&I withdrawal.
Louise Holmes, spokesperson for Moneyfacts, says cash ISAs may be the best option for savers who do not wish to pay tax on their interest.
The current highest variable rate ISA is 3.05% from the AA, while for those who are prepared to lock in their funds for longer, the best fixed rate ISA is 4.5% from Clydesdale Bank and beats the current 4% rate of inflation. Fixed-rate bonds pay some of the better rates in the market, with AA's five-year fixed-rate savings account paying a return of 4.6%.
But Holmes warns: "Savers who invest in a long-term fixed-rate bond must be aware that the rate may be less competitive at the end of the term compared to now, as interest rates increase over the five-year period."
Invidivual Savings Accounts were introduced on 6 April 1999 to replace personal equity plans (PEPs) and tax-exempt special savings accounts (TESSAs) with one plan that covered both stockmarket and savings products, the returns from which are tax-exempt. The ISA is not in itself an investment product. Rather, it’s a tax-free “wrapper” in which you place investments and savings up to a specified annual allowance where the returns (capital growth, dividends, interest) are tax-exempt (you don’t have to declare ISAs and their contents on your tax return). However, any dividends are taxed within the investment, and that can’t be reclaimed.
An increase in the general level of prices that persists over a period of time. The inflation rate is a measure of the average change over a period, usually 12 months. If inflation is up 4%, this means the price of products and services is 4% higher than a year earlier, requiring we spend and extra 4% to buy the same things we bought 12 months ago and that any savings and investments must generate 4% (after any taxes) to keep pace with inflation. Since 2003, the Bank of England has used the consumer prices index (CPI) as its official measure of inflation (see also retail prices index).