Hot money deals, 30 November 2011Which? experts round up the best money deals

30 November 2011

Personal Finance Software

Personal finance software can be a great help for keeping track of all the pennies.

This week, we track down the best savings accounts and cash Isas, as well as the leading credit card and loan deals. We also help you find free personal finance software to help you budget more effectively.

Best savings accounts

  • Instant access savings: Santander's eSaver Issue 4 account offers the best instant-access deal at 3.1%. The rate includes a 2.6% bonus payable for a year.
  • One-year fixed-rate savings: AA, Clydesdale, Krbs and Yorkshire Bank offer the top-paying one-year fixed rate accounts at 3.6%.
  • Three-year fixed-rate savings: Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank offer the best three-year fixed rate deals at 4.3%. Interest is paid monthly or yearly.
  • Five-year fixed rate savings: Clydesdale, Krbs and Yorkshire Bank offer the top-paying five-year fixed rate accounts at 4.7%. All accounts can be operated at a branch or via the internet.

The market's best cash Isas

  • Instant access cash Isa: AA's Internet Access Isa Issue 2 offers the best instant-access deal paying 3.05%. However, this account does not allow transfers in from other providers. If you want to transfer in previous years' funds, then Northern Rock and Principality's e-Isa accounts are the best options paying 2.80%.
  • One-year fixed-rate cash Isa: Northern Rock offers the top one-year fixed rate account at 3.35% on balances of at least £500.
  • Three-year fixed-rate cash Isa: Northern Rock offers the best three-year fixed rate accounts paying 4%.This internet-only account requires a minimum investment of £500.
  • Five-year fixed-rate cash Isa: Governor Money's Bank of ireland Fixed Rate Isa account currently leads our five-year fixed rate table paying 4.5%.

Best credit cards for 0% balance transfers

If you owe money on your credit card and need some breathing space to pay it off, these providers offer the longest 0% balance transfer deals: 

  • The Barclaycard Platinum with Extended Balance Transfer Visa has the joint-longest 0% deal on the market at 22-months. The card comes with a representative APR of 17.9% and a 3.2% balance transfer fee, although this is reduced to 2.9% if you make a transfer within the first 60 days of taking out the deal. You also receive a £40 Marks and Spencer E-gift card if you transfer a balance of £3,000 or more across to the card.
  • Halifax offers a 22-month 0% deal on the Balance Transfer MasterCard, but this is only available for for transferring balances up to £3,000. The card comes with a high balance transfer fee of 3.5% and a representative APR of 17.9%. There is also a shorter 20-months 0% deal on the 20 Month Balance Transfer MasterCard which has a lower transfer fee of 3%.
  • Which? Recommended Provider First Direct has a 20-month 0% deal with 2.9% transfer fee and 16.9% representative APR. However, to be eligible for the deal you will need to be a 1st Account (current account) holder.
  • Virgin Money currently offers one of the best deals on the market on its Credit Card MasterCard. The card has a 20-month 0% balance transfer period, a 16.8% APR on new purchases and balance transfer fees of 2.99%.

With the exception of First Direct, none of the cards listed above score very well for customer service in our recent member survey. If the deal length is less important to you and you cheaper deal than those listed above, Barclaycard is currently offering a 16-months 0% deal with a 2.1% (min £7.25) handling fee on the Platinum Low BT Fee Visa.

Take a look at our 0% balance transfer table for a round up of the best deals on the market each day. 

The cheapest unsecured personal loans

In our best rate tables, we show the lowest rates available for loans that aren't exclusive to specific account holders or existing customers of banks or other institutions. 

  • For those borrowing £5,000 over three years: Sainsbury's offers a representative rate of 7.9% APR for a £5,000 loan. Alternatively, at 8.6% - still highly competitive - borrowers can instead opt for two years of doubled Nectar points and a £25 gift card.
  • For those borrowing £10,000 over five years: M&S Money, Sainsbury's and Tesco all offer a rate of 6.4%. However, the best rate on the market - 6.1% - is offered by Nationwide. You need to have a Flex Account to qualify for it - but worth a look if you do.

And finally... this week's hot money tip

If you're struggling to keep account of your finances, or plan to improve your budgeting for the new year, you might be considering personal finance software as a means to help keep track of expenses. We have reviewed six widely available accounting packages - including two free to download ones. Read our guide to personal finance software to find out more.