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How to find the best cash Isa

How to pick the best cash Isa for your needs, what the top rates are, and how you can earn tax-free interest on your savings.

In this article
What are the best cash Isa accounts? What are the different types of cash Isa? What are the best cash Isa deals in 2019? What kind of cash Isa should you get? What are combined cash Isa accounts?
What are the alternatives to cash Isas? Who are the best and worst cash Isa providers? Who are Which?’s Recommended Providers? About Which?'s Isa research

What are the best cash Isa accounts?

Inflation falls to 1.7% in August 2019, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), mainly due to a decrease in the cost of ‘recreational’ and ‘cultural goods’, including games, toys and hobbies, and cultural services, as well as clothing and sea fares.

Since inflation has dropped to its lowest level in over two and a half years, there are more accounts that can help protect your savings – and you could earn this by locking up your money for a year or less.

Below shows the accounts paying the most interest on cash across instant access, notice and fixed-rate deals,Below shows the accounts paying the most interest on cash across instant access, notice and fixed-rate deals. This page is updated weekly, every Thursday. 

For live savings rates, the Which? Money Compare Isa tables let you search hundreds of cash Isa accounts from providers large and small to find a great account, based on quality service as well as cost and benefits.

What are the different types of cash Isa?

Find out more about the different types of Isa available, and which might be suitable for your savings goals. 

 

Fixed-rate cash Isas

 

If you sign up to a fixed-rate account, this usually means that - for a certain amount of time - your cash will earn a set rate of interest.

Rates are usually higher than instant-access accounts, and as a general rule, the longer you lock your money away for, the higher the rate will be. 

Most providers will specify a minimum initial deposit; the minimum amount you can save in order to qualify for the interest rate. You’ll need to check that you have enough savings to fulfil this requirement.

Once you’ve deposited your chosen amount of cash, many accounts won’t allow you to add further cash, or withdraw any, until the fixed term is up. Others may allow withdrawals, but you’ll likely be heavily penalised with a reduced interest rate on the savings that remain.

 

Notice cash Isas

 

Notice accounts don’t tend to have restrictions on how many times you can withdraw money - but you’ll experience a delay until you receive it. 

As the name suggests, you have to give notice to your bank or building society before you can gain access to your money. The most common notice periods are 30, 60 and 90 days. 

 

Regular cash Isas

 

Regular cash Isa accounts require regular monthly payments in order to qualify for the AER; the amount you have to pay in will vary between accounts.

You'll need to be confident that you can pay in the required amount each month for the account to be worth it.

 

Instant-access cash Isas

 

Instant-access accounts give you the flexibility to withdraw money whenever you like, while (usually) earning more interest than you would if the cash was just sat in a current account.

Interest rates are usually lower than those offered by regular, notice and fixed-rate accounts.

However, make sure you watch out for any tricky terms, that are most common with this kind of account. For instance, some accounts are billed as offering instant-access, but may restrict the number of withdrawals you’re permitted to make each year.

Others have a bonus rate for the first 12 months, after which point the AER may dramatically drop. 

What are the best cash Isa deals in 2019?

Instant-access cash Isa accounts (unlimited withdrawals)

Excluding accounts with limited withdrawals or other restrictions, the best instant-access rate in our tables is 1.44% AER, offered from Charter Savings Bank.

Al Rayan Bank offers the next best rate in our table, at 1.35% AER.

The account from Al Rayan Bank is a sharia-compliant product, and so offers an expected profit rate as opposed to interest.

One-year fixed-rate cash Isas

If you're able to lock your savings away for a year, you could earn up to 1.63% AER - this is the top rate in our tables, offered by Cynergy Bank.

Al Rayan Bank offers the next-best rate in our table, at 1.6% AER. 

The account from Al Rayan Bank is a sharia-compliant product, and so offers an expected profit rate as opposed to interest.

Two-year fixed-rate cash Isas

Al Rayan Bank offers the top-rate in our two-year cash Isa table, paying 1.8% AER. 

The account from Al Rayan Bank is a sharia-compliant product, and so offers an expected profit rate as opposed to interest.

Ford Money and Metro Bank offer the next best rates, both paying 1.75% AER.

Three-year fixed-rate cash Isas

The top-rate in our three-year cash Isa tables is 1.85% AER, from Metro Bank.

Newcastle BS and Virgin Money offer the nexy best rates in our table, both paying 1.71% AER.

Four-year fixed-rate cash Isas

United Trust Bank offers the best four-year rate of 1.85% AER - but note that it requires a minimum initial deposit of £15,000, which may be out of reach for some savers.

The next best rate is 1.8% AER, which is from Hodge Bank.

Five-year fixed-rate cash Isas

If you can commit to locking your savings away for five years, you could earn a top rate of 2.1% AER, offered by Metro Bank.

The next best rate is 2%, which is offered from Charter Savings Bank, Hodge Bank, and The Family BS.

The links take you to Which? Money Compare, a comparison site for Isas offered by Which? Financial Services.

Please note that the information in this article is for information purposes only and does not constitute advice. Please refer to the particular terms & conditions of the savings account provider before committing to any financial providers.

What kind of cash Isa should you get?

If you’re not sure what kind of cash Isa account would suit your circumstances best, our handy tool can help you decide.

To find out whether instant-access is the way to go, or you’d be better off locking your cash up in a fixed-term account, simply answer the questions below.

What are combined cash Isa accounts?

According to current cash Isa rules, you’re only allowed to pay into one cash Isa account in each tax year. You can open a new account and transfer your current year’s deposit, but you have to transfer over the whole thing. 

If you have accounts with deposits from previous years, you can transfer all or part of those to a new account, just as long as no ‘new’ money is paid into more than one account.

However, to get around this rule, some banks and building societies have started to offer ‘combined Isas’, where you can open multiple cash Isa accounts in the same year under the same ‘wrapper’. 

This is helpful if you really want to split up your cash - for instance, you may want to save some in a fixed-rate account, while keeping some in an instant-access account. 

What are the alternatives to cash Isas?

Savers can deposit up to £20,000 tax-free in an Isa during the 2019-20 tax year. 

This money can be placed in a cash Isa, a stocks and shares Isa, an innovative finance Isa, or a mixture of all three. 

Outside of your annual Isa allowance, you might want to consider placing additional funds in a traditional savings account, or interest-paying current accounts

Find out more: Cash Isa rules and allowances reveals all of the rules you'll need to stick to

Who are the best and worst cash Isa providers?

While competitive rates are an important factor when deciding which cash Isa provider to choose, you’ll also want to know that the bank or building society you entrust with your cash will provide top-notch customer service.

To help find out, Which? has asked thousands of real customers to rate dozens of savings companies, resulting in unique Customer Scores to show how satisfied people are with their provider.

We’ve also analysed thousands of cash Isa products, generating an overall product score, to see which companies offer consistently competitive rates.

To be a Which? Recommended Provider a company must:

  • Achieve an above-average product score (currently 62%)
  • Have a cash Isa which sits in the top 10 in at least one category and another account sitting within the top half of at least one category
  • Be fully covered by the UK Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS)
  • Offer products which are available nationally and are not tied to the purchase of another product with the same provider.

The table below ranks the best and worst savings providers.

Provider undefined Product score Customer service Rate of interest paid

Recommended provider


Marcus by
Goldman Sachs
79% 63% -

4 out of 5

First Direct 77% 60%

5 out of 5

3 out of 5

Recommended provider


RCI Bank UK
75% 63% -

4 out of 5

Yorkshire Bank 73% 63%

5 out of 5

2 out of 5

Recommended provider


Aldermore Bank
73% 65%

4 out of 5

4 out of 5

Recommended provider


Shawbrook Bank
73% 80%

3 out of 5

4 out of 5

Recommended provider


Paragon Bank
72% 65%

4 out of 5

4 out of 5

Nationwide BS 70% 73%

5 out of 5

3 out of 5

M&S Bank 69% 80%

5 out of 5

4 out of 5

Kent Reliance 69% 70%

4 out of 5

4 out of 5

Metro Bank 69% 73%

4 out of 5

4 out of 5

Coventry BS 68% 85%

5 out of 5

3 out of 5

Post Office Money 67% 68%

4 out of 5

4 out of 5

Skipton BS 66% 83%

5 out of 5

3 out of 5

Yorkshire BS 65% 58%

4 out of 5

2 out of 5

National Savings &
Investments (NS&I)
65% 83%

4 out of 5

3 out of 5

Santander 64% 85%

4 out of 5

3 out of 5

Barclays 64% 75%

4 out of 5

2 out of 5

Virgin Money 64% 80%

4 out of 5

3 out of 5

Halifax 63% 75%

4 out of 5

2 out of 5

Tesco Bank 63% 73%

4 out of 5

3 out of 5

Lloyds Bank 63% 75%

4 out of 5

2 out of 5

HSBC 63% 85%

3 out of 5

3 out of 5

NatWest 62% 75%

3 out of 5

2 out of 5

TSB 62% 63%

4 out of 5

3 out of 5

The Co-operative
Bank
62% 70%

4 out of 5

2 out of 5

Leeds BS 61% 70%

4 out of 5

3 out of 5

Clydesdale Bank 60% 80%

3 out of 5

3 out of 5

Sainsbury's Bank 58% 58%

3 out of 5

3 out of 5

Royal Bank of Scotland 56% 63%

3 out of 5

1 out of 5

Bank of Scotland 54% 75% - -
Britannia 53% 58% - -

 

Star ratings: a - indicates that we did not get enough responses on a particular aspect of a provider's service to generate a star rating. 

Aldermore (55); Bank of Scotland (92); Barclays (414); Britannia (40); Clydesdale Bank (43); Coventry BS (124); First Direct; (157); Halifax (513); HSBC (384); Kent Reliance (62); Leeds BS (76); Lloyds Bank (397); M&S Bank (72); Marcus by Goldman Sachs (50); Metro Bank (48); NS&I (205), Nationwide BS (514); NatWest (348), Paragon Bank (60); Post Office Money (93); RCI Bank UK (47); RBS (136); Sainsbury's Bank (77); Santander (441), Shawbrook Bank (49); Skipton BS (78); Tesco Bank (122); The Co-operative Bank (88); TSB (156); Virgin Money (153); Yorkshire Bank (43); Yorkshire BS (101). Overall average sample size 5,536.

We’ve also looked at the main elements of an instant-access savings account and have introduced a scoring system as a way of comparing each account on an equal basis. For a provider to be eligible for WRP status, it must achieve an average or above score for its instant-access savings account (currently 62%).

Despite First Direct and Yorkshire Bank scoring 70% or more for customer satisfaction, they are not eligible for WRP status as First Direct's savings products are tied to the purchase of its 1st Current Account and Yorkshire Bank doesn't have a top 10 product.

Who are Which?’s Recommended Providers?

Marcus by Goldman Sachs

Marcus by Goldman Sachs has the highest customer score this year, receiving 79%. Customers gave it five stars (out of five) for its application process, and praised its rate of interest.

Marcus doesn't currently offer an Isa product. 

See details about the Marcus by Goldman Sachs top-paying instant-access account.

RCI Bank

RCI Bank achieved a customer score of 75% this year, with customers rating it highly across the board - particularly when it comes to transparent charges and clarity of statement.

RCI Bank doesn't currently offer an Isa product.

See details about RCI Bank's top-paying instant-access account. 

Aldermore Bank

A great customer score, and a decent overall product score, Aldermore Bank offers a combination of competitive fixed-rate bonds and variable-rate accounts.

Aldermore doesn't currently offer an instant-access Isa. See details about Aldermore Bank's top-paying one-year fixed-rate Isa.

Shawbrook Bank

No stranger to the top-rate spot, Shawbrook Bank's rate of interest has been praised, along with its transparent charges by customers.

See details about Shawbrook Bank's top-paying instant-access Isa.

Paragon Bank

Paragon Bank scored an impressive 72% in our customer satisfaction survey and a product score of 65%.

See details about Paragon Bank's top-paying instant-access Isa.

The links take you to Which? Money Compare, a comparison site for Isas offered by Which? Financial Services.

About Which?'s Isa research

Which? Customer Score

Which?'s rating for customer satisfaction, based on feedback from real customers. The score is made up of a customer's overall satisfaction with the brand, and how likely they are to recommend that brand.

We surveyed 5,536 members of the general public in July 2019.

Product score

We analyse the key elements of savings accounts, including account management and restrictions to calculate a product rating score. 

Which? Recommended Provider status

A Customer Score of 70% makes a brand eligible for Which? Recommended Provider status, but we’ll only award this if it has an average or above product score.

It must also offer an account sitting in the top 10 in at least one category of savings accounts and, if it offers more than one account, another product sitting within the top half of at least one category.

This ensures that the providers we endorse have a set of products that offer consistently good rates, along with excellent customer service. 

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