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13 Nov 2020

Banks and building societies allowing early access to fixed-rate savings

Barclays, HSBC, NatWest, Santander and more are waiving their early withdrawal penalties on fixed-rate accounts

The coronavirus pandemic has put added financial pressure on millions of households this year, meaning some people have had to make big changes to the way they save and spend their money.

According to the latest results from the Which? Consumer Insight Tracker, more than four in 10 people had to make adjustments to cover essential spending in October, such as borrowing, cutting back or taking money from savings. This had increased slightly from September.

While this is usually easy enough if your money is held in an instant-access account, it's trickier if you've committed to a fixed-term savings product. In this case, some products' terms do not usually allow early access at all, while others will charge a certain amount of interest on the sum being withdrawn as a penalty.

However, in the wake of the pandemic, many providers have loosened the rules around such terms. Here, Which? explains what measures some of the major UK savings providers are currently offering to customers in financial difficulty who want to access their money early.

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What help is on offer from savings providers?

When the first UK lockdown came into force back in March 2020, many savings providers relaxed their rules on accessing the money in fixed-term accounts to help people with their cash flow.

In November 2020, we asked the major UK savings providers whether this help had changed and what assistance they were still offering to their customers who may need to access their savings early.

Below is a full list of the providers we've heard back from so far. If you want to look up a certain provider you can do so using the search bar.

Correct as of 13 November 2020.

What to be aware of when unlocking savings

Note that some of the providers mentioned above will require you to close your fixed account in order to access the money.

If this is the case, and you're taking money out of an Isa, be aware that the money will lose its tax-free status if it's no longer held in an Isa 'wrapper'. If you're withdrawing a large sum of money and it then earns interest in the account you have moved it to, this interest will count towards your personal savings allowance and could be taxable if you exceed your limit.

Lifetime Isa withdrawal penalty reduced

In another measure to help those who need to access their savings during the pandemic, the Treasury announced on 1 May 2020 that it would be reducing the lifetime Isa withdrawal penalty to 20%, down from 25%.

This change will be in place between 6 March 2020 to 5 April 2021.

Lifetime Isa savers are charged this amount on any withdrawals that aren't for the purpose of buying their first home or in retirement before they reach the age of 60. So, if you take £1,000 out of your account while the penalty is reduced, you'll lose £200 to HMRC instead of £250.

The withdrawal penalty exists to recoup the government's 25% bonus paid on the money savers deposit. However, in practice, being charged 25% on your withdrawal not only meant you had to repay the government bonus, but you also lost 6.25% of your own cash.