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NS&I cancels cuts to premium bond prizes and variable savings rates

The U-turn is meant to help NS&I savers during the coronavirus crisis

National Savings & Investments (NS&I) has cancelled the interest rate cuts it had planned for premium bonds and variable savings accounts, although changes to fixed-rate deals will still go ahead.

The rate cuts were meant to come into force from 1 May 2020, but NS&I says the decision to cancel some of them was taken to help support savers during the coronavirus crisis.

Most savings providers are either reducing their interest rates or pulling products altogether, in reaction to the current economic uncertainty and the recent cut to the Bank of England base rate.

Here, Which? explains what interest rates will remain on offer and what your chances are of winning a premium bonds prize in the next draw.

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Are you likely to win with premium bonds?

Under NS&I's original plans, the number of premium bond prizes from the draw on 1 May onwards were going to be reduced by almost 174,000 to just under 3.3 million. Prizes range from a £1m jackpot to £25.

While this still sounds like a lot of prizes, it would have had the effect of reducing the odds of winning a prize from 24,500 to 1, to 26,000 to 1.

NS&I has calculated each premium bond holder's collective chance of winning as an average interest rate. Currently, this is 1.4%, but the cuts would have reduced it to 1.3%.

While no one's cash invested in premium bonds earns any interest, this rate is the average gain that's earned over a year - taking in everything from those winning the £1m jackpot and those who don't win anything.

Bear in mind that, despite the decision not to cut the number of premium bonds prizes up for grabs, you're still not guaranteed to win anything at all. As each £1 bond is given a number, which is then chosen by ERNIE - NS&I's random number generator - it could be that your numbers never come up.

Should you save with NS&I?

Interest rates offered by NS&I accounts aren't usually market-leading, but as most savings accounts seem to be on a downward trajectory, they might become increasingly more attractive.

The table below shows the NS&I accounts and rates currently on offer, which won't change from 1 May as originally planned.

NS&I productAER remaining as it is
Direct saver1%
Investment account0.8%
Income bonds1.16%

Under the original plans to cut rates, all accounts would have offered between 0.2% and 0.4% less than in this table, bringing them all down to 0.6% to 0.7%.

Currently, none of these accounts offer market-leading rates, but that could change as providers pass on the base rate cut to savers through lower rates.

NS&I rate reductions still going ahead

Despite some cuts being cancelled, NS&I fixed-rate accounts will still see reductions on 1 May. The table below shows which accounts are being affected, and how rates will be cut.

NS&I productCurrent AERAER from 1 May 2020
Guaranteed growth bonds (one-year)1.25%1.1%
Guaranteed growth bonds (two years)1.45%1.2%
Guaranteed growth bonds (three years)1.7%1.3%
Guaranteed growth bonds (five years)2%1.65%
Guaranteed income bonds (one-year)1.21%1.05%
Guaranteed income bonds (two years)1.41%1.15%
Guaranteed income bonds (three years)1.66%1.25%

While the current five-year guaranteed growth bond matches the top rate for today's five-year fixed-term savings account, come 1 May it will become much less competitive.

However, there are a number of advantages to saving with NS&I even with the rate cuts:

  • your cash is backed by the Treasury:having your cash backed by the government could lend extra peace of mind during this time of uncertainty.
  • you don't have to observe the £85,000 FSCS limit: in the unlikely event of NS&I going bust, the fact that the cash is backed by the Treasury means more than £85,000 will be covered. Usually this is the maximum amount the FSCS will compensate for.
  • you could win £1m:while the chances are slim, as we've mentioned, the prospect of winning £1m - or even some of the otherlarge premium bond prizes - can at least provide a bit of excitement each month. No other savings providers offer such large prize draws each month.

Find out more:what is National Savings & Investments?