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18 Nov 2021

RCI Bank launches 'green' savings account - what does it offer?

Find out how it compares to NS&I's Green Savings Bonds

Following the end of COP26, RCI Bank has launched a new green savings account, where deposits will be used to fund sustainable transport and mobility projects.

The account is available now for new and existing customers. The bank, which was initially set up by Renault to help finance customers' vehicles, will initially use proceeds to fund electric vehicles and electric charging points.

Here, Which? reveals what the account offers, and what's behind its 'green' claims.

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What does RCI Bank's E-Volve account offer?

RCI Bank's E-Volve account is a 14-day notice account, which pays a variable rate of 0.55% AER. You must deposit at least £1,000 to open the account, and savings are capped at £1m.

The account is covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), but only up to £85,000 - any savings over this amount wouldn't be covered if the bank were to go bust.

Notice accounts are somewhere between instant-access and fixed-term accounts, in that they usually offer unlimited withdrawals but you have to wait the specified notice period until the money is paid to you.

In this case, that's 14 days. This is an unusual notice term - the most common are 30, 60, 90, and 120-day notice periods. As a general rule, the longer the notice, the higher the interest rate. In the case of the E-Volve account, however, its 0.55% rate matches interest paid by other notice accounts that require 30 and 45 days' notice.

However, you could beat this rate with an instant-access account; the top rate for this kind of account is currently 0.67% AER.

The rate can be changed at any time, but you'll get 28 days' notice before that happens.

What's 'green' about the account?

RCI Bank as a whole doesn't present itself as a sustainable savings provider, and the deposits from its other savings accounts are used to fund the lending business and operations of its sister companies in the Renault-Nissan Alliance in the UK.

While RCI Bank has been financing electric vehicles since 2011, the deposits savers place in its E-Volve account will be used exclusively for sustainable projects, which it says will help the company's aim to halve its emissions and reach net-zero by 2030. To begin with, this will involve providing financing for electric vehicles and electric charging points infrastructure.

Further down the line, RCI Bank says it's going to look into expanding into other environmentally sustainable transport projects, in line with the UK Government Green Financing Framework for developing clean transportation options. According to the government's framework, this could include things like zero-emission buses and research into new zero-emission technology.

The E-Volve account has also been set up according to the Green Loans Principles, which ensures proceeds are used on things that have a clear environmental benefit, are trackable, and are transparently reported on.

NS&I's Green Savings Bonds also ringfence savers' deposits for environmentally-friendly government projects. The money is backed by the Treasury, but you'll need to commit to a three-year fixed term, and you'll only earn 0.1% more interest than you would with RCI Bank's account.

How to check your provider's sustainability measures

If you're keen to find out how your savings provider uses your deposit, there are a few things you can do.

Firstly, you could check out our investigation into the most sustainable savings providers from earlier this year. Unfortunately, RCI Bank wasn't one of the 18 providers we assessed, but we did give a range of big banks and smaller building societies a rating out of 100 based on the publicly available sustainability information they provided to prospective customers.

You could also take a look at your provider's website. As we found, the amount of sustainability information can vary, but with environmental issues taking the spotlight many providers do share this kind of information and targets online - their 'About us' page can be a good place to start looking.

For a more in-depth look, providers' lending criteria, ethical reports and annual reports should give indications of environmental impact, emissions, and details of what industries the company will and won't lend to.