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Rated: First Direct/HSBC Regular Saver accounts
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It's hard to get a decent return on your savings these days, so any account that pays 8% interest is well worth looking at. And right now, there are two accounts that pay that rate!
Admittedly, these are both regular saver accounts which require monthly deposits but that's not a problem for many savers, so let's look at the accounts in more detail.
First Direct Regular Saver account
As this is a regular saver account, you have to pay into your account every month for a year. The sum can vary each month between £25 and £300.
You can also carry over any unused savings capacity from a previous month. So if you only paid in £25 one month, you could pay in up to £575 the next month. The maximum payment over the year is £3,600.
In return for saving every month, you'll get 8% interest. So if you saved £300 a month for a year, you'd get £156 in interest at the end of the 12-month period.
Obviously this isn't a great account if you have a big lump sum you want to invest. But if you're trying to save some of your salary every month, an 8% interest rate is a great incentive to meet your savings targets.
So are there any more catches?
Well, you can't withdraw any money during the 12-month period. If you need to withdraw cash, your account will be closed. Also bear in mind that this deal is only on offer for a year. After 12 months, your money will be transferred to a different First Direct savings account. Right now, that account pays just over 1%.
The other big catch is that you must also have a First Direct 1st current account. That may sound like an onerous condition, but, in reality, First Direct's account offers great customer service, so switching your current account could be a smart move regardless of your savings needs. And you can get a £100 bonus for signing up.
HSBC Regular Saver (Preferential Rate)
If you don't fancy going with First Direct, you could also get 8% from the HSBC Regular Saver (Preferential Rate) account.
The terms are similar to the account we've just discussed, which isn't surprising as HSBC owns First Direct.
You can pay in between £25 and £300 a month with an annual maximum of £3,600. You'll also have to have one of a range of HSBC current accounts. These accounts all charge monthly fees, apart from the HSBC Premier account - a free account that's only available to those paying in more than £100,000 a month and with a qualifying mortgage or investment product with the bank.
So this HSBC Regular Saver account isn't for everyone, but if you already have an HSBC current account where you pay a monthly fee, you may want to sign up for the savings account as well.
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What other banks have to offer
If you don't want to save with HSBC or First Direct, you could get a 5% return from regular savings accounts with Santander or Norwich & Peterborough.
However, you can only get the Santander account - the Loyalty Fixed Monthly Saver account - if you pay at least £1,000 a month into a Santander current account.
The other account is the Norwich & Peterborough Gold Savings account. Its conditions are slightly less tough. You only have to pay £500 a month into the building society's Classic current account.
Frustrating times for savers
You may be getting frustrated that the best regular saver accounts are tied to other products with the same bank. Sadly, that's part of a wider trend in the UK banking market.
Basically, the banks are fed up with customers using financial comparison sites (such as MSN Compare) to get the best deal on each individual product. Instead, they want to persuade customers to have all their financial products with one bank. To use the jargon, the banks want to 'own' their customers.
In fairness, that's not a disaster if the bank offers consistently good rates on all of its products. Unfortunately, it doesn't always work out that way.
If you'd rather pick a regular savings account that doesn't force you to switch your current account, there are a couple of other options with fewer strings attached.
Which type of savings account is right for you?
Fewer strings attached
Nottingham Building Society offers a regular savings ISA that pays 5% tax free. It's called the Nottingham BS Starter ISA issue 1.
You can save up to £445 a month until the end of the tax year in April and you can also miss some monthly payments without paying a penalty. What's more, you'll get a one-off opportunity to top up the account to £5,340 next March.
However, your money will be transferred to the building society's ordinary cash ISA on 6 April. Right now, the interest rate for that account is 2.1%.
Norwich & Peterborough offers an E-Family Regular Saver account that also pays 5%. You can open the account with a maximum of £250 and you can pay in between £1 and £250 each month, so it's a great account for people who will be saving small sums. The big catch is that it's only available to families with children under the age of 16.
So, in summary, the best regular saver accounts offer very good rates but they all come with strings attached. And, of course, they're not great if you want to save a large lump sum.
If you'd prefer a low-hassle approach to saving, you may prefer a simple easy-access savings account. You could get a bit more than 3% interest and not have any bother: the choice is yours.
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