Savings accounts might not be all they seem

01 September 2008 / by Rachael Stiles
Savings accounts providers are vying for new custom with competitive headline rates, but customers should beware that they are not always as good as they seem, warns Defaqto.

Savers should be aware of the small print which might include some restrictive conditions, Defaqto says, especially on easy or instant access savings accounts.

According to its analysis of the top 50 savings accounts on the market, Defaqto found that 15 of them – 30 per cent – limit the number of withdrawals allowed, or impose penalties on withdrawals.

Furthermore, 18 of them (36 per cent) offer introductory bonuses to lure customers in, and 11 providers (22 per cent) have a minimum withdrawal restriction of at least £100.

Of the 50 accounts, less than a quarter offers no withdrawal restriction or introductory bonus, and 18 per cent of the best deals are only available to customers over the age of 50 or older.

Banks have been offering competitive rates in an attempt to safeguard themselves with higher levels of deposits after many were knocked for six by a heavy reliance on the bad credit mortgage business, which has now collapsed.

Despite the encouraging attention-grabbing headline rates, however, savers should "keep their wits about them" and avoid ending up with the wrong account for their needs, urges David Black, principal consultant of banking at Defaqto.

"There's been quite a vogue amongst banks and building societies to launch instant/easy access savings accounts which restrict the number of withdrawals permissible, or worse still impose a penalty on all withdrawals." he warned. "These accounts may suit some but will also result in many savers not achieving the advertised rate if they fall foul of the withdrawal restrictions."

"It's fine to take advantage of an introductory bonus but this is generally what boosts the account into best buy territory. When the bonus expires the account is very unlikely to remain competitive with the market leaders, so, if you choose one of these accounts, be prepared to move your funds elsewhere at the appropriate time."

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