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Transfer Your Cash ISAs 1.6% easy access, 3% fix on old AND new ISAs

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Cherry on the ISA cakeA cash ISA is just a tax-free savings account. You don't need to lock the cash away. Many are easy access, and most accept transfers of previous years' ISAs.

A lot of old best buy ISAs now pay rates as low as 0.1%. If yours is one of them, you can transfer to get up to 30 times more interest.

What is an ISA?

If you have savings, and aren't using an ISA (Individual Savings Account), then you're over-engorging the taxman's pocket. A cash ISA is simply an untaxed savings account. Get the best ISA available and it's a big interest boost.

You can deposit £5,940 this tax year, and from 1 July you’re going to be able to top it up to £15,000. You should be trying to earn as much interest as possible.

As cash ISAs began back in 1999, it's now possible to have around £55,000, plus interest, tucked away in them. But if you've not kept your eye on the rate, then it's probably dropped lower than a limbo dancer.

Luckily, you're free to switch your ISA money about, meaning it's possible to surf a wave of high, tax-free rates. That's as long as the account's rules allow ISA transfers, and not all of them do.

For 12 years now, whether on telly, radio or in m'book, I've used the same analogy to explain ISAs. So why stop now? Here come the cakes! For a more detailed explanation of ISAs, including what happened to the old mini and maxi rules (don't worry, it still includes the cakes) see the full ISA Guide.

An example of how ISAs work

The ISA will become a NISA from 1 July with a higher allowance of £15,000 – when all can be put into cash. But don’t let that put you off opening an ISA now. You can use this year’s allowance of £5,940 and then top it up to £15,000 come July.

Why do an ISA transfer?

Cash ISA rates move and change. The best buys a few years ago may be paltry payers now. By transferring you can ride the wave of the highest rates, while keeping your cash in the tax-free wrapper. On £20,000 savings, some can gain £800/year.

It's also possible to fix the rate or up the risk you're taking to get much higher potential returns by using different types of cash ISAs. More on that later.

You can also transfer money from old Tessa-Only ISAs (or Toisas). If you had a Tessa, the tax-free forerunners of ISAs, it's possible some of your cash was swept into a Toisa once the Tessa matured. If your cash is still there now, the top picks here will accept that transferred in too. Find out more in the Toisa section.

Any reason not to transfer?

You may be charged a penalty by your current provider for transferring out. This is becoming less common, but always check.

A small penalty like 30 days' lost interest isn't Listen up! The golden rule of ISAs… such a big issue, but a higher fee effectively locks you in, as the gain from switching is gazumped by the transfer charge. If your ISA has a penalty for leaving, work out if you'll actually be better off by switching to the better interest rate.

How to transfer: The golden rule!

Transferring an ISA allowance is a technical process, not just like switching a normal savings account. Yet as long as you abide by the golden ISA transfers rule, it should go smoothly.

Never, ever, ever, ever withdraw money from a cash ISA!
You'll immediately lose all the tax benefits.

Instead, speak to the new provider and fill out an ISA transfer form. This will usually include a note you can send to your existing ISA company. Your new company should then sort it all out, including moving the money over for you, keeping your tax benefits intact.

The banks have agreed to a guideline of 15 working days for the transfer to take place, so you should begin to receive interest within this time. If it goes much over 15 working days, it's worth complaining to the ISA provider.

The rules

Like ISAs themselves, the ISA transfer rules are unnecessarily complicated. The two key ones are:

  • Not all ISA transfer types are allowed. You can transfer a cash ISA into a shares ISA, but not the other way around.
  • Only past years' ISAs can be split. Current-year cash ISAs must be moved whole, but previous years' allowances may be split between different providers.

These rules are explained in full in the comprehensive ISA Guide.

ISA transfer FAQs

Cash ISA transfers are often an area of confusion. To help clear up fact from fiction, we've put together a quick Q&A.

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How safe are your savings?

Bank collapse was once easy to dismiss, then the credit crunch and global market turmoil hit. The UK soon found itself bailing out Northern Rock, and the US authorities followed for even bigger bank Bear Stearns. These days every sensible saver should ask: is my money safe?

The answer's quite simple. Provided your money is in a UK-regulated bank or building society account, it's protected under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS). Its golden rule counts for ISAs too...

The first £85,000 per person, per financial institution is guaranteed.

Sadly, this is the simple face of savings safety; the exact rules are more complex, involving how different banks are registered and what counts as a financial institution. For full info on the rules, see the detailed Are Your Savings Safe? guide.

Eggs in a basket

How to maximise safety

Unless you've done very well in terms of earning interest, any cash ISA balance is unlikely to top this £85,000 limit, so there's likely to be no problem. If you have further savings in other accounts with the same bank or building society, then in the unlikely event that it went bust only the first £85,000 is fully guaranteed. For total peace of mind, don't put more than this in any one institution; spread it around.

For those with very large amounts of savings (for example, from a house sale), this could lead to lots of accounts. Even if you've too much to stick to the £85,000 limit for each one, the general rule of not having all your eggs in one basket still works.

This guide and best buys

It's impossible to pick "which bank is in trouble?". We've seen great names of world banking like Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch in trouble. Therefore the only solution for this site is that we'll report the top rates regardless, alongside explaining any protection oddities. So far, world governments have reacted to protect their banks and no savers have lost money, and it's likely (though not certain) this will continue.

The UK's best ISAs

Not all cash ISAs accept transfers in, especially the top paying ones. Their high rates are intended to grab headlines and new customers, but cost the banks as little as possible. Yet at the moment, most of the best ISAs do allow transfers in, which is great news!

As cash ISAs are generally 'variable rate', meaning they move both with the Bank of England base rate and for providers' own competitive reasons, always check every six months or so that your rate is still competitive. If not, transfer to a better payer. For alternatives to monitoring interest rates, read the Fixed Rate Accounts section.

It's also worth checking how quickly you'd be able to access your money. We list the top transfer-accepting ISAs, but some of these accounts may have withdrawal restrictions or penalties. If you might need it, make sure the ISA you pick allows you to easily access your money.

Unless stated, all the accounts have full protection under the £85,000 per person, per institution rules. Though do check how institutions are linked and other notes in the Safe Savings guide.

Top easy-access ISA

If you want a simpler option, easy-access ISAs offer unlimited access without notice. But right now, the right type of fixed rate can be better, especially if you don't plan to withdraw cash - rates can be boosted to 1.76% in year one. See below for more.

BM Savings

BM Savings, 1.65% AER incl 1.15% bonus for a year. Apply online or by phone.

  • Rate: 1.65% AER incl 1.15% bonus for a year
  • Min deposit: £20,000
  • Interest paid: Annually or monthly
  • Allows previous ISA transfers?Yes
  • Transfer out penalties? No
  • Access: Post
  • Safety: Shared £85,000 UK protection

If you've got at least £20,000, the top ISA for transfers is BM Savings' ISA Extra (issue 9), which pays 1.65% AER for a year.

The rate drops to 1.4% if your balance falls below £20,000. If you've less to transfer in, then see the Santander ISA below which beats this. After a year, the rate drops to 0.5% so diarise to ditch and transfer out when it does.

The account can be opened online or by phone, though once it's opened it can only be accessed by post. You can make unlimited withdrawals and interest is paid annually or monthly.


Santander, 1.6% AER for old and new ISA cash. online, phone or branch access.

  • Rate: 1.6% AER variable
  • Min deposit: £500
  • Interest paid: Annually
  • Allows previous ISA transfers? Yes
  • Withdrawals: Unlimited
  • Access: Online/phone/branch
  • Safety: Shared £85,000 UK protection

The Santander Direct ISA Saver (issue 6) pays 1.6% AER for a year, and allows transfers in from previous years' ISAs.

You can save from £500 and make unlimited withdrawals. If you've less to save, see Halifax below.

After a year, it changes to an ISA Saver, which currently pays 0.5% for balances under £10,000, 1.50% on over £10,000 and 2% on over £25,000. Check the rates, and ditch and transfer if it can be beaten.

Yet most people should use a fixed-rate loophole...

Usually, a fixed-rate cash ISA is designed to lock money away for a set period. But by law, providers must allow you access to your cash, whenever you want it. But most will levy heavy penalties if you do this.

But a few fixed rates have lower penalties, or allow you some access to your cash. If they pay enough and the penalties are low enough, it's worth getting one, even if you have no intention of keeping it for the full term.

We’ve been through all the terms and conditions and picked out products that can be winners here, and two other top fixes to compare them to. All are accessible online, by post and in branches, and allow some form of access. The table below will guide you through when each one is likely to be right for you.

Of course, if you KNOW you'll need access soon, it's not worth opening one of these accounts. But if that's not the case, then in most cases these beat easy-access and shorter fixes.

Top maniputable fixes & standard short fixes for comparison Effective rate if withdrawing after:
Provider Rate (AER) Fixed Term Allows transfers? Withdrawal penalty: Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4
3% (min £500) Until 16 May 2019 Yes 240 days' interest (1) 1.03% 2.02% 2.34% 2.51%
2% (min £500) 18 mths Yes 135 days' interest (1) 1.26% 2% after 18 mths - -
2.3% (min £500) 2 years Yes 120 days' interest (1) 1.54% 2.3% - -
(1) Partial withdrawals not permitted - you must close the account.

Top alternative easy-access ISAs


Halifax, 1.55% AER* For old and new ISA cash. Apply online.

  • Rate: 1.55% variable AER
  • Min deposit: £1
  • Interest paid: Annually on 5 April
  • Allows previous ISA transfers? Yes
  • Transfer out penalties? No
  • Access: Online
  • Safety: Shared £85,000 UK protection

The Halifax* ISA Saver Online pays 1.55% AER, including a 1.3% bonus lasting a year.

As you know the rate is likely to drop substantially then, you'll need to transfer. However, in the meantime it's an effective strong rate guarantee.

You can save from £1 and it also allows transfers in of previous years' ISA cash.

Best ISA buys: Linked accounts


Coventry BS, 2.5% AER Existing Coventry ISA customers wanting to transfer

  • Rate: 2.5% AER variable
  • Min deposit: £1
  • Interest paid: Annually only
  • Allows previous ISA transfers? Yes
  • Transfer out penalties? No
  • Access: Phone/online/in branches
  • Safety: Shared £85,000 UK protection

Existing customers who held an ISA with Coventry BS before 4 Feb 2013 can get its Reward ISA paying a variable 2.5% AER.

There's no short-term bonus, so prepare to ditch and transfer if the rate drops. You can save from £1 and it also allows transfers in of previous years' ISA cash.

The account can be opened by phone or in branches, but afterwards can be operated online. Interest is paid annually on 31 March and it allows unlimited withdrawals.

First Direct

Min £40k+: First Direct, 2% AER 1st Account customers only.

  • Rate: 2% AER variable
  • Min deposit: £40,000
  • Interest paid: Monthly
  • Allows previous ISA transfers? Yes
  • Transfer out penalties? No
  • Access: Online, by phone or post
  • Safety: Shared £85,000 UK protection

If you're a First Direct 1st Account customer - a top pick bank account with a £100 opening bonus - with over £40,000 to transfer, its Cash ISA pays a variable 2% AER.

For balances under £5,000 you'll get 1.3% AER; 1.5% AER if you've £5,000 - £10,000; 1.7% AER for £10,000 - £20,000; and if you've £20,000 - £40,000, it'll be 1.85% AER.

There's no short-term bonus, so prepare to ditch and transfer if the rate drops.

Check your local building society

On occasion a few small building societies may beat these with special deals for people in their locality, or for existing customers, so it's worth checking yours. All these rates are variable, meaning providers can change the interest whenever they like. Therefore always monitor what yours pays and transfer again if it drops. For more options and alternatives, read the Top Cash ISAs guide.

The top fixed rate accounts

If you're willing to lock your cash away, there are some alternatives to monitoring interest rates. But remember...

Fixed rate ISAs give a guaranteed rate for a set period, but you can't take your money out during that time.

Therefore, they're only suitable for those who are happy to lock cash away for the entire term. You lose the flexibility to ditch and switch to a better payer if the rate is no longer competitive compared to others, or if something changes in its safety stakes.

While your money is supposedly locked away for one to five years, providers are forced to permit withdrawals, usually with an interest penalty of up to 365 days. However, they may not allow transfers to other ISA providers, meaning you'd have to lose the tax benefits to get at the cash.

Currently, that's balanced out because some fixed rate ISAs offer slightly better rates than the easy access variable accounts. This is because with fixed rate providers, you get surety that you won't want your cash back until a set time, allowing them to plan their lending strategies better.

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1 Year

The best one-year fixed rates

Rates are slightly higher in one-year fixed accounts, but you risk rate increases in the meantime.

Tesco Tesco BS 1.65% AERFrom £1. Apply by online or by phone. Transfers allowed.

  • Product & linkTesco Fixed Rate Cash ISA
  • Rate: 1.65% AER
  • Length of fixed deal: 1 year
  • Min deposit: £1
  • Access: Online/phone
  • Allows transfers from previous years? Yes
  • CLOSURE penalty: 30 days' interest
  • Savings safety: Full £85,000 FSCS protection
Full detailsApply

Halifax Halifax 1.65% AER* From £500. Apply online, by post or in branch. Transfers allowed

  • Product & link: Halifax Fixed ISA Saver*
  • Rate: 1.65% AER
  • Length of fixed deal:1 year
  • Min deposit: £500
  • Access: Online, branch or phone
  • Allows transfers from previous years? Yes
  • CLOSURE penalty: 90 days' interest
  • Savings safety: Shared £85,000 FSCS protection
Full detailsApply*

The best 18-month fixed rate

If you’re looking to fix for longer than a year, Halifax’s 18 month account is a top pick, paying a similar rate to the top open-to-all two year fixes.

Halifax Halifax 2% AER* From £500. Apply online, by post or in branch. Transfers allowed

  • Product & link: Halifax Fixed ISA Saver*
  • Rate: 2% AER
  • Length of fixed deal:18 months
  • Min deposit: £500
  • Access: Online, branch or phone
  • Allows transfers from previous years? Yes
  • CLOSURE penalty: 135 days' interest
  • Savings safety: Shared £85,000 FSCS protection
Full detailsApply*
2 Years

The best two-year fixed rates

Currently our top pick is only best if you're a Santander 123 current account or credit card customer.

If that’s not you, consider opting for the Halifax 18-month fix above – it pays a similar rate without locking your cash away for as long.

Santander BS Santander 2.3% AER (123 customers only) From £500. Apply online, by post or in branch. Transfers allowed.

  • Product and link: Santander Fixed Rate Cash ISA
  • Rate: 2.3% AER for 123 customers (1.8% if not)
  • Length of fixed deal: 2 years
  • Min deposit: £500
  • Access: Online, branch or phone
  • Allows transfers from previous years? Yes
  • CLOSURE penalty: 120 days' interest
  • Savings safety: Shared £85,000 FSCS protection
Full detailsApply

Halifax Halifax 2.05% AER* From £500. Apply online, by post or in branch. Transfers allowed

  • Product & link: Halifax Fixed ISA Saver*
  • Rate: 2.05% AER
  • Length of fixed deal:2 years
  • Min deposit: £500
  • Access: Online, branch or phone
  • Allows transfers from previous years? Yes
  • CLOSURE penalty: 180 days' interest
  • Savings safety: Shared £85,000 FSCS protection
Full detailsApply*

Nationwide Nationwide 2.05% AER From £1. Apply in branch. Transfers allowed

  • Product & link: Nationwide Fixed Rate ISA
  • Rate: 2.05% AER
  • Length of fixed deal: 2 years
  • Min deposit: £1
  • Access: Branch
  • Allows transfers from previous years? Yes
  • CLOSURE penalty: 180 days' interest
  • Savings safety: Shared £85,000 FSCS protection
Full detailsApply
3 Years

The best three-year fixed rates

The longer you fix for, the more you risk rates increasing in the meantime. Be aware that if they improve before 2017, you could lose out.

Click to see all three-year fixed rates.

4 Years

The best four-year fixed rates

Rates can be boosted slightly with a four-year fix, but again you risk rates rising. You may want to consider a shorter fix.

Click to see all four-year fixed rates.

5 Years

The best five-year fixed rates

The top interest rates are paid on five-year fixed ISAs. But it does mean locking money away until 2019.

Click to see all five-year fixed rates.

Use the net to compare top rates

Fixed rate deals can change regularly. For a full list of fixed rate ISAs, use the MoneySupermarket* comparison (select cash ISAs and then bonds) or Moneyfacts. Though remember, they're just a simple list of top rates, so ensure you check for the possible pitfalls noted in this guide.

Inflation-beating ISA savings

An alternative to fixing is to get an account which gives you a rate guarantee for a certain period. However, usually you have to lock cash away for up to five years, so only go for it if you are totally sure you won't need access. Unfortunately, savings rates are poor at the moment so there aren't any available.

Want to up the risk?

If you want to up the risk, and potential reward or loss, on your cash ISA money, it's possible to transfer your cash ISA into a shares ISA (but not the other way around though this is changing from July). Read the full ISA Guide.

What about Toisas?

The Tessa-only ISA, tongue-twistingly known as a Toisa, was another special tax-free product. Old-style Tessas, the forerunner of the cash ISA, lasted for five years and then matured. If this occurred any time between 1999 and 2004, the Tessa automatically turned into a Toisa.

All Toisas have been simple cash ISAs since 2008, meaning all normal ISA rules apply. You can no longer add any more funds to an old Toisa, but if you have any money left in one, you can transfer it, and up the rate, to any of the accounts above.

The size of the saving

The benefit from transferring the full £56,040-worth of cash ISAs
Rate Total interest Gain
1 year 2 year 3 year
Dunfermline BS Direct Cash ISA
Santander Direct Cash ISA
For ease of illustration, calculations assume variable rates remain constant
(or you transfer when rates drop)

If you have the full £56,040 (all 15 years' worth) in Dunfermline Building Society's very poor 0.25% interest instant access cash ISA, it would earn just £380 in interest over three years. This compares to £2,730 with the top paying Santander.

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Duplicate links of the * links above for the sake of transparency, but this version doesn't help Halifax 18mth, Halifax 2yr, Halifax 3 yr, Halifax 4yr, Halifax Online ISA, MoneySupermarket

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