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Transfer Your Cash NISAs Get 1.55% easy access, or 2.8% fixed

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Cherry on the ISA cakeA New ISA (NISA) is just a tax-free savings account. For this year's NISA cash, you can invest up to £15,000. But you can also boost rates on old (N)ISA cash too.

A lot of your old (N)ISAs will now be paying rates as low as 0.1%. If you've got one, you can transfer to a different NISA provider to get up to 30 times more interest. It's a lot nicer (for your money) in a NISA!

What is a NISA?

If you have savings, and aren't using a NISA (New Individual Savings Account), then you're over-engorging the taxman's pocket. A NISA is simply an untaxed savings account, so you'd get more money, simply by putting your cash into a NISA.

On 1 July 2014 all cash ISAs became cash NISAs. Not much has changed, but you can now deposit £15,000 each tax year (up from £5,940).

Before there were limits on what you could do with the money (£5,940 in a cash ISA, and the rest up to £11,880 in a stocks & shares ISA, or all £11,880 in stocks & shares.) But now, the whole chunk can now be used either for a cash NISA, a stocks & shares NISA, or both. You should try to earn as much interest as possible with the cash you've got.

As NISAs (previously ISAs) began back in 1999, it's now possible to have around £71,000, plus interest, tucked away in them (and more in stocks and shares NISAs). But if you've not kept your eye on the rate, then it's probably dropped lower than a limbo dancer. It's worth noting that all old ISAs you hold will now have been converted in to New ISAs (NISAs).

Luckily, you're free to switch your NISA 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 cash NISA 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 NISAs. So why stop now? Here come the cakes! For a more detailed explanation of NISAs, including what happened to the old mini and maxi rules (don't worry, it still includes the cakes) see the full NISA Guide.

An example of how ISAs work

Why do a NISA transfer?

Any sum of money that's withdrawn from a NISA will still count as your annual allowance, so if you choose to withdraw £1,000 from a fully-funded £15,000 cash NISA, you won't be able to put anymore money in until the next tax year, as you've already used your full allowance.

You can transfer funds to and from your cash or stocks and shares NISAs as many times as you wish. If you feel that your tax-free sum would do better in a cash NISA or a stocks and shares NISA, you should ask your NISA provider to arrange the transfer for you.

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, but all Tessas, Toisas and ISAs are now counted as NISAs, meaning the transfer's simple.

Any reason not to transfer?

You may be charged a penalty by your current provider for transferring out. This is not common these days, but always check, especially if your accounts are quite old.

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 (N)ISA has a penalty for leaving, work out whether you'll be better off by switching to the better interest rate.

How to transfer: The golden rule!

Transferring an old NISA is a technical process, it's not just like switching a normal savings account. Yet as long as you abide by the golden (N)ISA transfers rule, it should go smoothly.

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

Instead, speak to the new provider and fill out a NISA transfer form. Your new company should then sort it all out, including moving the money over for you, keeping your tax-free 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 NISA provider to see if they can then speed it up, or at least compensate you if the delay means that you lose a decent chunk of interest.

NISA transfer FAQs

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

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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 NISAs 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 NISA balance is unlikely to top this £85,000 limit (yet), so there's likely to be no problem. But if your cash NISA savings plus interest do exceed £85,000, then for safety, you'll need to split your NISA cash between at least two NISA providers.

Plus, 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 NISAs (accepting transfers)

Not all cash NISAs 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 NISAs do allow transfers in, which is great news!

As cash NISAs 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 NISAs section.

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

If you want a simpler option, easy-access NISAs offer unlimited access without notice.

BM Savings

BM Savings, 1.55% AER* incl 1.05% bonus for a year. Apply online or by phone.

  • Rate: 1.55% AER incl 1.05% bonus for a year
  • Min deposit: £1
  • Interest paid: Annually or monthly
  • Allows previous (N)ISA transfers? Yes
  • Transfer out penalties? No
  • Access: Postal
  • Safety: Shared £85,000 UK protection
1.55,1

The top paying ISA Extra account from BM Savings* pays a decent 1.55% AER rate which includes a 1.05% bonus for a year. You only need £1 to open the account and you can transfer in previous years' (N)ISAs.

You can deposit your annual £15,000 NISA limit throughout the tax year and you can make unlimited withdrawals. Though remember once you've used the full allowance you can't put any money back in until the new tax year starts on 6 April 2015. The account can be opened online or by phone, though once opened it can be only be accessed by post.

After the first year, you lose the bonus, so the rate will drop, meaning the account can probably be beaten - so compare NISAs when this happens and transfer to another higher paying account. You can chose to have your interest to be paid annually or monthly.

BM Savings

Post Office, 1.55% AER incl 0.8% bonus for 18mths. Apply by post.

  • Rate: 1.55% AER incl 0.8% bonus for a year
  • Min deposit: £100
  • Interest paid: Annually
  • Allows previous (N)ISA transfers? Yes
  • Transfer out penalties? No
  • Access: Branch, post and phone
  • Safety: Shared £85,000 UK protection
1.55,100

The Premier Cash ISA account from Post Office pays a top 1.55% AER rate. It includes a 0.8% bonus for 18mths, which effectively acts as a rate guarantee. However, once the bonus ends, the rate will be 0.75% so you'll need to diarise to transfer in 18 months' time.

You can deposit from £100 up to your annual £15,000 NISA limit at any point during the tax year, however you can only make two withdrawals. If you make more than two you'll either need to transfer or close your NISA. Remember: once you've used the full allowance you can't put any money back in until the new tax year starts on 6 April.

The account has to be opened by post, though once opened it can be accessed in branch, by phone or post. Your interest will be paid annually.

West Brom

West Brom, 1.5% AER For old and new NISA cash. Apply online.

  • Rate: 1.5% AER variable
  • Min deposit: £1,000
  • Interest paid: Annually
  • Allows previous ISA transfers? Yes
  • Transfer out penalties? No
  • Access: Online
  • Safety: Full £85,000 UK protection
1.5,1000

The West Brom Websaver NISA pays a clean 1.5% AER on balances from £1 and is good for those who need regular access to their cash. You can deposit new NISA cash up to the £15,000 limit, and transfer in old (N)ISAs too.

You need to open the account with at least £1,000, but you can make unlimited withdrawals from the account, so the balance can drop to £1 afterwards and you'll continue to earn the high rate. Though, if you withdraw cash from the account you can't put this back in if you've used your full NISA allowance.

The account can be opened and operated online-only and interest is paid annually on 6 April. The interest rate isn't fixed, so keep checking the account. If the rate drops, ditch this account and transfer your cash to a better-paying NISA.

Best NISA buys: Linked accounts

First Direct

Min £40k+: First Direct, 2% AER 1st Account customers only until 15 October.

  • 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
2,40000

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 (N)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 the rate could drop at any time. In fact, First Direct will be dropping the rates on this NISA from 15 October. For balances between £1 - £14,999 you'll earn 1.3% AER, between £15,000 - £29,999 you'll earn 1.4% and over £30,000 you'll earn 1.5%. The rate is only decent if you have over £30,000 so you may want to consider other open to all NISAs.


HSBC

HSBC, up to 1.6% AER current account customers only

  • Rate: Up to 1.6% AER variable
  • Min deposit: £1
  • Interest paid: Monthly
  • Allows previous ISA transfers? Yes
  • Withdrawals: Unlimited
  • Access: Online, branch, post, phone
  • Safety: Shared £85,000 UK protection
1.6,1

Existing HSBC customers who have either its current, Premier or Advance accounts (or those who switch to them) can get its Loyalty Cash ISA, paying up to 1.6% AER.

HSBC Premier holders - a top packaged account option for high-earners - get the top rate of 1.6%, while Advance customers earn 1.5%, if you hold any other HSBC current account, you'll get 1.4%.

The rate you get applies for 12 months following each deposit. So if your first deposit is in March, and you make a further deposit in September, the rate is fixed until the following September.

To keep the rate, you must make a deposit at least every 12 months - if you don't, it drops to 0.5%, although your original rate will return when you make your next deposit.

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 NISAs 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 NISAs 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 NISA providers, meaning you'd have to lose the tax benefits to get at the cash.

Currently, that's balanced out because some fixed-rate NISAs 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 than for easy access, but you risk rate increases in the meantime. However, it's the lowest length of time you can lock in for, so if rates rise, you won't have lost out for too long.

Post Office Post Office 1.7% AERFrom £500. Apply by post or phone.

  • Product & linkPost Office Fixed Rate Cash ISA
  • Rate: 1.7% AER
  • Length of fixed deal: 1 year
  • Min deposit: £500
  • Access: Post/phone
  • Allows transfers from previous years? Yes
  • CLOSURE penalty: 90 days' interest
  • Savings safety: Shared £85,000 FSCS protection
Full detailsApply

Tesco Tesco Bank 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
2 Years

The best two-year fixed rates

Fixing for two years means you're locked in until midway through 2016 - and you risk rates rising from their historic lows in the meantime. These are the current top picks.

Barclays bank Barclays 2.02% AER Apply in branch, online or by phone. Transfers allowed.

  • Product & Link: Barclays Bank Flexible Cash NISA
  • Rate: 2.02% AER
  • Length of fixed deal: 2 years
  • Min deposit: £1
  • Access: Branch, online or phone
  • Allows transfers from previous years? Yes
  • Withdrawal penalty: Three penalty free
  • Shared £85,000 FSCS protection
Full detailsApply

AA AA Savings 2% AER From £1. Apply online. Transfers allowed

  • Product & link: AA Savings Fixed Rate NISA
  • Rate: 2% AER
  • Length of fixed deal: 2 years
  • Min deposit: £1
  • Access: Postal
  • Allows transfers from previous years? Yes
  • Withdrawal 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

There aren't currently any accounts offering a top rate when saving for four years. The best option is to choose a shorter fix for one - three years, depending how long you want to lock cash away for.

5 Years

The best five-year fixed rates

The best five-year account is higher than fixing for a shorter period but if interest rates improve before 2019, then you could lose out. If you want to take the gamble, we've listed the highest payers.

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 NISAs, use the MoneySupermarket* comparison (select cash NISAs 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 NISA 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 so poor at the moment that 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 NISA money, it's possible to transfer your cash NISA into a stocks & shares NISA. The new NISA rules means you can transfer it the other way round too. Read the full NISA Guide to see what you can transfer, and when.

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