Bank of England slashes interest rates to combat coronavirus 'shock' – what it means for you
The Bank of England has cut the base rate from 0.75% to 0.25% in an emergency response to the "economic shock" of the coronavirus outbreak.
The base rate is the Bank of England's official borrowing rate – ie, what it charges other banks and lenders when they borrow money – and it influences what borrowers pay and savers earn.
The surprise rate-cut decision was taken at a special meeting of the Bank's Monetary Policy Committee on Tuesday. The Bank said the cut was a response to the "economic shock" of coronavirus and would "help to support business and consumer confidence at a difficult time, to bolster the cash flows of businesses and households, and to reduce the cost, and to improve the availability, of finance".
The base rate was last cut in 2016, when it fell from 0.5% to 0.25%. It's risen twice since to reach 0.75%. But interest rates have generally been at historic lows since the 2008 financial crash.
Here are the need-to-knows for your finances:
- Some mortgages will get cheaper. Homes with tracker mortgages – whose rates 'track' the base rate – should see their rates drop. However, fixes won't change and with others it's not clear-cut. See our mortgages analysis.
- It's more bad news for savers. Savings rates have been woeful for years and are now likely to fall further, although if you've a fixed-rate account you're protected for the time being. See our savings analysis.
We'll be updating this story throughout today with more analysis and what banks and lenders are doing in response to the rate cut. And for full and constantly updated info on travel insurance, holiday bookings and more during the coronavirus outbreak, see our Covid-19 Coronavirus Help guide.
Martin: 'This is extraordinary, unprecedented economic shock therapy'
This is extraordinary, unprecedented economic shock therapy – interest rates as low as they've ever been for hundreds of years. The fact the Bank feels the need to do this shows the level of seismic coronavirus tremors running through the nation's finances.
The primary aim is economic stimulus. Reducing interest rates is an encouragement to spend and invest – it makes borrowing cheaper, and saving less attractive. And that's what they want – more money flowing through the economy.
I suspect this is primarily targeted at business, but it of course has a personal finance impact. While our first actions and thoughts need to be for the health of the nation's vulnerable – the impact on people's pockets can't be ignored.
The financial winners are those on variable and tracker-rate mortgages. They will see cost cuts of – very roughly – £25 per month per £100,000 of mortgage (use the MSE Mortgage Calculator to work out your exact reduction). And while it'll take a week or two to filter through, it's likely we'll see the rates of new mortgage fixes drop too – meaning it will be a very cheap time to remortgage.
Most loans, credit cards and other debts will likely be unaffected or only minimally affected because the Bank's interest rate only plays a small part in their rates.
The losers are savers. Many who've worked hard to build up a nest egg will be holding their head in their hands at this news. Savings rates have already been plummeting this year, and this will massively increase the height of the roller-coaster fall.
A rate cut has been expected, but not as big or quick as this. As fixed-rate savings tend to be offered in tranches – ie, a firm will have planned to bring in £10 million, until they fill that amount the rates won't drop – so quick movers may be able to bag top one or two-year fixed-rate savings today before the rates fall. See Top Savings Accounts.
For everyone else the advice is simple. Currently the average UK saver earns just 0.4%, while the best easy-access accounts pay 1.3%. All these rates will likely drop. Yet at the very least make sure your money is in the top payer, not the poorest.
Some will see mortgages get cheaper after the base rate cut – but it depends on the type of mortgage you have:
- Fixes are fixed – check if you'll save ditching yours. As the name suggests, rates WON'T change during the fixed period – though any new fix you remortgage to in future may end up being cheaper now the base rate has dropped.
But that doesn't mean doing nothing until your fix runs out. Use our Ditch your fix? tool to check if you can save by switching.
- Lenders MAY cut standard variable rate (SVR) or 'discount' mortgages. These move at lenders' whim, so it depends what individual lenders decide to do – we're checking with the big ones now.
You'll usually be on an SVR after your fix or tracker ends. A 'discount' mortgage follows the SVR at a set rate, eg, if the SVR is 4% and the rate is SVR minus one percentage point, it's 3%.
SVRs are pricey, so if you're on one, don't automatically stick with it even if your rate is cut.
- On a tracker mortgage? Check when it will fall. As the name suggests, these 'track' the base rate, so mortgage costs should drop by an average £35-40/mth on a typical £150k mortgage.
A tiny number won't see rates drop where their deal has what's called a 'collar', which prevents rates falling below a certain level. You should be contacted by your lender if you're impacted.
We're speaking to all the major providers now to ask them what they're doing in response to the base rate cut. These will be updated in the table below.
Whatever the impact, if coming to the end of your fix or tracker, pounce on a new deal – you can usually do this up to six months ahead. If looking for a new deal, whatever the reason, see our Remortgage Guide or First-Time Buyers' Guide for help, plus our Mortgage Best-Buys Comparison for the top deals.
|PROVIDER||CHANGE TO TRACKER MORTGAGES||CHANGE TO SVRS|
|Atom Bank||N/A||Waiting to hear|
|Bank of Ireland||Waiting to hear||Waiting to hear|
|Barclays||0.5 percentage point decrease from 1 Apr||0.5 percentage point decrease from 1 Apr|
|Birmingham Midshires||Under review||Under review|
|Bradford & Bingley||0.5 percentage point decrease from 1 Apr||0.5 percentage point decrease from 1 Apr
|Clydesdale||0.5 percentage point decrease from next payment date||0.5 percentage point decrease from first payment date after 2 Apr|
|Co-op Bank||0.5 percentage point decrease from 1 Apr||0.5 percentage point decrease from 1 Apr|
|Coventry BS||0.5 percentage point decrease from 1 Apr||Waiting to hear|
|First Direct||0.5 percentage point decrease from 12 Mar||0.5 percentage point decrease from 1 Apr|
|Halifax||0.5 percentage point decrease by 1 Apr||0.5 percentage point decrease by 1 Apr|
|Hampshire Trust Bank||Waiting to hear||Waiting to hear|
|HSBC||0.5 percentage point decrease from 12 Mar||0.5 percentage point decrease from 1 Apr|
|Investec||Under review||Under review|
|Kent Reliance BS||0.5 percentage point decrease from 1 Apr||Waiting to hear|
|Leeds BS||0.5 percentage point decrease from 1 Apr||Under review|
|Lloyds||0.5 percentage point decrease by 1 Apr||0.5 percentage point decrease by 1 Apr|
|Metro Bank||0.5 percentage point decrease from 1 Apr||0.5 percentage point decrease from 1 Apr|
|Nationwide||0.5 percentage point decrease from 1 Apr||0.5 percentage point decrease from 1 Apr|
|NatWest||0.5 percentage point decrease from 1 Apr
||0.5 percentage point decrease from 1 Apr
|Newcastle BS||0.5 percentage point decrease from 1 Apr
|NRAM||0.5 percentage point decrease from 1 Apr||0.5 percentage point decrease from 1 Apr
|OneSavings Bank||Under review||Under review|
|Paragon||Under review||Under review|
|Post Office||Waiting to hear||Waiting to hear|
|Principality||Under review||Under review|
|RBS||0.5 percentage point decrease from 1 Apr
||0.5 percentage point decrease from 1 Apr
|Sainsbury's Bank||0.5 percentage point decrease from 1 Apr||Under review|
|Santander||0.5 percentage point decrease from 1 Apr||0.5 percentage point decrease from 1 Apr|
|Secure Trust Bank||Waiting to hear||Waiting to hear|
|Skipton BS||Under review||Under review|
|TSB||0.5 percentage point decrease from 1 Apr||0.5 percentage point decrease from 1 Apr|
|Ulster Bank||0.5 percentage point decrease from 1 Apr
||0.5 percentage point decrease from 1 Apr
||0.5 percentage point decrease from 1 May||0.5 percentage point decrease from first payment date after 2 Apr|
|West Brom BS||0.5 percentage point decrease from 1 Apr||0.5 percentage point decrease from 1 May|
|Yorkshire Bank||0.5 percentage point decrease from next payment date||0.5 percentage point decrease from first payment date after 2 Apr|
|Yorkshire BS||Under review||Under review|
I'm looking for a mortgage – what should I do?
Our message for months has been that mortgage rates are already incredibly low, so if you're looking for a deal and you qualify for one, why wait? The base rate going down doesn't change that message.
While there is a chance that we could see slightly lower best-buy mortgage rates in the wake of the cut, rates are already very low. See our First-Time Buyers' Guide or Remortgage Guide for full help and our Mortgage Best-Buys Comparison Tool to find top deals.
The base rate cut is yet more bad news for savers – rates have been rubbish for years, and now the interest you earn is likely to fall further, though if you have a fixed-rate account you are protected from rate drops for the time being.
Banks must give existing customers at least two months' notice of a cut (for current accounts and instant access savings accounts), though of course rates for new customers could drop instantly.
We're speaking to all the major savings providers in the wake of the base rate cut to ask them what they're doing, and will update this story when we know more.
For now Barclays, Halifax, Lloyds, Metro Bank, Nationwide, OneSavings Bank, TSB and Yorkshire Building Society have told us that they are currently reviewing their rates.
For a full round-up of the current top picks, see Top Savings Accounts.
|PROVIDER||CHANGES TO VARIABLE SAVINGS ACCOUNT RATES|
|AA||Waiting to hear|
|Cynergy||Waiting to hear|
|Bank of Ireland||Waiting to hear|
|Bank of Scotland||Waiting to hear|
|Beverley BS||Waiting to hear|
|Birmingham Midshires||Waiting to hear|
|Co-op Bank||Under review|
|Coventry BS||Waiting to hear|
|First Direct||Under review|
|Hampshire Trust Bank||Waiting to hear|
|Kent Reliance BS||Under review|
|Leeds BS||Under review|
|Metro Bank||Under review|
|NatWest||Some savings accounts will reduce between 20 Apr and 20 Jun, including its Savings Builder which is dropping from 1.5% to 1%|
|Newcastle BS||Under review|
|OakNorth||Easy-access savings and ISA rates will reduce for existing customers on 1 May. Rates for notice accounts will reduce for existing customers on 1 Jun (35 day), 1 Aug (95 day) and 1 Sep (120 day)|
|OneSavings Bank||Under review|
|Post Office||Waiting to hear|
|RBS||Some savings accounts will reduce between 20 Apr and 20 Jun, including its Savings Builder which is dropping from 1.5% to 1%|
|Sainsbury's Bank||Under review|
|Secure Trust Bank||Waiting to hear|
|Skipton BS||Under review|
|Tesco Bank||Under review|
|Ulster Bank||Some savings accounts will reduce between 20 Apr and 20 Jun|
|West Brom BS||Under review|
|Yorkshire Bank||Under review|
|Yorkshire BS||Under review|
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