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NS&I to increase the Premium Bond prize rate to 3% – here's all you need to know

NS&I to increase the Premium Bond prize rate to 1.4%

NS&I will increase its Premium Bond prize-fund rate to 3% from 2.2% for its January 2023 draw and beyond, with an extra £80 million in higher-value prizes up for grabs. The odds of winning will remain the same at 24,000-to-one, but there will more than three times as many prizes between £5,000 and £100,000 available.

It's estimated that the number of £100,000 prizes will triple from 18 to 56, the number of £50,000 prizes will rise from 36 to 112, and the number of £25,000 prizes will more than triple from 71 to 223 – although there will still only be two monthly winners of the top £1 million prize.

There's also a considerable change to the distribution of smaller prizes – it's estimated that the number of £50 and £100 prizes will both rise by nearly 400,000 each, though this is mostly offset by the number of £25 prizes falling by around 900,000.

While the rise is good news, with the 3% Premium Bond prize-fund rate out-paying today's top easy-access savings rate of 2.85%, most people with typical luck won't actually get a return of 3%, even with the maximum £50,000 invested. The reason behind this is quite complex – see our Premium Bonds guide for a full explanation.

Plus, the rate is still far lower than the top short-term fixed rates – the top six-month fix currently pays 3.35%, while the top one- and two-year fixes pay a considerably higher 4.32% and 4.6% respectively. See our Top savings guide for more.

The number of prizes will rise but your odds of winning are still relatively low

Premium Bonds are essentially a savings account you can put money into, where instead of being paid interest, tax-free prizes are awarded in a monthly draw. Prizes range from £25 to £1 million.

The nearest thing Premium Bonds have to an interest rate is their annual prize rate, which is what's increasing from 2.2% to 3%. It's a benchmark of the "average" return you'll get for your money – though in reality, there's no guarantee you'll win anything at all.

What it really means is that for every £100 invested in Premium Bonds, £2.20 (soon to be £3) is paid out every year in prizes. But as the prizes include two £1 million pay-outs and other big prizes, many also win far less – even with the rate increasing.

Below is a breakdown of how the number of prizes awarded is estimated to change from January 2023:

Number of Premium Bond prizes 

Value of prize Number of prizes in December 2022 Number of prizes (estimated) in January 2023
£1,000,000 2 2
£100,000 18

56

£50,000 36

112

£25,000

71

223

£10,000

178

559

£5,000

359

1,118

£1,000

4,379

11,983

£500

13,137

35,949

£100

731,225

1,160,883

£50

731,225

1,160,883

£25

3,496,500

2,621,112

Total: 4,977,130
4,992,880

Even with the rate increase, Premium Bonds are likely to be beaten elsewhere

NS&I chief executive Ian Ackerley said "The New Year increase to the Premium Bonds prize fund rate will mean that customers will have seen the prize fund rate triple in less than a year. This means a bigger prize pot and more higher value prizes for our customers – a great way to start 2023."

But for most savers with average luck, and who don't pay tax on savings interest, normal savings are still likely to beat Premium Bonds. This is because savings pay a constant rate of interest – so if you get the top easy-access rate of 2.85%, you'd get roughly £28.50 in interest for every £1,000 saved. Though this rate is variable, it provides more certainty than Premium Bonds, where many saving the same £1,000 would win nothing.

Many people often think "I'm likely to get about 2.2% – soon to be 3% – and there's a small chance of winning a million". But the main point is that this isn't correct. You're actually likely to get quite a lot less than 2.2% or 3%, and there's a negligible chance of winning a million. If you know and you're OK with this, then investing in Premium Bonds isn't a bad plan. For full info, see our Premium Bonds guide.

Premium Bond prizes are tax-free – though this won't benefit the majority

Even with the increase in savings rates we've seen in recent months, the majority of people don't pay any tax on savings interest due to the personal savings allowance, so the fact that Premium Bond prize winnings are tax-free won't make a difference to many.

The only exception is if you're one of the small percentage of people who pay tax on interest, and you hold a lot of Premium Bonds, as here they may be worth it. For this group, tax-free cash ISAs will likely beat normal savings and Premium Bonds, but if you've maxed out your £20,000-a-year ISA allowance, and you hold a lot of Premium Bonds, you could beat the returns you get from normal savings with bonds.

You can buy Premium Bonds via the NS&I website

If they're right for you, the minimum amount you can buy is £25 for one-off purchases and monthly standing orders, while the maximum amount you can hold is £50,000.

Prizes are always tax-free (they're also backed by the Government, meaning your money's fully protected – though savings held with any UK-regulated institution are also protected up to £85,000). For more info on how Premium Bonds work – and whether they're worth it – see our Premium Bonds guide. 

To ensure you're making your savings work for you, see our Top savings and Top ISAs guides for more info.

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