/ Money

Easing the savings trap

Proposals announced today would force firms to give clearer information to savers about the interest rates on their cash savings accounts and when they change – including the end of bonus rates.

A few years ago, I had some extra cash so I found a bank offering what was then a market-leading ISA. So far, so savvy. Feeling smug, and certain my money was working hard, I paid little attention to the account.

Fast forward 18 months and could I tell you what interest rate my ISA was paying? No chance. So I looked for it.

The rate wasn’t on my last statement; nor on my online account. Half an hour later I found it – buried in a hard-to-find page of my bank’s website. My smugness disappeared. The rate had dropped like a stone.

Such experiences were all too common – so in 2014, we launched a campaign to scrap the savings trap. At the time, you told us what you wanted to see.

Among those who commented was Malcolm who said:

‘I want the banks to tell us, with notice, when an account’s interest rate will change, and I would like to see bonus rates that expire after a year stop.’

Well, it looks like the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) been listening – judging by proposals it’s announced today.

What changes are planned for savings accounts?

The regulator will force firms to provide clearer information on the interest rates on their cash savings products, and make them clearly alert customers to changes, including the end of bonus rates.

It’s also making it easier and quicker to switch between providers. No doubt it’s heard horror stories from people who’d tried to switch ISA providers to get a better deal then found it took months, with anxious periods when it appeared as though their savings had disappeared altogether.

Banks and building societies have left customers languishing in poor-value savings accounts for far too long.

Today’s move is a significant win for savers. Many people never switch savings accounts because they think it will make little difference, so it’s good that the FCA has listened to our calls to make savings providers do more to help you get a better deal.

The FCA is also proposing to publish information to highlight firms who pay poor interest rates to longstanding customers.

You might wonder what impact this will have now, when interest rates on savings accounts are pretty pitiful.

But things will improve, and when they do, you should now be a bit more confident that your savings provider, and the regulator, will be doing more to make sure you’re getting a good deal.

What do you think of the planned changes?

Comments
Member

The entire savings system needs to be simplified and its small print modified. Good design is simple, functional and effective. The current savings procedure is both complicated and dogged with petit restrictions. It needs a major overhaul.

Member
John says:
25 July 2015

Lets face it, savers are being exploited to help pay the debts of people and organisations that have borrowed too much and help restore their coffers. To my surprise I received a letter from the chief exec of the West Bromwich Building Society that said just that when I wrote and complained about their rates!

Member

Interesting comment in the Financial Times yesterday by the columnist Gary Silverman: ‘Call me a cockeyed optimist, but I’d bet that our banks would do better in the long run if they tried to serve the people in our communities rather than to steal from them’. Quite.

Member
Anne Leedham says:
26 July 2015

I’m in a fortunate position at the moment. Low interest rates have allowed me to continue to pay my mortgage after having had to take early retirement through redundancy tow and a half years ago and not being able to get another regular job due to caring responsibilities. I am now about to pay off my mortgage just a few months before interest rates are finally expected to rise, which will give my savings a boost. But I realise this may well only be temporary unless the banks and building societies make the changes we all have a right to expect.

Member
Rosemary says:
26 July 2015

Great move forward. When will it come in?

Member

I presume the banks are requesting a lengthy lead-in period so they can tweak their computer systems, recast their savings offerings, and draft a new set of correspondence templates.

Member

A customer-oriented bank will not be waiting for the official implementation date to be announced by the FCA, they will have anticipated this and have their system ready to go forthwith. Who would like to guess which will be the first bank or building society to adopt this procedure?

Member
Maidens says:
26 July 2015

It’s a Disgusting, Diabolical, Immoral and Unethical shame that people who have worked and paid their Taxes and Dues at every turn should be subsidising the Banks to get them out of the fertiliser they got us all into, by paying such derisory interest rates, to allow them to Boost Profits..
They and the current crop of idiots who call themselves Politicians are in each others pockets to keep a floundering economy alive.
Why the intelligentsia of society continues to let them continue only Apathy knows.

Member

I am as displeased as most people by the returns on savings accounts but I have yet to discover how interest rates can go up without a rise in inflation. As a nation we are borrowers rather than savers so a rise in rates would hurt far more than it would benefit. Do we want higher mortgage repayments, bigger credit card bills, and even more onerous credit acceptance criteria? There are savings accounts and other investments available that will beat current inflation [as well as some that won’t, which is why people need to keep an eye on their statements and act when they receive a notification of an adverse rate change].