Making the most out of ISAs
09 Dec 2021

Have you wondered about opening an ISA but want to find out more about them, and if they’re the best option for your savings? Or, if you have an ISA already, do you want to refresh your knowledge to make sure you’re getting the most out of it?

Either way, we take a look at which ISA could be best for you, how much you could save, who can open one and explore other common queries we often see.

Explaining ISAs

An Individual Savings Account (ISA) is a savings account where you don’t pay tax on any interest you earn. So, if you’re currently paying tax on your savings in a standard account, an ISA could be a great way to make the most of your money.

There are many different types of ISA, and you can choose to pay your full allowance into a single account, or split it between different ones.

You should take a look at the below when deciding which one is right for you, and weigh up the pros and cons of each.

  • Easy access – with an easy access cash ISA you’re free to make deposits (up to the annual Cash ISA limit) whenever you want, and make withdrawals to suit. Just remember, you cannot take money out of your Cash ISA and replace it in the same tax year, without it counting towards your annual ISA allowance.
  • Notice – with a notice cash ISA you can earn a higher rate of interest than with an easy access account and you’ll still be able to make deposits (up to the annual Cash ISA limit) whenever you want. To withdraw your money, just give the agreed amount of notice and the money will be made available to you.
  • Fixed rate – If you don’t need access to your money, a fixed rate cash ISA could be ideal for growing your tax-free savings. You’ll get a fixed rate of interest paid tax-free for a set period of time, and you can relax knowing what interest your savings are earning.
  • Flexible – With a flexible ISA you’re able to withdraw and replace your savings as many times as you like as long as you don’t exceed your annual ISA allowance in each tax year. You can even withdraw funds deposited in previous tax years, as long as the money you take out is replaced within the same tax year.

ISA allowances and earning interest

Each year the Government sets out your annual ISA allowance, which is the maximum amount of money you can pay into an ISA in that tax year.

The allowance for the 2021/2022 tax year is £20,000, meaning you can deposit up to that amount in your Cash ISA without having to pay tax on the interest you earn.

Any interest you earn won’t count towards your Personal Savings Allowance either.

The Personal Savings Allowance means that basic rate taxpayers can earn up to £1,000 in interest from current accounts, savings accounts, fixed rate bonds or any account where they earn interest. For higher rate taxpayers the allowance covers up to £500 of interest, but those classed as additional rate taxpayers aren’t entitled to a Personal Savings Allowance.

Simply put, a cash ISA doesn’t stop you from earning interest in other types of savings account, and if you’re already earning more interest than your allowance, transferring some of your money into a cash ISA leaves you free to continue to grow your savings without incurring any additional tax.

Rules around number of ISA accounts

Usually you can only open one cash ISA in each tax year, and you cannot pay into more than one in the same year.

However, some providers allow you to spread your annual allowance across several different types, giving a choice of interest rates and access options to suit your needs, rather than tying you in to a one-size-fits-all account.

For example, you could open an easy access cash ISA with £5,000, which you can access easily if you need to, and also deposit £10,000 into a fixed rate cash ISA, which will usually earn a higher rate of interest. In exchange for the higher rate, your savings will be locked away for a fixed term.

You could deposit the remaining £5,000 of your allowance into a notice cash ISA, which gives you access to your savings (after giving the required amount of notice) together with a higher interest rate than an easy access account – giving you a combination of access with rate.

You should always check the conditions of your account before making a withdrawal.

How much to pay in to your ISA and when

This all depends on which type of ISA you choose. With most easy access and notice cash ISAs, you can add to your savings at any time. So, if you’ve got a lump sum to deposit that’s fine, you can pay up to the maximum allowance in one go.

Or you could instead put money away every now and again, or set up a regular standing order to your account.

With a fixed rate ISA, the majority of accounts will only allow you to make deposits during a limited funding window when you first open your account, after which you’re not able to make additional deposits.

For all types of cash ISAs, the first deposit will usually need to be equal to the minimum balance applicable to each account, after which any future deposits can be varied amounts depending on the amount you have available to save.

Transferring money from another provider

Many ISAs will allow you to transfer money to them from another provider, and can arrange the transfer on your behalf.

However, it’s very important that you check the terms of your existing account before arranging a transfer, as there may be notice periods or charges that apply.

If you transfer your savings without giving the required notice, or during a fixed rate period, you may be subject to a charge by way of a loss of interest on the amount transferred.

Always check with your existing ISA provider before making a transfer, and also let your new provider arrange the transfer to avoid losing any tax benefits for the amount you withdraw.

Who can open an ISA?

Anyone can open a cash ISA as long as they’re aged over 16 (although some providers only accept savers who are 18 and over) and you haven’t subscribed to another ISA in the same tax year (unless you’re using a mix and match ISA to spread your allowance over more than one account).

You can only open an account in your own name - joint accounts are not possible as it’s an individual savings account; and you’re not able to open them on behalf of anybody else.

How ISAs are protected

All eligible deposits in UK savings accounts (including cash ISAs) are protected up to a total of £85,000 by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), the UK’s deposit protection scheme. Any savings held above this limit are unlikely to be covered.

You should always check if your provider shares its FSCS cover with another institution, as several providers could be owned by the same bank, meaning that even if you spread your savings across more than one provider you could only be protected for a total of £85,000, not £85,000 per provider.

Visit fscs.org.uk for more information on the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

Whatever you’re saving money for, make sure your money is working as hard as it can. To find out more about our range of ISAs, visit kentreliance.co.uk/isas.