Best instant access savings accounts UK 2021

Top up your savings with some interest while still keeping full access to your money.

Name Product Account type Withdrawals Min. opening balance Interest rate Apply link
NatWest
Variable
Instant access
£0
0.01% AER variable

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NatWest
Variable
Instant access
£0
0.01% AER variable

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NatWest
Variable
Instant access
£0
0.01% AER variable

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Newbury BS – Existing Member Account
Newbury BS
Variable
Instant access
£50
1% AER variable

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Ipswich BS – Stepping Stone ISA
Ipswich BS
Cash ISA
Instant access
£10
1% AER variable

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Harpenden BS – 21 Club
Harpenden BS
Variable
Instant access
£1
0.75% AER variable

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Newbury BS – Welcome to Newbury
Newbury BS
Variable
Instant access
£50
0.75% AER variable

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Furness BS – Furness Student Account
Furness BS
Variable
Instant access
£1
0.75% AER variable

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Coventry BS – Four Access Saver
Coventry BS
Variable
Instant access
£1
0.65% AER variable

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Family Building Society
Variable
Instant access
£10,000
0.65% AER variable

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Instant or easy access savings accounts allow you to earn interest on your savings while still being able to withdraw your funds if you need them. Here’s more on what they are, how they work and how to choose the right one for you.

What are easy access savings accounts?

Easy access accounts are straightforward savings accounts that let you deposit funds whenever you are able to, and withdraw them again when required (in most cases without penalty). For this reason, they can be an ideal place to stash rainy day funds that can be used in an emergency, such as a boiler breakdown or urgent car repairs. Many easy access accounts only require a small deposit to open them, so you won’t necessarily need a large lump sum to get started.

However, there are a few downsides. For a start, even the top-paying easy access savings accounts struggle to beat inflation these days, so don’t expect interest rates that will make your mouth water. Some accounts also come with a bonus rate that temporarily increases the rate you earn for around 12 months and after that time, the interest rate drops. It’s at this point you should start shopping around for a better account to switch to.

Also be aware that some easy access savings accounts will limit the number of penalty-free withdrawals you can make each year so always check the small print before you apply.

How do easy access savings accounts work?

Here’s a quick snapshot of how easy access accounts work:

  • Application. You can usually apply online by providing your personal details and going through an ID check. If you already have an account with the financial institution you’re considering, you may be able to apply from the app.
  • Deposits. You can normally deposit as much as you like, whenever you like. If you’d like to save a fixed sum every month, you can set up a standing order from your current account, and your bank will move the money automatically for you.
  • Interest. It can be paid monthly or annually.
  • Withdrawals. By definition, an easy access savings account should allow you to transfer the money back to your current account anytime and then use it as you like.
  • End of a deal. Unlike fixed-rate bonds, easy access savings accounts don’t mature or expire. However, they might offer introductory interest rates that expire after a set period of time (like a year). If that’s the case, put an alarm on your phone calendar or make a note in your diary so that you don’t forget to compare easy access accounts again and potentially open one with another institution.

Pros and cons of easy access savings accounts

Pros

  • You can top up and access your funds whenever required.
  • Many accounts can be opened with as little as £1.
  • Straightforward application process.

Cons

  • Interest rates are typically lower compared to fixed-rate bonds.
  • Some easy access accounts include a bonus rate for around 12 months. After this point, the interest rate usually drops dramatically.
  • Interest rates are usually variable so can change at any point.

Should I get an easy access savings account?

Easy access savings accounts can be ideal if you’re looking to build an emergency savings cushion thanks to their ease of opening and flexibility. However, they don’t pay the best rates of interest, so if you’re looking to make more of a long-term commitment, a fixed-rate bond may be more suitable.

Fixed-rate bonds typically pay higher interest rates but require you to lock away your funds for a period of between 6 months and 5 years. The longer you can commit, the higher the interest rate will be. Note that most won’t allow you to add to your savings during the term of the bond so they are best suited to those with a lump sum to invest.

If you’re happy to take on more risk and potentially gain a greater return on your savings, you could also consider investing. However, remember that your capital is at risk and you may get back less than you invested.

Is an easy access savings account right for me?

To summarise, an easy access savings account can be a good choice in the following situations:

  • The idea of investing your savings fills you with dread. Investing can be risky, complicated and time-consuming.
  • You think you may need your savings at some point in the near future. If you’re 100% sure you won’t, have a look at fixed-rate bonds instead as they normally pay better rates.
  • You’d rather keep your savings separate from your day-to-day finances. In general, having a dedicated account for your savings takes away some of the temptation to spend them.
  • Your current account doesn’t pay an interest rate (or you’ve reached the maximum limit). Some current accounts (although not many) pay interest on balances up to a certain figure, which in some cases may be better than those offered by easy access savings accounts. It’s worth considering this option, but if your current account doesn’t pay any interest and you don’t want to switch, or if it only pays interest for the first few thousand pounds (that’s usually the case) and you’ve already reached the limit, an easy access savings account is definitely the next option to look at.

How to compare easy access savings accounts

Unlike most financial products, easy access savings accounts are not complicated to compare. Take a look at the steps below:

  • Look at the interest rate. Guess what? You’ll want the one that pays the highest rate.
  • Check the eligibility criteria. Some banks only offer savings accounts to existing customers. Moreover, while some easy access savings accounts can be opened with as little as £1, others require a more conspicuous minimum deposit, so they’re not suitable for savers who are just starting their journey.
  • Make sure withdrawals aren’t limited (or that you’re okay with it if they are). Some easy access savings accounts aren’t fully easy access, but will limit the number of times you can withdraw money from the account every year. Make sure you’re aware of it if that’s the case.

Are easy access savings accounts safe?

Yes, just double-check that the deal you’re looking at is FSCS-protected (all the savings accounts with major financial institutions will be). The Financial Services Compensation Scheme protects your deposits up to £85,000 and would refund you if something were to happen to your savings account provider.

If you have more than £85,000, it’s better to spread your savings between different accounts to secure full protection.

Bottom line

If you’re just starting to save or you are looking to build up a cash cushion to fall back on in an emergency, an easy access savings account can be a great place to start. Just remember to seek out the best interest rate and make a note of when any bonus rate expires so that you’re ready to switch to a more competitive account when the time comes.

Frequently asked questions

We show offers we can track - that's not every product on the market...yet. Unless we've said otherwise, products are in no particular order. The terms "best", "top", "cheap" (and variations of these) aren't ratings, though we always explain what's great about a product when we highlight it. This is subject to our terms of use. When you make major financial decisions, consider getting independent financial advice. Always consider your own circumstances when you compare products so you get what's right for you.

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