Cash ISA vs savings accounts: Which is better?

The one that pays out most!

After years of meagre interest rates, savings are back with a vengeance. In 2021 you’d have been hard pressed to earn enough interest from your savings to make a cash ISA a worthwhile prospect, but in 2024 cash ISAs can once again offer meaningful savings.

£12,500 at 4% would earn £500 of interest after a year, which is the Personal Savings Allowance for a higher rate tax payer. After this threshold, all interest earned is tax-deductable – making an ISA a sensible prospect. For a basic rate tax-payer the threshold is £1,000 of interest, and £25,000 at 4% over a year would hit that threshold. Both examples assume you’re already maxing out your tax-free income allowance.

Deciding between a cash ISA or a standard savings account also comes down to the interest rates currently being offered on each type of product. In our guide to savings accounts vs cash ISAs we take you through what each are and the pros and cons of both.

What is a savings account?

As the name suggests, a savings account is a bank account that’s designed to hold your savings.

Unlike with a current account, you don’t get a debit card and you won’t be able to receive your salary in it or set up direct debits or standing orders. Instead, you can only withdraw or deposit money in it. In exchange for keeping your savings there, you’ll earn an interest rate.

What is a cash ISA?

A cash ISA is a savings account where you don’t pay tax on the interest you earn. Everything you can do with a normal savings account you can do with a cash ISA. The tax-free bit is the only real difference.

Any person over 16 in the UK can put £20,000 into a cash ISA each tax year. Once your money is in a cash ISA, it stays tax-free year in year out.

Savings accounts vs cash ISAs – what’s the difference?

In normal savings accounts, you’d get taxed on whatever you earned in interest. A cash ISA lets you keep 100% of the interest, which is why it has been a popular option among UK consumers for years.

Today’s highest rates on cash ISAs

Today’s highest rates on other savings accounts

Fixed savings accounts bring better returns

Those who can afford to lock away money can get a better rate. The obvious down side is that the money is locked away. Customers don’t have access to funds until the end of the committed term. Compare fixed-rate savings accounts here.

Some ISAs allow for flexible access to the cash, but this is reflected in usually lower interest rates.

Current accounts can offer joining bonuses

Current accounts are the account you use for day to day personal finances. They can sometimes offer even higher returns compared to ISAs and savings accounts.

This is usually through either interest rates, though it’s also important to take joining bonuses into account. Some banks will give new customers hundreds of pounds if they meet certain criteria (usually you have to earn over a certain amount). You can view the latest switch offers here.

Don’t rule out the ISA yet

While better rates can be found if shop around, ISAs are still appealing to a lot of people. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Long term tax shelter. By topping up your ISA, you can ensure long-term protection, even though interest rates might be poor.
  2. You can inherit ISAs. ISAs can be passed on after death, which is not the case with all savings vehicles.
  3. ISAs are immune to tax thresholds. A pay rise could see you tip over the taxpayer threshold. This makes no difference to what’s held in an ISA.
  4. Flexible ISAs. You can now take money out of ISAs and replace it in the same tax year without impacting your allowance. Rules around this vary from provider to provider, so make sure you check before withdrawing money. Learn more about this feature here.

Bottom line

Standard savings accounts and cash ISAs are both useful places to store your savings and it can be worth having some money in each. A cash ISA can be particularly beneficial at a time when interest rates are on the rise as, if you have a decent amount saved up, you could reach your personal savings allowance threshold. Saving money in a cash ISA will ensure you never have to pay tax on it.

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2 Responses

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    JohnMay 10, 2018

    I have a large sum of money that I have brought from overseas. I do not have a fixed address as yet as I am new to the country. I need to put a large percentage of this money into an account that offers the highest interest rater returns.I am not working as yet so need some of the money to cover costs. What can you suggest as a bank – building society and which type of account?

      nikkiangcoMay 11, 2018Finder

      Hi John,

      Hi there, Nikki here. You’ve reached finder – We’re the leading comparison website & general information service built to give you general advice on things you need to decide on today. How are you?

      Please note that we’re a product comparison website and we do not represent any company we feature on our site. We provide general information on products to assist you in your buying decision process hence we cannot recommend product / service that is rightfully fit for you.

      You may choose from the types of savings account here.

      Hope this helps! Feel free to message us should you have further questions.


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