I’m not tech-savvy and prefer to avoid a call center or smartphone app, so how do I find the best in-branch savings account?
For better or for worse, I am not tech-savvy and prefer to conduct my banking activities in branches with a human being rather than with a call center or via a smartphone application.
Since interest rates have gone up, I want to transfer my savings at a better rate. How to find the best branch savings account? Missouri, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire
Ruth Jackson-Kirby responds: The good news is that savings rates have risen steadily throughout the year thanks to repeated increases in the Bank of England’s base rate. The highest paying instant access savings account now pays 1.9%.
Saver savvy: Almost all best buy rates are reserved for online-only or smartphone accounts
But many of us still have money languishing in savings accounts that pay just 0.1%. So you are right to look for a new home for your savings.
Unfortunately, almost all of the best rates are reserved for online-only or smartphone accounts. This is partly because such accounts are less costly for banks and building societies to administer – for example, there is no need to pay a member of staff to be behind a branch.
The other reason some of the best rates require you to be internet savvy is because they’re offered by competing banks that simply don’t have a presence on the high streets. Many newer banks, such as Starling, Atom, and Chase, require you to have a smartphone app.
This creates a discrepancy between the prices offered to tech-savvy savers and those offered to savers – like you – who prefer to manage their account in branch, by telephone or by mail.
For example, of the top 20 one-year savings bonds, only one is available offline, according to research by rate finder Savings Champion. Similarly, of the top 20 easy-to-access accounts, only five offer savers an option other than the internet or a mobile application.
“It’s tough for traditional savers,” says Anna Bowes, co-founder of Savings Champion. “They are missing out on the best rates available as more banks take the online-only approach.” Even old favorites such as NS&I now offer online-only accounts.
All of this means you’re going to get a lower interest rate if you can’t open an account online. For example, if you are looking for an instant access savings account, the best rate is 1.9% with Al Rayan Bank, but it must be opened online.
If you’re willing to open and manage your account over the phone, you could get 1.86% from Shawbrook Bank.
But for branch access, the best rate drops to 1.6% from the Monmouthshire Building Society on sums of £25,000 or more on its Escalator Instant account – but they don’t have a branch near Huddersfield (its 22 branches and agencies are mainly based in Wales).
Rachel Springall, Finance Expert at Moneyfacts, Rates Scrutineer, says: “If someone doesn’t have online access, it would be wise for them to ask family or friends to put them online so that they can ask for the best rates.”
A friend or relative could help you apply for an account online, as many can then be handled over the phone or by mail once they’re up and running. For example, if someone could help you open the account online, you could get the best instant access account from Al Rayan Bank at 1.9%. You can then manage the account by phone or mail.
Similarly, Tandem Bank’s one-year fixed rate savings bond pays 3.3% interest and can be tapped over the phone once you open the account online. If you can’t get help opening an account, don’t despair. There are several accounts that can be opened in other ways while offering decent interest rates.
Bowes says: “The trade-off in returns from using a postal account is often not as glaring as some fear, especially if you avoid using the big banks. Some service providers still offer options for opening an account by post, in a branch or by telephone. That said, these may be vendors you don’t know about.
For example, if you are looking for a cash Isa, UBL UK has the best rates across the board. All its accounts can be opened in branch, by mail or online. You can get a rate of 2.51% for a one-year fixed rate Isa, rising to 3.1% for a five-year contract.
Bowes adds: “Savers may need to take a well-informed leap of faith. But as long as the chosen provider is part of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme or European equivalent, there’s no reason not to consider trying an unfamiliar name. The FSCS guarantees savings of up to £85,000 in the event of a business going bankrupt.
The best non-Isa accounts with postal and branch opening options are offered by building societies. For example, Buckinghamshire offers a one-year fixed rate savings bond paying 3% interest.
It also offers a three-year bond that can be managed in-branch or by mail, which at 3.35% fixed is just behind the best buys.
Mansfield has a 90 day notice postal savings account with an interest rate of 2.25%.