Which ISA is right for you? A round up of the six products available in 2017

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From cash to innovative finance to lifetime, here's our guide to the ISA products available to savers this year.

Cash ISA

Suitable for:

  • Building up a rainy day fund
  • Short term cash needs
  • People over 16

You can save a maximum of £15,240 in a cash ISA in the 2016/17 tax year, and £20,000 in 2017/18. Any interest earned is totally tax-free.

Interest rates on cash products have plummeted in recent years and there are currently no products on the market offering an inflation-beating rate. The Personal Savings Allowance (PSA), introduced last April, has had a detrimental effect on the cash ISA market. It offers basic rate taxpayers the ability to earn up to £1,000 savings income (£500 for higher rate taxpayers), free from tax. With rates so low, it’s unlikely many people will be paying tax on their savings.

However, savings in cash ISAs are tax-free indefinitely so when rates eventually rise and you start to earn above your PSA, your money could be better off in an ISA.

Stocks and Shares ISA

Suitable for:

  • Investing to meet medium to long term goals
  • Investing for and in retirement
  • People over 18

You can invest a maximum of £15,240 in a stocks and shares ISA in the 2016/17 tax year, and £20,000 in 2017/18 and your money can be withdrawn tax-free at any time, and for any purpose.

These are investment-based products so are riskier than cash ISAs. You can invest in shares of companies or in funds or investment trusts.

Calculations by investment firm Fidelity International show an investment of £15,000 into the FTSE All-Share Index 20 years ago would give you total holdings worth £52,965 today. If you’d saved the £15,000 in the average UK savings account over the same period, you would be left with just £19,916.

You can open a stocks and shares ISA on an investment platform such as Hargreaves Lansdown, Fidelity, Bestinvest and The Share Centre.

Lifetime ISA

Suitable for:

  • Saving for a first house deposit and retirement
  • People aged between 18 and 40

This is the brand new ISA product, launching on 6 April. If you meet the age criteria, you can contribute a maximum of £4,000 each tax year and you’ll receive a 25% government bonus on anything you save. The government bonus is available until age 50.

The funds must be used to buy a first home worth up to £450,000 at any time from 12 months after opening the account or they can be used in retirement. There’s a 25% exit penalty if the money is withdrawn before the age of 60 and not used towards a first home (apart from first year of scheme 2017/18).

You can open a savings or investment version of the Lifetime ISA, but many banks, building societies and investment firms have said they will not be ready to offer the product on its launch date.

Hargreaves Lansdown and The Share Centre have confirmed they will be offering a Lifetime ISA to investors on 6 April.

Junior ISA

Suitable for:

  • Under 18s only
  • Building up savings for a child

You can save up to £4,080 each tax year in a junior ISA. The annual allowance is available to children from birth up to the age of 18.

Junior ISAs come in two forms – cash and stocks and shares products. With both, any earnings are protected from the taxman.

These products replaced child trust funds (CTF). You cannot hold both a junior ISA and a CTF but you can transfer out of the old scheme into a junior ISA.

Innovative Finance ISA

Suitable for:

  • Income seekers willing to take risk
  • Over 18s

This type of ISA launched in April 2016. It allows people who invest in peer-to-peer loans to get tax free returns. Peer-to peer lending connects savers directly with borrowers, cutting out the middleman – the banks. Interest rates on offer tend to be higher than you’d get on a traditional cash ISA but the risks are greater and there is no FSCS protection if something goes wrong.

You can invest a maximum of £15,240 in an innovative finance ISA in the 2016/17 tax year, and £20,000 in 2017/18.

Help-to Buy ISA

Suitable for:

  • First time buyers looking to add to the money to put towards a property
  • Regular cash savers
  • Over 16s

Savers can deposit a maximum of £1,200 in the first month and £200 a month thereafter up to £12,000. The government adds £1 for each £4 you put in, but only at the point at which you purchase the property.

New accounts can be opened until November 2019 and additions to existing accounts permitted until November 2029.

You can use the funds to buy any home worth under £250,000 or under £450,000 in London.

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