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Last minute ISAs: opening hours, best cash deals, fund picks

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The countdown to midnight on 5 April – the end of the tax year – is on. But there’s still time to use up your ISA allowance. Remember, this year’s ISA limit is £15,240 and you cannot carry forward any unused allowance.  So if you don’t use it up, it’s gone forever.

Is there still time to open an ISA?

Although leaving your ISA decision-making to the last minute isn’t the best option, you can in theory save or invest your money right up to the midnight deadline on 5 April.

If you’re opting for a cash ISA, the vast majority of accounts are available online. But it’s best to check as some deals are available in branch only so you’ll be restricted by opening times.

If you’re investing in a stocks and shares ISA on a platform, you can open an account online up until the deadline. You’ll just need your national insurance number and a debit card with cleared funds in your account.

Many of the big platforms including Hargreaves Lansdown, Fidelity and Bestinvest are operating extended telephone opening hours until midnight on the 5th.

The Share Centre is open until 8pm tonight (4 April) and from 8am to 6pm on 5 April.

AJ Bell’s customer service phone and website chat will be available from 8am – 8pm until Friday 7 April.

I want to open a cash ISA. What are the best rates?

The best instant access ISA is from Coventry Building Society paying 1.05%. It can be opened with as little as £1 online, in branch, by post or over the phone.

If you’re willing to tie your money up for 18 months, you can get 1.40% from Principality Building Society, but you’ll need a minimum of £500 to open an account and it can only be done in branch.

The best one-year fix is from Yorkshire Building Society, paying 1.10%. It can be opened with a minimum of £100, online only.

For those looking for a two-year fixed rate, Yorkshire Building Society is offering 1.25%, again with a £100 minimum, and the account can only be opened online. Chelsea Building Society is also offering 1.25%, with the same terms.

Savers with a longer time horizon can get 1.95% for a five-year bond from Principality Building Society. You’ll need a minimum of £500 and the account can be opened online, in branch or by post.

I’d like to open a stocks and shares ISA but don’t know where to invest. What are my options?

Remember your annual ISA allowance is given on a use-it or lose-it basis so if you miss the deadline of midnight on 5 April, your 2016/17 allowance will be gone for good.

If you have some cash to invest, but can’t decide which investments to pick, you can put your money in an ISA cash park. This means you have banked your ISA subscription for this year but can take time over your investment choices.

Click here for full details on ISA cash parks

Most platforms also offer investment ideas and model portfolios to help you decide where to invest your money.

Which funds are attracting the most amount of ISA money?

According to Hargreaves Lansdown, which has around 570,000 ISA customers, equity income and emerging market funds have been the most popular choices in March.

“Equity income is always popular and more so now with cash interest rates at rock bottom,” says Danny Cox, head of advice at Hargreaves Lansdown.

“The average cash ISA rate has halved since the Brexit vote to just 0.43% whereas a typical equity income fund is yielding 3.5% and has growth potential.”

He says emerging markets such as India are also popular as these are the regions where the long term growth potential is higher than more developed countries such as the UK and US.

Top 10 funds (in alphabetical order)

  1. CRUX European Special Situations
  2. Fundsmith Equity
  3. Jupiter India
  4. Legal & General US Index
  5. Lindsell Train Global Equity
  6. Lindsell Train UK Equity
  7. Newton Global Income
  8. Stewart Investors Asia Pacific Leaders
  9. Woodford Equity Income
  10. Woodford Income Focus

Source: Hargreaves Lansdown

I’d rather invest in shares. What are the recent best sellers?

Much like this time last year, mining giant Glencore tops the best-selling shares list for March among Hargreaves Lansdown clients.

“Aside from Glencore, the top ten list shows a distinct preference for stocks with a decent yield or a great dividend track record,” says Cox.

“The list also has a cyclical tinge to it, which suggests investors are warming to the idea that the global economy is picking up.”

Top 8 shares (by amount purchased)

  1. Glencore
  2. Legal & General
  3. Lloyds Banking Group
  4. National Grid
  5. Persimmon
  6. Royal Dutch Shell
  7. SSE
  8. WPP

Source: Hargreaves Lansdown

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