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Worst year on record for cash ISA returns

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The average return on cash ISAs was at its lowest on record over 2017, finds the latest research from Moneyfacts.

The average return on cash ISAs over the past year has been just 0.93%. This is in notable contrast to the average stocks and shares ISA, which saw growth of 11.75% over 2017.

Following the recent interest rate rise, rates have risen slightly from their low point in January 2017 – 0.82% to 1.09%. However, this is still far lower than their level two years ago.

Cash ISAs continue to be the preferred savings vehicle for most people. Around 11.1 million adult ISA accounts were subscribed to in 2016/17. While the number of cash ISAs subscribed to fell by 1.6 million and the number subscribing to stocks and shares ISAs rose slightly, cash ISAs still represented 77% of accounts.

Data site Moneyfacts said the number of cash ISA providers raising their rates continues to outweigh those cutting their rates. It recorded 59 individual rate cuts compared to 237 rate rises in December.

Returns on cash ISAs continue to lag inflation by some way. Statistics for December show inflation running at 3%. Savers are therefore losing money in real terms. Over the past 10 years, the cost of goods and services has risen by 45.4%, according to Hargreaves Lansdown and the Office for National Statistics. £10,000 invested 10 years ago would have had to grow to £14,542 (equivalent to 3% per year) to have the same purchasing power.

Rachel Springall, finance expert at Moneyfacts, said: “ISAs have been left crippled by low interest rates and government schemes, which has resulted in the worst year we have ever seen for the interest paid on cash ISAs. While these savings vehicles have been a sought-after home for savers’ cash over the years, their appeal is likely dwindling due to the returns on offer.

“To add insult to injury, inflation has been eroding any returns, with CPI averaging out at 2.74% over the last 12 months. The average return on cash ISAs over the past year was around a third of this, at 0.93%, marking the lowest rate we have ever seen and showing just how much ISA savers are being left out of pocket.”

Springall added that the Personal Savings Allowance (PSA) means savers could get higher interest on savings accounts away from ISAs without paying tax. The best easy access ISA today pays 1.16% from the AA, while their best easy access account pays 1.32%.

Related: See’s Is it still worth saving money in a cash ISA? and Five reasons to hold cash despite rising inflation for more information. 

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