Most investment platforms are paying customers an interest rate on their cash balances that is far below the Bank of England base rate - and also below the best savings accounts.
We asked eight large investment platforms how much interest they pay to investors on cash holdings, whether in an investment account, stocks and shares ISA or self-invested personal pension (Sipp).
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Shockingly, one investment platform does not pay a penny in interest on cash held within ISAs and Sipps, while some pay measly rates of 1.5%, 1.75% or 1.95%. The most generous rate is currently 4.35%.
While there is pressure on banks and building societies to hike savings rates in line with the base rate - which is currently 5.25% - some investment platforms have also been paying customers a paltry rate on their cash holdings. The base rate has gone up 14 times since December 2021.
The majority of the platforms we surveyed have hiked their rates this year to reflect the rising base rate. But most of them are still way below 5.25%.
The interest rate earned on cash balances is particularly important as many investors choose to move money into cash within their account, waiting for opportunities to invest or markets to settle.
The City regulator has previously warned of the “potential harm” that customers face from leaving investments in cash earning little or no interest.
Some advised platforms, which are used by financial advisers to invest clients’ money, pay no interest and charge a fee to hold money in cash, meaning investors face a double whammy.
In terms of platforms for private investors, we outline how much interest investors earn on eight popular platforms, and what you can do to boost your return.
BARCLAYS SMART INVESTOR
Barclays Smart Investor wins the award for paying the least amount of interest on cash balances - zero, to be precise, on ISAs and Sipps.
It only pays interest on cash balances held in general investment accounts (GIAs) – the cash is held in an account called an Investment Saver, which directly pairs with the GIA. The current rate of interest is just 1.65% for balances up to £10,000, and 1.15% for higher balances.
The interest is paid on the first day of each month, based on the cash held in the GIA the previous month.
Charles Stanley Direct
Charles Stanley Direct increased its rates in August. It previously paid 2.25% interest on cash balances up to £49,999; this has now been increased to 2.5%.
For those with cash balances between £50,000 - £99,999, a higher rate of 2.7% (previously 2.45%) is paid; cash balances above £100,000 attract a rate of 2.9% (previously 2.65%).
This applies to all products, such as GIAs, ISAs and Sipps.
The UK’s largest investment platform, Hargreaves Lansdown, has increased its interest rates several times over the past year - but they are still below the 5.25% base rate.
It pays 2.75% on the first £9,999 held as cash in a stocks and shares ISA, junior ISA or lifetime ISA, gradually rising to 3.7% on sums above £100,000. On fund and share accounts, the rate varies between 1.5% and 2.2%, depending on the size of cash holding.
For Sipps and junior Sipps, the platform pays better rates. Customers earn 3.45% on the first £9,999 held as cash, rising to 4.2% for balances of more than £100,000.
A spokesperson said: “HL cash accounts have always been interest-bearing and after more than 14 years of being in the doldrums, interest rates have now normalised, which has enabled us to pass more interest onto clients.”
Hargreaves Lansdown customers held £14.5 billion in cash in December 2022. The platform makes money from these holdings - it made £121.6 million in revenue from cash held in investment accounts in the last six months of 2022.
Hargreaves has an Active Savings service that offers better rates from partner banks, which investors can switch their cash into. There is no fee for this, and investors can currently earn 4.61% for easy access and 5.75% if they lock their cash away for one year. However, customers must actively switch. This is a separate cash savings platform managed alongside a customer’s investment accounts.
The platform said: “We tell clients when they are holding too much cash for too long, and encourage them to use our Active Savings service.”
Hargreaves recently launched a cash ISA, which offers savings products from Coventry Building Society.
Interactive Investor (ii) boosted the rates of interest paid on cash balances held in ISAs, SIPPs, and trading accounts on 1 September.
For ISAs and junior ISAs, the rate rose from 1.5% on the first £10,000 to 1.75%. The rate on amounts up to £100,000 climbed to 2.75%, and the rate on amounts over £100,000 went up to 3.75%.
Sipps saw a 0.5% boost, taking the rate from 2.25% to 2.75% on balances of up to £10,000, to 3.5% for balances up to £100,000 and 4% on amounts over this level.
Trading accounts were increased from 1.5% on the first £10,000 to 1.75%. Amounts up to £100,000 now receive 2.75%, and anything over £100,000 receive 3.75%.
There are no penalties for holding your money in cash. Interest on all accounts is calculated each day and credited on or around the 25th of each month.
Interactive Investor also offers a separate Cash Savings Account, where you can move your money between deals from more than 25 UK banks and building societies. Tying your cash up for six months currently earns you an interest rate of 5.36%, rising to 5.55% for those locking their money up for two years.
If you’re planning to leave some of your investment pot in cash for at least six months, it could be worth withdrawing your cash and taking advantage of this service.
AJ Bell also increased its rates on 1 September. It now pays 1.95% (previously 1.7%) on cash balances of £10,000 or below, in an ISA, junior ISA, lifetime ISA or dealing account.
For those with larger cash balances, the rate rises to 2.45% (previously 2.2%).
Similar to Hargreaves and ii, there is a higher interest rate for cash holdings within Sipps. Cash balances of £10,000 or below earn 3.2% (previously 2.95%), while bigger sums earn 3.7% (previously 3.45%).
AJ Bell offers a Cash Savings Hub paying rates as high as 6.1%. Like the ii service, you need to lock your money up for at least six months. This is a separate feature to AJ Bell’s investment accounts, so you can’t hold these cash accounts in your ISA or Sipp.
Bestinvest offers the best interest rate out of the investment platforms that we surveyed.
Its current interest rate on cash is 4.35%. This applies to all accounts, whether it’s a general investment account, ISA or Sipp.
The interest rate applies regardless of the value of the cash or the length of time the money sits in cash.
“We believe this is by some distance the most generous interest rate paid by any investment platform,” a spokesperson said. “Clients do not need to move their money out of these investment accounts to get this interest.”
The cash holdings are held with SEI, an external custodian, and Bestinvest does not take any of the interest as revenue.
The interest rate paid on cash held in Vanguard UK Personal Investor accounts is 2.6%, after the investment giant made several rate hikes this year. It was previously 2.45%, and before that it was 2.2%.
There are no additional charges for keeping some of your investment portfolio as cash, and no penalties.
A spokesperson said that “Vanguard UK Personal Investor is intended as an investment platform, and as such while investors can of course hold cash on the platform [at the 2.6% rate], we do not offer cash or savings accounts or products.”
Fidelity Personal Investing
Fidelity has repeatedly raised its interest rates this year. It now pays 3.35% (up from 2.75% in the summer) on cash balances in ISAs, junior ISAs, investment accounts and cash management accounts.
It pays 3.55% interest (previously 3.25%) on cash held in Sipps and junior Sipps.
It told MoneyWeek: “We pay a flat rate of interest, regardless of balance, which we feel is simpler as well as fairer to all our customers, including those with lower balances.”
It added: “Fidelity Personal Investing does not charge platform fees on cash.”
However, it does keep some of the interest from the bank(s) that it deposits the client money with to cover the cost of administering it.
Fidelity previously paid interest to clients annually, but now pays it monthly.
How to boost your interest rate
If you have some cash sitting in your investment account, chances are you're earning a rubbish interest rate (unless you're with Bestinvest - but even so, you could earn more by moving your money into a market-leading savings account).
The first thing to do is check if your investment platform also offers a savings service, as you'll almost definitely be able to get a higher rate by moving your cash into it. A growing number of platforms offer a savings service, including Hargreaves Lansdown, AJ Bell and Interactive Investor.
There are different savings accounts available - provided by banks and building societies - but your cash remains with the investment platform. This means it should be easy to transfer it back into your investment account, stocks and shares ISA or pension when you're ready to invest it.
Alternatively, if you have a lot of money sitting in cash in your investment portfolio, and you don't plan to invest it any time soon, it could make sense to withdraw the money and put it in a separate savings account. This could be an easy-access savings account, cash ISA or a longer-term product like a one-year savings bond. It's possible to earn rates above the 5.25% base rate (for example, several one-year accounts pay north of 6%, while the best one-year fixed-rate cash ISA pays 5.85%) - but you'll need to be quick as some of the top accounts are starting to be withdrawn.
Ruth is passionate about helping people feel more confident about their finances. She was previously editor of Times Money Mentor, and prior to that was deputy Money editor at The Sunday Times.
A multi-award winning journalist, Ruth started her career on a pensions magazine at the FT Group, and has also worked at Money Observer and Money Advice Service.
Outside of work, she is a mum to two young children, a magistrate and an NHS volunteer.
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