Easy access rates edge up after Wall Street titan launches high-yield savings account

Savers finally benefit from improving rates following the 1.5% rate from the Marcus account launched online by Goldman Sachs in September.

RCI Bank, which is French-owned has now raised its Freedom Account’s rate to 1.37% and, although it’s typical for banks to only apply raised rates to new customers, the RCI Bank account is giving all savers the benefit of this new increased rate.

The move has been matched by Ford Money, which is also paying the same 1.29% rate to all its Flexible Savers. Smaller building banks and building societies have been scrambling to compete with Marcus’s 1.5% deal since it was launched on 27 September because it pushed easy-access rates to their highest level for two years. The online Marcus account also includes a 0.15% fixed bonus payable for the first year.

Charter Savings Bank launched its new Easy Access account, which pays 1.4%, within hours of Marcus’s arrival. Then, Shawbrook Bank quickly followed by raising its rate for new Easy Access savers to 1.4%. And in the interim, Paragon Bank has also launched a new Limited Edition Easy Access account issue, at 1.37%, while OakNorth Bank’s latest Easy Access account is paying 1.3%.

Kent Reliance Easy Access and AA Savings Member Saver are also up to 1.37%. No restrictions apply to the number of withdrawals that can be made your money is covered by the UK Financial Services Compensation Scheme (UKFSC) to the value of £85,000, or £170,000 on joint accounts.

If you are opening an account, whatever your savings goals, finder UK can help you find one to suit you. The rates that are available on the High Street may be slightly higher, but the arrangements tend to be much more complicated. For example, the rate on a Co-op Bank’s Britannia Select Access Saver issue 9 has been raised to 1.2%, but savers are limited to just four withdrawals in each calendar year.

Other High Street deals include Virgin Money Easy Access Saver at 1.16%, Coventry Building Society Easy Access Saver 5 1.15%, and Family Building Society’s Branch Saver is paying 1.21%. It’s worth noting, however, that Family BS has now also launched a new Premium Saver, which as well as being available online, can be opened at its Epsom, Surrey branch or through the post. It pays 1.45% on a minimum £5,000, but it’s only going to be possible to add money until 7 December this year.

Prior to the launch of Marcus, the average rate offered by competitors was just 0.55%.

Picture: Shutterstock

Better credit scores to benefit renters who pay on time, thanks to a new initiative.

Credit scoring

Experian, the credit reference agency, says it is now taking account of 1.2 million tenants’ payment habits.

Most of these people, around 79%, can expect to improve their access to bank accounts, loans, and mortgages by enhancing their credit scores. The analysis also indicates that adding rental data to credit reports will increase the proportion of tenants able to prove their identity online from 39% to 84%, which will additionally broaden the range of financial services available to fastidious payers.

Credit scores make all the difference when taking out any financial arrangements like loans. They determine the terms people are offered or whether they will be approved at all.

Bad or limited credit histories have the power to reduce a person’s chances of obtaining often vital finance, like mortgages, car finance, and credit cards. At finder UK we help people find out about all the ways they can build up their credit history and enhance their credit scores.

Prior to the latest Experian move, the majority of people renting their homes had been unable to prove the likelihood of them meeting monthly mortgage payments. But last year, just under 150,000 people signed a petition to demand increased recognition of tenants who regularly pay their rent on time.

The petition’s organiser, Jamie Pogson, claimed to have paid more than £70,000 in rent when it was due but had still found it a struggle to successfully apply for a mortgage.

As a result of the petition, a debate was held in Parliament and afterward, Treasury minister Stephen Barclay argued that lenders should act more favourably to those renters who kept their payments up to date.

Now, tenants’ rental payments appear on both Experian’s CreditExpert and in statutory credit reports as part of a Rental Exchange initiative that has been developed in partnership with the Big Issue Group’s social investment arm.

Data is being reported into the Rental Exchange by over 150 social housing providers, along with local authorities and letting agents. Experian is also working with property technology companies (PropTechs) to help tenants better report their data themselves.

The downside of this initiative is that those with poor records of paying rent on time could discover their credit scores are adversely affected, which would make it harder and possibly more expensive, to gain access to other financial services.

Social housing or council tenants need to ask their landlord to report their rental payment data to the Rental Exchange. Private tenants who pay large landlords or letting agents should request the same, but private tenants can also self-report their payment data via an Experian partner like CreditLadder or Canopy.

Experian Consumer Services Managing Director Clive Lawson recognises that tenants each month pay a large amount of money for their homes and says it’s right these regular payments are recognised “in a similar way as mortgages”.

Big Issue Group MD John Montague says the aim has been to create a fairer playing field for people to access credit because it was recognised that “people in poverty were routinely penalised”.
Picture: Shutterstock

Home buyers warned to beware inflated mortgage fees when offered deals

Lenders are upping mortgage fees to levels that are the highest they have been in more than five years, according to new data.

With the latest figures indicating that the average mortgage fee has risen by £15 in the last three months and now stands at £1,005, home buyers are warned to be wary of how fees can bite.

At Finder UK we’ve teamed up with the UK’s leading fee-free mortgage broker, L&C, to provide advice on the mortgage deal that is right for you. Our expertise can help whether you’re buying a home, remortgaging or purchasing an investment property.

It’s wise to be careful because, according to financial information company Moneyfacts, which collated the latest data, while mortgage lenders appear to be concentrating on competing with each other for the lowest rates on the market to attract borrowers, many of them are offsetting their reductions by raising fees instead.

Moneyfacts commentator Charlotte Nelson points out that not only are average mortgage fees rising, but they are now surpassing the £1,000 threshold for the first time since the August of 2013 when the average was £1,001. Nelson describes this as “disappointing” and advises that borrowers need to think twice before making an application for any mortgage, and they should always check the terms and conditions.

The Bank of England has increased the base rate from 0.25% to the current rate of 0.75% since November 2017 but many mortgage rates are being offered much lower than providers’ costs. For example, the average two-year fixed rate currently stands just 0.16% higher than in November 2017 when it was 2.33%.

The table below illustrates the impact fees can have on your payment: it demonstrates that even though the fixed rate is set much lower, the fee-free mortgage product still works out as less expensive in the first year.

Lender Rate LTV Fees True cost after 1st year*
Yorkshire Building Society
1.34% fixed to 31/12/2020
60%
£995
£10,414.10
Yorkshire Building Society
1.71% fixed to 31/12/2020
60%
£0
£9,837.08

Source: Moneyfacts.co.uk. *True cost based on borrowing £200,000 over 25 years on the basis of repayment-only.

Nelson emphasises that homebuyers should take note that the impact of fees can vary depending on how much is borrowed. For example, she says, a low rate/high fee offer may be perfect for people looking to buy property at the more expensive end of the market. But she warns that for average borrowers who remortgage every two years, fees soon add up and it may be better spending any additional cash overpaying the mortgage.

Taking out any mortgage is a big commitment and should not be rushed into without exploring the available options. That’s why finder UK has designed a page to help you better understand how mortgages work and how to compare the different deals that are out there.

Picture: Shutterstock

Money management app Emma adds cryptocurrency exchange integration

banking

Emma, the app that helps people avoid overdrafts and identify unnecessary subscriptions, now offers control over other finances including cryptocurrency assets.

London-based Emma Technologies calls itself the “banking app for millennials” and has already integrated with a number of UK-based challenger banks including Starling BankMonzo and Revolut.

But now, by integrating with a number of cryptocurrency exchanges Emma has become the only app that allows UK consumers to see their cryptocurrency assets along with other more traditional banking products for free.

In a few taps, Coinbase, Bittrex, Binance, Bitstamp, Kraken, Bitfinex and individual bitcoin and Ethereumaddresses, can connect to Emma allowing users to access all their banking and investment data under one secure app.

Emma CEO and co-founder Edoardo Moreni says this represents a first step towards account aggregation not only referring to banking products, but also “several financial services”. Emma, which successfully received Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) approval at the start of the year, has since been steadily making Open Banking integrations with other digital banking players.

The banking app for millennials who use either iOS or Android devices is a mobile-only solution that aims to help people avoid overdrafts, cancel unwanted subscriptions, keep track of debt and save money. The integrations with Starling, Monzo and Revolut are helping the various banks’ customers understand their money and more easily manage it. Starling Bank’s Chief Platform Officer, Megan Caywood, says the Emma link is a boost to the startup’s ability to offer customers a wider choice of financial products.

The integration works on the basis that, in the modern world, people tend to have multiple accounts, many contracts, several credit and debit cards and are thus challenged when it comes to keeping things under control. Emma wants to make money management easy and much more straightforward by enabling consumers to access all their personal finance information at the push of a button.

Emma (whose name derives from an anagram of the initials of its founders, Antonio Marino and Edoardo Moreni, who met at the Manchester University) was given the nod by the FCA just over a month from the launch of its beta service.

Emma’s ultimate goal is the building of a private wealth manager driven by artificial intelligence. It is being propelled by the advent of Open Banking whose launch coincided with that of Emma. Open Banking means that, with the account holder’s permission, banks are able to share financial information, including transaction histories and spending patterns, with third-party providers who are also FCA regulated.

Digital banking is evolving all the time. With Finder UK you can read the latest reviews, browse apps and discover more about the latest developments.

Yolt is the first independent app to connect to the UK’s largest high street banks

Yolt, the app that allows customers to view credit card, banking and savings accounts in one place, has become the first third-party provider to tie up with all nine of the UK’s biggest retail banks.

Along with fintech challengers Starling and Monzo, 18 banks are now connected to Yolt, with users able to access a total of 35 different cards and banks. Yolt users can see the shops where they spend the most money. They can also set budgets and plan for upcoming payments as well as seeing how much cash they have available until payday.

Yolt is now the largest user of Open Banking application programming interfaces (APIs) that enable the app to perform about 1.5 million calls every week. APIs are sets of clearly defined ways for various components, in this case accounts to communicate between themselves.

Key features of the Yolt app are its spending tracker, easy budget settings and auto-categorisation.

The app has been working closely with the UK’s nine largest banks and building societies* since the start of 2018 to make it possible to involve all the big retail banking operations. Yolt is the first money app to make a complete Open Banking API link with the Lloyds Banking Group.

Yolt’s COO Leon Muis says that connecting with all the largest banks through APIs is “a huge milestone”. Muis points out that the Open Banking ecosystem has made it possible and for making users able to stay at the front of the Open Banking revolution and empowered to do more with their own money.

He accepts that the public still need educating about Open Banking, which is aimed at providing greater financial transparency for account holders, but believes that as more people get involved, consumers will see the benefits of having increased control over their financial information.

Yolt was launched in 2016 as a registered trademark of the Amsterdam-based ING group. Does it make it easier to manage your finances? Read this review to see what finder UK says. To find out exactly how Open Banking may help you take a look at this analysis.

Test Your Boundaries

It’s as if the passage of time has passed by Minnesota’s Boundary Waters. Roger Wilsher discovers what the world used to be like by jumping in a canoe and being inspired.

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness measures 1.1 million acres. The area is one of the most protected wildernesses in America. There are no roads. No towns. No airports. All you see is water and woods.

The lakes and forests here come directly from the Ice Age . It was 12,000 years ago when Paleo-Indians were navigating the lumps of melting ice left behind by the retreating glaciers and hunting woolly mammoths and caribou around here.

Mastodons – distant relatives of today’s elephants – saber-tooth tigers and beavers that weighed 500lbs were roaming the region. It wasn’t until the 17th century that Europeans first entered this wilderness west of Lake Superior. They were looking for a route to China and the huge beaver pelts that could be sold for a fortune. The only safe way to travel the waters then was in a canoe.

The reason this is called the Boundary Waters is the United States-Canada border that meanders anders along the region’s northern edge of the region.

Not much has changed in the past 300 years or so. The area has been well protected by legislation, including the 1964 Wilderness Act, which returned this vast Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness to its pristine backcountry heritage.

Outboard engines are outlawed on almost all of the 1,000 lakes. The roads and people who lived here have disappeared. Aircraft are not allowed to fly less than 4,000ft high. In their place have been established  about 2,200 campsites and 1,500 miles of canoe routes.

There are around 250,000 visitors annually but you would not know it because the place is so vast. The signs of human presence are few and far between. Look down when you fly high above it and what you will see is a green carpet, cut into occasionally by a few glaciers. When you are on the water it feels like you are in another time. Nature becomes the world and we humans are lucky guests.

The local Ojibwe (aka Chippewa) tribe still lives in the way it did when it arrived in the 1500s.

What to wear

When you plan to canoe in the waters the advice is to travel as light as possible. For clothes yo8u should bring a pair of pants, a shirt plus one insulating layer and a windbreaker.

When you stop for a camp dry shoes will be appreciated, but staying light is the key on a Boundary Waters trip. When you leave civilization behind, remember you will have to carry whatever you bring and with a canoe on your shoulders! Expect to do a lot of lugging with gear on your back and feet on the trail because you will often have to carry your boat between navigable waters. There are literally dozens of these portages as they are known between the lakes. The majority of portages are just a few hundred yards, but some can stretch for up to a mile.

On top of your few items of clothing you will need a canoe to explore the water, a tent, sleeping pad and bag for sleeping, and a portage pack for your food and kit. It’s also a good idea to ziplock your food and label it by meal and day so you don’t lose track. As you are likely to discover losing track out here is not an uncommon hurdle.

Before you start in earnest, it’s advisable to paddle a section of the International Boundary Route to get used to what is to come. To get to the start of your adventure it is sensible to take a water taxi for the first miles through the perimeter lakes, where motored craft are still permitted .

There’ll be plenty of opportunity to propel yourself. The canoe routes in total measure 1,500 miles. With two people paddling, it’s possible for a Kevlar canoe to average three miles an hour. Rest assured, the rhythmic  motion becomes second nature after a short while.

Everything around you is water or stone or wood. The shorelines is covered in red pine. Granite splits the forest in to two parts. Indeed there are granite bluffs that stand a good 10-storeys high and rise from the depths. In addition, there are flat rocks the size of tennis courts cresting a few feet above the water.

The lakes that make up the Boundary Waters are mainly lined with granite. There are fault lines running through the Kahshahpiwi and Man Chain Lakes, creating perfectly straight greenstone and granite shorelines. Vera Lake is surrounded by jasper, an opaque reddish-brown semi-precious stone. Pink Batholith granite is all around Ensign Lake, and boulders blown off the side of a prehistoric volcano lie at the bottom of Kekekabic Lake.

In one granite cliff between Crane and Sand Point Lakes there is a series of dull red pictographs. These handprints and depictions of a large moose are many hundreds of years old. The Ojibwe artists created the images by combining hematite with sturgeon oil. This mixture chemically binds with rock and is reckoned to last for thousands of years.

Into Canada

When you go through Canadian Customs, you’ll discover it’s not just canoeists who frequent the Boundary Waters. There are fishermen here hopefully landing some of the best bass in the world. If you get the chance for a “shore lunch” it’s an experience. It typically begins with hunks of fresh cornbread smothered with butter and washed down with lemonade. Next expect a platter of breaded and fried walleye, or North American pikeperch, with tartar sauce and potatoes. Dessert can be something like turnovers with rhubarb and strawberry topped with whipped cream.

The border is marked by a silvery benchmark spike embossed with U.S. on one side and CANADA on the other that has been driven into a boulder on the rocky islet on the southern end of Lac La Croix. In the middle of the island there is a pile of rocks that was once a native-American lookout station. It is placed in the middle of the fur traders’ route, so an Indian scout could see any Europeans approaching and signal this to his tribe so they could prepare their valuable furs.

Heading south there are a dozen or so islands where there are campsites. Here, it’s possible to see the  Milky Way’s arc, which is known to the Ojibwe as the Path of Souls, until it disappears into the canopy of shadows on the lake’s other side. The air has the scent of pine and campfire smoke.

Although this is known as the land of 10,000 lakes, it probably has nearer to 20,000, when lakes of less than 10 acres are counted in the total. The Minnesota shoreline measures 45,000 miles. Fully, 8% of Minnesota is water and the other 92% houses on average just 67 people per square mile.

Ely is the capital. Here you will find all manner of craft from sea kayaks and canoes, through skiffs and powerboats, to dories and dinghies leaning against the town’s buildings and in the driveways that line Highway 169.

There is one current threat to the pace and tranquility of the region. After more than 10 years of lobbying, a Chilean mining company, Antofagasta, wants to build a huge sulfide-ore copper mine adjacent to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The fears are that the wilderness’s currents could carry toxic pollution from this mine into the lake area .

The Forest Service along with tens of thousands of Boundary Waters’ supporters have made their concerns known, and the project’s future does look less likely every month. But the fact it has even been considered a possibility underlines doubts people who know this place have about the integrity, values and good sense of the 21st century’s so-called civilization.

When you are on the water thoughts like this seem so far away. However, when  you pull up at the end the sounds that return, which can be as simple as a car door shutting, seem so unnatural.

After just a short time in a canoe on the Boundary Waters, everything that isn’t pure nature feels very strange. But, there always has to come a time when we’re beckoned back in to the modern world.

Theresa May’s Groundhog Day

With Brexit in mind, we appear to be living with a calendar where every day’s the political equivalent of Groundhog Day. 
No one seems up to the task of leading the U.K. out of the EU without causing pain, anguish and quite probably worse.
Jeremy Corbyn is no great hope, as the fence he sits on threatens to collapse under the weight of pro-EU members, voters and logic, without him seeing the electoral light.
But the person who currently seems least capable of all is the prime minister.
All Theresa May is doing on a daily basis is stoking the risk of a popular backlash against any final deal.
Every day, in order to hold her fraying party together, she pretends to the country that Britain can take back control while it gives it away to ensure frictionless trade and no damage to our lives and livelihoods.
Instead of being so irresponsible and untrustworthy, it would be appreciated if she could learn the lesson that Phil Connors, the arrogant Pittsburgh TV weatherman took on board during his assignment covering the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
To escape the time loop, repeating the same day again and again, after indulging in hedonism and committing suicide several times, Connors re-examines his life and priorities with beneficial consequences.
It would be greatly appreciated by everyone if Prime Minister May could do the same!