ERNIE to get slimmer
Premium bonds celebrated their 60th anniversary last year; whilst they’ve remained popular throughout that time, it’s not hard to see that what they offer is closer to a lottery ticket than a viable investment opportunity. The chances of winning the jackpot is 26 million to one, and as all the interest generated in money invested goes to the prize fund you won’t see any return on your investment unless you’re one of the lucky few to bag a top prize.
However, they’re set to become even less attractive later this year, when the chances of winning the bigger prizes will become slimmer still. National Savings and Investments (NS&I) has announced that from May 2017, the estimated number of tax-free £100,000 prizes will fall from three per month to just two. The £25,000 prizes will also be reduced, going from eleven to nine each month. The amount of monthly £10,000, £5,000 and £1,000 prizes is also set to go down with the total prize fund shrinking from £69.5 million to £63.8 million.
The reductions are due to NS&I making cuts across a range of saving products to reflect market conditions. Direct ISA and Direct Saver accounts will see interest rates cut from 1% to 0.75% and 0.8% to 0.7% respectively at the same time.
Whilst a drop in the number of big prizes is undoubtedly a disappointment for savers, the changes do little to change the positives and negatives of premium bonds overall. As an investment opportunity they offer no guarantees but the fact that any money put in is backed by the treasury means your investment is fully protected.
It’s not all doom and gloom for NS&I products, however. Last November, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced a new savings bond would become available in spring 2017, offering what was described as a “market-leading” rate of approximately 2.2%. The precise rate is set to be confirmed soon, and the three-year bond will be available for anyone over 16, allowing them to invest up to £3,000.