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NS&I Certificates withdrawn from sale...again

Saving | National Savings

By Justin Modray, published 07 September 2011.
Helpful? 13

National Savings & Investments (NS&I) has this morning announced that its index-linked and fixed interest savings certificates have once again been withdrawn from sale.

These issues, which have been available since May, are no longer available. It's disappointing in that there aren't any directly comparable alternatives to NS&I Index-Linked Certificates. But I wouldn't lose too much sleep if you feel you missed out, as inflation is unlikely to remain at current high levels over the next five years and the fixed rate certificates weren't particularly competitive anyway.

What about existing Certificates?

Existing savers in these products are unaffected. The certificates will run until maturity at which time the proceeds can usually be rolled over into the same issue (i.e. the same rate) or one of the other certificate issues. But as this is at the whim of the Treasury it's not guaranteed.

Why have they been withdrawn?

Most likely the same reason as last time - being too popular during a time when the Government wants to reduce borrowing - which is what selling NS&I products effectively is. NS&I has a target not to increase net borrowing by more than £2 billion this year (compared to net sales of over £12 billion 3 years ago), so it has to carefully manage money coming in versus money being withdrawn by customers. The recent issue of Certificates attracted nearly 500,000 transactions, which probably accounts for a fair chunk of the money NS&I is allowed to attract this year.

When might they be re-opened for sale?

NS&I's £2 billion net financing target (for the current tax year) equates to bringing in around £14 billion of new business after outflows. Bumper sales of the just withdrawn Index-Linked Certficates along with strong Premium Bonds sales probably go a long way towards hitting this target, so I'd before surprised if Certficates are re-introduced before next April (at the earliest).

What alternatives are there?

There aren’t any directly comparable alternatives to Index-Linked Certificates, but there are a couple of savings accounts currently available that offer something similar:

Post Office Inflation Linked Bond Issue 2
Pays RPI plus 1.5% a year over 5 years or RPI plus 0.5% over 3 years. Generally a good alternative, although unlike NS&I Index-Linked Certificates they're not tax-free and you can't access your money before maturity. You can read my review of the previous issue (almost identical) here.

Yorkshire Building Society PCA Inflation Linked 8 Plan
Pays the higher of RPI and a total 16% return over 6 years, with a penalty for early withdrawals. This is not especially attractive, but can be held within a cash ISA to ensure tax-free interest.

You could consider index-linked gilts, but these are quite different to savings certificates and potentially risky (see my answer to this question for more details) so won’t be a suitable alternative for most savers.

Fixed rate cash Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs) are very similar to Fixed Interest Certificates - you receive a fixed rate of interest tax-free.

What will happen to inflation?

The current high levels have primarily been driven by rising fuel and food prices, the latter being particularly volatile due to being largely dependent on weather. I think it's more likely we'll see inflation fall rather than rise over the next year, but further spikes in oil and food prices could prove me wrong. You can read more in my article here.

A quick update re: the site

Apologies for not answering your questions and adding content to the site as frequently as usual lately. I've been a bit sidetracked with major house renovations along with the imminent arrival of our first child, so life's been a bit hectic. Everything should hopefully settle down within the next couple of months, giving me a lot more time and energy to focus on the site again. Meanwhile, please do keep asking questions and contributing to the site and I'll respond whenever possible.

If you found this article helpful, please add your vote by clicking here.

Readers' Comments (2) - To post a comment please register or login .

Comment by moneypenny at 4:25pm on 07 Sep 2011:

Believe it or not Justin I was about buy today having dithered for weeks and spent a large amount of time on the site yesterday. I only intended to invest for a year or so if it wasn't going well ;o)

Good luck and best wishes to you and your wife, do let us know when baby arrives !

Comment by rafferty at 7:26pm on 07 Sep 2011:

Very best wishes to you both for the arrival of the new baby! We all very much appreciate the amount of time you give to this site. Whether you'll have a lot more spare time and energy once the new baby arrives... well, I wouldn't count on it. :)