If you're considering buying an NS&I Savings Certificate, especially the (RPI-) index-linked version, you may need to decide quickly.
NS&I's site says they "expect [them] to be on sale for a sustained period of time", which gives them room for manoeuvre as to timing and could leave ditherers suddenly high and dry. They also say "we are currently experiencing high volumes of calls" and this could mean that they will reach their overall sales target well before the end of the financial year - which is why, reportedly, the Certificates were withdrawn from sale last July . It's also worth noting that there is no specific target for Savings Certificates - as I reported here last month, it is merely expected that NS&I will end the tax year managing £2 billion more than it did at the beginning - spread over all its products, including e.g. Premium Bonds.
Moreover, there is commercial pressure to withdraw the Certificates. I reported that they were back on 12 May, and a mere two weeks later the Nationwide Building Society began complaining of "unfair competition" from NS&I.
The Government is in a cleft stick: people should have a secure and inflation-proof haven for their cash, but it is also a priority to get banks and building societies lending again to stimulate the economy.
It has also been observed that since the financial sector has been allowed to dominate the economy, the Treasury has become semi-dependent on taxes on bankers' bonuses. I have to bite my tongue at this point!
Actually, the competition complained of is not as fearsome as it was. True, you can invest up to £15,000 for a 5-year period (and can also buy them for children aged seven or more); but the 2- and 3- year versions are no longer available for new purchases (existing ones can usually be rolled-over on maturity), so the maximum you can invest has been sharply reduced: in 2006 you could have committed up to £45,000 per person, by buying three different versions at the same time!
Further, although the Certificates are still RPI-linked and tax-free, the additional interest is now only 0.5% per year. As before, you can access the cash before the end of the 5-year term (I suspect this term was chosen as being the least attractive), but you lose a year's interest.
Having said that, I still think they are better than what you can get elsewhere. As this FT article says (see end), the commercial alternatives are either taxable or carry a degree of investment risk.
If you do want to get in (and remember, this is NOT a personalised recommendation!), do so before the market whinges the Government into submission. You can apply online here.
INVESTMENT DISCLOSURE: We're just considering buying some ourselves!
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