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Warning over account restrictions

Four in every 10 savings accounts which are described as being instant-access come with "frustrating" restrictions that can prevent people getting their hands on their money or even being eligible for the deal in the first place, according to research by Which?.

The consumer group found that 39% out of the 285 instant-access and cash Isa savings accounts currently available come with strings of some kind attached.

Some 32 of the 285 accounts described as instant-access actually limit the number of withdrawals that the customer can make during the course of a year.

Which? said that, based on a survey of more than 900 of its members, two-thirds (68%) of savers would expect to be able to withdraw their money from an account branded instant-access, whenever they liked, with no restrictions.

Other restrictions found by Which? included Isas which do not allow transfers in, accounts which are internet-only and accounts that are limited to people who already have a current account with the provider, or who live within a certain area or postcode.

Instant-access accounts with no strings tend to pay worse rates of interest than those with restrictions.

The average interest rate for an ordinary instant-access savings account with no restrictions was 0.61%, while the average rate for one with restrictions was 0.73%, Which? found.

Meanwhile, the typical interest rate on an instant-access cash Isa which allowed transfers in from an older Isa was 1.11%, compared with 1.32% on accounts that do not allow transfers in.

Which? is calling for savings providers to "scrap the savings trap" and help people make the most of their money. It said providers should be up-front about any restrictions and stop limiting transfers in to new Isas to make it easier for people to switch to a better deal.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: "People often assume 'instant-access' means there are no strings attached, but too often that's not the case and you can't always access your savings without being penalised.

"Savings providers should be more upfront about the terms and conditions of all their accounts and allow transfers in to new Isas."

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