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When I opened my ISA with Smile, it was offering the best rates of interest across the board. Now the rates are not quite so high, but then all of the interests have fallen, and Smile is only amongst the top, not THE top. Saying that, the rates are still very good and the service is excellent. The site is easy to access, quick and easy to navigate around. Paying money in is easy, you can do it at any post office and getting money out is also very easy. You do have to have a current account somewhere, but as long as you have that, you can get money transfered anywhere within 4 days and if you have a Smile current account, the transfer is instantanious. I have found the customer service to be excellent. When any changes are about to happen, to the site of to the rates of interest, they send you an informative e-mail that is easy to read, as it contains information specifically relevant to you, instead of having to wade through pages of tiny figures to find what you want. Overall a very good service
UPDATED to apply to the current tax year. Smile, say cheese, CLICK FLASH. There that was a nice picture wasn’t it? It is always nice when you smile and with a Smile Mini-Cash ISA you will be positively beaming. In these days of turbulent stock markets, you need a safe investment and what is better than a tax-free cash mini ISA, guaranteed not to lose you money and a nice way to save a little nest egg tax-free. This current tax year you can once again invest £3,000 in any mini-cash ISA. This is somewhat of a relief as under the original legislation this years limit was going to be a paltry £1,000!! You can of course opt for the maxi-isa where £7,000 is invested, £3,000 in cash, £1,000 in insurance products and £3,000 in the stock market. But beware of the stock-market a lot of Stock ISA funds will actually have lost you money since November, 2000. Tax-free you say. Yes, the interest earned on the account is not taxed as with other savings account, saving you at least 20% of the interest earned that normally wings its way to the tax man; i.e. if you had earnt £100 in interest in a normal savings account you would pay a minimum of £20 in tax and more if you are a higher rate tax payer. So Hoorah for tax free savings. OK, so far this has been a general chitchat about cash mini ISAs but I thought you might like to know these basic facts. So I choose Smile, what is it and what does it offer? SMILE Are you smiling? No, well I will not go on. There that is better, it is always nicer to smile. Now smile is an online internet bank. It has no high street offices (although it is a subsidiary of the co-op bank.) Therefore to use this account you will need access to the internet. As you are reading this opinion on DooYoo, an internet site, then I would imagine that internet access is not a problem. Now Smile offer other accounts as well as the cash mini-ISA but I will concentrate on the ISA. INTEREST RATE This is currently 6.50%, still the highest available for a no-notice ISA. A no-notice ISA what is that? Well you can withdraw your money from this account at no-notice, instant access and no charges for withdrawing your money when you want. From what I have seen in the press, a lot of other ISAs have a minimum notice period. Hooraahh. Northern Rock are offering 6.55% but you have to give notice for withdrawals. Boo! The interest rate at smile was 7.25%, but with recent rate cuts it was bound to come down and this is a shame for savers. Now if you do withdraw money from your ISA, you cannot put it back in again. Let me explain. You can save £3,000 in the year, but once you have put the £3,000 into the account, that is it. You cannot take out £500 for an emergency and then put it back in a month latter. You can take it out, but that is it, it cannot go back in. So when you save money here you should view it as locked away for the future. APPLICATION This is done online and involves filling in about 13 pages worth of questions it is quite quick and painless and it only took me about 20 minutes and helps to provide security for your account. You get an answer the next working day and in my experience Smile are very efficient. You may have to send Smile proof of address but that is not too much hassle. The account will normally be open in a couple of weeks from when you applied. The procedure is simple and well sign-posted; in fact I reckon my cat could do it. (Yes, it has mastered typing.) SECURITY This is the only internet bank that I know of that has won awards for its security and I must say the amount of security questions that you are asked makes me think that it is very unlikely that somebody inexperienced could hack your account. Anyway if they do, Smile guarantee to reimburse you for your losses. So no worries there. For those that are i nterested security measures include a four digit code, (that cannot be your birthday); a personal question that is randomly selected from about 8 that you have given smile the answers to in your application and of course account number and sort code details. You may get frustrated with the security as you may forget answers to your questions, like I do. But it is there for your own protection so be calm and try and remember your first school! WEBSITE This is well presented, easy to navigate and fast. It really is a joy to use and is certainly not boring to look at. There are quick links, to smile products, contact details, application areas and Smile Banking. Smile Banking can take a while to load down, as this is a seperate area sealed off with yet more fire-walls (internet security protection walls), so this separate area helps to keep your details secure. The Smile banking part is where you carry out your banking, transfer money in and out, send secure e-mails and generally wander around like a happy customer. Well, I do anyway. TRANSACTIONS You can pay money in by post, in special envelopes that you drop in at any post office, or by online transfers between smile and most UK banks. The online transfer works fine for me between HSBC and smile and it also works fro my girlfriend, from Barclays to Smile. You can set up a direct debit to pay a regular sum in or just pay in as and when. Payments seem to be credited quickly and there have been no mistakes with debits and credits in my account. STATEMENTS You are sent an e-mail when a statement is ready and with the ISA account this is just once a year. It is slightly annoying that there is no statement ready when you deposit money, so you have to manually check that any deposit you have made has been credited to your account. There are no paper statements sent through the mail and I think it would also be useful to have this feature. But these are about the only gripes that I have and they are small. CUSTOMER SERVICE You can contact them via secure e-mail through Smile banking, or telephone them. I have found the staff to be efficient polite and well versed with the product or problem you are contacting them about. Most of all e-mails are replied to promptly and they do actually read your e-mail and do not send a standard response. CONTACT The website is smile.co.uk and the 24 hour telephone service is found on the number 0870 843 2265. SUMMARY The Smile cash ISA pays the best rate of interest available (it has been top of the Sunday Times ISA lists for the past one and a half years), the site seems very secure, is very easy to use and the customer service is excellent. What more can I say. Are you smiling, because I am. Although why internet banks have these funny names, I will never know. On the 5th April my £6,000 invested over two years gained me £450 in tax-free interest. Now that is not bad is it! No cat, you cannot have money for an ISA. Happy Banking!! Including any cat with spare cash!!
When I was looking for a long term savings account Smile had the best interest rates by far; I dont know how they compare now but they are certainly worth looking at. When I last checked they were offering 7.25% which wasn't matched by anyone else. Being an internet bank their overheads are low so they can afford better interest rates; this can often be at the expense of convenience, and I know that some internet firms are difficult to get hold of. Not so with Smile - I use their helpline which is excellent, very informative and never seems to be closed. My only gripe is that it took me a while to get the account set up because I didn't have any utility bills to prove my identity, and it wasn't made clear to me what other options there were. Otherwise brilliant. A pointer; make sure you write a note of all your passwords and memorable things when you set it up or you may regret it later!!
The Smile mini cash ISA, like all others, is limited to a maximum of £3000 input per annum at the moment, although this can change at the whim of the Chancellor. You cannot have one at all, if you have a) already put any cash into another mini cash ISA in the same year or b) into any form of maxi ISA in the same year. It it backed by the Co-Operative Bank, being their internet wing under the guise of smile.co.uk. Put quite simply, if you are at home with the internet, and are looking for a mini cash ISA, then look no further. This one has the highest interest rate of 6.75 % tax-free (as of 13/02/2001 - reduced from 7.25% along with other banks). It only needs £1 to kick off with. What else do you need to know? A recent Sunday paper now shows this as "only" tie-first, but the combination of instant access, only needing £1 to kick-start it AND 6.75% are still unbeatable.
This mini cash ISA pays a staggering 7.25% interest. Now, walk into your local Nat West branch and I belive that they pay a paltry 6%. The account complies with the CAT standars so its instant access, youre not even paying a premium for that. A reult both ways. Even better it's tax free! Although i don't use that bit, being a student it pays such a good rate that I couldn't resist it. It's only rivalled by the nationwide e-savings account (www.nationwide.co.uk) and that's a pain to set up. Everything at smile is really well thought out and it is soon set up. You can pay in at your local post office or co-op bank (who own it) so that's not a problem. Their call centre is a bit under manned but they reply promptly to emails. An admirable offering that should have the high street reeling if there's any justice in the world.
When the ISA was launched I really had no idea what it was all about but onreading more I decided that this was a savings plan that would suit me. I have a two year old daughter and decided that I would start saving my family allowance for her future so I wanted an investment plan that would give me tax free savings and a good return. A mini cash ISA sounded ideal to me as I would have access to the money without notice if needed and any interest would be free of U.K income tax and capital gains tax. On looking for an ISA I was recommended Smile, their mini cash ISA pays a return of 7.25% AER and an application can be approved within minutes on their website, also the account can be opened with a minimum of £1.00 and the fact that your balance can be checked online is brilliant. Smile issue you with a paying in book and then payments can be made through the post or through the post office. The maximum amount that can be saved in year is £3,000 but you can save more if you are willing to put your money into stocks and shares ISA's. The goverment have guarenteed that ISA's will run for at least 9 more years so take advantage now.