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MSE’s Academy of Money
MSE’s Academy of Money

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3.1 What about Premium Bonds?

The nation’s most popular way of saving is through buying Premium Bonds, operated by National Savings and Investments (NS&I) – which is backed by the government. Because of this, your money is protected in full.

The image is a photograph of Harold Macmillan, Chancellor of the Exchequer in the 1950s and subsequently Prime Minister, holding a £1 Premium Bond.
Figure 4 The then-Chancellor, Harold Macmillan, introduced Premium Bonds in 1956 – then with a top prize of £1000

Despite the term ‘bond’, they are a form of savings. But instead of earning interest, your bonds are entered into a prize draw each month where you can win up to £1 million. Each bond costs £1 and the minimum you can put in is £25, while the maximum is £50,000.

The prize money paid each year equated on average (in March 2024) to 4.4% of the total amount held by all savers in premium bonds. Whilst you may win £1 million (hardly anyone will, of course) or nothing, this average is useful to compare with the interest rates paid on savings accounts. However, most people earn even less than that average, as the million pound prizes are built into it, which takes up huge chunks of the overall pay-outs. So for every £1 million winner a huge proportion of the bonds issued have to win nothing for the overall prize rate to be 4.4%. It means that for most people, you are more likely to get a higher return in a normal savings account than in Premium Bonds, based on average luck..

If you win anything, Premium Bond prizes are tax-free. That may appear a big boon but 95% of people don’t pay tax on their savings anyway.