Lifetime ISAs (also known as LISAs) and Help to Buy ISAs (HTB) are government initiatives to help you save for the future. Both ISAs are suited to first time home buyers and both offer big cash bonuses from the government. While the Help to Buy ISA is no longer available to open as a new product, if you hold an existing HTB ISA you can continue to pay in and use this account until December 2030. So for these customers, it’s a good time to understand how these two accounts differ and which one could be best for your first home savings.
The answer will always depend on your individual circumstances, but here’s a quick run-through of the main points to consider.
Lifetime ISA explained:
Introduced in 2017, the Lifetime ISA is designed to encourage people to save for their first home (or their retirement) and offers a government bonus of 25% on top of the tax-free savings.
- Bigger bonus! If you contributed the maximum amount every year (ages 18-49) you could receive £32,000 in bonuses from the government.
- Can be used either to buy a first home, or for savings for later life (retirement savings pot).
- Save more each year (up to £4,000).
- Buy a bigger property! You can use the Lifetime ISA to buy a property up to £450,000 everywhere in the UK.
- Bonus is paid monthly (so you’ll earn interest on your bonuses as well as your own money).
- You can only open if aged 18-39.
- 25% penalty for early withdrawals. Meaning if you withdraw within one year of opening or for reasons other than buying a first house or when you reach the retirement age, you will pay a government charge of 25% on the value of the withdrawn amount. The net effect of the government bonus, then 25% penalty is that you lose £6.25 per £100 you pay in (excluding gains/losses and fees).
Help to Buy ISA explained:
The Help to Buy ISA (not to be confused with the Help to Buy Scheme) also offers the same 25% government bonus on savings, although other details do differ from the LISA. The Help to Buy ISA is no longer available to open as a new product, if you hold an existing HTB ISA you can continue to pay in and use this account until December 2030
- No additional withdrawal penalties.
- Option to buy a house sooner (once saved £1,600) – it doesn’t have to be open for one year before you can use it.
- Can only save up to £2,400 each year (£3,400 in year one).
- Only one lump sum deposit allowed (in first month) and £200 max monthly thereafter. So if you can’t pay your max amount for a particular month, you’ve missed your opportunity- there’s no roll over!
- Much lower maximum bonus (£3,000)
- Help to Buy will only be available to new savers until November 30, 2019 and bonus must be claimed by December 2030.
Should I choose a Lifetime ISA or Help to Buy ISA?
If you’re very confident that you’re going to be a first time buyer, you’re aged 18-39 and don’t need the money for at least a year after opening, the Lifetime ISA will probably be your winner as it allows for a bigger bonus. You also have the option to keep the account open and continue to use it to save (as well as earn the bonus) as a retirement pot. You can save in it until the day before your 50th birthday, and withdraw the cash and bonus when you turn 60. It is important to understand the withdrawal penalty that applies if you withdraw funds from your Lifetime ISA other than for your first home purchase or retirement.
Can I have a Lifetime ISA and a Help to Buy ISA?
You can have a Help to Buy ISA and a Lifetime ISA at the same time, but you can only use the bonus from one of them towards buying a home.
You can transfer a Help to Buy ISA into a Lifetime ISA, but the amount you transfer will count towards your yearly £4,000 limit – for example, if you transfer £3,000, you can only save another £1,000 in that year.
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