UK interest rates: How high could they go?

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The Bank of England has warned interest rates could rise again after the value of the pound plummeted, following the government's decision to cut taxes and borrow more.

That could have a big impact on the cost of borrowing and people's finances.

How high could interest rates go?

On 22 September, the Bank of England raised rates by 0.5 percentage points to 2.25% - the highest level for 14 years.

One estimate suggests rates could reach 6% next year. That's based on the price investors are already paying to borrow money, according to data provider Bloomberg.

The Bank's monetary policy committee meets every month to decide interest rate policy.

There had been some speculation it would call an emergency meeting to deal with the crisis, but the Bank released a statement confirming it will wait until the next scheduled meeting on 3 November.

The Bank is under pressure to put rates up because it has a target to keep inflation at 2%, but prices are currently rising at about five times that level.

How do interest rates affect me?

Mortgages

Just under a third of households have a mortgage, according to the government's English Housing Survey.

When interest rates rise, about two million people on tracker and variable rate deals see an immediate increase in their monthly payments.

The recent increase to 2.25% means those on a typical tracker mortgage pay about £49 more a month. Those on standard variable rate mortgages face a £31 jump.

This comes on top of increases following previous recent rate rises. Compared with pre-December 2021, on average tracker mortgage customers are paying about £216 more a month, and variable mortgage holders about £163 more.

There is also an impact on fixed deals, which about three-quarters of mortgage customers have.

Their monthly payments may not change immediately, but with lenders now anticipating higher rates, any new deals will be more expensive. That means new house buyers - or anyone seeking to remortgage - will also have to pay more.

An average two-year fixed deal which was 2.29% in November last year is now 4.24% - a difference of hundreds of pounds each month in repayments for a typical borrower.

Some lenders are also pulling deals while they recalculate prices, meaning there is less choice available.

Credit cards and loans

Bank of England interest rates also influence the interest charged on things like credit cards, bank loans and car loans.

Lenders could decide to put prices up further, in expectation of higher interest rates in the future.

Savings

Individual banks and building societies usually pass on interest rate rises to customers.

But although this means savers get a higher return on their money, interest rates are not keeping up with rising prices.

This means the value of cash savings is falling in real terms.

Why does increasing interest rates help lower inflation?

The Bank has been putting rates up to combat rising prices - known as inflation.

Prices are going up quickly worldwide, as Covid restrictions have eased and consumers spend more.

Many firms have problems getting enough goods to sell. And with more buyers chasing too few goods, prices have increased.

There has also been a very sharp rise in oil and gas costs - a problem made worse by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Raising interest rates helps to control inflation by making it more expensive to borrow money. This encourages people to borrow and spend less, and save more.

However, it is a tough balancing act as the Bank does not want to slow the economy too much.

Since the global financial crisis of 2008, UK interest rates have been at historically low levels. Last year saw rates of 0.1%.

Why are people talking about more rate rises now?

The mini-budget of 23 September was followed by a sharp fall in the pound.

The drop in Sterling is a problem because a weak pound makes it more expensive to buy imports - from crude oil to food.

That pushes up prices and so the Bank may feel it has to put up interest rates to knock inflation back down.

Tax cuts announced by the government could also drive inflation by giving people more money to spend - another reason for the Bank to put up rates.

That's why economists are now talking about rates peaking at over 6%.

Are other countries raising their interest rates?

The UK is affected by prices rising across the globe. So there is a limit as to how effective UK interest rate rises will be.

However, other countries are taking a similar approach, and have also been raising interest rates

The US central bank has announced big rate rises in the past few months. Other central banks around the world have also raised rates.

How will you be affected by any change to interest rates? Share your experiences by emailing [email protected].

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