What is an ISA?

ISA stands for Individual Savings Account.

The main difference between an ISA and any other savings account is that it offers tax-free interest payments. So you could get more for your money.

Types of ISA accounts

There are 4 types of ISA:

  • cash ISAs
  • stocks and shares ISAs
  • innovative finance ISAs, and
  • lifetime ISAs.

At Nationwide we only offer cash ISAs.

Cash ISAs

Cash ISAs are tax-free savings accounts. You pay no tax on the interest you earn. You can open some ISAs with as little as £1. Cash ISAs can also make use of ISA flexibility.

Different types of cash ISAs offer different ways to access your money. These can include:

  • Instant access
    Where you can put money in and take your money out whenever you need to.

  • Limited access
    Where you can only take your money out a certain number of times. If you go over this withdrawal limit, your interest rate will drop.

  • Fixed rate
    Where you lock away your money for a fixed term, knowing that your interest rate won't change.

You can only have one 'active' cash ISA every year. This means that you can’t open multiple cash ISAs in a single tax year and benefit from the tax-free savings allowance in each of these cash ISAs.

But when you open a cash ISA with us, it’ll form part of a portfolio cash ISA. This means you can split your cash ISA across multiple products. So you can open more than one cash ISA product with us in a tax year.

How much can you put in an ISA?

The amount you can put in your ISA is set by your ISA allowance.

Your ISA allowance is the most you can save in an ISA in each tax year. For 2023/24, the allowance is £20,000. Some non-ISA savings accounts let you save up to £5 million in total.

You can split your allowance across the different types of ISA. For example, you could save some in a cash ISA and invest some in a stocks and shares ISA.

How many ISAs can you have?

You can only open one of each type of ISA within a tax year. So one cash ISA and one stocks and shares ISA.

However, when you open a cash ISA product with us, it'll form part of a portfolio cash ISA.

This means you can split your cash ISA across multiple products. So you can open more than one cash ISA product with us in a tax year.

For example, you could start the tax year by opening a fixed rate ISA with us. Then, choose at the end of the year to open a limited access cash ISA with us. Both accounts become part of one single portfolio cash ISA.

Although you can pay money into your individual ISA products, you'll only be paying into one portfolio cash ISA.

We've set up our cash ISA in this way so you can spread your annual ISA allowance across different products. Our portfolio cash ISA also has ISA flexibility.


Smart Junior ISA and Child Trust Fund Maturity ISA are stand-alone cash ISAs. They cannot be included in the portfolio cash ISA.

ISA flexibility

ISA flexibility allows you to replace any money you take out of your cash ISA during a single tax year without it counting towards your annual ISA allowance.

Personal Savings Allowance

Your Personal Savings Allowance (PSA) is set by the Government. It means that, depending on the income tax rate you pay, you could earn up to £1,000 in interest in a non-ISA savings account during a single tax year, without having to pay tax on your interest.

Interest you earn on any ISA you hold doesn't count towards your PSA, because it's already tax-free.

Protecting your money

The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (opens in a new window) (FSCS) is a free, independent service that protects up to £85,000 of your eligible money at Nationwide.


All tax information is based on our understanding of current law and HM Revenue & Customs practice, both of which may change.