The Bank of England base rate

The Bank of England base rate influences all loan and mortgage interest rates in the UK. When the Bank of England decreases the base rate, interest rates usually decrease as well. This means borrowing gets cheaper - but returns on savings will go down as well.
Share this guide
graphic of percentage rate and stack of coins

What is the current base rate in the UK?

The current Bank of England base rate is 0.1%. 

The base rate dropped to 0.1% following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020. The aim of the base rate reduction was to help control the economic impact of coronavirus on the UK economy. In the latest Bank of England base rate meeting in September 2021, the base rate remained unchanged at 0.1%.

What is the Bank of England base rate?

The base rate, sometimes known as the bank rate or base interest rate, is the most important interest rate in the UK. It is used by the Bank of England primarily to control inflation, by doing that it can stop prices of everyday things - food, fuel, clothing - from rising too high. It also helps cap wage growth which can also push inflation too high.

Some inflation is good which is why the interest rate is unlikely to stray into negative territory.

How does the base rate work?

Set by the Bank of England (BoE), the base rate influences the interest rates offered by other banks and building societies. If the base rate goes up, then most mortgage, loan, and savings rates will go up by a similar amount - and vice versa.

By changing the UK's base rate, teh Bank of England can influence how Brits use their money - whether we're more inclined to spend money or save it.

Generally, if the BoE reduces the base rate, it becomes cheaper to get a mortgage or loan, and you're more likely to buy a house or car.

At the same time, by making savings less rewarding, it’s trying to encourage people to spend their cash and help the economy (and prices) grow.

If the base rate goes up, mortgage repayments and loan repayments become more expensive - to discourage spending - but on the positive side, you'll also earn more interest on your savings.

If you have a fixed rate mortgage, changes to the base rate won't impact your monthly repayments until the fixed rate period ends. When your initial term ends, though, you should consider remortgaging to another fixed rate mortgage deal.

How does the base rate affect UK interest rates?

The current base rate is 0.1% marking the lowest it's ever been in UK history. 

Previously at 0.75%, the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) met on 10 March 2020 and cut the base rate down to 0.25%. Nine days later, in an unscheduled meeting on 19 March 2020, the BoE decided to make a further cut to the base rate to its current rate of 0.1%, to counter the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even at its highest point in 2020, the base rate of 0.75% was still considered very low, keeping mortgage interest rates in the UK down. Since the base rate was cut in March 2020, the average mortgage interest rate for a two-year fixed mortgage has fallen even lower at around 1.41%. Before the financial crisis in 2008, the cheapest mortgage rates were more like 5%.

On a mortgage of £150,000, that's the difference between a monthly repayment of £593 vs £877 - or almost £3,500 per year.

On the flip side, the low BoE base rate means the current interest rates in the UK for savings are also very low.

It's currently very hard to find a conventional cash ISA, easy access, or fixed rate savings account that will give you more than 1% interest. To get an interest rate to match the current rate of inflation, you need to lock your savings away and not touch them for at least five years.

What do changes in the bank base rate indicate?

When the base rate changes, interest rates change and the amount of money that people spend overall is meant to follow suit. The Bank of England uses the base rate to influence how much people spend and as a consequence, keep inflation rates in line with the Government target of 2%.

How often does the BoE base rate change?

The BoE can change the base rate at Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meetings, which generally happen eight times a year.

It's difficult to predict exactly when the Bank of England will change the current interest rate, though they do try to control expectations by issuing guidance on whether the base rate will go up or down over the next year.

The Bank can also call emergency meetings if needed - as was seen after in the financial crisis of 2008.

When will the current Bank of England base rate change?

The BoE uses the base rate to keep inflation at around 2%, so if Brits start spending too much or too little, an interest rate change is usually around the corner.

Because the financial sector and the rest of the country is so heavily impacted by base rate changes, it's rare for a base rate change to be a surprise move, but it can happen as an emergency measure to tackle unexpected economic conditions.

What happens when the base rate goes up or down?

When the BoE base rate increases, it becomes more expensive to borrow money. This means that interest rates on loans and mortgages are higher, costing you more each month to borrow.

Conversely, when the bank base rate decreases it becomes cheaper to borrow, which can result in cheaper mortgage rates and more money available from lenders for consumer borrowers.

Is it possible for the base rate to be negative?

Although it has not yet happened, The Bank of England did highlight that the base rate could fall below 0.1% and possibly become a negative interest rate. The result of a negative base rate would be that no interest would be due on borrowed money.

However, as has happened in the past when rates have gone negative in other countries, it’s highly unlikely banks would offer 0% deals to customers on mortgages or loans - or take money from savings accounts. It would mean rates would likely drop though.

Bank of England base rate history

The BoE has been setting the base rate in the UK since way back in 1694.

Following the global financial crisis in 2008, the BoE gradually cut the base rate from 5.5% down to just 0.25% in August 2016 - at the time the lowest interest rate the UK had ever seen until that point in time.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the Bank of England base rate had been slowly climbing, to 0.5% in November 2017 and then 0.75% in August 2018.

In the past, the base rate was set by the Chancellor of the Exchequer - that led to years with multiple changes even inside a month. In 1984, for example, the base rate changed 14 times, starting at 8.8%, rising to 12%, and then falling back to 9.5%.

Gordon Brown set up the current system - where a Monetary Policy Committee chaired by the governor of the Bank of England, has the power to set rates based on an inflation target set by the government rather than the Treasury directly. Traditionally they met every month, but rates could still change four or more times a year.

More recently that has reduced to eight planned meetings a year.

Historically mortgage rates have usually followed the base rate, with the average mortgage rate generally around 2% higher than the bank base rate.

This graph shows how the base rate has risen or fallen over the past 12 years:*

*Data from Bank of England

25 years of interest rates

A history of Bank of England base rate changes since 1996

Updated 23 October 2021

If you're a first time buyer or looking to move house or remortgage, we can help you find the best mortgage deal to suit your needs.

Read More

Compare our best mortgage rates and deals

Compare UK mortgage rates and get the best mortgage rate on your mortgage. Whether you're remortgaging, a first time buyer, or moving house, compare leading mortgage providers and find the best mortgage deal for you.

Read More
Couple looking into a cardboard packing box

How to get a mortgage with no deposit

Here is how to get on the property ladder as soon as possible with a 100% LTV mortgage, or how to get a no deposit mortgage. There are several schemes and mortgages that can help, whether you are saving for your first home or have owned one before.

Read More