The Times, 1 April 2010

Are you investing in a cash ISA this year? Because if you are, you have only a few more banking hours to get it sorted out. Or, of course, you could take your £3,600 and tape it to the bottom of your bed for the next twelve months, which would give you almost the exact same return on your money. And as a bonus, would mean you had crisp tenners to hand if you wanted to cheer yourself up one murky afternoon by laying them all over the bed, rolling in them naked, and shouting, 'I'm rich! Stinking bally well rich!'.

The average ISA pays out less than 0.5% interest, which means that for every £1000 you invest, you'll get back less than a fiver. So if you invested your full ISA allowance, you'd make a little under £18. That's the equivalent of two takeaway pizzas for a year's investment: most of us have more than that in dust-covered pennies, lurking beneath the cushions of our sofas.

And since inflation is running rather higher than 0.5%, each pound you invest is actually losing value every minute it's in the bank. It's like a small, painless daily mugging. But of course, if you want a better deal, say the banks, you could move your money. They tend to reward the fickle and penalise the loyal - higher interest rates suddenly drop after a year.

You'll need to set aside a month if you do want to move, though, because that's roughly how long it takes to move the cash from one bank to another. For 33% of ISA holders, it takes longer than five weeks. Obviously, you might have thought that since investment banks recently proved capable of losing billions of pounds in a day, their high street cousins could move money pretty sharpish when they needed to. But when it's customer money, things seem to go rather slower. Perhaps it has to be moved very carefully, so they don't spill any.

And it's not just the big banks - several of which we co-own - which are offering such lousy rates that Consumer Focus, the consumer watchdog has now submitted a formal complaint to the Office of Fair Trading (allowing them 90 days to respond. That's almost enough time to move three ISAs). Nationwide Building Society - with no share-holders to placate - offers the pleasingly-named Champion ISA, which pays out at 0.1%.

The interest rate on my Nationwide mortgage is 4.38%. Now, I realise that banks charge higher interest rates than they pay out, and that's how they make money. But the difference used to be a couple of percentage points. My mortgage interest rate is currently more than 43 times this ISA rate. I think Champion the Wonder ISA might be a donkey.