The great divide – how COVID is hurting some families and helping others

The great divide – how COVID is hurting some families and helping others

When it comes to the financial impacts of COVID-19, there are two narratives emerging amongst Australians: those who are being hurt by COVID-19, and those being helped.

For those being hurt, the ramifications may be felt for many years, even decades to come. However, there are some crucial tips that may be able to offer some relief. For those being helped, there are still ways they can use this time to their advantage.

How households finances have been hurt by the pandemic

The latest unemployment figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show that almost a million Australians (7.4 per cent) are out of work. Meanwhile, 3.5 million Australians are now receiving JobKeeper payments to help keep heads above water.

Those who still need a helping hand have been able to dip into their superannuation, with the latest Australians Taxation Office figures showing 2.75 million unique applications have been approved, totalling $30.2 billion. The average amount withdrawn is $11,750. This in itself may have seriously negative impacts on an individual’s final balance.

In terms of personal debt, 800,000 households have had to pause their mortgage repayments due to hardship, according to the Australian Banking Association. Further, the latest ABS figures show new personal loans increased by $182 million from April to May, up 14.5 per cent month on month.

Tips for families financially hurting due to COVID-19

If you’re struggling to keep on top of your bills, you’re not alone. But it’s not just mortgage holders who have been offered relief by banks. In fact, there are a range of debts and bills that households may be able to request be deferred for hardship reasons.

1. What bills households can take a break from paying right now

Loans banks may defer Bills that may be deferred
Home loan Rent
Car loan Electricity and gas bills
Personal loan Phone/internet bill
Credit card repayments Health insurance
Business loans Memberships and subscriptions

Keep in mind that you will generally need to provide evidence that you are struggling financially with these repayments, such as evidence you’ve lost your main source of income or are now on a reduced income.

Also, remember this is not free money. You will eventually need to pay this back, and if you’ve been accruing interest on your deferred loans, the total cost now may be higher.

If you are in a position to make any repayments, try and pay what you can, even if it’s not the total bill. Further, consider negotiating with your bank or provider. You may be able to switch to a lower cost service.

  • For a full list of hardship relief support offered by your bank, please visit the RateCity Relief page.

2. Reducing the impact of a mortgage repayment pause

If you’ve deferred your home loan repayments, you may be shocked to find that your repayments are potentially higher. This is because your mortgage would still have been accruing interest even while your repayments were paused.

The cost of a repayment pause extension on a $500,000 loan:

Loan balance after the 10-month pause $514,477
Increase in monthly repayment after pause $128
Extra paid over life of loan $12,211

Notes: Based on an owner occupier paying principal and interest on the average rate of 3.43%. Calculations assume a borrower is 5 years into a 30-year loan with a loan balance of $500,000 when they defer for 10 months and that the loan term remains the same. People who are further into their loan may pay less. People who increase their loan term may pay more.

Here are some tips that may help reduce the impact of a mortgage repayment pause:

  • Try and pay off some of your loan during the pause.
  • When the pause finishes, see if you can make extra repayments to catch up.
  • Negotiate a lower interest rate with your bank and if possible, try and put any savings from the rate reduction back into your mortgage.
  • Call an independent financial advisor or a financial counsellor for advice. The National Debt Hotline is: 1800 007 007.

3. Potential alternatives to pausing mortgage repayments:

  • Switch to minimum repayments: customers making higher repayments on their loan may ask their bank to adjust their repayments to the minimum to free up cash.
  • Use your redraw facility: if you are ahead on your repayments you may be able to access them via redraw (fees may be charged).
  • Request a rate cut: variable rate customers can ask their bank to lower their home loan rate. While banks typically don’t allow rate changes for fixed rate customers, if you are in financial stress, it’s still worth asking.
  • Switch to interest-only repayments: many lenders will let you only pay the interest on your loan for a period of time. While it will reduce your monthly repayments in the short term, your interest rate is likely to increase and by not paying down your debt, you will pay more in interest charges over the longer term.
  • Reduce repayments temporarily: instead of going on a full repayment pause, see if you can reduce your repayments. While this can potentially add thousands to your mortgage, it’s likely to be better than going on a full repayment holiday.

If you’re now considering refinancing to a lower-rate home loan, or one that offers more flexibility, you’ll want to ensure you do your research around which loans are the most competitive. Here are some low rate home loans to start you on your refinance journey:

How households have been helped financially by the pandemic

Credit card debt is at record lows, as restrictions on travel have prevented many Australians from spending money and accumulating debt. According to the latest Reserve Bank of Australia figures, in April and May Australians wiped $3.2 billion off debt accruing interest.

And with more Australians at home, bank deposits are on the rise. According to the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority’s data, between April and May Australians had $9.6 billion more in their bank accounts.

For those with children, the government’s childcare support meant that no families paid costly childcare fees from April 6 to June 13.

Tips for families being helped financially by COVID-19

For some families, COVID-19 has actually helped them save money through:

  • Not paying childcare fees (day care/pre-school/OOSH)
  • Reduced transport/petrol costs
  • Not eating/drinking out
  • Not getting regular beauty treatments
  • Not paying for children’s extracurricular activities like sports/dance/swimming
  • Record low home loan interest rates or falling rents

With that $9.6 billion now sitting in Australian’s bank accounts, some households may be wondering what they can do with their new savings.

You may want to put some of the money you have into a savings account as a financial buffer to help you through any tough times ahead. With no word on how long the COVID-19 pandemic will last, making a rainy-day fund isn’t the worst idea.

If you have outstanding debts, now may be the time to consider chipping away at them. Whether you have a credit card to pay off, or want to get ahead on your home loan, paying down your debts can make a real difference to how much interest you pay in total. If you’ve got multiple debts, experts generally recommend starting with the debt with the highest interest rate first.

Further, you may also want to consider renovating or upgrading your home. Investing your savings back into your home may add value to your property in the long run. Further, you may also be eligible for the $25,000 grant for home renovations on offer from the government.

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Learn more about bank accounts

Can you open another account at the same bank?

Yes, you can open another account at the same bank if you already have an account there, but some banks place a limit on how many specific accounts you can open.

Generally, though, it is possible to have more than one everyday account, one personal account and one joint account, or have different types of accounts – such as a transaction account and a savings account.

Keep in mind that some bank accounts come with fees, so you could be charged twice for having two types of the same account at the same bank.

Also, if you have more than one high-interest transaction account at the same bank, only one account will be able to earn the highest rate of interest.

Can foreigners open bank accounts in Australia?

Many Australian lenders allow foreigners to open bank accounts in Australia. Often, this can be done before you arrive in the country – with no Australian address required. When you get to Australia, you can pick up your debit card, using your passport as identification.

Can I link a bank account to Paypal?

Paypal is a safe and convenient way to pay online without the need to share your financial details. You can send and receive money or accept credit and debit cards as a seller using Paypal.

It’s easy to link your bank account to a Paypal account and start making transactions within minutes.

To start, you first need a Paypal account (it’s free to join). When setting up your Paypal account, you will be prompted to link a credit card or bank account (or both if you wish).

PayPal works without a balance; you can use Paypal to shop or send money when your balance is zero.

When your Paypal balance is zero, Paypal will ask you to choose your preferred payment method at the checkout.

This could be either your linked bank account or credit card. Your bank details can be updated if you change banks or credit cards.

Are bank accounts frozen when someone dies?

Yes, Australian bank accounts are frozen when someone dies. If you want to close the account of somebody who has died, you might have to provide proof of death and a copy of the will. You might also have to prove your relationship to the deceased person.

If you have a joint bank account with somebody who has died, you will generally be entitled to all the money in the account. Again, you might have to provide proof of death if you want to change the bank account from a joint account to a one-person account.

Can I start a bank account online?

Yes, most lenders that operate in Australia will let you set up a bank account online. The process is usually simple and takes five to 10 minutes. You will probably need to provide a passport or birth certificate, as well as a driver’s licence, Medicare card or another form of secondary identification. Requirements differ from lender to lender, so some institutions might ask for more or different forms of ID.

Can you deposit money into somebody else's bank account?

One of the easiest banking tasks in the world is depositing money. You can even deposit money into someone else’s bank account if you wish.

The basic information you need to deposit money into a third-party bank account is:

  • Payee’s name
  • Bank, building society or credit union (though this isn’t necessary)
  • BSB (or bank code, which is the branch identifier)
  • Account number

Including the name of the financial institution isn’t necessary – particularly with online banking – because the BSB will identify this for you.

A handy tip is to record yourself (or add a personal message) in the transaction description or reference. This will show up on the recipients account, letting them know who’s paid them the money.

Can debt collectors take money out of your bank account?

Many people find themselves struggling to cope with debt at one time or another. In these cases, a debt collector could contact you to demand payment for a debt, to explain the consequences of you failing to pay a debt, or to organise alternative payment arrangements.

If you’re contacted by a debt collector, you may be wondering what their rights are and whether they can take money out of your bank account.

Creditors cannot access money in your bank account unless a court order (also known as a ‘garnishee order’) is made to allow creditors to recover debt by taking money from your bank account or salary.

If this happens, the creditor can take money out of your bank account unless you pay the debt in full or make an alternative payment arrangement such as paying in instalments through the court.

Can I find my bank account number online?

Yes, you can find your bank account number by logging into your online banking and clicking on the relevant account.

Do you need a bank account to sell on eBay?

You don’t need a bank account to sell on eBay. But if you don’t have a bank account, you must provide either a credit card or debit card.

How can I deposit cash into my bank account?

The traditional way to deposit cash into your bank account is to go to a branch and give it to a teller. These days, many banks will allow you to make deposits through an ATM as well.

How do you open a bank account under 18?

If you’re under 18 and you want to open an Australian bank account, you will need your passport or birth certificate. (Some lenders might require just a Medicare card or driver’s licence.) You can apply online or at a branch. If you’re 13 or under, you will probably need a parent to accompany you to a branch.

How do I transfer money from Paypal to my bank account?

Transferring cash from Paypal into your bank account is simple…if you have a Paypal account that is.

Once you’re logged into your Paypal account, the account balance will appear on your home page. Below your balance are two options:

  • Add money
  • Withdraw money

Choose option two if you want to transfer money from your Paypal account to your personal bank account.

The next screen will prompt you to either enter new bank account details or choose a bank account that’s connected to Paypal. You can always add more bank accounts to your Paypal profile.

Another way to transfer out of Paypal is by jumping to the wallet tab on the top menu, and clicking ‘transfer money’. Both options will give you the same result.

What do I need to open a company bank account?

To open a company bank account, you will probably have to provide 100 points of ID, an ABN and an ACN. You will probably have to provide the details of all signatories as well.

How do you open a bank account in Australia?

Opening a bank account in Australia is usually a straightforward process. Some banks give you the option of opening an account online, while others require you to visit a branch.

Different bank accounts offer different features, so it’s best to compare your options to find one that suits you.

All banks require you to pass an identity check to open a bank account. Australia uses the 100-point identification system, which means you’ll need to show a number of forms of ID that, together, add up to 100 points.

Common ID types include a driver’s licence, passport, Australian visa in a foreign passport, and Australian Medicare card. You’ll find out what types of ID are accepted when you go through the sign-up process online or at a branch.

Once your account is open, you’ll be given or sent a debit card that you can use to make purchases and withdraw money from your account.