Switching banks could be a very profitable move

Switching banks could be a very profitable move

Unhappy with your bank? You’re not the only one. So why not switch to a better alternative?

Australia’s 10 biggest banks have an average customer satisfaction rating of 78.5 per cent, according to surveys by Roy Morgan Research:

  • Big four banks = 75.9%
  • Other banks = 83.8%

There are more than 100 lenders in Australia, and competition for business is fierce, so chances are there’s an institution out there offering superior pricing and service to your current provider.

That applies whether you’re talking savings accounts, term deposits, home loans, car loans or credit cards.

Savings accounts

Many Australians have savings accounts with one of the big four banks; they opened an account with the branch up the road when they were at school, and have kept it ever since.

If you’re in that camp, you might be dismayed to learn that there are numerous challenger institutions that offer higher interest rates.

Right now, the big four banks are paying ongoing interest rates of up to 2.40 per cent.

Bank Product Base rate Max. rate
ANZ Progress Saver 0.01% 2.40%
Westpac Life 1.00% 2.30%
NAB Reward Saver 0.50% 2.30%
Commonwealth Bank GoalSaver 0.01% 1.65%

However, there are many lenders, both large and small, that are paying more.

Here are just a few examples:

Bank Product Base rate Max. rate
Bank of Queensland Fast Track Saver Account 0.50% 3.00%
UBank USaver with Ultra 1.81% 2.87%
ME Bank Online Savings Account 1.30% 2.85%
Australian Unity Active Saver 1.20% 2.80%
ING Savings Maximiser 1.00% 2.80%
Bank First Promotional Bonus Saver Account 0.05% 2.80%

If your bank isn’t doing you right, you may want to consider switching to one that works better for you. 

Term deposits

It’s a similar story with term deposits, whether you’re talking one-year term deposits, three-year term deposits or five-year term deposits.

Lender 1 year 3 years 5 years
G&C Mutual Bank 2.70% 2.80% 3.00%
IMB Bank 2.40% 2.75% 3.00%
Bank First 2.70% 2.90% 3.00%
Police Bank 2.60% 2.80% 2.95%
ANZ 2.20% 2.35% 2.45%
Westpac 2.20% 2.30% 2.40%
NAB 2.00% 1.90% 2.00%
Commonwealth Bank 2.00% 1.90% 1.90%

If you want to earn the highest interest rates, you need to switch from the big four banks to a rival institution.

Home loans

Savings accounts and term deposits are small beer when compared with home loans, where interest rate differentials can add up to tens of thousands of dollars over the life of a mortgage.

It should be noted that interest rate isn’t everything; you should also weigh up things like fees, loan features and customer service when comparing home loans. However, if we focus just on rates, you might be shocked to discover how much you could save by refinancing from one of the big four banks to another lender.

Let’s assume you’re an owner-occupier who’s looking for a $400,000 mortgage, and that you want to put down a 20 per cent deposit and pay principal and interest. If you went to one of the big four banks, the average standard variable rate would be 4.63 per cent (see breakdown in table below).

However, if you expanded your search, you would be able to find much lower rates – especially if you were willing to consider ‘basic’ home loans (as opposed to full-feature mortgages). For example, Mortgage House recently unveiled a mortgage rate of just 3.29 per cent.

Lender Advertised rate Comparison rate Monthly repayments* Total repayments*
Mortgage House 3.29% 3.34% $1,750 $629,863
Reduce Home Loans 3.44% 3.44% $1,783 $641,811
Tic:Toc 3.47% 3.48% $1,789 $644,215
Freedom Lend 3.49% 3.49% $1,794 $645,821
NAB 4.51% 4.90% $2,029 $730,483
ANZ 4.56% 4.95% $2,041 $734,770
Westpac 4.58% 4.96% $2,046 $736,488
Commonwealth Bank 4.87% 5.27% $2,116 $761,623

*Fees not included in calculations. Calculations based on a 30-year loan term.

Car loans

Car loans are another area where it’s possible to make significant savings by refinancing from a high-rate loan to a low-rate loan.

Again, interest rate isn’t the be all and end all; it’s important to also consider other factors when comparing car loans. But, all things being equal, a car loan with a lower interest rate is better than a car loan with a higher interest rate.

If you wanted a $30,000 car loan with a five-year term, here’s a comparison of some of the cheapest car loans in Australia with car loans from the big four banks.

Lender Advertised rate Comparison rate Monthly repayments* Total repayments*
PrimeEdge 4.99% 6.04% $566 $33,960
Bank First 5.29% 5.50% $570 $34,208
Community First Credit Union 5.34% 6.10% $571 $34,249
Move Bank 5.39% 5.66% $572 $34,291
Commonwealth Bank 8.49% 9.54% $615 $36,921
Westpac 8.49% 9.67% $615 $36,921
ANZ 12.45% 13.32% $674 $40,451
NAB 12.69% 13.56% $678 $40,670

*Fees not included in calculations.


Credit cards

When it comes to credit cards, all the big banks offer low-rate cards, with interest rates ranging from 9.90 per cent to 13.99 per cent.

That is less than the average interest rate of all the credit cards on the RateCity database, which was 16.80 per cent at the end of April.

However, there are other providers that charge interest rates under 9.00 per cent (see table below). It’s also possible to find credit cards that impose higher interest rates than the big four, but don’t charge an annual fee.

Provider Product Interest rate (ongoing) Interest-free days (maximum) Annual fee
G&C Mutual Bank Low Rate Visa Credit Card 7.49% 50 $50
Community First Credit Union Low Rate Credit Card 8.99% 55 $40
Easy Street Financial Services Easy Low Rate Visa Credit Card 8.99% 55 $40
Northern Inland Credit Union Low Rate Visa Credit Card 8.99% 0 $0
Commonwealth Bank Essentials 9.90% 55 $60
Westpac Lite 9.90% 45 $108
ANZ Low Rate 12.49% 55 $58
NAB Low Rate Card 13.99% 55 $59

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Learn more about home loans

What happens to my home loan when interest rates rise?

If you are on a variable rate home loan, every so often your rate will be subject to increases and decreases. Rate changes are determined by your lender, not the Reserve Bank of Australia, however often when the RBA changes the cash rate, a number of banks will follow suit, at least to some extent. You can use RateCity cash rate to check how the latest interest rate change affected your mortgage interest rate.

When your rate rises, you will be required to pay your bank more each month in mortgage repayments. Similarly, if your interest rate is cut, then your monthly repayments will decrease. Your lender will notify you of what your new repayments will be, although you can do the calculations yourself, and compare other home loan rates using our mortgage calculator.

There is no way of conclusively predicting when interest rates will go up or down on home loans so if you prefer a more stable approach consider opting for a fixed rate loan.

How is interest charged on a reverse mortgage from IMB Bank?

An IMB Bank reverse mortgage allows you to borrow against your home equity. You can draw down the loan amount as a lump sum, regular income stream, line of credit or a combination. The interest can either be fixed or variable. To understand the current rates, you can check the lender’s website.

No repayments are required as long as you live in the home. If you sell it or move to a senior living facility, the loan must be repaid in full. In some cases, this can also happen after you have died. Generally, the interest rates for reverse mortgages are higher than regular mortgage loans.

The interest is added to the loan amount and it is compounded. It means you’ll pay interest on the interest you accrue. Therefore, the longer you have the loan, the higher is the interest and the amount you’ll have to repay.

When do mortgage payments start after settlement?

Generally speaking, your first mortgage payment falls due one month after the settlement date. However, this may vary based on your mortgage terms. You can check the exact date by contacting your lender.

Usually your settlement agent will meet the seller’s representatives to exchange documents at an agreed place and time. The balance purchase price is paid to the seller. The lender will register a mortgage against your title and give you the funds to purchase the new home.

Once the settlement process is complete, the lender allows you to draw down the loan. The loan amount is debited from your loan account. As soon as the settlement paperwork is sorted, you can collect the keys to your new home and work your way through the moving-in checklist.

What do people do with a Macquarie Bank reverse?

There are a number of ways people use a Macquarie Bank reverse mortgage. Below are some reasons borrowers tend to release their home’s equity via a reverse mortgage:

  • To top up superannuation or pension income to pay for monthly bills;
  • To consolidate and repay high-interest debt like credit cards or personal loans;
  • To fund renovations, repairs or upgrades to their home
  • To help your children or grandkids through financial difficulties. 

While there are no limitations on how you can use a Macquarie reverse mortgage loan, a reverse mortgage is not right for all borrowers. Reverse mortgages compound the interest, which means you end up paying interest on your interest. They can also affect your entitlement to things like the pension It’s important to think carefully, read up and speak with your family before you apply for a reverse mortgage.

Cash or mortgage – which is more suitable to buy an investment property?

Deciding whether to buy an investment property with cash or a mortgage is a matter or personal choice and will often depend on your financial situation. Using cash may seem logical if you have the money in reserve and it can allow you to later use the equity in your home. However, there may be other factors to think about, such as whether there are other debts to pay down and whether it will tie up all of your spare cash. Again, it’s a personal choice and may be worth seeking personal advice.

A mortgage is a popular option for people who don’t have enough cash in the bank to pay for an investment property. Sometimes when you take out a mortgage you can offset your loan interest against the rental income you may earn. The rental income can also help to pay down the loan.

Remaining loan term

The length of time it will take to pay off your current home loan, based on the currently-entered mortgage balance, monthly repayment and interest rate.

When does Commonwealth Bank charge an early exit fee?

When you take out a fixed interest home loan with the Commonwealth Bank, you’re able to lock the interest for a particular period. If the rates change during this period, your repayments remain unchanged. If you break the loan during the fixed interest period, you’ll have to pay the Commonwealth Bank home loan early exit fee and an administrative fee.

The Early Repayment Adjustment (ERA) and Administrative fees are applicable in the following instances:

  • If you switch your loan from fixed interest to variable rate
  • When you apply for a top-up home loan
  • If you repay over and above the annual threshold limit, which is $10,000 per year during the fixed interest period
  • When you prepay the entire outstanding loan balance before the end of the fixed interest duration.

The fee calculation depends on the interest rates, the amount you’ve repaid and the loan size. You can contact the lender to understand more about what you may have to pay. 

What are the features of home loans for expats from Westpac?

If you’re an Australian citizen living and working abroad, you can borrow to buy a property in Australia. With a Westpac non-resident home loan, you can borrow up to 80 per cent of the property value to purchase a property whilst living overseas. The minimum loan amount for these loans is $25,000, with a maximum loan term of 30 years.

The interest rates and other fees for Westpac non-resident home loans are the same as regular home loans offered to borrowers living in Australia. You’ll have to submit proof of income, six-month bank statements, an employment letter, and your last two payslips. You may also be required to submit a copy of your passport and visa that shows you’re allowed to live and work abroad.

What is a comparison rate?

The comparison rate is a more inclusive way of comparing home loans that factors in not only on the interest rate but also the majority of upfront and ongoing charges that add to the total cost of a home loan.

The rate is calculated using an industry-wide formula based on a $150,000 loan over a 25-year period and includes things like revert rates after an introductory or fixed rate period, application fees and monthly account keeping fees.

In Australia, all lenders are required by law to publish the comparison rate alongside their advertised rate so people can compare products easily.

Why does Westpac charge an early termination fee for home loans?

The Westpac home loan early termination fee or break cost is applicable if you have a fixed rate home loan and repay part of or the whole outstanding amount before the fixed period ends. If you’re switching between products before the fixed period ends, you’ll pay a switching break cost and an administrative fee. 

The Westpac home loan early termination fee may not apply if you repay an amount below the prepayment threshold. The prepayment threshold is the amount Westpac allows you to repay during the fixed period outside your regular repayments.

Westpac charges this fee because when you take out a home loan, the bank borrows the funds with wholesale rates available to banks and lenders. Westpac will then work out your interest rate based on you making regular repayments for a fixed period. If you repay before this period ends, the lender may incur a loss if there is any change in the wholesale rate of interest.

What is a variable home loan?

A variable rate home loan is one where the interest rate can and will change over the course of your loan. The rate is determined by your lender, not the Reserve Bank of Australia, so while the cash rate might go down, your bank may decide not to follow suit, although they do broadly follow market conditions. One of the upsides of variable rates is that they are typically more flexible than their fixed rate counterparts which means that a lot of these products will let you make extra repayments and offer features such as offset accounts.

What is a honeymoon rate and honeymoon period?

Also known as the ‘introductory rate’ or ‘bait rate’, a honeymoon rate is a special low interest rate applied to loans for an initial period to attract more borrowers. The honeymoon period when this lower rate applies usually varies from six months to one year. The rate can be fixed, capped or variable for the first 12 months of the loan. At the end of the term, the loan reverts to the standard variable rate.

What is the difference between a fixed rate and variable rate?

A variable rate can fluctuate over the life of a loan as determined by your lender. While the rate is broadly reflective of market conditions, including the Reserve Bank’s cash rate, it is by no means the sole determining factor in your bank’s decision-making process.

A fixed rate is one which is set for a period of time, regardless of market fluctuations. Fixed rates can be as short as one year or as long as 15 years however after this time it will revert to a variable rate, unless you negotiate with your bank to enter into another fixed term agreement

Variable rates is that they are typically more flexible than their fixed rate counterparts which means that a lot of these products will let you make extra repayments and offer features such as offset accounts however fixed rates do offer customers a level of security by knowing exactly how much they need to set aside each month.

What is the difference between fixed, variable and split rates?

Fixed rate

A fixed rate home loan is a loan where the interest rate is set for a certain amount of time, usually between one and 15 years. The advantage of a fixed rate is that you know exactly how much your repayments will be for the duration of the fixed term. There are some disadvantages to fixing that you need to be aware of. Some products won’t let you make extra repayments, or offer tools such as an offset account to help you reduce your interest, while others will charge a significant break fee if you decide to terminate the loan before the fixed period finishes.

Variable rate

A variable rate home loan is one where the interest rate can and will change over the course of your loan. The rate is determined by your lender, not the Reserve Bank of Australia, so while the cash rate might go down, your bank may decide not to follow suit, although they do broadly follow market conditions. One of the upsides of variable rates is that they are typically more flexible than their fixed rate counterparts which means that a lot of these products will let you make extra repayments and offer features such as offset accounts.

Split rates home loans

A split loan lets you fix a portion of your loan, and leave the remainder on a variable rate so you get a bet each way on fixed and variable rates. A split loan is a good option for someone who wants the peace of mind that regular repayments can provide but still wants to retain some of the additional features variable loans typically provide such as an offset account. Of course, with most things in life, split loans are still a trade-off. If the variable rate goes down, for example, the lower interest rates will only apply to the section that you didn’t fix.