Westpac to refund $65 million to customers

Westpac to refund $65 million to customers

Westpac has announced it will provide refunds to customers who hold ‘packaged’ accounts after approximately 200,000 customers did not receive benefits they were entitled to. 

The affected customers have held Premier Advantage Packages with Westpac or Advantage Packages with St George, BankSA or Bank of Melbourne from 2010. 

As identified in the terms and conditions, customers should receive benefits and discounts on core products such as home loans, credit cards, or transaction accounts. Unfortunately, many did not receive discounts on ancillary products such as home and contents insurance and term deposits.

If you have been affected by this issue, Westpac have advised they will be in contact. They have also set up a website to assist with any questions you may have:

Dedicated customer webpages

Westpac – www.westpac.com.au/pap

St. George – www.stgeorge.com.au/ap

Bank of Melbourne – www.bankofmelbourne.com.au/ap

BankSA – www.banksa.com.au/ap

In a statement released yesterday, George Frazis, Westpac Chief Executive, has stated that their business depends on “building long term relationships with our customers, so when we get something wrong, we want our customers to have confidence that we will put it right.” 

 “When we identified these issues, we started the process of putting things right for customers. We also notified ASIC. 

“Importantly, customers do not need to do anything. Over the coming months, we will provide refunds, including appropriate interest, to any customers who may have been entitled to a benefit but weren’t aware they needed to opt in. 

“Westpac apologises unreservedly for a process that did not suit customers. By automating the discounts, we have ensured that our customers will not be affected in this way again,” said Mr Frazis. 

This refund comes at a time of scrutiny on the big four banks, with Commonwealth Bank having to refund around $10 million to customers who were sold “unsuitable” consumer credit insurance.

 

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Learn more about home loans

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

How long does Westpac take to approve a home loan?

Applying for a home loan at Westpac is fairly simple. The process from initial application to settlement varies in its time frame. Some customers receive in-principle approval within a couple of days. 

You can initiate the process by filling out the bank’s home loan form and requesting a callback. A Westpac representative will get in touch with you within 24 hours. You will need to provide the following information to the representative during the call: 

  • Total income
  • Total expenses
  • Details about all your liabilities and debts
  • Information and value of all your assets. 

The Westpac representative will then share with you information about the types of home loans you may qualify for, along with an estimate of interest rates and applicable fees. 

Once Westpac has received all your details, loan preferences, and documents, the representative will assess all the information. If everything is in order, you may receive an Approval in Principle (AIP) within 2 working days. This specifies the amount Westpac is willing to offer for your home loan. 

Your Approval in Principle will often remain valid for only 90 days and if you don’t find a suitable property within that time frame, you need to apply for a renewal on your Approval in Principle. In this circumstance, if the Westpac representative confirms that there are no changes in your financial circumstances, your Approval can be extended for another 90 days. 

After you have found a home that matches the Approval in Principle, you will need a confirmed contract of sale before Westpac initiates the loan settlement. This process takes about 4-12 weeks or 2-5 days if you’re refinancing. 

Do the big four banks have guarantor home loans?

Yes, ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, NAB and Westpac all offer guarantor home loans. These mortgages are also offered by many other banks, credit unions and building societies.

How do I apply for Westpac’s first home buyer loan?

If you’re a first home buyer looking to apply for a home loan with Westpac, they offer an online home loan application. They suggest the application can be completed in about 20 minutes. Based on the information you provide, Westpac will advise you the amount you can borrow and the costs associated with any possible home loan. 

You can use Westpac’s online mortgage calculators to estimate your borrowing power. You can also work out the time it might take to save up for the deposit, and the size of your home loan repayments

When applying for a home loan with Westpac, you’re assigned a home finance manager who can address your concerns and provide information. The manager will also offer guidance on any government grants you may be eligible for. 

What is an ombudsman?

An complaints officer – previously referred to as an ombudsman -looks at formal complaints from customers about their credit providers, and helps to find a fair and independent solution to these problems.

These services are handled by the Australian Financial Complaints Authority, a non-profit government organisation that addresses and resolves financial disputes between customers and financial service providers.

How to apply for a home loan pre-approval from St. George?

By applying for a home loan pre-approval, you can establish how much you can afford to borrow and look for houses within that pre-approved budget. Getting home loan pre-approval from St. George is a fairly simple process that can be completed within 15 minutes. 

The first step in this process is completing a home loan application. Once that application is submitted, a home loan expert from St. George will contact you to understand your requirements and your current financial position. You could also directly contact a home loan expert at the bank by calling 13 33 30 or by visiting your nearest branch. 

Once the application has been processed, the home loan expert will ask for some basic documentation to confirm your borrowing capacity. After this, you should be issued a home loan pre-approval, subject to certain conditions. 

Based on your home loan pre-approval from St. George, you can then find a property and make an offer. Your home loan expert will arrange to have the property valued and may request for more documentation, taking your home loan application to the next step. 

 

 

Why should I get a Bankwest pre-approval home loan?

A Bankwest pre-approval home loan will give you a clear idea of how much you can afford to borrow, thus ensuring you restrict your search to houses within your budget. Not only will you save time, but you can also avoid a potential financial disaster if you happen to make an offer or a down-payment on a property and then realise you can’t afford it. A Bankwest pre-approval home loan can also tell the seller that you're serious about the purchase.

At the time of applying for a Bankwest pre-approval home loan, you will need to provide proof of ID, evidence of employment and regular income, details on your expenses, as well as any on-going debts. The lender might make enquiries about your credit rating too. Once you’re pre-approved, you will receive intimation on how much money Bankwest is willing to lend you.  

 

 

Can I salary sacrifice my home loan?

You can pay for your home loan straight from your pre-tax salary by salary sacrificing. Of course, this will depend on your employer’s policy. 

Salary sacrifice for home loans is offered exclusively for owner-occupied properties, so it cannot be used for investments.

Your employer may need to pay Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT), but non-profit organisations are exempt from this tax up to a certain limit. Some organisations may charge you an administrative fee to set this up. 

Keep in mind not all lenders accept salary sacrifice payments on your mortgage. Some lenders, like NAB, accept salary sacrificing for home loans.

Salary sacrificing won’t work for everyone, but in certain circumstances there are benefits to paying your home loan from your pre-tax income. These include reduced tax liability and potentially paying off your home loan quicker.

Does Westpac offer loan maternity leave options?

Having a baby or planning for one can bring about a lot of changes in your life, including to the hip pocket. You may need to re-do the budget to make sure you can afford the upcoming expenses, especially if one partner is taking parental leave to look after the little one. 

Some families find it difficult to meet their home loan repayment obligations during this period. Flexible options, such as the Westpac home loan maternity leave offerings, have been put together to help reduce the pressure of repayments during parental leave.

Westpac offers a couple of choices, depending on your circumstances:

  • Parental Leave Mortgage Repayment Reduction: You could get your home loan repayments reduced for up to 12 months for home loans with a term longer than a year. 
  • Mortgage Repayment Pause: You can pause repayments while on maternity leave, provided you’ve made additional repayments earlier.

When applying for a home loan while pregnant, Westpac has said it will recognise paid maternity leave and back-to-work salaries. All you need is a letter from your employer verifying your return-to-work date and the nature of your employment. Your partner’s income, government entitlements, savings and investments will may help your application.

What are the benefits of getting a pre-approved home loan from Citibank?

While hunting for your dream home, getting a Citibank home loan pre-approval can have multiple benefits, which include:

  • You'll have an idea on your personal price range, which can save time to find your home.
  • With a pre-approved home loan, you may find yourself with more financial control to better decide how much you can spend.
  • A Citibank pre-approved home loan is a commitment  by a lender that signals you're ready to jump into the property market.

You can apply for pre-approval by providing basic details, such as name, email, and phone number on the bank’s website. Alternatively, you can contact the bank on 1300 361 922 or find a home lending officer on the website.