Financial counselling: Where to get help when you need it

Financial counselling: Where to get help when you need it

Whether it’s keeping up with repayments on a home loan, juggling multiple credit cards or something else entirely, many Australians fall into the trap of debt.

For example, the 11th edition of the Genworth Streets Ahead report showed that first home buyers are more and more likely to be burdened with debt simply to make up a deposit on a home.

This included 19 per cent of respondents taking out a credit card for this express purpose, and 18 per cent of those surveyed picking up a personal loan to fund their home purchase. It can be risky, and result in unsustainable levels of debt that you can’t keep up with.

However, when you do run into trouble with money, there are a wide range of services available to help you out. So where can you seek aid if managing money becomes a problem? 

Commonwealth Financial Counselling (CFC)

This is a service from the Australian government, which is then delivered to people and communities through local government departments. It aims to “help people in personal financial difficulty to address their financial problems and make informed choices”. Specific circumstances that can lead to this situation and people seeking out CFC are listed as follows:

  • Loss of employment
  • Falling ill
  • Breakdown in family situation
  • Taking on too much credit

From there, CFC can handle your case and manage creditors, open up smoother payment options for you, guide you through debt recovery and plan a budget. It’s a sound way to get back on your feet, and teaches many lessons that can help you build up a savings account once again.

Remember though, generally this service is not there for lending money, legal or business advice, or specific financial planning advice. These are recovery services for when your debts become a bit too much to handle.

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Local hotlines

As the Australian Securities and Investments Commission points out, there is a free financial counselling hotline available during the week. This links you up with a relevant service in your state or locality, and can be a great first step on the path to debt recovery when you’re working with a home loan. 

Legal centres like the Consumer Action Law Centre in Victoria, Financial Rights Legal Centre in New South Wales and other state or territory equivalents may also be on hand to answer your call if you need. These are particularly useful for credit and debt advice, especially around your payment obligations. 

Check the service

One important thing to keep in mind when seeking help with your finances is to do your research. Is the organisation going to work positively with you, or are they offering debt consolidation products? While this style of home loan reconfiguration can be useful in some cases, for many people it opens up a steeper slide into debt. Verify the credentials of the counselling or financial aid service before committing to anything further. 

Of course, prevention is often the best cure. It’s why a home loan calculator or credit card comparison can be vital before you commit to a line of credit. It allows you to move ahead with a clear view of how much something will cost you in the long run, and whether it is a manageable debt to handle. 

This is particularly important with interest rates at near-record lows. They can’t stay this low in the long term, and eventually people will have to contribute more in their regular home loan repayments.

Working with a clear plan and knowing exactly who you can call in times of need is a crucial part of taking on debt. Just as you should have a plan for when things go right, you need one for when things go wrong. 

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How can I get a $4000 loan approved?

While personal loans and medium amount loans don’t offer guaranteed approval, there are steps you can take to help increase the likelihood of your application being approved, including:

  • Fulfilling the eligibility criteria (providing ID, proof of residency, proof of income etc.)
  • Checking your credit history (you can order one free copy of your credit file per year, and make sure that there aren’t any errors that may be bringing down your credit score)
  • Comparing carefully before applying (making multiple loan applications can mean having your credit checked multiple times, which can look bad to some lenders and reduce your chances of being approved by them)

What are the requirements for opening Commbank multiple savings accounts?

Existing Commbank account holders can open additional accounts online You can open multiple savings accounts with Commbank to meet various goals like a down payment for a home or buying a car. 

To open an account, you’ll need the following:

  • An Australian residential address
  • To be 14 years or older
  • A Tax File Number (TFN) or TFN exemption.
  • Tax residency details

If you’re not a current Commbank account holder, you’ll need an Australian driving licence, birth certificate or passport and Medicare card. You may also have to visit a branch if your identity cannot be confirmed online. 

Do banks run credit checks on savings accounts?

When you apply to open a new savings account, some providers may conduct a credit check, meaning that they will ask a credit bureau for your credit history. This isn’t always the case on savings accounts though and depends on the provider, as you aren’t borrowing money. 

As you are opening a savings account and not borrowing funds, this credit check is considered a soft inquiry and should not affect your credit score. If the bank has run the credit check, you can often still open a savings account even if you have a poor score, provided you meet other requirements. 

What is a Westpac locked savings account?

The Westpac locked savings account (also known as "Westpac Life") can help customers reach savings goals faster through bonus interest. Customers receive 0.2 per cent standard base interest with a variable bonus rate of 0.35 per cent when the closing balance at the end of the month is higher than the opening balance.

There are some conditions to earn the bonus interest on Westpac's locked savings account, though. First, you’ll need to increase the balance each month either through a deposit or not making any withdrawals, and then link it to a Westpac Choice account and make at least five eligible payments using your debit card. Please consult your bank as to what an eligible payment is. 

What are the two types of NAB locked savings accounts?

With a locked savings account in NAB, you can earn bonus interest and learn financial discipline. NAB offers two types of locked savings accounts, each with their own terms and conditions.

The NAB Reward Saver account pays a variable base interest rate of 0.05 per cent per annum and a bonus interest of 0.55 per cent. You’re eligible for the bonus if you make a minimum of one deposit on or before the second last banking day and have no withdrawals in the month.

Meanwhile, the NAB iSaver account provides 0.05 per cent as the standard base interest rate and a fixed bonus margin of 0.55 per cent during the first four months from the date of opening the account. You can park your cash in the account and enjoy unlimited monthly transfers between linked daily bank accounts without impacting the interest rate.

Can you have multiple ING savings accounts?

Yes, you can open up to nine accounts with ING at any particular time. If you’re saving money for various goals, such as buying a car or taking a holiday, you can name each of your multiple ING savings accounts differently.

To get a Savings Maximiser account, you’ll need to deposit more than $1000 every month and make at least five additional purchases. If you also want to grow your savings, from 1st March 2021, you can earn up to 1.35 per cent per annum variable interest on one account with a balance of up to $100,000 when you also maintain an Orange Everyday account.

With ING, multiple savings accounts can help keep track of all your savings goals. All the accounts offer flexible withdrawals where you can withdraw as low or as high as you want without impacting your earning interest rate. However, you can only earn the bonus interest on one account. To apply for a Savings Maximiser account, you can visit ingdirect.com.au.

What is an ANZ locked savings account?

An ANZ locked savings account locks your money and prevents you from spending. You may use a standard savings account as the account where your salary is deposited. You can then withdraw funds when needed, but aren’t able to make purchases with it. However, this account may not grow much as the continual withdrawing of funds will limit the interest you can earn.

With a locked savings account in ANZ, you know your savings will grow because you can’t access the money. You can also qualify for a bonus when you deposit at least $10 per month and don’t make any withdrawals. To help you with this further you can set up an automatic transfer from your regular ANZ savings or transaction account so you don’t forget to make a monthly deposit.

Your ANZ locked savings account offers you a base interest rate of 0.1 per cent per annum plus an additional bonus interest of 0.49 per cent per year. The interest is calculated daily and credited to your account on the last working day of the month.

Should I open a Commonwealth locked savings account?

If you have trouble saving money, a Commbank locked savings account could be a potential solution. A locked savings account won’t let you make withdrawals and as such, it can help you grow your savings balance if you keep topping it up. 

The Commonwealth locked savings account advertises high-interest rates and minimal maintenance fees, along with a host of other incentives that will encourage you not to touch the money. 

The account offers a higher interest rate for each month that you make limited or no withdrawals, as well as regular deposits. 

To qualify for a Commonwealth locked savings account with the advertised features, you will need to fulfil specific criteria such as:

  • Depositing a fixed minimum amount into the account every month.
  • Making a fixed number of deposits each month.
  • Making a minimum or no withdrawals each month.
  • Maintaining a minimum account balance.

Should I open multiple savings accounts with UBank?

UBank offers customers an opportunity to make the most of their savings by opening multiple savings accounts. Having multiple savings accounts with UBank may be ideal for savers tracking different goals in separate accounts. 

It’s important to note that to earn bonus interest, you will still need to meet the conditions of the UBank savings account every month. If you don’t make these deposits, you will receive the standard interest rate, which is typically lower. 

Keep in mind that you won’t earn bonus interest on your UBank savings account in the month an account is opened and if you open multiple savings accounts with UBank, you'll start earning any bonus interest the following month. 

It's also not yet known how long the special interest rate will hang around for, so please check with your bank for more information. 

What are the requirements of an ING Bank locked savings account?

An ING bank locked savings account - also called a term deposit - offers you interest in exchange for holding your money for a period of time.

The terms offered include as little as 90 days or as long as two years. Generally, the longer you lock your money away, the higher the rate of interest. 

The minimum deposit amount for an ING locked savings account is $10,000. 

To be eligible to apply, you must: 

  • Be an Australian resident for tax purposes
  • Be aged 13 years or older
  • Hold the account for personal use (ING offers business term deposits as a separate product). 

 

Do I have to claim interest on my savings account?

When you lodge your income tax returns, you must include in the documentation all your sources of income, including bank interest. Your bank will report any interest you earn on the funds in your savings account to the Australian Tax Office (ATO). When the ATO then compares this information with your tax returns,  you also need to have mentioned the interest earned. If there is any discrepancy, you’ll receive a letter from the ATO. 

Avoid this situation by ensuring you receive your bank statement with interest noted. Then declare the interest in your tax returns and pay the tax that’s applicable based on the income tax rate.

You only need to claim your share of the interest earned for joint accounts. If you manage an account for your child and receive or spend money via this account, you will also need to report any interest earned from said account.

Can you direct deposit to a savings account?

Yes. You can make one off payments or set up regular direct deposits into a savings account. This can be organised easily through online banking or by making deposits in a branch. Talk to your lender to find out the easiest way for you to set up direct deposits.

Can you set up direct debits from a savings account?

It’s not usually possible to set up a direct debit from your savings account to cover ongoing expenses or bills, as savings accounts are structured around growing your wealth by earning interest on regular deposits, and discouraging withdrawals.

Some transaction accounts allow you to set up direct debits and also earn interest, though you may not enjoy as much flexibility as a dedicated transaction account, or get as high an interest rate as a dedicated savings account.

How do I open a savings account?

Opening a savings account is a relatively simple process. If you’ve found an account with a suitable interest rate, you’ll just need to get in contact with your chosen lender via a branch, phone call or hop online to begin the process. 

You may be required to provide:

  • Personal details, including identification (driver’s license, passport etc.)
  • Tax file number
  • Employment details