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Paul's Insights: Rate cut spells time to shop around

The Reserve Bank's decision to cut the cash rate by 0.25% to 1.25% sees interest rates falling to new historic lows. But long before the Reserve swung into action, plenty of lenders had taken their own hatchet to home loan interest rates, and there are some exceptional deals up for grabs.

Greater Bank for instance is offering 2.99% on a 1-year fixed home loan. Mortgage House has a variable rate of 3.29%. These are loan rates I’ve never seen in my lifetime...63 years!

I certainly wouldn’t be fixing my home loan in the current climate. Interest rates are unpredictable but plenty of economists are forecasting more rate cuts to follow.

What matters right now is that you take a very close look at how your lender has responded to the Reserve Bank’s rate cut. There’s been a massive difference in the willingness of lenders to pass rate cuts on to their home loan customers.

The Commonwealth Bank was quick to cut its variable rate by the full 0.25%. Westpac on the other hand, is only passing on 0.2% to its owner occupier customers, and ANZ has lowered its variable rate by just 0.18%.

On a $400,000 mortgage, a 0.25% rate cut is the equivalent of saving around $60 a month or $720 each year. So it’s a saving worth having.

If you think your home loan lender is holding back on rate savings, pick up the phone and demand a better deal. Talk to a mortgage broker or do your own research to see what else is available in the market.

The flipside to lower home loan rates is that anyone with cash savings is feeling the pinch of lower returns. That makes it equally important to shop around for a decent rate.

Online savings accounts are paying, on average, 2.15%. That’s bound to fall following the Reserve Bank’s rate cut, but here too there’s a big variation on the return your money can earn.

At the higher end of the scale, HSBC is paying 3.10%, and RaboBank has a savings account with a rate of 3.05%. The catch is that both are 4-month introductory specials. For a consistent return, ME Bank’s online saver is paying 2.85%.

Check what your spare cash is earning to see if you could do better. Comparison sites like RateCity or Finder make it easy to find out which banks are paying the top rates.


Paul Clitheroe is Chairman of InvestSMART, Chairman of the Australian Government Financial Literacy Board and chief commentator for Money Magazine.


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