It was a corker of a deal.
In 2012 the Labor Government, fresh from ballsing up GroceryWatch, FuelWatch and RuddWatch, announced they were putting the screws on the Big Four banks.
It was pure political gold: Australians get slugged with some of the highest bank fees in the world, and we’re as mad as hell about it. Or at least A Current Affair is, as told through the eyes of some angry old bird they always seem to find walking out of a Westpac in Western Sydney.
See, the thing that’s stopping us from switching and saving thousands of dollars is all those direct debits we’ve set up. Miss one and you’ll be hit with a hefty dishonour fee. So the Government forced the banks to implement a simple “tick ’n’ flick” form that carried over all your direct debits and made it super simple to switch banks.
Wayne Swan (otherwise known to the Greatest Treasurer in the World, according to Euromoney … enough said) was sure he was on a winner. After all, when mobile phone number portability was introduced, close to 17 million people took advantage it.
So how many people stuck it to the banks?
Well, in the first year BankWatch was introduced … just 15,000 people ticked ’n’ flicked.
Kapow! People power! Take that, you fatcat bankers!
At the time, the Australian Bankers’ Association helpfully suggested the scheme was a dud because “customer satisfaction with banks was at record highs and most customers had no desire to switch”.
You’ve got to love the banking lobby, don’t you?
The truth is, it’s easier to bitch than to switch — even when Wayne Swan serves it up to you on a platter. However, at Barefoot we prefer to bitch and switch. So let’s do that.
(And just let me from the outset that I pride myself on being fiercely independent, so I get paid nothing for these recommendations.)
THE BEST BANK ACCOUNT
Hands down, the ING Orange Everyday Account is the best deal on the market. There are no account fees and no ATM fees — regardless of that weird Trojan ATM at the RSL you use when you’re three sheets to the wind. You also get 2 per cent cash back on any payWave transactions under $100. The only catch is you must deposit at least $1,000 into the account each month (or, in other words, your wage).
THE BEST ONLINE SAVERS
The RBA may have delivered only 0.25 per cent in rate cuts in the past year, but that hasn’t stopped the banks from quietly dropping their rates on online savers by up to three times that amount. Still, if you aren’t sweeping your excess savings into an online saver you’re getting screwed (basically giving your bank an interest-free loan).
If you move your business over to the ING Orange Everyday Account mentioned above, you can link it up to their Savings Maximiser, which is currently paying 3.75 per cent (so long as you’re depositing your wage; otherwise it’s 2.5 per cent). Again, a very tidy deal that’s almost two rate-cuts ahead of the best 12-month term deposit.
Around the banking grounds, the RAMS Savings Account is paying 3.91 per cent, so long as you deposit at least $200 a month and make no withdrawals (that’s made up of a 2.61 per cent ‘base rate’ and a 1.3 per cent ‘bonus’). Then there’s the UBank Ultra account, which pays 3.77 per cent (2.71 per cent base plus a 1.06 per cent bonus if you deposit $200 a month or more).
THE OLD CREDIT CARD SWITCHEROO
Platinum credit cards aren’t only for impressing the hell out of 7-Eleven attendants and cabbies — they can also be used (potentially) to wipe out large credit card balances. One of the best is the St George Bank Vertigo Platinum credit card, which is offering a balance transfer deal of 0 per cent for 18 months, with a $55 annual fee.
The trick, of course, is to cut up the new card when it comes in the mail and set up a direct debit to pay off your balance in full within the 18-month period, or you’ll get hit with a 21.49 per cent sucker rate thereafter. (Personally, I haven’t had a credit card in my wallet since Justin Timberlake brought sexy back.)
THE BEST HOME LOANS
Finding the best deal on home loans is almost impossible — there are so many variables that determine what a bank will give you (equity, deposit, income, credit rating, hairstyle). So often the safest bet is to look at the best deal on the market and then ask your bank (firmly, multiple times if needed) to match it.
One of the sharpest variable rates from a mainstream institution is from the Heritage Bank, which is offering 4.34 per cent (though it doesn’t have an offset account, which would make it a decent option for an investor). If you go through a cashback mortgage broker (who will refund the kickback), it’s even cheaper.
What about fixed rates? Well, I’ve learned it doesn’t pay to play The Price Is Right with the banks, so I’m not a huge fan of fixing your rate (unless you’re eating sausages each night). Still, some people do, and in that case the best three-year fixed rate is 4.09 per cent from ING Direct. Call your bank. Save thousands.
So while the Labor leaders are now consigned to knitting in Nunawading, their tick ’n’ flick service lives on. If you never got any pink batts, cut-price groceries or cheap fuel, why not give your bank the flick — just for Wayne.
Tread Your Own Path!