A leading loans expert is urging mortgage holders to be wary of the hidden dangers associated with refinancing as the big four banks look to entice more customers with “cheap deals” following this month’s rate rise.
Peter White AM, the managing director of the Financial Brokers Association of Australia (FBAA), is asking Australians who are considering whether they should switch up their home loan to proceed with caution, warning that “cheaper isn’t always better”.
The director’s message comes after the Reserve Bank of Australia increased the cash rate by 50 basis points for the fourth time in as many months on Tuesday.
With the base rate now standing at 1.85 per cent, Mr White is asking borrowers to be on alert as major banks look to lure vulnerable customers who are struggling with their repayments to sign up to its services.
“Some banks at the moment are offering cheap variable rates to new borrowers only. This is a trap,” Mr White told news.com.au.
“For the lender it’s about using a marketing budget to generate more customers, knowing that most customers will stay as it costs to change again.”
It’s all part of a “vicious cycle” lenders use to draw customers into borrowing from them, Mr White explained, where new customers are blindsided as the rate on offer doesn’t always mean the customer will be better off in the long term.
“There is a hidden danger at times like this that is rarely spoken about,” Mr White said.
“Banks will be looking to attract those considering refinancing as new customers, and will offer cheaper variable interest rates that are significantly below their fixed rates, which are rapidly climbing. This is a case of ‘buyer beware’.”
Cashbacks and exclusive rates at discount prices for new customers are some of the lures banks are using to attract new borrowers.
Both come at the cost of disadvantaging the lender’s current customer base as their higher interest rates make up for the lower rate offered to new customers.
“Borrowers should be aware that next time around they will be the existing customer facing higher rates and will be disadvantaged during rate increases,” Mr White said.
“It’s an old game to lure new customers with a perceived advantage only to be taken advantage of with the next move.”
Additionally, some banks use a tactic where they attempt to give you a better rate after you’ve agreed to another offer.
“If they were serious about looking after you they would have offered this when you first approached them, so ignore this offer and don’t be distracted as this will cause you even more headaches, and makes the process even more complex,” he said .
While Mr White advises borrowers to refinance with caution, saving on your home loan isn’t entirely off the cards.
Rather than focusing on the big four banks, Mr White recommends looking at what second tier banks such as Suncorp, and non-banks such as Bluestone, have on offer.
“Going with the major banks is often the most expensive way forward and may not be in your best interests due to constraints and other factors specific to you,” Mr White said.
“Remember the big banks can only sell you their products, and their aim is to look after themselves and their shareholders, not to act in your best interests.”
It’s also advised that borrowers go through a mortgage broker, rather than directly through a bank. Brokers are free to use as they receive commission from lenders once they sign a customer up to a service.
They also have access to a range of offers that aren’t always available to borrowers who go through the back directly and can find a rate and repayment schedule that suits a borrower’s needs.
“A finance broker is obliged to act in your best interests and sometimes this means explaining that the best option may be not to refinance,” Mr White said. “(They’re also) charged by law to act in your best interests, whereas banks are not.”