Big banks have pocketed an extra $4.7 billion by not passing on full cuts

Niko Iliakis

Wednesday 02 October 2019

The RBA has shaved another 0.25% off the cash rate - the third time this year it’s done so - and all attention has turned to home loan lenders to see how they’ll respond. Among the big four banks, CommBank and NAB have already announced cuts of 0.13% and 0.15%, respectively.

But how likely are the rest of the big banks to pass on the full cut? If we consider how much they’ve saved by withholding some of the cut in previous months, we’d advise against getting your hopes up. 

Since 2016, ANZ, CommBank, NAB and Westpac have collected approximately $167 million per month in additional revenue by withholding part of official rate cuts. That adds up to a staggering $4.7 billion in total.

“This year alone ANZ and Westpac have pocketed a $279 million annual windfall by holding back some of the official rate cuts, it’s easy to see why the other major might consider not passing the cut on in full,” said Mozo Director Kirsty Lamont.

“As well as holding back a portion of the official cut, the big banks all delayed the effective dates of their rate relief. A move that saw them collectively bank $434 million.”

How likely are banks to pass on the full cut?

Back in June, there was a lot of pressure on lenders to pass on the cut in full, and most followed through. Of the 76 providers in our database, 48 reduced variable rates by 0.25%.

But by July, that enthusiasm had started to dwindle. Just 13 lenders passed on the full amount following July’s cut, while 63 passed only part of it. Going forward, it’s likely we’ll see more of the same as banks’ net interest margins are squeezed tighter and tighter.

“It’s clear the big banks’ are under pressure. Faced with record low interest rates and higher cost structures than their more agile online competitors, it could soon make it uneconomical to pass on any cuts to the cash rate,” Lamont says.

“With a potential fourth 25 basis point cut likely later this year or early 2020, the amount of money the big banks can earn in interest on loans compared to what they are paying to savers will get very tight.”

Online lenders are the ones to watch

While the big banks drag their feet or cut only small amounts, a handful of online lenders have wasted no time in passing on the full rate cut to their variable home loan customers. Athena Home Loans was first out the gate, announcing it would be offering owner occupiers rates as low as 2.84% p.a. (2.80% p.a. comparison rate*).

Homestar followed with cuts of its own, leaving its home loan line-up looking that much more impressive. Right now, the Homestar Star Essentials offers variable rates as low as 2.74% p.a. (2.77% p.a. comparison rate*).

As for Reduce Home Loans, it only passed on a portion of the cut (0.20%), but its range of variable rate home loans is looking sharper than ever. Its Low Rider home loan currently comes with a super low rate of 2.69% p.a. (2.71% p.a. comparison rate*), making it one of the best value home loans in our database.

“For years online lenders have been offering more competitive variable interest rates than our major banks and with more official rate cuts on the horizon the gap looks to widen even further,” said Lamont.

“If you are looking to reduce your loan repayments as soon as possible, it pays to compare rates and switch to the lender offering the most competitive rate you can find.”

So whether you’re looking to buy a home or refinance an existing home loan, now is a good time to be looking around. Browse the selection below, or head over to our home loan comparison page for an idea of the kinds of rates currently out there. 

And if you’re wondering how much of the cut your lender has passed on, be sure to check out our Naughty or Nice table, where we’ll be keeping track of lenders’ decisions as they come in.

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