April financial wrap up

The Banking Royal Commission loomed large over April with a host of Australia’s biggest banks put through the wringer, but, believe it or not, there was a bunch of other finance news that hit the headlines.

So if you want to start your May right, grab a coffee (may I suggest a long black), your favourite blanket and a seat by the fireplace as we run through April’s hottest money matters.

How is your home loan treating you?

It’s time to check in on how you feel your relationship with your home loan lender is going, Australia. That’s because, Mozo research in April revealed that almost half of borrowers have been hit with an out of cycle rate rise since the RBA last made a change in August 2016 - with residents of the NT, NSW and WA most at risk. And while the obvious answer to quell any home loan heartache is to move on before you get too attached, how do you know if the time is right? Well, this month we also crunched the numbers on a range of owner occupier loans in our database and found that more than half of lenders are offering a rate under the 3.70% mark so, if you’re paying more, it’s probably time to refinance.

But it wasn’t just Mozo who was making waves when it comes to home loan news. Greens Senator Richard Di Natale made bold moves of his own in April, proposing that the Reserve Bank start lending as a ‘People’s Bank’ that would offer a basic, ‘mortgage tracker’ home loan, with a minimum interest rate of approximately 3.50% - but would that make much of a difference at all? And there was also big regulatory news as APRA announced it would scrap restrictions designed to cap growth on the investor home loan books of lenders at 10% per annum, as of July 1.

Speaking of home loan rates, Australian borrowers could start to see theirs trend higher after ME hiked interest rates on its home loan products last month, citing funding costs as the major factor. Mozo Product Data Manager, Peter Marshall said this was a trend that could extend to a number of big banks. “With the cost of finding overseas funding on the rise, I think a number of banks are going to start nudging their home loan rates up over the coming months,” he said.

Easing energy woes

The arrival of May means there’s just one month until winter officially starts but before you reach for the heater, it’s important to get your energy in order and as it turns out, you’d like some help. Mozo reported on the latest YouGov Galaxy survey that revealed a whopping 90% of us agreed that it was either ‘important’ or ‘very important’ for the Government to help households and small businesses slash the costs of their quarterly energy bill. The research also went on to highlight how important our energy sources are too, with approximately 88% of respondents in favour of greater investment in energy efficiency and so accordingly, we wrapped up some of the best renewable energy plans to save both the planet and your budget.

April also saw one of the nation’s largest energy providers, Origin, welcome in a new era with a total rebrand. It isn’t just a fresh logo and new slogan that the energy retailer is championing however, it also launched a no-frills energy plan for Victorian customers that does away with confusing consumer discounts and offers low usage rates, instead. Check out the finer details behind the rebrand and the new plan here.

Did your provider add a new feature in April?

Bank and credit card customers, this bit applies to you.

April saw a slew of providers launch neat, new features on their products designed to make managing your dollars that little bit easier. For example, UBank introduced a real-time budgeting tool for customers of its USaver Ultra account named Free2Spend. Basically, you plug your monthly income and fixed expenses into the tool and you’re given one simple daily spend allowance that will keep you on track to hit your specified savings goal - oh, and the best part is it updates based on whether you over or underspend, in real-time.

April also saw us cover a brand new wearable on offer from credit union, bcu. ActivePay, a wristband designed with the fittest Australian in mind, allows bcu customers to pay for their morning coffee with a tap of the wrist, meaning they can leave their wallet at home on their next ride, run, swim or surf.

And while they might not be new features, there were also some noteworthy credit card changes applying to premium provider, American Express after it slashed the rate on its Low Rate Credit Card to 8.99%. Meanwhile, prospective Westpac customers can also get their mittens on an American Express rewards card to go along with their Westpac plastic. The move came after the big bank made AMEX branded plastics available to existing customers earlier in the year, but now gives new customers the chance to rack up a stack of rewards points as well. 

Heading abroad anytime soon?

The impending cold weather might have you dreaming of a tropical getaway, but before you book, get your head around these travel headlines from April.

Off on a cruise anytime soon and worried about whether you’ll get sick on board? Turns out you’re not alone with data from InsureandGo revealing that, for half of us, having a medical emergency while out on the open ocean is our number one concern. Lucky, you can snag a cheap travel insurance policy for your ocean cruise using our comparison tool - eh?

So maybe “tropical” isn’t exactly what you have in mind for your winter holiday this year, especially if you’re a fan of football and are off to the FIFA World Cup next month. But ahead of your adventures in Russia, travel insurer, Allianz, stressed the need to have a cozy level of cover, especially considering medical and hospital expenses were one of the top three claims for Aussies heading to Russia since 2015.

And finally, the AUD hit a four-month low in April. So if its just your precious dollars and cents that’ll be heading abroad over the coming months, here are three ways to make the most of an international money transfer when the dollar plummets once more.