March financial wrap up

The third month of the year certainly was a busy one when it comes to money matters. The Banking Royal Commission kicked off its first round of public hearings, the big boys moved on home loan rates and we launched the latest edition of our prestigious Experts Choice Awards.

You might have to put your Easter eggs down to read this, but boy, will it be worth it.

Homeowners have to read this

For Aussie homeowners March was jam-packed with need-to-know headlines. For a start, we announced the winners of our Mozo Experts Choice Awards after comparing 525 home loans from 88 different financial institutions. You can check out the full rundown of winners and their categories, or just peruse over the major winners right (drumroll please)... now.

While the Awards were big news, finance headlines were actually dominated by stories coming out of the Banking Royal Commission that held a fortnight of public hearings. Some of Australia’s biggest banks and lenders had their practices questioned over the two weeks and we heard some absolute horror stories, particularly about home loan lending.

RELATED: February financial wrap up

The good news that, somewhat coincidentally, come at the same time as this was a raft of fixed rate cuts from three of the four big banks. ANZ, NAB and Commonwealth Bank all made cuts to some of their fixed rate home loans but Westpac didn’t get the memo, opting to hike rates instead. NAB went that little bit further to also make a 48 basis point cut to the variable rate on offer to new owner occupiers making principal and interest repayments on their mortgage.

This might all look like great news for Australian homeowners but our Product Data Manager, Peter Marshall still thinks long term, home loan rates are heading north meaning now is primetime to secure a competitive fixed rate deal.

“If you’re looking at locking in a fixed rate for 3, 4 or 5 years, I’d say now is actually a really good time to do it, before all these changes start really taking an effect on interest rates,” he said. 

A mixed bag for credit cardholders

Let’s get the not-so-good news out of the way first. RateSetter this month released data that revealed about a third of Australian balance transfer credit card holders are reaching the end of their promotional periods without having paid off their debt and its because we’re addicted to spending. And while we’re on the balance transfer topic, Mozo dug deep into our database and found that, over the last 12 months we’ve seen the number of balance transfer fees on these plastics double, so it’s costing us even more to get our hands on one in the first place.

As for the good news, you can now use your Amex, VISA or Mastercard to tap on and off on select public transport services. But don’t ditch your Opal card just yet, because you’re only able to use this neat, new feature on the Inner West light rail or Sydney Ferries. Credit cards could also be getting a whole lot more secure, after the Australian Payments Network this month tabled multi-factor authentication as the key to solving our $433 online credit card fraud problem.

And last, but by no means least, Commonwealth Bank stealthily released a new Essentials Credit Card, axing three of its existing offers at the same time. The new card comes with a low 9.90% interest rate and a $60 annual fee which you can actually slash to just $24 by opting for an automatic payments plan. 

Insurance insights

A host of natural disasters along Australia’s east coast brought insurance into the spotlight in March, but banking providers also showed how keen they were to help out, particularly in North Queensland.

When it comes to home insurance, Budget Direct released an interesting set of survey results that showed, despite its benefits, homeowners aren’t so keen on home security systems. This becomes even more surprising considering the General Insurance Code of Practice revealed that home insurance claims are at an all-time high, edging closer to the one million mark -  but can you guess the number one reason they’re being denied?

RELATED: January financial wrap up

Meanwhile, there was some dire news for drivers in New South Wales after the latest Transport Affordability Index from the Australian Automobile Association revealed that Sydneysiders pay more than double that of their road-using counterparts in Perth for comprehensive car insurance policies.

How you’re eating through your Easter budget

Delivering this wrap up on the eve of the Easter long weekend means there is a fair bit of festive financial news to get through, mainly focusing on one thing - chocolate.

If you’ve gotten a jump on the rest of us and have already completed your chocolate shopping, you might have been surprised just how much it cost you in the end. That’s because freshly conducted Mozo research revealed staggering markups on festively-branded treats of up to 320%. The budget-friendly option? Mini eggs, but even then you’ll have to deal with a 27% markup.

Here at Mozo, we’re not only dedicated to ensuring you get the best deal on your Easter egg haul, we’re all about making sure they taste great too and that’s why we conducted our very own Easter chocolate taste-test. Sampling seven varieties of cocoa goodie, the Mozo office dished out ratings and reviews for a host of choccies likely to be making it into your basket this Easter. Check out if your favourite treat was hit or miss here.

It’s probably a good time to bring up these 5 car insurance questions that need answering before you hit the road on the annual Easter road trip. While that might be a bit of a national pastime, Allianz Travel Insurance released some surprising data this month that revealed that in fact, we’re more likely to head abroad over Easter. If you’re one of the lucky long weekend travellers, just make sure you’re covered by the comfort of a comprehensive travel insurance policy.