Getting a better banking deal


Lower fees and interest rates – it pays to ask

The major banks have again finished at the bottom in a customer satisfaction survey, although the "Big Four" are willing to give you a better deal on your home loan or transaction account -- all you have to do is ask!

In keeping with other independent surveys, most satisfied are customers of credit unions such as the Teachers Credit Union and other smaller players including Members Equity Bank, ING Direct and Bendigo.

A survey of more than 2000 CHOICE members found that a third had asked their financial institution for a cut in transaction fees or interest rates and most were pleasantly surprised with the result.

Of the members who received an interest rate reduction on their home loan, about two in five got a cut of up to 0.25%, one in four received between 0.25% and 0.5% and about another one in four got between 0.5% and 1%.

For one in 10 of those surveyed the reward was even greater -- an interest rate reduction of between 1% and 2%.

"A one per cent decrease on a $400,000 mortgage will save you more than $75,000 over 25 years, so it really does pay to ask," says CHOICE spokesman Christopher Zinn.

"If you're not satisfied with your current bank, tell them you're prepared to take your business elsewhere and try to quote better products from other institutions."

According to the survey, the Commonwealth Bank, followed by NAB rated best over all for negotiating a better home loan, the ANZ and Westpac were most likely to give their customers an interest rate cut while Westpac rated best for negotiating better deals on transaction accounts.

Transaction account customers who sought a better deal were mostly offered a new product, a reduction in fees and in some cases a refund of fees.

More than one in three respondents were charged penalty fees in the past year, with the rate much higher for bank customers than others.

Members with credit unions and building societies were much less likely to pay a fee for their home loan package or penalty fees on transaction accounts and credit cards.

"Switching banks can take time and effort, whereas just asking them to do better is much easier and you can often be rewarded with big savings on fees and interest rates," says Zinn. To read the full survey go to www.choice.com.au/banksatisfaction.

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