01.Compare, ditch & switch
The major banks are using your money to return big profits, and on top of that, they are charging you for it.
New analysis by CHOICE has found consumers are unknowingly giving the major banks a free kick of at least $7.3 billion by keeping $153 billion of their cash in low- or no-interest transaction accounts that also charge hundreds of millions of dollars in fees.
On World Consumer Rights Day, CHOICE says it’s time to beat the big banks’ bonanza and move your money to accounts that give consumers a fair go. You'll be joining the worldwide push for a fairer banking system.
How banks win
Home loans, credit cards, business loans – banks provide them to consumers at a price, including fees plus interest. This is one way banks make money, and judging by the record profits of recent times, business is booming. However, to provide these essential services banks also need funding. They require money to lend to prospective borrowers.
To attract that funding, banks use products like savings accounts and term deposits. These accounts pay interest to consumers who deposit their funds into them.
A new CHOICE analysis of Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) and Australian Prudential Regulation Authority data confirms that a significant portion of banks’ funding mix comes from transaction accounts. Around 90% of these accounts pay less than half a percent interest and many still charge monthly fees.
Based on official data, we calculate that $153 billion was held in transaction accounts at major banks as of January 2011.
If you take that figure and apply it to the current RBA cash rate of 4.75%, this provides around $7.3 billion additional annual revenue for major banks. This figure does not take into account interest rate fluctuations or the fact that banks add their own margin to their lending products, so it’s likely the actual benefit to the banks of consumer deposits languishing in low-interest accounts is much higher.
However, despite the additional profit this low-cost funding provides, major banks continue to rake in hundreds of millions in monthly account fees, transaction fees and overdrawn fees on these same type of accounts.
According to RBA data on 18 banks, households paid an astonishing $1.7 billion in fees on transaction deposit accounts in 2009.
Not good enough
Banks cite increases in funding costs and the challenges of the current economic climate as justification for excessive fees and high interest rates. While a few have significantly reduced fee structures for transaction accounts, most of the market still maintains restrictive conditions or monthly fee structures that charge people for a product already providing hefty revenue.
Many consumers are already fighting back against unfair penalty fees, which even Gail Kelly, the CEO of Westpac, has admitted were “completely inappropriate”.
Join the global campaign for fairer financial services
Consumer organisations across the globe are uniting to fight for fairness in banking on World Consumer Rights Day. In the US, $5 billion have already been shifted by consumers as a result of the Move Your Money campaign. Further international action is expected following a decision by leaders at the G20 summit in 2010 – led by Australia - to work together to improve consumer protection in financial services.
Meanwhile Australian banks continue to post record profits on the back of bolstered corporate coffers built by consumers who stay in credit going about their everyday tasks. CHOICE thinks this is not good enough. We will continue to call on banks to adopt fairer banking with low-cost standard transaction products, and to provide standardised information on transaction account costs so consumers can easily assess the product they are using.
Get a fair go
- Have money in a no-interest bank account?
Pay a monthly account fee?
Move Your Money to an account without excessive fees, and that pays interest on your balance. Often this can mean opening a linked savings account, commonly available with many institutions, so that you can earn interest and have quick access to funds for daily transactions.
Your savings are safe if you switch to a smaller institution – up to $1 million per person per bank, credit union or building society is guaranteed under the government’s Financial Claims Scheme. Although switching banks isn’t easy enough in Australia, opening a new savings account with a bank that offers good customer service is one of the easiest things you can do to take your revenge for the multi-billion dollar bank bonanza.
Take action now
- Go to http://betterbanking.choice.com.au/ditch-and-switch
- Move your money: choose an account that will pay you interest – the best value are online savings accounts, but there are also linked savings accounts for fast transfer to a transaction account with the same institution.
- Compare, ditch and switch your way to an account that will charge you no monthly fees.