Combine insurance for discounts
Christine from SA had her car, home and caravan policies with different insurers, but checked out the benefits of consolidating with one company.
"Overall, we were spending almost $1300 each year for the three policies," Christine says. "Apia gives a 5% discount on all policies if you have more than one policy with them."
Although the caravan insurance was dearer with Apia, overall Christine saved by switching.
"Even though we only saved $146 a year, the money is better in our pocket than someone else’s," she says. However, she notes that the Apia car insurance doesn’t give free windscreen cover, unlike her old RAA policy. The message here: check policy differences when making your decision.
Note: Apia — previously known as the Australian Pensioners Insurance Agency — is only available to people over 50.
Bad advice the final straw
Phillip and Kathryn from Sydney switched from the Commonwealth Bank to Bendigo Bank after receiving poor service and advice.
They had paid off two loans with Commonwealth for their residential and investment properties. The bank retained the deeds to facilitate any further loans. Phillip and Kathryn later approached the bank for a $30,000 loan for house repairs and improvements.
"The branch lending manager suggested that because it was 'such a small loan' we should put it on our credit cards at the prevailing rate," says Phillip. "She complained that setting up this small loan would cause her a lot of work."
Phillip and Kathryn were incensed. "The lending manager said the bank just wanted to protect us so that we wouldn’t get in debt over our heads, but we had $2.5 million of unencumbered assets with the bank and were virtually debt-free," Phillip says.
After advice from a friend, they talked to Bendigo Bank. "We met the manager on day one, were introduced to all the staff, and their banking procedures were explained to us — including the best ways to minimise fees and use debit cards. We got our loan and overdraft facility and there’ve been no glitches. I can’t recommend Bendigo enough."
Worth the hassle
For Alice and Nick from Sydney, shutting down their old account with ANZ was harder than opening the new one with HSBC.
"It took three weeks to close the account," Alice says. "ANZ required a face-to-face meeting, and later made three phone calls to try to get us back."
Still, Alice says the hassle of changing direct debit arrangements and remembering new PINs and passwords was worth it. "I’d been with ANZ since uni because the account was fee-free for students. But when a $6 monthly fee was introduced to my account, I realised switching to HSBC’s account with no monthly fee would save me over $70 per year. The disadvantage was there weren’t as many HSBC ATMs around, but you get a certain number of free withdrawals from other banks' ATMs each month."
After about a year, Alice and Nick decided to switch again, because of HSBC’s penalty fees and a bad service experience. "We had obtained a bank cheque to buy a car," Alice says. "It turned out that the vendor’s name was misspelt on the cheque. We went to the bank to replace it — and were charged $8 to cancel the old cheque and $8 again for the new one."
This experience encouraged the couple to leave. They chose Fire Brigades Employees' Credit Union, which they’d heard good things about from friends. "You can do most transactions online and there are no account keeping fees," says Alice.
Her advice is to switch if you’re not happy with your current arrangements. "There are lots of bank accounts with no monthly fees and credit cards with no annual fees. It’s worth changing even though it can be a hassle."