Ratehacker: March's Best Credit Card, Bank And Home Loan Deals

In our monthly Ratehacker round-up, Jeremy Cabral from finance comparison site Finder.com.au highlights the credit cards with the lowest fees for using overseas currencies (useful for travellers and online shoppers), plus the best transaction accounts and home loans.

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Credit Cards

After last month's Ratehacker column there were a lot of reader queries about credit cards, especially cards that don't charge for foreign currency conversion, so in this month's edition we've highlighted the offers in market which are designed to reduce fees for overseas purchases. It's worth noting that there are benefits to using a $0 foreign currency conversion even when you are not travelling as you'll still get slugged around 3 per cent for foreign currency conversion when making online overseas purchases. For a list of banks and their charges check out our guide to foreign exchange fees and charges.

If you shop regularly online or hate paying foreign currency conversion fees when travelling, there aren't that many options available, but here are some notable offers to consider right now:

Bankwest Zero Platinum MasterCard: $0 foreign transaction fees, $0 annual fee: 2012 saw a change to the Platinum range of Bankwest credit cards all of which now no foreign transaction fees for online purchases, complimentary travel insurance for and your family members and up to 12 months extended manufacturers warranty. If you're interested in this card there is an exclusive online only offer at the moment -- 0 per cent per annum on balance transfers and purchases for 6 months.

28 Degrees MasterCard: $0 foreign transaction fees, $0 annual fee, no overseas cash withdrawal fees: The 28 Degrees MasterCard is the ultimate fee free international credit card. The fee-free international ATM cash withdrawals separate it from the pack, which works well if you load additional funds on to your credit card to avoid the cash advance charges associated with using credit. It does lack the complimentary insurances found some of its Platinum competitors.

Aussie Platinum Low Rate Credit Card: $0 foreign transaction fees, low purchase rate: The Aussie Platinum Low Rate Credit Card does have the downside of a $99 annual fee, but it offers a low purchase rate of 13.29 per cent per annum. It differentiating feature is the inclusion of purchase security insurance, as well as complimentary international travel insurance and extended warranty insurance.

Transaction Accounts

Fees on transaction accounts can really add up. Unless you are interested in the additional features offered with some transaction accounts that have a monthly fee, it is well worth considering a fee-free transaction account with no monthly fees or ATM withdrawal fees. Here are two offers to include in your comparison:

Citibank Plus Transaction Account - $0 monthly fee, free ATM withdrawals: The Citibank Plus Transaction Account is the first in Australia to offer no account fees with no minimum account balance requirement. It also features free ATM withdrawals at Citibank, Westpac, St.George, BankSA and Bank of Melbourne ATM machines and no point of sale fees when using your account abroad. You can also benefit from the Citibank Dining rewards program with a free bottle of wine at any of their 300 participating partner restaurants.

Bankwest Zero Transaction Account: $0 monthly fee, free ATM withdrawals: When you deposit $2000 per month (for example, your salary) in to a Bankwest Zero Transaction account you can benefit from a $0 monthly account keeping fee. As well, you can have free access to all Bankwest, CBA, Westpac, NAB and ANZ branded ATMs Australia wide. It's important to note that you will still be charged overseas ATM fees.

Home Loans

Home loan application fees are becoming more uncommon and with exit fees being abolished since 1 July 2011, it's really all about the interest rates on offer.

It has been reported that banks funding costs have dropped meaning there are many lenders passing on lower rates to borrowers, but your lender may not be one of the lucky few. If your lender hasn't moved their rates, here are three offers from lenders which are worth considering:

Loans.com.au Blackboard Special: 5.11 per cent per annum comparison rate: Loans.com.au is the online brand for wholesale lender Firstmac allowing them to over lower rates than most lenders. The super low 5.11 per cent per annum comparison rate still leaves this loan ahead of the rest for this month.

eMoney Pro Pack 75 - 3 Year Fixed Rate: 5.00 per cent per annum 3 year fixed rate: eMoney offers those considering fixing in their interest rates a 5.00 per cent per annum3 year fixed rate and a 5.51 per cent per annumcomparison rate.

UBank UHomeLoan (Refinance Only): 5.12 per cent per annum comparison rate: UBank is backed by NAB. If you're an existing home owner with a mortgage the UBank refinancing offer is a very competitive offer. There is a good reason to switch right now with an upfront discount of 0.25 per cent per annum for applications made by the 14th March 2013.

Make sure to come back on April 2 for our next round-up of the latest personal finance offers.

Jeremy Cabral is the Personal Finance Publisher at Finder.com.au which includes popular comparison sites CreditCardFinder.com.au and SavingsAccountFinder.com.au, helping over 4.8 million Australians compare financial products every year. Connect with Jeremy on Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn.


Comments

    For transaction accounts my preference is the Bank West "Hero" account not the "Zero" account.

    The Hero account pays 3.5% interest on balances up to $5k. I like to keep a bit over 2 weeks pay in my transaction account with the rest in high interest savings. Not huge but its another $70+ a year in my pocket.

    It also lets you use any Bankwest+CBA ATMs. Sure you miss out on the ability to use NAB/WBC/ANZ ATMs but personally I think it's unnecessary. CBA ATMs are everywhere, and Bank West are at 7-11s.

      Hi Lutomes,

      Thanks for the comment - I really appreciate your support!

      Your point is definitely valid and for many people (yourself included) it could be better for them - I think it comes down to a matter of preference. The Bankwest Hero does have the ability to earn interest on the balance which is great. I think it's worth looking in to how much you are paying in foreign bank ATM fees and then doing the comparison between the two to see if you come out ahead with the Bankwest Hero account.

      Nowadays with mobile banking it's easy enough to move funds around on the spot. Another tip could be to consider a high interest online savings account and then only transferring across the funds you need using mobile banking. You'll earn a higher interest rate for 6 months and won't have any lag in funds transfers because the account is still with Bankwest.

      Thanks again!

      Jeremy

        I agree that it's my preference.

        ATM fees = $0. As mentioned there are CBA and BW ATMs everywhere. EFTPOS is free and most retail stores also do cash out at no cost. Using other bank ATMs is pure laziness. Anyone who is that lazy won't be reading lifehacker ;)

        As far as mobile banking goes to maximise savings and convenience. I pretty much do that. But I like having a buffer in the account just in case there are mystery/surprise transactions.

    Citibank is certainly not the first to offer a fee-free transaction account with no minimum balance/deposit.

    HSBC Online Savings account has been around for many years. No fees, no minimum balance/deposit, and unlimited free ATM withdrawls at HSBC, Westpac and Bank of Melbourne.

      Hi Greg

      Thanks for the comment - I really appreciate it!

      The Citibank Plus Transaction account was the first transaction account to offer no fees and no minimum monthly account balance.

      In terms of high interest online savings accounts - it is common to find that they have no fees and no minimum balance/deposit. There are some that do have a min. deposit amount however, so it's always important to check the terms and conditions before applying.

      Did you mean to reference the HSBC Day to Day account instead of the HSBC Serious Saver? The HSBC Serious Saver doesn't have a debit card attached to the account to be able to withdraw funds, however, you can link it to a HSBC Day to Day account.

      Thanks again for your comment Greg

      Jeremy

        I left CBA for a NAB Classic Transaction account two years ago, as NAB ditched account keeping and transaction fees in a single hit. I also signed up for an iSaver Account which is purely for net banking in the realm of 3-4% interest and then when I believe I'm sufficiently covered for saving I transfer money over to a uBank account that I believe is sitting somewhere around the 5.2% mark at the moment. All three accounts have no minimum.

        Not the Serious Saver.

        The Day-to-day account is a relatively new rename of the old Online Savings account product. Had one since it first became available (about 10 years ago?), and it was definitely the best no-fee account at the time.

        Opened another recently and they've been paying me $20/mo feebate (not interest) just for depositing my >5k salary into it for the last few months. Don't think you'll find too many other accounts which will do that.

        But I'm sure it's impossible to keep up with every single account type/name/development in the financial world. :)

          Hi Greg

          HSBC have had a few account name changes over the years, it can be difficult to stay across like you say.

          With the feebate on the HSBC Day to Day - at face value it can appear to be a good deal, but it is worth calculating the return as if it were interest on your savings. Based on $5k, the monthly return would only be 0.004% and the maximum amount of money you could receive each year with the feebate is $240. If your monthly salary exceeds $500 it would definitely be worth checking out a high interest online savings account instead and depositing your funds in to that account where you could earn interest at an on-going standard variable rate of 4% (for a market leading rate). There's also the upfront bonus interest available on those accounts if you're a new customer, which I haven't taken in to account

          All the best, and thanks for commenting

          Jeremy

          Last edited 05/03/13 4:39 pm

            oh, I don't leave it in there, just make the regular deposits to be eligible for the $20. as soon as it goes in it also goes out straight away into a high interest savings account.

            it's free and easy money - though it's limited to $100 - better in my pocket than anywhere else.

    looks like Jeremy is a bit slow off the mark, so I'll fill in here....

    Hi Mathew,
    Thanks for the comment - I really appreciate it!
    blah blah blah.
    Thanks for your comment again
    Jeremy

    I'm sorry but why is this article not labelled as "advertisement". The author makes money on each service you "purchase" through the finder.com.au site (and sub sites). All links in this article link back to his site and not to the service organisation offering the credit card or banking product.
    Bad form Allure.

      But unfortunately not unprecedented. Happens all the time on lifehacker/gizmodo.

    I currently have a low fee Visa credit card and everyday banking with Commonwealth, then send most of my savings to a Rams Saver account.

    I considered moving to BankWest but I found Commonwealth's banking apps like Ka Ching and NetBank too responsive to leave. Is the bankwest app really as bad as the reviews say online?

    I find KaChing, despite some harsh buzz about it's facebook features and so on, really simple for transferring money from my netbank saver into my streamline account and also for transferring money to my girlfriend or friends also with CBA.

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