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Today, we bring you great news on two fronts: HSBC is planning to spark a mortgage war with new products and offices.

According to the Australian, today the bank will launch a mortgage rate of 3.65 per cent for owner-occupied housing that will be available for customers who sign up for home loans between now and the end of the year.

It springs from a partership with Aussie Home Loans.

It also plans to raise its profile in Australia with another 16 new branches over the next 18 months, mainly in NSW and Victoria, to boost its existing 31 existing shopfronts.

This represents a return to the mortgage broking business by HSBC after 10 years staying out of the broking market in Australia.

And there is good news on the credit card front, too. Westpac has relaunched a 0% for 24 months balance transfer offer on the Westpac Low Rate credit card this month.  

The reinstated 0% for 24 months offer makes it one of the longest interest-free balance transfer card on the market.

The card isn’t entirely cost-free. You’ll have to pay the 2% balance transfer fee when you first move your balance to the new card and an annual fee of $59 (which is still competitive).

When the interest-free balance transfer offer ends, the interest rate will revert to the standard purchase rate of 13.49% p.a. and any remaining debt will begin to grow with interest.

That would be the time to pay off your debt.

Finder.com does point out: “If you’re struggling to repay a large debt that is collecting high-interest, Westpac’s Low Rate card could be a useful tool to clear your debt without collecting any additional interest.

“However, as this isn’t the only 0% balance transfer offer on the market, it would be wise to compare your options before you apply.”


Power to the people for less?

Very shortly, you are going to get a letter from your power provider explaining how your energy plan is probably wrong for you – and telling you how you can save by switching.

Don’t ignore it!

PM Malcolm Turnbull called in the power companies for the second time this week to give them a lecture about short-circuiting his attempts to bring down energy prices.

In case you wondered, their so-called cheaper energy schemes are actually jacking up prices.

After the meeting, the Australian Energy Council chief Matthew Warren said retailers would write to all customers explaining the deals they are on and providing help to find more competitive offers.

With the government seeking to regain the political initiative this week by switching the focus back to a key cost-of-living issue, the Prime Minister is ramping up pressure on the eight biggest electricity retailers to ensure all households are offered access to cheaper pricing deals.

According to The Australian, an audit by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission has estimated that roughly one million households are locked into the highest electricity rates, which were often up to 27 per cent more than the average cheaper plans.

Mr Turnbull has demanded they say how they will help more families get on to a better deal and what measures they have put in place to make it easier for customers to switch providers.

Flip that switch!


The poor get poorer

Here at Really Simple Money, we’re big fans of Ross Gittins, the Sydney Morning Herald’s economics writer.  We like his wry perspective on money.

This week, he looked at an intersting University of NSW study into how much we really need to live.  No, not including that Netflix and Spotify subscription.  How much we REALLY need to live.

According to Ross, a single adult on the minimum wage earns about $60 a week more than they need to maintain the minimum healthy standard of living. But after that the news is all bad.

“A low-paid couple with no children earns $40 a week less than the $830 they need. After allowing for family benefits , a low-paid couple (one in full-time work and one doing some part-time work) with one child is almost $10 a week shy of their $970 healthy standard, while a couple with two children is short by $90 of the $1170 a week they need.”

One thing – there’s no allowance for fun in these budgets. For instance, low-income families are assumed to have a car, but it’s a second-hand , five-year-old Toyota Corolla, kept for five years. Unemployed people have no car.

Because it’s a healthy standard, its only allowance for alcohol is a couple of glasses a week, with no allowance for smoking.

So being poor really is no fun at all. 


Don’t wait for a house price fall – it could be 40 years away

Demand for housing in our cities is unlikely to ease for 40 years, according to Committee for Economic Development of Australia.

What does that mean to you and I?  Well, don’t expect a property crash any time soon.  And don’t expect prices to plummet either.

So if you’ve found the house or apartment of your dreams, and you can afford it – get that hand up at this weekend’s auctions.

Happy hunting.