How to make your savings work for you in a low-rate climate

4 min

First appeared in Starts at 60 with St. George

Over the last decade, Australia’s interest-rate environment has been great for borrowers, but increasingly more challenging for savers – particularly those who prefer to hold substantial portions of their savings in low-risk savings options like savings accounts and term deposits.

Over the last decade, Australia’s interest-rate environment has been great for borrowers, but increasingly more challenging for savers – particularly those who prefer to hold substantial portions of their savings in low-risk savings options like savings accounts and term deposits.
The last time the Reserve Bank of Australia raised the official cash rate was in November 2010. Since then, the cash rate declined steadily, before hitting a record low of 1.50 per cent in August 2016.*

Just because interest rates are low, doesn’t mean you can’t explore your options and make your savings vehicles work harder for you.

Here are six steps you can take to make more of your savings in 2018/19.

1. Look at your investment timeframe

Decide whether you need easy access to your cash or are happy to tie it up for a while. If you need to be able to withdraw your cash in an emergency, it’s best to opt for a savings account. In some cases, this type of account might offer you a higher interest rate than your everyday transaction account, and you’ll still have access to your money when you need it.

Some savings accounts reward you with bonus interest if you do not make a withdrawal each month.

2. Check your account’s current fees and penalties

Review your savings accounts for account-keeping fees, as they can eat away the return on your savings. It’s also worth negotiating with your bank to see if they can do a better deal for you on fees.

Remember that the interest rate you receive might be reduced if you make withdrawals so it’s worth checking the terms and conditions on your bank’s website in case there are any potential penalties associated with the account you’re using.

3. Be aware that introductory rates will revert to a base rate

Accounts that offer great introductory interest rates may change back to a less competitive base rate after three or six months. Make sure that you’re aware of the base rate and check that it’s competitive.

The other consideration with at-call savings accounts is that your return is not guaranteed. This is because the rate on offer can change in line with the Reserve Bank of Australia’s interest rate decisions.

4. Consider term deposits for a guaranteed return

If you want a more secure return, you could consider a term deposit. This option will require you to lock up your money for a fixed term, ranging from one month to five years.

In return, you receive a specific interest rate, depending on how long your cash is locked-up for, and you typically won’t have to pay any setup or monthly fees.

As with any type of bank account, make sure you check what the withdrawal rules are. If you want to access your cash before the term is up, you may have to give notice and pay a penalty, or your rate may be reduced.

Most banks allow you to set up a term deposit online via Internet banking or, if you would prefer, you can still do this at your local branch.

5. Use an independent site to compare savings and deposit accounts

Independent comparison sites can help you to compare the rates, fees and features on savings accounts and term deposits.

6. Speak with your bank about the options that would best suit you

Your bank is well-placed to give you advice on savings options for your specific needs.

Financial advisers can also provide useful guidance about your whole savings and investment portfolio (which may include at-call savings accounts, term deposits, superannuation, pensions, shares, investment bonds and other types of savings vehicles).

Despite the current low interest rate climate, it’s worth reviewing your options, so you can make more of your savings.

*https://www.rba.gov.au/statistics/cash-rate/

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Article prepared by Starts at 60, April 2018 and reused with permission. Information current as at 11 July 2018 and may contain material provided by third parties derived from sources believed to be accurate at its issue date. While such material is published with necessary permission, no company in the Westpac Group accepts any responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of, or endorses any such material. Except where contrary to law, we intend by this notice to exclude liability for this material.