Should I apply for a fixed or variable interest rate home loan?

Young couple talking to an advisor.

Find out which interest rate type suits you so you save the most.

Variable rate mortgages are the most popular products in Australia, but fixed rate loans still take up a sizeable chunk of the market. There's no definite answer about which rate is better. It depends on your needs and financial plans. Variable rate loans usually offer lower rates plus more features and flexibility. Fixed rate loans give you greater certainty because your repayments won't change for the fixed period. They tend to have higher fees for exiting or switching and offer less flexibility in how you repay the loan. It's a trade-off between flexibility on the one hand and certainty on the other.

Let's take a greater look at the differences between the two.

The benefits and risks of variable rate loans

The benefits

  • Flexibility and features. Many variable rate loans come with flexible repayment options and don't charge you for making extra repayments. This lets you repay your mortgage faster and without penalty or in ways that suit you better. Variable rate loans are more likely to offer redraw facilities and very useful features like offset accounts.
  • Easier to switch. It's easier to refinance a variable rate loan, so if you're likely to switch mortgages in the future this is something to consider. Some people refinance to get a lower interest rate or unlock more features, while others switch loans when selling a property or turning their residence into an investment property.
  • Lower in fees (generally). Competitive variable loans often come with lower fees than their fixed rate equivalents. This can save you money upfront (application fees), over the course of the loan (ongoing fees) or when refinancing (exit or switching fees).
  • Rates may fall. If the Reserve Bank lowers the cash rate or your lender decides to cut rates in a competitive market, you'll benefit by getting a lower rate. Fixed rate borrowers are locked in and won't see such a benefit until their fixed period ends.

The risks

  • Rates may rise. The biggest risk with a variable rate loan is that your rate can rise at any time. This can catch you by surprise and will result in higher repayments. If you're not prepared this could be a big financial blow and it isn't something you can easily predict.
  • Features you don't need. Not all features are useful ones. If you don't need all the options and flexibility of a variable rate you might be better off with a fixed rate, if you can find one with a reasonably low rate.
  • You need to pay more attention. Potential fluctuations mean variable mortgage holders need to pay more attention to their loan. For time poor homeowners this can be a burden in itself.

The benefits and risks of fixed rate loans

The benefits

  • Rates may rise. If rates start to rise and you've fixed your repayments, you'll come out ahead. This is the biggest potential benefit to fixing your rate, but it is a gamble.
  • Easier to budget. Knowing exactly what your repayments are for one, two or possibly even five years can be very helpful. You won't get caught off-guard by increased repayments and you can organise your finances with more certainty. For some people this is worth paying a little extra.
  • Simplicity. A fixed rate loan is just easier. As long as your rate is set in stone you don't have to worry about it too much.

The risks

  • Rates may fall. No one wants to get stuck with higher repayments while others are getting big discounts.
  • Fewer features. An offset account can help you repay your loan faster while paying less interest. But most fixed mortgages don't offer this feature. Less flexibility is another drawback.
  • Harder to refinance. Fixed rate loans usually have higher exit or switching fees, making refinancing more costly. This means you should calculate the potential savings of refinancing and balance it against the cost of fees.

Watch: fixed and variable rates explained

Split rate loans: the best of both worlds

A split rate home loan is a total loan amount divided into two custom portions; one locked into a fixed rate and the other variable.

If you really like the idea of fixing your interest rate, but you don't want to lose the flexible features available on your variable loan, you can choose to split your home loan.

Compare fixed, variable and split rate loans

Rates last updated May 24th, 2018
$
Loan purpose
Offset account
Loan type
Your filter criteria do not match any product
Name Product Interest Rate (p.a.) Comp Rate^ (p.a.) Application Fee Ongoing Fees Max LVR Monthly Payment Short Description
3.69%
3.69%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Refinance to a UBank loan and you could get $1,000 in your USaver account (offer conditions apply). Enjoy flexible repayments, a redraw facility and the ability to split your loan. Plus, pay no application or ongoing fees.
3.64%
3.67%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
A mortgage with a competitive variable rate, limited fees and plenty of flexibility.
3.69%
3.69%
$0
$0 p.a.
70%
Pay no application or ongoing fees and get a flexible loan with the ability to split up to 6 times.
3.64%
4.03%
$0
$395 p.a.
80%
New borrowers or refinancers from another lender get a discounted rate with this package loan.
3.62%
3.62%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Pay no application or ongoing fees and get access to a redraw facility and flexible repayment schedule. Refinance to a UBank loan and you could get $1,000 in your USaver account (offer conditions apply).
3.68%
3.83%
$0
$10 monthly ($120 p.a.)
80%
Get a 100% offset account to save on interest charges, and pay no application fee.
3.54%
3.58%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Eligible borrowers can get $900 cashback on this loan with a 100% offset account and a redraw facility.
3.69%
3.71%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Family guarantee option available. Enjoy flexible repayments and a low minimum loan amount.
3.70%
4.13%
$0
$395 p.a.
90%
Package your loan with an eligible credit card for discounts on rates and fees, and get a 100% offset account.
3.79%
3.79%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Pay no application and ongoing fees with Macquarie Bank Basic Home Loan.
3.96%
3.98%
$0
$0 p.a.
90%
For a limited time, pay no application or settlement fees. You can also take advantage of a free redraw facility.
3.79%
4.06%
$0
$20 monthly ($240 p.a.)
80%
Add a Platinum Rewards Mastercard with this package loan and you could earn 150,000 Bendigo reward points (Victoria only, terms and conditions apply).
3.77%
3.81%
$200
$0 p.a.
95%
A simplified mortgage with a low interest rate and a redraw facility.
3.68%
3.69%
$0
$0 p.a.
95%
This variable rate loan offers flexible repayments and a redraw facility. Available with a 5% deposit.
3.69%
4.06%
$0
$349 p.a.
90%
Package your loan with other AMP products and save on rates and fees.
3.79%
3.81%
$0
$0 p.a.
90%
Buy your home with just a 10% deposit, few fees and a reasonable interest rate.
3.65%
3.66%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
This special rate loan comes with no application or ongoing fees, and offers a flexible repayment schedule.
3.69%
4.11%
$0
$395 p.a.
80%
Save on interest with a 100% offset account and save on other ME products with this package loan.
3.64%
3.78%
$0
$10 monthly ($120 p.a.)
80%
Earn Velocity Points on your mortgage (for a limited time, subject to eligibility requirements). Plus, access a 100% offset account to save on interest.
3.89%
3.91%
$0
$0 p.a.
95%
A low deposit mortgage for aspiring home owners. Fees are low and you can make extra repayments.
3.69%
4.09%
$0
$395 p.a.
95%
A package loan that offers discounts and a 100% offset account.
3.68%
3.69%
$0
$0 p.a.
90%
Get one free online redraw per month and pay no ongoing fees. Application fees are waived for loans above $150,000.
3.69%
3.73%
$600
$0 p.a.
95%
Variable rate home loan from one of the big 4 banks. Available with just a 5% deposit.
3.89%
3.89%
$0
$0 p.a.
70%
Investors with a 30% deposit can get this low rate property investment loan.
3.69%
3.74%
$600
$0 p.a.
80%
A competitive variable rate for borrowers with a 20% deposit or more. Guarantor option available.
3.59%
3.99%
$0
$395 p.a.
95%
Get interest rate discounts and waived fees on this package loan with a 100% offset account.
4.13%
4.13%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
A competitive discounted variable rate home loan. 0.33%p.a. Discount Offer for new Owner Occupier Loans.
3.74%
3.74%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Pay no application or ongoing fees and get access to a redraw facility and flexible repayment schedule.
3.78%
3.78%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Pay no application or ongoing fees and get access to a free redraw facility with this innovative online lender.
3.99%
4.02%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Investors can enjoy flexible repayment options and pay no application or ongoing fees.
4.09%
4.49%
$0
$395 p.a.
90%
Enjoy all the benefits of a full-featured package investment loan, including a 100% offset account.
4.15%
4.76%
$600
$0 p.a.
90%
A competitive rate with no ongoing fee and borrow up to 90% LVR.
3.73%
3.73%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Get a 100% offset account and pay no application or ongoing fees on this special variable rate for owner-occupiers.
4.09%
4.11%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
This variable rate loan keeps the features simple and fees low. This loan is offered by a 100% online lender.
4.57%
4.94%
$0
$395 p.a.
95%
No application fee and 100% offset account.
3.79%
3.80%
$0
$0 p.a.
70%
Keep your LVR at 70% or below and enjoy a special discounted rate. Also, pay no application or ongoing fees.

Compare up to 4 providers

Rates last updated May 24th, 2018
$
Loan purpose
Offset account
Loan type
Your filter criteria do not match any product
Name Product Interest Rate (p.a.) Comp Rate^ (p.a.) Application Fee Ongoing Fees Max LVR Monthly Payment Short Description
3.59%
4.14%
$395
$0 p.a.
80%
A one year fixed rate offer with no ongoing bank fees.
3.99%
5.17%
$600
$0 p.a.
90%
Competitive rates for fixed for 3 years with redraw facility.
3.74%
4.01%
$395
$0 p.a.
80%
An online home loan offer with a fixed interest offer for 3 years.
3.69%
4.86%
$0
$395 p.a.
90%
Start your home buying journey with 2 years of fixed repayments and a reasonable rate from a big 4 bank. Available with a 10% deposit.
3.84%
4.17%
$0
$395 p.a.
80%
Lock in a competitive rate for owner occupiers for two years. Extra repayments up to $30,000 over the life of the fixed period can be made.
3.99%
4.62%
$395
$0 p.a.
80%
Investors can enjoy flexible repayments and an easy application process with this pioneering online lender.
3.69%
4.62%
$0
$395 p.a.
90%
Enjoy a discounted fixed rate and the ability to package the loan with other financial products.
3.90%
4.78%
$600
$0 p.a.
95%
A competitive fixed rate mortgage with split facilities and extra repayments. You can get this loan with a 5% deposit.
3.69%
4.04%
$0
$350 p.a.
95%
A competitive rate with no application fee.
3.99%
4.86%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Access a fee-free 100% offset account and pay no application or ongoing fees.
3.74%
4.58%
$0
$395 p.a.
90%
A two year fixed rate home loan with application fees.
3.88%
4.89%
$0
$395 p.a.
95%
Low deposit home loan. Enjoy flexible repayment options while paying limited fees.
3.85%
4.05%
$0
$350 p.a.
95%
This high LVR fixed rate loan allows you to borrow up to 95% of the value of the property you're buying.
3.79%
4.97%
$0
$0 p.a.
90%
Investors can take advantage of a short term fixed rate with no application or ongoing fees.
4.14%
4.81%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Pay no application fees and access a fee-free redraw facility with this fixed rate loan.
4.59%
5.01%
$0
$395 p.a.
95%
A competitive fixed rate loan with flexible features. Available with a 5% deposit.
3.87%
3.87%
$0
$10 monthly ($120 p.a.)
90%
Get Virgin Velocity Points at settlement, monthly and every three years, plus the option to make up to $10,000 a year in extra repayments.
4.33%
4.14%
$0
$0 p.a.
90%
4.19%
3.90%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
3.89%
4.88%
$0
$395 p.a.
95%
Refinance from your existing loan and get a $1,250 rebate. Terms and conditions apply. Plus get discounts on a range of Westpac products.
3.89%
4.94%
$0
$395 p.a.
95%
Fix your rate for 2 years and know your repayments giving you ease in budgeting.
4.49%
4.20%
$0
$0 p.a.
90%
Fixed rate loan with a 100% offset account and a 10% deposit option.
3.99%
3.84%
$0
$0 p.a.
95%
A two year fixed rate home loan with no annual or application fees.
3.99%
4.96%
$0
$395 p.a.
95%
This 2 year fixed ANZ Breakfree Package rate comes with package discount and product bundle. Terms and conditions, package fee and fees, charges & eligibility criteria apply.
3.89%
4.97%
$0
$395 p.a.
95%
Get discounts on a range of Commonwealth Bank products and enjoy the option of fee-free extra repayments during the fixed term.
3.89%
4.96%
$0
$395 p.a.
95%
Refinancers can get $1,500 cashback. Conditions apply. Package your home loan with a Qantas rewards earning Amplify credit card.
4.14%
5.06%
$600
$10 monthly ($120 p.a.)
95%
Get a 2-year fixed rate with flexible repayment options to help you save.
3.79%
4.99%
$600
$8 monthly ($96 p.a.)
95%
Get a partial offset account and the option to make interest-only repayments.

Compare up to 4 providers

Rates last updated May 24th, 2018
$
Loan purpose
Offset account
Loan type
Your filter criteria do not match any product
Name Product Interest Rate (p.a.) Comp Rate^ (p.a.) Application Fee Ongoing Fees Max LVR Monthly Payment Short Description
3.64%
3.67%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
A mortgage with a competitive variable rate, limited fees and plenty of flexibility.
3.74%
3.74%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Pay no application or ongoing fees and get access to a redraw facility and flexible repayment schedule.
3.85%
4.05%
$0
$350 p.a.
95%
This high LVR fixed rate loan allows you to borrow up to 95% of the value of the property you're buying.
3.69%
4.86%
$0
$395 p.a.
90%
Start your home buying journey with 2 years of fixed repayments and a reasonable rate from a big 4 bank. Available with a 10% deposit.
3.64%
4.03%
$0
$395 p.a.
80%
New borrowers or refinancers from another lender get a discounted rate with this package loan.
3.88%
4.89%
$0
$395 p.a.
95%
Low deposit home loan. Enjoy flexible repayment options while paying limited fees.
3.89%
4.87%
$0
$0 p.a.
90%
Borrow up to 90% of the value of the property you're buying and pay no application or ongoing fees.
3.68%
3.83%
$0
$10 monthly ($120 p.a.)
80%
Get a 100% offset account to save on interest charges, and pay no application fee.
3.69%
3.73%
$600
$0 p.a.
95%
Variable rate home loan from one of the big 4 banks. Available with just a 5% deposit.

Compare up to 4 providers

Image: Shutterstock

Marc Terrano

Marc Terrano is a content marketer manager at finder. He's been writing and publishing personal finance content for over five years and loves to help Australians get a better deal.

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Important Information*
NAB Choice Package Home Loan - 2 Year Fixed (Owner Occupier P&I) First Home Buyer Special

Start your home buying journey with 2 years of fixed repayments and a reasonable rate from a big 4 bank. Available with a 10% deposit.

UBank UHomeLoan Variable Rate - Discount Offer for Owner Occupied Variable P&I Rate — borrowing $700,000 or more

Pay no application or ongoing fees and get access to a redraw facility and flexible repayment schedule. Refinance to a UBank loan and you could get $1,000 in your USaver account (offer conditions apply).

Newcastle Permanent Building Society Premium Plus Package Home Loan - New Customer Offer ($150,000+ Owner Occupier, P&I)

New borrowers or refinancers from another lender get a discounted rate with this package loan.

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2 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    CathNovember 25, 2015

    If we sell our house after 5 years and our loan is variable over 25 years do we have to pay the whole interest owing for total of 25 years or does the bank work out interest owing for 5 years and penalty fees?

    • Staff
      JodieNovember 25, 2015Staff

      Hi Cath,

      Thank you for reaching out to finder.com.au a financial comparison website.

      If you have been repaying your loan with principal and interest repayments you will only be repaying the remaining principal and interest amount that you owe to the lender, they will not also work out how much interest you would have repaid during the life of your loan.

      You may be able to ask your lender for a payout amount for a specific date to give you an idea of how much you will repay.

      Regards
      Jodie

      Regards
      Jodie

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