How finder.com.au helped judge the AFR Smart Investor Blue Ribbon Awards

AFR awards

We're all about helping people make better financial decisions, which is why we jumped at the chance to find out which banking products provide some of the best value on the market.

Here's the criteria that were considered for the awards:

  • Non banks, bonded banks and banks not nationally accessible were excluded from the award winners, with the exception of regional banks for the Regional Bank of the Year Award
  • Regional banks were included for consideration for the Finalist positions
  • "National banks" include online only banks and banks with branches in at least Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane

We crunched the numbers, and below we represent the winners and methodology.

Best Property Investment Loan – 3 year Fixed

Criteria & InfoWinnerFinalist 1Finalist 2
BankBendigo BankHume BankAdelaide Bank
ProductConnect Package Investment Loan Fixed 3 YearsProperty Package Fixed Rate Investment Loan 3 YearsSmartFix Investment Loan 3 Years
Advertised interest rate4.39%4.20%4.34%
Interest-only optionYesYesYes
Redraw FacilityYesYesYes
Total Upfront Fees$250$0$495
Annualised ongoing fee$120$375$180
Maximum LVR95%97%90%
Total cost over 3 years for a $500,000 loan$90,640.67$89,148.09$90,535.14

Methodology:

The following features were considered to be compulsory for the winners of this category: Redraw facility, maximum LVR of 90% or above and interest-only option. The total cost over three years was calculated based on a $500,000 home loan over 30 years, based on the advertised interest rate, including the total upfront fees (including application, legal, valuation and settlement) and annualised ongoing fees. The winners were ranked by lowest total cost.

Best Investment Home Loan – Variable

Criteria & InfoWinnerFinalist 1Finalist 2
BankBOQG&C Mutual BankAMP Bank
ProductClear Path Variable Rate Home LoanPremium Investment Loan PackageBasic Package Variable Rate Investment Loan
Advertised interest rate4.47%4.24%4.37%
Interest-only optionYesYesYes
Redraw FacilityYesYesYes
100% Offset AccountYesYesYes
Total Upfront Fees (including legal, application, valuation and settlement)$150$0$545
Annualised ongoing fee$120.00$375.00$0.00
Maximum LVR95%95%90%
Total cost over 30 years for a $500,000 loan$912,577.81$895,688.35$898,727.70

Methodology:

The following features were considered to be compulsory for the winners of this category: Redraw facility, maximum LVR of 90% or above, interest-only option and 100% offset account available. The total cost over 30 years was calculated based on a $500,000 home loan over 30 years, based on the advertised interest rate, including the total upfront fees (including application, legal, valuation and settlement) and annualised ongoing fees. The winners were ranked by lowest total cost.

Best Property Loan for SMSFs – 3-year Fixed

Criteria & InfoWinnerFinalist 1Finalist 2
BankCommonwealth BankIMBMacquarie Bank
ProductSuperGear Resi Fixed Home Loan - 3yrs fixedIMB SMSF Fixed - 3 YearsSMSF Property Home Loan Fixed - 3 Year Fixed Rate
Advertised interest rate5.49%5.24%5.55%
Interest-only optionYesYesYes
Maximum LVR - 80% and above)80%80%80%
Annualised ongoing fee$120$360$0
Total Upfront Fees$1,750.00$1,250.00$6,930.00
Total cost over 3 years$103,949.11$108,979.42$109,697.41

Methodology:

The following features were considered to be compulsory for the winners of this category: maximum LVR of 80% or above and interest-only option. The total cost over three years was calculated based on a %500,000 home loan over 30 years, based on the advertised interest rate, including the total upfront fees (including application, legal, valuation and settlement) and annualised ongoing feds. The winners were ranked by lowest total cost.

Best Property Loan for SMSFs – Variable

Criteria & InfoWinnerFinalist 1Finalist 2
BankMacquarie BankAMPCommonwealth Bank
ProductSMSF Property Home LoanSuperEdge LoanSuperGear Resi Variable
Advertised interest rate5.67%5.67%5.86%
Interest-only optionYesYesYes
Maximum LVR - 70% and above)80%70%80%
Annualised ongoing fee$0.00$120.00$420.00
Total Upfront Fees$1,930.00$1,925.00$2,400.00
Total cost over 3 years$1,066,122.84$1,069,717.84$1,078,042.98

Methodology:

The following features were considered to be compulsory for the winners of this category: maximum LVT of 70% or above, interest-only option and 100% offset account available. The total cost over 30 years was calculated based on a $500,000 home loan over 30 years, based on the advertised interest rate, including the total upfront fees (including application, legal, valuation and settlement) and annualised ongoing fees. The winners were ranked by lowest total cost.

Best Premium Home Loan Package – Variable

Criteria & InfoWinnerFinalist 1Finalist 2
BankBank Australia (formerly Bank MECU)Heritage BankBank of Sydney
ProductPackage Premium Home Loan ($400k-$700k)Home Advantage Variable Home Loan ($250k-$700k)Expect More Variable Home Loan Package
Advertised interest rate4.09%3.94%4.02%
Redraw FacilityYesYesYes
100% Offset AccountYesYesYes
Total Upfront Fees (including legal, application, valuation and settlement)$0$0$0
Annualised ongoing fee$350.00$350.00$395.00
Maximum LVR95%95%90%
Total cost over 3 years for a $500,000 loan$879,213.21$878,270.00$873,274.27

Methodology:

The following features were considered to be compulsory for the winners of this category: Redraw facility, maximum LVR of 90% or above, interest-only option, 100% offset account available and part of a package. The total cost over 30 years was calculated based on a $500,000 home loan over 30 years, based on the advertised interest rate, including the total upfront fees (including application, legal, valuation and settlement) and annualised ongoing fees. The winners were ranked by lowest total cost.

Best Fully Featured Credit Card

Criteria & InfoWinnerFinalist 1Finalist 2
BankBank of Melbourne, St George, BankSANABWestpac
ProductAmplify Platinum CardNAB Flybuys Rewards CardWestpac Altitude Black
Annual Fee$99$95$395
Purchase Interest Rate19.49%19.99%20.24%
Cash Advance Rate20.24%21.74%20.74%
Interest Free Days$55$44$45
Foreign Conversion Fee (%)2.50%3%3%
finder Score4.753.82

Note: The winners of this credit card award were included because they hold the same product across the three providers, which makes this product available nationally.

Methodology:

Cards were considered as "fully featured" if they included the following features: complimentary travel insurance, concierge service, product insurance cover, an introductory rate for new purchases, a balance transfer rate under 2% and a rewards program. Five criteria were then used for judging and scored out of 10. The scores out of 10 were then weighted for each of the criteria and added together to reach an overall score, as follows:

    • Annual Fee (first year) – 35%

Cards were awarded a score of 10 if they have no annual fee, and 1-8 if there was a fee, based on dividing the range of fees into eight percentile groups, with a lower score for a higher fee.

    • Purchase interest rate – 30%

Cards were awarded a score of 10 based on dividing the range of values across the products into 10 percentile groups. Those matching the lowest 10% of interest rates would receive 10 points. Those matching the highest 10% would receive 1 point.

    • Foreign currency conversion fee – 15%

Cards were awarded a score of 10 based on dividing the range of values across the products into 10 percentile groups. Those matching the lowest 10% of foreign transaction fees would receive 10 points. Those matching the highest 10% would receive 1 point.

    • Number of interest-free days – 15%

Cards were awarded a score of 10 based on dividing the range of values across the products into ten percentile groups. Those matching the highest 10% of interest-free days would receive 10 points. Those matching the lowest 10% would receive 1 point.

    • Cash advance interest rate – 5%

Cards were awarded a score of 10 based on dividing the range of values across the products into 10 percentile groups. Those matching the lowest 10% of cash advance interest rates would receive 10 points. Those matching the highest 10% would receive 1 point.

Best Credit Card Frequent Flyer Rewards Program

Criteria & InfoWinnerFinalist 2Finalist 1
BankWestpacHSBCMacquarie Bank
ProductAltitude Card - American ExpressPremier World MasterCard - Qantas Frequent FlyerPlatinum Visa Card
Advertised Fee$100$99$99
Advertised Purchase Rate20.24%19.99%20.70%
Advertised Cash Advance Rate20.74%21.99%21.95%
Frequent Flyer Points Per Dollar$2$1$1

Methodology:

Only credit cards which directly earned Qantas Points or Velocity Frequent Flyer points were considered in this category. Four criteria were used for judging, and marked out of 10, based on dividing the range of values across the products into 10 percentile groups. The scores out of 10 were then weighted for each of the criteria and added together to reach an overall mark, as follows:

  • Frequent flyer points per dollar (the number of frequent flyer points earned per dollar spent on everyday purchases, excluding bonus points earned at selected retailers) – 50%. Points capping was excluded from the analysis.
  • Annual fee (first year) – 25%
  • Purchase interest rate – 20%
  • Cash advance interest rate – 5%

Cards which received identical final scores were ranked by highest number of frequent flyer points per dollar, followed by annual fee then purchase interest rate.

Best Savings Account

Criteria & InfoWinnerFinalist 1Finalist 2
BankME BankRAMSUBank
ProductOnline Savings AccountRAMS SaverUSaver with Ultra
Maximum interest rate3.35%3.15%3.12%
Base rate1.55%1.50%2.06%
Promotional periodN/AN/AN/A
Total interest earned$1,120$1,053$1,042

Methodology:

Accounts were ranked based on the amount of interest earned over 12 months, compounded monthly, starting with a $20,000 balance and depositing $2,000 per month. Temporary introductory rates, if applicable, were taken into account in these calculations. Accounts were ranked by highest interest earned.

Best Term Deposit

Best 90 Day Term Deposit

Criteria & InfoWinnerFinalist 1Finalist 2
BankME BankRAMSUBank
ProductOnline Savings AccountRAMS SaverUSaver with Ultra
Maximum interest rate3.35%3.15%3.12%
Base rate1.55%1.50%2.06%
Promotional periodN/AN/AN/A
Total interest earned$1,120$1,053$1,042

Best 24 Month Term Deposit

Criteria & InfoWinnerFinalist 1Finalist 2
BankME BankRAMSUBank
ProductOnline Savings AccountRAMS SaverUSaver with Ultra
Maximum interest rate3.35%3.15%3.12%
Base rate1.55%1.50%2.06%
Promotional periodN/AN/AN/A
Total interest earned$1,120$1,053$1,042

Methodology:

Term deposit accounts were ranked by the highest score, based on nominal interest rates per annum. Interest rates were weighted against interest payment frequency. Products that were payable fortnightly, for instance, were given a higher weighting.

Bank of the year

Criteria & InfoWinnerFinalist 1Finalist 2
BankME BankRAMSUBank
ProductOnline Savings AccountRAMS SaverUSaver with Ultra
Maximum interest rate3.35%3.15%3.12%
Base rate1.55%1.50%2.06%
Promotional periodN/AN/AN/A
Total interest earned$1,120$1,053$1,042

Methodology:

Only banks with a mobile application were considered. Bank of the Year included only nationally available banks (accessible in at least Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane) and online-only banks. This award was based on 11 categories, with scores out of 10 and weighted as follows:

    • Number of home loans (5%)

Points were awarded directly by the number of home loan products available up to a maximum of 10. Banks with more than 10 home loans were awarded 10 points.

    • Number of publicly available credit cards (5%)

Points were awarded based on dividing the range of cards available across the products into 10 percentile groups. Only credit cards available to the general public were considered.

    • Number of transaction accounts (5%)

Points were awarded based on dividing the range of accounts available across the products into 10 percentile groups.

    • Number of savings accounts (5%)

Points were awarded based on dividing the range of savings accounts available across the products into 10 percentile groups.

    • Number of branches (5%)

Any institution with more than 200 branches was awarded 10 points. For institution with less than 200 branches, institutions were awarded one point for every 20 branches.

    • Number of ATMs (5%)

All ATMs that were available fee-free were considered, even if they were part of another institution's network. Banks with over 3,000 ATMs were awarded ten points. Banks with less than 3,000 ATMs were awarded one point for every 300 ATMs.

    • Lowest advertised variable rate home loan rate (15%)

Points were awarded based on dividing the range of lowest available variable rates across the products into 10 percentile groups.

    • Average online savings account – interest earned (15%)

Accounts were rated based on the amount of interest earned over one year with a $20,000 initial deposit and monthly $2,000 deposits, taking into account any introductory rates and periods. Points were awarded based on dividing the range of interest earned across the products into 10 percentile groups.

    • Credit card score (15%)

Points awarded based on the average score across all available cards based on the "Best Fully Features Credit Card" criteria above. Banks with no credit cards available were awarded a score of 0.

    • Transaction account score (10%)

Banks with avoidable monthly account keeping fees (where no transaction accounts were subject to charges were waived with a minimum monthly deposit) were awarded 10 points. For banks that featured accounts with unavoidable monthly account keeping fees, points were awarded based on the fraction of accounts with unavoidable fees to accounts with avoidable fees. For example, a bank with one fee account and three no-fee accounts would receive 7 points. Banks with no transaction accounts were awarded 0 points.

    • Term deposit score (15%)

Term deposit accounts were ranked by the highest score based on nominal interest rates per annum. Interest rates were weighted against interest payment frequency. Products that were payable fortnightly for instance, were given a higher weighting. These weighted scores were averaged across all products available for each bank. Points were awarded based on dividing the range of weighted interest earned across the products into 10 percentile groups.

Regional bank of the year

Criteria & InfoWinnerFinalist 1Finalist 2
BankME BankRAMSUBank
ProductOnline Savings AccountRAMS SaverUSaver with Ultra
Maximum interest rate3.35%3.15%3.12%
Base rate1.55%1.50%2.06%
Promotional periodN/AN/AN/A
Total interest earned$1,120$1,053$1,042

Methodology:

Only banks with a bile application were considered. Regional Banks include those that are only available in certain parts of Australia and not accessible nationally. This award was based on 11 categories, with scores out of 10 and weighted as follows:

    • Number of home loans (5%)

Points were awarded directly by the number of home loan products available up to a maximum of 10. Banks with more than 10 home loans were awarded 10 points.

    • Number of publicly available credit cards (5%)

Points were awarded based on dividing the range of cards available across the products into 10 percentile groups.

    • Number of transaction accounts

Points were awarded based on dividing the range of accounts available across the products into 10 percentile groups.

    • Number of savings accounts (5%)

Points were awarded based on dividing the range of savings accounts available across the products into 10 percentile groups.

    • Number of branches (5%)

Any institution with more than 200 branches was awarded 10 points. For institutions with less than 200j branches, institutions were awarded one point for every 20 branches.

    • Number of ATMs (5%)

All ATMs that were available fee-free were considered, even if they were part of another institution's network. Bank with over 3,000 ATMs were awarded ten points. Banks with less than 3,000 ATMs were awarded one point for every 200 ATMs.

    • Lowest advertised variable rate home loan rate (15%)

Points were awarded based on dividing the range of lowest available variable rates across the products into 10 percentile groups.

    • Average online savings account - interest earned (15%)

Accounts were rated based on the amount of interest earned over one year with a $20,000 initial deposit and monthly $2,000 deposits, taking into account any introductory rates and periods. Points were awarded based on dividing the range of interest earned across the products into 10 percentile groups.

    • Credit card score (15%)

Points awarded based on the average score across all available cards based on the "Best Fully Featured Credit Card" criteria above. Banks with no credit cards available a score of 0.

    • Transaction account score (10%)

Banks with avoidable monthly account keeping fees (where no transaction accounts were subject to charges, or where charges were waived with a minimum monthly deposit) were awarded 10 points. For banks that featured accounts with unavoidable monthly account keeping fees, points were awarded based in the fraction of accounts with unavoidable fees to accounts with avoidable fees. For example, a bank with one fee account and three no-fee accounts would receive 7 points. Banks with no transaction accounts were awarded 0 points.

    • Term deposit score(15%)

Term deposit accounts were ranked by the highest score, based on nominal interest rates per annum. Interest rates were weighted against interest payment frequency. Products that were payable fortnightly for instance, were given a higher weighting. These weighted scores were averaged across all products available for each bank. Points were awarded based on dividing the range of weighted interest earned across the products into 10 percentile groups.

Online Bank of the Year

Criteria & InfoWinnerFinalist 1Finalist 2
BankME BankRAMSUBank
ProductOnline Savings AccountRAMS SaverUSaver with Ultra
Maximum interest rate3.35%3.15%3.12%
Base rate1.55%1.50%2.06%
Promotional periodN/AN/AN/A
Total interest earned$1,120$1,053$1,042

Methodology:

Only banks with a mobile application were considered. Online banks include those without traditional branch access. This award was based on 10 categories, with scores out of 10 and weighted as follows:

    • Number of home loans (5%)

Points were awarded directly by the number of home loan products available up to a maximum of 10. Banks with more than 10 home loans were awarded 10 points.

    • Number of publicly available credit cards (5%)

Points were awarded based on dividing the range of cards available across the products into 10 percentile groups.

    • Number of transaction accounts (5%)

Points were awarded based on dividing the range of accounts available across the products into 10 percentile groups.

    • Number of savings accounts (5%)

Points were awarded based on dividing the range of savings accounts available across the products into 10 percentile groups.

    • Number of ATMs (5%)

All ATMs that were available fee-free were considered, even if they were part of another institution's network. Banks with over 3,000 ATMs were awarded ten points. Banks with less than 3,000 ATMs were awarded one point for every 300 ATMs.

    • Lowest advertised variable rate home loan rate (15%)

Points were awarded based on dividing the range of lowest available variable rate across the products into 10 percentile groups.

    • Credit card score (15%)

Points awarded based on the average score across all available cards based on the "Best Fully Featured Credit Card" criteria above. Banks with no credit cards available were awarded a score of 0.

    • Transaction account score (10%)

Banks with avoidable monthly account keeping fees (where no transaction accounts were subject to charges, or where charges were waived with a minimum monthly deposit) were awarded 10 points. For banks that featured accounts with unavoidable monthly account keeping fees, points were awarded based on the fraction of accounts with unavoidable fees to accounts with avoidable fees. For example, a bank with one fee account and three no-fee accounts would receive 7 points. Banks with no transaction accounts were awarded 0 points.

    • Term deposit score (15%)

Term deposit accounts were ranked by the highest score, based on nominal interest rates per annum. Interest rates were weighted against interest payment frequency. Products that were payable fortnightly, for instance, were given a higher weighting. These weighted scores were averaged across all products available for each bank. Points were awarded based on dividing the range of weighted interest earned across the products into 10 percentile groups.

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