Why did my home loan interest rate change?

Banks can change their rates for a variety of reasons, and the Reserve Bank's cash rate decision is just one of them.

The Reserve Bank has remained on the sidelines since May of last year, with the cash rate remaining at 2%. In spite of this long period of inactivity, home loan rates have been anything but static. Any big rate moves by lenders grab a lot of media attention, but little time is invested in explaining why lenders might move on home loan rates. Below are a few of the reasons you might find your home loan interest rate changing.

The Reserve Bank cash rateWhy did my home loan interest rate change

The RBA makes headlines every time it holds its monthly cash rate meeting, but what exactly is the cash rate and how does it impact the rates banks charge you? The cash rate is the rate the RBA charges banks for overnight loans. When deciding to move on the cash rate, the RBA takes several factors into account, such as employment, inflation, gross domestic product, consumer spending and confidence and the performance of the housing market. The Reserve Bank moves the cash rate to try to balance out growth and inflation.

Slowing inflation

One of the Reserve Bank’s primary objectives is to keep inflation low, ensuring that the prices of consumer goods don’t rise too quickly and erode consumers’ buying power. The RBA has a 2-3% target band for inflation. It gauges this by watching the Consumer Price Index (CPI). This monthly measure shows the cost of a selection, or basket, of common consumer goods and services. By seeing how much this index increases each month, the RBA can keep an eye on inflation. If it finds inflation is rising above its 2-3% target band, the bank may raise the official cash rate to slow consumer spending, thus slowing price growth.

Promoting growth

If the RBA wants to create economic growth, they might choose to cut the official cash rate. The intention behind this is to make money less expensive to borrow and outstanding loans less expensive to pay off, thus encouraging consumers to spend. The Reserve Bank also pays attention to the unemployment rate in making its decisions. A higher unemployment rate could be a sign of a lack of business confidence and investment. This could lead the bank to cut the official cash rate in order to provide a boost to business confidence and, in turn, encourage hiring.

The RBA's historic cash rate moves

Funding costs

Money house loanThe money banks lend you has to come from somewhere, of course. For most lenders, the source of this money is a mix of deposits and what’s known as wholesale debt. Wholesale debt is money the bank borrows at a lower rate and then lends on to borrowers. An example of wholesale debt is a residential mortgage backed security (RMBS). This is a pool of mortgages owned by the bank that it sells as a bond to investors. The bank secures funds this way to make new loans to consumers, but it also incurs debt because it has to pay investors back based on the performance of these mortgages.

A variety of factors influence the amount banks pay for wholesale debt. While the cost the RBA charges banks for overnight loans factors into a bank’s overall funding costs, it’s far from the only influence. Overseas bond markets, investor risk appetite and competition for funding sources all have a huge impact on the cost of funds for Australian banks.

Regulatory change

One of the biggest factors affecting the cost of funds for banks is regulatory change. In Australia, banks are regulated by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA). APRA sets capital requirements for banks, which means it determines the ratio of money a bank has to hold in reserve for every dollar it loans out. After the global financial crisis, APRA followed other global banking regulators in raising capital requirements for banks.

You may have heard of Basel III in relation to banking regulation. Basel III is a set of global reform measures instituted after the GFC to make sure banks have enough capital in reserve to pay back their depositors in case of an economic downturn. This means that from 2019, banks will have to hold more money relative to the amount they lend, which makes the cost of lending money rise. This, in turn, can make your home loan rate go up as banks try to meet new capital requirements.

Not all lenders are regulated by APRA, though. APRA only oversees what are known as Authorised Deposit-taking Institutions (ADIs). This includes banks, mutual banks, credit unions and building societies. While this captures many of the lenders in the market, there are a number of non-bank lenders that don’t fall under this umbrella. Because they don’t take deposits, that means these lenders assume all the risk for their home loans. As such, they don’t have to meet capital requirements. This often means these lenders can offer a sharper rate than their ADI competitors. This doesn’t always mean, though, that non-bank lenders are totally immune to regulatory change. While they may not be directly impacted by higher capital requirements, many non-bank lenders source at least some of their funding from banks. This creates the possibility that regulatory changes impacting banks can have a flow-on effect for non-banks.

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FAST FACT:

The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) regulates Authorised Deposit-taking Institutions (ADIs). This means banks, mutuals, credit unions and building societies. Non-bank lenders are not regulated by APRA.
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Shareholder pressures

In weighing up the decision to move on rates, banks often try to balance the desires of their customers with the desires of their shareholders. While bank profitability tends to make headlines, the number banks really pay attention to is their Return on Equity (ROE). A bank’s ROE is the amount of net income a bank generates as a percentage of its shareholders’ investment. Cutting rates on home loans will often reduce a bank’s ROE, while raising rates will increase it. In answering to its shareholders, a bank wants to deliver the highest ROE possible without also alienating borrowers. It’s this balancing act that can see a bank move on rates outside of the RBA.

Home loan appetite

Banks might not come out and say it, but their appetite for growth can play a huge role in the competitiveness of their rate offering. In setting their home loan strategy, banks make a decision about how fast they want to grow their total portfolio of home loans.

You may have heard banks in their financial results referring to growing at, above or below system growth. System growth is the average growth of the home loan market across all lenders. If a bank decides it wants to grow above system, it means it has a higher appetite for home loans. To achieve this, it might cut its interest rates independent of the RBA in order to create more home loan demand. If it decides it wants to slow down its growth, it might not be as concerned with bringing a competitive offering to the market. It might even choose to raise rates in order to blunt home loan demand.

What to do about it

Out-of-cycle rate moves can cut both ways. Banks can lower rates outside of the RBA in order to generate more demand for their products, but they can also raise them if their funding costs go up or if they want to generate a higher ROE. But this doesn’t mean you have to be at the mercy of out-of-cycle rate hikes.home loan calculator

When your bank moves on rates, it’s a great time to check into getting a better deal through another lender. As we mentioned above, non-bank lenders are often able to offer sharper rates because they don’t face the same capital requirements and regulatory changes. Likewise, a move by one bank might not signal a move by all other banks.

Banks can face different funding and profitability pressures, and an out-of-cycle rate hike by one lender can present an opportunity for other banks - and for you - for more competitive deals.

Compare the latest home loan rates

Rates last updated May 23rd, 2018
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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.
3.54%
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.
3.64%
3.84%
$0
$0 p.a.
70%
Enjoy all the benefits of the Basic Home Loan and take advantage of an offset account.
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%
3.71%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
A low rate variable home loan offer with no monthly fees or application fee charge.
3.96%
3.98%
$350
$0 p.a.
90%
For a limited time, pay no application or settlement fees. You can also take advantage of a free redraw facility.
3.70%
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.
3.52%
3.53%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Go from application to approval in as little as 20 minutes with a variable rate loan from this innovative online lender. Add a 100% offset account for $10 a month.
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).
3.69%
4.06%
$0
$349 p.a.
90%
Package your loan with other AMP products and save on rates and fees.
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.
3.77%
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%
3.73%
$600
$0 p.a.
95%
Variable rate home loan from one of the big 4 banks. Available with just a 5% deposit.
3.58%
3.58%
$0
$0 p.a.
70%
A low interest rate home loan with no application or ongoing fees.
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.
3.87%
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.
3.69%
3.74%
$600
$0 p.a.
80%
A competitive variable rate for borrowers with a 20% deposit or more. Guarantor option available.
3.69%
4.04%
$0
$350 p.a.
95%
A competitive rate with no application fee.
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.
3.65%
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%
3.94%
$0
$248 p.a.
70%
Get a sharp rate and a 100% offset account. Borrowers must have a 30% deposit.
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).
3.73%
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.
3.79%
3.83%
$600
$0 p.a.
80%
A low interest rate loan with limited fees and a redraw facility. Principal and interest repayments only.
3.74%
3.74%
$0
$0 p.a.
110%
Pay no deposit or LMI and get a discounted rate with this family pledge loan. Requires a family member to act as guarantor. NSW, Qld and ACT only.
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.
3.89%
3.89%
$0
$0 p.a.
70%
Investors with a 30% deposit can get this low rate property investment loan.
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.
3.99%
5.17%
$600
$0 p.a.
90%
Competitive rates for fixed for 3 years with redraw facility.
3.74%
3.74%
$0
$0 p.a.
90%
New customers can get a discounted variable rate and a fee-free redraw facility. NSW, QLD and ACT residents only.
4.09%
4.12%
$0
$0 p.a.
95%
Buy a home with just a 5% deposit and get flexible repayment options and a redraw facility.
3.59%
4.14%
$395
$0 p.a.
80%
A one year fixed rate offer with no ongoing bank fees.
4.14%
4.14%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Investors pay no application or ongoing fees on this loan from an innovative online lender.
3.74%
4.01%
$395
$0 p.a.
80%
A competitive 3 year fixed rate with no ongoing bank fees.
3.88%
4.89%
$0
$395 p.a.
95%
Low deposit home loan. Enjoy flexible repayment options while paying limited fees.
3.99%
4.62%
$395
$0 p.a.
80%
Investors can enjoy flexible repayments and an easy application process with this pioneering online lender.
3.99%
4.86%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Access a fee-free 100% offset account and pay no application or ongoing 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.
3.64%
3.64%
$0
$0 p.a.
70%
Get a discount for keeping your LVR at 70% or below with this innovative online lender.
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.
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.
3.99%
3.99%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Get a discounted, low-fee investor loan from a convenient online lender. 20% deposit required. Refinance to a UBank loan and you could get $1,000 in your USaver account (offer conditions apply).
3.69%
4.47%
$0
$395 p.a.
90%
A fixed rate loan with a 100% offset account and the option to make additional repayments. Loans over $150k receive a discounted rate. NSW, QLD and ACT residents only.
3.85%
4.82%
$600
$35 monthly ($420 p.a.)
90%
Make up to $10,000 in extra repayments per year and take advantage of a flexible repayment schedule.
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.
3.99%
4.03%
$0
$0 p.a.
95%
Buy a home with just a 5% deposit and pay no application or ongoing fees.
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.
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.
4.09%
3.79%
$0
$0 p.a.
70%
A competitive 3-year fixed rate loan with a high max insured LVR.
3.64%
3.65%
$0
$0 p.a.
95%
Family pledge option available. Get a special discount off Bank of Melbourne's basic variable rate.

Compare up to 4 providers

Adam Smith

Adam has more than five years of experience writing about the Australian home loan market.

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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).

Greater Bank Ultimate Home Loan - Discounted 1 Year Fixed LVR ≤90% ($150K+ Owner Occupier)

Loans over $150k get a discount off an already low fixed rate. Available for NSW, Qld and ACT residents only.

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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