Why the comparison rate isn’t a good comparison anymore

Adam Smith 10 July 2017

Two house icons

The comparison rate is a handy tool, but counting on it could see you paying too much.

When you’re comparing home loans, the headline interest rate only tells part of the story. While a low interest rate can help you save serious money on your loan, a low-rate loan with hefty fees can eat up these savings in the long run.

This is where a comparison rate comes in. A comparison rate takes into account a home loan’s headline interest rate as well as the accompanying fees and expresses these as a single annual percentage. This is a much better tool for determining the true cost of a home loan.

There’s one major problem with comparison rates, though. The way they’re calculated is light-years away from what you’re likely to experience with your home loan.

In 2003, the Australian government made it mandatory for lenders to display comparison rates in their advertising. The idea was that displaying a uniformly calculated comparison rate would help consumers suss out the cost of the various loan products in the market.

A lot has changed since 2003.

As per the government’s guidelines, advertised comparison rates are all calculated on the same loan amount and term. The problem with this is that house prices have skyrocketed since 2003. Meanwhile, the way advertised comparison rates are calculated hasn’t changed.

Advertised comparison rates are based on a $150,000 loan over a 25-year term. With the median capital-city dwelling price now above $630,000, it’s highly unlikely your home loan is going to fit these criteria.

As we’ll find out below, changing the terms of a loan can have a significant impact on the loan’s comparison rate. Let’s look at three comparison rates, all pulled from advertising by real lenders.

Advertised comparison rates

  • Lender A Comparison Rate: 3.72%
  • Lender B Comparison Rate: 3.74%
  • Lender C Comparison Rate: 3.81%

We visited each lender’s website to find out how this comparison rate would change under more realistic borrowing circumstances. Fortunately, by law, lenders must provide you a document known as a Key Facts Sheet when you’re applying for a home loan. This document will give you the comparison rate for your specific borrowing amount and loan term. We entered our own info to generate Key Facts Sheets for each of the lenders.

To get a better picture of how different factors can influence a comparison rate, we generated Key Facts Sheets based upon the median Sydney dwelling value of $880,000 and a 10% deposit, leaving a loan amount of $792,000.

When we entered this information on each lender’s website, the results were surprising.

Actual comparison rates

  • Lender A Comparison Rate: 3.79%
  • Lender B Comparison Rate: 3.74%
  • Lender C Comparison Rate: 3.78%

After entering these figures for each lender, we found the lender with the cheapest advertised comparison rate actually became the most expensive. Meanwhile, the lender with the most expensive advertised comparison rate actually became cheaper under these criteria.

While the difference in the comparison rates above might seem insignificant, this small change can add up over the life of your loan. Over the course of a 30-year loan term, the total amount you would pay for Lender A’s product would be $1,328,418.80. The total amount for Lender B would be $1,318,818, and the total amount for Lender C would be $1,324,861.40.

The loan with the most expensive advertised comparison rate ends up being $3,557.40 less expensive than the loan with the least expensive advertised comparison rate. Meanwhile, the loan in between the two ends up a whopping $9,600.80 less expensive.

The reasons for this can vary. Some home loans incentivise higher borrowing amounts with lower interest rates. Others might incentivise lower loan-to-value ratios and charge higher rates to borrowers with a smaller deposit. A longer loan term can also add to the total amount of interest you pay.

With this in mind, it pays to generate your own Key Facts Sheet for your expected borrowing amount with lenders you’re considering. The advertised comparison rate can be a helpful tool when you’re considering home loans, but if you don’t take the time to dig a bit deeper, you could end up paying thousands more.

Ready to compare home loan rates? Check out today's rates in the table below

Rates last updated November 22nd, 2017
$
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%
4.86%
$0
$395 p.a.
90%
A special rate for first home buyers buying residential property and borrowing over $150K. 350K NAB Rewards Points offer available. Terms and conditions apply.
3.65%
3.66%
$0
$0 p.a.
90%
Enjoy a low variable rate with no ongoing fees and borrow up to 90% of the value of the property.
3.64%
3.66%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
A basic home loan with a competitive rate and low fees.
3.49%
4.47%
$0
$375 p.a.
90%
Discount off an already competitive interest rate for loans over $150k. NSW, QLD and ACT residents only.
3.54%
3.56%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Exclusive Offer to finder.com.au

This loan is exclusively available on finder up to and including 22 November (enquiries must be submitted by that date). This loan is for refinancers only. A basic but flexible low-rate loan for refinancers looking to save on repayments.

3.58%
3.59%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
A competitive variable rate product with low fees offered by a 100% online lender.
3.58%
3.58%
$0
$0 p.a.
70%
A low interest rate home loan with no application or ongoing fees.
3.64%
3.66%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
A home loan with a competitive variable rate, limited fees and plenty of flexibility.
4.14%
4.14%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
An investment home loan with competitive rate and 100% offset account.
4.64%
4.01%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Enjoy a fast application process and flexible repayment options with this fixed rate investment loan.
3.44%
3.45%
$440
$0 p.a.
80%
This variable loan has a sharp rate, low fees, flexible repayment options and an offset account. This loan is available for PAYG borrowers only.
3.64%
3.64%
$0
$0 p.a.
70%
A low-rate basic home loan requiring a 30% deposit.
3.64%
3.64%
$0
$0 p.a.
70%
A basic variable home loan that offers a competitive interest rate with no application fees and no ongoing fees.
3.54%
3.56%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
For new home buyers only. No refinance option. A low interest variable home loan with no application fee and free redraws. Offer ends 30th Nov.
3.69%
3.72%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
A low rate home loan with no ongoing fees.
3.69%
4.01%
$0
$299 p.a.
95%
A loan with no application fee and borrow up to 95% LVR.
3.69%
3.69%
$0
$0 p.a.
90%
A special limited time offer for owner occupiers. An IMB Transaction Account must be opened with this loan.
4.19%
4.22%
$0
$0 p.a.
90%
Access a fee-free offset account and a special interest rate for investors.
4.79%
5.44%
$0
$395 p.a.
95%
Package your 4-year fixed rate investment loan and pay no application fees.
3.99%
4.62%
$395
$0 p.a.
80%
Fix your interest rate and pay principal and interest repayments on your investment.
3.62%
3.64%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Exclusive Offer to finder.com.au

This loan is exclusively available on finder up to and including 22 November (enquiries must be submitted by that date). This loan is for refinancers only. Switch from your current loan to this low-rate, flexible and feature-packed refinance special.

3.99%
4.00%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
A low-fee variable rate investor loan with a fast online application process.
3.78%
3.79%
$0
$0 p.a.
95%
A no frills loan with a competitive rate and a maximum LVR of 95%.
3.74%
3.74%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
A basic owner-occupier home loan with a low variable rate that requires a 20% deposit.
3.64%
4.03%
$0
$395 p.a.
80%
Apply for a new owner occupier loan or refinance from another lender and receive this discounted rate.
3.65%
4.84%
$0
$395 p.a.
90%
A 2 years fixed platinum package that has $0 application and a loan redraw facility.
3.74%
3.74%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Combine a low variable interest rate and free redraw with no application or ongoing fees.
3.79%
4.11%
$0
$299 p.a.
80%
A fully featured home loan with an offset account and discounts available.
3.77%
3.81%
$200
$0 p.a.
95%
A basic home loan with a low interest rate and a redraw facility available.
3.68%
3.83%
$0
$10 monthly ($120 p.a.)
80%
A low interest rate home loan that allows borrowers to borrow up to 80% of the property value.
3.72%
3.74%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Take advantage of a 100% offset account along with no annual or application fees.
3.81%
3.81%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
A home loan with a competitive rate and plenty of handy features.
3.64%
3.78%
$0
$10 monthly ($120 p.a.)
80%
A competitive variable rate home loan with flexible features. You can earn 30,000 Velocity Points for every $100k you borrow (for a limited time, subject to eligibility requirements).
3.88%
3.81%
$0
$0 p.a.
95%
A competitive 3-year fixed rate loan with a high max insured LVR.
3.72%
3.75%
$600
$0 p.a.
80%
A maximum 80% LVR home loan with no ongoing service fees and a linked transaction account.
3.94%
4.88%
$0
$0 p.a.
90%
Enjoy a low interest rate and borrow up to 90% (with LMI) of your property's value.
3.79%
4.00%
$0
$10 monthly ($120 p.a.)
90%
Get a competitive interest rate for 3 years and a discounted variable rate when the fixed period ends.
3.69%
4.15%
$395
$0 p.a.
80%
A one year fixed rate offer with no ongoing bank fees.
3.84%
3.84%
$0
$0 p.a.
110%
Requires a family member to act as guarantor. Discounted rate available with family pledge loans. Family pledge loans require no LMI and no deposit. NSW, Qld and ACT only.
3.97%
4.02%
$445
$0 p.a.
90%
Get a competitive rate without features you may not use.
3.99%
4.02%
$600
$0 p.a.
90%
Take advantage of a 0.60% discount on your rate, a 100% offset account and no ongoing fees.
3.74%
3.74%
$0
$0 p.a.
90%
A competitive variable rate with a redraw facility. NSW, QLD and ACT residents only.
4.09%
4.11%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
A low variable rate loan with no application or ongoing fees.
3.69%
4.00%
$0
$350 p.a.
95%
Fix your rate for 3 years and borrow up to 95% LVR.
3.85%
4.18%
$500
$0 p.a.
95%
Apply for Easy Street fixed rate home loans and get a competitive loan with a fixed interest rate.
3.69%
3.75%
$600
$0 p.a.
80%
A low interest rate variable home loan with no ongoing fees.
3.96%
3.98%
$0
$0 p.a.
90%
Take advantage of a redraw facility, competitive variable rate and no application or settlement fees for a limited time.
3.72%
4.19%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Enjoy a variable 3 year introductory rate with the Bankwest Equaliser Home Loan.
3.97%
4.02%
$0
$0 p.a.
90%
A low rate variable home loan offer with no monthly fees or application fee charge.
3.84%
4.83%
$0
$0 p.a.
95%
Get a competitive 2-year fixed rate with no application or ongoing fees.
3.88%
4.89%
$0
$395 p.a.
95%
A fixed rate package with flexible repayment options. 350K NAB Rewards Points offer available. Terms and conditions apply.
4.09%
4.12%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Access the equity in your home with a competitive interest-only rate and no application fee.
3.69%
4.45%
$0
$375 p.a.
90%
Discount off an already competitive 2 year fixed rate for loans over $150k. NSW,QLD and ACT residents only.
3.97%
3.97%
$0
$0 p.a.
90%
A competitive variable rate home loan with no ongoing fees.
3.73%
3.73%
$0
$0 p.a.
70%
A special low variable rate for owner occupiers with 100% offset account and no application or ongoing fees.
$0
$0 p.a.
A basic low-rate home loan that still offers some useful features.
3.74%
3.74%
$0
$0 p.a.
95%
A low rate home loan with no application or ongoing fees. Note that to be eligible for this loan you must be QLD resident.
4.19%
4.19%
$0
$0 p.a.
90%
Access to redraw facility and offset account without the annual fee.
3.69%
3.69%
$0
$0 p.a.
70%
Enjoy a low variable rate with no application and ongoing fees.
3.79%
3.80%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
A competitive rate with no ongoing monthly fees or application fees.
3.99%
4.03%
$0
$0 p.a.
95%
Enjoy a basic home loan with a high LVR and no application or ongoing fees.
3.85%
4.95%
$0
$395 p.a.
95%
A discounted package rate for owner occupiers with the ability to package a Qantas rewards earning Amplify credit card. $1,500 cashback available for refinancers. Conditions apply.
3.99%
4.99%
$0
$395 p.a.
95%
A package home loan with fee free extra repayments available during the fixed term.
4.39%
5.42%
$300
$10 monthly ($120 p.a.)
95%
Lock in a competitive fixed rate for 3 years.
3.69%
4.03%
$0
$299 p.a.
80%
Enjoy a low variable rate with no application fee.
3.75%
4.44%
$0
$0 p.a.
95%
This competitive introductory rate is a limited time offer for new owner-occupiers
3.68%
3.69%
$600
$0 p.a.
90%
Get a low variable rate along with some important basic features.

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