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 February 18th, 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%
3.60%
$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.
3.52%
3.54%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
A basic home loan with a competitive rate and low fees.
3.49%
4.49%
$0
$375 p.a.
90%
Discount off an already competitive interest rate for loans over $150k. NSW, QLD and ACT residents only.
3.58%
3.59%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
A competitive variable rate product with no application or valuation fees offered by a 100% online lender.
3.54%
3.58%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
A variable rate home loan with competitive rate, redraw facility and offset account.
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.
3.74%
3.74%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Pay no application fee or ongoing fees with this loan.
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.
3.64%
3.67%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
A low rate home loan with no ongoing fees.
3.99%
4.00%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
A low-fee variable rate investor loan with a fast online application process.
3.65%
3.66%
$0
$0 p.a.
90%
A competitive variable rate home loan with no application fee.
3.77%
3.81%
$200
$0 p.a.
95%
A basic home loan with a low interest rate and a redraw facility available.
3.69%
3.69%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Enjoy a low variable interest rate and no application or ongoing fees.
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.
3.74%
3.75%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
A special variable rate home loan with no application or ongoing fees.
3.62%
3.62%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
A discounted, competitive variable rate loan with limited fees.
3.74%
3.74%
$0
$0 p.a.
95%
A low rate home loan with no application or ongoing fees. Free home & contents insurance for 1 year. T&Cs apply. Note that to be eligible for this loan you must be QLD resident.
3.64%
3.67%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
A home loan with a competitive variable rate, limited fees and plenty of flexibility.
3.74%
3.74%
$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.
3.64%
4.03%
$0
$395 p.a.
80%
Apply for a new owner occupier loan or refinance from another lender and receive this discounted rate.
3.78%
3.78%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
A basic low-rate home loan that still offers some useful features.
3.72%
4.19%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Enjoy a variable rate with the Bankwest Equaliser Home Loan.
4.11%
4.01%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Enjoy a fast application process and flexible repayment options with this fixed rate investment loan.
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%
4.12%
$0
$0 p.a.
95%
This loan has a high max insured LVR, making it an option for low deposit borrowers.
3.99%
4.62%
$395
$0 p.a.
80%
Fix your interest rate and pay principal and interest repayments on your investment.
4.14%
4.14%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
An investment home loan with competitive rate and 100% offset account.
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.
3.65%
4.84%
$0
$395 p.a.
90%
A 2 years fixed platinum package that has $0 application and a loan redraw facility.
3.88%
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%
4.11%
$0
$0 p.a.
90%
Access a fee-free offset account and a special interest rate for investors.
3.89%
4.87%
$0
$0 p.a.
90%
Enjoy a low interest rate and borrow up to 90% (with LMI) of your property's value.
3.96%
3.98%
$350
$0 p.a.
90%
Take advantage of a redraw facility, competitive variable rate and no application or settlement fees for a limited time.
3.97%
4.02%
$445
$0 p.a.
90%
Get a competitive rate without features you may not use.
3.84%
4.83%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Get a competitive 2-year fixed rate with no application or ongoing fees.
3.97%
3.97%
$0
$0 p.a.
90%
A competitive variable rate home loan with no ongoing fees.
3.64%
3.64%
$0
$0 p.a.
70%
A low-rate basic home loan requiring a 30% deposit.
3.69%
4.00%
$0
$350 p.a.
95%
Fix your rate for 3 years and borrow up to 95% LVR.
3.94%
3.97%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
Access the equity in your home with a competitive interest-only rate and no application fee.
4.09%
4.11%
$0
$0 p.a.
80%
A low variable rate loan with no application or ongoing fees.
4.19%
4.19%
$0
$0 p.a.
90%
Access to redraw facility and offset account without the annual fee.
3.69%
4.47%
$0
$375 p.a.
90%
Discount off an already competitive 2 year fixed rate for loans over $150k. NSW,QLD and ACT residents only.
3.58%
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.
95%
A no frills loan with a competitive rate and a maximum LVR of 95%.
3.88%
3.81%
$0
$0 p.a.
95%
A competitive 3-year fixed rate loan with a high max insured LVR.
3.85%
4.82%
$600
$35 monthly ($420 p.a.)
90%
Low fixed rate offer from HSBC. Reverts to a discounted variable rate after the initial term.
3.64%
3.65%
$500
$0 p.a.
95%
A basic home loan with a promotional variable interest rate.
3.88%
4.88%
$0
$395 p.a.
95%
Refinance from your existing loan and get a $1,250 rebate. Lock in a discounted fixed rate with a low service fee.
3.69%
3.71%
$0
$0 p.a.
90%
A low rate variable home loan offer with no monthly fees or application fee charge.
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).
3.69%
3.69%
$0
$398 p.a.
70%
Enjoy a low variable rate with no application and ongoing fees.
3.87%
3.87%
$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.
3.79%
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.
3.59%
4.42%
$600
$0 p.a.
95%
This competitive introductory rate is a limited time offer for new owner-occupiers
3.68%
3.69%
$0
$0 p.a.
90%
Get a low variable rate along with some important basic features.

Compare up to 4 providers

Latest home loans headlines

Image: Shutterstock

Get more from finder

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on finder.com.au:

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • finder.com.au is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder only provides general advice and factual information, so consider your own circumstances, read the PDS or seek advice before you decide to act on our content. By submitting a question, you're accepting our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.
Ask a question