Small lenders join Commbank and NAB in FHLDS Commonwealth bank and National Australia Bank are said to be experiencing very strong demand from potential first home buyers looking for guaranteed small deposit loans through the First home Loan Deposit Scheme. Mortgage industry media outlets are reporting today that many smaller lenders who are participating in the First home Loan Deposit Scheme are now accepting Expressions of Interest. Smaller lenders will officially join the scheme from the 1 February. Half of the ten thousand loans are to be made available through the smaller lenders. Read more about which lenders are part of the FHLDS at InfoChoice. Bank Australia cuts rates – for small deposits Bank Australia has announced big rate cuts across its range of variable and fixed home loans for owner occupiers and investors. Bank Australia now has a Basic Special home loan rate for LVRs up to 90% of 2.95% pa (comparison rate 2.99% pa). Bank Australia’s lowest interest rate for investors is currently 3.25% pa (comparison rate 3.29% pa) on the Basic Invest loan, also with LVRs up to 90%. Check out all of Bank Australia’s current home loan rates at InfoChoice. Bankwest slashes fixed home loan rates across the board Bankwest has announced big rate cuts across its range of fixed home loans for both owner occupiers and investors. Bankwest is cutting rates by up to 1.25 per cent pa with cuts to all fixed terms from 1 year to 5 years. The cuts apply to both owner occupier loans and loans for investors. Bankwest has rates on Principal and Interest loans as well as Interest-Only products. Bankwest’s three-year fixed rate (OO, P&I) has been reduced 0.06 percentage points from 2.99% pa to 2.93% pa (comparison rate 3.84% pa). Check out all of Bankwest’s current home loan rates at InfoChoice. MyState accepting FHLDS loan applications Tasmania’s MyState Bank is now accepting First Home Loan Deposit Scheme home loan applications for pre-approval ahead of the 1 February launch. MyState sells a lot of mortgages through mortgage brokers nationwide. The FHLDS has set aside 5,000 of the 10,000 loans in this financial year to non-major lenders, meaning no Commonwealth Bank or NAB. ANZ and Westpac have not bee chosen by the government to participate in the scheme. CBA and NAB both started accepting FHLDS applications from 1 January. Mortgage Business reports today that MyState is already collecting FHLDS mortgage applications and has seen “extremely strong demand”, according to Tony MacRae from MyState Bank. MyState is offering a 0.05% rate discount on its lowest advertised basic variable home loan rate on LVRs of up to 95% for FHLDS applicants and waiving the establishment fee for eligible customers. Check out MyState’ Bank’s current home loan rates at InfoChoice. How do I get free airport lounge access? The number one way to get access to airport lounges in Sydney and Melbourne international airports, or Qantas and Virgin Australia lounges in the world’s big international airports is to find a credit card that offers lounge access. For example, the American Express Velocity Escape credit card is linked to Virgin Velocity Frequent Flyer program with access to airport lounges included. (Ts & Cs). Other benefits are also available. For rates and fees on the American Express Velocity Escape credit card see InfoChoice. Read more about credit cards offering airport lounge access at InfoChoice. FHLDS application advice tip: Get it right First Home Loan Deposit Scheme applicants are applying for a mortgage partly guaranteed by the government. According to Tony McRae, senior executive at MyState Bank, applicants need to take the time to get their applications complete before tendering the documents. “Getting the application right is critical,” said Mr McRae in Mortgage Broker. Mr McRae pointed to failure to submit supporting documentation as a key error for applications and said incomplete applications “can result in customers missing out on their place, which is not a good outcome for either party.” Gateway Bank now accepting FHLDS applications Gateway Bank is also now accepting EOI from loan applicants interested in applying for a First Home Loan Deposit Scheme loan from the 1 February. Ryan Holman from Gateway told Mortgage Business today that homebuyers might be more likely to get a loan approved by choosing a smaller lender. “With 5,000 places available to non-major lenders and only 2,000 more places available for the major banks, [CBA and NAB], customers may be more likely to get a scheme place by choosing a non-major lender.” Holman said people who have already been pre-approved for a FHLDS loan from Commonwealth or NAB can transfer their place in the scheme to a more competitive lender. “The date the pre-approval ends will not reset,” said Mr Holman. Are shops allowed to refuse $50 and $100 notes? Yes, technically, the law says shops or anyone else buying or selling anything can choose how to accept the payment, in notes and coins or by direct debit, Eftpos card or Visa or Mastercard or American Express. Yes, shops in Australia are allowed to say they don’t accept payment in $50 notes or they have no change. And yes, a shop is allowed to decline to sell you something if all you have is a $100 note. Read more about Australia’s $50 banknote and paying with cash in Australia at InfoChoice. Are shops allowed to charge for card payments? Yes, shops, retailers, online and other merchants are allowed to charge fees for accepting card payments like Eftpos, Visa and Mastercard credit and debit card payments in Australia. But they are not allowed to make a profit from accepting card payments, or any other kind of payment, like cash. So, card surcharges and fees that are added to your bill are only supposed to cover the costs borne by the shop, like bank fees and the cost of the terminal. You can read more about the fees you are being charged for shopping with your card at InfoChoice. Are shops allowed to refuse cash? Yes, shops in Australia can refuse to accept cash. It is rare, but increasing in Australia, to come across physical shops that do not accept cash payments. Shops and other buyers and sellers of goods and services in Australia are allowed to agree between themselves how they will pay. The Reserve Bank of Australia has responsibility for legal tender (notes and coins) in Australia. The Reserve Bank says: “Australian banknotes and coins do not necessarily have to be used in transactions” (so cards and direct debit is OK). The RBA also says: “Refusal to accept payment in legal tender banknotes and coins is not unlawful.” ‘Not unlawful’ is the RBA’s way of saying fine, go for it.