Opal card loophole costs NSW govt millions A common Opal card legal ‘scam’ is costing the NSW government millions each year as commuters rack up negative balances. The loophole in the system that allows commuters to touch on with less than the minimum fare required for their trip, tap off with a negative balance and discard their free card, cost the New South Wales government $2.9 million last year. That is down from $3.8 million the previous year and $2.6 million two years ago. What is the maximum Opal card negative balance? A free Opal card can reportedly have a maximum negative balance of $20. Sydney train commuters using unregistered Opal cards are discarding them with negative balances and costing the government millions of dollars. Meanwhile, Channel 7 revealed recently that $80 million remained unused on inactive Opal cards. Transport NSW has partially closed the negative balance loophole over the last year through new conditions. In January Sydney Domestic and International Train station systems changed to prevent customers with high negative balances exiting the station. That followed a previous increase in the minimum top-up value for new cards at the Sydney Airport stations. Which bank is best for first home buyers? The federal government’s first home deposit scheme kicks off soon and first home buyers are reportedly heading back to the market. But how do you find a first home loan that’s right for you? There are 1800 home loan products in Australia listed on InfoChoice. Most lenders and banks don’t have home loans aimed specifically at first–time buyers and you don’t necessarily have to look for one as it’s the individual features of the loans you need to look at. Focus on low rates and low fees. Read more about which bank is best for First Home Buyers at InfoChoice. Three top First Home Buyer loans in December 2019 While it’s impossible to say which lender has “the best” first homebuyer loans, the following three products have competitive rates, fees, offers and are available for first home buyers right now. FreedomLend has an owner occupier home loan charging just 2.79 per cent pa (comparison rate) with no fees and up to 80% LVR (P&I). This loan also has offset and redraw. Suncorp’s Special Offer Back to Basics Owner Occupied $150K 90% LVR P&I home loan has a comparison rate of 3.04 per cent pa and redraw but no linked offset account. The UBank UHome Loan fixed for 3 years mortgage has an interest rate of 2.69 per cent p.a. (comparison rate 3.19 per cent p.a.), as well as flexible repayments and a redraw facility. There are no application or maintenance fees, but you will need a minimum of 20 per cent as a deposit. Compare 1800 home loan products in Australia listed on InfoChoice. Australian economy at gentle turning point The Reserve Bank of Australia left the Official Cash Rate (OCR) unchanged at 0.75 per cent yesterday, Tuesday 3 December. Rates futures markets had priced in just a 9 per cent expectation of a cut in December. The governor of the RBA, Dr Philip Lowe said: “The Australian economy appears to have reached a gentle turning point,” said Dr Lowe. “The central scenario is for growth to pick up gradually to around 3 per cent in 2021. Read more about the outlook for interest rates in Australia at InfoChoice. Best fixed-rate home loan in December 2019 Right now, lenders are competing hard for business in a crowded mortgage market. The best loan is the loan that fits your individual needs. A low rate and low fees are the essentials of a good value cheap home loan. “There are 28 home loans with advertised five-year rates under 3% pa listed on InfoChoice,” said Vadim Taube, CEO of leading Australian financial comparison site InfoChoice.com.au. “A standout deal in the fixed rate market is UBank’s 2.69% pa (comparison rate 3.19% pa) fixed for three years,” said Vadim Taube. Virgin Money’s Reward Me Home Loan for owner occupiers is promoting a special offer of 100,000 bonus VFF points per $100,000 borrowed. Suncorp have a special offer of $2,000 cash back (terms and conditions apply) on a 3-year fixed rate Package Plus loan. The best loan is the loan that fits your individual needs. InfoChoice lists over 1800 home loans from 145 institutions. Top Low rate personal loans in December 2019 Some of the most attractive personal loans out there right now, in December 2019, include: The Harmoney Unsecured Personal Loan offering loans between $2,000 and $35,000 at rates starting from 6.99 per cent (comparison rate is 7.69 per cent) up to a maximum of 29.99 per cent. The Moneyplace Unsecured Personal Loan for excellent credit for consolidating debts. It offers amounts between $5,000 and $45,000 at rates starting from 7.65 per cent comparison rate, up to 10.49 per cent. The Ratesetter car loan starts from 4.69 per cent pa (comparison rate 6.03 per cent pa). RateSetter’s unsecured personal loan rates start from 6.89 per cent pa (comparison rate 8.89 per cent pa). Read more about the top personal loans in December 2019 at InfoChoice. NAB will offer First Home Loan Deposit Scheme guarantees The National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation (NHFIC) announced that National Australia Bank (NAB) is the first participant on an initial panel of lenders able to offer guarantees under the Morrison government’s First Home Loan Deposit Scheme. The scheme commences 1 January 2020. The NHFIC will announce one other “major lender” and a range of “non-major lenders” that will be able to offer deposit guarantees to participants in the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme. NAB will not charge eligible customers higher rates than other borrowers and is ready to offer guarantees from 1 January 2020. When the Scheme commences, applications can be lodged through the lender or broker. More First Home Loan Deposit Scheme details revealed The National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation (NHFIC) says the government’s First Home Loan Deposit Scheme (FHLDS) will definitely commence on 1 January 2020. The NHFIC revealed that a variety of lenders intend to offer FHLDS guarantee loan pricing “in line with or better than” other first home buyer loans currently offered. NHFIC said competitiveness of interest rates and fees is a key criterion for selection as a lender in the Scheme. NHFIC has launched an online tool to assist prospective first home buyers to determine what their relevant property price threshold will be. Read more about price and income caps for the FHLDS. Former Bananacoast Credit Union boss faces criminal charges The former CEO of NSW north coast based Bananacoast Community Credit Union, Lyndon Kingston, is facing criminal charges over for dishonest use of his position and making false documents between December 2015 and August 2017. In court last year, BCU alleged Kingston repeatedly evaded APRA inquiries about commission payments. Kingston sued BCU for breach of contract, reported BankingDay.com. BCU has merged with Perth-based P&N Bank. OpenPay announces IPO price Buy now Pay later startup Openpay has announced its Initial Public Offering of 31.2 million shares at $1.60 making a market capitalization of $150 million. Openpay was established in 2013 and allows consumers to split payments for in-store and online purchases into a series of payments, interest free between $50 and $20,000 over two to 24 months. Openpay says it offers larger payment plan sizes and longer repayment terms, more flexibility around timing of the start of repayments and a deferred payment facility to help avoid late fees. OpenPay targets healthcare and automotive. The products compared in this article are chosen from a range of offers available to us and are not representative of all the products available in the market and influenced by a range of factors including interest rates, product costs and commercial and sponsorship arrangements InfoChoice compares financial products from 145 banks, credit unions and other financial institutions in Australia. InfoChoice does not compare every product in the market. Some institutions may have a commercial partnership with InfoChoice. Rates are provided by partners and taken from financial institutions websites. We believe all information to be accurate on the date published. InfoChoice strives to update and keep information as accurate as possible. The information contained on this web site is general in nature and does not take into account your personal situation. Do not interpret the listing order as an endorsement or recommendation from us. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs, and where appropriate, seek professional advice from a financial adviser. If you or someone you know is in financial stress, contact the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007.