Trending Financial News 6 September 2019

Points rewards schemes are hard to understand

90 per cent of Australian consumers are members of at least one loyalty scheme. The average Aussie has between four and six loyalty cards. The big schemes are Qantas Frequent Flyer with  12.3 million members, Woolworths Rewards (10.9 million members), Velocity Frequent Flyer (9.1 million members) and Flybuys (8.3 million members).

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is concerned that some schemes make  terms, conditions and privacy policies difficult to understand of make unilateral changes to terms and conditions in a way that could be unfair to consumers.

Complaints spark action on frequent flyer schemes

The ACCC has issued a report “Customer loyalty schemes” for consultation in response to customer complaints from customers of loyalty schemes such as Qantas Frequent Flyer, Virgin Velocity, Coles and Woolworths rewards about how points are earned.

Complaints were mostly about their scheme failing to clearly advise them about critical components, such as the need to remain “active” to avoid points expiry, or the restricted availability of redemption opportunities. Many complaints related to reductions in the rate at which points can be earned, or the value of points already accumulated.

Common complaints included airlines or hotels increasing the number of points needed for redeeming rewards and unexpected or allegedly unreasonable taxes and charges when points are being redeemed.

The ACCC said operators should review terms and conditions and ensure changes are fair and properly notified.

Does anyone still get a mortgage in a bank branch?

The big four banks continue to lose mortgage market share as more borrowers head online to find a mortgage according to research from UBS banking analyst Jonathan Mott.

Mortgage sales through bank branches has fallen from a peak of 48.3 per cent of all mortgages sold in early 2013 to 37 per cent in June 2019. The major banks’ share of new home loans has dropped from 78 per cent in 2013 to 71.4 per cent now.

The big four banks’ share of the mortgage broker market increased from 30.6 per cent to 34.5 per cent over the same period.

“New lending competition is likely to intensify as customers continue to migrate away from the major banks’ proprietary [branch] distribution,” said Jonathan Mott.

Big Four banks shy away from risky home loans

Commonwealth Bank is the only big four bank to grow its mortgage book in July 2019 according to official statistics from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA).

ANZ, NAB and Westpac all recorded contractions in their mortgage portfolio.

Recently, ANZ Bank CEO Shayne Elliott told a conference that the banking royal commission has produced a risk-averse culture in banks.

Mr Elliott told a conference in Sydney that ANZ would err on the side of caution until regulators provided more guidance on responsible lending for complex loan applications, Mortgagebusiness reported.

Lending market in the doldrums

Growth in new home loan sales is declining. The Reserve Bank of Australia reported that total housing credit (loan) sales grew 0.3 per cent in July 2019, up from 0.2 per cent in June.

Over the year to 31 July 2019, housing credit in Australia grew by just 3.3 per cent, down from 5.5 per cent in the previous year.

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