What is an offset account?

What is an offset account?

Kathryn Lee - 23 May, 2019

Navigating which home loan is right for you can feel like an overwhelming responsibility. Especially as a first home buyer, learning about all your options and weighing them up can be a tricky task to wrap your head around.

We’ve simplified one home loan feature – offset accounts – and answered your frequently asked questions to alleviate some of that stress.

What is an offset account on a home loan?

An offset account is a savings account or an everyday account which is linked to your home loan account. It works to ‘offset’ your home loan balance daily, meaning you are only paying interest on the difference between your principal loan and the balance in your offset account.

How does an offset mortgage work?

You can offset your loan 100% with your transaction or savings account. The offset account can either be linked to a variable rate loan – which is more common – or a fixed-rate loan.

For example, if you have a home loan balance of $250,000 and you have $40,000 in your offset account, you will only be paying interest for a home loan balance of $210,000.

With a smaller amount to charge interest on, you could save thousands as you pay off your home loan.

How is interest calculated on an offset mortgage? 

As mentioned above, interest is only charged on the difference between your principal home loan and the balance in your offset account. 

Here is an example to better explain how this benefit would play out over time. The variable interest rate in this hypothetical is 4.77% against a $300,000 home loan.

Source: Canstar.com.au

Does an offset account reduce monthly repayments?

Unfortunately, you won’t see the benefits of an offset account in your monthly repayments, as you can see above. But, because of the savings made by reducing your interest, this means you will repay your home loan off at a faster rate.

How much interest do you save with an offset account?

This is generally dependent on how much you “offset” your home loan, your variable interest rate and your principal loan amount.

For instance, let’s say you have $10,000 in your offset account for the life of your loan and you borrowed $320,000 at 7% over 25-years. Over the lifetime of your loan, you’d save yourself $46,000 and you’d shave 18-months off your loan term.

What is the difference between an offset account and a redraw facility?

Redraw facilities and offsets accounts are both common features of a home loan that help reduce the amount of interest you pay. However, there are a few key differences to keep in mind when deliberating between the two.

Do you earn interest on an offset account?

No – the point of an offset account is to reduce the amount of borrowed money on which you are paying interest and to shorten the lifetime of your loan.

What is the benefit of an offset account?

Are offset accounts a good idea?

With such a wide range of products and features available to be tacked on, it is likely you will have more than one route to help you make the most out of your home loan. Offset account aren’t for everyone and with the benefits you will find some negatives.

Can you have an offset account on a fixed loan?

Buying property in a Trust

An alternative to the standard way of doing things, buying property through a trust can offer lots of tax incentives and advantages to the right candidate.

It is now easy to add features to a fixed loan. Whether it be a 100% offset, partial offset, a redraw facility or the chance to make additional repayments, there are options available. Some loans may give restrictions on how long the offset may last though, for example you might only be allowed to have a 100% offset for a year on your particular fixed rate loan.

Can you have more than one offset account?

It depends. Generally, lenders will only allow you to link one offset account to one loan. You might find a lender who will allow you to have multiple offset accounts, but this will be harder to track down.

If you decide you want more than one offset this can be achieved by splitting your variable rate loan in two, then linking each loan to each offset account. The same goes for more than two offset accounts.

So, if you had a home loan of $400,000 and split this loan into two $200,000 sums, you can have one $200,000 loan linked to one offset account with $10,000 and another linked to an offset account that has $20,000 saved.

The total you will be charged on would be $200,000 + $200,000 – $10,000 – $20,000 = $370,000.

offset account

Can I withdraw money from my offset account?

Yes, you can. Unlike a redraw facility, you can immediately access your savings in an offset account.

What to know when choosing an offset account

When selecting a home loan to pair up with an offset account, here are some features to keep in mind:

  • 100% offset: Pick an account which allows for 100% of the account’s balance to offset your home loan
  • No minimum balance: Pick an account without a minimum balance, so any amount of savings can offset your home loan
  • No maximum balance: Pick an account without a maximum balance, so you can increase your offset and decrease the amount of interest accruing on your home loan
  • Low or no fees: Fees associated with an offset account are one of the features shortcomings. Try to look for low or no fees to maximise your benefits
  • Low-interest credit cards: Sometimes lenders offer credit-cards with a low-interest rate for those with an offset mortgage package

Words by Michelle Elias

A professional mortgage broker at eChoice can help you determine whether an offset account is the best route for you. Chances are you will have a few options to weigh up.

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