Offset Accounts

Offset accounts a better way to manage your mortgage

If you want to repay your mortgage as quickly as possible and still want access to your additional repayments, an offset account may be in your best interests. An offset account is a transaction account that is directly linked to your home loan. The money you deposit in it offsets the loan balance before interest is calculated. For example, if you owe $500,000 on your home loan and have accumulated $100,000 in an offset account, interest will be calculated on $400,000.

Benefits over regular savings account

If you hold your surplus cash in an offset account you can save interest at home loan rates, and no tax is payable on the interest savings. This is essentially earning the home loan interest rate tax-free. The other alternatives include holding surplus cash in a regular savings account, but the interest normally is a lot lower than what you pay on your home loan. Plus, every dollar in interest you earn is taxable at your marginal rate, which could be up to 47%.

Benefits over direct loan repayments

When you make additional repayments directly into the loan, you can achieve similar benefits to having an offset account. However, normally there are limits which apply to the frequency and amount of withdrawals you can make, and withdrawal fees are usually charged. Opposingly, with offset accounts, you typically have easy access to the money via an ATM, cheque book and interest, and withdrawal fees are generally not charged.

Best of both worlds

You may even want to have your salary paid directly into an offset account and withdraw money as needed to meet your living expenses. This would allow you to make the interest savings available with direct loan repayments and have easy access to the money.

 

  What interest rate is earned/saved Would interest earned/saved be taxable? Would you have easy access to the money?
Cash account Deposit rates Yes Yes
Direct loan repayments Home loan rates No No
Offset account Home loan rates No Yes

 

Other important issues to consider

If you’d prefer not to have any access to additional loan repayments, you may want to make repayments directly into the loan where you are less likely to spend the money impulsively. If you would like to credit your salary into an offset account, you should check that your payroll provider is able to do this. Some lenders pay an interest rate on the balance of the offset account that is less than the home loan rate. These are known as ‘partial’ offset accounts are not as effective in saving you an interest as an offset account which offsets 100% of the home loan interest rate. Offset accounts can usually only be linked to loans with variable interest rates, not fixed rate loans. If you want to invest some of the money held in an offset account, you should consider paying the money directly into your home loan and establishing a separate loan to fund the investments. By taking out a new loan for investment purposes, the interest would usually be tax deductible.

 

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