Best of the Best 2016
This Best of the Best edition, now in its 15th year, is about opportunities: the suburbs to buy into, the investment strategies to check plus all the award-winning products to help you reach your goals.
With thousands of products from hundreds of different institutions, Money - with the assistance of our research partners - has identified 109 gold-winning products.
Here's are some of the winners featured on A Current Affair. For a full list of the 109 gold-winning products in more than 70 different categories, grab the December issue of Money.
Best-Value Mobile Plan - High Usage: Kogan Money says: Kogan Mobile has made a comeback after a two-year absence, this time in partnership with Vodafone. And it relaunched just in the nick of time to take out the top spot in this year's high-usage category at a cost of $36.95 per month.
Best-Value Broadband Bundled Plan: SpinTel Money says: SpinTel's Urban Home plan takes the top spot giving you 200GB of data and unlimited Australian calls each month for just $69.95 a month and without tying you to a contract.
Cheapest Home Loans: UBank (Bank); Reduce Home Loans (Non-Bank) Money says: UBank has topped the banks for the fourth time in a row, offering all the flexibility you need, with no application fees, or fees for redraw and loan adjustment. Reduce Home Loans has the cheapest rate in town.
Best Balanced Super Fund: CareSuper Money says: It is the first time CareSuper has won this award. Good returns from a wide range of investments, including private equity, infrastructure, shares, property and fixed interest, contributed to the fund's performance.
Cheapest Credit Card: Me Bank (Bank); Quay Credit Union (Non-Bank) Money says: Fees are almost as important as the interest rate when you're looking at credit cards. Our non-bank winner, Quay Credit Union, might have a cheaper rate than bank winner ME but its annual fee makes it a touch more expensive. That said, both offer great value for customers who don't pay off their card in full and live in constant debt.
A star line-up puts in months of hard work to determine our annual Best of the Best awards.
CANSTAR is Australia and New Zealand's most comprehensive specialist research service in consumer and business finance. Its talented team of 60 provide a range of services, including researching products offered by more than 200 institutions - home loans, savings accounts, credit cards, rewards programs, margin lending, personal and car loans, business banking, life insurance and car insurance. Research results are freely available to the general public, who can use the star ratings as a guide to product excellence - CANSTAR's website has more than 3 million visits a year. CANSTAR is neither owned nor controlled by financial institutions, nor does it sell financial products.
How we chose the winners for the banking awards: CANSTAR crunched the numbers behind all the banking awards. It also ran the data on home and contents insurance and personal insurance as well as investment loans and brokers. Where appropriate, a combination of six-month historical averages and current rates was used. This way the best savings account, for example, was not simply one that happened to have a good rate on a particular day but rather one with a proven track record.
The methodology for each of the awards can be found next to the tables. The rankings used data as at September 1, 2015, with the exception of Best Savings Accounts, Best Term Deposits (Short-Term and Long-Term) and Best DIY Super Savings Accounts, which were as at October 27, 2015. "Current" rates were as at November 4, 2015. Where used, historical interest rates were for the period March-August 2015 inclusive.
Morningstar is a leading provider of independent investment research in North America, Europe, Australia and Asia. It offers an extensive line of products and services for individual investors, financial advisers, asset managers and retirement plan providers and sponsors. It provides data on more than 500,000 investment offerings, including stocks, mutual funds and similar vehicles, along with real-time global market data on more than 16 million equities, indices, futures, options, commodities and precious metals, in addition to foreign exchange and treasury markets. Morningstar also offers investment management services through its advisory subsidiaries, with more than $US180 billion in assets under advisement and management at June 30, 2015. It has operations in 27 countries.
Lonsec's core research focus is on enabling better investment outcomes through delivering investment intelligence and insight to financial intermediaries such as financial advisers, fund managers and superannuation funds. Its experienced research team provides timely and in-depth financial product research and ratings, across the spectrum of listed and unlisted investments, and portfolio construction guidance and solutions. Lonsec Research is a wholly owned subsidiary of Lonsec Fiscal Holdings, a privately owned and independent entity with a multi-brand strategy of providing financial services research, advice and investment execution.
Zenith Investment Partners is Australia's leading independently owned investment research provider, dedicated to the delivery of premium investment research solutions for financial advisers, other investment intermediaries and their clients. Established in 2002, Zenith is 100% owned by its directors and key members of staff. It provides "advice-based" solutions to match a client's unique business requirements. The key services Zenith offers are: online research, including data on more than 4500 funds, economic and asset class reports, detailed performance analysis tools and model portfolios.
SQM Research is one of Australia's most respected property research companies, specialising in roviding accurate property-related information, ratings and forecasts. It focuses on residential property research and the performance of real-estate-related managed funds. Its investment products research for its wholesale clients uses a proprietary review and star-rating system. Only licensed financial advisers may use the SQM Research star-rating system in determining whether an investment is appropriate to a person's particular circumstances or needs. SQM has been an official rater of managed investment schemes since 2007 and, while perhaps better known for its residential property research, its ratings sector is a core and integral part of its business.
How we chose the winners for the managed funds category: MORNINGSTAR, LONSEC AND ZENITH were responsible for providing the ratings for all managed funds -except Best Mortgage Fund, where we combined SQM Research ratings with those from Lonsec and Zenith, and Best Property Securities Fund, where we combined all four research houses - and ETFs. We asked all research houses to nominate their highest-rated funds and ETFs: no fewer than four stars for funds and "silver" for ETFs by Morningstar; "recommended" and better from Lonsec and Zenith; and four stars-plus from SQM Research. Funds qualified only if they were open to new investment and had a minimum initial investment of $25,000 or less. Funds and ETFs were then ranked according to a points system. For example, a fund or ETF that was "highly recommended" or had five stars scored five points and one that was "recommended" or four stars scored four points. We then applied further filtering.
The Best Fund Manager and Best ETF Provider were chosen by allocating points based on individual managed fund and ETF categories. Fund managers were awarded five points for every gold win, three points for every second place and one point for third. Again a further filtering process was applied.
Morningstar provided the data for the tables. The performance data and ratings are both as at September 30, 2015.
SuperRatings is an independently owned Australian company dedicated to superannuation research. It has been active in highlighting the need for increased transparency within the industry and promoting healthy competition. SuperRatings does not charge funds to be rated and its business model is purely fee for service.
How we chose the winners for the superannuation categories: SUPERRATINGS crunched the data for this year's superannuation categories. It assessed more than 320 major super products and 170 pension products. The primary determinant of the ratings is the ability of a fund to provide value. The Best Super Fund Manager award is given to the fund that provides the best overall value to members during their accumulation phase, while the Best Pension Fund Manager award highlights the fund that has provided exceptional value to members during retirement. SuperRatings takes into account investment performance, fees, insurance, service delivery, member education, financial planning facilities, education, employer support, fund governance and product flexibility. The judging is mainly based on quantitative analysis but does contain a qualitative overlay drawn from extensive site visits and discussions with funds. Returns are as at June 30, 2015, after fees and taxes.
WhistleOut is an independent private company started in 2008. It provides easy-to-use comparisons in areas of increasing complexity, such as mobile phone plans and broadband. WhistleOut attracts more than 1.5 million users a month from Australia, the US, UK, Canada and New Zealand.
How we chose the winners for the mobile plan and broadband categories: WHISTLEOUT helped with the mobile plan and broadband categories. The methodology for each award is with each table. A service filter was applied, based on Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) complaints. Providers with 50% more complaints than average - 35 complaints per 10,000 subscribers by current statistics - were excluded from consideration. Data is correct as at October 21, 2015.
JAMES WHITBOURN - Best value cars category
Money recruited our regular Driving Passion contributor and long-time motoring journalist to bring you the best-value cars.
How we chose the winners:
- A subjective driver rating (out of 10) indicates how a particular car makes you feel when you drive it.
- Official fuel consumption and emissions data, as rated (out of five) by the official Green Vehicle Guide.
- Comprehensive insurance as provided by AAMI, based on a 35-year-old resident of Sydney's Chatswood who has an immaculate driving record and requires no finance.
- Resale ratings after three years provided by RedBook.