MY MONEY

How to avoid rip-offs

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Everyone wants to get the best deal possible and not be ripped off. Yet around half of all Australians are not confident that they are getting the best deal on their credit cards, mortgages and superannuation, according to a recent survey by researcher Galaxy.

Galaxy found 57% of Australians with a credit card, 48% with superannuation and 47% with a mortgage are not confident that they have the best deal.

Why? These are all complex financial products with layers of fees and different bells and whistles, making it hard to compare the differences, explains Delia Rickard, the senior executive responsible for financial literacy, at the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).

The study also found that Australians don't seek independent expert advice when they sign up for a credit card, mortgage or superannuation. They don't know where to go for independent information or how to make the best choice - they don't know how find out what's important to look for when they're choosing one of these products.

What can people do? The first port of call is the new practical website, set up by ASIC to help people make smart choices about their personal finances: moneysmart.gov.au

Launched in March, MoneySmart has 26 calculators and tools for a range of different scenarios, from switching mortgages to calculating retirement needs.

It includes mobile apps that you can consult when you are shopping. For example, it helps you compare interest-free deals.

"Interest-free deals are not all the same," explains Rickard. It also has links to reputable comparison websites. It is for all ages and levels of financial knowledge.

The website is designed to help people at turning points in their lives such as starting work, buying a home, losing a job, having a baby or retiring, says Rickard. "MoneySmart gives them free, easy-to-use tools and tips and suggests practical steps they can take."

As well as the basics such as budgeting, saving, credit cards and loans, MoneySmart covers more complicated issues such as superannuation contributions, margin loans and income tax.

"When life puts pressure on finances, MoneySmart is here to help Australians ride out the storm," says Rickard.

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Susan has been a finance journalist for more than 30 years, beginning at the Australian Financial Review before moving to the Sydney Morning Herald. She edited a superannuation magazine, Superfunds, for the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia, and writes regularly on superannuation and managed funds. She's also author of the best-selling book Women and Money.
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