NSW slashes home insurance premiums


Home insurance premiums to get cheaper in NSW, how to turn Optus outage data into cash, and tips to spot fake reviews ahead of Black Friday. Here are five things you may have missed this week.

NSW homeowners set to save up to 18% on insurance

NSW Premier Chris Minns this week scrapped the Emergency Services Levy (ESL), which bumps up the state's home insurance premiums by as much as 18% each year.

nsw government removes emergency services levy, lowering home and contents insurance premiums

All other mainland states have removed similar levies, and by lagging behind, NSW homeowners pay around three times the state taxes on cover as Victorians.

As a guide to the hip pocket impact of the ESL, the Actuaries Institute found the average home insurance premium across NSW is $2600. Around $400 or more of this total can go towards the ESL.

The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) has campaigned for more than a decade for the removal of the ESL.

It says, "The (ESL) tax penalises those who pay insurance amid a cost-of-living crunch and at a time when worsening extreme weather means cover is needed more than ever."

The ICA adds that abolishing the ESL on insurance will see the cost of home cover drop by as much as 15% on average.

How to turn Optus outage data into cash

Optus is handing out 200GB of free data to customers as an olive branch for last week's extended outage.

But it has failed to hit the sweet spot for some customers.

Optus users venting on Reddit have pointed out that many people don't use their full monthly data allowance. Others are on unlimited data plans to begin with.

Tech guru Trevor Long has suggested a hack that could turn the 200GB of free data into $20 hard coin.

Posting on his EFTM site, Long explains that an Optus user with a $69 plan offering 220GB of data could ask to move down to the $49 plan.

This would normally have just 30GB of data, but that's now ramped up by the free 200GB data handout.

Long explains, "You're actually back to square one - same amount of data to use (or a touch more), and $20 extra dollars in your pocket for Christmas!"

If you're on an unlimited data plan, you may opt to donate the 200GB data handout to charity. The Optus website explains how to do this.

The Smith Family and The Salvos are among the charities that benefit from data donated by Optus customers.

Aussies contribute to fake reviews

With the Black Friday sales due to kick off on November 24, keen shoppers will be checking out online reviews to see how products stack up.

The problem is that fake reviews are rife.

And Aussies are contributing to the problem.

In a national survey, consumer group CHOICE found 10% of respondents admitted to writing a product review because they were given an incentive, such as a discount or cashback.

Despite platforms investing in tools and systems to detect and remove fake reviews, CHOICE's Marg Rafferty, says, "Fake reviews influence millions in sales every year."

CHOICE offers tips to help sort the fakes from the facts:

  1. Be sceptical about over-the-top or rave reviews 
  2. Be wary of one-word or generic reviews like 'amazing' or 'will buy again'. They may be genuine, but the fact they don't mention the reviewer's experience of the product is often suspicious.
  3. Be cautious if no one has written a negative review. No product is perfect for everyone and reviews should usually reflect that.

Not all lenders have responded equally to latest rate hike

Data from RateCity shows most lenders didn't miss a beat hiking their variable home loan rates following the Reserve Bank's 0.25% November rate rise.

But not all lenders have jacked up mortgage rates by 0.25%.

Borrowers with G&C Mutual Bank will see their variable rate jump by up to 0.40%. But they're still likely to be in front financially. G&C's variable mortgage rates start at just 6.05%.

At the other end of the scale, Transport Mutual Credit Union has lifted its home loan rate by a mere 0.15%.

Here too though, the rate response doesn't paint the full picture. Transport Mutual Credit Union's basic variable rate is 8.48%.

For context, Mozo says the average variable rate is now 6.62%.

Expect to pay more if you're with one of the big banks.

Across the four major banks, the average variable rate is 7.21% - 0.59% higher than the market average.

Tic:Toc becomes Tiimely Home

Fintech lender Tic:Toc has had a name change, rebranding to Tiimely Home, and calling its home loan product Tiimely Own.

The lender says the new name reflects its ability to assess loan applications "much faster than the average lender".

The only surprising aspect of the rebrand is that it took so long to happen given the understandable confusion with the TikTok social media app.

Tiimely will continue to be backed by Bendigo and Adelaide Bank.

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A former Chartered Accountant, Nicola Field has been a regular contributor to Money for 20 years, and writes on personal finance issues for some of Australia's largest financial institutions. She is the author of Investing in Your Child's Future and Baby or Bust, and has collaborated with Paul Clitheroe on a variety of projects including radio scripts, newspaper columns, and several books.