If anything’s going to make you end a loveless mortgage with a Big 4 bank, as I regularly entreat, it’s last week’s shock interest grab.

But, loath though I am to defend such opportunistic actions, it seems that behind closed doors our biggest banks are kind and generous. Never thought I’d type that.

Today I can reveal that while borrowers are being hit with hikes in public, banks are acquiescing to juicy discounts in private.

Talk about mixed messages.

Don’t get too excited if you’re an investor though.

Three months ago this week the Big 4 banks definitively ended their long-term flirtation with investment loans by imposing an out-of-cycle rate rise, and stricter lending criteria, on just these. They did it because APRA has capped investment loan growth at 10 per cent a year in a bid to protect the banking system from any property wobbles.

Borrowers with the big banks, 86 per cent of investors, are collectively paying $54 million a month more before the recent rises. So their bill is $162 million so far. (Based on the current advertised headline investment variable rate of 5.64 per cent, the latest APRA home loan values and data provider’s estimate that 70 per cent of these loans are variable).

Precisely half of all lenders have now seized the chance to hike investor rates specifically, says comparison website, by an average of 0.25 per cent.

Last week marked the first time owner occupiers have been slugged alongside investors, by 0.2 per cent from November 20 for all Westpac customers (with the justification of building capital reserves to satisfy APRA rule changes next year).

But a new mystery shopper study by Mozo reveals the Big 4 are secretly lopping a full 1 per cent on average off advertised owner-occupier rates, up from 0.9 per cent a year ago, and in some circumstances stretching that to 1.25 per cent.

Just taking the average discount, that means there is a potential $403 million a month in total interest savings up for grabs (at today’s average discounted variable rate of 4.44 per cent on the nearly $500 billion of big bank loans assumed to be variable).

If you have the ABS-reported (record) average home loan of $371,200 (makes me tear up just thinking about it), that’s an individual saving of $215 a month, $2580 a year or more than $60,000 over the life of your loan.

Which would well and truly wipe out the $45 monthly cost of a 0.2 per cent increase to your base rate.

Let me be clear, these discounts are substantially higher than the “professional package” discounts banks disclose (which are sitting at an average 0.77 per cent). You won’t find these secret deals published anywhere; you have to call and coerce.

And don’t assume that, as an existing customer, you won’t qualify.

Yes, Mozo surveyed the average discount offered on two new owner-occupier scenarios – a first home buyer looking for a $300,000 loan and a refinancer seeking $500,000.

But with investor loan growth locked down, banks will be scrambling not just to supplement but to sustain their loan books. And they face fierce competition.

Today our big banks’ share of the owner occupier market is far below investor loans, at 82 per cent, as ever-cheaper online lenders muscle in. If your bank knocks you back for a discount, you shouldn’t hesitate in remortgaging to one of these low-overhead outfits to save even more.

The best-priced product is regularly changing but is currently iMortgage Fusion with a variable rate of 3.84 per cent. Were every customer to get the hump with big bank treatment and switch to this, the total saving on today’s rates would mount to $645 million a month! I suspect iMortgage would also encounter some resourcing issues.

(Note iMortgage doesn’t have an offset account so I prefer the cheapest product that does: Click Loan’s Online Home Loan at 3.91 per cent.)

What about poor – literally – investors? They usually can’t access the bargain-basement online mortgages. But despite the lending crackdown, big banks are even extending some decent discounts here.

Mozo says if you play your negotiating cards right, you could still secure a 0.8 per cent reprieve depending on loan size – down by 10 to 25 basis points on a year ago.

This would take today’s average rate to 4.84 per cent and save investors a collective $214 million a month.

The banks were also willing to entertain deeper discounts on a case-by-case basis. A spokesperson said: “Mozo’s mystery shopper was able to negotiate a 1.25 per cent discount from CommBank for an investor loan of $1 million with a loan-to-value ratio under 80 per cent, and the other banks stated that deeper discounts could be made available once the borrower had submitted an application.”

We might now get an official rate cut on Melbourne Cup Day too, as the Reserve can worry less about stoking a hot property market. Whether or not that’s passed on is another matter.

Pick up the phone tomorrow and ask for the tremendous, probably temporary, discounts on offer. And if your bank doesn’t share the love, break up with it. Educator and commentator Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon is founder of and developer of The 12-Step Prosperity Plan.

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Posted by Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon – The Age on 18th October, 2015