Holiday bonus for home owners

Savings ... for an average loan of $500,000, the mortgage holder was about $5,000 better off for the year.
Savings ... for an average loan of $500,000, the mortgage holder was about $5,000 better off for the year.

Australian mortgage holders have escaped more than $21 billion in extra interest payments this year, according to new Treasury data obtained by Fairfax Media.

Since the Reserve Bank started cutting the cash rate over the past 12 months to crisis lows of 3 per cent, new figures show that, in NSW, home owners avoided paying $6.4 billion over the year compared with the two previous years.

The analysis was calculated using RBA housing credit data and based on the number of mortgages in Australia - presently 4.2 million, worth an accumulated $1.26 trillion.

For an average home loan of $300,000, the mortgage holder was about $5000 better off for the year, according to the Treasury figures.

But the record low interest rates have not benefited all Australians.

Self-funded retirees and pensioners who rely on interest payments from savings accounts were the worst hit, the latest rate cut of 0.25 percentage points eating into their incomes.

A seniors lobby group, National Seniors, said that the more than 1 million people who rely on savings and term deposits as income could be losing an amount equivalent to 25 per cent of a person's wages following the series of rate cuts since November last year.

The Treasurer, Wayne Swan, who was last week forced to abandon his vow to deliver a surplus next year, was unrepentant, saying his economic settings were helping ''working families''.

A family with a $300,000 mortgage who had kept their payments at the same level would now be able to repay their mortgage about eight years sooner than they could in 2007, when Labor came to power under Kevin Rudd, Mr Swan said.

Meanwhile, as the Gillard government comes to grips with the political fallout of its broken surplus promise - in part, prompted by the RBA's latest rate cut - a separate Treasury analysis has revealed a much-needed Christmas gift for Australian credit card holders.

As part of Labor's bank reforms, for the first time, consumers will escape paying millions of dollars in credit card fees and penalties if they exceed their credit limit over the Christmas shopping period.

The data estimates shoppers will, cumulatively, avoid paying more than $21 million this month, with the previously hidden charge struck out as part of the reform package, which was rolled out across the year.

This story Holiday bonus for home owners first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.