TEN or so years ago I wrote about an innovative and hot new product called 'online savings accounts' charging zero fees and paying a high rate of interest. These days online savers are a regular fixture on the financial landscape but fresh innovations continue to see Australians get more value from their money.
Research group Canstar Cannex has trawled through the latest financial products and services on offer, and conferred its Innovation Excellence Award on the ten innovative financial products it likes best, out of 45 considered. Here are some of the winners.
Bankwest's Zero Transaction Account is an everyday account that's been available to consumers for some time, but now it's also available as a business account. It charges no establishment fees, no monthly account-keeping fees and no transaction fees, and there are no restrictions like a minimum opening balance. The account is open to small businesses, self-managed super funds and non-profit organisations.
For home buyers and investors, the Commonwealth Bank's Property Guide iPhone App could be very handy, and is quite amazing. You just point your iPhone at a property you like the look of and it will tell you how much it sold for in the past and if it is for sale now.
The app also provides current property listings, detailed suburb profiles and capital growth trends Ð and it's free to download, even if you're not a Commonwealth Bank customer.
Canstar gives a guernsey to the AMP Superannuation's Member Benefits Report program, which provides personalised super projections for individual fund members. This lets AMP's fund members see the potential outcomes for a range of scenarios including how their personal nest egg could benefit over time from additional contributions.
E*TRADE Australia has received an award for its Global Shares platform. This lets ordinary investors invest in Australian and international shares, online, from a single account. It's a real step forward for anyone thinking about investing in some of the world's largest sharemarkets.
Not so long ago international shares were difficult, and costly, to invest in directly. Yet it's an asset class that can add useful diversity to a portfolio. With the Aussie dollar so high right now, this sort of service offers investors a great chance to pick up good value on overseas shares.
For home loan borrowers stung by the last year's lender-induced rate hikes, the Rate Tracker loan from Queensland Teachers Credit Union could provide peace of mind and gets an award. The loan's interest rate tracks the Reserve Bank's cash rate for its duration. This doesn't mean you'll get a rate discount but you won't have to worry about your lender introducing unexpected rate rises of their own.
These sorts of innovations won't attract the level of attention that surrounded the introduction of colour television or the launch of the space shuttle. But it's often the smaller things that can have the biggest impact on our daily lives. Products or services that make it easier to invest in quality assets, or which simply put everyday money management at our fingertips are always welcome news.
Paul Clitheroe is a founding director of financial planning firm ipac, Chairman of the Australian Government Financial Literacy Board and chief commentator for Money Magazine.
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.