How should you talk to your bank?
Like a boss, says Damian Christie

How should you talk to your bank? Like a boss, says Damian Christie

When the time comes to re-fix your mortgage rate, it pays to shop around, says TV presenter, documentary producer and man with a Twitter account, Damian Christie.

“I’ve always thought the banks are pretty hopeless at retaining their customers,” Damian says. “They offer a lot of enticements to new customers: free TVs, free money, low interest rates.” But that seems to be where the batteries run out. “It seems like they just assume people can’t be bothered moving once they’re there.”

So when their mortgage fixed term with Westpac was up, he thought he’d go shopping. And we thought we’d check in to see how it went.

“First of all I said to our bank, how about it? And they came back and said “Oh, look we’re not really prepared to do anything for you.” He’d heard stories about Westpac not being all that willing to play ball. At the time the rates being advertised had numbers starting with 3. He thought the bank could have come to the party, but no. “And I’m like: you know, that’s not cool. We’re not going to be stuck on 5 point whatever it is when the other banks are offering threes.”

Damian Christie, man with a Twitter account

Damian decided to take advantage of a good Twitter following to get some action.

“I decided just to put a shot out there. I know that banks are pretty responsive online as well – they’ve got some good cool media people out there. So I just tagged in a few banks on Twitter and I said alright ASB, Kiwibank, BNZ, you banks, we’re looking for a new home for our mortgage who’s prepared to say what?”

The responses were good – and quick.“Kiwibank uploaded a little video of them doing a dance with my name on it, and I got some quick calls from people. In the end I was able to compare side by side what people could really do – rather than just what the rack rates they’re offering are – and what cash they’re prepared to offer you on top, and that sort of thing.”

They ended up narrowing it down to a couple of them: Kiwibank and BNZ. In the end BNZ came up with the goods (although Kiwibank had a very good deal too).

“We got a bit of cash. By the time we paid our lawyer’s bill – which was a bit more than I thought – there was some money left over and we were on a much better rate and, I think, with a bank that’s more committed to actually doing something.”

Sweet deal. But no good idea goes unpunished. Westpac, the bank they were leaving, put a spanner in the works over a cash bonus payment clawback. “We hadn’t got around to signing the extra little bit of paper that got them to chuck that money into our own account – my own slackness, but I thought well the only ones being hard done by are us, right? So they decided they would try to make the clawback date not the date of our refinancing but the date of when we signed that little bit of paper to get the money into our account. So just when we’d gone unconditional with BNZ and everything was being drafted, on the last day Westpac said ‘no you’ve got to pay back that two grand’. So I went into attack mode, started emailing some people like corporate affairs and public affairs and whatnot and started tweeting about greed and I had a very good conversation with my account manager.” Long story short, Damian says, the bank decided to let it go.

He thinks the banks can be quite short-sighted when you look at the way things are working these days: “We’ve seen from telcos, internet companies, power companies, people are increasingly prepared to switch if they think they’re gonna get a better deal somewhere else.

“My parents are old-fashioned,” he says. “They’ll just stick with the bank they’ve got and even within their mortgage they won’t look at changing rates or trying to negotiate or argue anything like that for a better rate they just take what’s offered to them because it’s that old school, you now, the bank is the boss and you just accept what’s on the paper you know?”

But their boy has a Twitter account. And that might not sound like much but it can add up to a pile of dollars in your favour if you’re prepared to use it.

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