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Major banks hand over millions in refunds over unfair fees

<p>Four major Australian banks are set to cough up close to $30 million in refunds to low-income customers after the Federal corporate watchdog revealed a pattern in high fees. </p> <p>A new report from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission revealed ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, as well as mid-tier Bendigo and Adelaide Bank kept at least two million low-income customers in high-fee accounts.</p> <p>Many of these low-income earners rely on Centrelink payments, and were unfairly slapped with unreasonably high fees. </p> <p>The report followed an ASIC review which focused on improving financial outcomes for First Nations customers by addressing avoidable bank fees.</p> <p>“We focused in this project on the banks who were most likely to have First Nations consumers on low incomes trapped in high-fee accounts,” ASIC commissioner Alan Kirkland said.</p> <p>ASIC said the four banks have committed to moving more than 200,000 customers into low-fee accounts, saving them about $10.7 million a year, with the financial institutions also committed to refunding over $28m in fees to these customers over the next 12 to 18 months.</p> <p>This includes $24.6 million to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and apprentices receiving ABSTUDY payments, and customers in areas with significant First Nations populations.</p> <p>“At any time ASIC, and the community, expects that the banks will treat their customers fairly,” Mr Kirkland said.</p> <p>“But that’s particularly important for people on low incomes and for people who are struggling to make ends meet, the last thing they need is to have the very little income that they have being eaten away in unnecessary bank fees.”</p> <p>Mr Kirkland added that the implications of ASIC’s latest review applied to all banks across the country.</p> <p>“We’re expecting all of them to read the report and make improvements to their practices to stop other people being trapped in high-fee accounts that they can’t afford,” Mr Kirkland said.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock </em></p>

Money & Banking

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Aussies working in "priority occupations" eligible for cash increase

<p>Thousands of hard-working Aussies who work in certain areas are now eligible for new training and support payments of up to $10,000.</p> <p>The initiative comes to support Australians working in sectors with a high demand for skilled workers, and a commitment to clean energy.</p> <p>From July 1st, thousands of apprentices working in what the government deems as “priority occupations” are eligible for the $5,000 Australian Apprenticeship Training Support Payment. </p> <p>If those priority occupations also offer exposure and experience in “clean energy”, apprentices are instead eligible for the more lucrative New Energy Apprenticeship Support Payment of up to $10,000.</p> <p>The list of "priority occupations" is extensive and includes aged care workers, arborists, bakers, beauty therapists and many more. </p> <p>According to the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR), the jobs are characterised by a strong current demand for skilled workers, and a strong demand expected in the future.</p> <p>The clean energy jobs also include many different professions, with agricultural and agritech technicians, automotive electricians, regular electricians, gas fitters, glaziers, joiners, plumbers and welders all included.</p> <p>The full list of priority jobs can be found on the <a href="https://www.dewr.gov.au/skills-support-individuals/resources/appendix-australian-apprenticeship-priority-list-1-january-2024" target="_blank" rel="noopener" data-link-type="article-inline">Department of Employment and Workplace Relations website.</a></p> <p>For the Australian Apprenticeship Training Support Payment, the $5000 payment comes in four instalments over two years, while the New Energy Apprentice Support Payment is paid out over the course of the apprenticeship — up to $5000 for part-time apprentices and up to $10,000 for full-time apprentices.</p> <p>It is hoped the payments will incentivise apprentices to remain on the career pathway.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock </em></p>

Money & Banking

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Aussies urged to claim their share of millions of unclaimed cash

<p>Aussies are being urged to claim their share of $577 million which is sitting unclaimed with Revenue NSW, with about $234 million of that designated as belonging to residents who have yet to claim it.</p> <p>During the last financial year, NSW Government returned more than $21.8 million in unclaimed funds to Aussies, setting a record in the process. </p> <p>The unclaimed funds are comprised of payments, refunds, unpresented cheques, dividends and other money that organisations cannot transfer to its rightful owners, sometimes due to something as simple as changed addresses or bank accounts.</p> <p>While $234 million is being held by the government for NSW residents who are known, the further $343 million is designated to those who live outside New South Wales or are currently unknown. </p> <p>For Sydney residents alone, approximately $85.4 million is currently waiting to be claimed by rightful owners. </p> <p>The average amount of unclaimed money owed on the register is $391, and more than $154 million has been claimed back from the government in the past decade.</p> <p>“Despite doing our best to give unclaimed money back to the people it’s owed to, we’re still seeing more money referred to us than people are claiming,” Chief Commissioner of State Revenue Scott Johnston said.</p> <p>“We want to make sure everyone knows about the unclaimed money register, so they can jump online, find out if any money is owed to them and undertake the process to get it back."</p> <p>“That way we can ensure more money is being returned to those it belongs to, rather than sitting with us for extended periods of time after enterprises and organisations pass it on.”</p> <p>You can find more information about the unclaimed funds, and search the register for your share on <a href="https://www.revenue.nsw.gov.au/unclaimed-money" target="_blank" rel="noopener" data-link-type="article-inline">Revenue NSW’s website</a>.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock </em></p>

Money & Banking

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Aussie carers to receive a hefty cash boost

<p>Australian carers are set for a hefty financial increase in addition to their ongoing support payments from July 1st. </p> <p><a href="https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/carer-supplement" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Services Australia</a> confirmed that those receiving the Centrelink Carer Supplement will see a $600 cash boost automatically hit their bank accounts between July 3rd and August 2nd. </p> <p>Carers will receive the $600 annual supplement for each of the carer payments they receive.</p> <p>That includes the Carer Payment, which provides income support for over 300,000 Australians who, “because of the demands of their caring role, are unable to support themselves through substantial paid employment.”</p> <p>The payment will also supplement recipients of the Carer Allowance, which can be received in addition to income support payments, and is received by over 640,000 carers who “provide daily care and attention at home for a person with a disability, severe medical condition or who is frail and aged”.</p> <p>Those receiving the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Partner Service Pension and Carer Allowance, and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Carer Service Pension will also be eligible for the cash boost. </p> <p>“How much you get depends on the percentage of care you provide,” Services Australia said.</p> <p>“You’ll get a Carer Supplement for each eligible payment you get. For example, if you get a Carer Payment and a Carer Allowance, you’ll get two Carer Supplements.”</p> <p>“This payment doesn’t add to your taxable income,” Services Australia said.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p>

Money & Banking

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Trying to save money? Our research suggests paying in cash – while you still can

<div class="theconversation-article-body"><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lachlan-schomburgk-1535737">Lachlan Schomburgk</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-adelaide-1119">University of Adelaide</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/alex-belli-1538870">Alex Belli</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/arvid-o-i-hoffmann-1150527">Arvid O. I. Hoffmann</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-adelaide-1119">University of Adelaide</a></em></p> <p>Cash is in crisis. In Australia, it’s now only used for 16% of in-person transactions, down from <a href="https://www.rba.gov.au/publications/bulletin/2023/jun/cash-use-and-attitudes-in-australia.html">about 70%</a> in 2007.</p> <p>The situation is so dire that on Monday, independent federal MP Andrew Gee introduced a <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/saving-the-lobster-prawn-and-pineapple-mps-fight-to-force-shops-to-take-cash-20240603-p5jit4.html">private member’s bill</a> that would force businesses to accept cash or else face big fines.</p> <p>The reality is that over the past decade, technological advancements have utterly transformed the way we pay for goods and services.</p> <p>Phones and smartwatches can now easily be used to pay by card, and buy-now-pay-later schemes and cryptocurrency payments offer further alternatives.</p> <p>The shift away from cash only <a href="https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2022/06/29/covid-19-drives-global-surge-in-use-of-digital-payments">accelerated</a> throughout the COVID pandemic, as health experts recommended avoiding using it for hygiene reasons.</p> <p>Despite these big changes in <em>how</em> we spend money, Australians have perhaps been more focused on <em>how much</em> amid a stubborn cost-of-living crisis.</p> <p>In light of this, our research team wanted to investigate how our choice of payment method can interact with our actual spending habits.</p> <p>Our <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022435924000216#bib0104">latest research</a> offers a simple solution for anyone looking to save money — carry more cash!</p> <h2>We pay less when we pay cash</h2> <p>Drawing on both academic and industry sources, our research team combined the results from more than four decades of prior research on spending behaviour and payment methods into a large dataset.</p> <p>This data spanned 71 research papers, 17 countries, and more than 11,000 participants. State-of-the-art meta-analysis techniques then allowed us to collectively analyse the results from all these prior studies, and re-examine their insights.</p> <p>We found that cashless payments were indeed associated with higher levels of consumer spending compared to cash transactions, something that is referred to in the literature as the “cashless effect”.</p> <p>This cashless effect was consistent across all other payment methods in the data set.</p> <p>Put simply, it doesn’t matter whether you use a credit card, debit card or a buy-now-pay-later service – you are likely to spend more money using cashless methods than when you pay with cash.</p> <h2>The pain of paying</h2> <p>Under the traditional economic view that consumers behave rationally, there should be no differences in spending behaviour between different payment methods – money is money after all.</p> <p>But the existence of the cashless effect shows that the payment methods we use do indeed influence our spending behaviour.</p> <p>The leading theory to explain this effect attributes it to differences in the “pain of paying”, a concept <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/280711796_The_Pain_of_Paying">first coined in 1996</a> that describes the emotions we feel when spending money.</p> <p>Importantly, our choice of payment method can influence the level of pain felt.</p> <p>When paying with cash, we have to physically count out notes and coins and hand them over. Humans seek to avoid losses, and paying by cash sees us physically lose a tangible object.</p> <p>Conversely, nothing has to be handed over to pay cashlessly. We don’t lose anything tangible with a swipe or a tap, so it feels less painful.</p> <p>Preliminary neurological evidence suggests that the “pain of paying” isn’t just an abstract metaphor, and we may feel actual psychological pain with each transaction we make.</p> <p><a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2901808">Research</a> employing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans to observe brain activity in consumers has shown that paying activates brain regions related to experiencing psychological discomfort.</p> <p>Picture this: You’re at a theme park, excited for a fun day. You use your smartwatch to pay for snacks, souvenirs and rides. It’s all so convenient that you don’t realise how much you’re spending until you check your account later and see that you have completely blown your budget!</p> <p>This is the cashless effect in action − if nothing is physically handed over, it’s easy to lose track of how much is spent.</p> <h2>A great tool for budgeting – while it lasts</h2> <p>The cost of living crisis has made spending control front-of-mind for many people. Our meta-analysis suggests that returning to “cold hard cash” whenever possible could be one valuable tool to help.</p> <p>The increased friction felt when using cash could help people better control their money, even just by providing a moment to pause and consider whether a transaction is necessary.</p> <p>This could help individuals make more mindful decisions, saving money while they can in an increasingly cashless world.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/231499/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lachlan-schomburgk-1535737">Lachlan Schomburgk</a>, PhD Researcher in Marketing, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-adelaide-1119">University of Adelaide</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/alex-belli-1538870">Alex Belli</a>, Senior Lecturer in Marketing, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/arvid-o-i-hoffmann-1150527">Arvid O. I. Hoffmann</a>, Professor of Marketing, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-adelaide-1119">University of Adelaide</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/trying-to-save-money-our-research-suggests-paying-in-cash-while-you-still-can-231499">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Money & Banking

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Where did money come from?

<div class="theconversation-article-body"> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/steven-hail-1302961">Steve<em>n Hail</em></a><em>, <a href="https://www.torrens.edu.au/">Torrens University Australia</a></em></p> <p>For the most part, economists continue to believe a story of money told to generations of students by a series of textbooks over the past 150 years.</p> <p>This story asks us to imagine a pre-monetary barter economy, where people bought goods and services by trading them for other goods and services.</p> <p>Eventually a suitable commodity – perhaps gold or silver – emerged as both an acceptable means of exchange for conducting trade and a convenient unit of account for expressing value.</p> <p>Later, coins were issued – eventually to be monopolised by governments – and later still paper money, credit, and banking systems.</p> <p>The problem with this story is that there is no historical evidence to support it. As was <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/2802221?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents">noted</a> by prominent anthropologist Caroline Humphreys:</p> <blockquote> <p>No example of a barter economy, pure and simple, has ever been described, let alone the emergence from it of money … all available ethnography suggests that there has never been such a thing.</p> </blockquote> <p>So where did money come from exactly? One difficulty we face is that writing about money – what gives it value, and how monetary systems work – is not something young economists are generally encouraged to do.</p> <p>As a consequence, among the best articles ever written about money are two now more than 100 years old by British economist Alfred Mitchell-Innes, entitled “<a href="https://www.community-exchange.org/docs/what%20is%20money.htm">What is Money</a>?” and “<a href="https://cooperative-individualism.org/innes-a-mitchell_credit-theory-of-money-1914-dec-jan.pdf">The Credit Theory of Money</a>”.</p> <p>These papers, until recently almost completely ignored by the economics profession, tell a different story, rejecting the idea that money evolved naturally from barter.</p> <p>We can now be confident this version is closer to the truth. And it has big implications for how we think about the role of governments within monetary systems, and what gives money value. Acknowledging the true story of money would force a paradigm shift among economists – no wonder a lot of them don’t want to think about it.</p> <h2>Actually, early governments invented money</h2> <p>The truth is that money predates markets. <a href="https://youtu.be/7cLDFjTt4Bs?si=fDTafcZD_u1S23kD">Governments invented money</a> – it did not emerge independently from pre-existing barter systems.</p> <p>Market economies simply could not develop until money existed. For much of history, the currency tokens people regarded as money had little or no intrinsic value, taking the form of clay tablets, hazelwood tally sticks, base metals, shells or paper.</p> <p>The earliest forms of what Keynes called “modern money” – to distinguish it from gift tokens used for ceremonial purposes in communal groups – go back to the origins of taxation, accounting, and even literacy and numeracy. These early currencies were units of account used to assess the tributes that had to be paid to early governmental institutions in the Middle East.</p> <p>The word shekel is still used as a currency unit, but dates to ancient Babylon and the emergence of money itself, over 5,000 years ago.</p> <p>The idea that the need to pay taxes is what creates a demand for a currency was well understood by colonial governments. They knew how to introduce their currencies into countries they had invaded. To force locals to supply labour or goods to the government, they imposed a tax liability – often, a hut tax. This tax could only be paid using the currency of the colony.</p> <p>Locals had to either work for the colonial government or supply goods to others who did, else they wouldn’t have the specific currency needed to pay taxes. This created a demand for the colonial power’s currency, which the government could then spend.</p> <p>If such a government spent more overall than it withdrew in taxation – running a budget deficit – the community could add the remaining currency to its savings. Taxation and the legal system created a demand for the government’s money and provided the impetus for the development of a monetary economy.</p> <p>Even today, it’s the tax system that drives the monetary system. Demand for a government’s money is guaranteed because people need it to pay federal taxes.</p> <h2>But banks create money too</h2> <p>Actual physical cash makes up a tiny proportion of the money in circulation. Most of what we regard as money is held in our bank deposits, effectively a bunch of numbers on a ledger. Most of these bank deposits are created by banks when they make loans to us, and this is not government money at all – it is private money, created by the banks themselves.</p> <p>When a bank makes a loan to you, that loan becomes an <em>asset</em> for the bank, because you have to pay it back with interest. But at the same time, the loan appears as a deposit of funds in your account, which is a <em>liability</em> for the bank. Technically, you both owe each other.</p> <p>On paper, this means there’s now money in the system that wasn’t there before. The bank hasn’t actually lent you someone else’s money, the loan deposited in your account represents the bank’s IOU to you.</p> <p>Both the loan and the deposit are created by the bank, using nothing more than a computer keyboard. The bank has promised to use its holdings of government money to make payments on your behalf, including tax payments to the government, or to provide you with government money in the form of physical cash.</p> <p>As economist Hyman Minsky once said, “anyone can create money – the problem lies in getting it accepted”.</p> <p>Obviously, private banks don’t issue government currency. The Commonwealth government and its agent, the Reserve Bank of Australia, sit at the top of our own monetary system.</p> <p>Government-issued currency will always have value because it’s the unit of account needed to assess and pay our taxes. How much value the currency holds depends on how much the economy produces, how difficult it is to obtain the currency and on how much tax we have to pay.</p> <p>Here is some food for thought. If we accept that money and markets did not emerge naturally but had to be created by governmental institutions and legal systems, this means that there is no such thing as a genuinely free market, no such thing as a natural rate of unemployment, and no such thing as a natural distribution of income and wealth.</p> <p>The theory that money emerged naturally in the private sector encourages people to believe that free markets are natural systems in which governments only interfere. But in truth, early governments invented the very institutions of money and markets, and the regulatory frameworks that determined how those markets work and in whose interests.</p> <p>Exchange economies have always depended on systems of law and they always will. The more pertinent question concerns who writes those laws – and in whose interests those regulations are applied.</p> <hr /> <p><em>Correction: This article has been amended to reflect that a loan deposit represents a bank’s IOU to the customer, not to a bank’s other customers, as originally reported.</em><!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/229481/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <hr /> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/steven-hail-1302961"><em>Steven Hail</em></a><em>, Associate Professor, <a href="https://www.torrens.edu.au/">Torrens University Australia</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/where-did-money-come-from-229481">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Money & Banking

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Qantas apologises after rejecting cancer patient's refund request

<p>Qantas has issued an apology for rejecting a cancer patient's refund request after his case allegedly did not qualify based on “compassionate reasons”. </p> <p>Neil Ross, 62, decided to book a holiday to Cairns with his wife for a couple of weeks, but two weeks later he was diagnosed with face cancer. </p> <p>“It hit me like a rock,” Mr Ross told <em>news.com.au</em>.</p> <p>“I wasn’t in the life of me, expecting that news.”</p> <p>The Brisbane local was initially told he had Bells Palsy, but was later diagnosed with cancer and had to undergo a 13-hour operation to remove the tumour, causing the right side of his face to be significantly disfigured. </p> <p>He underwent radiation almost every day for six weeks saying it “knocked him to no end”.</p> <p>“I was very thankful that my wife had helped me and still is helping me to get through this.”</p> <p>Ross is yet to be given the all-clear and is still undergoing treatments, including rehab following the loss of muscle mass. </p> <p>He will also undergo plastic surgery to reconstruct the right side of his face.</p> <p>“I had notified Flight Centre that I needed to cancel my flight due to finding out that I had cancer and that l needed treatment urgently,” he said. </p> <p>“As I said to the girl at Flight Centre – ‘look at my face, do you think I want to get a refund for the hell of it? I rather be healthy and go on holiday.”</p> <p>Ross said that the airline issued him a credit note until April 22 of this year, but with his current circumstances, he was unable to travel before that date and applied for a full refund. </p> <p>He also claims that despite sending two medical certificates - the first which stated that Ross was unfit to fly for 12 months, and the second which included detailed information about his condition -  it “did not meet requirements on compassion”.</p> <p>“I thought ‘what the hell, what more can I do?’ This has done nothing but cause me a great deal of stress that I don’t need,"  he said. </p> <p>Ross submitted two different refund requests, one on March 20, which was rejected on the fourth of April, and another on April 9 which was rejected two weeks later. </p> <p>The email from a Flight Centre representative reportedly said: "They have advised that ‘the attached medical certificate does not fit into the GF guidelines for a refund due to compassionate reasons’." </p> <p>According to <em>news.com.au</em>,  Qantas has since contacted Ross and issued a refund, after an error was made in processing the supplementary material, by not connecting it to the earlier application.</p> <p>“We apologise to Mr Ross for this experience and have let him know we’re processing a refund for him.”</p> <p>They have also reportedly apologised for any distress they may have caused and are investigating how the error occurred so that it doesn't happen again. </p> <p><em>Images: news.com.au/ Getty</em></p>

Travel Trouble

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Bold idea sees hotel offer thousands in cash back if it rains

<p>In a move that's making waves in the travel industry, a posh hotel in the heart of Singapore has rolled out a revolutionary offer: rain insurance. Yes, you heard it right – rain insurance!</p> <p>InterContinental Singapore, a sanctuary for jet-setters seeking respite from both the humidity and the occasional tropical deluge, has unleashed a game-changer for travellers. Dubbed the "Rain Resist Bliss Package", this offer promises to keep your spirits high even when the rain gods decide to throw a dampener on your plans.</p> <p>Picture this: you've booked your suite at this 5-star haven, eagerly anticipating your Singapore escapade. But lo and behold, the forecast takes a turn for the soggy, threatening to rain on your parade – quite literally. Fear not, dear traveller, for with the Rain Resist Bliss Package, you can breathe easy knowing that if your plans get drenched, your wallet won't.</p> <p>Now, you might be wondering, how does this rain insurance work? Well, it's as simple as Singapore Sling on a sunny day. If the heavens decide to open up and rain on your parade for a cumulative 120 minutes within any four-hour block of daylight hours (that's 8am to 7pm for those not on island time), you're entitled to a refund equivalent to your single-night room rate. The package is available exclusively for suite room bookings starting from $SGD850 per night – so that’s around $965 rain-soaked dollars back in your pocket, no questions asked. No need to jump through hoops or perform a rain dance – just sit back, relax, and let the rain do its thing.</p> <p>And fret not about having to keep an eye on the sky – the clever folks at InterContinental Singapore have got you covered. They're tapping into the data from the National Environmental Agency Weather Station to automatically trigger those rain refunds. It's like having your own personal meteorologist ensuring that your plans stay as dry as your martini.</p> <p>But hey, if the rain does decide to crash your party, fear not! The hotel has an array of dining options to keep your tastebuds entertained while you wait for the clouds to part. And let's not forget, Singapore isn't just about sunshine and rainbows – there are plenty of indoor activities to keep you occupied, from feasting at Lau Pa Sat for an authentic hawker experience to retail therapy at Takashimaya.</p> <p>And here's a silver lining to those rain clouds: fewer tourists! That's right, while others might be scrambling for cover, you could be enjoying shorter lines, less crowded attractions, and even snagging better deals on accommodations. Plus, let's not overlook the fact that the rain brings a welcome respite from the tropical heat, making outdoor adventures all the more enjoyable once the showers subside.</p> <p>So, pack your umbrella and leave your worries behind. With InterContinental Singapore's Rain Resist Bliss Package, you can embrace the unpredictable and turn even the rainiest of days into a memorable adventure. After all, as they say, when life gives you lemons, make Singapore Slings and dance in the rain!</p> <p><em>Images: InterContinental Singapore / Getty Images</em></p>

International Travel

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Millions of Aussies to get cash boost in weeks

<p>Millions of Australians are set to receive more money when payments are indexed. </p> <p>On March 20, those on the age pension, disability support pension and carer payment will be pocketing extra money. </p> <p>Single people on the pension and carer payment can expect an extra $19.60, with maximum amount increasing to $1116.30. For couples, the rate will go up $29.40 per fortnight, with the maximum being $1682.80.</p> <p>People on rent assistance, JobSeeker, single parenting payments and ABSTUDY will also benefit from payment increases, with single parenting payment going up by $17.50 a fortnight.</p> <p>Single JobSeeker recipients with no kids, and people over 22 on ABSTUDY, will get an extra $13.50 per fortnight, while each member of a couple will get an additional $12.30 per fortnight.</p> <p>The government has also changed the eligibility criteria for parents seeking welfare payments, with the last budget revealing that 77,000 parents will receive benefits for the youngest child up to the age of 14 instead of eight. </p> <p>The income and assets limits will also be increased in line with indexation in March.</p> <p>Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth said that these changes will be implemented to ensure that Centrelink recipients would be able to have more money in their accounts, with the rise in cost-of-living. </p> <p>“Our number one priority is addressing inflation and cost of living pressures,” Rishworth said.</p> <p><em>Image: Getty</em></p> <p> </p>

Money & Banking

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12 super simple ways to save some cash

<p>Saving money is a lot easier said than done. Whether you’ve got a holiday you’re thinking about taking, or you just want to make day to day life a little less stressful, there is a range of strategies you can employ to put a couple of dimes together. Here are 12 tips to cut costs:</p> <p>1. Don't buy luxury, sometimes the budget brands are just as good and save you heaps.</p> <p>2. Read the junk mail and compare offers because you can get a better deal where you didn't think you could.</p> <p>3. Cut unnecessary expenses and reduce, if possible, the necessary expenses as well.</p> <p>4. Buy used goods, it's cheaper and you can haggle.</p> <p>5. See if you can switch power companies. I'm aware of several people who are saving $250 a year.</p> <p>6. Borrow books and movies from the library or movie store - it's free or low cost compared to buying new and it's fast.</p> <p>7. Barter with family and friends, it's free and everyone wins.</p> <p>8. Take advantage of specials, sales and deals including buying in bulk, it can save you more than you realise.</p> <p>9. Walk, bike or car pool or use other public transport, it's good for the environment and saves you money.</p> <p>10. Shop around for the best deal, it might be better elsewhere.</p> <p>11. Follow insurance company advice: Don't smoke, do have alarms and do get multi policies - it protects you and saves cash.</p> <p>12. Have a savings account with all the savings from this and don't touch it, you will be amazed at what you have saved in a short time.</p> <p><em>Written by John Murphy. Republished with permission of <a href="http://www.stuff.co.nz/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Stuff.co.nz</span></strong></a>.</em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p>

Money & Banking

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AusPost customer faces extra charge for using cash

<p dir="ltr">As conversations continue about moving to a cashless society, an Australia Post customer was outraged after being slapped with a charge for using cash. </p> <p dir="ltr">Brisbane resident Gerrie Hoogland shared her outrage after hearing about the supposed cash charge through a friend, who claims they were charged $2.20 for wanting to use cash to pay a bill. </p> <p dir="ltr">Hoogland recounted the story on X, formerly known as Twitter, to share the story, while asking if anyone else had encountered anything similar. </p> <p dir="ltr">She wrote, “A friend of my husband’s went to pay a bill at the Post Office last week. He gave them $82.00 in cash and they said they would have to charge him $2.20 for using cash.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“He refused to pay it after telling them cash is legal tender, and then he left without paying the bill at all. Is anyone else hearing more of this?”</p> <p dir="ltr">A number of Aussies took to the comments to call out Australia Post for being “shady”, with some calling the fee a “scam” and a “disgrace”. </p> <p dir="ltr">However the outrage towards Australia Post may be misplaced. </p> <p dir="ltr"><em><a href="https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/australia-post-customer-charged-220-for-using-cash---but-is-the-outrage-warranted-025519571.html">Yahoo Finance</a></em> has contacted the national postal service and understands the fee is set by individual billers, rather than Australia Post themselves.</p> <p dir="ltr">The fee relates to bills paid in person at an Australia Post outlet via Post Billpay and can apply to both cash and card transactions, and whether or not the fee is passed onto the customer will depend on the individual biller. </p> <p dir="ltr">In recent years, a number of billers charge an additional payment fee for bills paid in person, with some notable examples include telcos Telstra, Optus and Vodafone.</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em><span id="docs-internal-guid-934db778-7fff-f88e-e460-f8550a0ce109"></span></p>

Money & Banking

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Aussies lament the end of ancient "Beers for Garbos" tradition

<p>Here in Australia, where rubbish collectors are celebrated annually with a frosty brew (or six), a cherished tradition is facing its untimely demise.</p> <p>Yes, you guessed it right – the legendary "Beers for Garbos" tradition, where grateful locals adorn their wheelie bins with a six-pack of beer as a token of appreciation, is disappearing faster than a cold beer on a scorching summer day.</p> <p>For generations, Aussies have upheld this festive practice, a heartwarming exchange between citizens and their garbage collectors during the most wonderful time of the year. But alas, the tides are turning, and it seems the days of beer-topped bins are numbered.</p> <p>The alarm was sounded when a concerned citizen took to the virtual streets of Reddit to lament the decline of this time-honoured tradition. "I've been doing this for 20 years, only the last two years they don't seem interested. Is this a tradition we are losing?" cried out the desperate Redditor, faced with the heartbreaking prospect of having their VB left unwanted and <span style="font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, 'Segoe UI', Roboto, Oxygen, Ubuntu, Cantarell, 'Open Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', sans-serif;">unclaimed</span><span style="font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, 'Segoe UI', Roboto, Oxygen, Ubuntu, Cantarell, 'Open Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', sans-serif;">.</span></p> <p>Speculations ran wild in the digital realm, with theories ranging from light-fingered neighbours to the outrageous notion that beer might not be as popular as it once was. However, Veolia, the giant among waste management companies in Australia, quickly extinguished the fiery speculations.</p> <p>Veolia's chief operating officer of environment, Tony Roderick, delivered the crushing blow, confirming that the "Beers for Garbos" tradition had taken its last bow. The culprit? Health and safety concerns, the perennial party poopers of workplace festivities. Roderick explained, "Packages of beer become missiles in the cabin of the truck under emergency braking."</p> <p>Picture this: a garbage truck hurtling down the suburban streets, emergency brakes screeching, and inside, a symphony of exploding beer bottles. It's a hazardous scenario that even the most seasoned garbage collector might find hard to navigate. Moreover, Veolia has a company-wide dry workplace policy, dashing hopes of a beer-fuelled trash pickup.</p> <p>But fear not, for Roderick is not entirely Ebenezer Scrooge. He encourages alternative forms of gift-giving. "Should people want to leave a small gift for their local driver, it is possible to leave it at the local depot where the driver can collect it at the end of the shift."</p> <p>So, instead of a six-pack perched on the bin, envision a quaint scene of a garbage collector picking up a thoughtful gift basket at the depot – the stuff of modern Aussie holiday magic.</p> <p>As we bid adieu to the "Beers for Garbos" era, let's raise a glass in fond remembrance. May your wheelie bins be forever adorned with the spirit of giving, even if the contents are now strictly non-alcoholic. Cheers to a new era of sober, yet equally heartfelt, expressions of gratitude for our unsung garbage heroes!</p> <p><em>Images: Facebook</em></p>

Home & Garden

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"Like the cash cow had come out": Commuters puzzled by money bundles on motorway

<p>Motorists in Perth have been left puzzled after bundles of cash were spotted flying across a motorway. </p> <p>On Monday evening, several members of the public called Western Australia police after up to $40,000 in cold hard cash was seen flying across the Mitchell Fwy in Connolly, in the city’s northern suburbs. </p> <p>According to Commissioner Col Blanch, honest civilians bundled up some of the mysterious money and “came forward with large wads of cash”.</p> <p>“We believe that up to $40,000 has been recovered,” he said.</p> <p>Police believe that the money came from an alleged drug deal gone wrong, but the incident is still under investigation. </p> <p>"It looks like it was a total fiasco by the person involved and probably not one of our smartest (alleged) offenders," Mr Blanch said.</p> <p>"It's like the cash cow had come out, and there was cash flying everywhere."</p> <p>"There's no more money on the freeway … let's not go there."</p> <p>After police attended the scene, they arrested a man close by who had another $8,000 in his possession, along with 51g of cocaine. </p> <p>Despite some people stopping to retrieve the money to hand over to police, the free money prompted some motorists to stop their cars to retrieve a share for themselves.</p> <p>Talk on social media suggested one commuter even pocketed about $10,000. </p> <p><em>Image credits: WA Police</em></p>

Travel Trouble

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Flower tycoon pays $76 million in CASH for epic mansion

<p>A Sydney businessman and flower mogul has expanded his real estate portfolio, snapping up one of NSW's most prestigious properties. </p> <p>Leo Lynch and his wife Christina have bought a Federation mansion in Sydney's Bellevue Hill, with the eight-bedroom eight-bathroom property boasting impressive views of Sydney Harbour. </p> <p>The mansion, which was built in the 1890s, also showcases a pool, tennis court, and endless luxury amenities for the well-off buyers. </p> <p>"Designed by architect Walter Vernon," read the listing for the property, "the home is considered his most significant residence. Other heritage buildings designed by Vernon include the Australian Museum, the Art Gallery of New South Wales and Central Railway Station. A truly rare offering to earn a piece of Australian history."</p> <p>While securing the house seems like a huge feat in itself, the Lynch's decided to take the purchase to the next level, buying the home for $76 million in cold hard cash. </p> <p>Despite paying the whopping eight-figure for the mansion, the home needs work and is set to undergo renovations. </p> <p>The purchase of the property, named Leura, comes just after the Lynch's sold their former home for $52.4million more than he bought it.</p> <p>The same night he made the enormous purchase for the Leura estate, he sold his mystery home, just blocks away, for $61.5 million after rebuilding the property he had bought for just $9.05 million in 2014.</p> <p>Leo Lynch, 60, is a third generation of the wholesale flower family's company, founded in 1915 and for which private equity group Next Capital took a majority interest in 2015, before it was publicly listed in 2021.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Domain</em></p>

Real Estate

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“This is their money”: Aussies to receive cash boost in days

<p>The Australian government appears to be on a mission to play Santa, as it attempts to return a whopping $234 million in unclaimed Medicare benefits to one million of its hard-working citizens. Move over, jolly old Saint Nick; it's time for Bill "Santa" Shorten to shine.</p> <p>It turns out that Australians have been missing out on an average of $240 each in Medicare rebates, akin to losing a crisp, green note between the couch cushions – but on a national scale.</p> <p>Apparently, the government has been holding onto this financial treasure trove because some Aussies forgot to update their bank details with Medicare. Who knew that keeping your bank info up-to-date could be more rewarding than finding a forgotten $20 in last winter's coat?</p> <p>Government Services Minister Bill Shorten is riding the sleigh of generosity, announcing that, "We know Australians are doing it tough, and I want to reunite people with millions in unpaid Medicare benefits before the holidays." </p> <p>In the grand spirit of giving, Shorten has a plan. Australians can reclaim their lost loot within three days by undertaking the Herculean task of updating their bank account details on the myGov website. It's like a high-stakes version of changing your password but with a much more tangible reward – immediate funds in time for holiday shopping sprees.</p> <p>According to Shorten, the age group with the most to gain from this unexpected Christmas bonus is 18 to 24-year-olds, collectively owed a jaw-dropping $49 million. It seems like Santa Shorten is making a list and checking it twice, ensuring even the Millennials and Gen Zs get their fair share of financial cheer.</p> <p>While nearly 700,000 lucky Aussies are set to receive a notification about their long-lost financial windfall, there's a Grinchy catch: 300,000 individuals without a myGov account may remain out of reach. It's a modern-day Christmas tragedy – the equivalent of getting coal in your stocking because you forgot to sign up for the "nice" list.</p> <p>Opposition spokesman Paul Fletcher is urging Australians to create a myGov account, stating, "Two minutes on the app, three days later money in your account, good news for Christmas." It's like a financial magic trick - poof, and the money appears!</p> <p>In the midst of this Yuletide monetary magic, opposition spokesman Paul Fletcher throws some shade, claiming the coalition exposed these unclaimed benefits figures in October. "Families are struggling with cost-of-living pressures, and this is their money, not the government's," he declared, sounding like a fiscal superhero fighting for the rights of the underpaid and overtaxed.</p> <p>So, as Aussies rush to create myGov accounts and update their banking details, it's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. Santa Shorten and his merry band of government officials are on a mission to spread holiday cheer, one direct deposit at a time.</p> <p>Who needs mistletoe when you can kiss your financial worries goodbye, thanks to the jingling sound of unclaimed Medicare benefits? It's the season of giving, after all, and in Australia, Santa Shorten is coming to town.</p> <p><em>Image: Getty</em></p>

Money & Banking

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New commemorative Queen coin worth serious cash

<p>The Royal Australian Mint has confirmed that it will be releasing a commemorative 50c coin to celebrate the life of Queen Elizabeth II, on Thursday. </p> <p>The coin will feature all six effigies which have been featured on Australian coins during the late monarch’s reign, with two versions up for sale. </p> <p>One is an uncirculated version which will cost $15 and, the other is silver proof edition for $135.</p> <p>“With limited mintage, this coin is expected to be a highly prized addition to any coin collection,” the Mint said. </p> <p>Australian coin expert Joel Kandia said that online marketplaces are already selling the coin at “seven times the RRP”. </p> <p>Royal Australian Mint CEO Leigh Gordon added that this latest release is the perfect tribute to the late Queen. </p> <p>“Historically, coins bear witness to a Monarch’s reign with their royal effigies appearing on the obverse. In keeping with that tradition, this exceptional coin showcases the Queen Elizabeth II Memorial Effigy by Jody Clark on the obverse,” he said. </p> <p>“The Mint’s trademark storytelling is strongly represented on the coin’s reverse, which features a central design depicting the first six effigies, fanned above the Queen’s royal cypher.”</p> <p>This surprise release will be in high demand, with a “frenzy” expected for coin collectors, according to the Perth coin and bank note expert. </p> <p>“It is essentially the last coin commemorating the Queen,” Kandiah said in an interview with<em> 7News</em>. </p> <p>“It is extremely special because it features all six effigies of the Queen that have appeared on Australian coinage since 1954, so it unique in that respect.</p> <p>“There will definitely be a frenzy, which is why the RAM have reduced the allocation to just one per person through their physical store, through the phone and their authorised distributors.</p> <p>“There have been murmurings about the coin for a while, so collectors are really excited to see it confirmed and able for purchase.”</p> <p>The uncirculated coin itself will have a mintage of  25,000 and the silver proof version has an even lower mintage of 7,500. </p> <p>The coins will be for sale at the Royal Australian Mint in Canberra from 8.30am on Thursday November 23, through the Mint’s Contact Centre on <strong>1300 352 020</strong>, or through the Mint’s authorised distributors.</p> <p><em>Image: Royal Australian Mint</em></p>

Money & Banking

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Return and Earn is a great way to recycle

<p>When you recycle your eligible bottles and cans through Return and Earn, the material that is used to make the bottles and cans stay in use for as long as possible and are turned into new products, rather than ending up in landfill or polluting waterways.</p> <p>The scheme has already more than halved the number of drink containers littering our parks, waterways, or ending up in landfill compared to before the scheme was launched in December 2017.</p> <p><strong>What happens to containers returned through Return and Earn?</strong></p> <p>Have you ever wondered what happens to the containers once they are returned through the scheme?</p> <p>All containers returned through Return and Earn are recycled. The containers are picked up from the return points and trucked to a sorting facility where the containers are processed depending on the material type. Cans are crushed and baled into a giant cube, glass bottles are crushed into small particles called cullet; and plastic bottles are sorted by type and colour and shredded into smaller flakes before being turned into pellets.</p> <p><img class="alignnone size-full wp-image-68727" src="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/crushed-cans-770.jpg" alt="" width="770" height="500" /></p> <p>The giant cubes of Aluminium cans are melted, rolled into sheets, and sent to manufacturers to be turned into new cans or other products – some even go to make up aeroplane parts!</p> <p>Glass cullet is melted and mixed with raw materials before being blown into a new glass bottle and sent to drink companies.</p> <p>The plastic pellets are melted down, moulded and blown into new plastic bottles, ready to be bought be retailers.</p> <p>The new bottles and cans made from the recycled materials are filled by the beverage companies, labelled, capped, and ready to be consumed.</p> <p>By using the recycled material from Return and Earn, we save water, energy, and landfill, as well as reducing the carbon emissions that would be used if new raw materials were used instead. This conservation contributes to a more sustainable and efficient economy.</p> <p><strong>Keeping materials in Australia</strong></p> <p>The purity and quality of the material from Return and Earn plays a crucial role in establishing local recycling facilities so most of the key materials stay in Australia.  A key milestone was the opening of the Circular Plastics Australia plant in Albury, NSW, in March 2022. This state-of-the-art PET plastic recycling facility is a joint venture between waste industry and beverage industry partners and is the largest of its kind in Australia.</p> <p>The facility reprocesses 100% of the PET (one of the materials that make up plastic containers) collected through the Return and Earn network of over 600 return points and uses the materials to remake new bottles and other food-grade plastic packaging.</p> <p>All glass collected through the Return and Earn network is also being reprocessed in Australia and contributes to the growing demand of locally sourced glass to use in making new bottles and other products.</p> <p>Having facilities in Australia means that the cycle of making a new container from the recycled material is fast. Plastic bottles can be back on the shelf in as little as six weeks and glass bottles in four weeks. Now that’s recycling at its best.</p> <p><img class="alignnone size-full wp-image-68725" src="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/what-happens-when-you-return-and-earn-journey-image_770.jpg" alt="" width="770" height="846" /></p> <p><strong>Do you recycle?</strong></p> <p>It’s easier than ever to recycle your empty containers through Return and Earn. We have over 600 return points across Australia, and we continue to work with businesses and local councils to identify more sites.</p> <p>Every container counts – recycling is an important way to reduce the load on our natural resources and keep valuable waste on the path to being remade into new products and used again. These small acts can make a big impact.</p> <p>If you’re not interested in returning the containers, consider leaving them out for others in your neighbourhood that are collecting them, or donate them to a charity or community group who is fundraising through the scheme. If you are unable to give them away, place your empty drink containers in your yellow lid recycle bin.</p> <p>For more information about Return and Earn, and to find your nearest return point visit <a href="https://returnandearn.org.au/">returnandearn.org.au</a></p> <p><strong>Case Study: </strong><strong>Sharing the dignity through recycling</strong></p> <p>Semi-retiree Wendy Pluckrose from the far north NSW coast has supported Share the Dignity for years, so when she discovered Return and Earn it seemed an obvious way to raise some extra funds as well as protect the environment.</p> <p>Share the Dignity is a women's charity in Australia, that works to make a real difference in the lives of those experiencing homelessness, fleeing domestic violence, or doing it tough.</p> <p>Wendy has installed bins at home and at local shops and restaurants to collect eligible drink containers.  Most days she collects between 100 – 500 containers, and in the last year has raised nearly $3,500 from around 35,000 containers recycled through Return and Earn.</p> <p>“Return and Earn is just free money!” Wendy said. “It’s a little bit of effort, but it makes a big difference.”</p> <p><img class="alignnone size-full wp-image-68728" src="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/share-the-dignity-photo-article-770.jpg" alt="" width="770" height="733" /></p> <p>With the containers collected so far, not only is the refund going towards buying women’s sanitary products to women experiencing hardships, but it has also contributed to protecting the environment.</p> <p>By recycling 35,000 containers to be remade into new containers rather than using virgin materials, the environmental savings calculated by the <a href="https://returnandearn.org.au/impact-calculator/">Impact Calculator</a> include 206,000 litres of water; 46 gigajoules of energy that equates to six months of energy consumption for a household; and 2,100 kilograms of material entering landfill. The carbon emissions avoided equates to keeping two cars off the road for 18 months.</p> <p>To learn more about Return and Earn, <a href="https://returnandearn.org.au/">head to their website</a>.</p> <p><em>Images: Return and Earn.</em></p> <p><em>This is a sponsored article produced in partnership with Return and Earn.</em></p>

Retirement Income

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Peter Stefanovic and Sylvia Jeffreys list multimillion-dollar home

<p dir="ltr">TV presenter power couple Peter Stefanovic and Sylvia Jeffreys have listed their Double Bay terrace for sale. </p> <p dir="ltr">The couple placed their home on the market for $4.5 million, as they start the search for a bigger and better family home for them and their two sons. </p> <p dir="ltr">The four-bedroom terrace with two-and-a-half bathrooms in Epping Rd is scheduled to go under the hammer on August 22nd with a $4.5m price guide via Oliver Lavers of The Rubinstein Group.</p> <p dir="ltr">Stefanovic, a co-host of <em>First Edition</em> on Sky News Australia, and Jeffreys, co-host of <em>Today Extra</em> on Channel 9, had bought the home on a 186 sqm block for $2.7m in 2016.</p> <p dir="ltr">In their seven years at the home, the couple have made a range of improvements including adding off-street parking, and created an impressive outdoor entertainment area with inbuilt seating and barbecue in the rear courtyard.</p> <p dir="ltr">The impressive property boasts open plan living areas, polished timber floors, marble finishes in the kitchen, and underfloor heating in the bathrooms. </p> <p dir="ltr">Two master-sized bedrooms open to balconies, alongside a third on the upper floor, and a versatile fourth bedroom could serve as an office.</p> <p dir="ltr">The couple met in 2014 when they were both colleagues at Channel Nine - she was working on <em>The Today Show</em> while he was a foreign correspondent for <em>Nine News</em>, and they bumped into each other in the station’s carpark. </p> <p dir="ltr">Two years later in 2016, Stefanovic popped the question in a French vineyard, and they were married the following year in Kangaroo Valley.</p> <p dir="ltr">The couple have two sons - Oscar, who was born in early 2020 and Henry, who arrived a little more than a year later.</p> <p dir="ltr">With their sons growing up and needing more space, the family are looking for a bigger home in Sydney’s eastern suburbs. </p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: realestate.com.au / Instagram</em></p>

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