Banks compete for lucrative market

BANKS are battling for their share of the tax loans market with a range of cheap rates and special services.

It is a low risk, highly lucrative product and banks are willing to sacrifice some of their margin in a bid to boost market share.

Hongkong Bank and Hang Seng Bank will allow couples with separate tax assessments to apply jointly and pool their loan amounts to obtain lower interest rates.

Alternatively, Hongkong Bank is offering groups of five applicants or more from the same company - with an average loan of $12,000 or more - the option of pooling their individual loans of between $5,000 and $15,000 for lower rates.

Hang Seng Bank allowed customers to draw down their loan in two phases according to the tax payment dates.

American Express is offering preferential rates to its card holders, while existing customers of Bank of America are enjoying lower rates.

Alternatively, Standard Chartered is halving the annual fee for credit card applicants.

Another feature is to allow the loan amount to be up to 200 per cent of the tax bill, indirectly transforming the product into a type of cheap loan.

For Hongkong Bank and Standard Chartered Bank it is 150 per cent; Chase Manhattan is also 150 per cent or $300,000; Hang Seng Bank is $200,000, or three times the salary; and Bank of America is 200 per cent.

Hongkong Bank is offering three tiers of loans with varying interest and annualised percentage rates (APR).

Its lowest is a six-month loan from $5,000 to $15,000 at a flat interest rate of 0.95 per cent or 22.5 APR.

Standard Chartered is also offering three tiers, ranging from loans of between $8,000 and $20,000 at a flat interest rate of 0.75 (APR 17.48 per cent) over six months to more than $50,001 and above at 0.36 (APR 8.17 per cent) over 12 months.

Hang Seng Bank, Chase, American Express and Bank of America each had two loan categories and rates.

Bank of America's is from $15,000 to $40,000 at 0.45 per cent (APR 10.3 per cent) over six months, or $40,001 or above at 0.33 per cent (APR 7.5 per cent) over nine months.