What the latest Bank of Canada interest rate hike means for you

THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX: The Bank of Canada’s increase to its key interest rate Wednesday, the second bump since July, will start putting a more noticeable squeeze on consumers holding variable rate mortgages, lines of credit or any consumer debt tied to bank prime lending rates, according to experts.

The Bank of Canada is hiking its benchmark interest rate by a quarter point to one per cent. So, what does that mean for people with credit card debt or a mortgage?

Economist Bryan Yu with Central 1 Credit Union says if you’re carrying a lot of debt on your credit card, you’ll probably start to notice higher interest charges.

“They’re going to be facing the quarter-point increase on terms of that debt for their servicing… That’s a quarter point on an annual basis. So, it is going to be a bit of a pinch going forward.”

“Likely, we are going to see a couple more hikes going forward,” he speculates. “But I think at this point, it will be relatively stable for most individuals until about next year.”

So, it might be a good time to start chipping away at that balance.

“They should keep in mind that this is sort of the early stages of a longer-term rate cycle. So, they may want to be looking at paring back some of that debt over time,” says Yu.

“When it comes to credit card debt, it’s a normally high cost debt, unlike mortgages, which is relatively cheap money. So you don’t really want to be holding on to that type of a debt going forward because of the high cost associated with it. So, if you are looking at paying off any debts whatsoever, it should be those high-cost loans.”

Effect on mortgages

For those with a mortgage, Economist Tsur Somerville with UBC explains who’ll feel this rate hike the most:

“If you have an adjustable rate mortgage, then your mortgage payments will be going up very, very soon. And if you’re on a fixed rate mortgage, it means that when you renew, you’re going to be looking at higher payments then.”

Somerville says while the Bank of Canada hiking its trendsetting rate won’t alone make a huge impact, it’s part of a process that is increasing the cost to borrowers, which could dampen the real estate market.

“You start seeing increases in what people will have to pay on their mortgages. That affects pricing and affects demand.”

He adds first-time buyers will be most affected. “Those are the people who are entering mortgages; they’re not carrying an existing mortgage. So, we would expect those to be the people who all of a sudden are looking at qualifying for a smaller mortgage and having higher payments on a mortgage than the existing amount.”

This is the second time this year that the Bank of Canada has moved the benchmark higher.

“I think if we get a third and fourth hike, I think that a kind of accumulated pattern that starts to have an effect on people,” says Somerville. “Any one-off effect, the amount and payment is relatively small and you can sort of brush it all off. But when they start piling up, [it starts] making a difference.”

Martin MacMahon & Denise Wong    Money Sense    September 6th, 2017

 

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