How the RBA's cash rate affects your finances

Financial Planning | | 2 min read

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The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) plays a significant role in shaping the nation's economic landscape. One of its most important tools is the cash rate. While the cash rate may seem like an abstract financial concept, it has a real and tangible impact on our everyday lives, and ultimately, our financial wellbeing.

What is the RBA's cash rate?

The cash rate, also known as the official cash rate (OCR), represents the interest rate on overnight loans in the money market for Australian banks and financial institutions. The RBA meets regularly to review and, if necessary, adjust the cash rate to achieve its monetary policy objectives.

How is the cash rate determined?

The RBA's decision on the cash rate is influenced by various factors, including:

  1. Inflation: One of the primary goals of the RBA is to maintain inflation within a target range (currently 2-3%). If inflation is low, the RBA may lower the cash rate to stimulate spending and investment. If it's too high, the RBA may raise the cash rate to cool down the economy.
  2. Economic growth: The RBA considers the overall state of the Australian economy. If economic growth is sluggish, they may lower the cash rate to encourage borrowing and spending. Conversely, if the economy is overheating, they may raise the cash rate to prevent inflation.
  3. Global economic conditions: International economic factors can also impact the cash rate. Global events, such as changes in interest rates in major economies or fluctuations in commodity prices, can influence the RBA's decisions.
  4. Employment: The RBA monitors the labour market closely. A high unemployment rate may prompt them to lower the cash rate to stimulate job creation and economic growth.

How does the cash rate affect you?   

Home loans

For many Australians, their mortgage is their most significant financial commitment. The cash rate has a direct effect on the interest rate you pay on your home loan. When the RBA lowers the cash rate, banks can pass on the savings to borrowers by reducing home loan interest rates. This can result in lower monthly repayments, making home ownership more affordable.

On the flip side, when the RBA raises the cash rate, your home loan interest rate will usually increase, leading to higher mortgage repayments. This can impact your disposable income and your budget.

Savings and term deposits

If you're a saver, changes in the cash rate can impact the interest you earn on your savings accounts and term deposits. When the cash rate is lowered, banks may reduce interest rates on these accounts. When the cash rate is raised, you might see better returns on your savings.

Credit cards and personal loans

The cash rate can influence the interest rates on credit cards and personal loans. When the RBA lowers the cash rate, you may find lower interest charges on your credit card balance or personal loans. However, when the cash rate rises, interest rates on these forms of credit may also increase, leading to higher costs for borrowers.


For investors, the cash rate can affect the performance of their investments. When the cash rate is low, some investors turn to other assets like shares or property to seek better returns. This increased demand can drive up asset prices. When the cash rate rises, some investors may shift funds into interest-bearing investments, potentially affecting returns in different sectors of the market.

The Australian dollar

Changes in the cash rate can also impact the value of the Australian dollar. When the RBA raises the cash rate, it can attract foreign investors looking for higher returns on their investments. This increased demand for the Australian dollar can lead to its appreciation against other currencies. While a lower cash rate can lead to a weaker Australian dollar. However, there are many other factors influencing exchange rates. 

Understanding how changes in the cash rate can affect your loans, savings, investments, and the broader economy is essential for making informed financial decisions. Keep an eye on RBA announcements and consider how they may influence your financial strategies, whether you're a homeowner, a saver, or an investor. By staying informed, you can navigate the ever-changing financial landscape with greater confidence and financial wellbeing.

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