Saturday, August 09, 2008

A deceptive mortgage refinance offer

I received a letter in the mail from Chase Bank offering me a fee waiver on a mortgage refinance to "lower [my] monthly payments," "to save interest," and to "Save up to $1,000 in waived fees."

The letter gives me two options for "a fixed-rate first mortgage tailored to fit [my] needs - and with a new low rate." Option one is a 20-year fixed-rate mortgage at 6.13% (6.26% APR) with a payment of principal and interest that is described as giving me "monthly payment savings" of $178 and "total annual savings" of $2,132. Option two is a 10-year fixed-rate mortgage at 5.63% (5.80% APR) that is described as giving me "total interest savings" of $12,817.

There's just one problem with this. My current mortgage is a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at 5.25%. I currently make extra principal payments every month so I am paying more than what my new monthly payment would be for option two of their refinance offer, the 10-year fixed-rate mortgage.

This means that both option one and option two are losers--neither will save me a cent. If I keep doing what I'm doing now, I'll have my mortgage paid off in nine years, paying less in interest and in total than in either option one or option two. By choosing option one I could choose to pay less per month without being penalized (except due to the higher interest rate), but I'd pay significantly more over the term of the loan--more than $50,000 more. By choosing option two, the "total interest savings" would only occur by comparison to my current loan if I were not making extra principal payments. But compared to what I'm actually doing, it again would cost a bit more (by a few thousand dollars), and I wouldn't have the flexibility of paying less in a given month if necessary that I have now with my current loan.

In short, Chase Bank has knowingly sent me an offer with two options that will cost me more money than my current loan, given how I am currently paying it off (and have been for as long as I've had the loan). But they've tried to describe them to me as though they will save me money, when they won't.

Don't accept one of these offers unless you either need to (e.g., it will give you lower monthly payments and you're struggling to make your current payments) or it will genuinely save you money in the long term (e.g., it has a lower interest rate that saves you more than any fees that may be rolled into the new loan).

No comments: