The Internet is helping save Australians millions of dollars every year as they increasingly seek out better deals on financial products, according research by Australia’s leading specialist life insurer, TAL.

The TAL research suggests that Google and other search engines such as comparison sites have been instrumental in helping to boost the financial literacy of millions of Aussies.

A poll of more than 1200 adults found that 56%, equivalent to around 8 million Australians, have reviewed at least one financial product over the last 12 months, with many switching as a result.

Of those who have investigated new financial products, at least half (or 4 million people) turned to the web to better educate themselves on the options available.

Jim Minto, CEO, TAL Group, said: "The internet has empowered Australians and put them in the driving seat when it comes to their own finances. This research shows that comparison sites in particular are popular as people use the web to become more money smart to help them both build and protect their financial future."

The consumer survey found one in three Aussies (35%) has gone online to investigate and/or switch their bank and savings account, with 32% doing so for home and vehicle insurance and just 12% for life insurance over the last 12 months.

And online comparison sites specifically are gaining popularity for people wanting to review the competitiveness of their existing financial products or chose a new product.

Minto added: "We would encourage consumers not to rely solely on the internet when making important financial decisions because while they are certainly a great tool to start with, it is always a good idea to seek appropriate advice from a qualified financial adviser or planner."

Other key findings from the research

  • While 56% of Australians have researched options or changed providers for at least one of six financial product categories, 44% have not researched or changed providers for any of the six financial services in the last 12 months.
  • Higher income households (US$90,000+ pa) are more likely to have researched options or changed providers (at 66%) than people in low income households (less than US$40,000 pa) at 45%.
  • Men are more likely than women to have used the internet or internet comparison sites to research financial products (across all six products)
  • Life insurance
  • The internet is the most used source for Generation Y and Generation X, with 56% of Gen Y and 56% of Gen X using the internet to research life insurance and income protection products. However, for Baby Boomer, internet comparison sites are the most used source, with 44% of Boomers using comparison sites to research life and income protection products.
  • Among Generation Y, ‘friends and family’ is a close second to the internet (56% internet, 52% family and friends) suggesting that a family’s satisfaction with existing life insurance could be a factor for Generation Y.
  • Men are more likely than women to have used the internet or a comparison site to research life insurance or income protection products, with 58% of men using the internet (compared to 46% of women) and 46% of men using comparison sites (compared to 37% of women).
  • Women are slightly more likely to get recommendations from someone who has a policy with the provider already when choosing a life insurance or income protection product (26% of women versus 21% of men).

Mr Minto concluded, "Life insurance is one of the least understood financial product yet it is also one of the most important because it provides financial protection for both individuals and families. TAL is passionate about helping Australians to make better decisions about protecting their financial wellbeing. There is a long way to go in educating people with Australia having a staggering $10.6 trillion underinsurance gap."