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What Is a Personal Loan?

Consolidation Expert goes into detail about what a personal loan is, how they work, where you can get them, and what to expect once you have one.

A personal loan, in its simplest form, is a sum of money that an individual borrows from a financial institution. This could be a bank, a credit union, or an online lender. The unique aspect of a personal loan is its flexibility. Unlike a car loan or a mortgage, which have specific purposes, a personal loan can be used for a multitude of reasons. Whether you’re looking to consolidate your debt, finance a large purchase, or cover an unexpected expense, a personal loan could be a viable option. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the world of personal loans and provide you with the knowledge you need to make an informed decision.

If you’re looking to consolidate your debts with a personal loan, Consolidation Expert may be able to help. Click below to apply – our lenders consider a wide range of credit scores.

Representative 14.8% APR

We are a broker, not a lender.

Representative Example: Borrowing £15,000 over 60 months, repaying £355.28 per month, total repayable £21,316.57.

Total cost of credit £6,316.57.

Interest rate 14.8% (variable).

The lenders on our panel offer loans for 12-360 months, with rates from 4.7% APR to 42.6% APR.

The Representative Example is based on all loans paid out by lenders between 1st Jan 2022 and 31st Dec 2022.

What Are Personal Loans?

Personal loans are typically unsecured, which means they do not require any collateral. However, it is possible to have secured personal loans. The key difference between unsecured personal loans and secured loans, such as mortgages or car loans, is that the latter are secured against a specific asset. If you default on a secured loan, the lender has the right to seize the asset to recoup their losses. With an unsecured personal loan, there’s usually no collateral at risk, but failing to repay the loan can still have serious consequences, including damage to your credit score and potential legal action.

The terms of a personal loan are agreed upon at the outset. This includes the loan amount, the interest rate, and the repayment schedule. These factors are typically determined based on your creditworthiness.

How do Personal Loans Work?

Once you’ve been approved for a personal loan, the lender will usually release the funds into your bank account in a lump sum. This is different from a credit card, where you have a line of credit that you can draw from as needed. With a personal loan, you receive all the funds upfront and then repay the loan in fixed monthly instalments over a set period.

What Are Interest Rates and Interest Fees?

Interest rates on personal loans are typically fixed, meaning they won’t change over the life of the loan. This can make it easier to budget for your monthly payments, as you’ll know exactly how much you need to pay each month. However, some lenders do offer variable-rate personal loans, where the interest rate can change over time based on market conditions.

The interest rate you’re offered will depend on several factors, including your credit score, income, and the lender’s policies. In general, the better your credit score, the lower the interest rate you’ll be offered.

Are there any other fees I should be aware of?

In addition to interest, there may be other fees associated with a personal loan. This could include origination fees, late payment fees, and prepayment penalties if you pay off the loan early. It’s important to understand all the costs associated with a personal loan before you apply.

Personal Loan Amounts and Repayment Terms

Personal loans offer a wide range of loan amounts, with some lenders offering loans as small as £1,000 and others offering loans up to £50,000 or more. The amount you can borrow will depend on several factors, including your credit score, income, and the lender’s policies.

The repayment term for a personal loan can also vary widely. Some loans might have a term of just 12 months, while others could extend up to 7 years or more. The length of the loan term will affect the size of your monthly payments and the total amount of interest you’ll pay over the life of the loan.

When choosing a loan amount and term, it’s important to consider your budget and financial goals. Borrowing more than you need or choosing a longer loan term can result in higher interest costs over time. On the other hand, choosing a shorter loan term or a smaller loan amount can result in higher monthly payments, which could strain your budget.

How do I apply for a personal loan?

The application process for a personal loan typically involves filling out an application form and providing your details to a lender for a credit check. The lender will use your information to assess your creditworthiness and determine what you could be eligible for.

The time it takes to get approved for a personal loan can vary depending on the lender and your individual circumstances. Some lenders offer instant approval and can disburse the funds within a few hours, while others might take several days or even weeks to process your application.

Once the loan is approved and the funds are disbursed, you’ll need to start making monthly payments as agreed upon in the loan contract. Failing to make these payments on time can result in late fees and damage to your credit score.

What can I use a personal loan for?

One of the main advantages of personal loans is their flexibility. Unlike other types of loans, which must be used for a specific purpose, the funds from a personal loan can be used for almost anything. This could include consolidating high-interest debt, financing a large purchase, covering unexpected expenses, or investing in personal development.

However, it’s important to use personal loans responsibly. While it can be tempting to use the funds for a holiday or other discretionary expenses, it’s generally best to use personal loans for necessary expenses or investments that can improve your financial situation in the long term.

What are the different types of personal loans?

While most personal loans are unsecured, there are also secured personal loans that require collateral. This could be a car, a house, or other valuable assets. Secured loans typically offer lower interest rates than unsecured loans, as the lender has the right to seize the collateral if you fail to repay the loan. However, they also carry more risk, as you could lose your assets if you default on the loan.

There are also specialized types of personal loans, such as credit-builder loans and peer-to-peer loans. Credit-builder loans are designed to help individuals with poor or no credit history build their credit scores. Peer-to-peer loans, on the other hand, allow individuals to borrow from other individuals rather than financial institutions.

Are there any alternatives to personal loans?

While unsecured personal loans can be a useful financial tool, they’re not the only option available. Other forms of credit include credit cards, secured loans, and overdrafts, among many other options. Each of these lines of credit has its own advantages and disadvantages, and the best choice will depend on your individual circumstances and financial goals.

For example, a credit card could be a good option for short-term expenses or as a source of emergency funds, but they typically have higher interest rates than personal loans. Secured loans can offer lower interest rates and larger loan amounts, but they require you to put your assets up as collateral.

How important is my credit history in getting a personal loan?

Your creditworthiness plays a crucial role in determining your eligibility for a personal loan. Lenders use your credit score as a measure of your reliability as a borrower. A higher credit score indicates that you have a history of managing your credit responsibly and making payments on time, which makes you a less risky borrower in the eyes of the lender.

If you have a low credit score, it doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be able to get a personal loan, but it could make it more difficult. You might be offered a higher interest rate or a smaller loan amount. In some cases, you might need to provide collateral or have a guarantor to qualify for the loan.

Improving your credit score can increase your chances of getting approved for a personal loan and getting better loan terms. This can be done by making timely payments on all your debts, keeping your credit utilization low, and regularly checking your credit report for errors.

Conclusion: Is a Personal Loan Right for You?

Personal loans can be a useful financial tool, but they’re not right for everyone. Before taking out a personal loan, it’s important to consider your financial situation and goals. Can you afford the monthly payments? Are you comfortable with the interest rate and other costs of the loan? Do you have a plan for how you’ll use the funds?

If you’re considering a personal loan, it’s a good idea to shop around and compare offers from different lenders. This can help you find the best loan terms and ensure that you’re getting a fair deal.

If you’re looking for a personal loan to consolidate debt, Consolidation Expert may be able to help you. Click below to find out if you are eligible for a debt consolidation loan, which could combine multiple high-interest debts into a loan with one affordable monthly payment.

Further reading

Read Is it Possible to Consolidate Short-Term Same Day Loans?
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Read Can I Consolidate Holiday Loans with Other Debts?
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Read How Can I Pay Off My Debts Faster?
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