Looking for a cheap loan?
We all need to borrow money from time to time, but debts can quickly spiral out of control. So it's important to make sure that you are signing up for the right deal at the right price.
What is an unsecured loan?
When you take out an unsecured loan, the bank or building society will usually lend between £1000 and £25,000 over a period of between one and seven years. The interest rate and the monthly payments are fixed over the term of the loan. For example, you might borrow £5000 over three years at a fixed rate of 8.1% with monthly payments of £156.25.
The fixed payments make it easier to budget. Be careful, though, because some lenders penalise customers who want to pay off their debt early. So always read the small print carefully.
Interest rates on unsecured loans can be less than 7%, but it pays to shop around for the best deal. Bear in mind that you might not be offered the advertised rate. Lenders often vary the rate according to your credit score: if you have a poor credit score, you might have to pay a higher rate of interest. The amount you want to borrow could also affect the rate as lenders tend to charge higher interest if you borrow a smaller amount.
Is an unsecured loan right for me?
If you want to borrow money to pay for a holiday or a new car, then an 'unsecured' personal loan is often the best option. Do not take out a personal loan unless you can afford the monthly repayments. Your home is not usually at risk if you default on an unsecured loan, but you could end up in court with a big legal bill.
What is a secured loan?
If you are a homeowner, you can secure a loan against your house. The interest rates on secured loans are usually lower because the lender can sell the property if you default on the debt. But the charges on secured loans are often high. And do you want to put your home at risk for the sake of a new washing machine?
Is a secured loan right for me?
Secured loans can be useful if you want to borrow larger amounts over a longer time period, or if you have a poor credit score and cannot get a good deal on an unsecured loan. But it is essential that you keep up the repayments or you could lose your home.
Can I consolidate my debts into one loan?
If you have several debts with different lenders, you might want to take out a single loan to consolidate your borrowings.
A consolidation loan can make it easier to manage your finances as you have to make only one monthly payment. It could even be cheaper as you might be able to arrange a lower interest rate. But remember to pay off your existing loans and cut up any credit cards straight away so you aren't tempted to run up more debts.
Also, you often pay more in total with a consolidation loan because you are usually borrowing a larger amount over a longer period.
Do I need payment protection insurance?
If you fall ill, have an accident or lose your job, what would happen to your loan repayments? Payment protection insurance (PPI) is designed to help cover your monthly loan payments for a set period, usually 12 or 24 months.
Your lender will probably try and sell PPI when you take out your loan. But you do not have to buy insurance from your lender - and you will probably find a cheaper policy if you shop around.
Always scrutinise the small print carefully. Many people have in the past been mis-sold PPI so it is important to check all the policy exclusions. You might also decide that you can manage without PPI, perhaps if your loan is only small or you would be entitled to long term sick pay in the event of an illness. In our guide to payment protection insurance, we explain exactly what PPI does and does not cover. We consider who needs such insurance, who qualifies for it and how to find the best
Are there any other ways to borrow money?
Most current accounts offer an overdraft facility, which can tide you over until your next payday. But interest rates on overdrafts can be higher than personal loan rates. Some banks also levy overdraft fees. Always seek permission from the bank for an overdraft because charges can quickly mount up if you slip into the red without the bank's agreement.
Credit cards are another useful way to borrow money. Again, they are better suited to people who want to borrow smaller amounts over a shorter term.
If you are eligible to join a credit union, you might be able to borrow money at a competitive rate of interest, even if you have a poor credit rating.