Why it’s becoming harder to get a loan

A new pricing strategy by the country’s biggest personal loan provider could make it even harder for people to find the best deal.

Lloyds TSB has changed the way it prices loans. Rather than advertising a rate which is offered to the majority of successful applicants, it has moved to a personal pricing strategy.

What is personal pricing?

Personal pricing means would-be borrowers will no longer be able to see the typical rate being offered by the bank – they’ll have to apply to find out what kind of deal they’ll be given.

Those with good credit histories will be offered the most competitive rates. But if the bank thinks there’s a risk you could default on your repayments, you’ll be charged a higher rate of interest.

This isn’t unusual. Lenders always run a credit check when assessing a loan, credit card or mortgage application. However, most advertise a ‘typical’ rate – this must be offered to at least 66% of successful applicants, which at least gives you some idea of how much the loan will cost you before you apply.

However, by moving to personal pricing, Lloyds TSB will stop advertising a typical rate. Borrowers (who must also be existing customers) will have to apply in order to see what kind of deal they’ll be offered. And every time a credit check is made on you, a mark is left on your credit file.

Recently, a Treasury Select Committee criticised the way the market works – even among lenders that advertise a typical rate.

Multiple credit applications can have a negative impact on your credit score, making it harder for you to shop around for the best deal. You can read more about that and the committee’s concerns in our article ‘Pressure mounts for fairer credit applications’.

Without even a typical rate to guide borrowers, Lloyds TSB’s latest move may make it even harder for customers to find the best deal.

Bad news for consumers

Tim Moss, moneysupermarket.com’s head of loans, is worried about the effects this could have on the market.

“This is going to mean many borrowers end up blindly applying for a loan. Lots of people prefer to apply for a loan through their current account provider because they trust whoever they bank with to give them the best deal.

“Lloyds TSB may well be offering some customers the best loans rate but they won’t be able to check that before they apply. I can’t help but think this is a real step back for consumers and the loans industry.”

Silver lining

It’s not all bad news for those looking for a loan. Nationwide has just unveiled its new market-leading personal loan with a typical annual percentage rate (APR) of just 7.6%.

However, there is a catch. In order to qualify for Nationwide’s market-leading deal you have to have a current account with the building society.

As mentioned above, Lloyds TSB’s loans are also only available to current account customers and we’re seeing an increasing number of providers adopt this approach. The reason for it is that they have an existing relationship with these people so can make a better-informed lending decision as the bank or building society already knows how they manage their accounts.

So what are the other options?

There are still some competitive deals out there that don’t require you to have an existing relationship with the lender.

For example, if you have a really excellent credit score then Alliance & Leicester is offering a typical APR of 7.8% on loans between £7,500 and £14,950. Sainsbury’s are offering a rate of 7.9% on loans above £7,500, but you must have a Nectar card to be eligible. However, they’re free and can be applied for online.

Tesco is also offering a competitive rate on loans between £7,500 and £15,000 of 8.4%. Again though, you’ll need an excellent credit score to qualify.

Check out our loans channel for more leading deals.

Could a credit card be better?

Of course, depending on the amount you would like to borrow, a credit card might be the better bet. There’s greater flexibility when it comes to repayment and there are even some introductory interest-free deals.

However, as part of the fall-out of the credit crunch, many providers have reduced the amount they’re prepared to lend on credit cards. If you have a good credit history anything up to £3,000 should be ok. But if you are looking to borrow more than that, don’t bank on a credit card as you may not be offered a high enough credit limit.

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What are the best deals?

If you are looking to consolidate existing debts, then go for a balance transfer offer. Virgin has the longest 0% period at 16 months, although you’ll be charged a balance transfer fee of 2.98%. Alternatively, NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland offer credit cards with 15-month interest-free balance transfer deals, although they’re only available to existing current account customers. The transfer fees on these cards are 2.9%.

For more leading balance transfer cards, read our article ‘Top tips to clear Christmas debts’ or visit our credit card channel.

If the reason you’re looking to borrow is to fund a purchase, then Tesco’s Clubcard Credit Card has a 12-month interest-free period on all spending, while Sainsbury’s Credit Card doesn’t levy interest on purchases or balance transfers for the first 10 months and Halifax’s All-in-One card has a nine-month 0% offer.

With 0% deals, it’s important to pay your debt off during the interest-free period as the interest rate shoots up once it ends. If you won’t be able to do that and are looking to borrow over a longer period, consider a low-rate card. MBNA has just launched a new product which charges 5.9% for life – it only applies to balance transfers though, not purchases.

Credit where credit’s due

If you want to apply for a loan or credit card, it’s sensible to get hold of your credit file and see how you score. This allows you to correct any false information and also to assess how likely you are to qualify for deals.

A new moneysupermarket.com service allows you to compare credit report agencies to find the best place to see your report.

If your report isn’t up to scratch, read our article ‘Could you improve your credit score?’ for some tips.

Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.

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