How Do Personal Loans Work?

Nikhil Goswami

A personal loan is money you borrow from a bank, credit union, or financial institution and pay back over time. Most personal loans are unsecured, so you don’t need collateral to get them. Interest rates range from 3% to 36%. The loan could range from $1,000 to $50,000 or more. Depending on the lender, people have between one and seven years to pay it back. 

Personal loans are easier to get than mortgages or car loans, and you can get one based on your income and credit history. A personal loan is great because it’s a fixed-rate loan with a fixed interest rate. Personal loans also have a set repayment period. However, you are free to pay your loan early if you can. This is one reason why they have become so popular. Personal loans are more predictable, unlike credit cards, which have variable rate loans. They are also better than monthly loan payments.

Since banks don’t do much in consumer lending, many fintech startups fill the gap by offering personal loans to consumers. They created a thriving market by predicting risk using various underwriting data and algorithms.

TransUnion, a company that makes credit scores, says that unsecured personal loans hit an all-time high of $138 billion in 2018. Most of this growth came from loans made by fintech companies. In the fourth quarter of 2018, the average loan size was $8,402. That same year, fintech loans made up 38% of all businesses, but that number was only 5% five years ago.

How Personal Loans Work

You’ll need to fill out an application to get a personal loan. After that, you wait for approval, which could take a few hours or days.

There are many kinds of personal loans. They can be secured or not. With secured personal loans, you must present valuable collateral. The lender gets the asset if you don’t pay back the loan.

The most common type of personal loan is the unsecured loan. This type of loan doesn’t require collateral. The lender can’t take anything from you if you don’t pay back the money. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any consequences. If you don’t pay back an unsecured personal loan, it will hurt your credit score and make it more difficult to borrow. The lender can also sue you to get back the money you owe, plus interest and fees.

Personal loans not backed by anything are used to pay for a big purchase (like a wedding or vacation), high-interest credit card debt, or combined student loans.

When you get a personal loan, you get a lump sum into your bank account. Most of the time, you have to pay back a loan over time and at a set interest rate. The payback time can range from one to ten years, depending on the lender. Most online lenders offer personal loans for three to seven years also. For example, Marcus by Goldman Sachs has loan terms ranging from three to six years. Companies such as Credit Karma also give a free credit score in addition to various personal loans.

A personal line of credit can also be used by people who want to borrow money but aren’t sure how much they need. This is an unsecured line of credit with a credit limit that can be used repeatedly. Most of the time, the interest rate on a revolving line of credit is variable, which means it changes with the market interest rate. You only have to pay back what you take out plus interest. These can also go for home improvements, to cover an overdraft, or in an emergency.

The Cost of Personal Loans  And Credit Score

It would help to consider your credit score when deciding whether a personal loan is a good idea. It is a number between 300 and 850 that tells how likely you will pay back your debt based on your financial history and other things. Most lenders want a credit score of 670 and above for a personal loan. If your credit score is less than that, the interest rate on a personal loan is usually substantial to make it a good borrowing preference. If your credit score is at least 800, you will get the best interest rate for your loan.  You will also get a lower monthly payment plan.

A few factors determine what your credit score is. Some things matter more than others. For example, 35% of your FICO score, which 90% of lenders in the U.S. use, is based on how well you’ve paid your debts. Lenders want to know that you can be responsible with loans. So, they’ll look at how you’ve behaved in the past to predict how reliable you’ll be. A big red flag includes a lot of late or missed monthly payments. For a higher score, ensure all the monies owed are paid on time for a higher score.

Another factor that affects your credit score is the amount of credit card debt you have compared to how much you can borrow. This makes up 30% of your credit score and is called the “credit utilization ratio.” Your credit score is also affected by the length of time you’ve had credit, the type of credit you have, and the number of new credit applications you’ve made in the last few months.

In addition to your credit score, financiers also look at your earnings, work history, financial assets, and how much debt you have. They want to know if you have enough money to repay the loan. The more money and assets and less debt you have, the better you look in their eyes.

When you want to get a personal loan, it’s important to have a good credit score. It not only decides if you get the loan but also how much interest you’ll pay over the life of the loan. If you have a credit score between 720 and 850, you can expect to pay between 10.3% and 12.5% on a personal loan. This also goes up to 13.5 and 15.5% if you have a credit score of between 680 and 719. Additionally, you will get between 17.8% and 19.9% if your score is between 640 and 679. Under 640, you won’t be able to afford a personal loan even if you get approved. At that level, the interest rates range from 28.5% to 32%.

The Cost Of Personal Loans

Personal loans are an excellent payment method for a big purchase or for getting rid of high-interest debt like credit cards. Because of the flexible terms, you can make a monthly payment that fits your budget. The less you pay each month, the longer the period. However, a long-term loan is a high-interest debt. Personal loan interest rate goes up as the term continues. For example, if you take a three-year personal loan of $30,000 with the best credit score, you will pay 5.99% interest. If the same loan goes up to seven years, the interest goes up to 9.97%.

In addition to the interest rate, some lenders charge an initial loan fee, which is the cost of processing your application. These fees make borrowing money more expensive. However, most online lenders are getting rid of the origination fees from their loan products. LightStream, Marcus by Goldman Sachs, and Earnest are just some of the online lenders that don’t charge origination fees. However, you need a credit score of at least 660. It’s best to compare the annual percentage rate when looking for a personal loan. It shows you the total amount you’ll pay, including the interest rate and any chargeable fees. If you have good credit, a personal loan is the best way to pay off a large debt at once. If your credit score isn’t as good, paying a higher interest rate may be worth it if it means getting out of debt with an even higher score.

Types of Personal Loans

Even though most personal loans operate the same way, they are all installment loans. However, there are some differences between loan types and lenders. Here are the types of personal loans you need to know about.

  • Credit-Builder Loans

You don’t get a line of credit when you get a credit-builder loan. The lender puts the money from these loans into a savings account that you control.  You pay back the balance throughout the loan duration. During this time, lenders will report your payments to credit bureaus to help you build a record of using credit responsibly. You get your full payment at the end of the loan period.

  • Unsecured Loan

Most personal loans don’t have security, meaning you don’t need collateral to qualify. With an unsecured personal loan, you’ll get a lump sum of cash and then pay it back with fixed monthly payments over a set period.

  • Secured personal loans

Secured personal loans require collateral. You might not have to put up cash as collateral if you have something like a house or a car to get a secured loan. The lender uses the collateral to recover their money if you fail to make a full loan payment.

  • Specialized lenders

Some service providers provide personal loans to customers to help them pay for goods or services. For example, when you buy a new appliance, the company may offer you the financing to pay for it. These loans are usually easy to obtain but do not always have the best interest rates and terms.

The Moving Parts Of A Personal Loan

Here is what makes personal loans different from other types of loans.

  • Interest rates

A fixed APR, or annual percentage rate, is added to the loan amount when you take out a personal loan. This APR can change depending on how good your credit is, your income, and other factors. The interest rate on a personal loan tells you how much you will pay in interest over the loan’s lifetime.

  • Monthly Installments

Personal loans have a fixed monthly payment. This payment is made up of the principal and the interest. Your monthly installments will be lower if you agree to pay off your loan over a longer period.

  • Repayment schedule

Personal loans have different terms and repayment schedules. However, most people can choose between one and seven years.

  • Initial Fee

On top of the amount you are borrowing, some personal loans charge an origination fee. The Initial costs can be as high as 6% of your loan amount or lower. However, this is not always the case. You can find lenders offering cheaper loans with no initial fee.

How personal loans affect your credit score

Your credit score is affected by a personal loan the same way as any other type of credit. When you pay your bills on time, your credit score will go up, but if you pay late, your score will go down.

Your score will also change if you try to get the loan. Most lenders will let you pre-qualify with a “soft pull,” which won’t hurt your credit score. Once you’ve been preapproved, an official application will cause a hard pull, which usually lowers your score by less than five points and stays on your credit report for two years.

How The Rates For Personal Loans Are Set

The APR of a personal loan tells you how much interest you’ll pay over the loan’s life. Personal loans can have either a fixed rate, where the APR stays the same over the life of the loan, or a variable rate loan, which can change over time. The interest rate on the personal loan is part of the APR, and fees and other costs that the lender charges are also part of the APR.

Lenders such as banks and credit unions set variable rates on a well-known index rate, like the prime rate (the interest rate banks and other financial institutions charge each other when they lend money). Even if the index rate goes up, a lender may cap a variable interest rate so it won’t exceed a certain amount. But most personal loans have fixed APRs, meaning you’ll know how much you have to pay each month.

Your APR is based on several things about you, but your credit score is the most important. If you have a good credit score, you may be able to get the best rates from a lender. Most people with credit scores above 700 get the best rates. Your APR may also be based on your annual income, how well you’ve paid your bills in the past, and the specifics of your loan.

How To Choose The Best Loan For You

One of the best ways to determine how good a personal loan is is to look at its APR. The annual percentage rate (APR) is the cost of borrowing, including all interest and fees. If you took out a $20,000 personal loan with an APR of 15.5%, a 24-month repayment period, and monthly payments of $974, you would pay interest of only $ 3,387. Rates from lenders can range from about 6% to 36% APR. Before you apply, you should look at rates from more than one lender. Most of the time, the best personal loans are the ones with the lowest because it costs the least. However, you can only get the best rates from a company that offers personal loans if you have a good payment history.

Furthermore, before applying, you should check each lender’s minimum credit score requirements to ensure you meet them. Some lenders also need to know how much you make. Look into secured loans instead of unsecured ones if you have a poor credit history or low income. Most personal loans don’t need collateral. However, if you have bad credit, you may not be able to get an unsecured loan. In that case, you might need to put up some security like money in a savings account or a cash deposit to get a loan. Also, make sure that the loan you choose is one you can pay back. If you pay late or don’t repay, it will hurt your credit score and make getting credit harder.

How To Apply For A Personal Loan

If your credit score is higher, you will have a better chance of getting a personal loan with the best rates and terms. If your credit score is low, you should look for mistakes on your credit report and take steps to improve them before applying. Having less debt than your income can also help you get a loan with good terms. Once your financial state is in order, get quotes from different loan providers. Compare the APRs, loan amounts, loan terms, and lenders’ reputations. Some borrowers provide evaluation, which allows you to assess your loan terms without negatively impacting your credit.

When you choose a lender, you’ll have to fill out a formal loan application that includes your financial information and a bank account. These could be pay stubs or bank statements. If you don’t have a job, be ready to explain how you’ll pay back the loan. Some lenders will take unemployment benefits or other forms of income that aren’t from a formal job. If your loan request is approved, the money should be available to you within a few business days.

Uses Of Personal Loans

The best thing about a personal loan is that you can use the money however you want. This gives personal loans a lot of options and makes them very flexible. Here are some examples of the most common use cases.

  • Debt Consolidation

Debt consolidation loans are personal loans that you can use if you have a high-interest credit card or any other kind of debt. You can use a debt consolidation loan to clear your debts and then pay them back in installments. These loans usually have a lower interest rate, which can help you save money or lower your monthly payments. If you are planning on consolidating debt, this loan is for you. A personal loan can help you clear an outstanding debt while letting you service the low-interest rate personal loan.

  • Emergencies

Personal loans are another good way to get money in an emergency. You might have medical bills, a roof needing immediate replacement, or even funeral costs requiring quick address. You can apply for personal loans from an online lender, and the money can be in your account within a few business days. This can give you peace of mind and help you pay for an emergency.

  • Personal Investments

People often take out personal loans to pay for school and make other improvements to their lives. You can also get a personal loan to pay for dental implants or cosmetic surgery.

Common Mistakes With Personal Loans

Due to lack of money and desperation, you may make mistakes you could have avoided. The biggest mistake you want to avoid is taking out more loans than you can pay back. If you get a personal loan and don’t pay it back on time, it will cost you in the long run. You might have to pay a fee for being late, and your credit score might go down as a result. Use a personal loan repayment calculator to figure out how much your monthly payment is. You can use that information to see if the loan fits into your monthly budget before you take on debt.

Another expensive mistake is not taking the time to get quotes from different sources. Having more than one lender can help you find the best deal and could save you money on interest. Before applying for the loan, take the time to compare the lender’s interest rates, fees, and reputation. There are multiple lenders in the market with different rates. Ensure you settle for the cheapest.

Also, most people don’t think about how much the loan costs. Even if you know your personal loan interest rate and fees, you may not think about how much you’re paying. For example, if you take out a 36-month personal loan for $10,000 with an APR of 10% and an initial fee of 6%. In the end, you’ll pay $600 for the initial cost and $1,616 in interest. Using a loan calculator can help you figure out how much you’ll pay for a loan before taking it out. It also enables you to ensure that you can handle the costs of getting the loan. Also, ensure that the loan you settle for has a low monthly payment to avoid repayment delays.

Personal loan alternatives

A personal loan might not always be the best option. Depending on your financial situation and how you use the money, you may consider other borrowing options. A home equity loan is one such way you may consider. Home equity loans are a second mortgage that gives you a lump sum. It is one of the best home improvement loans. With this type of loan, you can borrow against the value of your home at a lower interest rate than other types of loans. You can also refer to the best personal loans  & best emergency loans.   

You can also consider a Home Equity Line Of Credit (HELOC). HELOC is a loan that lets you borrow what you need when you need it. This way of getting a loan might be better for people who need cash regularly. Most of the time, the interest rate on a HELOC is lower than the rate on a personal loan.

Cash-Out Refinance is also another good way to borrow. You can use the money from a cash-out refinance for almost anything, like paying off an existing loan or any other financial need. A larger mortgage replaces your current home loan during a cash-out refinance, and the difference between the two mortgages is paid to you in one lump sum. Most of the time, refinancing is a cheaper way to get cash than taking out a personal loan because the rates are lower. A credit card is a revolving line of credit that lets you borrow money whenever needed. However, cards have disadvantages such as variable interest rates and annual and late payment fees.

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