Applying for loans during financial hardships
If you're a single mother in need of a loan, your options may appear limited. It may be tempting to apply for a short-term or payday loan to tide you over. You may think you have few options if you also receive payments from Centrelink. The same may apply if you have bad credit.
But applying for a loan may add to your financial hardships. It may also damage your credit score. This could affect your ability to receive credit in the future. A loan, especially a payday loan, should be your last resort.
Before applying for a loan, you should see if you qualify for government assistance. This includes parenting payments, family tax benefits and rent assistance. There are also child care subsidies and additional child care subsidies. The Services Australia Families page has a list of payments and services you could apply for.
You should also contact a financial counsellor. They can give you advice on managing bills and debts. You could also speak to your current credit provider. It may be able to come up with a solution to help you.
What are my loan options?
If you feel like you have exhausted your resources, there are no interest loans (NILS) you can apply for. No-interest loans are offered by 170 local community organisations across 600 locations in Australia. These loans let you borrow up to $1,500 with a loan term of 12 to 18 months. As the name suggests, these loans come without interest rates and feature no fees or charges. You will only have to repay the amount you borrowed.
To apply for a no interest loan, you will need:
- A Health Care Card, a Pensioner Concession Card, or an annual income less than $45,000 after tax.
- To show you can repay the loan.
- To have lived at your current address for more than three months.
There are also other options, including:
- Bank loans. Some banks offer same-day loans for existing customers. Applicants need good credit to be eligible. Banks will also consider you if you receive Centrelink payments.
- Alternative finance. There are charities which offer financial assistance, including no interest loans. We've highlighted a few options below, but you can also read this guide for more information.
- Short-term loans. Short-term or payday loans allow you to borrow between $100 to $2,000, or sometimes up to $10,000. Lenders consider bad credit borrowers and Centrelink recipients. The interest rates, fees and charges for this loan type are high, making this option expensive. The repayment windows are also generally short, ranging from two weeks to a year or two.
What are my alternative finance options?
Unlike traditional lenders, these lenders consider low income or bad credit applicants. Depending on your circumstances, you can apply for a:
- StepUP loan: You can apply for this if your income is low. It will allow you to borrow between $800 to $3,000 at a rate of 5.99% p.a. You can use this to pay for essential goods and services.
- No Interest Loans Scheme (NILS). This loan is offered by Good Shepherd Microfinance. It is designed to enable the purchase of essential goods and services. You can borrow between $300 to $1,200.
- Centrelink cash advance. If you receive Centrelink payments, you may be able to bring it forward as a cash advance. This is not an additional payment, but an advance on your existing payments. You may be eligible depending on how long you have been with Centrelink and how much you receive.
- Good Money. Some finance options are state specific. Good Money is available for residents of Victoria who receive Centrelink payments. You can use these funds to pay for vehicle repairs, educational expenses, bills or debts.
- Services Relief Trust Fund. You are eligible to apply if you are a member of the Australian Defence Force and receive a salary. You can access no and low interest loans, to be repaid from your income.
Want to learn more? We've written a guide on payday loan alternatives to help you weigh up all your options before applying for a loan.
What should I do before applying for a loan?
Before you apply for a loan, there are various factors you need to consider. You need to first calculate if you can afford the loan. It may also help to look for alternative finance options and build an emergency fund. You need to begin by asking yourself these questions.
When you take out a loan, no what type of loan you apply for, you must be able to pay it back.
Before you apply, you should ask yourself if you can afford the loan and how you intend to pay it back. Take into account the cost of the loan and the terms. Then calculate if you can pay according to the repayment schedule.
Every loan application is entered into your credit report. If your loan application is rejected, it could have a negative effect on your credit score.
To help you work out whether you can afford the loan, look out for:
- Interest rates and fees. Payday loans are expensive. For payday loans up to $2,000, lenders can charge up to 20% in establishment fees and a monthly fee of 4%. This is calculated based on how much you borrow.
If you borrow between $2,001 and $5,000, your establishment fee will be capped at $400. But your interest rate will be 48% per annum of the loan amount. These fees are regulated by ASIC. It is illegal for lenders to charge more.
For bank loans, you will need to keep an eye out for the comparison rate, as well as the interest rate.
The comparison rate is the true cost of the loan. This is displayed as a percentage. It includes both the interest rate and the various fees and charges that come with the loan. The comparison rate is often higher than the interest rate and is how much you will actually pay for the loan.
For both these loans, you should look into late and missed repayment fees.
- Loan terms. Many payday loans have short repayment windows. This can range from a few weeks to a year or two at most.
You should take your loan term into account when calculating the cost of the loan. This can help you understand if you can afford the loan. It will also help you calculate whether you can meet the repayment terms.
There are additional costs involved if you miss your payments, pay late or default on your loan.
- Are there alternative options I am eligible for?
A loan should be a last resort.
Based on your circumstances, there may be other options available. Ask yourself if you can apply for a no interest loan instead. Or if you are eligible for government subsidies. If you receive Centrelink payments, would it be better to receive an advance payment to tide you over?
Even if you opt for a bank loan and not a payday loan, the interest rates and fees alone will add to your financial burden.
Getting into debt comes with its share of problems. Depending on the type of loan, either your assets could be seized or you could end up in court. Your credit score may also be impacted. You should only opt for it if you don't have another choice.
- What can I do to avoid missing repayments?
If you take out a loan, it is important to make your repayments on time. Lenders will charge you for paying late, which can add to your financial problems. There may also be fees for missed payments, not to mention fees if you fail to repay your loan.
Try to make your repayments on time. You could also set aside small sums of money as part of your emergency fund. This fund can help you avoid missing repayments and incurring fees attached to it. The Australian government suggests:
- Setting up a separate, high-interest savings account. This can prevent you from using the money for other purposes. With a high-interest savings account, your savings will accrue a higher interest.
- Automating your savings. An automatic transfer to your emergency fund is helpful in case you forget.
- Keep adding to your fund. Any extra money you receive could help increase the size of this fund.
What should I watch out for with payday loans?
Before you apply for an emergency loan, you need to keep an eye out for:
- Disreputable lenders. Check the lender's website and make sure it's a reputable company. There have been many cases where scammers have pretended to be a loan provider. You should check if they are licensed with ASIC. They should also be easy to contact.
- High interest rates and fees. Emergency loans of $2,000 or less do not include an interest fee. Rather, they have a hefty fee to cover the cost of borrowing. There are also fees for late payments. These fees are regulated by ASIC and it's illegal for lenders to charge more.
- Borrowing too much. Different lenders may offer different minimum and maximum amounts. You should not borrow more than you need.
- Multiple applications. Every loan application shows up on credit reports. Some payday lenders may not consider your credit history, but several applications within a short period can have a negative impact on your credit score.
- Inflexible loan terms. You should compare loan terms to ensure you are getting one that suits your ability to repay it. Most lenders will ask you to repay the loan on the "next payday". They could deduct the funds directly from your account.
- Long-term repercussions and legal issues. Once you sign a loan agreement, you are bound to its conditions. You will have to pay the loan and all the fees and payments. Typically, these are unsecured loans. This means that the lender can initiate legal proceedings against you if you do not repay the loan.
What are the pitfalls of a payday loan?
A payday loan may seem like a good option in an emergency. But the true cost of a payday loan goes beyond your repayments.
If you take out a payday loan, you are essentially paying far more than you borrowed.
For example, a $500 loan with a standard repayment term of 62 days will cost $660 in total. This includes the $500 you borrowed. The 20% establishment fee will add a further $100, while your 4% monthly fees will cost $60 over three months.
If you already have financial difficulties, that additional $160 may be unaffordable. You may miss your payments and so incur more fees on top of what you owe. Taking another payday loan may seem like a solution. But that loan is not cheap either. Taking loans to pay for your existing loans could trap you in a debt cycle.
It may be difficult to get out of this debt trap without taking out yet another loan to consolidate your debt. This may be difficult to apply for if you do not meet the eligibility criteria. You could also damage your credit rating if you do not pay your loans. This can make getting traditional loans more difficult. In essence, you are trapped paying for increasingly unaffordable loans.
To avoid this, only apply for a payday loan if you absolutely need it. You need to be 100% confident in your ability to pay it back. Building an emergency fund can also help you avoid this cycle.
Can I apply for a loan if I receive Centrelink payments?
Before you apply for a loan, you should look into whether you qualify for a Centrelink advance payment. If you need a loan, both banks and short-term lenders consider Centrelink applicants. Your eligibility depends on how much you receive from Centrelink. Most lenders require you to receive less than 50% of your income from Centrelink. They will also consider your annual income. You can compare lenders and learn more here.
Should I apply for a loan if I have bad credit?
Some lenders specialise in loans for bad credit applicants. They will consider other financial factors apart from your credit score. This includes recent bank statements, expenses and liabilities like other loans and credit card bills. These loans are always more expensive because of the risk to the lender.
You should keep in mind that your credit file will include details on all your loan applications. If your application is rejected, it will still be included. If you apply to another lender after your initial rejection, this, too, will be included. Multiple loan applications can damage your creditworthiness.
If you must take out a loan, compare your options and only apply if you are certain you can repay the loan. By repaying your loans on time, you can work towards improving your credit score.
Can I get a loan if I'm unemployed?
To get a loan while you're unemployed, you will have to prove your ability to repay the loan. This may be difficult if you do not have some form of income. Your income can include government payments, including parenting payments. Some lenders may not accept Newstart or Disability Support Pension (DSP). Lenders will also look into your financial situation, credit history, your current income and assets.
How can I apply for a loan?
Once you've compared your loan options and decided which loan to apply for, click "Go to site" on the comparison table to start your application.
Most lenders will require you to be:
- Over 18 years old.
- An Australian citizen or permanent resident.
- Earning a regular income.
You will also need documentation to prove your income. This can include:
- 90 days of bank statements
- Employment details
- Details of your assets
- Information on your other debts