It's important to examine other personal loan features that could either help or hinder you.
Personal loans aren't entirely complicated financial products, but they do come with a range of features that can make them difficult to compare. For that reason, many people focus on the one feature that affects how much they will pay over their loan term: the interest rate.
And while the interest rate is an important detail, it should by no means be your sole point of comparison. Other differentiating features such as the loan term, upfront and ongoing fees, the type of interest rate that applies to your loan and the flexibility you have with your repayments can also affect your repayments and how much you pay for your loan overall.
This guide will take you through what you need to know to sort through these features and choose the right loan for you.
Generally, personal loans come with terms of between one and seven years. The loan term you select will have a huge bearing on how high your repayments are, and may even affect your interest rate with some lenders.
If you choose shorter repayment terms your ongoing repayments will be higher but you will repay your loan more quickly and therefore repay less interest. A good rule of thumb is to choose the shortest repayment terms while still leaving your repayments affordable. Use a personal loan calculator to determine this.
Some lenders like peer-to-peer lenders such as SocietyOne use tailored interest rates. Choosing shorter repayment terms mark you as a low-risk borrower and can earn you a lower interest rate.
Establishment or application fees
These fees are essentially the same: a fee charged at the beginning of your loan term and usually added onto your principal loan amount. The purpose for these fees is to cover the cost of processing your loan.
Make sure to look at whether you will be charged an establishment or application fee when comparing your options. Checking the comparison rate as well as the interest rate shows total interest and fees to give you a clearer idea of the loan's true cost.
Monthly or annual fees
Ongoing fees are another important feature to check. Usually charged monthly or annually, these fees can really add to the overall loan cost. This is especially true if you have a longer loan term.
Determine what ongoing fees are charged, and check the comparison rate for its competitiveness to similar loan offerings.
Quick personal loan comparison tips
- Compare loans by the comparison rate, which includes both fees and interest so you can better determine the true loan cost.
- Choose the shortest loan term that still has repayments you can afford.
- Make sure the loan offers flexible repayments – you don't know what can happen in the future, so you want a loan that will be able to adjust to unexpected life circumstances.
Personal loans can come with generous loan terms – up to seven years in most cases – and while this is usually a positive, you also need to consider how much your life may change in this time. Because of this, you want a loan that isn't going to hinder you as your circumstances change.
Some features to watch out for are repayment flexibility, such as being able to make additional repayments without penalty or excessive restrictions, being able to choose your own repayment frequency, being able to make lump sum payments and also being able to redraw additional repayments as necessary.
Exit fees or early repayment fees
These are more common with fixed rate personal loans but may also apply to some variable rate personal loans. While these fees may not seem like an immediate drawback if you have no plans to make additional repayments or repay your loan early, you don't know what your financial position will be in a year or two. You may get a larger than expected tax return that you decide to put towards your loan, you may decide to sell your vehicle and repay the loan to take out another one or you may get a pay rise and be able to contribute more to the loan.
The fees to be wary of are exit fees that are charged for repaying your loan before the scheduled end date, and early or additional repayment fees that are charged for making additional repayments on top of your regular repayments.
Fixed vs variable interest rate
The type of rate you want may also affect the cost of your loan. Variable rates are called so because they can vary during the loan term – although finder has found that this does not happen often at all. With variable rate loans you also tend to get more flexibility with your loan, including the ability to make additional repayments and redraw these repayments.
Fixed rate personal loans give you the guarantee that the interest rate will not change throughout the loan term. However, the loan may come with restrictions on additional repayments and penalties for repaying the loan early.
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- No ongoing fees
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ING Personal Loan
The ING Personal Loan offers the stability of a fixed rate with flexible repayment options.
- Interest rate: 8.99% p.a.
- Comparison rate: 9.13% p.a.
- Interest rate type: Fixed
- Application fee: $100
- Minimum loan amount: $5,000
- Maximum loan amount: $30,000