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What is a personal loan?

Rates and Fees verified correct on April 29th, 2017

Find out exactly what a personal loan is, the different types that are available and how to find the right loan to get to where you want to be.

If you’re looking to make a big purchase, a number of small purchases or even to consolidate existing debt, you might wonder if a personal loan is the right choice for you. What sort of personal loan should you apply for? Secured or unsecured, fixed or variable rate?

There are many options to consider no matter what you’re looking to finance or how much you need to borrow. Our guide below will explain exactly what a personal loan is, what options there are and how you can apply.

What is a personal loan?

A personal loan is a type of credit that helps you finance a personal purchase. Terms are typically for between one and seven years and come as a secured or unsecured loan. Personal loans start from as little as $1,000 and can reach over $100,000. These loans are available from banks, credit unions, building societies and standalone lenders.

Comparison of Personal Loan Products

Rates last updated April 29th, 2017
Interest Rate (p.a.) Comparison Rate (p.a.) Min Loan Amount Loan Term Application Fee Monthly Repayment
NAB Personal Loan Unsecured Variable Rate
An unsecured loan with a redraw facility that allows you to access money you've paid in advance. You must have held a NAB Credit Card or Transaction account for at least 6 months before applying.
From 14.69% (variable) 15.55% $5,000 1 to 7 years $150 Go to site More
Latitude Personal Loans (Unsecured)
An unsecured loan designed for multiple purposes – renovating, buying a car or travelling. Funds can be in your count in as little as 24 hours.
From 13.99% (fixed) 15.2% $3,000 2 to 7 years $250 (Loans under $4000 - $140) Go to site More
CUA Discount Fixed Personal Loan (Loans over $30,000)
Take advantage of a competitive fixed rate and no monthly fees when you borrow over $30,000
From 10.99% (fixed) 10.99% $30,000 1 to 7 years $0 Go to site More
NAB Personal Loan Unsecured Fixed
An unsecured loan available for a wide range of purposes for a long period of time up to 7 years. You must have held a NAB Credit Card or Transaction account for at least 6 months before applying.
From 14.99% (fixed) 15.85% $5,000 1 to 7 years $150 Go to site More
St.George Get Set Loan Personal Loan
A revolving line of credit that lets you access your funds as and when you need to.
From 17% (variable) $5,000 $150 Go to site More
ANZ Fixed Rate Personal Loan
A flexible loan option that lets you pay off your debt, buy a car, fix up your house or cover travel costs.
From 13.95% (fixed) 14.81% $5,000 1 to 7 years $150 Go to site More
ANZ Variable Rate Personal Loan
A variable rate loan that lets you make and redraw additional repayments.
From 14.69% (variable) 15.55% $5,000 1 to 7 years $150 Go to site More
Bank of Melbourne Unsecured Personal Loan
An unsecured personal loan that gives you a choice between a fixed or variable rate.
From 12.99% (variable) 13.87% $3,000 1 to 7 years $195 Go to site More
BankSA Unsecured Personal Loan
BankSA allows you to borrow up to $40,000 with your choice of a fixed or variable rate.
From 12.99% (variable) 13.87% $3,000 1 to 7 years $195 Go to site More

What can you use a personal loan for?

Personal loans can help you in a variety of different situations:

The types of personal loans that are available

There are a number of personal loans available in the Australian market. Here are some of the options to consider:

  • Fixed rate personal loans.
    The interest on a fixed rate loan will not fluctuate during the term, which is typically between one and five years. You can usually find secured and unsecured fixed rate loans.
  • Variable rate personal loans.
    Available for a longer term (up to seven years) than its fixed rate counterpart, the interest rate can change with this type of loan. You can also find secured and unsecured options with a variable rate loan, and you may find less restrictive repayment options, such as the ability to repay the loan early without penalty.
  • Bad credit personal loans.
    If your credit history isn’t perfect, you may still be able to get a loan. You can consider small loans to cover budget shortfalls before payday or larger loans to purchase cars or even go on holiday. Keep in mind the interest rate and fees are likely to be higher, and you’ll need to take a close look at the eligibility criteria before you apply.
  • Car loans.
    If you’re looking to purchase a car for personal or business use, there are  a number of loans available. You may be able to get a lower interest rate if you’re willing to secure your car against the loan. You can also consider an unsecured loan. Depending on your employment situation, you can opt for a novated lease and make repayments out of your pre-tax salary. Self-employed people can also consider chattel mortgages and car hire purchases.
  • Overdrafts.
    Ongoing personal finance is also available in the form of a personal overdraft attached to your transaction account. A personal overdraft account lets you draw over the balance available in your account up to a certain limit.
  • Short term loans.
    If you have bad credit, on a lower income, work part time or receive Centrelink payments, you can consider a payday loan. These loans are available for smaller amounts, usually up to $2,000 and typically need to be repaid within about 60 days.

“How can I get a personal loan?”

Once you’ve found the right personal loan for your needs and financial situation, it’s time to apply. Here’s what you need to know to submit your application and be approved.

  • Check if you’re eligible.

The eligibility criteria given by lenders is usually the minimum they will accept, so you must meet the minimum age, income and employment requirements. The lender may also require you to have good credit or to finance a particular purchase (a new car as opposed to an older car if you are getting a car loan, for example). If you do not meet one or more of the criteria, you are probably not  eligible for the loan.

  • Confirm the loan is right for you.

Can you apply for the amount of money you need? Will you receive your loan in time? Will you be offered terms, fees and rates that meet your budget?

  • Find out what documents you need.

The majority of lenders let you submit your documents and complete the entire loan application online. You may need digital copies of your identification, employment and financial documents to send to the lender to verify the information you provide in your application.

  • Submit your application and wait for approval.

If you submit your application online, you can usually receive a response quite quickly. Some lenders will tell you within a few minutes if you’ve been approved, while others may take a few days or weeks to process your application.

Some more questions you may have about personal loans

How do I repay a personal loan?

Repayment options differ between lenders. You usually have the choice of making repayments via direct debit, electronic funds transfer, phone banking, Internet banking or over-the-counter at a branch.

How much time will I have to repay my loan?

You will usually have between one and five years for a fixed rate personal loan. Terms extend to seven years with a variable rate personal loan. If you’re opting for a payday loan, you will be offered terms between 16 days and one year.

Can I repay my loan early?

This depends on the loan. You can usually repay a variable rate loan early. Fees may apply if you want to repay a fixed rate loan early.

Is it better to have a fixed rate or variable rate loan?

It depends on the loan you need and your individual situation. A fixed rate loan will guarantee you a certain rate for a specific amount of time –  you know what your repayments will be no matter what happens in the market. The downside of fixed rate loans is that they come with more restrictions. For example, you’ll normally be charged a fee to pay back the loan early or make additional repayments.

Variable rate loans give you more flexibility and you can take them out for a longer period – up to seven years. You can generally repay the loan early without penalty. However, you may find your repayments fluctuate with the market, which may or may not be favourable.

I want to buy a car. Should I get a secured loan?

Using your car to guarantee the loan could result in a lower interest rate, and it could also help you get your application across the line. However, if you default on your loan, the lender may take the car to cover the loss.

Can I finance any car with a car loan?

There will be restrictions on what kind of car you can buy. You can generally find two types of car loans – a new car loan or a used car loan. New car loans generally require your vehicle to be less than two years old and bought from a dealership or private sale. There may also be age restrictions on a used car loan. For instance, the car may need to be less than nine years old or may need to be of a certain value.

Can I make extra repayments?

You can usually make extra repayments, but you will be charged fees if you have a fixed rate loan.

What fees can I be charged?

You can be charged for making extra repayments, paying out your loan early, late payments, direct debit dishonour fees (by your lender and your bank), annual fees, monthly fees, application fees, among others. Check the total list of fees and charges that come with your loan before you apply.

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