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Learn more about personal loans

What is a personal loan?

A personal loan is when you borrow a fixed amount of money, which you repay with interest in regular instalments over a set period (usually 3-5 years). Common personal loan purposes include new car purchases, debt consolidation, holidays and more.

The minimum amount you can borrow with many personal loans is $1,000. The maximum amount you can borrow is often $50,000. With some personal loans, you may be able to borrow up to $100,000.

What is an interest rate?

The interest rate is the percentage extra on top of your loan amount you’ll need to pay your lender with each loan repayment. When comparing personal loans, looking for the lowest personal loan interest rates is often a good way to start. A low rate is likely to help save you money in the long run.

You should also pay attention to the different comparison rates listed. A comparison rate bundles up the personal loan’s interest rate with certain fees into one percentage figure. This is to help you compare apples with apples when doing your research on the cost of the loan.

 You won’t just be paying interest to your lender – personal loans often involve other fees and charges too.

What can I use a personal loan for?

When you’re making a personal loan comparison, it’s important to consider how you plan to use the loan.

Some of the types of personal loans that are available include:

Simply put, personal loans can be used for all sorts of things, from helping to repair debt to paying  school and university fees, legal costs, and even home improvement, improving your home's equity with extras such as solar panels, a pool, or even an electric battery to go off grid.

How do personal loans work?

After your personal loan application has been approved, you'll usually receive the money as one lump sum. You’ll need to pay this money back, plus interest, in weekly, fortnightly or monthly repayments. The main steps to get a personal loan are:

  1. Application: when you apply for a personal loan, you'll need to show proof of income, bank statements and personal identification. If you’re applying for a secured loan, you’ll also need to provide details of your security asset.
  2. Assessment: the lender will look at your personal finances to work out if you can afford the loan.
  3. Credit check: responsible Australian lenders perform credit checks whenever someone applies for a loan. These checks help lenders work out if you’re a responsible borrower. They may also help determine your personalised interest rate.
  4. Contract: once your application has been approved, you’ll be asked to sign a personal loan contract. This confirms the length of your loan, the type of loan, and that you understand the fees involved.
  5. Repayment: some personal loans will let you choose weekly, fortnightly or monthly repayments, to better suit your budget.

What types of personal loans are available?

Personal loans are available with fixed or variable interest rates. Fixed interest rates will stay the same, while variable rates may rise or fall. If your variable rate falls, you'll pay less interest with each repayment, but if rates rise, you'll pay more.
 
Fixed rates can make your budgeting simpler, as you’ll have the same rate for the whole loan. However, you may miss out on savings if variable rates fall.
 
Do you own a car, a property, or other valuable asset, and want to save on a personal loan? Using your asset to apply for a secured personal loan may let you enjoy a lower interest rate, as there’s less risk to the lender.
 
But if you don't own an asset that can secure a loan, or you don't want to risk losing your security if you can't afford the loan, unsecured personal loans are also available. Unsecured loans may come with higher interest rates.

Type of personal loan What to consider
Fixed rate personal loan
  • Good for budgeting - stable payments from month to month
  • No risk of repayments increasing due to interest rate rises
  • May miss out on savings from interest rate cuts
Variable rate personal loan
  • Tend to be more flexible
  • You can save money if interest rates fall
  • Repayments may increase if interest rates rise
Secured personal loan
  • Often lower interest rates
  • Seen as a lower risk to lenders as an asset is used as security against the loan
  • May allow you to borrow more money
  • For car loans - lender may only accept new models as security
Unsecured personal loan
  • Don’t risk losing your security if you default
  • Application can be simpler
  • May mean higher interest rates and/or a smaller loan amount than a secured loan

What interest rates and fees are involved with personal loans?

A personal loan with a low interest rate that charges high fees may turn out to be more expensive than a personal loan with a high interest rate and low fees.

Personal loan fees could include:

  • Upfront costs – establishment fees or application fees.
  • Ongoing fees – annual fees and/or monthly fees.
  • Late payment fees – if you miss a payment.
  • Early repayment fees – some lenders charge fees for making additional repayments.
  • Redraw fees – what you could be charged if you wish to access your extra repayments through a redraw facility. Not every personal loan has a redraw facility.

When you compare personal loans, check the comparison rate to get better idea of the loan’s total cost. The comparison rate combines a loan’s interest rate and standard charges into a single percentage.

 However, a loan’s comparison rate may not include its nonstandard fees and other costs. It’s also important to look for value-adding extra features or benefits that could help you further narrow down your personal loan shortlist. 

Note that some lenders may waive certain fees from time to time as a promotional offer. You may need to satisfy certain conditions to qualify for the fee waiver.

Compare personal loan rates in Australia

The best personal loan rates will change, as banks and other lenders adjust their personal loan offers. It's always wise to research your options by comparing personal loans to find the best for you.

Why should I compare personal loan rates?

Comparing interest rates is a quick way to work out which personal loans are the most affordable. But the best personal loan for you may not be the cheapest.

It’s important to also look at a personal loan’s fees, features and benefits to work out if it could suit your needs, now and in the future.
 
At RateCity, you can compare personal loan rates, features and benefits side by side, to make a more informed decision.

How much are personal loan repayments?

To work out your interest costs, it's a good idea to use a personal loan calculator. Check different repayment scenarios, with different interest rates, loan terms and loan amounts. Borrowing different amounts on different terms may result in different repayment amounts. RateCity's personal loan repayments calculator can help you understand how to benefit from the highest cost savings.
 
For example, here's how much a $20,000 personal loan might cost:

Loan term Interest rate Monthly repayments Total repayments
3 years 8% $627 $22,562
3 years 10% $645 $23,232
3 years 12% $664 $23,914
5 years 8% $406 $24,332
5 years 10% $425 $25,496
5 years 12% $445 $26,693

Source: MoneySmart

You’ll also need to think about upfront and ongoing fees. Upfront fees can range from $0 to $700, while ongoing fees can range from $0 to $15 per month.

How do I choose the best personal loan?

When you compare personal loans, consider which of the following will best suit your financial situation:

  • A variable or fixed interest rate
  • A secured or unsecured personal loan
  • The length of your loan
  • Whether you should apply for a bad credit personal loan
  • Whether you will make additional repayments
  • Whether you need a redraw facility

RateCity can help you quickly compare personal loan rates and how much time it will take to pay the loan back. 

What personal loan term should I choose?

Type of personal loan Average length of loan What to consider
Shorter term personal loan Under 12 months
  • Can be paid off more quickly
  • Monthly repayments may be higher
Typical personal loan 3 - 5 years
  • Lower interest rate than a credit card
  • May cost you in fees and interest
Longer term personal loan 7 - 10 years
  • More affordable monthly repayments
  • Pay more interest over time

How can I pay off my personal loan early?

One way to pay off your personal loan sooner is to make extra repayments. This could mean paying a bit more than the minimum each month. It could also mean adding a lump sum onto your loan when you can afford it, such as when you get a tax refund.

Additional repayments can reduce the principal amount you owe. This may reduce your future interest charges, or the cost of the loan, and bring you closer to paying off your loan early.

However, some lenders charge fees for making extra repayments or exiting a loan early. These fees are more common for fixed rate loans, though they sometimes appear on variable rate loans too. Before you pay off a personal loan early, make sure this won’t cost you more than you expect.

Can I get a personal loan with a redraw facility?

Making extra repayments can help you get ahead on your personal loan, but may leave you short on savings in your bank account. If your money is tied up in a personal loan, you may struggle to afford car repairs, surprise medical bills, or urgent travel expenses.

With a personal loan redraw facility, you can withdraw your extra repayments (like a home loan redraw), subject to terms and conditions. This can be handy if you want to pay less interest on your personal loan, but still want access to your money.

Keep in mind that not all personal loans come with redraw facilities, and those that do may charge redraw fees.

Can I refinance a personal loan?

Even the best personal loan rates can change. If you find a more competitive personal loan, or you want to consolidate your debt, you could refinance your personal loan. To refinance a personal loan, follow these steps:

  1. Check your credit score, as it may have changed while paying off your existing loan
  2. Compare personal loans to find a more competitive option
  3. Calculate refinancing costs (break fees, application fees etc.)
  4. Apply for the new personal loan
  5. Ensure your old loan is paid off

You could refinance a personal loan to consolidate other debts. These could include outstanding credit cards, or even other personal loans. Debt consolidation can make your budget easier to manage, as you’ll have just one repayment to think about each month. Not every lender offers personal loans for debt consolidation, so check the terms and conditions first.

How do I apply for a personal loan?

To apply for a personal loan, most lenders will require that you:

  • are at least 18 years old
  • are an Australian citizen, permanent resident or have a valid visa
  • are employed or receive regular income
  • earn a minimum income (dependent on lender)
  • have a good credit rating

When you make a personal loan application, you’ll typically need to provide:

  • Proof of identity (driver’s licence, passport etc.)
  • Proof of income and employment (payslips, tax information)
  • Details of any other financial commitments
  • Details of additional assets (particularly for secured loans)

Where can I get a personal loan with bad credit?

If you have a history of borrowing and repaying money on time, you should have a good credit score. But if you've had money trouble in the past, you may have a bad credit score.

If you have bad credit, or even fair credit, you may find it harder to get a personal loan. Some specialist lenders offer bad credit personal loans, but these loans often have higher interest rates and fees.

If you have bad credit and are struggling with debt, you can contact the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007 to speak with a free financial counsellor.

Which is the best bank for personal loans?

Personal loans are available from Australia’s big four banks (ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, Westpac or NAB) and smaller banks. You can also apply for personal loans from credit unions, mutual banks and peer to peer lenders.

The best choice for you will depend on your financial situation, personal needs and credit history.

It’s important to compare personal loans from different banks and other lenders before you apply. Look for a loan that you’re confident you can afford, and offers features that suit your needs. You should also make sure you satisfy your bank’s lending criteria before applying.

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Frequently asked questions

Can you refinance a $5000 personal loan?

Much like home loans, many personal loans can be refinanced. This is where you replace your current personal loan with another personal loan, often from another lender and at a lower interest rate. Switching personal loans may let you enjoy more affordable repayments, or useful features and benefits.

If you have a $5000 personal loan as well as other debts, you may be able to use a debt consolidations personal loan to combine these debts into one, potentially saving you money and simplifying your repayments.

What is a bad credit personal loan?

A bad credit personal loan is a personal loan designed for somebody with a bad credit history. This type of personal loan has higher interest rates than regular personal loans as well as higher fees.

Should I get a fixed or variable personal loan?

Fixed personal loans keep your interest rate the same for the full loan term, while interest rates on variable personal loans may be raised or lowered during your loan term.

A fixed rate personal loan keeps your repayments consistent, which can help keep your budgeting consistent. You won't have to worry about higher repayments if your rates were to rise. However, on a fixed loan you’ll also potentially miss out on more affordable repayments if variable rates were to fall.

Can I repay a $3000 personal loan early?

If you receive a financial windfall (e.g. tax refund, inheritance, bonus), using some of this money to make extra repayments onto your personal loan or medium amount loan could help reduce the total interest you’re charged on your loan, or help clear your debt ahead of schedule.

Check your loan’s terms and conditions before paying extra onto your loan, as some lenders charge fees for making extra repayments, or early exit fees for clearing your debt ahead of the agreed term.

What is the average interest rate on personal loans for single parents?

Like other types of personal loans, the average interest rate for personal loans for single parents changes regularly, as lenders add, remove, and vary their loan offers. The interest rate you’ll receive may depend on a range of different factors, including your loan amount, loan term, security, income, and credit score.

What is a personal loan?

A personal loan sits somewhere between a home loan and a credit card loan. Unlike with a credit card, you need to sign a formal contract to access a personal loan. However, the process is easier and faster than taking out a mortgage.

Loan sizes typically range from several hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars, while loan terms usually run from one to five years. Personal loans are generally used to consolidate debts, pay emergency bills or fund one-off expenses like holidays.

How much can you borrow with a bad credit personal loan?

Borrowers who take out bad credit personal loans don’t just pay higher interest rates than on regular personal loans, they also get loaned less money. Each lender has its own policies and loan limits, but you’ll find it hard to get approved for a bad credit personal loan above $50,000.

How long does it take to get a student personal loan?

Completing an online personal loan application can often take anywhere from 10 minutes to 1 hour. Depending on your lender, processing your personal loan application may take anywhere between 1 and 24 hours. If your personal loan application is approved, you may receive the money in your bank account the following business day, or, in some cases, the same day.

Do student personal loans require security?

While some personal loans can be secured by the value of an asset, such as a car or equity in a property, student personal loans are often unsecured, which typically have higher interest rates.

Some lenders also offer guarantor personal loans to students. These loans have lower interest rates, as a guarantor (usually a relative of the borrower with good credit) will fully or partially guarantee the loan, taking on the financial responsibility if the borrower defaults.

Are there alternatives to $2000 loans?

If you need to borrow $2000 or less, alternatives to getting a personal loan or payday loan include using a credit card or the redraw facility of your home, car or personal loan.

Before you borrow $2000 on a credit card, remember that interest will continue being charged on what you owe until you clear your credit card balance. To minimise your interest, consider prioritising paying off your credit card.

Before you draw down $2000 in extra repayments from your home, car or personal loan using a redraw facility, note that fees and charges may apply, and drawing money from your loan may mean your loan will take longer to repay, costing you more in total interest.

What do single parents need for a personal loan application?

Much like applying for other personal loans, applying for personal loans for single parents will likely require the following:

  • Proof of identity
  • Proof of residence
  • Proof of income
  • Details of assets (e.g. car, home)
  • Details of liabilities (e.g. credit cards, other loans)
  • Loan amount
  • Loan term

What is an unsecured bad credit personal loan?

A bad credit personal loan is ‘unsecured’ when the borrower doesn’t offer up an asset, such as a car or jewellery, as collateral or security. Lenders generally charge higher interest rates on unsecured loans than secured loans.

Can unemployed single parents get personal loans?

It can be more difficult for unemployed borrowers to successfully apply for a personal loan. Most lenders require borrowers to have a regular income available to cover the cost of loan repayments.

If you’re self-employed, or if less than half of your income comes from Centrelink, you may not be eligible for some personal loan options. Consider contacting the lender before applying.

How can I get a $3000 loan approved?

Responsible lenders don’t have guaranteed approval for personal loans and medium amount loans, as the lender will want to check that you can afford the loan repayments on your current income without ending up in financial hardship.

Having a good credit score can increase the likelihood of your personal loan application being approved. Bad credit borrowers who opt for a medium amount loan with no credit checks may need to prove they can afford the repayments on their current income. Centrelink payments may not count, so you should check with the lender prior to making an application.

Can I get a bad credit personal loan with a guarantor?

Some lenders will consider personal loan applications from a borrower with bad credit if the borrower has a family member with good credit willing to guarantee the loan (a guarantor).

If the borrower fails to pay back their personal loan, it will be their guarantor’s responsibility to cover the repayments.

What do credit scores have to do with personal loan interest rates?

There is a strong link between credit scores and personal loan interest rates because many lenders use credit scores to help decide what interest rates to offer to potential borrowers.

If you have a higher credit score, lenders will probably classify you as a lower-risk borrower. That means they’ll be keen to win your business, so they may offer you a lower interest rate if you apply for a personal loan.

If you have a lower credit score, lenders will probably classify you as a higher-risk borrower. That means they might be concerned about you defaulting on the loan and costing them money. As a result, they might protect themselves by charging you a higher interest rate.

Are there low doc personal loans?

Self-employed borrowers may be eligible for low doc personal loans, which require less documentation in their application process than many other personal loan options.

It’s important to remember that though low doc personal loans may require less paperwork, you may need to provide additional security, or pay a higher interest rate.

Can I get a no credit check personal loan?

Personal loans with no credit checks are available and called ‘payday loans’. These are sometimes used as short-term solutions for cash-strapped Australians. They often carry higher interest rates and fees than regular personal loans, and individuals risk putting themselves into a worsened cycle of debt.

How long are $3000 loans?

Medium amount loans can be repaid between 16 days and 2 years. Many personal loans have terms between 1 year and 5 years, though some are as short as 6 months while others last for 10 years.

Generally, the shorter a loan’s term, the more expensive your regular repayments may be, but the less total interest you’ll pay. Loans with longer terms mean more affordable repayments, but more interest charges over the full term.

What is comprehensive credit reporting?

Comprehensive credit reporting is a system which includes both positive and negative information on a person’s credit file. Before comprehensive credit reporting was introduced, only negative information was included.