How to escape the debt trap

How to escape the debt trap

If you are one of many Australians struggling with debt there is no better time than now to take action with simple strategies to help clean the slate.

If your personal debt levels are creeping up, you’re not alone – many Australians continue to battle mounting debt.

Latest research shows that at present Australians owe around $32.3 billion on our credit cards combined. On average, each card holder has a personal debt of over $4,000. On top of this, national personal finance commitments are currently at $7.18 billion as at the end of 2015.

Help is at hand

If you are battling ballooning debts, it is important to realise that help is available. A sensible first step is to speak to your creditors before skipping a bill or mortgage repayment altogether. You may be able to negotiate a manageable repayment plan – one that fits your budget. Avoid taking on fresh debt to pay off what you already owe as this could be the start of an escalating debt spiral.

Make sure you are getting help from the right places by avoiding payday lenders offering a quick fix. Instead, contact a free financial counsellor, such as the one provided by ASIC, or contact a specific debt advice hotline in your state.

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Consider bundling multiple debts into one

Consolidating multiple high interest debts into a low rate personal loan could make your debt more manageable while providing fixed repayments that are easier to budget for. Be aware this strategy will only work if you resist the urge to take on fresh debt, including reloading your credit card with new purchases.

Refinancing a credit card debt into a personal loan may be a more affordable option too. The average advertised credit card interest rate is around 17 per cent, while RateCity data shows unsecured personal loan interest rates below 10 percent.

Take the knife to card costs

If your credit card debt is creeping up on you, it’s worth looking at ways to get the balance back under control.

The golden rule here is to pay as much as possible off the card and stop using it for new purchases. Remember that by paying only the minimum repayment amount on your card debt can extend the length of your debt by decades and increase the amount of interest payed by thousands.

The majority of credit cards require only a 2 percent minimum monthly payment. Making repayments at this rate – and based on the average interest rate charged – it would take 29 years and 8 months to clear a $5,000 balance and cost a whopping $15,300 including interest. Increasing your repayments to just 3 percent of the outstanding balance can halve the time it takes to pay off the debt.

A low rate balance transfer deal may help you get ahead with your card though be sure to choose the offer that matches your budget and be sure to read the terms and conditions for the card before deciding whether it’s the best option for you. There is not much point opting for a card charging 0 percent for 6 months if you really need 12 months to make a serious dent in the balance.

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Learn more about personal loans

What are the pros and cons of debt consolidation?

In some instances, debt consolidation can help borrowers reduce their repayments or simplify them. For example, someone might take out a $7,000 personal loan at an interest rate of 8 per cent so they can repay an existing $4,000 personal loan at 10 per cent and a $3,000 credit card loan at 20 per cent.

However, debt consolidation can backfire if the borrower spends the extra money instead of using it to repay the new loan.

What are the pros and cons of bad credit personal loans?

In some instances, bad credit personal loans can help people with bad credit history to consolidate their debts, which can help make it easier for them to clear those debts. This is because the borrower might be able to consolidate several debts with higher interest rates (such as credit card loans) into one single debt with a lower interest rate and potentially fewer fees.

However, this strategy can backfire if the borrower spends the loaned funds instead of using it to repay the new loan. Another disadvantage of bad credit personal loans is that they have higher interest rates than regular personal loans.

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.

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.

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.

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.

What are the pros and cons of personal loans?

The advantages of personal loans are that they’re easier to obtain than mortgages and usually have lower interest rates than credit cards.

One disadvantage with personal loans is that you have to go through a formal application process, unlike when you borrow money on your credit card. Another disadvantage is that you’ll be charged a higher interest rate than if you borrowed the money as part of a mortgage.

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.

Does refinancing a personal loan hurt your credit score?

Personal loan refinancing means taking out a new loan with more desirable terms in order to access a more competitive interest rate, longer loan term, better features, or even to consolidate debts.

In some situations, refinancing a personal loan can improve your credit score, while in others, it may have a negative impact. If you refinance multiple loans by consolidating these into one loan, it could improve your credit score as you’ll have only one outstanding debt liability. Your credit may also improve if you consistently pay the instalments on time.

However, applying to refinance with multiple lenders could negatively affect your credit if your applications are rejected. Also, if you delay or default the repayment, your credit score reduces.

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.

Is a personal loan a variable or fixed-rate loan?

Depending on the personal loan lender, you may be able to choose between a fixed and a variable interest rate. But, there are a few distinct differences between the two, so it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons before deciding on what’s right for you.

A fixed interest rate loan gets you the convenience of knowing exactly how much you need to repay each fortnight or month. On the other hand, you generally won’t be able to make lump sum or advanced payments to close your personal loan early - or at least not without a penalty.

With a variable interest rate personal loan, you may be able to get a longer loan repayment term, with the option of paying off the loan early. You typically won’t need to pay any additional charges for an early full repayment either. The potential disadvantage with an interest rate that can change is that your repayment is not entirely predictable, as it can fluctuate with the market. However, you’ll likely have more options as more lenders offer a variable interest rate personal loan.

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 merge my personal loan with my home loan?

Yes, you can refinance your home loan and, in the process, merge or consolidate your personal loan and home loan. By doing so, you can lower the number of debts you have, and you may also reduce the total interest you have to pay.

However, you should consult a financial advisor or a mortgage broker to confirm that you are decreasing your total outstanding debt, including interest payments. The repayment term for a home loan can be much longer than that for a personal loan, and by merging the two, you could be repaying a higher amount over the full term.

What are the Westpac personal loan eligibility criteria?

The process to apply for a personal loan from Westpac is simple and can be done online. To be eligible for a Westpac Bank personal loan, you must meet the eligibility criteria. These include:

  • You should be over 18 years old
  • You must be a permanent resident or hold a valid visa with confirmed employment in Australia
  • You should earn a regular and permanent income of at least $35,000 before taxes

If you feel you meet these eligibility criteria, you can apply for a personal loan with Westpac. With your application form, you’ll also have to submit the following documents:

  • Personal details including name, contact information, and residential address 
  • Proof of identity such as drivers licence or passport details
  • If you’re self-employed, you’ll need a list of assets, savings, investments, and liabilities as well as your most recent tax return information
  • If you’re an employee you’ll need to submit information related to your employment and finances like bank statements and payslips

Westpac Australia personal loans are available for amounts from $4,000 up to $50,000 and loan terms of up to seven years.