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When you’re in the market for a personal loan, it might be tempting to simply scope out the lowest interest rate loan that’s available to you. But while the interest rate should certainly be an important consideration in your comparison, it’s only one of a number of key factors.

If you’re not quite sure where to start or what to look for, it’s helpful to begin by having a good understanding of the purpose of the loan and the amount you want to borrow. This will make it easier to start comparing different repayment options and extra features across a range of different personal loans.

How do I compare personal loan rates?

Given interest rates will determine how much interest you will ultimately pay on your loan amount, comparing advertised rates can seem like the right place to start. However, advertised interest rates generally won’t include all of the other costs you may incur, such as ongoing fees, and some Australian lenders charge much higher fees than others. This can mean that the loan with the lowest advertised interest rate may in fact not be the most budget friendly.

This is where the comparison rate can come in handy. Comparison rates combine the interest rates with any standard fees and charges, which can give you a better idea of the overall cost. Be sure to do your research, however, as non-standard charges may apply in addition to this.

How do I choose between fixed and variable interest rate personal loans?

When you take on a personal loan, you will need to consider whether you want a loan with a fixed interest rate or a variable interest rate.

Interest charges on fixed rate loans will not change at any point throughout the duration of the loan. This means fixed rate loans have consistent and predictable repayments and can potentially be more manageable than loans with variable interest rates.

On the other hand, interest charges on variable rate personal loans may increase or decrease from one month to the next. This can be beneficial if there is a rate cut as it will mean your repayments will be reduced. However, if there is a rate rise, your repayments will go up. Variable rate loans may require a little more forward planning when it comes to budgeting, to ensure you’re prepared for a rate change in either direction.

As you can see, there are pros and cons for both fixed rate and variable rate loans, so consider weighing them up to help decide what might work best for you.

Why should I compare personal loan fees?

Comparing fees and charges on personal loans is important as they can add up and will ultimately increase the total cost of the loan. The fees you may incur tend to differ from one lender to the next, in both the type of fee and the amount charged.

Some of the fees that lenders may charge include:

  • Application fees
  • Upfront/establishment fees
  • Ongoing fees such as monthly fees or annual fees
  • Early exit penalty fees
  • Missed payment penalties
  • Redraw fees
  • Extra repayment
  • Early repayment fees

How do I compare personal loan features?

Once you’ve had a chance to compare interest rates and potential costs and fees, it’s a good time to consider what features might be offered with different loans.

The following are some of the features that might come in handy at some point during the life of the loan. Keep in mind, though, that some lenders may charge you a fee for using certain features.

  • Extra repayments: Some personal loans will allow you to make extra payments that are additional to your regular repayments. If you choose a product that offers this feature, you will have the flexibility to put extra money on your loan should you find yourself in an improved financial situation, or even as a one-off. This could potentially help you pay off your loan sooner and in turn reduce the total amount of interest you pay.
  • Redraw facilities: If your loan allows for additional repayments, it may also offer a redraw facility which will allow you to access any extra money you’ve paid on the loan should you need it.
  • Flexible repayment options: To make your loan tie in with your budget or pay cycle, you might find fortnightly repayments easier to manage than monthly repayments. Loans with a flexible repayment feature will allow you to choose how frequently you make your repayments. It can also alter how much of your loan you pay off in the space of a year, so keep this in mind when comparing personal loan repayment costs.
  • Internet banking: Most lenders will offer internet banking, but it's a good idea to confirm if it's a feature that's important to you.

How do I compare different loan terms?

A loan term is the length of time over which you agree to repay the total amount borrowed on a loan. Generally, the longer the loan term, the more you will likely pay in total interest charges.

On the other hand, while you may pay less in total interest charges when you choose a shorter loan term, it will mean that your regular repayments will be higher as you have less time to pay off the loan.

When choosing between different loan terms, be sure to consider whether the repayments will fit comfortably within your budget. RateCity's Personal Loan Calculator can assist by giving you an idea of what your repayments could look like depending on different terms, interest rates and loan amounts.

What’s the difference between secured and unsecured personal loans?

When taking out a personal loan, you will generally have the option to choose between a secured or unsecured loan, depending on your loan purpose, financial circumstances and what a lender will offer you.

Secured loans are loans that are secured by an asset, such as a property or a vehicle, that is used as collateral for the money that is being borrowed. Banks and lenders use this as a way to protect their investment.

In contrast, unsecured loans do not require the borrower to provide collateral. Since they are seen as more of a risk than secured loans, they tend to have higher interest rates.

How do I compare different loan amounts?

As you will have already determined your loan purpose, you should also have a good idea of the loan amount that you wish to borrow.

Minimum loan amounts and maximum loan amounts will differ from one lender to the next, but depending on your eligibility, you may be able to borrow as little as a few thousand dollars to as much as $100,000 and sometimes more.

How will my credit score affect my personal loan comparison?

With any financial product, your credit score will play an important part in determining what may be available to you. Consider checking your credit rating before applying for a personal loan.

You may also like to utilise RateCity's Personal Loan Marketplace to find a potential deal and assist with the application process. It could help you to minimise the risk of having your loan application rejected and in turn hurting your credit score.

How to compare personal loans at RateCity

Regardless of whether you're looking for a new personal loan or considering debt consolidation in the hope of bringing down your credit card rates, it's important to do a comprehensive analysis of different comparison rates, potential fees, extra features and varied loan terms among other factors.

RateCity's personal loan comparison search wizard makes it easy to compare financial products and lenders to help you make an informed decision.

For information specific to your personal circumstances, consider talking to a financial advisor.

Frequently asked questions

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

Can you pay off a quick loan early?

Many lenders will allow you to make extra repayments onto a quick personal loan when you can afford them, or even exit the loan early, which can help reduce the total interest you are charged. Be sure to check your quick loan’s terms and conditions, as some lenders charge early exit fees for paying off a loan ahead of schedule.

Can I get a personal loan if I receive Centrelink payments?

It is hard, but not impossible, to qualify for a personal loan if you receive Centrelink payments.

Some lenders won’t lend money to people who are on welfare. However, other lenders will simply consider Centrelink payments as another factor to weigh up when they assess a person’s capacity to repay a loan. You should check with any prospective lender about their criteria before making a personal loan application.

Can I get guaranteed approval for a bad credit personal loan?

Few, if any, lenders would be willing to give guaranteed approval for a bad credit personal loan. Borrowers with bad credit histories can have more complicated financial circumstances than other borrowers, so lenders will want time to study your application. 

It’s all about risk. When someone applies for a personal loan, the lender evaluates how likely that borrower would be to repay the money. Lenders are more willing to give personal loans to borrowers with good credit than bad credit because there’s a higher likelihood that the personal loan will be repaid. 

So a borrower with good credit is more likely to have a loan approved and to be approved faster, while a borrower with bad credit is less likely to have a loan approved and, if they are approved, may be approved slower.

What causes bad credit ratings/scores?

Failing to repay loans and bills will damage your credit score. So will falling behind on your repayments. Your credit score will also suffer if you apply for credit too often or have credit applications rejected.