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What is a credit union?
Credit unions are member owned financial cooperatives. Credit unions are “not-for-profit” organisations, which means that they work for their members rather than to turn over a large profit (they are still profit-driven, however). This enables them to provide competitive rates to their customers, as the revenue made is distributed amongst the credit union owners, aka its members and customers.
There are roughly 75 credit unions Australia-wide.
How do I apply for a personal loan from a credit union?
In order to get a personal loan from a credit union, you must first become a member of the credit union. Typically, joining a credit union requires you pay a one-time membership fee, as well as making a small deposit.
Credit unions come in all shapes and sizes, so depending on the institution, the application process and the loan eligibility criteria will vary. Some credit unions will accept online applications, but others may require you to come into a branch to sign any necessary paperwork in person.
Credit unions offer secured and unsecured personal loans at fixed rates. This means that the interest rate charged will remain the same for the duration of the loan period. As always, it’s advised that you talk to a financial planner to work out which suits your needs best.
Is a credit union personal loan better than a personal loan from a bank?
Credit unions, like banks, assign their rates based on your income, credit history, credit score and existing debts. Banks usually reserve their lowest rates for people with excellent credit scores, which makes them harder for most people to acquire. Credit unions tend to have lower rates and fewer fees than banks, even for people with less than perfect credit histories. Having a good credit score will still bag you a lower rate with a credit union, but they tend to be more forgiving of bad credit borrowers, as they take into consideration your standing in the union and your whole financial picture.
Like banks, credit unions are registered under the Banking Act as Authorised Deposit-Taking Institutions (ADIs), which means that they are as safe to borrow from as any other bank.
Customer satisfaction is rated higher amongst credit unions, scoring 90 per cent satisfaction rate in 2015, according to Roy Morgan research. Banks, specifically the big four, Commonwealth Bank, NAB, Westpac and ANZ, scored just 81.5 per cent. (It’s worth bearing in mind that not all institutions were included in this survey).
On the downside, you may find that there are fewer loan options with a credit union than with a bank. Banks have the monopoly of the market and are therefore able to offer a wider range of financial products.
Also, the requirement of some credit unions to come into branch can be an inconvenience for many people in an era where almost everything is available electronically.
- Fewer fees or no fees
- Lower interest rates
- Better customer service
- Flexibility for people with bad credit
- Fewer products
- Less branches in fewer locations
- Fewer online services
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Personal Finance Editor
Georgia Brown is a Personal Finance Editor and journalist for RateCity. Before venturing into the world of personal finance, she worked as a reporter for realestate.com.au and Smart Property Investment. She now works truly amongst personal finance, while also writing about other areas, such as sustainable finance and super.
Frequently asked questions
Where can I get a personal loan?
The Australian personal loans market contains dozens of lenders offering several hundred different products. Personal loans are available through a range of institutions, including:
- The big four banks (ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, NAB and Westpac)
- Smaller banks (such as Bank of Queensland, Bendigo Bank and MyState)
- Mutual banks (such as Heritage Bank, Greater Bank and Newcastle Permanent)
- Credit unions (such as People’s Choice Credit Union, BCU and Community First Credit Union)
- Non-bank lenders (such as Pepper Money, Liberty and RACV)
- Peer-to-peer marketplaces (such as Harmoney, SocietyOne and RateSetter)
There are three main ways to access personal loans. You can go through a comparison website, such as RateCity. You can use a finance broker. Or you can directly contact the lender.
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 long do personal loans take?
Depending on the lender, some personal loan applications can be approved in as little as one hour, or you may need to wait until the next business day. If approved, you may receive your money on the same day, the next business day, or within the week.
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.
How are personal loans regulated?
Personal lenders in Australia are regulated by ASIC (the Australian Securities & Investments Commission) and must follow responsible lending rules. That means they can’t lend money without making “reasonable inquiries” about a borrower’s financial situation and ensuring the loan is “not unsuitable” for them.
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.
How do I know if I've got a bad credit history?
You can find out what your credit history looks like by accessing what's known as your credit rating or credit score. You're also able to check your credit report for free once per year.
Will comprehensive credit reporting change my credit score?
Comprehensive credit reporting may change your credit score, either positively or negatively, depending on an individual's situation.
Under comprehensive credit reporting, credit providers will share more information, both positive and negative, about how you and other Australians manage credit products. That means credit reporting bureaus will be able to make a more thorough assessment of everyone’s credit behaviour. That will lead to higher scores for some consumers and lower scores for others.
What is a credit rating/score?
Your credit rating or credit score is a number that summarises how credit-worthy you are based on your credit history.
The lower your score, the more likely you are to be denied a loan or forced to pay a higher interest rate.
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.
Are there emergency loans with no credit checks?
While many personal loans require a credit check as part of the application process, some personal loans and payday loans have no credit checks, which may appeal to some borrowers with a bad credit score.
Keep in mind that even if a loan is available with no credit check, the lender will likely want to confirm that you can afford the repayments on your current income.
Can students with no credit history get loans?
It is possible for students with no available history of borrowing or managing money to get a personal loan, though it may be more difficult as well as expensive than for borrowers with a good credit history.
Having no credit history means having no credit score. While many lenders may consider having no credit score to be better than having a bad credit score, they may still consider it riskier to lend to an unknown borrower and may charge higher interest rates or fees than to borrowers with good credit scores.
Do $4000 loans have no credit checks?
Many medium amount loans for $4000 have no credit checks and are instead assessed based on your current ability to repay the loan, rather than by looking at your credit history. While these loans can appear attractive to bad credit borrowers, it’s important to remember that they often have high fees and can be costlier than other options.
Personal loans for $4000 are more likely to have longer loan terms and will require a credit check as part of the application process. Bad credit borrowers may see their $4000 loan applications declined or have to pay higher interest rates than good credit borrowers.
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.
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.
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 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.
What's a credit report?
A credit report is a record of your credit history, which covers your credit enquiries, borrowings and your repayments. The report will include information about any bankruptcies or other relevant legal judgements. It will also include biographical information such as your address, date of birth, driver's licence number and employment history.
What is a bad credit rating/score?
Credit ratings or credit scores are calculated by credit reporting bodies such as Equifax, Dun & Bradstreet, Experian and the Tasmanian Collection Service. These are separate organisations, so they use different systems.
Equifax gives scores between 0 and 1,200:
- 833 to 1,200 = Excellent
- 726 to 823 = Very good
- 622 to 725 = Good
- 510 to 621 = Average
- 509 or less = Below average
Dun & Bradstreet (through the Credit Simple service) gives scores between 0 and 1,000:
- 800 to 1,000 = High end
- 700 to 799 = Great
- 500 to 699 = Average
- 300 to 499 = Room to improve
- 299 or less = Low
Experian gives scores between 0 and 999:
- 961 to 999 = Excellent
- 881 to 960 = Good
- 721 to 880 = Fair
- 561 to 720 = Poor
- 0 to 560 = Very poor
The Tasmanian Collection Service doesn’t give scores. Instead, it prepares credit reports for credit providers and then lets those providers make their own assessment.