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Need help paying for some unexpected medical bills? Keen to have some solar panels installed? Or maybe you're interested in a debt consolidation loan for your credit cards.

There can be any number of reasons you might be considering taking out a personal loan. So, it can be a good idea to shop around and find one that's best suited to your specific needs.

While it is important to compare interest rates, there are other personal loan features worth considering when you're searching for the best deal.

What is a personal loan deal?

A personal loan deal is a special offer that a lender might make to incentivise borrowers to choose their personal loan product offering. Personal loan deals tend to be offered for a limited amount of time, and will generally have terms and conditions that borrowers must meet in order to be eligible for the deal.

What sort of personal loan deals can a lender make?

The kinds of deals that may be on offer from a lender will regularly differ, but some examples include:

  • Fee waivers: An offer to have your fees waived for a set period of time, or the length of the loan. This could be for a specific fee, such as the establishment fee, or all fees that would otherwise be charged.
  • Discounted interest rates: Some lenders may have a deal that provides borrowers with a discounted interest rate for a set amount of time, such as the first twelve months of the loan term, before it reverts to the standard interest rate.
  • Rate match: Lenders who pride themselves on their competitive rates may offer a rate match deal. A rate match, or rate promise, is where they will match any interest rate offered to you that is more competitive than their own. Sometimes they may also offer an additional incentive such as a cash bonus on sign up.

How to compare personal loan deals in Australia

Before you begin your personal loan comparison, it's helpful to understand some of the most common features and fees that may be involved.

Interest rates - While comparing advertised interest rates is usually a good way to start your search, keep in mind that a personal loan with a low interest rate may not necessarily provide the cheapest deal, or the most value for your money.

Comparison rates - Comparing different comparison rates will give you a better idea of the total cost of the loan per year, as it incorporates fees charged in addition to the advertised interest rate. Having a good understanding of a loan's comparison rate could potentially help with cost savings in the long run.

Fixed or variable - You will need to choose between a fixed interest rate or variable interest rate. There can be benefits and disadvantages to both, so be sure to consider what the best option is for you.

Secured or unsecured - You will also need to choose between a secured or unsecured personal loan. A secured loan is backed by collateral, such as a new car on a car loan. An unsecured personal loan is not backed by collateral, but may come with a higher interest rate.

Additional repayments - If it's important to you to be able to make extra repayments every now and then in addition to your regular repayments, ensure your personal loan offers this feature.

Redraw facility - A redraw facility will allow you to redraw any extra repayments you make on the loan. Loan products that offer extra repayments will often also offer a redraw facility, but sometimes there can be a fee or a limit to how much you can redraw.

Fees and charges - Though they can vary from one personal loan product to the next, the fees you may be charged can add up quite a bit over the life of the loan. So, it's important to factor these in when comparing your options. Some fees and charges include:

  • Application fees
  • Establishment fees
  • Early repayment fees
  • Extra repayment fees
  • Redraw fees
  • Late payment fees
  • Exit fees
  • Monthly fees
  • Annual fees and other ongoing fees

Online banking - Most banks and lenders offer internet banking, but it's a good idea to check what kind of access you will have to their services.

Can my credit history help me secure a good deal?

Borrowers who have a good credit history may find that they have more options available when it comes to finding a good deal. However, if your credit score is less than excellent, you may still be able to find a personal loan that's suitable for you.

To increase your chance of accessing the most competitive loans on the market, consider working towards improving your credit score with more positive credit behaviours.

How to find the best personal loan deals at RateCity

RateCity's comparison tools can assist you on your search for the best personal loan deals.

If you're looking for a repayment estimate, consider utilising RateCity's personal loan calculator. You can enter your preferred loan amount, loan term, interest rate and credit score to get an idea of what your loan repayments might look like on a weekly, fortnightly or monthly repayment schedule. You might like to enter different amounts and different terms to compare potential personal loan repayments before deciding on what's right for your budget.

Once you have an understanding of the type of personal loan you're looking for, you can use RateCity's personal loan comparison table to narrow down your search results. It allows you to filter your search according to specific lenders, certain features, security type, borrow amount, loan term and credit rating.

Be sure to check the eligibility criteria before applying for any financial product, in order to minimise the risk of your loan application being rejected and in turn hurt your credit score.

For advice on credit products that's specific to your personal financial situation, consider reaching out to a financial adviser.