Australians tighten their belts on personal loans

Australians tighten their belts on personal loans

Total and new personal loans have plummeted, as Australians prepare for long-term economic pain due to COVID-19.

The value of new loan commitments for fixed-term personal loans fell by 8.2 per cent to $1.66 billion in March 2020, according to fresh data from Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). It marks the biggest monthly drop since November 2008, during the global financial crisis.

Personal loans still saw an increase of 0.5 per cent in the 12 months to March 2020.

The ABS attributed the March decline to a 10 per cent fall in road vehicle lending, while loans for travel and holidays plunged by about 42 per cent, as Australian borders closed to stop the coronavirus spread.

Total outstanding personal credit, which includes personal loans and credit cards, edged down by 1.4 per cent to about $163 billion in March 2020, the latest Reserve Bank of Australia data showed. It dropped by 6.5 per cent in the 12 months to March 2020.

Loans overall, including housing, personal and business, increased by 1.1 per cent in March and 3.6 per cent over the year.

Personal credit was the only segment to see a decline.

The findings align with NAB’s latest quarterly Australian Consumer Anxiety Survey, which found that consumers increased their spending on paying off existing debts.

Personal finances tumble downhill

More than 30 per cent of Australians have seen their household finances worsen in the month to mid-April, a new ABS survey indicated.

“One in 13 Australians (7.5 per cent) said their household lacked the money to pay one or more bills on time, and one in ten (10 per cent) had to draw on accumulated savings to support basic living expenses,” said Michelle Marquardt, ABS Program Manager for Household Surveys.

About a quarter of Australian adults received the first one-off $750 economic support payment from the government.

The ABS poll also found that: 

  • 81 per cent of Australians say they could come up with $2,000 for an important expense within a week.
  • One in eight said they could access $500 but not $2,000 within a week.
  • 5 per cent would not be able to raise $500.

Most households held savings buffers when the economic downturn began, the RBA’s latest Financial Stability Review suggested.

Employees who have seen a hit to their incomes would be able to access wage subsidies and superannuation funds to help them through the slump. Mortgage repayment deferrals will also help Aussies manage their larger debts.

To see a list of lenders providing breathing room to affected Aussies, check out RateCity’s COVID-19 relief hub.

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Fact Checked -

This article was reviewed by Personal Finance Editor Alex Ritchie before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.

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Learn more about personal loans

What interest rates are charged for personal loans?

Lenders aren’t allowed to charge interest on loans of $2,000 and under. Instead, they make their money by charging a one-off establishment fee of up to 20 per cent and a monthly account-keeping fee of up to four per cent. Lenders might also ask you to pay a government fee.

For loans between $2,001 and $5,000, lenders can make their money in only two ways: a one-off fee of $400 and annual interest rates of up to 48 per cent.

For loans of $5,001 and above, or for loans that have terms longer than two years, lenders can charge annual interest rates of up to 48 per cent.

Those fee caps don’t apply to loans offered by authorised deposit-taking institutions such as banks, building societies or credit unions, although such institutions are highly unlikely to charge interest rates of anywhere near 48 per cent.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 you get an emergency loan on Centrelink?

When many lenders assess a borrower’s income to determine whether they can afford a loan’s repayments without ending up in financial stress, they may not count Centrelink payments as income for this purpose.

Before applying for an emergency loan, it may be worth contacting a potential lender to find out if they accept applications from borrowers on Centrelink.

Can I get a $2000 loan on Centrelink?

If more than half of your income comes from Centrelink benefits, it may be more difficult to have a $2000 loan application approved. Many lenders will check if you can afford a loan’s repayments on the income from your job before they’ll approve an application, and many won’t count Centrelink payments when assessing your income for this purpose.

Some lenders may offer $2000 loans to borrowers on Centrelink – consider contacting potential lenders to check before applying.

Can single mothers get personal loans online?

Many lenders offer online applications for personal loans, which can be convenient for borrowers who have busy lives. If you’re not confident your personal loan application will be approved, you may want to consider contacting the lender by email, live chat, phone, or by visiting a branch, to discuss your situation before applying.

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.

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.

Are there any interest-free emergency loans?

The No Interest Loans Scheme (NILS) allows low-income borrowers to take out no-interest loans for up to $1500 to purchase essential goods and services.

There are also similar low-interest loan schemes available to borrowers in financial hardship who are having a tough time getting finance approved.

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 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.