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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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.

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.

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.

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 I apply for a quick loan online?

While some lenders will require you to provide paperwork in person, many lenders will allow you to make an application for quick personal loan online. You’ll still need to provide information on your identity, income, and loan purpose in most cases.

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.

Are there $2000 emergency loans?

If you’re having trouble being approved for a loan of less than $2000 and urgently need to purchase household essentials, there may be emergency loan options available to you.

For example, the No Interest Loans Scheme (NILS) allows low-income borrowers to take out interest-free loans of up to $1500 for essential goods and services.

For further assistance, consider contacting a financial counsellor, or calling the National Debt Helpline on 1300 007 007

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 can quick loans be used for?

Many borrowers use quick loans to cover short-term or urgent costs, such as paying for car repairs, medical bills, or replacing broken appliances or electronics. Quick loans often have high interest rates compared with regular personal loans.

Before applying for a quick loan, consider your other available options, such as working out a payment plan or applying for an advance or extension. 

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.

How can I get a $3000 loan approved?

Responsible lenders don’t have guaranteed approval for personal loans and medium amount loans, as the lender will want to check that you can afford the loan repayments on your current income without ending up in financial hardship.

Having a good credit score can increase the likelihood of your personal loan application being approved. Bad credit borrowers who opt for a medium amount loan with no credit checks may need to prove they can afford the repayments on their current income. Centrelink payments may not count, so you should check with the lender prior to making an application.