1. Consider Your Needs – NOT Your Eligibility
Don’t take out a personal loan just because you want to and are able to. If your intention is to invest the money in stocks or commodities, borrowing is not the way to go. Personal loans are for real needs like marriage or college. It will also be more difficult to get one if you are not very clear on what to do with it.
A personal loan ranks in the higher end of the list of most expensive debts. Would you really want to pay interest on money that you don’t actually need? Don’t fall for the flowery words of the loan agents when they try to convince you that you’d be better off borrowing more. Remember to borrow only as much as you need and not a dollar more.
2. Have All Your Information Ready
Personal loans are simple – they are not nearly as rigorous as mortgage applications. You won’t need tons of paperwork, appraisals, and other meticulous documentation but you still need to make sure that you have the right information on hand. This will make your application and approval a lot easier.
Online lenders allow borrowers to apply for loans in as short as 15 minutes and then receive an approval within minutes. Some companies, such as Discover, will even let customers pre-check whether they can get a loan and know their rates before formally lodging an application.
Now, it doesn’t matter where you will apply for your loan, but the standard requirements are your Social Security System, proof of income and tax return information. All lender want to make perfectly sure that you’ll be able to pay your loan so they want to see how you make a living and that you do not owe any money to the government. Have this information ready before you apply.
Once your financial documents are in order, the lender can decide quickly so expect the decision a few days after you have filed your application. And since you already know what to do before applying, the process won’t have to be too troublesome for you and hopefully, you will be successful.
3. Interest Rates are Rising
At the end of 2017, the Federal Reserve finally initiated what many considered a long-overdue increase in the federal funds rate. For borrowers, this means that being in debt is going to be more expensive henceforth.
In terms of real numbers, the personal loan rates we been used to seeing (although it has already increased during the past 2 years) could go up even higher six or nine months from now. If you have plans of borrowing money, it might be a good idea to hasten it rather than pushing it further backward.
4. The Potential Risks of a Personal Loan
If you take a credit card debt, you can pay it off over an undetermined period of time. If you take a personal loan, you must pay it back within a predetermined period. Although you will be paying off the debt faster, it can become a problem if you will not be able to finish paying within the allotted time. Since your loan has no property that acts as its security, in case of default, the lender might resort to hauling you to court to recover their money.
On the other hand, if you pay off your loan too early, you may also end up paying some extra fees. Some fine prints in the loan agreement pertain to prepayment penalties if you pay off your loan before a certain date.
Be extra careful about scammers who take advantage of people looking to get a loan. Some will make you sign an ‘advanced fee’ loan, which is actually a fake loan agreement. It will require you to pay an advance fee for a loan you will never receive. Once you give them the money, it’s gone – together with whatever personal information you may have given to the scammers.
5. Your Credit Score Determines The Affordability of a Personal Loan
Whether the lender will decide to grant you a loan and at what rates, depend somehow, on your credit score. If you have an average to above-average credit score, you may be more likely to get an approval and even possibly an interest rate on the lower bracket of the lender’s chart. The point is, go through the application process knowing your true credit score.
There are actually several free ways to see your credit score. It is mandatory for credit reporting companies like Transunion and Equifax to provide one report at no cost to you every year. Banks and personal loan lenders also offer free reports to their applicants.
As soon as you get hold of a copy of your credit score report, read through it carefully item by item. The report could have erroneous entries such as incorrect personal information or worse, a fully-paid bill or loan that is still carried as outstanding. Should you discover a mistake, file a dispute with the credit bureau and aim that they correct the entry immediately. You can improve your credit score by cleaning up any inaccuracies on your record.
A credit report can also show you some actual outstanding payments. Maybe you have an old credit card bill that you have forgotten to settle. You can and you should address it before you apply for a loan.
6. Compare The Cost, Consider The Fees
Your loan will have an annual percentage rate or APR (e.g. 15% APR) – this is the standard way of comparing the cost of a loan for each year. However, any numerically-savvy lender can manipulate the APR so the best way to realistically compare a loan is to look at the total amount repayable. This is the total cost (including interest and charges) that a borrower has to pay from the first payment to the last installment. Of course, the first rule is to make sure that the monthly payment is within your budget – you can simulate it with our APR calculator.
When it comes to loan payment, it is the total cost, that is most important. However, it would be good to know if the total amount repayable already includes charges aside from interest, such as an origination fee. When you are comparing loans, make sure you include the origination fees (and all other fees) that all the lenders you are considering will pass on to their borrowers.
7. Be Aware of Penalty Charges
In practically all types of loan, there is a penalty if you fail to make your regular payment. This penalty becomes part of your loan account and you would have to pay it. So make sure that you know the exact details of the penalties you may incur in case of circumstances that can arise in the future.
Affordability of the loan is key so make sure you can pay it before you even consider filling out a loan application form.
8. You Are Likely to Find The Best Loan Deals Online
The online lending marketplace has risen to prominence in the recent past. Online lenders do not have too big of an overhead cost so they can grant loans with lesser fees and lower rates.
A lower interest rate means less expense for you and more money in your wallet in the long run. Lending Club, for example, claims that their rates are 33% lower on average for customers who consolidated their debt or paid off their credit cards using their personal loan.
9. Check The Fine Prints First
There are as many kinds of loans as there are as many lenders; some companies appear more stable and trustworthy than others. So it is indispensable that you have a good idea of the company you’re dealing with before you apply for a loan.
How long have they been in operation? Do you have access to customer reviews on their website? Do they have a good reputation in the business circle?
In case you are drawing a blank, you can contact the Better Business Bureau to see if the outfit is legit or if there have been any complaints against them.
Another item to scrutinize in the fine print is additional fees. Make sure that the lender isn’t going to slap you with a penalty if you pay off early. Some companies make it a practice to charge pre-payment penalties but there are those who don’t. The lender could also charge an origination fee or the cost of administering the loan. To be certain, visit the lender’s website and look into what you may have to pay. The good news is, it is possible to find a company that doesn’t charge either of these fees;