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Many households are struggling to make ends meet as the cost of living keeps rising. There's little spare cash around to build up an emergency fund, which means it can be tricky to pay for a new washing machine or boiler if your old one breaks down. Maybe you need a new car, or perhaps you're planning a holiday, a wedding or a home makeover

Let’s face it, most people at some point in their lives need to borrow some money. So it’s important to understand the pros and cons of the different types of loan, as well as how to secure the best rates. If not, you could end up with a poor deal – and costly credit can send you into a downward debt spiral.

Loans can broadly be divided into two categories: secured and unsecured. With a secured loan, the lender will insist on some sort of security against the money you borrow, often a house or car. If you default on the payments, the bank or building society can then sell the asset to clear the debt.

You can usually borrow large amounts with a secured loan, and at a lower rate of interest. Plus, you can pay back the debt over a long time period, perhaps 10 or 15 years.

However, secured loans are more risky than unsecured loans because you could lose your collateral if you cannot clear the debt. You should therefore think very carefully - and consider other options - before taking out a secured loan.

You can typically borrow as little as £1,000 up to a maximum of £25,000 with an unsecured loan – also known as a personal loan.

The interest rate is usually fixed and you pay back the debt over a set term, normally one, three or five years. Personal loans can therefore help you to budget because you know at the outset the full cost of your borrowings and how long they will take to clear.

For example, if you are getting married and the wedding is set to cost £7,500, you could take out a loan for £7,500 at 3% over three years. Your monthly payments would be fixed at £217.98 and you would pay total interest of £347.11 over the 36-month term.

Representative example: If you borrow £7,500, you would make 36 monthly repayments of £217.98. The total amount repayable is £7,847.11. Representative 3.0% APR, 3.0% (fixed) p.a.

If you have run up other debts at high rates of interest, a personal loan can be a good way to manage your borrowings and bring down the cost. Let’s say you have built up a debt of £3,000 on a store card that charges interest of 29%. You could take out a loan for £3,000 at, say, 9%, to pay off the store card balance and reduce the monthly payment. If you also cut up the store card, you would not be tempted to go on a spreading spree and add to your debt burden!

Interest rates on personal loans vary across the market, but as a rough rule of thumb, the more you borrow, the lower the rate. For example, you might pay interest of 9% on a £3,000 loan, but only 3% on a loan of £7,000. It can therefore make sense to borrow a larger amount, say £7,000 instead of £6,500. Just make sure you don’t take on a debt that you cannot afford to repay.

The size of the loan will to some extent determine the term of the loan. It is, for example, difficult to pay off a £7,000 loan in just one year as the monthly payments would be relatively high. However, if you borrow only £1,000, a term of 12 months is more manageable.

You also have to consider the cost implications of the loan term as the longer the term, the lower the monthly payments – but the higher the total cost. For example, let’s say you borrow £3,000 over three years at 7%. The monthly payments would be £93, so you would pay total interest of £348. If you extended the term to five years, the monthly payments would drop to £60, but you would pay £600 in total interest.

The interest rates on personal loans depend partly on the loan amount and term. But lenders also assess your creditworthiness, usually by looking at your credit file.

The lowest rates are reserved for the best customers – that is, borrowers with a spotless credit record. If you are judged likely to default on the loan because of a poor credit history, you will be charged a higher rate of interest or your application will be turned down.

In other words, there is no guarantee that you will qualify for the advertised rates. Lenders are allowed to boast of low representative rates if those rates are charged to 51% of successful applicants, which means almost half could be charged a higher rate.

You can pay off your debt before the end of the loan term if you come into some cash. But watch out for early repayment fees. Many lenders levy a penalty for early repayment, which could wipe out any potential interest savings. Some lenders also charge arrangement fees for personal loans, which you should factor into your cost calculations.

When you take out a loan, you may be asked if you want to buy payment protection insurance (PPI) – sometimes known as Accident, Sickness Unemployment insurance.

PPI has been widely mis-sold, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy it if you think it’s right for you. PPI is intended to cover the loan payments if you cannot work, perhaps if you lose your job or fall ill – and it can be useful. However, it’s important to read the small print of any policy and to understand the various exclusions before agreeing to anything. Only buy it if you think it’s suitable for you.

You should also shop around for the best price and not automatically accept the deal on offer from your lender small cash loans to your door

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Your total repayment will be $654.50. The cost is made up of an 15% establishment fee and a 4% monthly fee. The repayment amount is based on the variables selected, is subject to our assessment and suitability, and other important terms and conditions apply.*

Total repayments $0, made up of an establishment fee of $0 and interest of $0. The repayment amount is based on the variables selected, is subject to our assessment and suitability, and other important terms and conditions apply.*

Total repayments $10, made up of an establishment fee of $800 and interest of $2,400. The repayment amount is based on the variables selected, is subject to our assessment and suitability, and other important terms and conditions apply.*

*WARNING: This comparison rate is true only for the examples given and may not include all fees and charges how to apply for a perkins loan Different terms, fees or other loan amounts might result in a different comparison rate

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As part of our service, we attempt to partner with all the companies that we review, and may get compensated when you click or call them from our site; however, regardless of any current, past, or future financial arrangements, companies listed on Best Company cannot buy their position, nor do we manipulate or inflate a company's ranking for financial gain. A company’s ranking is based on and calculated by an objective set of ranking criteria, as well as user reviews. For more information on how we rank companies, click here.

All user reviews posted on Best Company are subject to screening and approval. We reserve the right to approve or deny any review posted to this site in accordance with our Review Guidelines. Best Company never suppresses user reviews—unless they are being investigated for authenticity, or if they violate our review guidelines. We encourage anyone who suspects a user review to be fraudulent or intentionally inaccurate to please notify us here.

User Reviews

2 Reviews

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Lily Appiano

December 11th, 2018 Fresno, CA

I was approved online, but when I called after signing all the paperwork to finalize my loan, they put me on hold, came back told me I was denied but no one could tell me why, when I asked to speak with someone who could tell me, they said that there was no one who could tell me why.

L Martin.

LIES! Poor customer service , Rude!!! Will offer you one amount through email and then change it...Will gather all your information gave you to contact bank and will rudely decline your approval acs loan contact

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