How are loans charged?
A personal loan is a lump sum that you typically borrow from your bank or building society bank, or through a retailer where you are buying an expensive item such as a car or domestic appliance. You agree to pay back the loan over a fixed number of months (called the "term") by making set monthly payments. There may or may not be an arrangement fee when you take out the loan, depending upon the lender chosen.
You can usually pay extra for payment protection insurance which pays your monthly payments for you if you are unable to work because of illness or redundancy. Interest is charged at a fixed rate dependent upon the amount you borrow. Most lenders will allow you to pay off a personal loan early i.e. before the end of the term, however there is often a charge equal to part of the interest you would have paid had you kept the loan for its f ull term.
What is APR?
What you pay for a personal loan can be expressed as an 'Annual Percentage Rate' or APR. APR takes into account:
- the interest on the loan;
- any other charges you must pay eg. any arrangement fee or the cost of payment protection insurance
- the term of the loan.
You do not need to know how to work out an APR. The important thing is that APR shows the cost of borrowing on a standard basis so you can compare the APR of one lender with another and instantly see who is the cheaper lender for the same borrowed sum and term. A loan with a lower APR is cheaper than a loan with a higher APR. The APR also lets you compare the cost of personal loans with other types of borrowing such as credit and store cards. It is important to remember though that APR does not take into account charges such as an early repayment charge if you pay off the loan before the end of its term. What are loan terms?
Not to be confused with term (duration of a loan) terms are special conditions and or exclusions a lender may impose depending upon personal circumstances or the purpose of the borrowing. Some loans are restricted to particular uses eg. home improvements and not for the purposes of debt consolidation etc. You may be required to open a current account with the lender if you are not an existing banking customer. You may also be required to take out payment insurance but usually this is optional. Check what charges are made if you decide to pay off the loan early.
What if I can't repay my personal loan?
The main risk for the lender is that you cannot keep up the loan repayments. Some personal loans are secured, usually against your home or some other significant asset. This means that if you do not keep up the payments the lender can seize and sell your asset to recover the loan. Most personal loans however are unsecured i.e. not secured against an asset. If you do not keep up the payments, the lender can take you to court where you could be ordered to pay off the loan over a renegotiated term and under specific terms, perhaps in smaller monthly amounts spread over a longer period. This results in a County Court Judgement (CCJ) against your name and you will probably find it hard to borrow elsewhere if you have a CCJ against you.
As an absolute last resort when someone has difficulty repaying significant debts bankruptcy is an option although the implications of bankruptcy can be far reaching.
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