Debt consolidation loans, why compare?
When you've got debt accruing on everything from your car loan to your credit card, a debt consolidation loan can be a helpful banking product, as you can roll over all your varying debt into one easy to manage personal loan.
Apart from the benefit of saying goodbye to multiple payments as you'll only have one monthly repayment, you'll also get the chance to reduce the interest rates you're paying, particularly if you're consolidating high rate credit or store cards into the new loan. This should mean big savings for you in the long run.
Say you have the following debt:
- $20,000 car loan with a 9% interest rate
- $5,000 credit card balance with a 22% interest rate
- $2,000 on your store card with a 18% interest rate
In this scenario, your monthly repayments would be $899 and over 3 years you would pay $5,373 in interest. Whereas if you rolled that $27,000 worth of debt into one single loan with a 8% interest rate, your monthly repayments would go down to $846 and you would pay just $3,459 in interest over 3 years - that's a total saving of $1,914 in interest.
Debt consolidation loan must dos
While one low rate loan could definitely help you kick your debt to the curb, it's important to know how to use the product to your advantage, whilst avoiding the traps that could see your debt stick around for longer than you'd like.
Here are the absolute must DOs1. Workout what type of debt consolidation loan you'll need
There are plenty of choices when choosing a debt consolidation loan but the wrong choice could end up costing you big time. So make sure you take the time to consider your different options when it comes to finding the right loan for you. Start by deciding whether you will sign up with a secured or unsecured loan:
Secured loan: As the name suggests, this personal loan option requires you to put up an asset, such as a car or house as security for the loan and in return the lender will reward you with a lower interest rate and fees, as you're considered less risky. But keep in mind, if you are unable to keep on top of your repayments, the lender has the right to repossess your assets as restitution for any loss they incur.
Unsecured loan: Many debt consolidation loans in Australia are unsecured, meaning no security is needed. Which is perfect if you're a borrower who doesn't have any assets or is unwilling to put your car or home at risk. But you'll generally have to pay a higher interest rate and fees, compared to a secured loan.
You'll also have the option of choosing between a fixed and variable interest rate. Here's the difference between the two:
Fixed interest rate: With your rate locked in for the life of the loan you will be able to make a clear budget, as you will know what your ongoing repayments will be. But when you start your debt consolidation comparison, try to avoid loans that have high break cost fees if you want to pay out the loan early. Also keep in mind a fixed rate loan may not come with the flexibility of making extra repayments.
Variable rate: An alternative option is a variable rate loan, that usually comes with flexible features and a generally lower interest rate and fees, but be mindful the rate could change at any time depending on the market.
2. Look for flexible features
You're making the smart move of rolling your debt over to a consolidation loan but you could make an even smarter move by choosing a loan with features that will help you pay off your debt sooner. How you ask? With these two flexible options:
Extra repayments: Okay your finances may not be looking their best now. But you never know when you'll land that work promotion or end of year bonus. So if you find yourself with extra money in your pocket down the track you'll want to make sure the debt consolidation loan you sign up with gives you the ability to pump it straight into paying off your loan.
Flexible repayment frequency: Did you know that if you choose to repay your loan on a fortnightly schedule, rather than monthly you will pay off an extra month at the end of the year? It's true, let's give you a scenario. Say you repay $500 a month, over a year you will have paid off $6,000 of your loan. Whereas, if you choose the 26 fortnight option, you will pay off $6,500 - bringing you that much closer to blasting your debt for good.
3. Set up automatic repayments
And last but definitely not least, you can make sure you never miss a fortnightly or monthly repayment by setting up a direct deposit from your bank account to your lender.
What are the DON'Ts for consolidating debt?
1. Roll your debt into your home loan
Yep, home loan interest rates are pretty competitive right now, with many sitting under the 5% mark. However, be mindful that merging your different debt into your home loan, could mean you will pay more in interest due to the fact that home loans have a far longer timeframe.
Using the example of a $300,000 home loan with a 5% interest rate, by rolling $20,000 into your mortgage you will end up paying $15,075 in interest on that debt over 25 years. Whereas, if you merge that debt into a consolidation loan over 3 years with a 10% interest rate you will only pay $3,232 in interest. Rolling debt into your home loan will only make financial sense if you keep repayments high so that you crush the debt in the shortest time possible.
2. Forget to check for hidden fees
The interest rate isn't the only thing you should consider when comparing debt consolidation loans, you should also make sure you can afford any fees including:
Application fees: The provider may charge you an upfront fee to cover administration fees and to run a credit check to see the level of risk they are taking on by approving you for the debt consolidation loan.
Ongoing fees: You could also be charged a small monthly fee around $10 but before you think that's less than a tuna sandwich these days, over 5 years that $10 will add up to $600 - think about how many lunches that could buy you.
Break cost fees: The Australian Government may have kicked variable rate exit fees to the curb back in 2011 but if you sign up with a fixed rate consolidation loan you could still feel the bite of a break cost fee. So this is something to watch out for when you begin your debt consolidation loan comparison, if you think you might pay off your fixed rate loan early.
3. Keep on using your credit cards
Once you've found the right debt consolidation loan for you, it's time to say goodbye to that plastic in your pocket because continuing to spend like you did before on a credit card will only push you deeper into debt.
Remember it's not your money you're using, it's the banks. So once you've signed up with a debt consolidation loan, stick to your budget and put any additional cash you have towards extra repayments on your loan.
Also take the time to close your old accounts because what's the point of paying a credit card annual fee or a loan service fee if you aren't using the account anymore? We'd say that's money much better put to use by paying off your new debt consolidation loan.
Now that you're in the know when it comes to the dos and don'ts of debt consolidation, kick off your search by comparing debt consolidation loans in the table above.