Cut existing loan costs
Free calculator shows if you'll save by switching loans
Coronavirus financial worries have caused some lenders to tighten their loan acceptance criteria. But low rates are still available for many, so cutting the cost of your existing loan is still possible. This guide will show you how to find the best new deal, and features a unique loan-switching calculator so you can see if you can cut your costs.
Please note: This article is about unsecured loans, ie, the type sold by most high-street lenders. The issues surrounding secured loans (where your home may be at risk) are even more complex. So this article is a secured loan-free zone.
How to cut existing loan costs, step-by-step
Here we'll take you through the three key steps to calculate how much you could save by effectively switching loans – using a new, cheaper loan to repay your existing, more costly one.
- How much it would cost to pay off your loan right now
- What your exact monthly payments are
- How long your loan has left to go
The first is how much you'd need to borrow on a new loan to clear the existing one. It's the full debt plus any early settlement penalty charge (the maximum fee is two months' interest). This is called the settlement figure – you'll usually need to call your lender to get this.
See which loans you've the best chance of getting, in your own personal best-buy table.
Usually, applying is the only way to know if you'll be accepted for a loan. Yet that marks your credit file, affecting your ability to get future credit. To help, our tool uses a 'soft search' to find your chances of acceptance before applying.
Check your chance of acceptance
If you're looking for a loan, check out the best-buy rates below. We list loans by 'bands' as the rate you could get differs depending on how much you want to borrow.
Though, beware, all the top loans compared below and most in the eligibility checker are representative rates (some providers show guaranteed rates - we're working on adding more). This means only 51% of those accepted actually need to be given these rates. Depending on your credit score, you may pay a lot more.
As we warn above, while you should only borrow what you NEED, a peculiar quirk means you can sometimes pay less by getting a slightly bigger loan. Rates of loans under £3,000 are the most expensive, so always check if it's actually cheaper to borrow slightly more.
Specialist Money Transfer credit cards are also far cheaper than the loans below, if you can repay the full balance over 12-18mths.
Cheapest loans £3,000 - £4,999
Important. Certain lenders offer personal loans up to £50,000, though it's a huge commitment, so think very carefully before getting such a large amount. Be VERY sure you can repay it.
If you do plan to borrow, first check with your own bank, as cheap rates for such large borrowing are often for existing customers only. If your bank can't help, next look at the cheapest open market rates.
If you're struggling to pay an existing loan due to coronavirus, lenders should provide support. What's available depends on whether you've already had help:
• If you've already had payment holidays totalling six months, contact your lender to discuss your options.
Help is still available and will be tailored to your circumstances. You could be offered a (further) payment holiday or a period of reduced payments, reduced interest or a repayment plan – providers should take into account what you can afford and how your finances are likely to change in the near future.
Providers are expected to report any support they give you to credit reference agencies, which could affect your future creditworthiness. Yet don't let that put you off from contacting your provider – missing payments or defaulting is likely to have a far worse impact.
• If you've had no help, or a break from payments less than six months, you can apply for a payment holiday.
Under the latest rules from the Financial Conduct Authority, you can apply for a payment holiday of up to six months if you've not had any help to date, or to 'top up' to a total of six months if you've already had payments paused.
However, you'll still be charged interest, so it's likely to cost you more in the long run. And while these payment holidays won't be reported as missed payments on your credit file, there are other ways for lenders to find out about them. But don't let that put you off from applying for a payment holiday if you really need one – missing payments without agreeing it with your provider first is likely to have a far worse impact.
Q&A: Cutting loan costs
A standard MoneySaving rule of thumb is always pay off any debts before stashing any money in savings (read Pay off Debts with Savings). In general, this is true with loans too, though due to the repayment penalties you may be financially better off by sticking it in a high interest account and drip-feeding loan payments out of there.
So if the 'total repayment' figure of your loan is £5,000, yet to keep repaying it each month costs £5,100 in total, you only gain £100 by paying it off now. Stashing the loan repayments in a top savings account could earn you more (see Top Savings for the top picks). However, if in doubt of the calculations, always err on the side of clearing your debts.
You may be able to if you have a relatively small loan.
Credit cards are a much cheaper way to borrow than loans; short-ish term borrowing at an equivalent 2%ish APR is possible. Yet if you already have a loan, shifting it to a credit card isn't an easy operation. It is possible, although tricky, to do it though.
Once you've applied for the loan, it's already marked as a 'hard search' on your credit report. So assuming you applied for the cheapest loan for you, then there's no point in not accepting that cash because it's not the money you need. The answer's relatively simple – just apply for another loan to fill the gap. If you haven't been turned down due to a credit score issue, this isn't likely to be too difficult.
Just ensure both loans are still saving you money. If not, use the first to partially pay off the second – every little helps!
Almost every personal loan is at a fixed rate, so the rate and repayments you are given at the outset are fixed over the life of the loan, regardless of what happens to the base rate. Thus there's no impact whatsoever, whether rates rise or fall.
But a change in the base rate will affect those looking to get a new loan, although it's not an exact relationship. As loans are borrowed over the long term, the rates lenders set depend more on the City's predictions of long-term interest rates rather than the actual UK base rate.
That depends on the lender. There are some which will give you the cash instantly (or at least on the same day) if they accept you.
Clever ways to calculate your finances