Are personal loans bad? When not to apply

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You might be fantasizing about what you could do with a few extra thousand dollars. You could renovate that old bathroom in your house that you hate … or pay off your credit cards … or take a trip.

And to get that money, you could win the lottery … or, wait a minute, how about getting a personal loan?

But you’ve heard mixed things about personal loans. Are personal loans bad? Will they make your financial situation worse or damage your credit?

The truth is: A personal loan is a big responsibility. Used smartly, it can be a wonderful tool. Used irresponsibly, it could damage your credit long-term.

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Related: Can I pay off a personal loan early?

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When a Personal Loan Might Be a Good Idea

In the right situation, especially if rates for personal loans are low, taking out a personal loan might be wise.  It also helps if you’re using them wisely, like these reasons to apply for personal loans.

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1. Home Improvement

Let’s go back to that outdated, ugly bathroom you hate. Taking out a loan to remodel it could be beneficial. Why? Taking out home improvement loans allows you to not only renovate your home to be more enjoyable and beautiful but also can increase the value of your home. So, an investment now might help you sell the home for more later.

Keep in mind there are some key differences between personal loans vs. home equity loans, so look at both if you’re considering borrowing money for home improvement.

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2. Debt Consolidation

It’s a common path: You take out a loan or two and rack up credit card debt on a few cards, and before you know it, you’re trying to cover five monthly payments all at different interest rates.

In this situation, loans to consolidate credit card debt can be immensely helpful. You roll all those payments into one at a single interest rate, which can often be less than what you’re paying on some credit cards. In the long run, you may save in interest and be able to pay down or pay off your debt faster.

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3. Emergencies

Ask yourself: If you had an emergency that cost several thousand dollars, do you have the money to cover that expense in your bank account right now? If you don’t, you’re not alone. Around half of Americans have less than three months’ worth of emergency savings set aside.

So how could you pay for unexpected expenses? A personal loan. Taking out the amount you need to cover the emergency, you’d pay it back over months or years.

Now that we’ve looked at some of the reasons a personal loan could be a good thing, let’s look at when a personal loan is bad.

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When a Personal Loan Is a Bad Idea

Are loans bad? Not in and of themselves. But how you use them really determines whether they will be detrimental to your financial situation. In these examples, a loan may do more harm than help.

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1. Discretionary Spending

If your credit is good, you might get offers in the mail for quick personal loans all the time. It’s tempting. Borrow $5,000 and you could have a great time at the mall!

But borrowing money for discretionary spending — that is, unnecessary things like spa services and unneeded clothing — can be a recipe for disaster. You may have a closet full of designer clothing … but you also now have a monthly loan bill to cover. And if you can’t afford to pay it, you run the risk of defaulting on the loan, which will then cause your credit score to plummet.

Image Credit: DepositPhotos.com.

2. Problems Managing Debt

Maybe you took out a loan and you’re having trouble paying it, so you think taking another loan out to pay the first is a wise idea. Not so, because now you have two loans to juggle.

Now, this is a different situation than what we discussed above with debt consolidation loans. If you’re already paying loan debt, it may be wise to consolidate it. But if you’re looking to cover existing debt, a second loan won’t ultimately solve that problem. Instead, consider asking your lender to refinance the loan so you have lower monthly payments.

Image Credit: DepositPhotos.com.

3. No-Credit Check Loans

If you don’t have great credit, you might have assumed you’d never qualify for any kind of personal loan. But then you find an offer for a no-credit check loan. The lender won’t even look at your credit score and will lend you thousands!

Tempting, eh?

The problem is that these loans typically come with exorbitant interest rates. You’ll end up paying far more to borrow money with a no-credit check lender than any other, and that could make your credit situation even worse.

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4. You Have Access to Cheaper Credit

Just because you get a loan offer from one lender doesn’t mean it’s the best option for you. There are a number of different types of financing, and some will be more expensive than others. There are also loans with collateral and those without. And depending on your credit, you may also need to take out a secured loan (learn the differences between secured and unsecured loans).

The key here is to do your research to find the most affordable financing possible.

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5. Paying for Basic Expenses

Maybe you, like a lot of other Americans, have been struggling financially. You can’t quite make ends meet so you decide to borrow money to help pay your bills.

The problem is, if you can’t afford to pay your bills, how will you afford an additional loan payment each month? You may be better off tightening your belt for a while until things get better.

Image Credit: Depositphotos.

6. Borrowing to Invest

Your friend just told you about an amazing investment opportunity that you just couldn’t miss out on. The problem is that you don’t have the money in the bank to invest. So, you’re considering borrowing money. After all, it’s a sure thing and you’ll quickly make enough to pay back the loan. Right?

Investing is never guaranteed. It’s risky, and markets are volatile. You might take out a personal loan for $10,000, fully expecting to make $20,000 on the deal, but what happens if you don’t? How will you repay the loan? Trying to make money on this investment could put you in financial distress.

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Weighing the Pros

  • Provide capital for projects or emergencies
  • Paying a loan on time can improve your credit score
  • Capital can allow you to invest in your future (like with home remodel)

Image Credit: DepositPhotos.com.

Weight the Cons

  • You must be able to afford to pay it back
  • Missing payments can make your credit score drop
  • Using a loan to cover personal expenses will not help you in the future

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The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Lantern by SoFi:

This Lantern website is owned by SoFi Lending Corp., a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license number 6054612; NMLS number 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

All rates, fees, and terms are presented without guarantee and are subject to change pursuant to each provider’s discretion. There is no guarantee you will be approved or qualify for the advertised rates, fees, or terms presented. The actual terms you may receive depends on the things like benefits requested, your credit score, usage, history and other factors.

*Check your rate: To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Lantern conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender(s) you choose will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

All loan terms, including interest rate, and Annual Percentage Rate (APR), and monthly payments shown on this website are from lenders and are estimates based upon the limited information you provided and are for information purposes only. Estimated APR includes all applicable fees as required under the Truth in Lending Act. The actual loan terms you receive, including APR, will depend on the lender you select, their underwriting criteria, and your personal financial factors. The loan terms and rates presented are provided by the lenders and not by SoFi Lending Corp. or Lantern. Please review each lender’s Terms and Conditions for additional details.

 

Personal Loan:

SoFi Lending Corp. (“SoFi”) operates this Personal Loan product in cooperation with Even Financial Corp. (“Even”). If you submit a loan inquiry, SoFi will deliver your information to Even, and Even will deliver to its network of lenders/partners to review to determine if you are eligible for pre-qualified or pre-approved offers. The lenders/partners receiving your information will also obtain your credit information from a credit reporting agency. If you meet one or more lender’s and/or partner’s conditions for eligibility, pre-qualified and pre-approved offers from one or more lenders/partners will be presented to you here on the Lantern website. More information about Even, the process, and its lenders/partners is described on the loan inquiry form you will reach by visiting our Personal Loans page as well as our Student Loan Refinance page. Click to learn more about Even’s Licenses and DisclosuresTerms of Service, and Privacy Policy.

Personal loan offers provided to customers on Lantern do not exceed 35.99% APR. An example of total amount paid on a personal loan of $10,000 for a term of 36 months at a rate of 10% would be equivalent to $11,616.12 over the 36 month life of the loan.

Student Loan Refinance:

SoFi Lending Corp. (“SoFi”) operates this Student Loan Refinance product in cooperation with Even Financial Corp. (“Even”). If you submit a loan inquiry, SoFi will deliver your information to Even, and Even will deliver to its network of lenders/partners to review to determine if you are eligible for pre-qualified or pre-approved offers. The lender’s receiving your information will also obtain your credit information from a credit reporting agency. If you meet one or more lender’s and/or partner’s conditions for eligibility, pre-qualified and pre-approved offers from one or more lenders/partners will be presented to you here on the Lantern website. More information about Even, the process, and its lenders/partners is described on the loan inquiry form you will reach by visiting our Personal Loans page as well as our Student Loan Refinance page. Click to learn more about Even’s Licenses and DisclosuresTerms of Service, and Privacy Policy.

Student loan refinance loans offered through Lantern are private loans and do not have the debt forgiveness or repayment options that the federal loan program offers, or that may become available, including Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or Pay as you Earn (PAYE).

Notice: Recent legislative changes have suspended all federal student loan payments and waived interest charges on federally held loans until 05/01/22. Please carefully consider these changes before refinancing federally held loans, as in doing so you will no longer qualify for these changes or other future benefits applicable to federally held loans.

Auto Loan Refinance:

Automobile refinancing loan information presented on this Lantern website is from Caribou. Auto loan refinance information presented on this Lantern site is indicative and subject to you fulfilling the lender’s requirements, including: you must meet the lender’s credit standards, the loan amount must be at least $10,000, and the vehicle is no more than 10 years old with odometer reading of no more than 125,000 miles. Loan rates and terms as presented on this Lantern site are subject to change when you reach the lender and may depend on your creditworthiness. Additional terms and conditions may apply and all terms may vary by your state of residence.

Secured Lending Disclosure:

Terms, conditions, state restrictions, and minimum loan amounts apply. Before you apply for a secured loan, we encourage you to carefully consider whether this loan type is the right choice for you. If you can’t make your payments on a secured personal loan, you could end up losing the assets you provided for collateral. Not all applicants will qualify for larger loan amounts or most favorable loan terms. Loan approval and actual loan terms depend on the ability to meet underwriting requirements (including, but not limited to, a responsible credit history, sufficient income after monthly expenses, and availability of collateral) that will vary by lender.

Life Insurance:

Information about insurance is provided on Lantern by SoFi Life Insurance Agency, LLC. Click here to view our licenses.

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