Personal loans are versatile financial tools that may help you navigate various situations, from consolidating debt to covering unexpected expenses. If you’re considering taking out a personal loan, it’s essential to understand how they work and their potential impact on your financial well-being. Keep reading to learn the basics of personal loans and some important facts you may not know:

They Have Fixed Monthly Payments

Personal loans are pretty straightforward. You can borrow a specific amount of money from a lender and agree to repay the loan in fixed monthly payments over a set term, often ranging from a few months to several years. The monthly payments include the principal (the amount you borrowed) and interest (the cost to borrow money). As you make your payments, the loan balance will decrease until it’s fully paid off at the end of the loan term.

There Are Several Loan Types

Personal loans come in various forms, catering to diverse financial needs. These loans may be broadly categorized into two main types: secured and unsecured loans.

Secured personal loans require collateral, such as a car title, home equity, or cash deposit. They also often come with lower interest rates due to the added security for the lender. Unsecured personal loans don’t require collateral, relying more on the borrower’s creditworthiness. Some may have higher interest rates because they’re not backed by collateral. The right type of loan for you depends on your unique circumstances and whether you’re willing to use collateral.

You Can Cover Many Types of Expenses

Personal loans can cover a wide range of expenses. Here are some ways you can use this type of loan:

  • Debt consolidation
  • Home improvements
  • Day-to-day expenses, such as groceries and gas
  • Medical bills
  • Wedding expenses
  • Travel

They Can Impact Your Credit Score

One fact you may not know about personal loans is that they can impact your credit score, both positively and negatively. When you apply for a personal loan, the lender may conduct a hard credit inquiry. This inquiry may temporarily lower your credit score by a few points.

Managing your loan responsibly by making on-time payments will positively impact your credit score, since many lenders will report payment history to the credit bureaus. Additionally, personal loans can improve your credit score by adding to your credit mix. They’re considered installment loans, and having a good range of credit types, including installment and revolving credit (like credit cards), can boost your credit score over time.

Interest Rates and Fees Can Vary

Interest rates for personal loans may vary widely depending on various factors, including the lender, market conditions, and your credit score. Generally, borrowers with strong credit scores may receive offers with better interest rates, while those with lower credit scores may face higher rates.

It’s essential to compare interest rates and fees from different lenders to ensure you get the best offer. You should also stay mindful of any origination fees, prepayment penalties, or late fees associated with the loan, as these may affect the overall cost of borrowing.

The Bottom Line

Personal loans can be valuable financial products when used responsibly. Understanding the basics of these loans, including the different types and how they can impact your credit score, can empower you to make informed decisions. So, whether you’re looking to consolidate debt, cover an emergency expense, or finance a major life event, personal loans may provide the financial support you need to achieve your goals.