Borrowers have never had it so bad, so time to review your choices

Need a loan but put off by exorbitant rates? Chiara Cavaglieri maps out the options for how to get your hands on the cash

Anyone attempting to secure a personal loan will find it has become a difficult and expensive business. Lenders are still hesitant to loosen their criteria, and even people with impeccable credit ratings are struggling.

The credit drought has led to the Office of Fair Trading planning to investigate loans. "A lot of lenders are protecting their bucks and are reluctant to lend to new borrowers," says Olivier Beau de Loménie, managing director of the loan comparison site TheLendingWizard.com. Even those that do manage to obtain a loan are faced with rising costs; in the past 12 months, the average rate for a personal loan of £1,000 has risen to 19.8 per cent, up by 1.9 per cent, according to comparison site Moneyfacts. With such unfavourable conditions, where can consumers turn for affordable credit?



Use a credit card

Smaller personal loans in particular have risen notably in the space of a year, with loans of £5,000 seeing the biggest rise of 2 per cent. Although the average credit card rate has increased from 16.9 per cent last year to 17.7 per cent, anyone looking to borrow a smaller amount may well find it cheaper to use a credit card. The Barclaycard Simplicity Visa, for example, charges just 6.8 per cent.

Borrowers may want to take advantage of credit cards with introductory bonuses. "Customers looking for short-term borrowing could consider a card offering a 0 per cent introductory purchase deal. As long as you repay the debt within the term of the deal you will be charged no interest at all," says Michelle Slade, an adviser at Moneyfacts. The longest deals at present are Marks & Spencer Money MasterCard, offering 0 per cent for 10 months, and Halifax All in One MasterCard, which offers 0 per cent for nine months.



Zopa.com

Zopa provides an online financial exchange service bringing borrowers and lenders together, without the need for banks. Potential borrowers are placed into one of five categories – A*, A, B, C or Young, with A*s posing the least risk of defaulting and therefore gaining access to the best rates. Unlike banks, Zopa takes into account a wide set of circumstances to assess credit worthiness, including assets such as a collection of cars or even an eBay rating. Also, with fewer overheads, Zopa lenders offer better rates: borrowers in the A* market are currently enjoying an average rate of 8.1 per cent on loans of £5,000 over three years. "At the moment, we're undercutting banks radically because of their reluctance to lend," says Martin Campbell of Zopa. Borrowers are able to borrow between £1,000 and £15,000, which can be repaid over three or five years, although there are no early repayment charges. There is also a flat fee of £118.50 for all loans.



Credit unions

More than 300 independent credit unions are members of the Association of British Credit Unions Limited. With credit unions, individuals who share a common bond, often dictated by their job or where they live, come together to save and borrow money with each other. Originally, anyone looking to borrow would need to be an established member of the credit union before being able to apply for a loan. However, as credit unions have developed, borrowing has become a more immediate option for members.

"Traditionally, credit unions required you to save for a while before they would lend to you but, as they've grown, some of them allow you to join as a member and get a loan relatively quickly," says Mark Lyonette, the association's chief executive. Credit unions on average charge 12.7 per cent. All credit union loans include life insurance for the loan as standard.



Go to your mortgage lender

Homeowners can choose to release equity from their properties by borrowing additional funds through their mortgage lenders. "Further advances are still typically lower than personal loan rates and are very much akin to a standard mortgage rate," says David Hollingworth of mortgage brokers London & Country. However, because mortgages are paid over a longer period of time, they can end up costing more over the lifetime of the debt.

Alternatively, homeowners can remortgage through a different lender and get extra funds by applying for a bigger loan than needed. As long as there are no early repayment charges, remortgaging is a good option for those with enough equity in their properties as they can scan the whole of the market and secure a better rate.

Those on a flexible or offset mortgage may also be able to borrow back money they have put into the mortgage. Northern Rock, for example, allows customers to borrow back some or all of any overpayments they have made on their flexible fixed mortgage at the rate of their home-loan deal.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
News
Comedian Ted Robbins collapsed on stage during a performance of Phoenix Nights Live at Manchester Arena (Rex)
people
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Software Development Manager

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Ashdown Group: Product Manager - (Product Marketing, Financial Services)

    £30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

    Recruitment Genius: Compliance Assistant

    £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...

    Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive

    £23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...

    Day In a Page

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
    Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

    The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

    Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
    Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

    A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
    How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

    How books can defeat Isis

    Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
    The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

    The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

    The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
    Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

    Young carers to make dance debut

    What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
    Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

    Design Council's 70th anniversary

    Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
    Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

    Dame Harriet Walter interview

    The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

    Bill Granger's winter salads

    Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
    England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

    George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

    No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
    Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links