Borrowing money never seems to be simple. Not only do you have to find someone willing to lend it to you, but there’s always the tricky part of paying it back. With some loans, you’re racing to pay back more than you borrowed in mere weeks. With credit cards, the interest can add up until a collections agency gets involved. But with some loans, you can work slowly towards repayment in manageable increments.
What makes it an installment loan?
These are called installment loans—and you might already be familiar with them if you’ve already gotten a student loan or a mortgage. With installment loans, a lender gives you the total borrowed amount (or principal) upfront, and you repay the loan amount plus interest in recurring installments. With some installment loans, like the personal loans available through Helix, the faster you pay it back, the less you’ll end up paying in interest. These loans can last from as little as six months for simple personal loans to 30 years for home loans. A small loan over a longer period of time will mean smaller recurring payments, although you’ll also end up paying more total interest in the end. The full cost of installment loans will vary widely based on the interest rate agreed on, which is often determined by the borrower’s credit score.
The benefit of installment loans is their simplicity. These recurring payments should be easier to budget every month, helping you avoid missing any payments. Conversely, forms of credit like title loans or pawn shops require you to pay back both the principal and the interest all at once, and quickly. It’s hard to find room in any budget for such large and often unexpected expenses.
The downside of installment loans is the interest—and how much the interest rate is sometimes determined by your credit. Lenders use credit scores to assess how much of a risk a potential borrower will be. If you have had difficulty paying back debts in the past, that will be reflected in your credit score, and a lender is likely to view you as a riskier candidate. As a result, you’ll be offered a loan with a higher interest rate—which can really add up over time. An unsecured personal loan that doesn’t require collateral (like your vehicle) will also usually offer a higher interest rate than a secured loan, which does require collateral.
If you can, try to improve your credit before applying for a loan. You can request a free credit report from each of the main three credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) once each year, helping you to get a better idea of the state of your credit. You could also try to find someone with much better credit to co-sign your loan, which could gain you a better interest rate.
Could it help your credit score?
If your credit is already a little shaky, an installment loan could help you improve it. Demonstrating an ability to make consistent payments on debt makes up 35 percent of your credit score. So, making monthly payments on a personal loan could actually improve your credit score over time, leading you to receive a better interest rate next time you need a loan. Plus, personal loans are often used as a tactic for debt consolidation. If you can use a loan to successfully eliminate some of your outstanding debts, you can improve your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, which is something lenders sometimes consider when assessing potential borrowers.
With installment loans, it’s important to consider the exact amount you need. This is important because you take out a loan for a specific principal amount, a specific term length, and a specific interest rate—you can’t just ask them to throw in an extra $500 down the line. If you need more money, you’ll have to take out a separate, additional loan. Not only is this a hassle, but lots of applications for new credit can negatively impact your credit score. Of course, you don’t want to take out too much and end up paying lots of interest on the money you didn’t need to borrow in the first place. To determine what loan you can afford, look up a loan payment calculator and workshop some numbers. If you’re not sure how much money you’ll need to borrow in the future, a series of loans might not be for you. Credit cards offer what is referred to as “revolving debt,” which you both pay off and incur continuously. Paying off credit cards, however, can be difficult for those who struggle with payment schedules. These borrowers might fare better with the clearly defined loan terms and scheduled payments of an installment loan.
Where to get an installment loan
You can get an installment loan from many lenders, but you might want to start with a smaller, local bank or a credit union. These smaller lenders can sometimes offer better rates than the national Mega-banks. If you already have a relationship with a lender, such as a savings account or a prior loan paid back successfully, you could be viewed as a better candidate for a loan. If you have an emergency and need money quickly, there are online lenders that can get it to your account faster than you might expect. If you sign a loan agreement with Helix before 11 a.m. CST on a business day, the money could be in your account by 5 p.m.
In general, installment loans can be useful for financial emergencies like auto repair or an unexpected urgency room medical expense. They are often a great short-term solution that will be much easier and less stressful to pay off than a payday loan or a title loan. If you’re looking to experience the application process and/or see if you qualify for an online personal loan, take two minutes and fill out an online personal loan application through Helix to see if you qualify.