Personal loan rates at lowest-ever levels

24 August 2015
Personal loan rates for sums of £5,000 and £7,500 have fallen to their lowest ever. The average rate for a £5,000 loan is 6.05%, which is just over a fifth lower than it was at the start of 2015, according to analysis by The average rate for a loan of £7,500 is 4.19%, some 16 percentage points lower than what it was at the beginning of the year. The reduction in rate would save a borrower £168 over five years. The rates on loans between £15,001 and £19,999 have also been cut by several lenders over the past month. Sainsbury's reduced its rate from 5.8% to 3.6% for repayments over a maximum 36-month term and made them available to new customers. The comparison explained that previously "sub 4% rates weren't unusual in the higher borrowing category, but they were 'existing customer only' loans". It added: "Since the beginning of July, both Sainsbury's and Cahoot (loans provided by Santander) have re-priced loan rates to 3.6%, opening up a more competitive loans market. Overall, Ratesetter has the lowest loan rate in this category at 3.5% but it comes with a £51 borrowing fee."Find the best loan for you Competition-driven ratesPersonal finance expert Andrew Hagger of said: "The record low personal loan rates we are seeing now have been driven by competition among some of the banks and more recently peer-to-peer providers RateSetter, Zopa and Lending Works. "The traditional high street banks are less competitive in this space (exceptions are Santander and Nationwide) – the price war has in the main been driven by the likes of Tesco Bank, Sainsbury's Bank, Cahoot and M&S." Hagger pointed out that lenders tend to cherry pick and be more competitive for larger loans i.e. £7,500 and above, and this is where you'll find the best deals. For example, Cahoot, Zopa and M&S Bank are joint top at 3.6%APR. Nationwide is offering the same rate too – but only for existing customers. However, the rates on smaller sums are much higher with lenders blaming this on the fact that default rates tend to be higher on such sums. His research has found that many high street providers charge rates "well into double figures at this level, with Barclays today quoting 22.9% for a £3,000 loan over three years and Halifax 18.9% for the same amount/term". He suggested borrowers looking for loans of this size could instead consider using a credit card that permits money transfer – which is the ability to transfer cash from your credit card limit into your current account. MBNA and Virgin Money are the only two card providers that allow this. With the MBNA Platinum credit card you can take a 0% money transfer deal for 24 months with a one-off fee of 1.99%, or for 36 months with a 2.99% fee. Hagger said this is "a smart way to obtain low rate finance as long as you are disciplined enough to make the regular repayments every month". He explained: "On a £3,000 loan your only cost is £59.70 (1.99% fee) or £89.70 (2.99% fee) – a shrewd financial move when you consider the Barclays 22.9% example mentioned above would cost you £1057.71 in interest over three years." Kevin Mountford, head of banking at MoneySuperMarket, said: "Lenders have slashed personal loan rates in recent years, and we're still continuing to see them fall now, with a notable drop in the average rate over the last month. Anyone thinking about borrowing money should take advantage of these low rates now, as there is no guarantee on how long they will remain at this level, especially with recent speculation of a rise in Bank of England Base Rate."

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