For those looking to reduce debt faster, the best consolidation loans can provide lower interest payments by packaging several high interest debts into one loan with a reduced rate.
Your credit score affects your options, as the best interest rates are typically reserved for those with better credit ratings. Below we explore the various consolidation loans and their pros or cons.
The first route is a signature loan that does not require any particular collateral or security. The interest rates can be slightly higher than a secured loan and vary based on the individual’s credit score. These loans might also include borrowing limits. The best consolidation loans let you take all of your debts, and combine them into one loan with one payment. So if you’re trying to consolidate a large amount of debt, this loan might not allow you to capture it all in one loan.
Peer-to-peer loans are brokered by companies that match investors with borrowers. The interest rates vary widely and are heavily dependent on your credit score. A peer-to-peer loan might be a good fit to consolidate a large amount of debt. But if the interest rate is higher than the rates on your current debt, you’re better off shopping around some more.
Credit cards offer their own version of a consolidation loan in the form of a cash advance. The interest rate is usually much higher than what’s charged for purchases. So if the debt you are looking to pay off has a low interest rate, it might be better to keep making the regular payments versus taking the cash advance.
Your home is another source of funds, and homeowners who have paid down a good chunk of their mortgage principal may be able to access one of the best consolidation loans. A home equity loan, or second mortgage, is a way to merge a large amount of debt with a significantly lower interest rate. You get a low rate because the lender has the security provided by your property.
You need to have enough equity in your home to cover the debt you want to consolidate. At the same time, your home needs to have sufficient equity to cover the debt. Most home loans are limited to 80 percent of your home’s value. If your first mortgage already puts your loan-to-value ratio at 80 percent, you may not qualify for a home equity loan. The longer you’ve been paying down principal on your mortgage, the more leeway you have to borrow against your home.
Another avenue that takes advantage of your home’s equity is a cash-out refinance. Refinancing your mortgage — paying off your current lender, and taking out a new loan — can have two benefits. First, you can use the cash you take out of your home to pay down high-interest debt, effectively consolidating it into your mortgage. You’ll then be making one monthly payment at a significantly lower interest rate.
The other benefit is that you might be able to get a lower rate than you’re paying on your current mortgage. Remember that you’ll pay fees up front to refinance, and it can take some time to recoup those costs. If you’d previously refinanced your home to take advantage of lower rates, doing another refinance might not be as rewarding.
So how can you qualify for any of these options for best consolidation loans? The most important factor is a clean credit history. If your credit took a beating in the Great Recession, work on rebuilding it before taking out a consolidation loan. This can help you qualify for the lowest possible interest rate.
Another factor is proof of steady income. Even if your credit is good and you have a steady income, a high debt-to-income ratio can limit your consolidation options. If possible, pay down your debts before consolidating them.
Finally, keep in mind that even if you’re able to secure one of these best consolidation loans, consolidating debt should be used primarily to lower interest rate payments. It’s not a fix for out-of-control spending. If you struggle with overspending, set up a budget before shopping for a consolidation loan. You might find that you don’t need to consolidate after all.
Credible is a marketplace where lenders including Avant, LendingClub, PAVE, Prosper and Upstart compete for your business. You can compare personalized offers from multiple lenders on Credible.com without sharing your personal information with lenders or affecting your credit score. Tracy Sherwood-Knepple is a business and finance writer. She holds a degree in mass communications from Indiana University.