Variable rate loans could give you flexibility to help pay off your debt faster — but with the risk of higher costs down the road.
Variable rate personal loans tend to come with lower starting APRs than their fixed rate counterparts. As its name suggests, the rate can vary — or change — throughout the term of the loan. Read our guide to learn more about how these loans work, what the benefits are and what you’ll want to watch out for before you take one out.
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With a variable rate loan, an interest rate will initially be applied to your loan, however this rate can change over the course of your loan term. The rate can either go up or down depending on market fluctuations. Your loan agreement will specify the maximum cap APR.
A variable rate personal loan can be either secured or unsecured and can have term lengths between one and ten years, with a borrowing amount ranging anywhere from $1,000 to $35,000 (and sometimes higher).
Depending on the lender, you may be able to make early repayments without facing additional fees and charges.
Why you might consider it:
- Competitive rates. Its lower starting interest rate is usually what attracts borrowers.
- Potential decrease in rate. When interest rates drop, you’re not locked into a fixed interest rate, letting you enjoy lower repayments and a cheaper overall loan cost.
- Lower fees. Origination and administration fees and charges are usually lower than on fixed rate loans — keeping your overall loan cost down.
Why you might rule it out:
- Interest rates are unpredictable. As the market fluctuates, so does your loan interest rate. If interest rates rise, your monthly payment will increase, and the loan may cost you more in the long run.
- Harder to budget for. Variable interest rate loans are sensitive to economic conditions and the interest rate of your loan will change over the duration of paying it off – making it harder to budget repayments month-to-month.
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There are a few factors you should take into consideration when comparing personal loans:
- Repayment flexibility. You should confirm the repayment flexibility of your loan before you apply. Will you be able to make additional payments or pay it off early without facing extra fees?
- Fees and charges. Check upfront and ongoing fees when comparing variable rate loans, as they could significantly add up if you’re not careful.
- Total cost of the loan. You should consider how much the loan will cost in total. This depends on a few factors including how long the loan term is, repayment frequency, interest and any other fees that come with the loan. Compare the annual percentage rate (APR) of different loans to get an idea of the total cost.
What is an APR?
The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) incorporates the fees as well as the interest rate to show you the true cost of the loan.
- Not checking fees and charges. Be sure to ask about any extra charges such as origination, application, early repayment or any other fees.
- Borrowing more than you can repay. Only borrow the amount that you actually need since you’ll be paying interest on the amount you borrow. Defaulting on any kind of loan leads to a negative mark on your credit file and if your loan is secured, you will lose your collateral.
- Extending terms longer than needed. A shorter loan term means you pay less interest — and the loan is ultimately cheaper — so you may want to consider choosing the shortest terms that are manageable on your budget. Some lenders might try to convince you to take a longer loan term and offer lower monthly payments as a selling point.
Eligibility criteria can differ between lenders, however you’ll usually need to meet the following requirements:
- Be at least 18 years of age, or the age of majority in your province or territory
- Be a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident with a valid Canadian address
- Have a regular source of income
- Meet any credit score requirements
- Meet any minimum income requirements
You’ll typically need to submit the following information in order to apply:
- Submit your personal information
- Show proof of identification
- Provide employment history
- Provide your banking details
- Proof of rent or mortgage payments
Applying for a variable rate loan can take just minutes, since most lenders have a speedy online approval process. Having the above information on hand can speed up and streamline the process.