When it comes to applying for a personal loan, you have a variety of options available, secured or unsecured, fixed or variable, and many available lenders that provide them.
In your hunt for a loan you’ll come across banks, niche lenders and financiers, and you’ll also find credit unions. This guide will take you through credit union personal loans, how they are different to bank loans and why you might want to apply for one.
How is a credit union personal loan different to a loan from a bank?
Credit unions function in the same standard way as banks, with the main difference being that credit unions don’t have shareholders. Credit unions are not-for-profit and instead direct their profits back to their members by offering low-interest rates and fees.
You might find a personal loan from a credit union charges lower interest and fees than a non-credit union counterpart. As credit unions are smaller, there may be fewer options, although they offer most typical loan products. Other than this, credit union personal loans are primarily standard products and don’t differ too much from bank loans.
Why should you consider a credit union for your personal loan?
A credit union does not generate profit for shareholders; it focuses on offering benefits to its members instead. When you apply for a loan through a credit union, you become a member of the credit union and can look forward to the benefits that all other members enjoy.
New Zealand credit unions tend to rate well on customer satisfaction parameters, so you can expect professional and ethical banking solutions. The focus on offering competitive rates and fees means you might find a more affordable personal loan by turning to a credit union.
What are the features of a credit union personal loan?
Interest rate. Personal loans on offer from credit unions may have lower rates in comparison to those by banks. Bear in mind rates differ between credit unions, and you never know which lender has the most competitive loan, so it always pays to compare your options.
Loan term. Terms for personal loans typically vary between one and seven years, which remains the same for banks and credit unions. While longer terms result in lower repayments, you end up paying more interest.
Minimum and maximum loan amounts. The minimum and maximum you can borrow vary between credit unions and between loans. The minimum you can borrow is $1,000, and the maximum is approximately $50,000, although it can be more.
Repayment flexibility. Most credit unions give you the option to choose between weekly, fortnightly, and monthly repayments. With a variable rate loan, you can usually make additional repayments without penalties, and some loans may come with redraw facilities.
Secured or unsecured. Some credit unions offer secured personal loans, which you can guarantee using a vehicle or equity from a property. Secured loans charge lower interest rates compared to their unsecured counterparts.
What are my options when borrowing from a credit union?
Personal loans. You can choose between fixed-rate and variable rate loans, as well as secured and unsecured loans. Loan terms typically vary between one and seven years.
Car loans. New Zealand credit unions usually provide car loans. When you get a car loan, the vehicle you purchase works as collateral until you repay the loan entirely. You can take out one of these loans to buy a new or used car, with the loan term usually varying between one and five years.
Overdraft. An overdraft comes linked to a transaction or savings account. With an overdraft in place, you can overdraw on your account up to an agreed-upon limit.
Is there anything to consider?
Since credit unions tend to focus on serving local communities, their presence might be limited to specific regions, which might restrict branch and ATM networks.
If you think you might have trouble repaying a loan, you need to reconsider taking it out in the first place. Not making timely repayments will see you paying late charges and could also hurt your credit rating.
Make sure you go through the loan’s terms and conditions, as this gives you a good indication of all applicable charges.
Compare a range of personal loan options
Updated November 21st, 2019
Frequently asked questions about credit union personal loans
Depending on the credit union you choose to deal with, you can apply online, in person, or over the phone.
You should be over 18 years of age; be a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident; have a regular source of income and a good credit history.
If you have all the necessary documents close at hand, you should be able to complete your application in around 10 to 15 minutes.
Depending on the credit union you get your loan from, you can make repayments via direct debit, salary credit, online and phone banking. You can also mail cheques or making repayments in person.
Elizabeth Barry is Finder's global fintech editor. She has written about finance for over five years and has been featured in a range of publications and media including Seven News, the ABC, Mamamia, Dynamic Business and Financy. Elizabeth has a Bachelor of Communications and a Master of Creative Writing from the University of Technology Sydney. In 2017, she received the Highly Commended award for Best New Journalist at The Lizzies. Elizabeth has found writing about innovations in financial services to be her passion (which has surprised no one more than herself).
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