What’s the difference between a personal loan and a credit card?

Credit card or a personal loan? The answer depends on what you’re buying and how you intend to pay it back.

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With a credit card debt per capita at S$933 (based on the 2017 data published by the Department of Statistics of Singapore), it’s no surprise that people are exploring different ways of paying it back. It usually comes down to two options; credit cards and personal loans. Both have pros, cons, penalties and fees, but choosing the way that best suits your financial situation could potentially save you thousands in interest repayments.

The main points of difference

Personal loans and credit cards are both types of credit provided by financial institutions. They can be for similar amounts, but personal loans are for a finite amount of time, whereas credit cards are a revolving line of credit.

Personal loans are usually available for terms of between one and seven years and you receive the entire loan amount at the beginning of the term. You then make ongoing payments to repay the loan in full.

Credit cards do not come with terms. You are offered a credit limit and required to make ongoing repayments to keep your account in good standing. You can continually draw up to and including that limit and spend however much you choose on your card. You need to repay a percentage of whatever you spend each month.

Structurally, credit cards and personal loans are similar. They are both forms of credit and they both require a monthly repayment. What differs are the features and fees. Credit cards offer interest-free days, balance transfers and rewards but personal loans are more suitable for debt consolidation and have a maximum loan term so the debt is always repaid. While annual fees are common with credit cards, personal loans tend to incur application and monthly services fees.

Comparison of personal loans and credit cards

HSBC Personal Loan

HSBC Personal Loan

From

3.7 % p.a.

rate

  • Borrow from S$5,000
  • Fixed monthly repayments
  • Redraw on your existing loan

HSBC Personal Loan

Apply today to get approved for up to S$200,000 over 7 years.

  • Max. loan amount: Up to 8x fixed monthly income or up to S$200,000
  • Loan tenure: Up to 7 years
  • Approval duration: 1 minute approval in principle. "Next Day" approval available for loans no more than S$100,000
  • Effective Interest Rate: 7% is only applicable to customers with annual income of at least $80,000, and tenor between 3-7 years.
  • Fees: S$88 processing fee, S$75 late payment fee, 2.5% early repayment fee, 2.5% + prevailing interest overdue interest fee
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Promoted
Name Product Interest Rate From Effective Interest Rate Minimum Loan Amount Maximum Loan Amount Loan Tenure
HSBC Personal Loan
3.7%
7%
S$5,000
S$200,000
Up to 7 years
Apply by 29 February 2020 and get a promotional interest rate from 3.7% p.a. (EIR 7% p.a. is only applicable to customers with annual income of at least $80,000, and tenor between 3-7 years) and receive S$108 cashback plus S$88 processing fee waiver. T&Cs apply.
Standard Chartered CashOne Personal Loan
3.88%
7.63%
S$1,000
Up to 4x fixed monthly salary, subject to a cap of S$250,000.
1 - 5 years
Receive up to S$1,088 cashback and S$160 Anniversary Cashback on your approved loan. Ends 31 March 2020.
Citibank Personal Loan
4.55%
8.5%
S$1,000
S$100,000
Up to 5 years
Receive cash starting at 4.55% p.a. (EIR 8.5% p.a.) on a 36-month loan tenure.

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HSBC Advance Credit Card

HSBC Advance Credit Card

Receive S$150 cash back or a Samsonite T5 Spinner luggage

Offer ends 31 March 2020

Eligibility criteria, terms and conditions, fees and charges apply

HSBC Advance Credit Card

Apply today and enjoy 3.5% cash back on all purchases. No minimum spend required.

  • Principal Annual Fee: S$0 annual fee for 1 year (permanently waived for HSBC Advance banking customers) - S$192.60 thereafter.
  • Cashback Rate: 3.5%
  • Annual Interest Rate: 25.9%
  • Minimum Income (Singaporean & PR): S$30,000
  • Minimum Income (Non-Singaporean): S$40,000
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Promoted
Name Product Reward Cashback Offer Annual Fee Min Income - Singaporean and PR
HSBC Revolution Credit Card
Up to 5X Rewards points (2 miles per S$1 spent) on online, dining and entertainment purchases
S$150 cash back when you spend S$800 in qualifying transactions from card approval to the end of the following month. Ends 31 March 2020.
S$0 annual fee for 2 years - S$160.50 thereafter
S$30,000
Get free Samsonite T5 68cm Spinner luggage with built-in scale worth S$560 or S$150 cash back when you spend S$800 in qualifying transactions from card approval to the end of the following month. Receive an additional S$20 worth of grab rides when you apply online with MyInfo via SingPass. T&Cs apply. Ends 31 March 2020.
Standard Chartered Spree Credit Card
Up to S$60 cashback monthly with no minimum spend
S$80 cashback to new cardholders. S$20 cashback to existing cardholders. T&Cs apply. Ends 31 March 2020.



S$0 annual fee for 2 years - S$192.60 thereafter
S$30,000
Get S$80 cashback with activation of card within 30 day upon approval. Existing cardholders will receive S$20. Ends 31 March 2020.
Citi PremierMiles Visa Card
2 Citi Miles for every S$1 spent overseas and 1.2 Citi Miles per S$1 spent locally.
Up to 10% cash back at selected merchants.
S$0 annual fee for 1 year - S$192.60 thereafter
S$30,000
Receive 37,300 miles when you spend S$9,000 in the first 3 months and pay the annual fee. Terms and conditions apply. Ends 31 March 2020.
UOB PRVI Miles American Express Card
6 air miles for every S$1 spent through Expedia, agoda and UOB Travel.
Get S$100 cash credit when you apply. Minimum S$1,000 spend within 30 days from the approval date of the Credit Card. Gift is limited to the first 200 eligible applicants who meet the minimum spend.
S$0 annual fee for 1 year - S$256.80 thereafter
S$30,000
Apply today and enjoy up to S$100 in cash credits. Plus, free travel cover.
HSBC Visa Platinum Card
5% cash rebate on groceries, fuel and dining
5% cashback on dining, groceries and petrol


S$150 cash back when you spend S$800 within a month of card approval. Ends 31 March 2020.

S$0 annual fee for 2 years - S$192.60 thereafter
S$30,000
Get free Samsonite T5 68cm Spinner luggage with built-in scale worth S$560 or S$150 cash back when you spend S$800 in qualifying transactions from card approval to the end of the following month. Receive an additional S$20 worth of grab rides when you apply online with MyInfo via SingPass. T&Cs apply. Ends 31 March 2020.
Standard Chartered Unlimited Cashback Credit Card
1.5% cashback on all spend with no cap and no minimum spend
S$80 cashback to new cardholders. S$20 cashback to existing cardholders. T&Cs apply. Ends 31 March 2020.
S$0 annual fee for 2 years - S$192.60 thereafter
S$30,000
Get S$80 cashback with activation of card within 30 days upon approval. Existing cardholders will receive S$20. Ends 31 March 2020.
KrisFlyer UOB Credit Card
Earn 3 KrisFlyer miles per S$1 when you spend with Singapore Airlines, Scoot, SilkAir or KrisShop.
Get S$100 cash credit when you apply. Minimum S$1,000 spend within 30 days from the approval date of the Credit Card. Gift is limited to the first 200 eligible applicants who meet the minimum spend.
S$0 annual fee for 1 year for principal card
Free for the first supplementary card, S$96.30 subsequent card - S$192.60 thereafter
S$30,000
Apply today and enjoy up to S$100 in cash credits and 3,000 KrisFlyer miles.
UOB Yolo Card
Enjoy up to 8% cashback on dining, travel, shopping and entertainment. Plus, a further 3% cashback on online travel bookings and fashion shopping.
Up to 8% cashback on Dining, Grab and Online spend
3% cashback on Online Fashion & Travel spend
S$0 annual fee for 1 year - S$192.60 thereafter
S$30,000
Apply today and enjoy up to 8% cashback on dining, travel, shopping and entertainment. Plus, a further 3% cashback on online travel bookings and fashion shopping.
Citi Rewards Credit Card
10X Rewards on your shopping spend (local and overseas) and online purchases (except mobile wallet and travel-related transactions), plus 1X Rewards Points on all other spend, no cap or minimum spend required
Up to 20% cash back at selected merchants.
S$0 annual fee for 1 year - S$192.60 thereafter
S$30,000
Receive 30,000 Citi Thank You points when you spend S$3,000 in the first 3 months. Ends 31 March 2020.
UOB Lady's Card
10X UNI$ (or 20 miles) per S$5 spent on one category with no min. spend required. Choose from Beauty& Wellness, Dining, Entertainment, Family, Fashion, Transport and Travel.
Up to S$180 in cash credits. S$100 cash credit when you apply for a new Credit Card and S$80 cash credit when you open an account online.
S$0 annual fee for 1 year for principal card
Free for the first supplementary card, S$96.30 subsequent card - S$192.60 thereafter
S$30,000
Apply today and enjoy up to S$180 in cash credits. S$100 cash credit when you apply for a new Credit Card and S$80 cash credit when you open an account online.
HSBC Advance Credit Card
Up to 3.5% cashback on all purchases with no minimum spend
Up to 3.5% cashback on all purchases


S$150 cash back when you spend S$800 in qualifying transactions from card approval to the end of the following month. Ends 15 April 2020.
S$0 annual fee for 1 year (permanently waived for HSBC Advance banking customers) - S$192.60 thereafter
S$30,000
Get free Samsonite T5 68cm Spinner luggage with built-in scale worth S$560 or S$150 cash back when you spend S$800 in qualifying transactions from card approval to the end of the following month. Receive an additional S$20 worth of grab rides when you apply online with MyInfo via SingPass. T&Cs apply. Ends 31 March 2020.
Standard Chartered Rewards+ Credit Card
Up to 10X rewards points for every S$1 spent in foreign currency on overseas retail, dining and travel
S$80 cashback to new cardholders. S$20 cashback to existing cardholders. T&Cs apply. Ends 31 March 2020.
S$0 annual fee for 2 years - S$192.60 thereafter
S$30,000
Get S$80 cashback with activation of the card within 30 days upon approval. Existing cardholders will receive S$20. Ends 31 March 2020.
UOB One Card
Up to 10% cashback on Grab and UOB Travel transactions; 6% for your Singapore Power bill; and 5% back on all other spending.
Up to 10% on Grab and UOB Travel transactions; 6% for your Singapore Power bill; and 5% back on all other spending.
S$0 annual fee for 1 year - S$192.60 thereafter
S$30,000
Apply today and enjoy up to 10% cashback on Grab and UOB Travel transactions, including up to 24% off fuel at SPC and up to 20.8% off at Shell.
Citi Cash Back Card
Earn up to 8% cash back on dining, groceries and petrol worldwide.
8% cash back on dining, groceries and petrol transactions
S$0 annual fee for 1 year - S$192.60 thereafter
S$30,000
Get a welcome gift of S$120 cash back when you spend S$1,200 in the first 3 months. Ends 31 January 2021.
UOB PRVI Miles Visa Card
6 air miles for every S$1 spent through Expedia, agoda and UOB Travel.
Get S$100 cash credit when you apply. Minimum S$1,000 spend within 30 days from the approval date of the Credit Card. Gift is limited to the first 200 eligible applicants who meet the minimum spend.
S$0 annual fee for 1 year - S$256.80 thereafter
S$30,000
Apply today and enjoy up to S$100 in cash credits. Plus, free travel cover.
Citi Prestige Card
Earn 5 ThankYou Points (2 Miles) per S$1 overseas spend and 3.25 ThankYou Points (1.3 miles) per S$1 local spend.
Up to 20% cash back at selected merchants.
S$535 annual fee
S$120,000
Receive a welcome gift of 62,500 Citi ThankYou Points (25,000 Miles) or Gadget Welcome Gift. Ends 31 March 2020.
UOB PRVI Miles World Mastercard Card
6 air miles for every S$1 spent through Expedia, agoda and UOB Travel.
Get S$100 cash credit when you apply. Minimum S$1,000 spend within 30 days from the approval date of the Credit Card. Gift is limited to the first 200 eligible applicants who meet the minimum spend.
S$0 annual fee for 1 year - S$256.80 thereafter
S$30,000
Apply today and enjoy up to S$100 in cash credits. Plus, free travel cover.
Citibank SMRT Card
Up to 5% savings on groceries, fast food, movies, and coffee; up to 3% savings on online shopping.
Redeem S$10 cash back for shopping vouchers in every 10 SMRT$ earned
S$0 annual fee for 2 years - S$192.60 thereafter
S$30,000
Receive a welcome gift of S$120 cash back when you spend S$1,200 in the first 3 months. Ends 31 January 2021.
American Express True Cashback Card
1.5% cashback on all purchases with no minimum spend and no cap
3% cashback for first 6 months up to S$5,000 minimum spend


1.5% cashback on any purchase, anytime
S$0 annual fee for 1 year - S$171.20 thereafter
S$30,000
Receive 3% Cashback bonus and up to S$150 Cashback when you spend S$5,000 in the first six months.
American Express Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Credit Card
For every S$1 spent, get up to 1.1 KrisFlyer miles on all eligible purchases, 2 miles in foreign currency spent overseas (June and December) and 3.1 miles on Grab Singapore transactions (up to S$200 spend in each calendar month).
S$150 cashback for use at singaporeair.com when you spend a minimum of S$12,000 till 30 June 2020.
S$0 annual fee for 1 year - S$176.55 thereafter
S$30,000
Earn 8,000 bonus KrisFlyer miles when you spend S$5,000 in the first 3 months of card membership and additional 8,000 KrisFlyer miles with minimum spend of S$5,000 in the 4th to 6th month of membership. Ends 30 April 2020.
American Express CapitaCard
Earn 3X STAR$ when you shop at participating CapitaLand malls, 1X STAR$ on all other purchases and additional 10X STAR$ at participating outlets in CapitaLand Malls.
Earn 15 STAR$ for every S$1 spent at participating CapitaLand malls.
S$0 annual fee for 1 year - S$171.20 thereafter
S$30,000
Add supplementary cardholders and get S$20 worth of CapitaVouchers for each approved member (up to two cardholders). Ends 30 April 2020.
American Express Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Ascend Credit Card
For every S$1 spent, get up to 1.2 KrisFlyer miles on all eligible purchases, 2 miles in foreign currency spent overseas (June and December) and 3.2 miles on Grab Singapore transactions (up to S$200 spend in each calendar month).
None
S$337.05 annual fee
S$50,000
Earn 16,000 KrisFlyer miles when you spend S$10,000 within the first three months and an additional 12,000 KrisFlyer miles based on 1.2 KrisFlyer miles per S$1 spent locally. Ends 30 April 2020.
American Express Platinum Credit Card
Up to 50% off your food bill for unlimited visits at hotels around Singapore
None
S$321 annual fee
S$50,000
Get a free Samsonite luggage (worth S$600) and 1-night stay at Swissotel The Stamford Singapore (worth S$529) when you pay the annual fee in the first statement and spend S$4,500 in the first 3 months. T&Cs apply. Ends 31 March 2020.
Maybank Business Platinum Mastercard
Earn 1 TREATS Points per dollar spent
S$50 cash credits to offset credit card payment
S$0 annual fee for 2 years - S$180 thereafter
N/A
Get up to S$1 million in Travel Accident Insurance when you purchase flights or travel packages using your card.
Maybank eVibes Card - The Student Card
Earn 1% cash rebate on all spend
1% cash rebate on all spend
S$0 annual fee for 2 years - S$20 thereafter
N/A
Get an Adidas wristwatch worth S$120 when you use your card in the first month. Offer limited to the first 500 successful applicants.
Maybank Platinum Visa Card
Up to 3.33% cash rebates on local spend
Earn up to 3.33% cash rebates on all purchases in Singapore upon spending S$300 per month on every quarter


Cash rebate of 0.3% will also be earned on overseas spending at no minimum spend
S$0 annual fee
S$30,000
Receive an American Tourister Linex 66/24 Luggage TSA (worth S$260) when you charge to your card or withdraw from your CreditAble account with a minimum of S$300 within the first 2 months.
Maybank Family & Friends Card
8% cash rebates on groceries, dining, transport and selected merchants with S$800 min. monthly spend
Up to 8% cashback with minimum spend of S$800 per month.
S$0 annual fee for 3 years - S$180 thereafter
S$30,000
Receive an American Tourister Linex 66/24 Luggage TSA (worth S$260) when you charge to your card or withdraw from your CreditAble account with a minimum of S$300 within the first 2 months.
Maybank Manchester United Platinum Visa Card
Receive a 10% discount at United Direct Online Megastore and 5 TREATS Points for every dollar spent when Manchester United wins a Premier League match.
S$0 annual fee for 2 years - S$80 thereafter
S$30,000
Receive an American Tourister Linex 66/24 Luggage TSA (worth S$260) when you charge to your card or withdraw from your CreditAble account with a minimum of S$300 within the first 2 months.
Maybank DUO Platinum Mastercard
5% cash rebate on petrol in Singapore and Malaysia and 1.5% cash rebate in foreign currency.
5% cash rebate on petrol transactions
S$120 annual fee
S$30,000
Receive an American Tourister Linex 66/24 Luggage TSA (worth S$260) when you charge to your card or withdraw from your CreditAble account with a minimum of S$300 within the first 2 months.
Maybank FC Barcelona Visa Signature Card
1.6% unlimited cash rebate on all local spend
1.6% cash rebate on all spend
S$120 annual fee
S$30,000
Receive an American Tourister Linex 66/24 Luggage TSA (worth S$260) when you charge to your card or withdraw from your CreditAble account with a minimum of S$300 within the first 2 months.
Maybank Visa Infinite Card
Earn up to 5X TREATS Points (2 air miles) on all spend
Redeem TREATS points with cash credits
S$0 annual fee for 1 year - S$600 thereafter
S$150,000
Get up to 8 complimentary single-trip airport limousine transfers. T&Cs apply. Ends 31 Dec 2020.
Maybank Horizon Visa Signature Card
Up to 3.2 Air Miles (8X TREATS Points) for every S$1 spent on dining, transport and hotel bookings via Agoda.com/horizon
Receive S$100 cash credit with min. spend of S$800 to your card or withdrawal from your CreditAble account within the first 2 months. Ends 31 Jul 2019.
S$0 annual fee for 3 years - S$180 thereafter
S$30,000
Receive an American Tourister Linex 66/24 Luggage TSA (worth S$260) when you charge to your card or withdraw from your CreditAble account with a minimum of S$300 within the first 2 months.
Maybank World Mastercard
10X TREATS Points (4 air miles) on every S$1 spent at selected merchants.
Get S$50 cash credit with minimum spend of S$700 upon card approval
S$0 annual fee for 1 year - S$240 thereafter
S$80,000
Receive an American Tourister Linex 66/24 Luggage TSA (worth S$260) when you charge to your card or withdraw from your CreditAble account with a minimum of S$300 within the first 2 months.

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What to consider with a personal loan

ProsConsSuitable for
  • Lower interest rates than credit cards
  • Repayment schedule means your debt comes with an end date
  • Cheaper in the long term
  • Not tempted to spend
  • Minimum loan term means that you’ll carry the debt for more than a year
  • Can be inflexible (early repayments may not be allowed)
  • Can take longer to apply for
  • Large one-off purchases more than approximately S$5,000 like renovations and holidays
  • Large debt consolidations
  • Borrowing over a long period of time

Credit card points of consideration

ProsConsSuitable for
  • Immediate spending
  • Can come with rewards
  • Great option if you need a constant cash flow
  • Balance transfer for debt consolidation
  • Interest-free days
  • Usually carry higher interest rates
  • Only require a minimum repayment each statement period which means your debt can roll on and on
  • Balance transfer rate reverts to the cash advance rate
  • Smaller purchases less than approximately S$5,000
  • Small debt consolidations
  • Short-term debts
  • Everyday shopping or retail purchases to earn reward points
  • Spending amounts that you can pay back within the introductory period

personal-loan-vs-credit-card2Personal loans vs. credit cards: What’s the right product for you?

There is no single answer to this question. While a credit card might be the right choice in one situation, a personal loan might be more suitable in another, and in a third situation, neither might be appropriate. Here’s how to decide what credit product will best meet your needs:

  • What are you applying for the funds for? If you need money for an immediate, one-off expense, such as a large purchase, then a personal loan may be suitable. If you want continued access to credit, then a credit card may be more suitable. However, keep in mind that there are flexible personal loan and credit card products. For example, you can top-up some personal loans with additional funds, and you can also use credit cards to pay for one-off purchases, but as the loan term is ongoing you may be tempted to keep the repayments rolling over instead of paying it back in full.
  • How do you manage your repayments? As mentioned in the point above, credit cards are an ongoing form of credit, while personal loans have an end-date. If either a personal loan or credit card will work for your needs, you may want to consider how disciplined you are with repayments. If you think you may be tempted with the credit line sitting there, then a more structured repayment schedule, such as that offered by a personal loan, may be worth considering.
  • Are you consolidating debt? It’s important to consider your options carefully. How much debt do you have and does it include loans and credit card accounts? Make sure you will be able to bring across all your accounts to consolidate – for instance, only certain providers allow you to balance transfer personal loans to a credit card.
  • How much are you looking to borrow? Credit card limits differ, as do personal loan limits. According to the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) regulations, you are not allowed to apply or have unsecured credit over 12 times your monthly income. Secured personal loans are different but you will not be able to be approved for more than the asset you are using as collateral. You may be able to access a higher credit limit with a credit card but you will generally need to meet stricter eligibility criteria.

Things to consider when deciding between personal loans and credit cards

  • Advertised interest rate and effective interest rates. If you compare interest rates, generally personal loans are cheaper. The true cost is reflected in the effective interest rate as you need to consider any processing fees. Credit cards, however, charges high cash advance interest rates or compounded interest if you don’t pay off your debts within the interest-free days. Also, it’s important to factor in the annual fee of the credit card.
  • Fees. Personal loans usually have a processing fee, whereas credit cards usually just have the annual fee, though you can find one without one.
  • Your financial situation. If you have good control over your spending and regularly keep it within your budget, then a credit card could be suitable. Personal loans also can charge you early repayment fees, you will need to confirm whether this is the case with your lender. On the other hand, if you are slow at repaying debts, dragging it over the introductory period could incur high interest.
Regardless of which you choose, you need to be disciplined in the way you use your credit card or personal loan and make regular repayments. With a credit card, always aim to pay back more than the minimum repayment to save on interest and if you have a personal loan, try to make extra repayments if you’re not penalised for it.

Picture: Shutterstock

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