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 up to S$100,000
  • Effective Interest Rate: 7% - applicable only to customers who earn at least $80,000 p.a. 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
Get S$108 cashback plus an S$88 processing fee waiver if you apply by 30 April 2020. T&Cs apply.
Standard Chartered CashOne Personal Loan
3.88%
7.67%
S$1,000
Up to 4x fixed monthly salary, subject to a cap of S$250,000.
1 - 5 years
Take advantage of 50% cashback on your first month’s loan instalment, resulting in a S$199 refund on your loan account. Offer ends 30 June 2020.
Citi Quick Cash Loan
4.55%
8.5%
S$1,000
S$100,000
Up to 5 years
Get cash starting at 4.55% p.a. (EIR 8.5% p.a.) on a 36-month loan tenure. The interest you pay will vary depending on factors such as your credit score.

Compare up to 4 providers

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 qualifying purchases
S$150 cashback when you make S$800 in qualifying transactions in the first month of your account. 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 worth S$560. Simply make S$800 in qualifying transactions in the first month of your account. Or choose $150 cashback. Ends 31 March 2020.
Standard Chartered Unlimited Cashback Credit Card
Shopping, travel and lifestyle offers at over 3,000 outlets in Asia
Earn 1.5% cashback with no limit. Plus, there's no minimum spend
S$0 annual fee for 2 years - S$192.60 thereafter
S$30,000
Apply today via MyInfo and receive up to S$100 cashback. End 31 May 2020.
UOB PRVI Miles American Express Card
6 air miles for every S$1 spent through Expedia, Agoda and UOB Travel.
Get S$150 cash credit if you spend a minimum of S$1,500 within 30 days. First 800 new customers only.
S$0 annual fee for 1 year - S$256.80 thereafter
S$30,000
Apply today and enjoy free transfers to Changi Airport. Plus, 20,000 bonus air miles if you charge S$50,000 to your card in a year.
HSBC Visa Platinum Credit Card
Earn 1 Reward point for every $1 on all spend.
Up to S$150 cash back when you spend
S$800 in your first month. 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 worth S$560. Simply make S$800 in qualifying transactions in the first month of your account. Or choose $150 cashback. Ends 31 March 2020.
Standard Chartered Spree Credit Card
Up to 20% savings on your fuel
Apply today via MyInfo and receive up to S$100 cashback. End 31 May 2020.
S$0 annual fee for 2 years - S$192.60 thereafter
S$30,000
Enjoy up to 3% cashback on all online spend in foreign currency and all vPost spend. Plus, up to 25% off on postal services and lots more.
KrisFlyer UOB Credit Card
Earn 3 KrisFlyer miles per S$1 when you spend with Singapore Airlines, Scoot, SilkAir or KrisShop and 1.2 KrisFlyer miles per S$1 on all other spend.
Get S$150 cash credit if you spend S$1,500 or more within 30 days. First 800 new customers only.
S$0 annual fee for 1 year - S$192.60 thereafter
S$30,000
Apply today and enjoy up to 3,000 KrisFlyer miles if you charge at least S$1,500 to your credit card in the first month.
UOB Yolo Card
Wide range of discounts including at Bubble Tea Factory. Plus, complimentary travel insurance
Enjoy up to 8% cashback on dining, travel, shopping and entertainment. Plus, a further 3% cashback in selected categories
S$0 annual fee for 1 year - S$192.60 thereafter
S$30,000
Apply today and get up to S$230 in bonus cash credits. T&Cs apply.
Citi Rewards Credit Card
10X Rewards on certain shopping spend, including online purchases
Up to 20% cash back at selected merchants
S$0 annual fee for 1 year - S$192.60 thereafter
S$30,000
Get 30,000 Citi Thank You points when you spend S$3,000 in the first 3 months. T&Cs apply. Ends 31 March 2020.
UOB Lady's Card
10X UNI$ (or 20 miles) per S$5 spent on chosen category with no min. spend required
New customers can get up to S$230 in bonus cash credits. Until 30 June 2020. Ts&Cs apply
S$0 annual fee for 1 year - S$192.60 thereafter
S$30,000
Apply today and get up to S$230 in bonus cash credits. Plus, 0% interest on some purchases for up to 12 months.
HSBC Advance Credit Card
Enjoy annual fee waivers, up to 16% off your fuel, 1-for1 lifestyle offers, and more
Enjoy up to 3.5% cashback on all purchases with no minimum spend
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 worth S$560. Simply make S$800 in qualifying transactions in the first month of your account. 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
Apply today via MyInfo and receive up to S$100 cashback. End 31 May 2020.
S$0 annual fee for 2 years - S$192.60 thereafter
S$30,000
Apply today and enjoy a range of perks including 1-for-1 movie tickets with Cathay Cineplexes. Plus, complimentary travel medical insurance.
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
New customers can get up to S$230 in bonus cash credits. Until 30 June 2020. Ts&Cs apply
S$0 annual fee for 1 year - S$192.60 thereafter
S$30,000
Apply today and get up to S$230 in bonus cash credits. T&Cs apply.
Citi Cash Back Card
Get up to 20.88% off fuel. Plus, travel offers in 95 countries
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. T&Cs apply. Ends 31 January 2021.
American Express Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Ascend Credit Card
Complimentary stay at a Hilton hotel in Asia Pacific each year. Plus, enjoy four airport lounge passes
N/A
S$337.05 annual fee
S$50,000
Earn 16,000 KrisFlyer miles if you spend at least S$10,000 within the first three months. Ends 30 April 2020.
UOB PRVI Miles Visa Card
6 air miles for every S$1 spent through Expedia, Agoda and UOB Travel
Get S$150 cash credit when you apply. Minimum S$1,500 spend within 30 days. First 800 eligible applicants only
S$0 annual fee for 1 year - S$256.80 thereafter
S$30,000
Apply today and enjoy up to S$150 in cash credits. Plus, free travel cover.
American Express Platinum Credit Card
Up to 50% off your food bill for unlimited visits at hotels around Singapore
N/A
S$321 annual fee
S$50,000
Get Samsonite luggage (worth S$600) and a 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. Ends 31 March 2020.
Citi Prestige Card
Deals and discounts in more than 90 countries. Also, get six complimentary golf games across Asia
Up to 20% cashback at selected merchants
S$535 annual fee
S$120,000
Get a welcome gift of 62,500 Citi ThankYou Points (25,000 Miles) or Gadget Welcome Gift. T&Cs apply. Ends 31 March 2020.
American Express True Cashback Card
Enjoy free travel insurance benefits of up to S$350,000
Earn 1.5% cashback on all eligible spending. no minimum spend or cap
S$0 annual fee for 1 year - S$171.20 thereafter
S$30,000
Apply today and get a 3% Cashback bonus when you spend S$5,000 in the first six months.
American Express Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Credit Card
Enjoy money-saving offers on Hertz, Grab and at restaurants in Singapore and overseas
S$150 cashback for use at singaporeair.com when you spend a minimum of S$12,000 untill 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. Ends 30 April 2020.
UOB PRVI Miles World Mastercard
6 air miles for every S$1 spent through Expedia, Agoda and UOB Travel
Get S$150 cash credit when you apply. Minimum S$1,500 spend within 30 days. First 800 eligible applicants only.
S$0 annual fee for 1 year - S$256.80 thereafter
S$30,000
Apply today and enjoy up to S$150 in cash credits. Plus, free travel cover.
Citibank SMRT Card
Up to 5% savings on groceries, fast food, movies, and coffee. Plus, 3% savings on online shopping
Redeem S$10 cash back for shopping vouchers with every 10 SMRT$ earned
S$0 annual fee for 2 years - 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. T&Cs apply. Ends 31 January 2021.
Citi PremierMiles Card
Deals and discounts in 95 countries. Plus, 10% off on hotel bookings with Expedia
Up to 10% cash back at selected merchants
S$0 annual fee for 1 year - S$192.60 thereafter
S$30,000
Get 37,300 miles when you spend S$9,000 in the first 3 months. Annual fee applies. Ends 31 March 2020.
American Express CapitaCard
Earn 3X STAR$ when you shop at participating CapitaLand malls, and more
Get a referral bonus of S$50 worth of CapitaVouchers when you refer a friend
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.
Maybank Business Platinum Mastercard
Get your business logo printed on your card. Plus, enjoy a global concierge service
Get up to S$50 cash credits to offset your credit card payments
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
Up to 8% off accommodation bookings globally with AGODA
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. First 500 successful applicants only.
Maybank Platinum Visa Card
Get complimentary travel cover of up to S$500,000
Up to 3.33% cash rebates on local spending - up to a monthly limit of S$100
S$0 annual fee for 3 years - S$80 thereafter
S$30,000
Get an American Tourister Linex 66/24 Luggage TSA (worth S$260) when you charge to your card or withdraw from your CreditAble account at least S$300 in the first 2 months.
Maybank Family & Friends Credit Card
Earn up to 3X interest on your child's savings with Maybank Family Plus
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
Get an American Tourister Linex 66/24 Luggage TSA (worth S$260) when you charge to your card or withdraw from your CreditAble account at least S$300 in the first 2 months.
Maybank Manchester United Platinum Visa Card
Chance to win a trip for 2 to watch Manchester United FC every season
1.6% cash rebate on all spend locally. No minimum spend or cap
S$0 annual fee for 2 years - S$80 thereafter
S$30,000
Get American Tourister Linex 66/24 Luggage TSA (worth S$260) when you charge to your card or withdraw from your CreditAble account a minimum of S$300 in the first 2 months.
Maybank DUO Platinum Mastercard
Car servicing vouchers, vehicle merchandise and more
5% cash rebate on petrol transactions in Singapore and Malaysia
S$120 annual fee
S$30,000
Get an American Tourister Linex 66/24 Luggage TSA (worth S$260) when you charge to your card or withdraw from your CreditAble account at least S$300 in the first 2 months.
Maybank FC Barcelona Visa Signature Card
Chance to win a trip for 2 to watch FC Barcelona every season
1.6% cash rebate on all spend locally. No minimum spend or cap
S$120 annual fee
S$30,000
Get an American Tourister Linex 66/24 Luggage TSA (worth S$260) when you charge to your card or withdraw from your CreditAble account at least S$300 in the first 2 months.
Maybank Visa Infinite Credit Card
Complimentary two-way airport limousine transfers. S$3,000 minimum spend per month
Earn up to 5X TREATS Points (2 air miles) on all spend
S$0 annual fee for 1 year - S$600 thereafter
S$150,000
Get an American Tourister Linex 66/24 Luggage TSA (worth S$260) when you charge to your card or withdraw from your CreditAble account at least S$300 in the first 2 months.
Maybank Horizon Visa Signature Card
Complimentary access to selected VIP airport lounges. Plus, travel cover of up to S$1,000,000. Ts&Cs apply
Earn up to 3.2 Air Miles (8X TREATS Points) per dollar spent in Singaporean restaurants, petrol stations and more
S$0 annual fee for 3 years - S$180 thereafter
S$30,000
Get an American Tourister Linex 66/24 Luggage TSA (worth S$260) when you charge to your card or withdraw from your CreditAble account at least S$300 in the first 2 months.
Maybank World Mastercard
A range of dining, shopping and travel deals - including up to S$1,000,000 of travel insurance
10X TREATS Points (4 air miles) on every S$1 spent at selected merchants
S$0 annual fee for 1 year - S$240 thereafter
S$80,000
Get an American Tourister Linex 66/24 Luggage TSA (worth S$260) when you charge to your card or withdraw from your CreditAble account at least S$300 in the first 2 months.
Standard Chartered Prudential Visa Signature Card
Up to 10X rewards points on foreign spend, with no minimum spend required
Apply today via MyInfo and receive up to S$100 cashback. End 31 May 2020.
S$0 annual fee for 2 years - S$192.60 thereafter
S$30,000
Standard Chartered Visa Infinite X Credit Card
3 miles per $1 spent on foreign currency.
Get Cashback/Reward points/Bonus Interest on IRAS, Education, Insurance & Rental payment. T&Cs apply
S$695.50 annual fee
S$30,000
Standard Chartered Manhattan $500 Card
N/A
Earn 0.25% cashback on everything you spend.
S$0 annual fee for 1 year - S$32.10 thereafter
S$18,000
Standard Chartered Priority Banking Visa Infinite Credit Card
Earn 2.5 points for every $1 spent on your credit card
Apply today via MyInfo and receive up to S$100 cashback. End 31 May 2020.
S$321 annual fee
S$30,000
Apply today via MyInfo and receive up to S$100 cashback. End 31 May 2020.

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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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