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Pros & Cons: Credit Union Personal Loans vs. Credit Cards

credit union loans

Credit cards have become a way of life for most Americans. They provide a convenient option for purchasing necessary (and desired) items, but it’s undeniable that there’s a downside to credit card use, too. We’re talking about the overwhelming amount of credit card debt that people often struggle to repay.

One alternative to a credit card is a credit union personal loan. Here at Leaders Credit Union, we strive to provide our members with the money and guidance they need to make their financial dreams a reality. With that in mind, let’s compare the pros and cons of credit union personal loans vs. credit cards.

Pros and Cons of Credit Union Personal Loans

Credit union loans have some important advantages that may make getting a personal loan the best choice if you need money for a large purchase, especially when you compare a personal loan to a credit card. Here are some of the key benefits of credit union personal loans.

Affordable Interest Rates

If you have a credit card, you know that the annual percentage rate (APR) for any card can be high, sometimes far higher than the APR for any loan. Credit unions operate with members’ best interests in mind, so personal loan rates tend to be affordable. Taking out a personal loan for a major purchase can save you a significant amount of money.

Flexibility

Credit union personal loans are flexible. Your loan amount may be large or small, and most credit unions are happy to work with members to find a loan that suits their needs. Even with a lower than average credit score, you may still be able to qualify for a personal loan from a credit union.

No Collateral Required in Most Cases

In many cases, credit union personal loans do not require collateral. That means you can borrow money even if you don’t have a house or other valuables to secure the loan.

Debt Consolidation/Lower Monthly Payments

One of the biggest advantages of taking out a credit union personal loan instead of using a credit card is that you can use a personal loan to consolidate your debt and shrink your monthly debt payments. With lower interest rates and favorable terms, you can pay off your debt far more quickly than you could with a credit card.

Loan Term is Pre-Set

Another benefit to consider with a credit union personal loan is that you will know when you take out the loan the term you’ll have to repay what you borrow and what your monthly payment will be. This benefit is significant because it may be impossible to know how much you’ll pay in total if you use your credit card but there’s no guesswork with a loan.

You Can Use the Money in Whatever Way You Choose

The money you get from a personal loan can be used for any purpose you choose. You may use it to consolidate your credit card debts, improve your home, or to pay for a family vacation.

There are a few potential risks associated with credit union personal loans, most of which relate to your spending after you take out the loan:

  • Taking out a personal loan from a credit union does require a hard credit check, so you should expect a small decrease to your credit score when you apply.
  • A credit union personal loan is still debt, so you’ll be increasing your debt-to-income ratio (DTI), which can impact your ability to get other forms of financing.
  • While using a credit union loan to consolidate debt can be beneficial, it’s only useful if you curb your credit card spending.
  • There are closing costs and fees associated with taking out a personal loan, so you’ll need to be sure you can afford them.

We believe that the lower interest rates and flexible terms of credit union personal loans make them a good choice for many people.

Pros and Cons of Credit Cards

Now, let’s review the pros and cons of credit cards, starting with the pros.

Convenience

It is undeniably convenient to use a credit card to buy things. You can carry the card in your pocket or wallet and a transaction takes just a few seconds.

Credit Building

Credit cards are useful for people who don’t have a long credit history but want to build one. Using your credit card and making on-time monthly payments can help you to establish a good history, making it easier to receive a home or auto loan in the future.

Rewards

Many credit union credit cards come with built-in rewards in the form of cash back for purchases or points that can be traded in for cash, gift cards, or products. The prospect of earning rewards for purchases you already make can be an alluring one.

Theft Protection

Unlike debit cards, credit cards provide consumer protection. If your card is stolen or your data is compromised, your credit card company will not require you to pay for transactions that you didn’t authorize.

Now let’s look at some of the cons of using a credit card.

High APR

Unlike personal loans, credit cards typically have interest rates that are high. Even if you have good credit, you may end up paying a significant amount in interest and finance charges if you use a credit card regularly and don’t pay it off each month. (You should know that credit union credit cards typically have lower rates than other credit cards, although the APR is usually higher than it would be for a personal loan.)

Risk of Overspending

Credit cards come with limits, but that doesn’t mean that every person who has a credit card can afford to spend up to that limit. It can be easy to spend more than you can reasonably afford to pay.

Debt Can Accumulate Quickly

On a related note, overspending can lead to a high volume of debt that can accumulate quickly and take years to repay. It’s not uncommon for credit card users, particularly people who have limited experience using a card, to wind up with debt that encumbers their ability to meet their other financial obligations or achieve their goals.

Fraud is a Risk

Any time you use a credit card, fraud is a risk. Although credit card issuers won’t force you to pay for unauthorized transactions, it can be upsetting and stressful to cope with the aftermath of a theft or data breach. You may need to replace your credit card or even deal with the police if you need to report a crime.

Which Should You Get: Credit Union Personal Loan or Credit Card?

If you’re planning to make a significant purchase or need money for any reason, you may be wondering whether it makes more sense to put the expenses on a credit card or to apply for a credit union personal loan.

Tips to Evaluate Your Options

Here are some pointers to help you evaluate your options.

  1. Assess your current financial situation. The first thing you’ll need to do is to look at your finances and determine how much money you need and what you can afford in monthly payments. Keep in mind that credit union personal loans usually carry low rates when compared to credit cards.
  2. Research your options. We suggest reviewing your options for credit union personal loans, including dollar amounts, APRs, and other requirements. We also suggest reviewing multiple credit card deals to see what your options are in terms of debt consolidation, interest rates, annual fees, and rewards. Eliminate choices that don’t work for your financial needs.
  3. Estimate your total costs. We realize it might not always be possible to know how long it will take you to repay debt on a credit card, but not knowing can be useful as a determining factor. With a loan, you’ll have a predetermined payment period which makes it easy to fit a loan payment into your monthly budget.
  4. Get a loan estimate. One of the most important things you’ll do is get a loan estimate from a credit union. Your loan estimate will tell you what your interest rate will be and how much you’ll need to pay each month.
  5. Compare your options. Once you have your loan estimate and information about potential credit cards (or your existing card),  you can compare the options to make sure you understand how much you’ll be paying. Make sure to read the fine print.

We believe that, for many people, a credit union personal loan is more affordable than a credit card while offering many of the same benefits. Taking out a personal loan can help you build your credit while minimizing the risk that you’ll end up in debt that you can’t afford. The monthly payments are predictable, and you’ll pay less in interest with a personal loan than you would with a credit card.

Do You Need a Personal Loan?

Taking out a personal loan can be a good way to consolidate debt or get the funds you need for a big purchase or other expenses. In many cases, it may be more affordable and less stressful to get a personal loan from a credit union than it would be to use your credit card.

Do you need a personal loan? Leaders Credit Union is here to help! Click here to read about our personal loan options and start the application process today.