The pros of using a personal loan to pay off credit card debt include the potential to get lower interest rates and the ability to consolidate multiple debts into one monthly payment. The interest savings and convenience can help you get debt-free sooner, which should also lead to credit-score improvement.
The cons of using a personal loan to pay off credit card debt include the temptation to overspend after your card's credit line is freed up, potentially costly fees, and short-term credit score damage. Plus, there could be cheaper ways to get the money for credit card debt consolidation, depending on the circumstances.
It's important to take a hard look at all the pros and cons before submitting an application for a loan. Let's go through them in detail.
Pros of using personal loans to pay off credit card debt:
- Lower interest rates: If you have good or excellent credit, you have a decent chance of getting a lower interest rate on a personal loan than you currently have on your credit card. The average APR for all existing credit card accounts is 14.14%. But many of the most popular personal loans offer APRs as low as 4% - 6%.
- Debt consolidation (fewer payments): If you have multiple credit card balances, you can take out a personal loan to pay all of them off at once. Then, you'll owe one debt the size of the original ones put together. And you'll have to worry about just one monthly payment, assuming you don't continue to rack up charges on the credit cards.
- Long-term credit score improvement: A personal loan may enable you to pay off your debt much faster than you normally would, with lower interest rates and possibly higher monthly payments. The faster you reduce your debts, the faster your credit score will improve. Plus, paying off your credit cards reduces their utilization, which also boosts your score.
Cons of using personal loans to pay off credit card debt:
- Temptation to spend more: When you have credit card debt, the amount you owe reduces the amount you can spend on the card. But if you pay off that debt with a personal loan, you free up that credit on the card and have the opportunity to spend more. So if you're not responsible about your card use after taking out the loan, you could end up in even more debt.
- Fees: When you consolidate credit card debt with a personal loan, the loan could end up being larger than the sum of your credit card debts. That's because many personal loan providers charge an origination fee that can range from 1% to 8% of the loan amount. Depending on what APR you get on the loan, this extra fee may not be worth it. To qualify for a loan that doesn't have an origination fee, you'll typically need a credit score of 660 or better.
- Short-term credit score damage: Whether you're approved for a personal loan or not, applying for one triggers a hard inquiry of your credit report. This will drop your credit score by a few points. And if your loan includes an origination fee, your overall debt level will increase, which also isn't great for your score. However, this short-term damage isn't really anything to worry about unless you're planning on making a big financial transaction soon like buying a car or a house.
- May not be the best option. If you use a personal loan to pay off credit card debt, you may miss out on a better way to consolidate. You could also move your debt to a balance transfer credit card, for example, and perhaps get an introductory 0% APR for as long as 12-21 months in some cases. Balance transfer cards are best for amounts that you can pay off fully within the introductory period. After that, the card's regular APR applies. Regular credit card APRs are fairly high compared to the best rates you can get on consolidation loans.
Depending on your situation, it may or may not be a good idea to use a personal loan to pay off credit card debt. One way to help determine if it would be worthwhile is to check for pre-qualification with WalletHub's free pre-qualification tool. Not only will you see which lenders are likely to approve you, but you'll also get a good estimate of what rates you'd receive if approved. That can help you figure out much you'd be saving with a personal loan versus the rates on your credit card(s).
Before you decide whether or not to use a personal loan to pay off credit card debt, you also need to understand how the process will actually work in practical terms.
The first step in paying off credit card debt with a personal loan is to apply for the right loan offer. It usually takes a few business days to get a decision and a few more days to receive the funding if you're approved. Once the funds are in your bank account, you'll write a check or do a bank transfer to pay the credit card company that you owe. In some cases, the personal loan provider may be able to send the money directly to the credit card issuer rather than going through you as a middleman.
After you pay off the credit card debt, your credit card account will remain open and available for use, unless you decide to cancel it (or the issuer makes that decision for you due to poor performance). And you will continue to make monthly payments to the personal loan provider as promised.