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Learn more about personal loans

What is a credit union?

Credit unions are member owned financial cooperatives. Credit unions are “not-for-profit” organisations, which means that they work for their members rather than to turn over a large profit (they are still profit-driven, however). This enables them to provide competitive rates to their customers, as the revenue made is distributed amongst the credit union owners, aka its members and customers.

There are roughly 75 credit unions Australia-wide. 

How do I apply for a personal loan from a credit union?

 In order to get a personal loan from a credit union, you must first become a member of the credit union. Typically, joining a credit union requires you pay a one-time membership fee, as well as making a small deposit.

Credit unions come in all shapes and sizes, so depending on the institution, the application process and the loan eligibility criteria will vary. Some credit unions will accept online applications, but others may require you to come into a branch to sign any necessary paperwork in person.

Credit unions offer secured and unsecured personal loans at fixed rates. This means that the interest rate charged will remain the same for the duration of the loan period. As always, it’s advised that you talk to a financial planner to work out which suits your needs best.

Loan agreement and pen on desk

Is a credit union personal loan better than a personal loan from a bank? 

Credit unions, like banks, assign their rates based on your income, credit history, credit score and existing debts. Banks usually reserve their lowest rates for people with excellent credit scores, which makes them harder for most people to acquire. Credit unions tend to have lower rates and fewer fees than banks, even for people with less than perfect credit histories. Having a good credit score will still bag you a lower rate with a credit union, but they tend to be more forgiving of bad credit borrowers, as they take into consideration your standing in the union and your whole financial picture.

Like banks, credit unions are registered under the Banking Act as Authorised Deposit-Taking Institutions (ADIs), which means that they are as safe to borrow from as any other bank.

Customer satisfaction is rated higher amongst credit unions, scoring 90 per cent satisfaction rate in 2015, according to Roy Morgan research. Banks, specifically the big four, Commonwealth Bank, NAB, Westpac and ANZ, scored just 81.5 per cent. (It’s worth bearing in mind that not all institutions were included in this survey).

On the downside, you may find that there are fewer loan options with a credit union than with a bank. Banks have the monopoly of the market and are therefore able to offer a wider range of financial products.

Also, the requirement of some credit unions to come into branch can be an inconvenience for many people in an era where almost everything is available electronically.

Pros
  • Fewer fees or no fees
  • Lower interest rates
  • Better customer service
  • Flexibility for people with bad credit
Cons
  • Fewer products
  • Less branches in fewer locations
  • Fewer online services

Frequently asked questions

How long do personal loans take?

Depending on the lender, some personal loan applications can be approved in as little as one hour, or you may need to wait until the next business day. If approved, you may receive your money on the same day, the next business day, or within the week.

Can I get a personal loan if I receive Centrelink payments?

It is hard, but not impossible, to qualify for a personal loan if you receive Centrelink payments.

Some lenders won’t lend money to people who are on welfare. However, other lenders will simply consider Centrelink payments as another factor to weigh up when they assess a person’s capacity to repay a loan. You should check with any prospective lender about their criteria before making a personal loan application.

Where can I get a personal loan?

The Australian personal loans market contains dozens of lenders offering several hundred different products. Personal loans are available through a range of institutions, including:

There are three main ways to access personal loans. You can go through a comparison website, such as RateCity. You can use a finance broker. Or you can directly contact the lender.

What is a personal loan?

A personal loan sits somewhere between a home loan and a credit card loan. Unlike with a credit card, you need to sign a formal contract to access a personal loan. However, the process is easier and faster than taking out a mortgage.

Loan sizes typically range from several hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars, while loan terms usually run from one to five years. Personal loans are generally used to consolidate debts, pay emergency bills or fund one-off expenses like holidays.

How are personal loans regulated?

Personal lenders in Australia are regulated by ASIC (the Australian Securities & Investments Commission) and must follow responsible lending rules. That means they can’t lend money without making “reasonable inquiries” about a borrower’s financial situation and ensuring the loan is “not unsuitable” for them.

What are the pros and cons of personal loans?

The advantages of personal loans are that they’re easier to obtain than mortgages and usually have lower interest rates than credit cards.

One disadvantage with personal loans is that you have to go through a formal application process, unlike when you borrow money on your credit card. Another disadvantage is that you’ll be charged a higher interest rate than if you borrowed the money as part of a mortgage.

Will comprehensive credit reporting change my credit score?

Comprehensive credit reporting may change your credit score, either positively or negatively, depending on an individual's situation.

Under comprehensive credit reporting, credit providers will share more information, both positive and negative, about how you and other Australians manage credit products. That means credit reporting bureaus will be able to make a more thorough assessment of everyone’s credit behaviour. That will lead to higher scores for some consumers and lower scores for others.

How do I know if I've got a bad credit history?

You can find out what your credit history looks like by accessing what's known as your credit rating or credit score. You're also able to check your credit report for free once per year.

What is a credit rating/score?

Your credit rating or credit score is a number that summarises how credit-worthy you are based on your credit history.

The lower your score, the more likely you are to be denied a loan or forced to pay a higher interest rate.

Are there emergency loans with no credit checks?

While many personal loans require a credit check as part of the application process, some personal loans and payday loans have no credit checks, which may appeal to some borrowers with a bad credit score.

Keep in mind that even if a loan is available with no credit check, the lender will likely want to confirm that you can afford the repayments on your current income.

Can students with no credit history get loans?

It is possible for students with no available history of borrowing or managing money to get a personal loan, though it may be more difficult as well as expensive than for borrowers with a good credit history.

Having no credit history means having no credit score. While many lenders may consider having no credit score to be better than having a bad credit score, they may still consider it riskier to lend to an unknown borrower and may charge higher interest rates or fees than to borrowers with good credit scores.

What causes bad credit ratings/scores?

Failing to repay loans and bills will damage your credit score. So will falling behind on your repayments. Your credit score will also suffer if you apply for credit too often or have credit applications rejected.

Do $4000 loans have no credit checks?

Many medium amount loans for $4000 have no credit checks and are instead assessed based on your current ability to repay the loan, rather than by looking at your credit history. While these loans can appear attractive to bad credit borrowers, it’s important to remember that they often have high fees and can be costlier than other options.

Personal loans for $4000 are more likely to have longer loan terms and will require a credit check as part of the application process. Bad credit borrowers may see their $4000 loan applications declined or have to pay higher interest rates than good credit borrowers.

What do I need to get a fast loan?

Most lenders will need to you provide the following information in your application for a fast loan:

  • Proof of identity
  • Proof of residence
  • Proof of income
  • Details of any assets you own (e.g. car, home etc.)
  • Details of any liabilities you owe (other personal loans, credit cards, mortgages etc.)
  • How much you want to borrow
  • Over how long you want to pay it back
  • Purpose of your loan

Are there alternatives to $2000 loans?

If you need to borrow $2000 or less, alternatives to getting a personal loan or payday loan include using a credit card or the redraw facility of your home, car or personal loan.

Before you borrow $2000 on a credit card, remember that interest will continue being charged on what you owe until you clear your credit card balance. To minimise your interest, consider prioritising paying off your credit card.

Before you draw down $2000 in extra repayments from your home, car or personal loan using a redraw facility, note that fees and charges may apply, and drawing money from your loan may mean your loan will take longer to repay, costing you more in total interest.

Can you get an emergency loan on Centrelink?

When many lenders assess a borrower’s income to determine whether they can afford a loan’s repayments without ending up in financial stress, they may not count Centrelink payments as income for this purpose.

Before applying for an emergency loan, it may be worth contacting a potential lender to find out if they accept applications from borrowers on Centrelink.

Is it hard to improve your credit score?

It can be hard to improve your credit score, as it usually requires sacrifice and discipline, but hard doesn’t necessarily mean complicated. Some simple ways you can give your credit score a boost include closing extra credit cards, reducing your credit card limit, pay off any loans and make loan repayments on time.

As a general rule, the lower your credit score, the more remedies you can apply and the greater the scope for improvement.

Can I get a $2000 loan on Centrelink?

If more than half of your income comes from Centrelink benefits, it may be more difficult to have a $2000 loan application approved. Many lenders will check if you can afford a loan’s repayments on the income from your job before they’ll approve an application, and many won’t count Centrelink payments when assessing your income for this purpose.

Some lenders may offer $2000 loans to borrowers on Centrelink – consider contacting potential lenders to check before applying.

How long are $3000 loans?

Medium amount loans can be repaid between 16 days and 2 years. Many personal loans have terms between 1 year and 5 years, though some are as short as 6 months while others last for 10 years.

Generally, the shorter a loan’s term, the more expensive your regular repayments may be, but the less total interest you’ll pay. Loans with longer terms mean more affordable repayments, but more interest charges over the full term.

Should I get a fixed or variable personal loan?

Fixed personal loans keep your interest rate the same for the full loan term, while interest rates on variable personal loans may be raised or lowered during your loan term.

A fixed rate personal loan keeps your repayments consistent, which can help keep your budgeting consistent. You won't have to worry about higher repayments if your rates were to rise. However, on a fixed loan you’ll also potentially miss out on more affordable repayments if variable rates were to fall.