Reducing your overall debt level as much as possible is always a good idea, and is usually recommended as part of a budgeting plan. If you have some spare funds available, you might be tempted to clear your personal loan, as nearly all loan plans allow for full repayment before the term is over. However, there are a few things to bear in mind before deciding whether paying off your loan is the best use of your spare cash. Firstly, loan providers make their profits by charging interest, and if you clear your loan early then you won't be paying the lender as much interest as you would if your loan went to its full term.
Obviously, this means they will make less profit out of you, and so many lenders will write an early repayment penalty into the loan agreement to make sure that the arrangement is still profitable for them if you repay early. This repayment penalty, also known as a redemption charge or a settlement fee, will often calculated as a percentage of the outstanding balance at the time you clear your loan, and depending on how early on in the repayment schedule you are, this could work out at quite a substantial amount. Check your credit agreement small print to see how much you could be charged, and see if this makes the prospect of early repayment quite as attractive.
If the fee is substantial, you could be better off by putting your spare funds to another more cost-effective use. Most credit cards and other kinds of debt will charge a higher rate of interest than a personal loan, and so concentrating on reducing these first may be a better use for your money. By clearing your higher-interest debts first, your spare cash will be having the most beneficial effect. Even if you don't have another debt to clear, you may find that there's a better way to use surplus cash than paying off a loan that features a high settlement fee. Investing in a high interest savings account or bond over the remaining term of your loan may earn you more in interest than the cost of a redemption charge, but when calculating this be sure to take account any taxes you'll have to pay on your investment return. Finally, don't underestimate the importance of having a little money in reserve.
If clearing your loan would leave you with very little spare cash, then an unexpected expense could push you back into the red. If this would mean you had to take out a new loan, then a new deal may work out to be more expensive than keeping your current loan to its original term. To sum it up, paying off your loan is a commendable aim and to be recommended, but before you do so make sure that any settlement fee doesn't make early repayment uneconomical, that you couldn't better use the money to reduce more expensive debts, and that by clearing your personal loan you won't be leaving yourself too short of money and in danger of going back into the red.
Nick is a contributing author for 1Stop Finance UK, where you can compare personal loans and credit cards.