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Loan Origination Fees: Should I Be Paying Them?

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If you’ve applied for a personal loan or mortgage, chances are you probably came across something called an origination fee. If you’re wondering what it’s for and whether you have to pay it, here’s what you need to know.

Understanding origination fees

An origination fee is a common charge that is added to a personal loan, student loan or mortgage. It is charged by the lender and can also be referred to as an application, processing or underwriting fee. Its purpose is to cover the hard costs of preparing documents, processing and underwriting your loan, and any third party fees that might be incurred along the way, said Ashley Luethje, a York, Neb.-based sales manager at Waterstone Mortgage.

“These fees are typically a percentage of the total amount you’re borrowing,” Luethje said. “Generally, a mortgage origination fee is around one percent, but for consumer and commercial loans, the fee can be greater and is at the discretion of the lender.”

How an origination fee can come into play

If you’re deciding between lenders, one criteria you might want to take into account is the difference in their origination fees. There are some key points to consider, depending on the type of loan you’re applying for.

Personal loan

As personal loans are typically unsecured and not backed by any collateral, you may find the highest origination fees in this category. Because these types of loans carry more risk for lenders, they may charge you anywhere between 1% to 6% of the total amount you are borrowing. Those higher fees also offset the lower amount of interest lenders like banks and credit unions will receive during the life of a personal loan. These loans tend to be extended for a shorter term and in smaller amounts than other kind of loans.

If you’re not getting charged an origination fee with your personal loan, be aware that the lender may make up for it some other way, such as charging higher interest rates, said Jacob Dayan, the Chicago, Ill.-based CEO and co-founder of Community Tax and Finance Pal.

“It’s important to note that having a good credit history will yield you a much lower origination fee,” Dayan said. “Those fees are negotiable for larger loans, but will commonly require you to put up something, such as accepting a higher Annual Percentage Rate (APR) on your loan.”

Mortgage

Mortgage origination fees — also called mortgage points — can vary drastically as they are determined by the lender, said Jason Larkins, a Scarborough, Maine-based branch manager at United Fidelity Funding. These fees are charged to cover the labor involved in the processing, underwriting and funding of a mortgage, as well as third party fees incurred in tasks such as verifying your employment.

Many lenders, such as banks, credit unions and brokerages, charge a flat origination fee. This means the fee is not based on the amount you borrow. Others could charge a 0.5% to 1% origination fee; the VA home loan program sets a cap at 1%. “However, if a borrower is paying a 1% origination fee, they are likely paying too much and can shop for a better deal,” Larkins said.

At the beginning of the mortgage application process, lenders must disclose the exact origination fee being charged in an official Loan Estimate form. Lenders may not increase the stated fee except under special circumstances, such as if you decrease your down payment or change your type of loan. However, you could negotiate it downwards depending on your credit score, and the size and duration of your requested loan.

As long as you meet certain criteria outlined in IRS Publication 530, your mortgage origination fees may also be tax deductible.

Student loans

Origination fees for federal student loans are set by the government and may vary depending on whether you have a direct subsidized, direct unsubsidized or direct plus-type loan. Those fees could range from 1.062% to 4.264%  and are deducted from the loan amount — meaning you get a smaller loan in the end but will still pay back the full amount. For example, if you were to take out a $10,000 loan with a 4% origination fee, you would only receive $9,600 but would have to pay back the entire $10,000.

The only federal student loans that didn’t charge an origination fee were the Perkins Loans for undergraduate and graduate students in financial need, but this program recently ended. While most student loans provided by private lenders such as credit unions and banks might not come with origination fees, they could cost you more in the long run by charging higher interest rates. Private student loans also don’t come with the federal protections that are standard with federal loans.

Keep in mind that loans with lower interest rates but higher fees can cost more than loans with a higher interest rate and no fees. An easy way to calculate whether your lender is giving you a good deal is to remember that 3% to 4% in fees is equivalent to a 1% higher interest rate.

Is my origination fee too high?

Origination fees are not required, so it’s at the lender’s discretion to waive or negotiate the fee, said Kris Alban, the San Diego-based executive vice president of iGrad.

“It’s always smart to ask for a discount, especially if you have a high credit score and it’s a large loan,” Alban said. “When negotiating, the lender may agree to lower or waive the origination fees if you’ll pay a higher interest rate — meaning they will still make a profit, and you can pay the fees over the length of the loan rather than up front.”

To get the big picture outlook of whether you’re getting a good deal on your loan, make sure you’re not just comparing the origination fees but also factoring in the interest rate. For example:

  • A $10,000 loan at a 4.99% APR for five years with a 3% origination fee will cost you $11,620 over the life of the loan.
  • The same loan at 5.65% APR with a 1.5% origination fee will cost you $11,652 over the life of the loan.

“Pay attention to both the interest rate and APR,” Alban said. “If they are different, the lender is most likely factoring additional fees into the APR; any origination fee over 4% of the total loan amount is excessive.”

The bottom line

Origination fees are charged by lenders to cover the costs of processing your loan, whether you’re looking for a mortgage, personal loan or student loan. Even though lenders are subject to regulations, be cautious of anything that sounds too good to be true and remember that the absence of origination fees can translate into higher interest rates. “Take the time to read the fine print and completely understand the terms of the loan,” Luethje said.

While you should exercise your ability to price origination fees with different lenders to get your best deal possible, remember there is no one-size-fits-all scenario. “Make the choice that best fits your needs. If an upfront origination fee hinders your ability to receive a loan but a higher interest rate is a better option, then that might be the best scenario for you as a consumer,” Luethje said.

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The Ultimate Guide to Personal Loans

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Personal loans are a versatile form of credit. You can use them to consolidate other high-interest debts, pay for home improvements and more. Because they usually come with fixed interest rates and repayment schedules, you know exactly how much you need to pay each month and when your debt will be paid in full.

Still, taking on any type of debt is a serious responsibility. This personal loan guide will help you learn more about how personal loans work, which pitfalls to avoid and some alternatives to consider.

Part I: Personal Loans 101

How do personal loans work?

When you apply for a personal loan, you borrow a specific amount of money — most often at a fixed interest rate — for a set amount of time. Then you pay off your balance monthly until it’s paid in full.

The terms of your personal loan will depend on your unique financial situation and your lender. The loans are typically offered in amounts ranging from $1,000 to $50,000, and potentially even higher, depending on the lender. As for the repayment period, the loans’ terms often range from one to five years, but can potentially go up to 15 years for purposes such as home improvement.

Personal loans are unsecured debt, meaning they’re not secured by an underlying investment like a home or a car. For that reason, they usually come with higher interest rates than you might get with a mortgage or auto loan.

To get a real sense of how much a personal loan will cost you, keep an eye on the annual percentage rate, or APR. It includes interest and other costs, which could include an origination fee. An origination fee is a loan processing fee that can typically be 1% to 8% of the loan amount; however, some lenders, such as Lightstream and Discover, don’t charge any origination fees at all.

Pros and cons of personal loans

Pros

  • Interest rates can be lower than credit cards. While interest rates on personal loan offers have risen lately, they can still be a good option for consolidating high-interest credit card debt, especially if your credit is top-notch. The average APR on a personal loan offer from a lender is now 11.81% for borrowers with excellent credit, and 15.61% for those with very good credit, according to recent data from parent site LendingTree; in contrast, companion site CompareCards lists the average APR on all credit accounts is 15.09%.
  • Quick access to funds. Depending on your lender, you may receive funding for a personal loan in just a day or two.
  • Predictable payments and interest. Because personal loans generally come with fixed rates and payment terms, you may not have to worry about your interest rate or monthly payment going up. That makes it easier to budget.

Cons

  • Could lead to overspending. Personal loans can be used for almost any purpose, which could lead you to borrow more than you can afford to repay each month.
  • Higher interest rates than some loan products. For example, if you have equity in your home and good credit, you may be able to get a better rate with a home equity loan or line of credit.
  • Damage to your credit if you don’t pay. Some lenders offer options for borrowers facing financial difficulties, and may work with you if you lose your job or face other financial troubles. However, your credit might be damaged if you ultimately can’t make your payments.

What you may need to qualify for a personal loan

  • Good or excellent credit. If your credit score is 640 or lower, it will likely be more difficult to get approval for a personal loan (although some personal loan companies might still work with you). By contrast, having good credit (a FICO score of at least 670) will give you more borrowing options, and a score of 740 will let you qualify for loans with the best interest rates and terms.
  • Low debt-to-income ratio. Lenders might be hesitant to lend money if your debt-to-income ratio is too high. This ratio is determined by taking your total monthly recurring debt and dividing it by your gross monthly income. For personal loans, lenders usually like to see a DTI ratio of 36% or less. Still, even with a high DTI, you may qualify for a personal loan if your credit score meets a lender’s criteria, and you have both a solid income and credit repayment history.
  • Cosigner or collateral. If you have a bad credit score, you may need a cosigner with good credit or collateral to help you qualify for a personal loan.

How to pick the best personal loan

Here are tips that can help you identify a personal loan that’s right for you:

  • Shop around with different lenders. Gather information on personal loans to compare interest rates and loan terms from various lenders.
  • Read the fine print. Make sure you understand your contract, your monthly payment and all terms and potential fees.
  • Read reviews. Reading reviews of top personal loan companies can help you gauge the quality of each lender and what your experience might be like.

Part II: Common Uses for a Personal Loan

You might be surprised to know just how many uses personal loans can have. According to an April 2020 report from LendingTree, some of the top reasons applicants seek personal loans include:

  • Credit card refinance: 32.0%
  • Debt consolidation: 31.0%
  • Home improvement: 8.5%
  • Major purchases: 5.0%
  • Car financing: 4.3%
  • Business: 1.8%

These numbers don’t mean personal loans are the right choice in every borrowing situation. Here’s some more information about potential uses, along with some pros and cons:

Common uses for personal loans

Debt consolidation

If you’re struggling to pay back several types of debt, a personal loan may let you streamline payments and pay less interest overall. One caveat: if you can qualify for one, a 0% balance transfer credit card could be a less expensive option for combining debt.

Credit card refinance

Personal loans often have lower interest rates than credit cards — just make sure you’ll actually save money after taking into account a loan’s interest rate, origination fee and repayment term.

Home improvement

If you don’t have enough equity in your home to qualify for a home equity loan or line of credit, a personal loan can help finance home improvements. It may, however, come with a higher interest rate.

Major purchase

A personal loan might cost less in interest than a credit card for that big buy of yours. Still, before taking on new debt, consider whether you really need that purchase now — or whether it would be cheaper to save up and pay cash.

Car financing

A personal loan could be an option for buying a car, but it might be easier to qualify for an auto loan, as well as pay less interest and fewer fees (a car loan uses the vehicle as collateral).

Small business financing

If you’re starting a business and aren’t yet earning money, it may be tough to qualify for a business loan. A personal loan can help get your business off the ground. One potential red flag: If your business goes under, you’ll still have to pay back the loan or risk damaging your credit.

Medical expenses

Taking out a personal loan to pay for medical expenses can keep medical bills from going to a collection agency. However, first see if your medical provider provides payment help, as many do. They may be willing to work with you to pay off your balance — and not charge interest.

Part III: Personal Loan Traps and Scams to Avoid

Here are some personal loan traps you should consider:

Advance loan fees

Occasionally, a fraudulent loan company will offer outrageous loans and loan terms with a catch: You must pay upfront fees or “insurance” to qualify.

Look out for lenders who ask you to wire funds via Western Union or MoneyGram — reputable lenders won’t ask you to pay money upfront.

‘No credit check’ loans

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a lender who isn’t interested in checking your credit is a red flag.

Steer clear of ads and websites that promise “Bad credit? No problem” or “We don’t care about your past,” the FTC cautions. These slogans usually signal a scam.

Precomputed interest

Some personal loans might come with precomputed interest, which means they use the original payment schedule to calculate interest, even if you make payments early. This forces you to pay more interest over time, even if you make larger payments or try to pay off your loan early.

Prepayment penalties

Some personal loans tack on a prepayment penalty if you pay your loan off early. And while prepayment penalties aren’t that common, they are unnecessary. Be sure to read through your loan terms to check for a prepayment penalty before you sign the agreement. If you find one, consider opting for another lender.

Part IV: Alternatives to a Personal Loan

Personal loans vs. credit cards

Credit cards can be a great deal if you pay them off monthly, as you have the potential to earn rewards.

Personal loans vs. HELOCs

A home equity line of credit (HELOC) is a revolving line of credit secured by your home. HELOCs often have lower interest rates than personal loans, and you may be able to deduct the interest if you itemize your taxes. By contrast, interest paid on your personal loan is not tax-deductible.

Personal loans vs. cash-out refinance

A cash-out refinance lets you take out a new mortgage that’s more than what you now owe, and pocket a portion of the loan as cash. It usually comes with a lower interest rate than a personal loan, but with longer terms, so you could end up paying more overall. If you’re opting for a cash-out refinance, check this calculator to determine how much you might be able to borrow, and what your new monthly mortgage payment will be.

Unsecured personal loans vs. secured personal loans

A secured personal loan requires borrowers to use an asset, like a vehicle or certificate of deposit (CD), as collateral. A lender can repossess the asset if the borrower fails to make payments, so interest rates on secured personal loans tend to be lower than those on unsecured loans.

FAQ: Personal loans

The amount you can borrow varies by lender, but generally ranges from $1,000 to $50,000.

Yes, if you use it to consolidate high-interest debts from credit cards or other loans. To get out of debt faster, make sure your new personal loan comes with a lower interest rate than you’re already paying, along with few or no fees.

Your interest rate depends on the type of loan you apply for, how much you want to borrow and the quality of your credit. While each lender is different — for example, some will work with you if your credit isn’t ideal — a FICO score of at least 670 will give you more options.

If you were denied a personal loan due to poor credit, the best thing you can do is work on improving your credit rating. Pay bills on time, pay off debt to reduce the amount of available credit you’re using and avoid opening or closing too many accounts.

Thanks to the internet, you can apply for a personal loan online and from the comfort of your home. You can also compare fees and interest rates from top personal loan companies by visiting this page.

If you apply for a personal loan, a hard inquiry will be placed on your credit report, but any negative hit your score takes will be short-lived. Your credit score will more likely take a larger hit if you borrow too much and can’t repay. On the other hand, repaying your personal loan on time, and ultimately in full, might actually help your score in the long run.

If you’re cash-strapped, this may sound tempting, but most mortgage lenders discourage it. Before approving you for a mortgage, lenders will look at your debt-to-income ratio, so taking on a personal loan to afford a down payment might actually disqualify you in the end.

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What Is Predatory Lending? What You Need to Know

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Predatory lending occurs when a borrower is pushed (or tricked) into getting a loan with terms that are unclear or deliberately deceptive.

If you’ve ever felt pressured to take a loan where the terms weren’t what you expected, most likely you’ve had a brush with predatory lending. Maybe you also felt harassed — or even threatened — into signing a loan without fully understanding the terms, or before you were ready.

Any lender can engage in predatory lending, whether it’s for a mortgage, car purchase, home improvement loan or a similar borrowing situation. Here’s a guide to what you need to know about predatory lending: common warning signs, ways to fight back and some of the lending alternatives you might want to consider instead.

How does predatory lending work?

With a predatory loan, the loan is most often not what the lender initially described. For example, maybe you were promised a fixed-rate mortgage, as well as a long repayment term, for that new home. Instead, you’re handed an adjustable-rate mortgage — with a very short repayment term that makes it almost impossible to pay back without an expensive refinance that your lender offers to do too. If that happens, you’ve been subjected to a classic bait-and-switch move in predatory lending.

Some borrowers are especially vulnerable to this type of deceit. Elderly borrowers, for example, may have a lot of equity in their homes, but limited access to income or credit. Predatory lenders also prey on borrowers who need emergency cash to pay for unexpected medical bills, or home or auto repairs.

Taking out a payday loan often causes problems too. You might get your money quickly and with little fuss, perhaps at a storefront or online, but those loans almost always carry exorbitantly high interest rates.

Coronavirus: Beware predatory lending practices

In times of crisis, certain lenders may decide to take advantage of consumers who might be experiencing dire financial circumstances. The economic uncertainty caused by the new coronavirus pandemic is no exception, and U.S. lawmakers have already expressed concern about how financially vulnerable Americans may be as they face salary cuts, job losses and the prospect of an imminent recession.

If the pandemic has left you facing financial hardship, avoid using predatory loans to stay afloat. Instead, you may be able to access needed funds — as well as deferments on loan payments, like those that may be available for mortgages — from your bank or credit union. You might also be eligible for an Economic Impact Payment and other resources provided by the federal 2020 CARES Act. To learn more about this major piece of legislation, check this link from our parent company LendingTree.

Predatory lending practices: 8 warning signs

High interest rates and fees

High interest rates and fees are key signs of a predatory loan. If you’re applying for a loan and the interest rate or the loan and documentation fees seem high, ask your broker if they’ll be getting a yield-spread premium from the lender. This is a commission your lender may be paying the broker in exchange for offering an inflated interest rate.

Lack of information

If loan terms aren’t clear to you — or a lender can’t answer your borrowing questions directly — there’s a good chance you’re dealing with a predatory lender. Avoid signing on the dotted line if a lender can’t clearly tell you whether your interest rate (or any other terms) will change over the course of the loan, what fees will be included or if there are prepayment penalties.

False information

Predatory lenders often misrepresent loan terms or may even lie about them. Beware of loan terms that seem too good to be true; they most likely are. Language like “easy payment terms, “no payments for 90 days” or “easy credit” should raise red flags.

Pledges not to perform credit check

Lenders routinely perform credit checks before approving and issuing loans to ensure the borrower can afford to repay. If a lender tells you “no credit check required,” chances are that lender is going to require some form of collateral, possibly in the form of the title to your car or access to a bank account. It’s never a good idea to put other assets at risk for a loan you might not even be able to repay.

Unusual prepayment penalties

When you take out a loan, you generally have the option of either repaying the loan early or refinancing, usually without paying any penalties, or at least with very limited fees. A predatory loan, however, may include steep fees for prepayment and refinancing, and these fees can add up to thousands of dollars.

Doesn’t report to credit bureaus

One of the advantages of taking out any kind of loan is that it can help you build a solid credit history, assuming you make payments on time and your lender reports the loan to credit bureaus. Lenders are not legally required to report loans to bureaus — however, if your loan isn’t reported, it might be a sign your lender doesn’t necessarily have your best financial interests in mind.

Lender access to bank account required

Payday lenders, in particular, are likely to ask for bank account information before handing over a high-interest, short-term loan. If you allow access — and are economically vulnerable — you may get hit with overdraft charges if sufficient funds aren’t available to cover the loan.

Hidden balloon payments

Often, a predatory lender may convince a borrower their loan comes with low monthly payments. The borrower later learns those low rates applied only for a short period of time, and that they will “balloon” at the end of the life of the loan unless the borrower doesn’t refinance. If you’re constantly feeling pressured to refinance your loan, persistent “flipping” may be costing you plenty in unnecessary fees and points.

Anti-predatory lending: What are the protections?

Fortunately, there are legal protections in place to reduce the practice of predatory lending and help consumers fight back. Here are some of the laws that provide support and resources:

  • Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA): This law protects consumers from lending discrimination due to age, gender, race or ethnicity. This law aims to rectify the denial of lending opportunities to minority borrowers, who may have encountered predatory lendering because of discrimination by more traditional lending institutions. If you think you’ve been discriminated against, report it to your state attorney general’s office.
  • Truth in Lending Act (TILA): This legislation requires lenders to clearly, accurately and fairly disclose credit and loan terms to borrowers. It also gives borrowers three days to back out of a potential loan without having to pay a financial penalty.
  • Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act (HOEPA): Lawmakers passed this law in 1994 with the specific goal of protecting borrowers from abusive home lending practices and high-cost mortgages, and further amended it in the years following its enactment. For borrowers getting high-cost mortgages, the act directs lenders to provide them with all necessary disclosures and loan terms, and encourages or requires homeownership counseling.

Most states also have laws designed to protect borrowers from predatory lending. These laws range from those that prevent payday loan companies from operating within the states, to caps on the interest rates the companies can charge. Illinois, for example, limits the interest rate that can be charged on payday loans to 15.5%.

To find more about what’s allowed in your state, visit this site from the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Alternatives to predatory lending

Some credit unions offer payday alternative loans, or PALs, to account holders with poor credit who need a short-term loan. A PAL usually offers more financial stability and less risk than a payday loan; for example, you can pay it back over a period of up to six months. PALs are regulated by the National Credit Union Administration, a federal agency. In order to apply for a PAL, you’ll need to belong to a federal credit union.

If you’re in a tight financial spot, you may be able to receive a payroll advance where you work. Many employers let employees borrow against upcoming paychecks to cover a critical, unexpected expense. In general, you can expect a payroll advance to be far less expensive what a payday loan might cost.

If you have either poor credit or no credit, you can still get a personal loan while steering clear of predatory lending practices. Credit unions, in particular, can be solid sources of personal loans for members who have poor credit, and even traditional lenders may be willing to provide a personal loan to someone with bad credit who also has a cosigner.

A credit card is basically a revolving line of credit you can use to borrow up to the credit limit set by the lender, depending on how much credit you have available and as long as you meet the required monthly minimum payments. Pick a credit card with the lowest interest rate you can get, or take advantage of the introductory 0% interest rates many lenders offer. Then, pay off your credit debt as quickly as possible.

It may feel awkward asking family or friends for a loan, but it may give you more flexible repayment terms. The biggest drawback: If you fail to pay back the loan or make timely payments, your relationship may suffer.

Low-income borrowers who want to avoid predatory lenders can contact the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) for help with debt management, and to find a reputable nonprofit financial counselor within the foundation’s national network.

If you’re having trouble meeting financial obligations, tap your lender for potential options. For example, a credit card company might be willing to offer a lower monthly minimum payment or a lower interest rate.

FAQ: Predatory lending

Predatory lending occurs when lenders push (or trick) a borrower into getting a loan with terms that are unclear or deliberately deceptive. With any loan you should always feel comfortable with the terms, and the working relationship you have with your lender. If you don’t, it might be time to step back.

Balloon-type mortgages can be predatory if a lender misrepresents or doesn’t ensure a borrower understands payments will escalate over time. The Federal Trade Commission warns consumers to avoid car title loans, as they’re typically short-term loans that come with a triple-digit annual percentage rate (APR). Because the loans require borrowers to hand over the title to their automobile as collateral, you risk losing a much-needed possession.

Predatory student loans often feature excessively high interest rates. The current interest rate on a federal student loan ranges between 4.32% and 7.08%, so be careful if you spot a much higher rate. Student loans that have prepayment penalties or require a car or home as collateral might also be considered predatory.

Be on the lookout for automobile dealers who load up a loan with extra “junk” fees, like for service contracts, rustproofing and theft deterrents. Also look for loans that dealers finance in-house; they may come with an APR that’s far higher than what a bank or credit union might offer.

To get out of a predatory loan, try refinancing the loan with a reputable lender. Credit counselors, often working for free, may be able to help too; you could start by contacting the nonprofit Legal Services Corporation, or HUD, if you need housing help. In addition, the aforementioned NFCC says it will work with clients regardless of their financial situation; according to the organization’s website, “we don’t turn anyone away.”

If you think you’ve been a victim of predatory lending, report it to the Federal Trade Commission or to your state attorney general’s office. If the predatory lending involves a local home improvement contractor, contact the Better Business Bureau for guidance.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

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