Loan rates fall to four-year low

M&S signThe start of a new year is generally a time when people are trying to pay down their debts - rather than taking on new borrowing.

However, if you are planning a large purchase, or looking to consolidate your unsecured debts to give yourself one monthly payment, the good news is that personal loan rates have plunged to their lowest for four years.

Marks & Spencer Money is the lender leading the charge. It has dropped the headline interest rate - which it must offer to two thirds of the borrowers it accepts as customers - on a £10,000 loan over five years by 0.4 percentage points to 6.0%.

That's a massive 2.4 percentage points lower than the cheapest deal with those terms available this time last year, and 1.2 points down on the best offer two years ago.

In fact, you have to go back four years, when the cheapest £10,000 loan over five years had an interest rate of just 5.8% to beat the new M&S deal.

Rachel Springall of independent data analyst Moneyfacts said: "Our research shows that 6.0% on £10,000 over a five year term is the lowest loan rate on offer in four years.

"Those looking for a personal loan to consolidate their debts will benefit from this low rate."

M&S is not the only lender to make its personal loans more competitive over the last few days, though.

Other lenders offering competitive rates include HSBC, which currently charges a headline rate of 6.2% on the same amount over five years, and Nationwide at 6.4%.

Rival banks and building societies may also respond to the new M&S rate by cutting the cost of their own deals.

Springall therefore urges anyone on the lookout for a personal loan to take advantage of the stiff competition in the market at the moment and ensure they do not end up paying over the odds.

"Seven lenders have dropped their loan rates since the start of 2012 and it will be interesting to see whether other lenders follow suit over the coming weeks," she said.

"Customers must shop around for the best deal as loan rates are continuing to fall in this competitive market."
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