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How to get the best deal on a personal loan

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Hands up if you know how to host a livestream event!

If, like me, you have watched an event broadcast "live" on Facebook or on YouTube, it sounds as if hosting a livestream is as simple as pressing a magical green button and, shazam!, your event is blasted out to the World Wide Web.

But the reality is more complicated than that. I witnessed it myself last month when I was part of a not-for-profit community group trying to do a virtual fundraiser solely on our wits and wi-fi.

how to get the best deal on a personal loan

That wasn't enough.

Learn from my mistake and make sure you have someone in your team who is tech savvy or you could end up with 50 people on Zoom staring at a dark screen for half an hour. A week on, I'm still traumatised by it.

As it turned out, the culprit of our catastrophic technical glitch was something so basic we didn't even think of troubleshooting for it. Our volunteer sound engineer for the virtual fundraiser was using a laptop that was state-of-the-art back in 2015 but didn't have enough grunt to run livestream software.

We failed because he assumed his laptop was good enough for the gig and didn't check the system requirements for a livestream event.

Some of us are privileged enough to update our computers once every two years. Others who aren't tend to limit their computer use to basic Word, spreadsheet and emailing duties.

But in the world of Zoom, MS meetings and virtual events, all of us have been caught off-guard by the fact that we now need laptops with more grunt than we planned for ... or could afford.

If waiting until you can save enough money is not an option, there's a lower interest-bearing loan that costs less to repay than a credit card or payday loan and gives you a longer term to reduce the anxiety.

A personal loan is a type of loan that you can apply for that works for any of?the following:

- An emergency expense like hospital bills or funeral
- Consolidating your debts
- Home renovations, unless you can access a home equity loan (which can be cheaper)
- Buying a car (unless you can get a lower interest-bearing car loan).
- Or, as in my friend's case, it could be a new laptop and a few other pieces of video equipment that you need as a vodcaster and videographer.

In our annual Best of the Best issue, two of the categories we research year on year are the best-value personal loans (unsecured) and best-value personal loans (car). It pays to shop around because even with our top three Best of the Best lenders, the rate varies widely, ranging from 5.71% to 11.71% (as at December 2020).

If you are thinking of applying for a personal loan, here are some tips to get you the best deal:
- Rates vary depending on the loan amount, repayment period and your credit score. Check your credit score before applying and if it is higher than 740 you are most likely going to get a good rate.
- Some banks and online lenders have a "no early repayment fee" feature, which is great if you intend to finish paying the loan as soon as you can.
- Most, if not all, lenders charge an application fee. Speak with your preferred lender about waiving their fee. Alternatively, some lenders offer a cashback that is equivalent to this fee. 
- Determine first-hand whether you are applying for the right loan. Depending on your needs, you might be better off with a credit card (which may work if you are trying to consolidate your debts), a home equity loan (if you are doing renovations), an overdraft (if you don't know how much you are going to spend and don't want to commit to a fixed term of repayments) or a car loan (with the car as security, the bank might offer you a lower rate).

A good thing about a personal loan is that it's available for a whole host of reasons, including buying a new and improved laptop. Loans start at $1000 and go as high as $65,000, with length of repayment ranging from one to seven years.

But there are always other ways to solve a pressing problem other than a loan. In my friend's case, we are asking one of the other volunteers to bring his laptop, which is powerful enough for online gaming, to our next fundraising event.

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Michelle Baltazar is editor-in-chief of Money magazine and an award-winning journalist, editor and publisher. She has worked at media companies including BRW, Shares Magazine (London) and industry newspaper Financial Standard, and has written about superannuation, wealth management, investment technology and financial advice.
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