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15 Aug 2019

App-based bank Monzo now offers loans - are they the cheapest way to borrow?

Rates start at a competitive 3.7% - but will you qualify for one of its loans?

Challenger bank Monzo has launched a range of loans as it adds to the suite of products available through its app-based bank account.

Monzo launched overdrafts to customers in April 2018, charging 50p per day on up to £1,000, but now you can borrow as much as £15,000 through your app-based account.

Rates for some customers start as low as a competitive 3.7%, and customers can borrow between £200 and £15,000 over a period of one to five years.

And using its technology, Monzo will be able to tell you what rate you'll get before you even apply.

So, how do Monzo's loans stack up? Which? has analysed its offer and compared it to the wider loan market.

How Monzo's loans work

Monzo has been gradually rolling out loans to customers over the past nine months, and says that its slow approach has enabled it to understand 'the most painful things about borrowing'.

Loans will be available to around 500,000 of its 2.5 million customers. In order to discover whether you're eligible, Monzo matches your data, such as your name and address, with information provided by credit reference agency Transunion.

How you use your Monzo account - either alongside other accounts, or fully with your salary and bills paid into it - won't affect your eligibility.

If you qualify for a Monzo loan, you'll be told straight away what interest rate you'll get, and how much your repayments will be in pounds and pence. You won't need to go through a hard credit check to find this out, like most other loans.

Are Monzo's loans cheap?

The cheapest interest rate on offer is 3.7% APR on loans between £7,500 and £15,000. For loans of less than £7,500, the lowest rate is 6% APR.

Monzo told Which? that 76% of eligible customers will currently qualify for the cheapest rate.

For those that don't qualify for the very lowest rate, there are four 'risk categories' for customers, with different interest rates charged depending on how risky a borrower you're viewed as, and how much you want to borrow. The highest rate is 24%, which Monzo says will be offered to around 4% of customers.

So, how does this compare?

Yorkshire Bank is currently offering 3.3% APR on loans of £5,000, its cheapest rate, while Admiral is offering 3.4% APR - much cheaper than the 6% charged by Monzo on loans up to £7,500.

This isn't necessarily the fairest comparison, however, as these loans require you to borrow a minimum of £5,000. Very few lenders allow you to borrow as little as £200.

We checked price comparison site Compare the Market, looking to borrow £1,000 over a year. The cheapest rate for a lower amount was 13.9% APR from the AA - more than double the cost of Monzo's best rate.

Monzo's 3.7% rate for higher amounts, while not the cheapest, is certainly competitive. Borrowing £15,000, John Lewis Finance, Admiral, M&S Bank and Sainsbury's Bank and Zopa all offer 2.9% APR.

But it's important to note that you won't actually know whether you'll get that super-low rate until you make a full application, and only 51% of people have to qualify for the advertised rate.

With Monzo's loan, you'll know before you apply what rate you'll get.

How does Monzo say it is changing the loan market?

You won't be charged any early repayment fees on your loan. Which? previously found that 59% of loan providers charge a fee for settling your debt early.

There are also no fees for late repayments, and Monzo says that it is taking a unique approach to people who are in financial difficulty and are struggling with repayments.

A spokesperson told us that its customers 'can speak directly to our specially trained financial difficulties support team through the app and let us know if they are struggling at any time.'

This team can set up reduced payments and the full repayment date of a loan can be changed through the app.

Will Monzo be offering other lending products?

The bank told Which? it currently has no plans to offer credit cards or mortgages at the moment.

However, it is trialling remortgaging with an online mortgage broker called 'Mojo' within the app.

This story was updated at 10:45am to change the highest rate on offer from 20.4% APR to 24%.