Video: Things to Consider When Choosing a Lender

An overview of lending options for military families and tips for choosing a lender.

Some military families have never accessed traditional banking options due to financial constraints, lack of credit history, or a highly mobile lifestyle – and therefore, don’t understand the options available to them or know what to look for.  Keep in mind that every borrower is different, so you will need to find the one that best fits your needs. Regardless, there are several key differences that you should take into consideration when choosing a lender. (NOTE: You can learn more about these in our new video podcast above.)

  1. Checks credit report and/or debt-to-income ratio—These are important, as the lender is gauging your ability to repay the debt. They do so not only to protect their bottom line, but to ensure you don’t take on more debt than you can handle.
  2. Assists those with credit scores of 660 and below—Some find that military life negatively impacts their credit scores, and are unable to access institutions that only loan to those with prime credit (loosely defined as those with credit scores of 720 and above).
  3. Follows the 36% Military APR cap—Payday, car title, and refund anticipation loans are limited by law to a 36% military APR cap for service members and their dependents, but other types of loans are not. (Note that some traditional installment lenders, such as Pioneer Services, voluntarily cap their APR at 36%).
  4. Reports positive payment history—This is essential because credit scores are based upon paying debts in full and on time. Some lenders will only report missed or late payments, meaning you won’t get the rewards of a good payment history.
  5. Mandatory arbitration clause—Some lenders require you to agree to arbitration if you try taking them to court. And often, the lender gets to choose the arbitrator, meaning you have an uphill battle, so keep this in mind.
  6. Pre-payment penalties—You shouldn’t have to pay more for paying your bill early; you should be rewarded with a higher credit score and less debt.
  7. Loan satisfaction guarantee—A few lenders offer these, but many do not. Having a guarantee (and the ability to return the loan with no questions asked or to compare rates with other lenders) is a great way to make sure you are getting what’s best for you.
  8. Federal oversight—This provides an additional level of protection, security, and comfort.
  9. Free financial education—A lender should be willing to help you better understand your finances. Doing so can give you the information you need to make smart financial decisions.
  10. Allotment required—You should be given multiple options and opportunities to pay your bill the way you want, not be forced into paying the way the lender wants you to.

This is not an all-inclusive list by any means, but it does cover several key differentiators borrowers should consider. Remember that there can be large differences between institutions within the same category (e.g., between different banks, or between different finance companies). So review the services and features each lender provides—that way you can make informed decisions and get the money you need without the headaches you don't.

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Scott Cahill

About the author: Scott Cahill

Scott Cahill has extensive military policy and financial services experience. A former national security advisor for the House of Representatives, he’s a Naval War College graduate and attended the Joint Military Intelligence College. He also served as a banking, tax policy, and budget advisor for several Members of Congress, and has helped develop an award-winning consumer financial education program. Follow Scott on Google+.

Contact: Scott Cahill

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