Choosing the Right Loan Term

The term of a loan is a key factor that influences the total cost and monthly payment. Choosing the right term length can save you money or require higher payments, depending on your needs.


The terms of a loan can include the repayment period, interest rate and fees, penalties that might be charged and other specific conditions. Reviewing these terms is important to make sure you understand what your obligations are.

What is a Loan Term?

The term of a loan refers to the repayment period established by you and your lender. It affects your monthly payments and the amount of interest you pay over the life of your loan. This is a crucial factor in choosing the right borrowing option for you.

There are a lot of financial terms and jargon floating around, especially when it comes to mortgage loans. It can be easy to get confused and miss out on great borrowing opportunities simply because you don’t understand what the lender is talking about.

A loan term is the length of time it takes for you to repay your loan in full when you make your regular payments. It also determines how much of your loan principal you will pay back each month. There are different types of loans with varying repayment periods. Some lenders will even allow you to defer a portion of your debt, which can save you money in the long run. However, you should be aware that if you do this, your interest charges will accrue and you will end up paying more in the long run.

Short Term Loans

A short term loan is a form of borrowing that has a maximum repayment window of 18 months or less. These types of loans are often a lifesaver for small businesses or individuals with less than stellar credit scores. They also tend to have easier eligibility requirements, as they are typically for relatively small amounts of money compared to the amount of funds borrowed on a long term basis.

Some examples of short-term lending include bank overdrafts, which offer temporary coverage when a customer’s account lacks sufficient funds to pay for a purchase, as well as lines of credit extended by banks or even by family and friends. Another option is a payday loan, which offers fast funding and is typically repaid in a matter of weeks or days.

One big drawback of short-term loans is that they can lead to a debt cycle if used frequently, as they tend to have steep fees and interest rates. Other negatives include frequent repayments, the inability to borrow large amounts of money and the risk that a credit score will be negatively affected by late payments.

Long Term Loans

Long-term loans have repayment terms of several years or even decades. These loans are typically used for financing larger capital investments, such as building a business or purchasing equipment and materials. They also come with lower interest rates than short-term loans, which can save borrowers money in the long run.

Long-term loan payments are typically repaid in equal monthly installments that include both principal and interest. This can make them more affordable for borrowers who may not be able to afford a large monthly payment. Additionally, having a longer time period to repay the loan can help improve a borrower’s credit score and make them more likely to qualify for other types of financing in the future.

Getting a long-term loan requires filling out an application and providing personal information and financial documentation to the lender. Long-term loans are typically offered by banks, but other lenders may also provide these financing options to borrowers. Many of these lenders offer online applications that can be completed in just a few minutes.

Variable Rate Loans

As interest rates rise after years of low levels, borrowers should learn more about their loan terms to save money. It’s important to know whether a loan has a variable or fixed rate, and how often the interest is charged.

A variable rate is based on a financial index like the Federal lending rate or the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) plus a margin/spread determined by the lender. This type of loan is more common with credit cards, private student loans, and home equity lines of credit (HELOCs).

When considering a variable rate, borrowers should find out how often the interest will change and whether there are periodic or lifetime caps that prevent the loan from increasing too much. Generally, borrowers who benefit from variable rates are those who expect market interest rates to fall in the future, and can easily afford a higher debt payment in the event that their rate does change. For borrowers who can’t afford a rate increase, a fixed rate loan might be a better choice. The decision should be based on each borrower’s unique financial situation and risk tolerance.

Fixed Rate Loans

A fixed rate loan keeps the same interest rate throughout its repayment term, which eliminates the risk of rising rates and increases in monthly payments. This loan structure is popular for mortgages and auto loans, but some personal loans also have fixed rates.

While you can find fixed rate loans with shorter terms, the most common is a 30-year fixed-rate loan. These typically come with a standard rate and payment calculation, which can be prequalified for to compare against adjustable-rate loans.

Borrowers choose fixed-rate loans when they want to know exactly what their loan cost will be over time. This can be beneficial if you’re looking to purchase a home or car, which typically requires a large upfront investment.

A fixed-rate loan can still increase in cost, however. This is because most lenders will impose a periodic or lifetime cap on how much the rate can change during an adjustment period, which can prevent significant increases in your monthly loan repayments. The lender may also impose break fees if you refinance or sell your property before the fixed-rate term ends, which can add to your overall borrowing costs.