Hardbacon logo

Loan vs Line of Credit in Canada: Which One Is Right for You?

By Arthur Dubois | Published on 14 Sep 2023

Comparison of loan and line of credit options for borrowing money.

    Are you considering borrowing money in Canada? If so, you may be wondering whether a loan or a line of credit is the right choice for you. Both options have their own advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to understand the basics before making a decision. In this article, we’ll explore the key differences between loans and lines of credit, help you evaluate your financial situation, and provide guidance on choosing the option that best suits your needs.

    What is a loan? 

    A loan is a lump sum of money borrowed from a lender that is repaid over a predetermined period of time, typically through fixed monthly installments. Loans are commonly used for specific purposes, such as buying a car, covering unexpected expenses, or financing a home renovation.

    When you take out a loan, you enter into a legal agreement with the lender. This agreement outlines the terms and conditions of the loan, including the interest rate, repayment schedule, and any additional fees or charges. It is important to carefully review and understand these terms before signing the loan agreement.

    One advantage of a loan is that it provides you with immediate access to a large amount of money, which can be particularly useful for major expenses. However, it is important to consider the cost of borrowing and ensure that you can comfortably afford the monthly repayments.

    What is a Line of Credit?

    A line of credit, on the other hand, is a flexible borrowing option that provides access to a predetermined credit limit. Unlike loans, lines of credit allow you to withdraw funds as needed, up to your approved limit. You only pay interest on the amount you borrow, and as you repay the borrowed funds, they become available for future use.

    Lines of credit are often used by individuals and businesses to manage cash flow fluctuations or to cover unexpected expenses. They can provide a safety net for emergencies or act as a convenient source of funds for ongoing projects or investments.

    One of the key advantages of a line of credit is its flexibility. Unlike a loan, which provides a one-time lump sum, a line of credit allows you to borrow and repay funds multiple times, as long as you stay within your approved limit. This can be particularly beneficial if you have varying borrowing needs or if you prefer to have access to funds on an ongoing basis.

    It is important to note that lines of credit often have variable interest rates, which means that the interest you pay may fluctuate over time. Additionally, some lines of credit may require collateral, such as a home or other valuable asset, to secure the credit limit.

    When considering whether to apply for a line of credit or a loan, it is important to evaluate your specific financial needs and goals. Both options have their advantages and disadvantages, and what works best for one person may not be the ideal choice for another. It is always recommended to consult with a financial advisor or lender to determine the most suitable borrowing option for your individual circumstances.

    Key Differences Between Loans and Lines of Credit

    Now that you know what a loan and a line of credit are, it’s time to delve into their fundamental distinctions. These disparities encompass a range of factors, including interest rates, repayment terms, and credit score requirements. Let’s examine these differences in more detail.

    Interest Rates and Fees

    When it comes to interest rates, loans typically have fixed rates, meaning that the interest rate remains the same throughout the repayment period. This stability provides borrowers with a sense of security, as they can budget their monthly payments without worrying about fluctuations in interest rates. On the other hand, lines of credit often have variable interest rates, meaning that the rate can change over time based on market conditions. While this can be advantageous if interest rates decrease, it also poses a risk of higher interest payments if rates rise. 

    Additionally, loans may come with upfront fees, such as origination fees or application fees, which are typically paid at the beginning of the loan term. In contrast, lines of credit often have annual fees, which are charged on a yearly basis to maintain the availability of credit.

    Repayment Terms and Conditions

    The repayment terms for loans are usually predetermined and require fixed monthly payments. This provides a clear timeline for paying off the debt, allowing borrowers to plan their finances accordingly. With a loan, borrowers know exactly how much they need to pay each month until the loan is fully repaid. This structured approach can be beneficial for individuals who prefer a disciplined repayment plan.

    On the other hand, lines of credit offer more flexibility when it comes to repayment. Borrowers can make minimum monthly payments, which are typically calculated based on a percentage of the outstanding balance, or they can choose to pay off the balance in full. This flexibility allows borrowers to adapt their repayment strategy to their financial situation. For example, during months when money is tight, borrowers can make minimum payments to meet their obligations. Conversely, during months of surplus cash flow, borrowers can pay off a larger portion of the balance, reducing the overall interest paid over time.

    Another advantage of lines of credit is the ability to borrow and repay multiple times within the credit limit. This means that as borrowers repay their outstanding balance, the available credit becomes accessible again. This revolving nature of lines of credit provides a continuous source of funds, making it suitable for ongoing expenses or unforeseen financial needs.

    Credit Score Requirements

    In Canada, there are distinctions in credit score requirements when it comes to securing traditional loans versus lines of credit. These distinctions are essential to understand for individuals seeking to borrow money and manage their financial obligations effectively.

    Traditional loans, such as personal loans or auto loans, typically demand higher credit scores for approval. Lenders generally favor borrowers with credit scores above 660, as a solid credit history indicates a higher likelihood of responsible repayment. A good credit score usually translates into more favorable terms, including lower interest rates and more substantial loan amounts. Traditional loans necessitate the borrower to receive a lump sum and repay it over a set period, which underscores the significance of a good credit history.

    On the other hand, lines of credit, particularly personal lines of credit, can offer a bit more flexibility in terms of credit score requirements. Some financial institutions may be open to extending lines of credit to individuals with bad credit scores, especially if the applicant can demonstrate a strong income and a history of prudent financial management. Nevertheless, a higher credit score can still provide advantages in securing a more competitive interest rate and a larger credit limit for a line of credit.

    In both cases, credit history, income, employment stability, and debt-to-income ratio are also crucial factors considered by lenders. It’s essential to shop around and compare loans offers from various financial institutions since credit score prerequisites can vary widely. Furthermore, taking steps to improve your credit score before applying for any form of credit can increase your chances of approval and favorable terms. If you’re not sure what your credit score is, then you can get your credit score for free with one of Canada’s leading credit rating bureau’s.

    Choosing Between a Loan and a Line of Credit

    When it comes to managing your finances, it’s important to understand the different options available to you. Two common choices are loans and lines of credit. Each option has its own advantages and considerations, so it’s essential to evaluate your specific financial needs before making a decision.

    When to Consider a Loan

    A loan is a suitable choice when you have a specific financial need that requires a lump sum of money. For example, if you want to consolidate multiple high-interest debts into a single loan with a lower interest rate, a loan can help simplify your finances and save you money in interest payments.

    Furthermore, loans often come with fixed interest rates and set repayment terms, which can provide you with a clear timeline for paying off your debt. This can be beneficial if you prefer a structured approach to managing your finances and want to have a clear end date in sight.

    Additionally, loans can be a great option for larger expenses, such as buying a car or financing a home renovation project. By obtaining a loan, you can access the necessary funds upfront and then repay the loan over time, making it more manageable for your budget.

    When a Line of Credit Might Be a Better Option

    With a line of credit, you have access to a predetermined credit limit, and you can withdraw funds as needed. This means that you only pay interest on the amount you borrow, rather than the entire credit limit. It offers you the convenience of having funds available whenever unexpected expenses arise.

    Moreover, lines of credit often come with variable interest rates, which means that the interest you pay may fluctuate over time. While this can be a disadvantage if interest rates rise, it can also work in your favor if rates decrease, potentially saving you money in the long run.

    Another advantage of a line of credit is its revolving nature. Once you repay the borrowed amount, the credit becomes available again, allowing you to borrow and repay as needed. This can be particularly beneficial for ongoing expenses or when you need access to funds for a longer period.

    Loan vs Line of Credit in Canada: The Bottom Line

    Choosing between a loan and a line of credit in Canada depends on your specific financial needs and goals. Understanding the basics, evaluating your financial situation, and considering the key differences can help you make an informed decision. Remember to borrow responsibly, make payments on time, and regularly monitor your credit score. By doing so, you can make the right choice and improve your financial well-being.

    Compare Canadian Loans
    Compare Canadian Loans
    Find a loan that really meets your needs, whether urgent or not!
    Arthur Dubois is a personal finance writer at Hardbacon. Since relocating to Canada, he has successfully built his credit score from scratch and begun investing in the stock market. In addition to his work at Hardbacon, Arthur has contributed to Metro newspaper and several other publications