Financial blogger and senior manager for data and analytics at The Jamaica National Group, Gillian Jackson, is cautioning borrowers to carefully read all documents when applying for a loan, as some loans may have hidden fees and charges that will not be in the best interest of the borrower.

“Not all loans are created equal. Some lenders attract their borrowers by advertising an easy process, quick turnaround time. You can get a loan in hours instead of days, but you are paying the cost somewhere else,” she pointed out.

Ms Jackson gave the advice while addressing the ‘Get Smart About Credit’ workshop, organised by the JN Foundation Financial Academy. She was presenting on the topic ‘Helping you Understand Interest Rates’.

She pointed out that sometimes these loans attract high interest rates, use the add-on method of calculating interest; contain hidden fees and charges, such as penalties for late payments; and some lenders will not permit early repayment or even penalise persons for early repayments.

“Be wary of these loans that seem too good to be true. Loans that have associated collateral, such as a house or a car, would typically have lower interest rates than loans that do not,” she informed.

She cautioned consumers that while compound interest is very beneficial when someone is investing, in the context of borrowing, it can cause outstanding loan balances to accumulate rapidly, particularly for high interest rate loans. Compound interest is the interest calculated on the outstanding principal and the interest accumulated over the previous period of a loan or deposit. This means that interest is added onto both the loan amount and interest that was added the month before!

Ms Jackson advised that loans that use a reducing balance method of calculating interest will generally be better than the add-on method, as payments would be consistently lower for the same rate of interest. She further noted that loans that have a clear monthly repayment are also good for persons who are new to debt, or do not have a good track record of repayment.

“Always ask what your interest rate is [when applying for a loan]. Remember to shop around for the best interest rates,” she said.

Ms Jackson was among three presenters who addressed the workshop. The other presenters were Tamara Wilson, acting business development officer, CRIF Information Bureau and Rose Miller, lead of the Financial Empowerment Programmes at the JN Foundation.

The JN Foundation, ‘Get Smart About Credit’ workshop series is an initiative of the newly established JN Financial Academy, which is aimed at empowering Jamaicans to achieve financial freedom by providing information, training and mentorship.

The next workshop will be held virtually December 1 at 1:00 pm. Persons who have missed out on the first sessions are invited to visit the JN Foundation website, www.jnfoundation.com to register for the upcoming workshop.