What Financing Option Is Right for You? Personal Loans vs. HELOCS

May 23, 2024 by Chevron Federal Credit Union

When unexpected expenses arise or you're planning a major project and need funds, finding the right financial support is crucial. Personal loans and a home equity line of credit (HELOC) are two common methods of financing that offer distinct benefits and considerations.

But which one is better for you? 

What is a personal loan?

A personal loan is an unsecured loan provided by banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions. It is not backed by collateral like a home or a car. People typically use personal loans for consolidating debt, making large purchases, or covering unexpected expenses. The terms and rates can vary based on creditworthiness and other factors.

What is a HELOC?

A HELOC is a secured form of credit where the borrower uses the equity in their home as collateral. It functions similarly to a credit card, allowing homeowners to borrow against a pre-approved limit, pay it back, and borrow again. HELOCs usually have lower rates than personal loans due to the security of home equity.

Personal loans: Pros and cons


  • Flexibility: Personal loans can be used for a wide range of purposes, from home renovations to wedding expenses.
  • Fixed rates and payments: These loans typically come with fixed rates and monthly payments, making budgeting easier.
  • No collateral required: Personal loans do not require using your home as collateral.


  • Higher interest rates: Since personal loans are unsecured, they generally carry higher rates compared to secured loans.
  • Potential for high fees: Some personal loans at other financial institutions come with origination fees or prepayment penalties.

HELOC: Pros and cons


  • Lower interest rates: The rates for HELOCs are typically lower than those for personal loans due to the security of real estate.
  • Revolving credit: You can draw from a HELOC as needed, pay it back, and borrow again, offering flexibility like a credit card.
  • Tax benefits: Interest paid on a HELOC may be tax-deductible if the money is used to buy, build, or substantially improve the taxpayer’s home that secures the loan.


  • Risk of foreclosure: Since a HELOC is secured by your home, failing to make payments can lead to foreclosure.
  • Variable interest rates: Most HELOCs have variable rates that can lead to unpredictable payments.
  • Fees and penalties: HELOCs may include fees such as annual membership fees, maintenance fees, transaction fees, and closing costs.

When to consider a personal loan

Consider opting for a personal loan when you need quick funding without the risk of losing your home. This type of loan might be particularly ideal for you if you meet any of the following criteria:

  • Lack home equity: If you are not a homeowner or if you haven’t built up significant equity in your home, a personal loan is a viable option.
  • Need a clear repayment plan: Personal loans are often structured with fixed rates and a consistent monthly payment over a set term. This predictability makes it easier to budget and plan for your financial future.
  • Need quicker funding: Personal loans are often processed more quickly than HELOCs or home equity loans, which involve property appraisals and longer underwriting processes. 

When to consider a HELOC

A HELOC can be an effective financial tool under the right circumstances. This type of credit is particularly suitable if you have significant equity in your home and require flexible access to funds over time. Here are specific scenarios where a HELOC might be a good option:

  • You’ll have expenses in stages: Like funding home renovations, any large project or expense that unfolds in stages can be a good fit for a HELOC. The draw period in a HELOC, which is typically 10 years, gives you the flexibility to tap into your line of credit as needed.
  • You’re comfortable with variable rates: Unlike fixed-rate personal loans, HELOCs usually have variable rates tied to the prime rate. This means that your interest costs can fluctuate over the life of the line of credit.
  • You can take advantage of the tax break: The interest paid on a HELOC may still be tax-deductible if the funds are used to buy, build, or substantially improve the taxpayer’s home that secures the loan. This potential tax benefit can reduce the net cost of borrowing and is an important consideration for anyone planning substantial home improvements or similar investments in their property.

Choosing between a personal loan and a HELOC depends on your financial situation, the amount needed, how quickly you need the funds, and what you are comfortable putting up as collateral. Both options provide distinct advantages and come with inherent risks.

For more detailed information about personal loans and HELOCs, and to find out which might be the best option for your financial needs, visit Chevron Federal Credit Union today. Explore a range of loan options and receive personalized advice tailored to your financial situation.


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