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I choose Cahoot's flexible loan because of the advertised rate of 8% APR and flexible repayment options. It is unsecured, the interest is calculated daily and there are no early repayment penalties.
Setting Up ----------
Applying online is easy, you need a secure connection, you fill in your personal details, income, bank account details, etc and how much you wish to borrow. They then tell you if you have been accepted or not. The application takes about half an hour. A credit agreement gets sent to you in the post and you have to read and sign it and send it back along with proof of your address.
All this takes about a week then the loan is ready for withdrawals. You then login to your account on their website where you can transfer money to your bank account. This is supposed to take at least four working days if your current account is not with Cahoot, mine only took three days. You can also use your online account to look at statements, change repayments, etc. You do not pay any interest until you withdraw money so it just sits there until you need it. It says in the small print that they can close your account after a year of inactivity either before you start using it or after it has been paid back.
I don't know how fussy they are about credit records, I have only ever had a couple of credit cards and they accepted me. They might not accept people with bad credit though.
I choose a limit of £5000 and was offered a rate of 8%. I ended up only using £4000 of it but the other £1000 is still available to me if I need it. You can apply to increase your limit at a later date if you wish. It kind of works like a credit card, where you have a direct debit which takes the minimum amount of £50 or 1.75% (whichever is higher) from your bank account once a month. You can choose which day it is debited so you can have it coming off the day after you get paid, for example.
You have a number of repayment options: Pay only the minimum amount each month. Doing it this way will mean it will take years to pay the loan off . Arrange (online) for a higher regular repayment. There is a calculator on the website where you can specify how long you want the term to be and it tells you the monthly repayment amount. If you find that this amount is too low/high you can change it at any time. Pay the minimum amount each month and make extra 'lump sum' repayments.
The latter is my preferred option because it is the most flexible as the amount I can afford to re-pay changes every month. The only problem with this option is that you can't make 'one-off' repayments online, you have to do it via your current account. This isn't too much of a hassle for me because I regularly use telephone banking but if you had to go into your branch this would be a real pain. It takes four working days to transfer the money from a non-Cahoot current account to your loan.
Customer Service ----------------
Before I applied for the loan I sent them an email asking for a couple of written quotations and asking a few questions, their response was prompt, answering the questions by email the following day and sending the quotations in the post.
I also had to phone them up because I forgot my password, they were quite helpful and said they after they couldn't do anything until they had received my signed credit agreement (which was in the post) but I should phone back in a couple of days and they would send out a form for me to fill in. I didn't have to phone back though because I remembered it the next day. Doh!
I am very pleased with my loan, I'm confident that it is a really good deal and I like being in control of my repayments. I think it's great that you can still withdraw money even after you have started repaying because you never know when you might need it.