Flex Loans: Benefits and Drawbacks

By Sarah Li Cain · January 10, 2024 · 8 minute read

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Flex Loans: Benefits and Drawbacks

If you’re looking to borrow money quickly and without going through a lengthy application process, flex loans can be an appealing option. A flex loan is a line of credit that is unsecured (meaning no collateral is required). It allows you to withdraw funds as needed up to a predetermined limit. As you pay down the balance, you can continue to borrow from the credit line, similar to a credit card.

While flex loans are usually easier to qualify for than more traditional lending products, they typically come with higher annual percentage rates (APRs) and fees. Here’s what you need to know about flex loans, including how they work, how much you can borrow, and the pros and cons of using a flex loan for fast cash.

What Is a Flex Loan?

Despite the name, a flex loan isn’t actually a loan — it’s an unsecured personal line of credit. Most commonly, you can find flex loans through cash advance companies, though some select credit unions, banks, and online lenders offer them.

Flex loans allow you to withdraw funds from a credit line up to a preapproved limit. You can use the funds in any way you wish. As you pay down the balance, you can continue to borrow from the credit line, similar to a credit card.

Because flex loans typically don’t require a credit check, they can be an attractive option for those who have a poor or limited credit history. But keep in mind: Because lenders assume additional risk by not checking credit, flex loans typically have higher APRs than other lending products, including personal loans, personal lines of credit, and credit cards. You may struggle to make payments if interest and fees continue to accumulate.


💡 Quick Tip: Some personal loan lenders can release your funds as quickly as the same day your loan is approved.

How Do Flex Loans Work?

A flex loan works similar to a credit card in that it’s a revolving line of credit. Once approved, you’re given a certain credit limit and can borrow up to that amount. As the balance is paid down, that money is once again available to be borrowed.

You’ll receive regular statements showing how much you’ve borrowed and the interest owed and typically need to make minimum monthly payments. Like a credit card, you may choose to only pay the minimum, or you can pay more. The more you pay each month, generally the less interest you’ll accrue.

Some flex loan lenders charge fees in addition to interest. This may include a flat fee when you take out the loan, as well as periodic fees, which may be daily, monthly, or each time you draw funds from the loan.

How Much Can You Get With a Flex Loan?

The exact amount you’ll be approved for will depend on the lender, as well as where you live, since state laws regulate credit limit amounts. You may be able to borrow anywhere from $100 to several thousand dollars with a flex loan.

Borrowers often turn to flex loans to cover immediate financial needs, emergencies, or hardships, but you can use the loan funds for almost any reason. However, due to the high APRs, it’s generally a smart idea to draw funds from a flex loan only when necessary.

Recommended: The Problems with Online Payday Loans and Fast Cash Lending

Will a Flex Loan Hurt My Credit?

Getting a flex loan may not require a credit check so applying for one won’t necessarily affect your credit score. But lenders assume extra risk when they don’t do a credit check, so they might charge higher interest to make up for that.

A flex loan may hurt your credit if you don’t manage it responsibly. As with other types of debt, making late payments or missing payments on a flex loan may adversely affect your credit score. It’s a good idea to budget carefully to ensure you’re not borrowing more than you afford to pay back.

Recommended: 11 Types of Personal Loans & Their Differences

Benefits of Flex Loans

Flex loans may be beneficial for some borrowers. Here’s a look at some of the advantages of flex loans.

Application Process

In many cases, you can apply for a flex loan and receive a lending decision within minutes, especially if you apply online.

Access to Funds

You may receive access to your funds on the same day as your flex loan approval. Once approved, you can then make withdrawals from your credit line as needed. Funds are typically directly deposited into your bank account.

Credit Score

Most flex loan lenders won’t subject you to a credit check, making it less burdensome to qualify for a flex loan even if you don’t have good credit.

Requirements

In many cases, flex loans have more lenient requirements compared to other types of loans. In addition to giving the lender your personal details, you may only have to provide proof of employment and income.

Recommended: Typical Personal Loan Requirements Needed for Approval

Flexible Payment Terms

Each month or billing cycle, you can pay the minimum due or more. There are typically no penalties for paying down your debt faster.

Dangers of Flex Loans

Flex loans may be an attractive borrowing option because even those with poor credit can borrow money quickly. However, flex loans can present potential dangers.

Interest Rates

Flex loans typically carry much higher APRs than traditional lending products like personal loans and credit cards. If you can get a flex loan through a credit union, APRs can range from 24% to 28% or higher. If you get one from a cash advance company, the APR on a flex loan can reach triple digits.

Minimum Payments

You have the option to pay only the minimum payments on your flex loan. But if that’s all you pay, fees and interest will continue to grow your debt, making it increasingly harder to pay off the entire balance.

Excessive Debt

It can be tempting to borrow money repeatedly with a flex loan, but doing so can come at a high cost. If you continue to borrow money and don’t have a plan to pay down the amount you owe, a flex loan can lead to a cycle of debt that can be hard to break out of.

When Should You Take Out a Flex Loan?

A flex loan may be worth considering if you need quick access to cash and don’t want to go through a lengthy application process or can’t qualify for more traditional lending options. A flex loan may also be an option for those who want to have a backup source of funds in case of an emergency, like an unexpected car repair or dental bill.

However, because of the high APRs and added fees, you generally only want to consider a flex loan after exhausting other borrowing options, such as personal loans.

When to Apply for a Flex Loan

There may be other ways to get needed cash without paying interest rates as high as flex loans tend to offer. But if you’ve exhausted all other options, even a loan from a pawn shop, and you have a plan to repay the loan at the lowest possible cost to you, it may be an option you could pursue.

Alternatives to Flex Loans

Before applying for a flex loan, you may want to consider the following alternatives.

•   Credit cards: Like flex loans, credit cards are a form of revolving credit you can draw from on a recurring basis. While interest charges for credit cards can be high, they tend to be lower than flex loans. Depending on the card, you may also have an annual fee and other fees based on your use of the account.

•   Personal line of credit: If you have healthy credit, a personal line of credit may be a worthy alternative because of its typically lower interest rates. However, you will be subject to a credit check and the application process may take longer compared to a flex loan.

•   Personal loan with a guarantor: If you’re unable to qualify for an unsecured personal loan due to a poor or limited credit history, you might consider asking a friend or family member to help you get a guarantor loan. A guarantor is legally responsible for the repayment of the loan if the borrower defaults, but has no legal claim to any property the funds were used to purchase.



💡 Quick Tip: Generally, the larger the personal loan, the bigger the risk for the lender — and the higher the interest rate. So one way to lower your interest rate is to try downsizing your loan amount.

The Takeaway

Before taking out any type of loan, you’ll want to consider the benefits versus the costs. If you need cash for an emergency, it can be a good idea to look at all your borrowing options before settling on a flex loan due to the high interest rates and fees associated with these loans. Shopping around is a good way to see what you may qualify for and help you find a lender you feel comfortable working with.

Think twice before turning to high-interest flex loans or credit cards. Consider a SoFi personal loan instead. SoFi offers competitive fixed rates and same-day funding. Checking your rate takes just a minute.

SoFi’s Personal Loan was named NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Personal Loan overall.

FAQ

What is a flex loan?

A flex loan is a form of revolving credit that allows you to withdraw funds up to a certain credit limit. As you pay down your balance, the funds become available to borrow again.

How much can you get with a flex loan?

Borrowing limits for flex loans will depend on the lender and where you live, since state laws regulate credit limit amounts. You may be able to borrow anywhere from $100 to several thousand dollars with a flex loan.

Will a flex loan hurt my credit?

Applying for a flex loan typically won’t affect your credit because lenders typically don’t do a credit check when you apply for the loan. However, lenders may report your borrowing activity to the major consumer credit bureaus. As a result, any late or missed payments could negatively affect your credit.


Photo credit: iStock/PeopleImages

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