No matter how financially responsible you are, it's possible there will come a time when borrowing money is the only way to stay afloat. Maybe you racked up some credit card debt that you desperately need to consolidate at a lower interest rate. Perhaps your car broke down and you need a new one to get to work, your kid suddenly needs braces, or your house needs a new roof and insurance won't help. There's no use feeling bad about your situation, and it certainly won't help to dwell on your financial woes. What you can do is make sure you're borrowing money in a responsible way that will help your finances instead of harming them. While there are numerous ways to get a loan when you need one, most consumers who need to borrow money to consolidate debt, pay for emergency expenses, or cover other essential purchases choose one of two options either a personal loan or a credit card. Which option will work best in your situation? Well, that depends. When you need to borrow money in a pinch, credit cards are often the easiest way to go. You can apply online and from the comfort of your own home and receive your card in the mail within a few business days. Plus, credit cards tend to offer consumer protections and rewards programs that can make using them seem like a lucrative and safe endeavor. That's a lot of interest to fork over every month especially if you have a large balance and need a lot of time to pay it off. Since credit cards offer a line of credit instead of a fixed amount of money upfront, using them can also become a slippery slope. It's far too easy to use credit to pay for purchases you can't afford, then make a small payment each month, letting your balance balloon over time. Speaking of small payments, credit cards offer the option to pay a very small amount of your balance each month known as a minimum payment. This payment usually works out to 2% or 3% of your balance each month.  If you're worried how credit cards might harm you in the long run, personal loans provide a more predictable way to borrow money. Unlike credit cards that come with line of credit you can borrow against, personal loans offer a set amount of money with a fixed interest rate and a fixed monthly payment. Personal loans also feature fixed repayment timelines, meaning you will always know exactly when your loan will be paid off. And, while some personal loans do charge fees like an origination fee or application fee, most people with good credit can qualify for a personal loan without any fees. The downsides of personal loans aren't quite as several as the pitfalls of using credit cards, but that doesn't mean personal loans are perfect. Here are the main pros and cons to be aware of: The loans with the best interest rates and terms typically go to those with very good or excellent credit. While cards that dole out rewards are an attractive option for consumers, you probably shouldn't consider them if you plan to carry a balance. After all, most rewards cards offer 2% or 3% back at most, and that's a lot less than the interest you'll be paying. On the other side of the coin, personal loans work best for consumers who need to borrow for a specific goal like a home remodel or major home repair since they come with predictable payments and a fixed timeline for when you'll pay them off. Before you choose between these two borrowing methods, figure out how much cash you need and how long you need to pay it back. Then play around with a personal loan calculator and a credit card calculator to create a few different repayment scenarios you can compare. From there, choose the option that provides you with a monthly payment, interest rate, and repayment timeline you can live with. The prospect of borrowing money may be stressful, but you'll feel better once you've taken time to compare all the options.

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