WTFinance is unsecured debt vs secured debt?
By Jackie Lam
Apr 10, 2023
Read time: 2 min
I was thinking about applying for a loan, and a friend asked about my “unsecured” and “secured” debt. That stopped me cold.
I paused for a moment and thought to myself, isn't all debt the same? I realized I needed to understand the difference. If you have felt the same way, it’s ok.
Let’s talk about what these terms mean—and how they work.
What is unsecured debt?
“Unsecured,” as it is used here, doesn’t mean risky or unsafe. Unsecured debt just means a loan that you qualify for based on your creditworthiness. It doesn't require that you pledge something—like a car or house—to back up, or "secure" the loan.
To decide whether to offer you an unsecured loan or line of credit, lenders will look at your:
Common forms of unsecured debt found in the wild include:
most credit cards
personal loans or lines of credit
What is secured debt?
Secured debt, on the other hand, is any loan that requires you, the borrower, to pledge something valuable (aka “collateral”) as a guarantee that you’ll repay the loan. This gives the lender a Plan B in case you aren't able to keep up with your payments. (Life does happen, and unexpected events can toss a wrench in anyone's money situation.) If you were to default, the lender has the right to sell the asset to recover the money you owe them.
Common forms of secured debt include:
home equity lines of credit
secured credit cards
secured personal loans
Comparing secured and unsecured debts: pros and cons
No loan is perfect for everyone. Let’s look at the pros and cons of both options.
Unsecured debt pros
Can borrow money without putting up any collateral
Simple application process
Speedy funding times (1-3 business days)
Plus, an unsecured personal loan can be a good way to pay off credit card debt. An unsecured personal loan could allow you to consolidate multiple debts down to one—and potentially lower your interest rate, too.
Unsecured debt cons
Higher interest rates compared to secured loans
Can be harder to qualify for
The best terms and rates are reserved for borrowers with excellent credit
Secured debt pros
Typically lower interest rates compared with comparable unsecured loans
Usually easier to qualify for
Often have higher loan limits compared to unsecured options
Secured debt cons
You’ll have to offer a valuable asset as collateral, and if you default, the lender can seize your house, car, etc.
Some secured loans can only be used for one thing (i.e., you have to use your car loan to buy a car)
Can take longer to apply and process an application
Secured debt versus unsecured debt: Which is right for you?
The type of financing that's best for you depends on your unique, individual situation.
Here are some questions that can help you choose:
How much financing do I need?
What am I using the loan for?
How long do I need to pay off the debt?
How quickly would I like to receive the money?
Do I have an asset to offer as collateral?
Knowing the difference between secured and unsecured debt can help you land on a loan or borrowing option that works for you, based on your financial situation and goals. Which will help you feel more…secure.