Which describes the difference between a personal loan and a credit card?

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When it comes to managing personal finances, two common options that individuals often consider are personal loans and credit cards. Both of these financial tools provide access to funds, but they differ in terms of how they work and the benefits they offer. In this article, we will explore the key differences between a personal loan and a credit card, helping you understand which option may be more suitable for your specific needs.

Personal Loans

Definition: A personal loan is a fixed amount of money borrowed from a financial institution, such as a bank or credit union, which is to be repaid over a predetermined period of time. The loan is typically paid back in monthly installments that include both the principal amount and interest charges.

Usage: Personal loans can be used for a variety of purposes, including debt consolidation, home improvements, medical expenses, or major purchases. The borrower receives the loan amount upfront and can use it as needed.

Interest Rates: Personal loans generally have fixed interest rates, meaning the rate remains the same throughout the loan term. The interest rates for personal loans are typically lower than those of credit cards, making them an attractive option for individuals who need to borrow a significant amount of money.

Repayment Period: Personal loans have a fixed repayment period, usually ranging from one to seven years. This means that borrowers have a set timeframe to repay the loan in full, which can help with budgeting and financial planning.

Credit Cards

Definition: A credit card is a revolving line of credit that allows individuals to make purchases up to a certain credit limit. Unlike personal loans, credit cards do not provide a lump sum amount upfront. Instead, they offer a revolving balance that can be used repeatedly as long as the credit limit is not exceeded.

Usage: Credit cards are widely accepted and can be used for various transactions, including online purchases, in-store shopping, and bill payments. They provide convenience and flexibility, allowing users to make purchases instantly without the need for cash.

Interest Rates: Credit cards typically have variable interest rates, meaning the rates can fluctuate over time. The interest rates for credit cards are generally higher than those of personal loans, especially if the cardholder carries a balance from month to month.

Repayment Options: With credit cards, there is a minimum payment requirement each month. Cardholders have the option to pay the minimum amount due or pay off the entire balance. However, carrying a balance and making only minimum payments can lead to high interest charges and debt accumulation.


In summary, personal loans and credit cards are both useful financial tools, but they differ in terms of how they provide access to funds, interest rates, and repayment options. Personal loans offer a lump sum amount with a fixed interest rate and repayment period, making them suitable for specific purposes and larger expenses. On the other hand, credit cards provide a revolving line of credit with variable interest rates, allowing for flexibility in spending but requiring careful management to avoid high-interest charges. It is important to consider your financial needs and goals when deciding between a personal loan and a credit card.


1. bankrate.com
2. creditkarma.com
3. investopedia.com