You’ll see APR used in conjunction with several different financial products, including credit cards, loans and hire purchase agreements. But what does it actually mean and how does it work? In this guide, we explain all you need to know.
What is APR?
APR stands for Annual Percentage Rate, and it’s the official interest rate used for borrowing on a credit-based product. It takes into account the headline rate of interest you’ll pay as well as any additional charges or fees.
In other words, it’s a standardised way of showing the cost of borrowing over a year.
The APR will be expressed as a percentage of the amount you’ve borrowed and is calculated using a formula outlined in the Consumer Credit Act (1974). Each lender must abide by this, making it a useful way to compare products such as a loans and credit cards on a like-for-like basis.
It’s important to note, however, that the APR will only take compulsory charges into account, which means avoidable fees such as those for late payments or going over your credit limit will not be included.
What’s the difference between an APR and interest rate?
The interest rate is simply the amount charged on the amount you borrow. It is expressed as a percentage and is usually (but not always) quoted annually.
An APR, on the other hand, includes the rate of interest, plus any other fees, making it a truer representation of the total cost of the product.
What is a representative APR?
When a loan or credit card is advertised with a representative APR, the rate must be offered to at least 51% of successful applicants for the product. However, this means that the other 49% may not be eligible for the advertised rate and are likely to pay more.
What is a personal APR?
A personal APR is the rate you’re actually given, and it will be based on your personal circumstances as well as the amount you want to borrow.
What affects your APR?
The APR you’re offered by a lender will depend on your credit score and how well you’ve borrowed in the past. If you’ve always repaid debts on time and haven’t exceeded your credit limit, you’ll be offered a more competitive APR than someone who has regularly missed payments and is therefore seen as a greater risk.
Lenders will also look at your annual salary and household spending before deciding what APR to offer. The amount you want to borrow and the length of time you want to borrow for will also be taken into account.
For personal loans, you’ll usually find that the more you want to borrow and the longer the term, the lower the APR will be. However, you should always ensure you’re only borrowing what you can afford to pay back.
What is a good APR?
The lower the APR the less you will pay in interest and other charges. Many credit cards offer 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for a set number of months. However, it’s important to check what the APR will revert to after this point as this is the rate you’ll pay if you don’t pay off your balance in full within the 0% period.
Other competitive credit cards offer low APRs of around 7.9% to 9.9% APR.
Competitive personal loan rates are around 2.8% to 4.9% APR for loan sizes of between £7,500 and £20,000. If you want to borrow more or less than this amount, your APR is likely to be higher.
It’s always best to shop around and compare your options carefully before applying for a credit card or personal loan. Many lenders offer eligibility checkers which will give you an indication of how likely you are to be accepted for a particular credit card or loan.
Eligibility checkers run a ‘soft’ search on your credit file, so it won’t leave a mark on your credit file for other lenders to see. If there are a lot of ‘hard’ searches on your credit file in a short space of time, lenders may see this as a sign you’re struggling to get credit.
What’s the difference between a fixed APR and a variable APR?
A fixed APR won’t change so you’ll know exactly how much you need to pay back.
A variable APR, on the other hand, can change at any point and will often track the Bank of England base rate. This means if the base rate goes up, so will your APR, but if the base rate goes down, your APR may also follow. Credit cards tend to have variable APRs.
What is an APRC?
APRC stands for Annual Percentage Rate of Charge and is the interest rate associated with mortgages and secured loans. It was introduced by the Financial Conduct Authority (the UK financial regulator) in 2016 to provide a more realistic view of how much a mortgage will cost over the long term.
Unlike credit cards, where you may be offered a higher APR if your credit score isn’t strong enough, when you apply for a mortgage, you’ll simply be turned down if you don’t meet the lending criteria. This means that, unlike an APR, the APRC does not change.
If you are accepted for a mortgage, you’ll usually pay an introductory rate for around two to five years, before the rate reverts to the lender’s standard variable rate.
The APRC factors in both of these rates, and shows you the total cost of a mortgage, including fees, over the full length of the loan – often 25 years. In other words, it shows you how much your mortgage would cost you if you were to stay on the same mortgage until you had repaid the amount borrowed.
However, if you plan to switch to a new mortgage as soon as your introductory deal ends, you don’t need to worry about the APRC.