Short-term loans vs. credit cards: Which is better for your needs?

Short term loans vs credit cards
Short-Term Loans vs Credit Cards: Choosing the Right Option

Short-term loans and credit cards are two popular options for people who need to borrow money quickly. While both types of credit can be useful in different situations, they have distinct advantages and disadvantages. If you're trying to decide which option is better for your needs, it's important to understand how they work and what factors to consider.

We'll compare short-term loans and credit cards and help you determine which one might be the best fit for your financial situation. We'll start by defining each type of credit and discussing its key features.

Then, we'll highlight some of the main differences between them, such as interest rates, fees, repayment options, and credit score impact. Finally, we'll provide some examples of scenarios where each option might be more appropriate, and give you some tips on how to choose the right one for you.

Whether you're facing an unexpected expense or just need some extra cash to cover your bills, understanding the pros and cons of short-term loans and credit cards can help you make a more informed decision and avoid costly mistakes. So, let's dive in and explore the world of borrowing options in South Africa!

Part 1: Credit shrouded in mystery: Short-term loans

If you're in need of a quick cash injection, short-term loans might be just what the doctor ordered. These loans are typically designed to cover short-term expenses, such as car repairs, medical bills, or unexpected emergencies. They're usually offered by banks and online lenders and can range from a few hundred to a few thousand Rands.

But before you rush to apply for a short-term loan, it's important to understand how they work and what you're getting yourself into.

What you need to know: types, advantages, disadvantages and eligibility

Short-term loans are a type of unsecured credit, which means you don't have to put up any collateral to get approved. Instead, lenders use your credit score, income, and other factors to determine your eligibility and interest rate.

There are several types of short-term loans available in South Africa, including payday loans, personal loans, and instalment loans. Payday loans are the most common and are usually due on your next payday.

Personal loans can have longer terms and higher loan amounts but may require more documentation and higher interest rates. Instalment loans are similar to personal loans, but allow you to make smaller payments over time.

What are the advantage of payday loans?

Short-term loans can be a lifesaver when you need cash fast. They're usually approved quickly, with little or no documentation required, and can be deposited into your account within a few hours. This can be especially helpful if you have an urgent expense that can't wait.

Another advantage of short-term loans is that they're relatively easy to qualify for, even if you have bad credit. Many lenders are willing to overlook a low credit score or past financial problems, as long as you have a steady income and can demonstrate your ability to repay the loan.

The disadvantages of payday loans

While short-term loans can be convenient and accessible, they also come with some drawbacks. The main disadvantage is the high-interest rates, which can be as high as 60% or more in some cases.

This means that if you borrow R5,000, you may end up paying back R7,500 or more over a short period of time. Another disadvantage is the risk of falling into a debt trap.

Since short-term loans are usually due within a few weeks or months, they can be hard to repay if you're already struggling to make ends meet. If you miss a payment or default on the loan, you may be subject to additional fees, penalties, or even legal action.

Short-term Loan calculator

The interest rate of a loan will vary based on your credit score and risk profile.
This short-term loan calculator is for illustration purposes only.
The use of this loan calculator is subject to our terms of use.

Do you qualify for a short-term loan?

To qualify for a short-term loan, you usually need to meet some basic requirements, such as:

  • Being a South African citizen or permanent resident
  • Being at least 18 years old
  • Having a valid ID or passport
  • Having a bank account in your name
  • Having a regular source of income (such as a job or government grant)

Popular short-term loan providers in South Africa

There are many lenders that offer short-term loans in South Africa, both online and offline. Some of the most popular ones are listed in our short-term loan category. It's important to do your research and compare different lenders' fees, interest rates, and terms before choosing one.

Part 2: Credit cards: More than just a tool for the wealthy

Credit cards are another popular form of borrowing, and can be a convenient way to pay for goods and services or access cash when you need it. Unlike short-term loans, credit cards offer a revolving line of credit that you can use repeatedly as long as you make your payments on time. However, they also come with their own set of pros and cons. Here's what you need to know:

Types of credit cards in South Africa

A credit card allows you to make purchases or withdraw cash up to a certain credit limit. When you use your credit card, you're essentially borrowing money from the issuer, which you'll have to repay with interest and fees.

There are several types of credit cards available in South Africa, including standard credit cards, premium credit cards, and store credit cards. Standard credit cards are the most common and are usually offered to people with good credit scores.

Premium credit cards offer additional perks and rewards, such as cashback, air miles, or VIP lounge access, but may come with higher annual fees. Store credit cards are issued by specific retailers and can only be used at their stores or with affiliated partners.

The advantages of using a credit card

Credit cards can offer several advantages over short-term loans, such as:

  • Convenience: Credit cards are widely accepted both online and offline, and can be used for a variety of purposes, from booking flights and hotels to paying bills or buying groceries.
  • Rewards: Many credit cards offer rewards, such as cashback, points, or miles, for every purchase you make. This can help you save money or earn freebies, as long as you pay your balance in full every month.
  • Protection: Credit cards come with built-in protection against fraud, theft, or disputed transactions, which can give you peace of mind and save you from financial losses.

The disadvantages of using credit cards

Credit cards also have some drawbacks, such as:

  • High-interest rates: Credit card interest rates can be much higher than other forms of credit, and can compound quickly if you carry a balance from month to month. This can make it easy to fall into a cycle of debt if you're not careful.
  • Fees: Credit cards may come with various fees, such as annual fees, late fees, cash advance fees, or balance transfer fees. These can add up quickly and eat into any rewards or savings you might earn.
  • The temptation to overspend: Since credit cards offer a flexible spending limit, it can be tempting to overspend and accumulate debt that you can't afford to repay. This can lead to financial stress, damage to your credit score, and even bankruptcy in extreme cases.

Are you eligible for a credit card?

To apply for a credit card in South Africa, you usually need to meet some basic requirements, such as:

  • Being a South African citizen or permanent resident
  • Being at least 18 years old
  • Having a good credit score or credit history
  • Having a regular source of income (such as a job or business)

Popular credit card providers in South Africa

There are many credit card providers in South Africa, including banks, retailers, and financial institutions. Some of the most popular ones include Absa, Nedbank, FNB, and Woolworths.

It's important to compare different credit cards' features, rewards, fees, and interest rates before choosing one that suits your needs and budget.

Part 3: Credit cards versus short-term loans

Now that we've covered the basics of short-term loans and credit cards, you may be wondering which option is better for your particular needs. The truth is, there's no one-size-fits-all answer, as it depends on various factors, such as:

  • How much money you need to borrow
  • How long you need the funds for
  • What you'll be using the funds for
  • Your credit score and history
  • Your ability to repay the debt on time

If you need a small amount of money for a short period of time (usually less than a month), a short-term loan may be a better option, as it can provide you with fast access to cash and a fixed repayment schedule. However, be aware of the high-interest rates and fees, and make sure you can afford to repay the loan on time, or else you risk damaging your credit score and incurring additional costs.

If you need a larger amount of money for a longer period of time (such as a few months or more), a credit card may be a better option, as it can offer you a flexible line of credit that you can use as needed, as long as you make your minimum monthly payments on time. However, be aware of the high-interest rates and fees, and avoid overspending or carrying a balance from month to month, or else you risk falling into debt and paying more in interest than you borrowed.

If you have a good credit score and history, you may be able to qualify for lower interest rates and better terms on either short-term loans or credit cards, so it's worth shopping around and comparing different lenders and providers to find the best deal.

When it comes to choosing between short-term loans and credit cards, there's no clear-cut answer. Both options have their advantages and disadvantages, and it ultimately depends on your specific financial situation and borrowing needs.

Short-term loans can provide you with quick access to cash but come with high-interest rates and fees, while credit cards offer more flexibility but also have high-interest rates and the potential for overspending.

To make an informed decision, it's important to understand the terms and conditions of each option, compare different lenders and providers, and only borrow what you can afford to repay on time. Seeking professional advice can also be helpful. Whatever option you choose, remember to use credit responsibly, make your payments on time, and avoid falling into debt that can harm your financial health.

Popular & reliable direct lenders offering Short-term Loans

  1. African Bank Short-term Loan

    African Bank

    • Loans up to R50,000
    • Term up to 24 months
    • Interest from 12%
  2. Nedbank Short-term Loan


    • Loans up to R6,000
    • Personalised Loan Offer
    • Zero-interest Loan
  3. Hoopla Loans Short-term Loan

    Hoopla Loans

    • Loans up to R250,000
    • Term up to 60 months
    • Interest from 20%
  4. Boost Loans Short-term Loan

    Boost Loans

    • Loans up to R8,000
    • Term up to 6 months
    • Interest up to 24.50%