What's a better way to borrow money: overdraft or credit cards?

By Amy Fontinelle AAA
A:

If you have an overdraft line of credit at your bank, you can spend more than the amount in your checking account. In exchange for this service, you’ll pay the bank interest on the amount by which you overdraw your account. Some overdraft lines of credit will charge you a fee for each overdraft, and some have annual fees instead of, or in addition to, overdraft fees. An overdraft line of credit is essentially a personal line of credit, so the amount the bank will let you borrow will depend on the bank’s policies and your credit worthiness.

If you borrow money by charging purchases you can’t afford to a credit card, you’ll also pay interest. Credit card interest rates can vary significantly depending on the card and your credit score. Some credit cards also charge annual fees.

Suppose you need to borrow $1,200 for car repairs.

Through an overdraft line of credit at your bank, you can borrow the money at 18% annually (assuming no compounding, interest paid annually) and pay a $12.50 overdraft fee. If you want to pay the loan back within a year, you’ll need to pay a total of $216 in interest plus $12.50 in fees.

Through a credit card, you can borrow the money at an introductory rate of 12% for one year (assuming no compounding, interest paid annually), and the card has no annual fee. You’ll need to pay $144 in interest.

In this case, the credit card is the better choice. In general, whether it makes more sense to borrow money via an overdraft line of credit or a credit card depends on several factors:

1. Do you have access to both options?

2. Do both options give you enough available credit to cover the amount you need to borrow?

3. Which one has a lower interest rate?

4. Is there an overdraft fee when you use the overdraft line of credit?

5. Does either option charge an annual fee?

You’ll have to do the math for your specific situation to see which choice is less expensive.

In addition, overdraft lines of credit, like credit cards, have penalty APRs. This means that if you miss a payment, your interest rate can increase significantly, so whichever option you choose, be sure to make your payments on time.

RELATED FAQS

  1. What are the pros and cons of overdraft protection?

    If you sign up for overdraft protection and link your checking account to your savings account, a credit card or an overdraft ...
  2. What Canadian credit cards offer the best travel rewards?

    Discover Canada's best credit cards for travel rewards and the benefits that they offer. Learn how these cards can help you ...
  3. Can I get a balance transfer if I have bad credit?

    Transferring funds from one credit card to another is often possible with bad credit, but it will likely cost you in interest ...
  4. What are the different types of cash advances?

    Find out the different types of cash advances along with their different features to determine which option, if any, is best ...
RELATED TERMS
  1. Overdraft Cap

    The maximum dollar limit that a bank will send to another financial ...
  2. Overdraft Protection

    A line of credit that banks offer to their customers to cover ...
  3. Overdraft

    An extension of credit from a lending institution when an account ...
  4. Negative Information

    Data in a consumer’s credit report that lowers his or her credit ...
  5. Cardholder Agreement

    A printed booklet a credit cardholder receives that contains ...
  6. Zero Liability Policy

    A condition in a credit card agreement stating that the card ...

You May Also Like

Related Articles
  1. Credit & Loans

    Bank Overdraft Changes: What You Need ...

  2. It can be great to live in the moment, but the actions and decisions you make now can greatly impact your sense of financial security down the road.
    Personal Finance

    How Do Americans Keep Minimizing Their ...

  3. It's tough to get a credit card when you move to the U.S. with no Social Security number and no American credit history. Here's how to get started.
    Credit & Loans

    Top Credit Card Options For International ...

  4. Building back credit after bankruptcy generally starts with getting a secured credit card. Here's how to identify the best deals among the limited choices.
    Credit & Loans

    Which Credit Cards Are Best After Bankruptcy?

  5. Some credit cards offer particularly good deals for holiday shoppers.
    Credit & Loans

    The Best Credit Cards For Holiday Shopping

Trading Center