How Borrowers Should Handle Rising Interest Rates

As interest rates rise, find out the important financial decisions that borrowers need to make to save money.

Laura Adams, MBA,
September 11, 2013
Episode #327

Page 2 of 2

...let’s say you buy 1,000 shares of company stock at $10 a share. If the stock price goes to $20 a share, you’ve doubled your money. You could sell the stock and pocket $10,000 before taxes.

This isn’t a complete description of the effects of interest rates in the economy because there are many factors at work. But my point is that rising rates don’t always have a net negative effect on your personal finances.  

If you’re in the market to buy a big ticket item, like a car or house, try to speed up the process as much as possible. The faster you get approved for a mortgage, home equity loan, or car loan the better.

How Borrowers Should Handle Rising Interest Rates

One of the best ways borrowers can deal with rising interest rates is to lock in current rates as quickly as possible. If you’re in the market to buy a big ticket item, like a car or house, try to speed up the process as much as possible. The faster you get approved for a mortgage, home equity loan, or car loan the better.

When mortgage rates are ticking up daily, time is money. With a fixed-rate mortgage your interest rate and monthly payment can never change. So, if you plan to own a home for the long run, consider a fixed-rate loan that keeps your payment low, even while interest rates are climbing.

However, there’s still a place for an adjustable rate mortgage or ARM if you plan to sell the home within a few years or get really favorable loan terms. Just remember that your interest rate and monthly payments can go up dramatically if you can’t sell the property or refinance it down the road.

If you already have an ARM, review the terms to find out when and by how much your rate can go up. For example, an ARM might allow an interest rate adjustment every 6 months that can’t exceed 2% per year. Additionally there are caps on how much your payment amount can go up, such as 7% over the life of the loan.  

See also: What Is the Best Type of Mortgage?

How Much Does It Cost to Refinance?

No matter if you have a fixed- or variable-rate mortgage, always crunch the numbers when interest rates are rising and see if refinancing can save you money.

You need to know the total cost to refinance and how much you’ll save each year. A typical refinance might cost anywhere from 1% to 5% of your outstanding loan balance. The fees to close a loan vary depending on the lender and the state where you live.

Consult with your lender or use a breakeven refinance calculator at sites like dinkytown.com and bankrate.com. They can show you how long you’d have to stay in your home to recover all refinancing costs by having a lower monthly payment.

For instance, if your closing costs are $3,000 and the deal will save you $300 per month, you’ll recoup your costs and break even after 10 months. If you’re sure you’ll own the home for at least a year, then you should probably refinance.

However, one situation where it may not pay to refinance is if you’ve had your current fixed-rate mortgage for a long time. By refinancing, you restart the amortization process late in your mortgage. This means most of your new payment will be comprised of interest and not paying down the outstanding balance.

So, in addition to considering the breakeven point of a refinance, consider the total amount of interest you’d have to pay if you refinance and if you don’t. If you’d pay the same amount or less interest doing nothing, then it isn’t worth the trouble to refinance.

Credit Cards and Rising Interest Rates

What about the effect of rising interest rates on credit cards? Although most credit card rates are tied to an economic index, they’ve stayed relatively high for some time, even though other rates were low.

Your credit score plays a big role in the rates you have to pay for consumer credit. So, depending on the type of card you select (such as a low-rate or rewards card), having excellent credit is the key to saving money on outstanding credit card balances.

You can learn more about smart strategies to raise your credit score in this free video tutorial: Credit Score Survival Kit.

Also, take advantage of 0% interest balance transfers cards when it's right for your situation and pay off your credit cards each month to avoid interest and fees.

Get More Money Girl!

There’s a huge archive of past articles and podcasts if you type in what you want to learn about in the search bar at the top of the page. Here are all the many places you can connect with me, learn more about personal finance, and ask your money question:





Money Girl podcast on iTunes (it’s free to subscribe!)

Email: money@quickanddirtytips.com

Click here to sign up for the free Money Girl Newsletter!

Download FREE chapters of Money Girl’s Smart Moves to Grow Rich

To learn about how to get out of debt, save money, and build wealth, get a copy of my book Money Girl’s Smart Moves to Grow Rich. It tells you what you need to know about money without bogging you down with what you don’t. It’s available at your favorite book store in print or as an e-book for your Kindle, Nook, iPad, PC, Mac, or smart phone. You can even download 2 free book chapters at SmartMovesToGrowRich.com!

Best Interest Rate image courtesy of Shutterstock


Related Tips

You May Also Like...