No or low interest loans

Low-cost credit

If you're a low income earner, in financial trouble or have a bad credit history, you might think a high-cost small loan is your only option. But there are other ways you can get money without having to pay back much more than the amount you borrow.

How no interest loans work

The No Interest Loans Scheme (NILS®) is designed for people on welfare benefits who need safe, fair and affordable access to credit. The scheme offers loans of up to $1200 to people on low incomes. There are no interest charges or fees.

You can use NILS to:

  • Buy essential household items such as whitegoods (like fridges and washing machines), computers or furniture
  • Buy health items such as wheelchairs or asthma pumps
  • Pay for car repairs (although these loans are only available to people who live in areas where there is little or no public transport)

NILS providers are based in community centres and other local organisations across Australia. To be eligible for NILS, you must have a Centrelink healthcare or pension card (or qualify for one). You must also show that you can and are willing to repay the loan within 12 or 18 months.

To find your nearest NILS provider, visit the Good Shepherd Microfinance website.

Other programs for low income earners

Smart tip

While it may be difficult to get personal loans from major financial institutions for very small amounts, some credit providers offer small amount loans of $2,000 or less.

The programs below can help you make ends meet.

StepUP

The StepUP program offers fixed-rate, unsecured personal loans for amounts between $800 and $3000. There are no fees or charges and the interest rate is low. The loans can be used for essential personal, household and domestic goods and services such as second-hand cars, computers, and medical and dental treatment.

AddsUP

AddsUP is a matched savings plan open to people who have successfully repaid one NILS or StepUP loan. Once you have saved $300, the bank will put in a dollar for every dollar you save, up to a total of $500.

Video: Help for low income earners

Low income loans video

Explains how the StepUP and AddsUP programs work for a couple who need a loan for a new washing machine. Financial counsellors can help you access these programs.

This video was made by National Australia Bank's Indigenous Money Mentor Program.

Saver Plus

Saver Plus helps families on low incomes develop a savings habit, build assets and improve their financial skills. You set a savings goal and receive support and education to help you achieve it. When you reach your goal, your savings are matched, dollar for dollar, up to $500.

Good Money

Good Money is a community finance hub operating in Victoria which helps people manage their money and access no interest or low interest loans (such as NILS) to purchase household goods. The service also provides tips about buying energy-efficient products and getting the best price on goods through a buying service. Good Money is not-for-profit and does not charge fees.

Case study: Indira bought a new washing machine with a NILS loan

""Indira couldn't afford to buy a new washing machine when her old one broke down. When a friend told her about NILS, she went to her community centre to ask about the scheme.

She showed the NILS loans adviser her Centrelink pension card and other documents to apply for the loan. The adviser helped her work out how much she could afford to repay. Indira chose one of the washing machines available through the program and it was delivered to her house. She is about to make her last repayment on the loan and is very happy with her new washing machine.

 Don't borrow to pay utility bills

Smart tip

Some charities provide vouchers to assist with electricity debts. Contact your local community organisation to find out more.

If you're having trouble paying a water, phone, gas or electricity bill, contact your utility provider. Most companies have hardship officers who can help you work out a plan to pay the bill in instalments.

You can also talk to Centrelink to see if you can get any financial assistance or perhaps a low income concession card. If you're eligible for Centrelink payments, you may be able to get an advance payment. The amount available varies depending on the type of payment you receive. For some payments it is between $250 and $500. For other payments, such as pensions, it is between 1 and 3 week's worth of payment. You'll have to pay this money back to Centrelink over 6 months, but it may help cover a temporary shortfall and you won't have to pay interest or fees.

If you are struggling to deal with a number of bills or debts, see trouble with debt for advice.

Watch out for rental agreements

If you don't have enough cash to pay for something upfront, paying for it a little at a time through a rental arrangement might seem like a good idea. But the weekly instalments can quickly add up and you could end up paying more than you bargained for. Read rent to buy and consumer leases before you sign up for any rental or leasing deals.

There are better ways to get the money you need than borrowing money at high cost. Check out all your options and avoid getting into debt.


Related links

Last updated: 13 Sep 2013

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