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What Happens to Loan Rates During a Rate Hike Pause?

mattlevy
Matthew Levy Updated: June 28, 2023 • 4 min read
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You might be curious about the impact of the Federal Reserve's recent decision to pause interest rate hikes on loan rates. If you're thinking of taking out a personal, auto, or student loan, know that your rate might be affected.

As we navigate through this period of pause, let's examine the possible effects on these types of loans.

Fed Rate Hike Pause: The Impact on Personal Loans

Personal loan interest rates are typically fixed, meaning that they don't change over the lifetime of the loan. However, the origination of new loan rates could be influenced by the Fed's actions. The "origination" process is when a lender initiates a loan. It includes gathering and verifying your information, assessing your creditworthiness, determining the loan terms and completing paperwork. 

With the rate hike pause, lenders will likely keep interest rates on new personal loans as is, instead of increasing or decreasing them. So, what does that mean for you? If you're interested in taking out a personal loan, be aware that the rates are still considerably higher compared to a year ago. The current average interest rate for personal loans is hovering around 11%, up from around 9% in the beginning of 2022.

That's due to the preceding series of rate hikes.

If you're a potential borrower considering your options, you may want to consider the higher rate environment when deciding whether to take out a new personal loan. We can see this in the FRED’s Finance Rate on Personal Loans at Commercial Banks for a 24 month loan – it has spiked in recent months. 

Rates on personal loans

*Source: Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (US), Finance Rate on Personal Loans at Commercial Banks, 24 Month Loan [TERMCBPER24NS], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/TERMCBPER24NS, June 18, 2023.

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Auto Loans and the Rate Hike Pause

Auto loans, like personal loans, are typically offered with fixed rates, meaning the rates won't change over the life of the loan. The Fed's decision could, however, influence rates for new auto loans.

Despite the pause, auto loan rates remain near their highest levels in more than a decade due to previous Fed rate hikes. We can see this trend from FRED’s economic data below. Although this environment is challenging for car buyers, the good news is that the average price for new vehicles has been declining. The market for used cars may follow soon, experts say. 

The pause in rate hikes does not necessarily mean a decrease in auto loan rates, but rather a temporary pause in increases. If you're in the market for a new vehicle, you should be aware of higher interest rates and factor them into your purchasing decision.  The overall cost of borrowing remains high, and this should be a key consideration in any auto purchase decision.

auto loan rates

*Source: Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (US), Finance Rate on Consumer Installment Loans at Commercial Banks, New Autos 48 Month Loan [TERMCBAUTO48NS], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/TERMCBAUTO48NS, June 18, 2023.

Student Loans in the Current Financial Climate

The pause in interest rate hikes also plays a role in the world of student loans, but in a different way. Federal student loan interest rates are set annually based on the 10-year Treasury note auction and thus are not directly affected by the Fed's short-term rate decisions. However, the broader financial context, including inflation and market expectations about future Fed actions, influences Treasury yields.

Existing borrowers with fixed-rate federal student loans will see no change in their loan costs due to the rate pause. However, the interest rate on new federal student loans, set to take effect each July, could reflect the pause if market expectations align accordingly.

On the other hand, private student loans, which can be either fixed or variable, could be influenced by the pause. Variable rates could stabilize in the short term, but they're also often higher than they were a year ago. With payments set to restart in October after a long pause, this is extremely important to borrowers.

Conclusion

While the Federal Reserve's pause on interest rate hikes has taken center stage, it's important to remember that personal, auto, and student loan rates remain near historic highs. This reality, which is a result of a series of hikes in the past, should not be overlooked by potential borrowers.

In navigating this environment, careful planning is essential. For personal and auto loans, consider whether taking on new debt in the current high-rate environment is necessary and sustainable. For student loans, understanding the differences between federal and private loans, and between fixed and variable rates, will be key to making informed decisions.

Remember, a pause is not a decrease. Rates are not falling; they've simply stopped rising for the moment. As a potential borrower, staying informed about these changes and understanding how they might affect your financial choices is paramount in this financial climate.

mattlevy
Written by Matthew Levy

Matthew is a freelance financial copywriter with 14+ years in financial services. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics with business and finance options and is a CFA Charterholder. He is from Vancouver, Canada, but writes from all over the world.