Paying off bills and expenses in one of the most expensive cities in the world is challenging enough. But when you’re faced with emergency expenses on top of that, it can be overwhelming. That said, you may need financial assistance. But before you borrow money from the first moneylender who offers, you need to be wary of loan sharks.
Commonly known as “ah longs”, loan sharks are unlicensed money lenders who lend fast and easy money at sky-high interest rates. They charge interest rates that are higher than legal rates. But what they’re really infamous for is their harassment tactics as a means of debt collection.
To avoid finding yourself in even more financial difficulties, borrow money only from banks or licensed money lenders. But is it safe to borrow from a licensed money lender Singapore? Licensed money lenders are governed by the Ministry of Law. Want to learn more? Read on.
A legal money lender runs a legitimate financial institution that is governed by the Moneylenders Act. Among the various financial assistance schemes offered include a personal loan, foreigner loan, payday loans, and cash loan.
The Moneylender’s Act supervises licensed money lenders and protects borrowers. The Act stipulates limits for unsecured personal loans, regulates advertisements by licensed money lenders, and provides a place where borrowers can easily check the legitimacy of the money lender.
That said, you can find all legal money lenders in Singapore on the Ministry of Law’s Singapore website. You can find the complete list here.
Each month, the Registry of Moneylenders will update the list of money lenders. The list will contain all important information about a money lender, including:
- License number
- Business name
- Business address
- Key contact information
Unlicensed money lenders or loan sharks are everywhere and they are using new tactics to trick unsuspecting individuals into borrowing money from them. That said, you need to be aware of what licensed money lenders are prohibited from doing.
- Use of abusive or threatening language
- Asking for your SingPass ID or Password
- Refusal to give back your NRIC card or other important personal IDs, like ATM or passport
- Asking you to sign a blank or incomplete loan contract.
- Granting you a loan without a proper explanation of the terms of the loan.
- Grants you a loan without receiving your loan application or without exercising due diligence.
- Withholds any part of the principal amount for any reason.
A money lender is typically friendly and very helpful. However, when they start to use threatening language or start exhibiting any of the red flags above, it’s time to stay as far away as you can.
Report the money lender to the registry of Moneylenders or contact the Registry at 1800-CALL-LAW. Provide the money lender’s business name, license number, and contact number.
Remember, a licensed money lender will never resort to these practices. Most importantly, they are prohibited from using abusive or threatening language. They will never harass you or your family when asking for repayments.
It’s important to borrow wisely. Borrow only what you need and don’t let your debt snowball. However, if you find yourself in debt, avoid paying it off with another debt. This will only lead to more financial stress.
So what can you do?
- First, prioritize and pay off outstanding debts with the highest interest rates.
- Change your spending habits. For instance, avoid shopping on impulse.
- Try using cash instead of a credit card to shop if you still have a huge amount of credit card debt
- If you have a hard time making repayments, talk to your bank or money lender.
There is nothing inherently wrong with taking out a personal loan. In fact, a personal loan can help you tide over difficult financial storms. However, you need to make a careful decision.
You need to borrow only what you need and are able to repay. That said, here are a few questions you need to ask yourself:
- Do you really need the personal loan?
- What is the purpose of the loan? If you’re going to use it to pay off a big purchase, will it be better to save up for big-ticket items?
- Will this loan help you reach an essential goal?
- When will your financial situation improve? Can you make repayments till then?
- Do you already have an existing financial obligation?
Once you decide to take out a loan, ask yourself if you can afford the repayments. That said, make sure you understand the terms of the loan. This includes:
- The repayment schedule
- Interest rate charged
- Loan amount
- Late interest rate
- Administrative fees and other charges
You need to be able to meet the contractual terms. Failing to pay will lead to late payment fees and interest payments which can cause additional financial strain on yourself and your family.
Licensed money lenders are prohibited from advertising and soliciting loans via SMS, phone calls, emails, or social media. In some instances, loan sharks may create fake websites portraying themselves as legitimate moneylenders in Singapore.
So before visiting a moneylender’s website, you must first verify their legitimacy on MinLaw’s website. Check if they are on the list of licensed money lenders. Additionally, verify their license number, office address, website address, and contact number before reaching out.
Don’t take out the first loan plan you come across with. Compare your options to find the best deals. Some licensed money lenders can also offer a customized loan plan to suit your needs.
You can use a loan comparison website to quickly and conveniently compare loan options from the top licensed money lenders. You can also reach out to a licensed money lender and find out what other loan products they have that will better suit your financial needs.
You can borrow any loan amount for secured loans. For unsecured loans, refer to the table below.
|Borrower’s annual income||Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents||Foreigners residing in Singapore|
|Less than $10,000||$3,000||$500|
|At least $10,000
and less than $20,000
|At least $20,000||6 times monthly income||6 times monthly income|
The maximum interest rate moneylenders in Singapore can charge is 4% per month. This cap applies regardless of your income or whether it is an unsecured or secured loan.
Additionally, the maximum late interest rate a legal money lender can charge is 4% per month for each month the loan is repaid late. Other fees and charges are as follows:
- Late repayment fees of not more than S$60 for each month the loan is repaid late.
- An administrative fee of not more than 10% of the principal loan amount when the loan is granted
- Legal costs ordered by the court for a successful claim by the moneylender for the recovery of the loan.
The total charges must not exceed the principal amount. To illustrate:
If you take out a S$20,000 loan, then the interest, late interest, monthly S$60 late fees, and administrative fee must not exceed S$20,000.
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- At last 18 years old and above
- Minimum Salary:
- For Singaporeans/Permanent Residents: S$2,000
- For Foreigners: S$3,000
- Identity Card
- Proof of residences, such as utility bill, a letter addressed to you, and or tenancy agreement
- Proof of employment, such as certificate of employment or recent 3 months’ payslip
- SingPass to log into CPF, HDB, IRAS website
- Work Permit / S Pass / E Pass
- Proof of residences such as utility bill or tenancy agreement
- Proof of employment, such as certificate of employment or recent 3 months’ payslip
- Recent 3 months’ payslip
- Proof of income (bank or account statement)
- SingPass to log into IRAS website
Once the licensed money lender has approved your loan, they have to give you the correct principal loan amount. The money lender can only deduct an upfront loan approval fee of 10% of the principal amount.
When you receive the loan proceeds, you are obligated to repay the loan based on the terms you’ve agreed upon.
Additionally, you need to make sure to keep the following documents:
- A copy of the loan contract
- Receipts of every repayment you’ve made towards the loan.
- A statement of account for all your loans. This statement of account must contain the money lender’s particulars and it must be issued at least once every January and July for all your outstanding loans. IT must also include a list of payments made as well as the remaining balance of the accounts.
- All copies of statements of accounts, loan contract, and receipts of payment for documentation.
Most importantly, make repayments on time to avoid late fees and late interest rate charges.
In case a borrower fails to repay the loan, there are a few options you can consider:
One of the best ways to handle your outstanding debt is to talk to your licensed money lender. You can try to negotiate for an extension or renegotiate the loan terms. Of course, this is subject to the agreement of the lender. Plus, they may charge additional fees.
What if you tried restructuring your loan repayments, but are still unable to pay?
If you’re unable to repay your outstanding debt amounting to at least S$15,000, you can consider filing for bankruptcy. If successful, interest charges will be stopped. Additionally, the money lender will be unable to carry out any legal proceedings until you are discharged from bankruptcy.
However, this should be your last option.
Another option is to consider seeking assistance from government agencies and social service agencies. They can help borrowers recover from serious debt problems through:
- General credit management information
- Credit counselling
- Assistance in negotiating a debt repayment plan with creditors
Approach any of these organizations for help:
- Credit Counselling Singapore: A non-profit organization that can help borrowers in arranging debt repayment schedules.
- Credit Collection Association of Singapore: Borrowers who find themselves in a dispute with their lender, may approach CCAS to resolve the matter.
- ComCare (MSF): This is a fund under the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF). They offer different types of assistance, including urgent financial assistance.
Licensed money lenders usually hire debt collectors to collect debts. They are encouraged to follow the code of ethics laid down by the Credit Collection Association of Singapore.
Debt collectors are prohibited from resorting to threats and harassment as a means to collect debts. If you find yourself in such a dire situation, immediately report them to the police.
Unlicensed money lenders or loan sharks will use abusive words, threats, and may resort to violent behaviors. It can be challenging to keep calm and don’t let their intimidations get to you. Even they threaten you and force you to become Ah Long runners.
Remember, assisting in loan shark activities is a criminal offense. It is punishable by law up to 5 years of jail, or a massive four-figure fine, and up to 6 strokes of the cane for men.
That said, if you find yourself or your family in danger, immediately contact the police or the
X-Ah Long helpline at 1800-924-5664.
Loan sharks may threaten to harm you or your family or contact your employer. However, don’t give in to such threats.
Remember, these ah longs are conducting illegal practices. You’re not obligated by law to repay the unlawful debt. That said, don’t make any additional payments and contact the authorities as soon as you can.
You may contact the Singapore Police at ‘999’ or the X-Ah Long hotline at 1800-924-5664.
Lastly, reach out to voluntary welfare organizations to help manage your debt. This list of social service agencies are provided by the Law Ministry and MOM:
|Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP)||Address: 1 Pasir Ris Drive 4 #05-11 Singapore 519457
Tel no.: 6416 3960
|Arise2Care Community Services||Address: No. 5 Harper Road #02-01A Singapore 369673
Tel no.: 6909 0628
|Blessed Grace Social Services||Address: 16 Arumugam Road, #04-02B Block D, LTC Building Singapore 409961
Tel no.: 8428 6377
|Credit Counselling Singapore*||Address: 51 Cuppage Road #07-06, Singapore 229469
Tel no.: 6225 5227 / 6338 2663
|One Hope Centre||Address: 8 New Industrial Road #04-04B LHK 3 Building Singapore 536200
Tel no.: 6547 1011
|Silver Lining Community Services||Address: (East) 11 Playfair Road Singapore, (West) Jurong Spring CC, 8 Jurong West St 52 Singapore 649296
Tel no.: 6749 0400
Taking out a loan may be the most feasible solution to your financial problem. However, you need to do your due diligence in verifying the credibility of the money lender. Make sure that they are licensed and listed on the MinLaw website.
Loan sharks could pose as credible money lenders. But dealing with them will bring nothing but trouble and more financial problems. Additionally, they may use threats and harassment to collect a debt.
That said, trust only licensed money lenders. Bugis Credit Pte Ltd is one of the most credible licensed money lenders in Singapore. With 13 years of experience, they have earned a 5-star rating on Google Reviews and was voted the best licensed money lender in Bugis by Loan Advisor. They have been offering personal loan, business loan, monthly loan, payday loan, and foreigner loan since 2007.