Bamboo Loans are a direct lender and have been a personal loans provider since 2014. They are based in Southampton (they also have offices in London and Caerphilly) with approximately 80 staff. They were voted Best Personal Loan Provider in 2017, 2018 and 2019 at the Consumer Credit Awards and were the Treating Customers Fairly Champion in 2021. In 2020 they were voted Best Guarantor Loan Provider, but Bamboo no longer offer this type of loan. Bamboo Loans is authorised and regulated by the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) and is a member of the FLA (Finance & Leasing Association).
Bamboo Loans’ website is a relatively attractive one as it has soothing tones of blue and green as its main theme; I don’t like, however, its reference to asking “Boo the Panda” with a click on link if there are questions about loans etc. Maybe it’s just me but I find that patronising and rather irritating as there is no “Boo the Panda” - we all know that pandas can’t talk and even if they could, they probably know very little about personal loans.
Personal Loans (also referred to as Unsecured Loans or Instalment Loans) are the process whereby a lender (like Bamboo Loans) lends you, the borrower, a sum of money, which you pay back, usually monthly (in fixed payments) over a specified time period (known as the term of the loan). The fee the lender charges you to borrow the money is charged as interest; therefore, when you repay the loan, you are paying back the principal amount, plus the interest. A personal/unsecured/instalment loan is not secured against assets such as your house or car, and can be obtained from banks, credit unions or online lenders (such as Bamboo Loans).
One advantage of taking out a personal loan is that you have financial flexibility; you can use the lump sum of cash for pretty much anything, from buying a new car, home improvements, debt consolidation or even paying for a wedding. Debt consolidation is increasing in popularity as the reason for taking out a personal loan; after all, it does make sense to lower your monthly payments and overall interest by merging several debts into one personal loan.
Another obvious advantage of an unsecured loan is that you do not have to use your home or car as collateral; think of collateral as something you pledge for security for repayment of a loan, which you forfeit if you default on the loan – an example of this type of loan would be a mortgage – the house you are borrowing money to buy is the collateral. However, with no collateral for the lender to claim in the event that you default on the loan, an unsecured loan is inherently riskier for lenders, and this is reflected in the amount of interest they charge, which is typically significantly higher than a secured loan, with probably good reason. Saying that, if you default on payments, you won’t lose your house or car! A lot of us also prefer predictable monthly payments, as this can help enormously when budgeting, so a personal loan is preferable to say a credit card, where the amount you pay off is variable, and with an unlimited repayment period.
Naturally, like pretty much everything in life, where there are advantages to be found, there are always disadvantages! With a personal unsecured loan, not only do you have to factor in high interest rates (higher than those applied to a secure loan or to those with a good credit history for example), but you also must be aware of any fees that are charged for the privilege of borrowing money in this way. For example, some lenders charge application fees, loan origination fees (a payment covering everything from processing an application to verifying the applicant’s income to covering marketing costs for the lender’s loans operations), late payment fees etc. It is essential when applying for or signing a loan agreement, that you are 100% clear as to what fees you will be paying, as well as the interest, as this is the information you need to know to be able to make an informed decision as to whether the overall repayment is worth it. Another disadvantage, or certainly something to bear in mind, is that you are taking on more debt. So if, for example, you take out a personal loan to consolidate your debts, you are still going to have to pay that loan back, with interest; equally, if you take out a loan to pay off credit card debts, you will still have that personal loan to pay back – if you then have to start using the credit card as you have no funds due to paying back the personal loan, it is very easy to fall into a vicious circle of debt.
So, Bamboo Loans have moved from offering Guarantor Loans – given the high number of complaints consumers have made about Guarantor Loans, ranging from the Guarantor being unaware that they would be responsible for repayments if the borrower defaulted, to neither the borrower nor the Guarantor being able to afford the loan, it is no doubt a wise move, as the refunds and compensation awarded to consumers has been vast, causing many lenders to go into administration, or, if they can survive, changing their lending criteria.
So as mentioned above, unsecured personal loans can have high interest rates, and if you have a poor or non-existent credit score, they can be even higher. Bamboo Loans offer loans of between £1,000 and £8,000 with repayment terms of between 12 and 60 months. They state on their website that typically, personal loans “are for people who have a fair to good credit score” but they also state that they offer personal loans to those with a “low credit score or no credit history” and that the interest rate offered will “reflect your credit profile”. The loan calculator on the site does not of course take your credit profile into account if you are looking to see what your interest rate would be. If we look at their Representative Example to see what their interest rates are like, we can see that on a loan of £3,000 over 30 months, with a fixed rate of interest of 47.73% (Rep APR 59.7%), the total amount repayable would be £5,190.50 - £2,190.50 of that is interest. And as they declare that their maximum APR is 69.9%, it would seem logical that those with a low or non-existent credit score will be paying this.
Despite having Boo the Panda (and a frankly terrifying looking panda which appears on several of the website pages) to answer all our questions, and to reassure us that Bamboo Loans are friendly and benign, Bamboo Loans, like many similar lenders, has had to deal with an increasing amount of complaints, with the leading grievance being that the borrower was mis-sold the loan, and that they could not afford it, and that the lender should have seen from their checks (Bamboo Loans, along with many other lenders use Open Banking so they had every opportunity to make an informed decision to lend) that they would not be able to make the monthly repayments without getting into a financial mess.
The FOS (Financial Ombudsman Service), where many consumers/Claims Management companies take their case if the lender does not uphold an initial complaint, take mis-selling and unaffordable lending very seriously indeed, and the majority of the time, they will uphold an unaffordability complaint.
They look at what was provided to the lender in terms of financial data, including bank statements, credit history etc., and then scrutinise the terms of the deal; so often they find that the lender has irresponsibly provided the borrower with more credit than they could ever afford to repay, without them having difficulty in doing so, and this is the key point. It’s all very well for a lender to say that Mr X could afford to pay back £150 a week as he has an income of £2,000 a month, when it would have been evident from looking at Mr X’s credit history that he also had several other personal/payday loans, and also regularly gambled. Warning signs such as this should be highly significant when a lender decides whether or not to lend, and too often, it appears, lenders ignore these alarm bells and lend anyway, knowing that if a borrower defaults, they can charge them late payment/default charges, and ultimately send the bailiffs round for the money.
If you are reading this article because you are struggling to make the payments on a Bamboo Loans loan, and you believe that you should not have been given the loan as your financial situation should have indicated to the lender that you could not afford it, (they did not make reasonable and proportionate checks) then you can complain to the lender. Or if your financial circumstances changed during the course of the loan (for example you lost your job/had your working hours reduced/became too ill to work etc.) and the lender did not treat you reasonable or fairly when you approached them to try and work out a payment plan or similar, then you can complain to the lender. As you might imagine, a lot of the time the lender will not uphold the complaint, in which case, you can go through a Claims Management company who will fight your corner for you and use all their expertise to get you a refund and or/compensation, or you can take it direct to the FOS.