Signing a deal with a money lender in Singapore can take less than 30 minutes if you have the required documents.
However, before you take out a loan, it is essential to know how to check a licensed money lender and verify if it is licensed or not.
This is because “Ah Longs”, or loan sharks, have flooded the finance industry, and they are overcharging borrowers.
Therefore, the importance of confirming whether a lender has a moneylending license cannot be overlooked.
So how do you check if you are dealing with a legal money lender in Singapore?
Where Can I Find A List Of Licensed Money Lenders?
Any legal money lender in Singapore must be registered with the Ministry of Law.
The Registry of Moneylenders posts the lender’s name on the list of licensed money lenders in Singapore on the official website of Singapore’s Ministry of Law.
On the list, you can also find the lenders’ business addresses and licence numbers.
The list is updated monthly to ensure borrowers get the correct information and only work with legal lenders.
Here is how you can see the list:
- Go to Singapore’s Ministry of Law’s official website.
- Click on the “List of Licensed Moneylenders in Singapore” link.
- Download the list in PDF form or open it in a new browser window
- Once you have the list, you can scroll through to verify the prospective money lender you want to work with and confirm if it is licensed.
The Registry of Moneylenders also lists exempt money lenders in Singapore. This is to help you know which money lenders are currently suspended from providing loans.
What Licensed Money Lenders Can And Cannot Do
Understanding what licensed money lenders are allowed to do and what they cannot helps you check your licensed money lender’s status.
The law permits licensed money lenders to do several things when giving out loans. On the other hand, there are certain limits they should observe when transacting business.
What They Can Do
- In case of late payments, the money lender can send you a Letter of Demand (LOD) to your home or office. The document contains your outstanding loan balance, additional fees, and other relevant information. It will also show the due date before a further step is taken.
- Licensed money lenders can also send debt collectors if you do not pay the loan after the due date stated on the LOD. The debt collectors are only required to request payment.
- A licensed money lender can take you to court and sue you if you default on your loan repayments. If you took out a secured loan, the lender can take the collateral in place of the loan you owe them.
What They Cannot Do
- A legal moneylending company in Singapore must not harass, threaten or intimidate a borrower despite the circumstances. It shouldn’t insult you or your loved one.
- Licensed lenders are also not allowed to stalk you. This means legal money lenders shouldn’t keep following you or your family, monitoring your moves, or constantly trying to be in the same space as you.
- They cannot vandalise your property even when you cannot pay the debt. Therefore, a licensed money lender or debt collector should not splash paint outside your home or write profanities. Hanging banners or other embarrassing notices is also not allowed.
- The law doesn’t allow legal lenders to damage or take away your property. Therefore, no money lender can show up and take your assets unless it first takes you to court.
- They are also not supposed to cause you bodily harm. The offence is severely punished in Singapore, and one can end up in prison for up to two years.
How Much Can You Borrow From A Licensed Money Lender?
If a financial company has a moneylending license, you can borrow any amount of secured loan from them.
However, the amount of unsecured loan you can take out depends on your annual income in Singapore. Besides, it depends on whether you are a Singapore citizen or a foreigner.
If you are a Singapore citizen and a permanent resident earning less than $20,000 per year, you can secure a maximum of $3,000 for an unsecured loan.
You can get a loan amounting to six times your monthly income if you earn at least $20,000 annually and above.
On the other hand, foreigners residing in Singapore qualify for a $500 unsecured loan if they earn less than $10,000 per year.
However, if they earn at least $10,000 and less than $20,000 per year, they can get loans worth $3,000. Lastly, if they earn at least $20,000 per year, they qualify for loans six times their monthly income.
What Are The Interest Rates And Fees A Licensed Money Lender Can Charge?
Another key thing that defines how to check a licensed money lender is its charges.
The law provides the maximum interest rates and loan fees licensed lenders can charge in Singapore.
As of 1 Oct 2015, licensed money lenders should charge a maximum interest rate of 4% per month. This applies to any loan, whether secured or unsecured.
Also, the interest should be charged depending on the amount of principal remaining after deducting from the original principal amount – that is, after every repayment.
For example, if Jane took a $20,000 loan and repaid $10,000, only the remaining $10,000 can be considered when calculating the interest.
When a borrower fails to repay the loan on time, a legal money lender in Singapore can only charge them a maximum of 4% late interest rate per month.
This applies to the amount being repaid late only and cannot be charged on any outstanding balances due to be repaid.
A company holding a money lender license is only permitted to charge a fee not exceeding $60 per month for any late repayment.
It also should charge an administrative fee of not more than 10% of the principal amount once the loan is granted. Finally, it can only charge the legal costs ordered by the court for a successful claim to recover the loan.
In summary, the total charges on the loan – that is, interest, late interest, late fee, and administrative cost – should not exceed the loan’s principal amount.
How To Tell If A Money Lender Is Licensed
According to the Ministry of Law in Singapore, there have been increased cases of loan sharks in the industry.
As a result, borrowers should be keen when dealing with any money lender. They need to know how to check and verify a licensed money lender to avoid falling into the traps of scammers.
So how do you know that a financial company holds a money lender license?
- First, any legal money lender should be on the list of licensed money lenders in Singapore.
- A licensed money lender in Singapore should meet the borrower in person at an approved business place. This is to help both of them do a face-to-face verification before approving a loan.
- According to the law that took effect on 1 Nov 2011, legal money lenders are allowed to advertise their businesses only through three channels. These include business or consumer directories in print or online media, websites belonging to the money lender, and advertisements placed within or on the exterior of the lender’s business premises.
You may be dealing with illegal lenders if they:
- Reach out to you via mobile text messages, phone calls, or any other social media and approves your loan without a physical meeting. Some unlicensed lenders may even ask you to send money to process the loan before they disburse it
- Use abusive or threatening language toward you
- Ask for your Singpass user ID or password
- Withhold your NRIC and other personal documents such as your work permit, driver’s license, employment pass, and passport
- Do not explain all the terms and conditions. The money lender should explain every loan detail in a language you understand
- Ask you to sign a blank or incomplete Note of Contract for the loan
- Do not give you a copy of the Note of Contract for the loan
- Retain any amount of the principal agreed for whatever reason they may give
Any institution claiming to provide legal moneylending services in Singapore should not engage in such practices.
If you encounter an illegal lender, report it to the Registry of Moneylenders and provide its name, business address, contact, and license.
You can also report unlicensed moneylending activities to the Police hotline at 1800-255-0000 or contact the National Crime Prevention Council’s X-Ah Long hotline at 1800-924-5664.
What To Do After Your Loan Is Granted
Once you qualify for a loan and it is granted, do the following:
Ensure You Receive The Correct Principal Amount
Checking if you received the correct principal amount as you agreed with your legal money lender is essential.
Remember that they can only deduct an upfront fee of not more than 10% of the principal amount.
Repay Your Loan On Time
Ensure that you make your monthly loan repayments on time. It will help you to avoid late interest and late payment fee penalties.
It also helps to build your credit ratings. If you have difficulties paying your loan, talk to your money lender and request for an extension.
Get The Relevant Documents And Keep Them
Any time you make a loan repayment, ensure that your money lender gives you a receipt. Also, ensure that it has the correct details: your name, the amount, and date.
A licensed money lender in Singapore should also provide a statement of account for all your loans once every January and July. Once you receive it, check whether your name, the amount, and date are correct.
Retain and keep all the statements of accounts and receipts safely. You can use them as documentation and evidence of your loan repayments.
Lodging A Complaint Against A Licensed Money Lender
If you have a complaint against a money lender in Singapore due to unfair practices or contracts, you can report it to the Registry of Moneylenders via 1800-2255-529.
The Registry will not disclose your details to the money lender without your consent. Also, for a more fruitful investigation, you may need to attend an interview with the officers.
During this time, you will need to provide evidence such as relevant documents and information related to your loan transactions. Afterward, the Registry will review the matter seriously and do their investigation thoroughly.
If the money lender is found guilty, it will face the law. For example, if a money lender doesn’t explain how the interest and fees are calculated, it can be charged. It will be guilty of an offence; and fined no more than $20,000, jailed no more than six months, or both.
You can also report unfair practices of licensed money lenders through the Small Claims Tribunal or the Court under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act. It has the power to revoke any loan transaction which is unreasonable or substantially unfair in Singapore.
Before taking out a loan from a money lender in Singapore, you have a responsibility to check if it is licensed. Hence, you should know how to check a licensed money lender’s status.
One of the ways to verify a lender is to check if it appears on the list of licensed money lenders in Singapore.
On the other hand, practices such as advertising via text messages, phone calls, or social media are definite red flags.
For more details about legal moneylending in Singapore, don’t hesitate to get in touch with U Credit.
Our financial advisors will help you acquire a loan through the standard interest rates and fees provided by the Ministry of Law.