Good Debt vs Bad Debt

What's the difference between Good debt and Bad Debt?Debt can be classified as either good or bad. Good debt is typically an investment in something that will appreciate in value over time or generate a return, such as a mortgage for a home or student loans for education. These types of debts can lead to long-term financial stability and growth.

In contrast, bad debt is typically used to purchase things that lose value over time, such as high-interest credit card debt used for consumer goods. This type of debt can create financial stress and hinder long-term financial goals.

It’s important to understand the difference between good and bad debt and use debt wisely to achieve financial success.

What’s the difference between Good debt and Bad Debt?

The difference between good debt and bad debt lies in the purpose of the debt and the potential long-term benefits or drawbacks of the debt. Good debt is generally considered debt that is used to purchase assets that appreciate in value or generate income, such as a mortgage for a home or a loan to start a business.

This type of debt can help increase your net worth or income in the long run. Bad debt, on the other hand, is generally considered debt that is used to purchase assets that depreciate in value or do not generate income, such as credit card debt for consumer goods or a personal loan for a vacation. This type of debt can lead to high interest payments and financial stress in the long run.

What is good debt?

Good debt is a type of borrowing that is considered an investment in your financial future. It typically involves taking on debt to purchase assets that can increase in value over time or generate income, such as a mortgage for a home or a student loan for education. Good debt can help you achieve your long-term financial goals by building equity or increasing your earning potential.

Additionally, the interest rates on good debt are typically lower than other types of debt, making it more manageable to pay back over time. While good debt carries some risk, it is generally viewed as a positive tool for building wealth and achieving financial stability.

Student loans

Student loans are available to cover tuition fees and living expenses for eligible students who are pursuing higher education. Here are some key points to know about student loans in the UK:

  • The amount of money students can borrow depends on their course, their living arrangements, and where they study.
  • Interest rates on student loans are linked to inflation and vary based on the amount borrowed and income level.
  • Repayments are automatically deducted from the borrower’s paycheck once they reach a certain income threshold, and any outstanding balance is written off after a set number of years.
  • Students in Scotland and Wales may have different loan arrangements than those in England and Northern Ireland.


A mortgage is a type of loan that is specifically used to purchase a property. Here are some key points to keep in mind about mortgages:

  • Mortgages are usually long-term loans, with terms typically ranging from 15 to 30 years.
  • The amount you can borrow for a mortgage is determined by factors such as your income, credit score, and the value of the property you are purchasing.
  • There are two main types of mortgages: fixed-rate mortgages and adjustable-rate mortgages. With a fixed-rate mortgage, your interest rate stays the same for the entire term of the loan. With an adjustable-rate mortgage, your interest rate can fluctuate over time.
  • Mortgages usually require a down payment, which is a percentage of the total purchase price of the property. The down payment can range from 3% to 20% or more, depending on the lender and the type of mortgage.
  • If you are unable to make your mortgage payments, your lender may foreclose on your property and sell it to recoup their losses. It’s important to make sure you can afford your mortgage payments before taking on this type of debt.

Car loans

Car loans are a type of installment loan used to purchase a new or used vehicle. Some important points to keep in mind about car loans are:

  • Car loans typically come with fixed interest rates and a fixed repayment term, usually between 36 and 72 months.
  • The interest rate you receive on a car loan is based on factors such as your credit score, income, and the amount you’re borrowing.
  • You can either get a car loan through a bank, credit union, or dealership financing. Dealership financing may offer special deals or incentives, but it’s important to compare rates and terms before making a decision.
  • A down payment of at least 10% of the purchase price can help reduce the total cost of the loan and may result in a lower interest rate.
  • If you’re struggling to make payments on a car loan, refinancing or trading in the vehicle for a more affordable option are potential solutions. However, these options may come with their own costs and drawbacks.

What is bad debt?

Bad debt is any debt that does not contribute to your overall financial well-being and has no potential to increase in value. It is typically high-interest debt that is used to finance non-essential purchases or expenses that have no return on investment. Bad debt can quickly spiral out of control, leading to financial stress and bankruptcy or insolvency.

Some examples of bad debt include credit card debt, payday loans, and personal loans used for non-essential purchases. It is important to prioritise paying off bad debt before considering taking on any additional debt.

High-interest credit cards

High-interest credit cards can be a risky and expensive option for borrowing money. Here are a few key points to keep in mind:

  • High-interest credit cards typically come with interest rates that are much higher than other types of loans or credit products. This can make them an expensive way to borrow money, especially if you carry a balance from month to month.
  • Credit card companies often advertise low introductory interest rates to entice new customers, but these rates can jump up significantly once the promotional period ends. It’s important to read the fine print and understand exactly what your interest rate will be after any introductory offers expire.
  • If you carry a balance on a high-interest credit card, it can be difficult to pay off the debt quickly. Interest charges can accumulate quickly, making it hard to make meaningful progress on paying down the balance.
  • High-interest credit cards can also impact your credit score. If you carry high balances or miss payments, it can lower your credit score and make it more difficult to qualify for other types of loans or credit products in the future.

Personal loans for discretionary purchases

Personal loans can be a helpful tool for financing discretionary purchases, such as a vacation or home renovation project. Here are a few key points to consider when using a personal loan for these types of expenses:

  • Personal loans typically have lower interest rates than credit cards, making them a more affordable way to finance larger purchases.
  • When applying for a personal loan, lenders will consider your credit score, income, and other financial factors to determine your eligibility and interest rate. It’s important to shop around and compare offers from multiple lenders to find the best rate and terms for your needs.
  • Unlike credit cards, personal loans have a fixed repayment period and monthly payment amount, which can help you budget and plan for your expenses. However, it’s important to make sure you can afford the monthly payments before taking on a personal loan.
  • Taking out a personal loan can also impact your credit score. If you make timely payments and pay off the loan in full, it can help improve your credit score. However, if you miss payments or default on the loan, it can have a negative impact on your creditworthiness.

Payday loans 

Payday loans are a type of short-term loan that is typically used to cover unexpected expenses or bridge the gap between paychecks. However, they often come with high interest rates and fees that can make them a risky option for borrowing money. Here are a few key points to keep in mind:

  • Payday loans are usually for small amounts, typically ranging from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars, and must be repaid within a few weeks. They are often marketed as a quick and easy way to get cash, but the high fees and interest rates can make them very expensive.
  • The interest rates on payday loans can be extremely high, often reaching 400% or more. This means that if you borrow $500, you could end up owing over $1,500 after just a few months. It’s important to understand the total cost of the loan before agreeing to the terms.
  • If you can’t repay a payday loan on time, the lender may charge additional fees and interest, or even take legal action against you. This can lead to a cycle of debt and financial hardship.

Payday loans are often targeted at people with poor credit or low income, who may not have other options for borrowing money. However, there are other, less expensive alternatives to payday loans, such as personal loans from credit unions or online lenders, or negotiating a payment plan with your creditors. It’s important to explore all of your options before taking on a payday loan.

Frequently asked questions

What is an example of good debt?

An example of good debt is a mortgage, as it is an investment in an asset that is likely to appreciate in value over time.

What are some examples of bad debt?

Examples of bad debt include high-interest credit card debt, car loans, and other loans used to finance depreciating assets that do not generate income.


When it comes to managing your finances, it’s important to understand the difference between bad debt and good debt. Bad debt is money borrowed to finance items that lose value over time or do not generate income, such as credit card debt or car loans. High interest rates and fees make bad debt difficult to pay off, and it can have a negative impact on your credit score.

On the other hand, good debt is money borrowed to purchase assets that increase in value or generate income, such as a mortgage or student loan. Good debt can help build your credit history and improve your financial standing, but it’s important to manage it responsibly and make payments on time to avoid accruing unnecessary interest and fees. Ultimately, it’s essential to have a clear understanding of your financial goals and priorities to determine what type of debt is right for you.

Steve Jones Profile
Insolvency & Restructuring Expert at Business Insolvency Helpline

With over three decades of experience in the business and turnaround sector, Steve Jones is one of the founders of Business Insolvency Helpline. With specialist knowledge of Insolvency, Liquidations, Administration, Pre-packs, CVA, MVL, Restructuring Advice and Company investment.