The Difference Between Secured and Unsecured Debt

Debt Ceiling

Secured and unsecured debts are similar but differ in whether collateral is needed. Secured debts use an asset as a guarantee or form of payment should the borrower not meet the loan requirements, while you require no additional security for unsecured debt. Below is an in-depth guide to help you understand the key difference between secured and unsecured debt.


Secured debt is backed or secured by collateral, such as a car loan requiring you to use your vehicle as collateral to obtain the loan. Collateral, however, does not back unsecured debt, – a credit card is an example of this type.

For example, when taking out a mortgage or car loan, the collateral is usually the house or vehicle itself; if you make payments in full, the lender can repossess this asset as compensation. On the other hand, with unsecured debt, such as credit card debt and some types of personal loans, no collateral is associated.

Interest Rates

Secured debt will generally have lower interest rates, as the lender can use the security of the asset to reduce their risk. Typically, mortgage loans offer some of the lowest interest rates for secured debt, as lenders view houses or other real estate as stable and reliable collateral.

Unsecured debt, in comparison, presents a higher risk to lenders since there is no needed security in case of default. Achieve Loans can help homeowners with both secured and unsecured debt by providing personalized counseling and plans for repayment hence alleviating the burden of high-interest debt.

Additionally, unsecured debts such as credit cards have substantially higher interest rates to protect themselves from potential loss. Defaults on unsecured debt have much more significant consequences for lenders than defaults on secured debts because they cannot repossess any asset used as collateral.

Loan Amounts and Payment Terms

Secured loans often come with more significant loan amounts than unsecured loans since lenders are willing to take on more risk in exchange for collateral. Unsecured loans usually come with lower loan amounts as they carry higher risks of defaulting on the borrower’s part.

As a result, borrowers with secured debt may have longer repayment terms and more flexibility when making payments, as lenders are less concerned about the potential for defaulting on the loan amount.

On the other hand, unsecured debt is usually subject to higher interest rates, shorter payment terms, and stricter adherence to those terms by borrowers.

Credit Risk and Scores

With secured debt, lenders have the assurance of a pledge or physical collateral in the event of default. This protection reduces their risk compared to unsecured debt, which does not include such protections.

Unsecured creditors rely only on the borrower’s promise to pay and are at much higher risk should the loan go unpaid.

In addition, obtaining an unsecured loan typically requires a higher credit score than getting a secured loan, as lenders are looking for borrowers with a proven track record of paying back their debts. Higher credit scores can also help borrowers receive lower interest rates on unsecured loans.

Consolidating debt with home equity is a great way to manage unsecured debt and make repayment more manageable by combining it into one monthly payment. When leveraging the equity in your home for debt consolidation, you can often achieve lower rates due to the lower risk associated with tangible property assets versus unsecured ones, thus stretching out repayment periods and minimizing finance charges.


Knowing the difference between secured and unsecured debt is essential to help you decide what type of financing suits your needs best.