For those with good credit or bad credit, debt consolidation has become more difficult as home values tumble and available home equity evaporates. But what about debt consolidation with personal unsecured loans? Can you still get them if you have bad credit? Do you even want one if you can get it?

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Recently, Bank of America announced that it will stop making personal loans--probably because now people need them. And it seems likely that other banks will follow suit. So if you need a debt consolidation personal loan, better make like it's Best Buy on Black Friday and move fast. First though, you have to decide if a personal loan is right for you.

Personal Loans: The Good

1. Personal loans can be used for anything--snazzy purchases, medical expenses, college tuition, or debt consolidation. Unlike a mortgage or car loan, your bank can't make you spend the proceeds intelligently (hmmmm, maybe this shouldn't be considered an "advantage" after all). But you will spend it intelligently, right? Like to reduce your interest rate by consolidating debt? This blogger doesn't want to encourage you to be silly with your money.

2. Personal loans are fast--no appraisal required. Financing can be available in as few as 24 hours. If there's some guy waiting to break your knee caps unless you repay him, speed is a very big deal.

3. Very little paperwork is involved. You can get a personal loan with a credit report, a pay stub, and a signature in some places.

4. Collateral is not required. You aren't putting your house, car, or first-born child on the line, and if you default they are safe from your lender. If you don't own a home or car (or child) you can still get a loan.

Personal Loans: The Bad and the Ugly

1. High interest rates. Unsecured loans are considered high risk by the lenders. So they require compensation for this risk in the form of high interest rates and possibly an arm and a leg. However, your rate may still be lower than that charged by other creditors. And unlike credit card rates, a fixed personal loan interest rate won't increase.

2. You generally need good credit. These loans are often referred to as "signature loans." And your signature has to mean something other than "John Q. Deadbeat." So if you ever blew off a creditor you won't find another one willing to be your sucker.

Personal loans may be less expensive than cash advances on credit cards, overdraft fees at banks, and late charges on loans. If you have a pressing need for cash and no assets to pledge, they may be your best bet for emergency financing or consolidating more expensive debt.

But if you have assets like home equity, marketable securities, or a car, it is probably much less expensive to borrow against these assets. And consider that even if you can get a [personal loan, you may not want one--they may be useful in certain instances like medical emergencies, but don't make sense for funding vacations.

Finally, you can head off the need for a personal loan in the future by putting together an emergency fund. Financial advisors are claiming that in today's economy, you should put off paying down debt aggressively until you have at least two months' of expenses in an emergency savings account.