20 April 2020

Something sudden happens and you find yourself in urgent need of cash. You might be considering borrowing from the bank, but they might take a long time to approve your loan. So, you start looking for alternatives to get a fast loan in Singapore. When it comes to getting quick cash, 2 options come to mind: a licensed money lender and a pawnshop. But before you head towards either one of them, it’s crucial that you know the differences between them. 

What’s A Licensed Money Lender? What’s A Pawnshop?

A licensed money lender refers to a person or group, typically institutionalised, who offers small loans to people or groups with financial needs. 

Licensed money lenders in Singapore operate under the Ministry of Law (MinLaw), which restricts and regulates the amount that they can lend, the fees they can charge, and the maximum interest rate. 

The list of licensed money lenders can be found on the Ministry of Law’s website. As of March 2020, there are a total of 156 licensed money lenders here in Singapore.

Contrary to popular belief, licensed moneylenders are different from loan sharks. Learn more about licensed moneylenders here. 

On the other hand, a pawnshop in Singapore is a business or shop that offers money to individuals who bring in valuable items, in exchange for an instant cash loan. These individuals leave their valuables with the pawnbroker, who operates the business. 

Similar to licensed money lenders in Singapore, licensed pawnshops operate under the Ministry of Law, and there are 233 of them as of date. The most common ones include Maxi-Cash, Cash Mart, ValueMax, and MoneyMax.

While both licensed money lenders and pawnshops in Singapore provide fast cash, there are a few differences to keep in mind before you borrow from either of them. 

With that, let’s explore the differences between licensed money lenders and pawnshops. 

Infographic on the advantages of taking a loan from a licensed money lender over a pawnshop
One advantage of borrowing from a licensed money lender is that you won’t risk losing something valuable

3 Differences Between A Licensed Money Lender And A Pawnshop In Singapore

4 pieces of gold bangles on the table
When taking a loan from a pawnshop, you’ll need to pledge something valuable, such as gold jewellery



A pawnshop works on the premise of collateral. The general process of getting money from a pawnshop is simple. You approach the shop and pledge a valuable item. In other words, you bring your item to the shop and exchange it for money. 

The broker will then evaluate your item and lend you a sum of money that he deems as worthy of your item. Typically, the amount is 60% to 80% of the market value of the pledge. 

For example, if you pledge a watch initially priced at S$15,000, you can expect it to be priced by the broker at S$10,000, and hence you’ll receive S$10,000. 

The good thing about borrowing money from a pawnshop is that as long as you have something valuable, you can get a lump sum of cash instantly. 

Before you head down to a pawnshop though, there are several things that you should keep in mind. 

Firstly, you need to have an item that’s valuable enough to be pawned and pledged. This typically includes expensive jewellery, watches, and gold. 

Next, you must be ready to risk losing this valuable item if you’re unable to make the full repayment in 6 months. After 6 months, if you haven’t repaid your debt, your pledge will most likely be auctioned off to the market. 

Licensed Money Lender

On the other hand, when you borrow from a licensed money lender in Singapore, you have the option of applying for an unsecured loan. The good thing about it is that it’s not bonded to collateral. 

This means that the licensed money lender doesn’t have the right to seize any of your assets when you fail to pay your debt. 

However, as compared to pawnshops, licensed money lenders in Singapore require you to submit more documents. Typically, these include proof of identity, proof of address, and proof of income, alongside having to meet criteria such as age and a minimum income. 

These are crucial for them to assess your situation, and to ensure that you can repay your debt regularly.

Not sure if you’re borrowing from a licensed money lender? Learn about the differences between a licensed and an unlicensed money lender in Singapore. 



Firstly, there’s no fixed repayment required. You can pay as much as you want for every partial payment, but the loan tenure will be extended until you’ve made the full payment. This full payment also includes the interest charged to your loan.

For each payment made, the auctioning of your pledge will be delayed by 6 months. For example, you can choose to pay S$400 on your first month, S$600 on your second month, S$500 on your third month, and so on. This keeps the account active. 

Next, you can also choose to repay this loan in full to get your pledged item back. Because loans from a pawnshop are collateral-based loans, you can also choose to keep the borrowed money by not paying back the loan at all, hence forfeiting the pawned item.

A typical interest rate charged by a licensed pawnshop in Singapore is 1% for the first month, and 1.5% in subsequent months. This is still lower than the average credit card though, which usually charges at 2% each month.

Licensed Money Lender

If you were to borrow from a licensed money lender, you’ll need to pay back a fixed amount every week or month, depending on your repayment frequency. For instance, a majority of personal loans come with fixed interest rates. 

The good thing about having a fixed repayment schedule is that it helps you to set aside a certain amount of money to pay the loan. This allows you to manage your spendings and restructure your finances better in the long term.

The interest rate charged by licensed money lenders varies. While it’s usually subjected to the licensed money lender’s assessment of your creditworthiness, it cannot exceed more than 4% per month. 

Learn more about what else to consider when borrowing from a licensed moneylender, besides repayment and interest rates. 

Loan Amount Limit


The loan amount that you receive will depend on the value of your item (i.e. your pledge). 

Your pledge will be evaluated by an expert valuer, who will offer you a loan that ranges from 60% to 80% market value of your pledged item. This means that the instant loan you’ll receive is lower than the actual value of the item.

Licensed Money Lender

Here’s the baseline: the limit of your loan depends on your monthly income when borrowing from a licensed money lender. 

This means that if you’re a Singapore Citizen or Permanent Resident with an annual income of less than S$20,000, you can borrow up to S$3,000. And if you earn at least S$20,000 annually, you can borrow up to 6 times of your monthly income. 

Here’s a breakdown of the loan limits based on citizenship and income level. 

Annual income Singapore Citizen/Permanent Resident Foreigner living in Singapore
Less than S$10,000 S$3,000 S$500
At least S$10,000 to less than S$20,000 S$3,000 S$3,000
At least S$20,000 6 times of monthly income 6 times of monthly income

Besides a stable income, a licensed money lender in Singapore will also be reviewing your creditworthiness based on your outstanding loans and other factors. So it is important to maintain a healthy credit score.

Read more about how you can still get a personal loan if you have a bad credit score here. 

Essentially, both licensed money lenders and pawnshops have their advantages and disadvantages when it comes to extending a loan. It’s important for you to note both sides of the coin (pun intended) when you consider borrowing from these 2 platforms.

Pawnshop Licensed money lender
– Need to have an item that’s valuable enough to be pawned (e.g. expensive jewellery, watches, and gold)
– Risk losing this valuable item if you fail to make the full repayment in 6 months 
No collateral
– You have the option of taking an unsecured loan, which means that collateral isn’t needed 
No fixed repayment
– Pay as much as you want for every partial payment
– Loan tenure will be extended until you make the full payment
Fixed repayment (as stated in your contract)
– Pay a fixed amount depending on repayment schedule
– Helps to manage your finances better
Loan amount limit depends on your pledged item
– Loan amount is limited to the value of your pledge
– You’ll get around 60% to 80% the market value of your pledge 
Loan amount limit depends on your income and other variable factors
– Maximum loan amount is limited to annual income

– Besides income level, your credit score will also be reviewed to determine the loan amount 

On the one hand, borrowing money from a licensed money lender in Singapore may be a longer process as compared to a pawnshop. But the fixed repayment schedule ensures that you make your repayments regularly and not default on your payments. 

On the other hand, while a pawnshop can offer you a quick loan with fewer documents and screening for verification, the loan you receive is limited to the value of your pledge. 

After weighing these factors, be sure to go for the one that best suits your needs, whether it’s a licensed money lender or a pawnshop. 

Prefer to take a loan from a licensed money lender? Apply now with Crawfort. 

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