Which borrowers would be hurt most by a Fed rate hike: LendingTree CEO

A 'For Sale' sign sits in the front yard of a townhouse in Northeast Washington, DC.

If the Federal Reserve were to increase interest rates at its meeting this week, consumers looking for car and personal loans would be more affected than those seeking mortgages, LendingTree founder Doug Lebda said Tuesday.

Adjustable-rate student loans and credit card rates would also see increases, he said, but added overall that liftoff by the central bank would not make borrowing that much more expensive.

“A quarter-point move in interest rates will have a very negligible impact for consumers. It means about $30 a month on the average mortgage payment,” Lebda told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” in an interview. “I think a move up in rates will signal, if they do it, jobs are getting better and the economy is getting stronger.”

The Fed begins its two-day meeting Wednesday, with a decision on whether or not to increase rates for the first time in nine years Thursday afternoon.

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Meanwhile, the recent turmoil in financial markets, and the subsequent rate fluctuations in the bond market, can actually help consumers save money, Lebda said. “Volatility is actually good for the consumer because it gives you the opportunity to refinance on dips, just like you get to buy stocks when they dip.”

As chairman and CEO of LendingTree, which aims to help consumers comparison shop online for loans, Lebda said “about 60 percent of borrowers take the first [loan] offer they get. You could save a quarter point [or] you could save a half a point by shopping around and getting multiple quotes from different lenders.”

“The most important thing to the consumer is access to credit [which] is improving every day,” he said.

“The pendulum swung very far into absurdity on access to credit,” after the 2008 financial crisis, Lebda added, but said lending standards are getting back to a more normal level. “Lenders are making appropriate risks.”

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