We investigate whether countries have access to loans with better conditions after an International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreement. We conduct an empirical analysis which takes into account both the maturity and the interest rate of public and publicly guaranteed private debt. A two-stage least squares estimation method is used to avoid selection bias problems. Panel data covering 116 countries between 1984 and 2007 and two other subsets of this panel data are used. The results indicate an improvement in access to international financial markets when an IMF programme is announced. The improvement increases as the sample consists of better-performing countries. We conclude that, the catalytic effect may lower the level of commitment, political will and ‘ownership’ of the programme of the borrower country. On the other hand, borrower countries should consider the catalytic effect in determining the amount of financial assistance from the IMF.