When you need a personal loan, simply clicking on the first Google ad promising low rates and quick approval won’t cut it. You need to be sure the lender and loan terms are right for your situation before you apply.
But there are so many options, and new companies seem to pop up every day. To help you out, we put together this quick guide about finding the right personal loan for you.
Types of Lenders
Banks are the most traditional place to get a loan. Borrowers with good credit will get the best rates, and people with poor credit should expect higher interest rates.
Owned by their members, credit unions are nonprofits and tend to look at your overall situation when you apply for a loan, not just your credit score. A loan from a credit union could have lower interest rates than what a bank. To read more about the difference between banks and credit unions, take a look at this article from Money Crashers.
Using an online platform known as peer-to-peer, or P2P lending you can get a loan directly from an individual investor as opposed to a credit union or bank. You can learn more about P2P lending here.
Banks tend to rely heavily on credit scores, so if you have bad credit a credit union or P2P site might be the better choice. There are also P2P sites that cater to people with high credit scores and offer better terms than banks. No matter what your credit score is, shop around to find the best lender for your situation.
Now that you know the types of lending institutions you’ll probably be dealing with, here are a few of the more popular lenders that can provide a loan:
Earnest is a lender that looks at the whole picture. Eligibility factors include employment, earning potential, revenue/expense ratio, and bank balance increases over time.
The lender also checks that applicants manage their money well day-to-day, and avoid late fees and insufficient fund charges.
Loan terms are short (12-36 months) and personal loans are available from $2,000-$50,000. There is no origination fee.
- Looks at more than your credit score to determine you eligibility.
- No origination fee.
- Only available in certain states.
- Only offers short-term loans.
Have less-than-perfect credit? Avant may be your lender. They look at more than FICO score but you must have a minimum score of 580 to qualify.
Loans are available from $1,000-$35,000 at a starting APR of 9.95%.
The loans also come with an origination fee of .95-4.75%, which is a competitive rate.
The application process is completely done online, and there is also a customer service line open seven days a week for assistance.
Avant prides itself on speed and in some cases with all your credit checks and paperwork in order, you can have money the next day.
A drawback of Avant is that it's APR can get very high — up to 35% — in which case you would almost be better off using a credit card.
Late fees for payments more than 10 days overdue are not cheap either, at $25.
It does have a forgiveness program though that refunds a late fee after three consecutive on-time payments.
- Low-interest rate for people with good credit i.e. >600.
- No pre-payment penalty.
- The application process only does a "soft pull."
- High APR and fees can add up if payments are not made on time.
- Not available in all states.
Wells Fargo is a top personal loan lender. Borrowers looking for $3,000-$100,000 can apply here.
Wells Fargo does allow joint applications for personal loans, which is unusual for an online lender and helpful for those with a low credit score.
For that reason, many students who don't qualify for federal loans use Wells Fargo unsecured personal loans to finance college.
It prioritizes relationships it has with customers, and those with a Wells Fargo certificate of deposit or savings account can use those assets to receive a lower interest rate on a personal loan.
This lender is good for those who live near a branch because one caveat is that anyone without a Wells Fargo bank account needs to visit a branch to apply for a personal loan.
- If you bank with Wells Fargo, their rates and service are worth a careful look.
- Lengthy application process that favors in-person application.
- The online applications are for Wells Fargo customers only..
SoFi is a P2P lender known for low rates, not charging hidden fees, and strict eligibility requirements.
You have to have good credit, usually 700 or higher, to get a SoFi personal loan. Applicants must be employed or have a letter of employment beginning in 90 days or fewer.
- Super affordable low-interest rates.
- 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week customer support.
- The application process only does a "soft pull."
- Some people find these loans hard to acquire and complain that it doesn't accept anyone without excellent credit.
Another P2P site, Lending Club is not a good option for people with poor or thin credit.
Online personal loans start at $1,000 and top out at $40,000.
In order to borrow from Lending Club, applicants must have a minimum credit score of 600 and a three-year credit history at the minimum.
Unsecured personal loans also typically go to those earning $76,000 or more annually.
It also does not favor applicants with too much debt-to-income, and its average borrower has a super low 18% DTI ratio, excluding mortgage.
- Good low-interest rates.
- Speedy online application process.
- Strict criteria for loan approval.
- Minimum credit score is >600.
LightStream is a good choice for those with excellent credit scores. It is a peer-to-peer lending network and has that incredibly fast approval so many customers want.
In some cases, your money can be in the bank the same day. There is even a $100 guarantee you will have a good loan experience after being approved.
But, it's not easy to get one of these personal loans.
The lender looks for credit reports with at least five years' history, several accounts with variation, and a FICO score over 720.
You must have an excellent payment history without late payments and some amount of savings.
LightStream is at least upfront about it, with "Good Credit Only" as part of its company tagline.
- No prepayment penalties.
- Fast online application process.
- Does a hard check on your credit score.
- Minimum credit score is >700.
BestEgg provides loans of up to $35,000 with a starting interest rate of 5.99%.
There is an origination fee for the loan, from .99- 5.99% but no other fees.
The minimum credit score to qualify is 640 but the average borrower from Best Egg has a 715 score. Also, its customers' average income level skews much higher than $53,675, which is the national median.
BestEgg is somewhat limited on terms, offering just 24-36 month repayment plans.
Also, it's minimum loan amount is $6,000.
- No prepayment penalties.
- Affordable loans.
- Everything is online.
- Minimum loan amount is $6,000.
- Lower income borrowers or people with poor credit may not be approved.
Started by former Google employees founded in Silicon Valley its claim to fame is using artificial intelligence and machine learning rather than merely FICO score to evaluate risk. This results in many more loans being approved than older processes.
Although it factors in many variables, anyone with a FICO score below 620 will have a tough time borrowing.
It requires applicants to have employment—full time or part time—or at the very least a job offer letter.
Upstart is part of the tech industry so it also has a program that loans money to people pursuing technical skills even if they aren't employed yet.
It partners with several computer coding boot camps and may loan money for tuition to those who already have a college degree.
You can borrow $5,000-$50,000 from Upstart with an APR starting at 8.69%.
The process is done completely online and the lender may seek other documents beyond credit rating.
In some cases, if you're not very far out of college, Upstart will ask for a college transcript to evaluate your risk and responsibility level.
They even look at the subjects you studied.
Starting at 7.39%, the annual percentage rates are higher than some other lenders and may be even more when you factor in origination fees.
- Looks at more than your credit score to determine rates.
- Rates are a little higher than others.
Depending on your needs, an installment loan from a company like RISE credit might be an option.
With these terms, you have the option to pay it back over time, unlike the typical payday loan which requires full payment when you receive your next check.
In the end, you don't have to be Warren Buffett in order to choose the right lender for you.
It only takes a little comparison.
Look for a lender whose terms are clear, rates are upfront, and whose qualifications you are most likely to match.
Then, watch those high-interest payments become nothing more than a memory.
Have you ever used one of these lenders for a personal loan?
Did they live up to their high reputations, or was it a nightmare?
Let us know in the comments below.