Picking the right unsecured personal loan from the right lender has become much more difficult.
With the advent of peer-to-peer (P2P) lending and fintech, the market has become saturated with new lenders competing with banks and credit unions to give you a loan.
Choosing the right loan means taking time to research lenders and having enough financial knowledge to understand the process, fees, and rates.
About 45 million Americans are not eligible for loans from traditional lenders.
And they are often exploited by predatory lending practices, spending $9 billion in payday loan fees every year, according to The Pew Charitable Trust.
From financial service preferences to personal loans for low or high credit scores to getting the best debt consolidation loan, there is a legitimate lender out there for you.
Even if you have been turned down for a personal loan before, lenders will now vie to get you to borrow.
We took all the work out of comparing the best personal loans so you can make the right choice in 2018.
What You Need to Know
Personal loans, or unsecured loans, have become America's darling of financial products.
And for good reasons.
Borrow without equity. You don't need to borrow against your home or car like secured loans and monthly installments are often automatic.
It's also easier not to miss payments.
Borrow smaller amounts. Unlike a secured loan, you can usually borrow as little as a few hundred dollars with a personal loan.
Most loans average $7,000–$8,000.
Shorter repayment terms. Repayment time for personal loans is usually under five years.
Affordable monthly payments. Most borrowers do not have problems making payments.
TransUnion data predicts that average amounts borrowed will continue to increase while missed loan payments will decrease throughout the year.
Eligibility will vary. While some lenders focus on credit scores, non-traditional lenders use other considerations like debt-to-income ratio, education, and employment.
How We Chose These Loan Providers
What makes an unsecured personal loan the best?
We considered all the aspects and focused on the most important.
Low Annual Percentage Rate (APR). First off, a low-interest loan is in your best interest (get it?), so competitive rates were definitely part of the equation.
Most APRs for personal loans are fixed, unlike secured loans which offer fixed and variable APRs.
Flexible terms. Having the power to choose from several repayment options is important.
No prepayment penalty. Some lenders don't want you to pay off your loan before the terms end because they want to squeeze as many interest payments out of you as possible.
A prepayment penalty is a way for them to recoup if you pay off early. Avoid it.
None of the loan providers on this list charge prepayment penalties.
Low or no origination fee. This is a fee rolled into the APR a lender will offer.
This fee has fallen out of favor, but some peer-to-peer lenders use it as their only fee.
Soft credit check. This is called prequalifying or a "soft pull."
Online lenders provide a tool that will show your rate based on financial information you provide, without affecting your credit score.
Timeliness of approval and distribution of funds. With the speed of today's technology, many loans are approved instantly and funds are released the same day.
No one wants to wait around feeling judged for too long.
Best P2P Loan
Upstart's AI technology is the future of P2P lending
Given that Upstart's founders are ex-Google employees, it is no surprise that Upstart's excellence lies in its cool and efficient peer-to-peer lending platform.
For that, and for high scores across the selection criteria, Upstart wins as the best P2P lender of 2018.
Automation makes the loan process quick and easy. Using artificial intelligence (AI) to determine creditworthiness, borrowers receive instant approval.
Provides loans to an under-serviced segment of borrowers. Upstart's approval criteria are less focused on credit score, length of credit history, or under-employment and considers your earning trajectory based on education.
Instant approval. Upstart can approve loans at once and funds are often released within 24 hours.
Loan approval for those with low annual incomes.You can qualify for a loan bringing in as little as $12,000 per year.
Pre-qualification makes the application process easy. Upstart's website walks users through the whole pre-qualification so you are fully aware of your rate before you apply.
Low minimum credit score required. Get an Upstart low with FICO score as low as 620.
APR starts at 9.65%. The maximum APR is 29.99%.
Large loan amount range from $1,000 to $50,000. And repayment terms of are 3–5 years.
Best Bank Loan
Wells Fargo offers flexible terms and competitive rates
Wells Fargo is a well-established bank and, even with its recent scandals, still offers great personal loans.
The process is easy with quick approval and funds.
The lower APR with discounts and no prepayment penalty make it the best personal bank loan for 2018.
Huge range of loan amounts. With personal loans up to $100,000, Wells Fargo offers the highest maximum amount.
Competitive rates. Wells Fargo personal loans have an APR of 6.99–23.99%, which is low compared with other big banks.
Discounted APR. Take 0.25% off a personal loan's APR with automatic payments from a Wells Fargo checking account.
Credit score of high 600s or above. You do need a good credit score to qualify for a Wells Fargo loan, but if you have a low score you can always apply with a co-signer.
Allows co-signers. Very few banks offer personal loans with a co-signer, but Wells Fargo does.
This means you have a better chance of approval and low APR with a creditworthy co-signer.
Online rate calculator. Using the online rate calculator, you can estimate the amount of monthly payments.
Flexible terms. Loans under $5,000 are 12–36 months, loans $5,000 and over are 12–60 months.
Instant approval. Wells Fargo will give you an answer in two hours max and funds are released within 24 hours.
You don't need a bank account to qualify for a loan. But you must apply in person at the branch.
If you have a Wells Fargo account, apply by phone 888-667-5250 or online.
Best Credit Union Loan
Alliant Credit Union offers personal loans up to $50,000
Alliant, a cooperative with a membership hundreds of thousands strong, offers personal loans at better-than-bank rates.
For its financial strength and continued consumer satisfaction, Alliant wins the best credit union loan of 2018.
Higher APR, but flexibility is worth it. The APR of 12.15% isn't the lowest, but Alliant Credit Union's loans are maxed at a whopping $50,000 with flexible terms.
Great availability. Credit unions serve only specific communities.
Alliant has branches in California, Chicago, Colorado, Texas, and Washington D.C., and more ATMs than Chase and Bank of America put together.
Debt protection plan. Alliant also offers a program that ensures your loan if you lose your employment or fall ill and are unable to make your payments.
A good credit score is needed. Alliant is looking for 680–700 for loans under $10,000.
Remember that credit unions will work with you in ways other lenders will not so meet with a loan officer in the branch to look at options.
You must be a member to get a loan.Become an Alliant member with a $10 donation to Foster Care to Success.
Instant approval. Alliant also gives instant approval and releases funds within 24 hours.
Alliant also offers competitive unsecured business loans to small start-ups.
Apply in person at a branch or online.
You can also speak directly with a loan expert at 800-328-1935.
Best Loan Marketplace
CreditLoan users make educated decisions when choosing their loan
CreditLoan has helped over two million customers get loans, but it's not actually a lender.
It's a portal to a lender marketplace, like eBay or Craigslist, but with articles, tips, and reviews to help borrowers make educated decisions about personal finance.
Using a fintech (financial technology) platform, CreditLoan expedites the loan process while presenting tools and solutions to help manage personal finance.
For its content-rich excellence, CreditLoan is the best personal finance marketplace of 2018.
Does loan comparison shopping for you. An easy four-step application process provides access to multiple lenders allowing them to select the best loan for their needs.
Loan qualification varies by lender. CreditLoan's lender partners have different approval criteria, APR, and terms, but you can compare them to get the best rates.
Great for smaller loan amounts.Loans secured through CreditLoan are between $250 and $5,000.
Funds released within 24 hours. Loans are directly deposited into the borrower's account.
Improves financial literacy. CreditLoan's multimedia content includes payment calculators, credit score checking, infographics, animations and comprehensive articles, and tips and reviews on personal finance.
Offers a range of financial services. CreditLoan also provides access to other financial products including mortgages, auto financing, student loans and credit cards.
Completely secure to use. CreditLoan has the TRUSTe seal for website privacy and email policies as well as certifications from VeriSign and McAfee Safe for the highest level of encryption.
Best Low Credit Loan
Peerform outperforms others on easy approval
Peerform provides low-interest loans to underserviced demographics, and though it has transitioned from P2P to institutional investors, it still has easier approval criteria than most lenders.
If you have a low FICO score and short credit history, you can expect to pay the highest APR, but at least you can get a loan with Peerform.
For that reason, it is the best unsecured loan for low credit scores in 2018.
Loan approval with low credit score. To qualify for a Peerform loan, applicants need a minimum FICO score of 600.
Qualify with a short credit history. Peerform asks for only one year of credit history for loan approval.
Grading system to determine APR. Peerform charges an origination fee rolled into the 5.99–29.99% APR.
Nice range of loan amounts. With Peerform, you can borrow $4,000–$25,000.
Terms are less flexible. Peerform only offers terms up to three years.
Approval within a day or two. Peerform's approval can be from 24–74 hours.
It can take longer for the release of funds.
Not available in all states. Peerform loans are only available in Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, North Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia, Wyoming, and Washington, D.C.
Best Excellent Credit Loan
SoFi's exclusive membership community has useful benefits
Originally a P2P lender for outstanding student loans, SoFi has branched out to offer unsecured loans t great rates with member benefits.
It is the best personal loan for those with excellent credit in 2018.
Fixed or variable APR. Borrowers can choose a variable rate for short-term loans. APR starts at 5.49% with AutoPay.
Huge loan amount range. SoFi loans are $5,000– $100,000 with terms up to seven years.
Unemployment protection. SoFi will pause your payments for up to 12 months and help you find employment if you lose your job.
Excellent borrower reviews. SoFi members give it high marks across the board.
Membership benefits. SoFi offers rate discounts on subsequent loans, a Career Advisory Group, Entrepreneur Program, financial advisors and special events.
Easy online application. SoFi's three-step process is quick and direct.
Instant approval. Get approved immediately, but funds can take up to a week to show up in your account.
Available in most states. SoFi loans are only unavailable in Mississippi and Nevada.
Best Debt Consolidation Loan
Citizens Bank offers great debt consolidation loans
Consolidation loans are especially good for clearing high interest credit card debt and outstanding student loan.
Although Citizens Bank is a bricks-and-mortar lender, its loan rates of 5.99–16.24% are lower than some online-only lenders.
It is reputable with an easy online application process.
You would be hard-pressed to do better on a debt consolidation loan in 2018.
You do not have to have an account. Although you do not need an account to get a personal loan with Citizens Bank, you will receive interest rate discounts if you are.
Get a discount for opening a checking account. If you open or already have a checking account with Citizens Bank, you can get a 0.25% reduction in APR.
Get a discount on automatic payments. Sign-up to have your monthly payment automatically withdrawn for another 0.25% reduction on APR.
Flexible terms. Select your own repayment terms, APR, and monthly payments.
Wide range of loan amounts. Citizens Bank offers personal loans from $5,000–$50,000 with terms up to seven years.
Fast approval and release of funds. Generally instant approval, but can take 24 hours.
Funds are released in two days.
Allows co-signers. Boost your chances of approval and get a better rate with a co-signer.
Eligibility requirements. You need to have a credit score in the high 600s with a solid repayment history and a minimum income of $24,000.
Best Home Renovation Loan
Lightstream offers specialized home improvement loans
Lightstream offers great home improvement loans with no fees and a quick, easy application process.
Because it will beat any competitor's APR and guarantees loan satisfaction, it is the best home renovation loan of 2018.
APR is based on loan purpose. A Lightstream home renovation loan APR begins at 2.49%, while a debt consolidation loan with the same terms starts at 5.49%.
Use AutoPay for discounted APR. The APR on loans $10,000 and over start 2.49% with AutoPay.
Huge loan amount range and flexible terms. Lightstream offer loans of $5,000–$9,999 with terms of 14–84 months and loans $10,000 and over up to 60 months.
Instant approval, same day release of funds. Lightstream's approval and funds release really is light speed compared to other lenders.
You will need good credit. To qualify for a Lightstream loan, your credit score needs to be in the high 600s and your debt-to-income ratio must show you can afford monthly payments.
Allows co-signers. Lightstream is one of the few online lenders that allows co-signers, potentially getting you a lower APR.
Personal loans for almost anything. Lightstream offers loans for basement, kitchen and bathroom remodeling, financing for landscaping, hot tubs, pools, and solar energy installation.
It even finances tiny homes.
Rate Beat Program. Lightstream will beat the APR offered by another lender by .10% on similar loans.
Satisfaction guaranteed. Lightstream will rebate you $100 if you had an unsatisfactory experience getting your loan.
Personal loans are rock star financial products for 2018
As noted previously, not only will the number of personal loans grow, but the number of people not paying them off on time will shrink.
This is all terrific news for anyone needing an unsecured loan for any reason.
You can get an unsecured loan in small or large amounts, and with so much competition, borrowers should find the best interest rates and terms their creditworthiness will return.
If you don't get the rate you need, comparison shop.
It is a borrower's market for unsecured loans in 2018.
Did we miss a loan provider that you swear by?
Or perhaps one we mentioned that has caused you nightmares?
Let us know in the comments below.