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A personal loan is an amount of money loaned to an individual typically without any collateral. Though they used to be seen as a solution for people in dire financial straits, today the options and terms are better than ever and more and more everyday people are taking out personal loans.
A personal loan, also sometimes referred to as a signature loan or an unsecured loan, can be a great idea if you have outstanding credit debt and a less than stellar credit score. If you use the personal loan to pay off the credit card, you can improve your credit score and then pay off the personal loan, which will almost certainly have an easier interest rate than the credit card.
Even if you don’t have credit debt, taking out a personal loan and repaying it is a good way to establish positive credit, which will help you down the road when you apply for a car or house loan.
If you have multiple outstanding debts - or just one - at a high interest rate that’s taking a real bite out of your paycheck each month, then a personal loan could really help out. Find a lender that can give you a personal loan with a friendlier interest rate, and then use that to pay off the other debts.
A personal loan can help you pay for home renovations, which can significantly improve the value of your home. This can really pay off if you’re looking to sell the house in the near future, or if you’d like to increase the value of your home in order to borrow against the equity.
Things don’t always go as planned, and sometimes we need a little extra help. A personal loan can help you handle unexpected medical bills, home repairs following a flood or a fire, or a sudden expense like a funeral. When hard times come, having some financial peace of mind can make things a little bit easier, and that’s no small thing.
Your credit score is calculated based on your loan repayment history, credit card usage, and other financial markers that can give lenders a rough guide of how responsible you are with money and how much of a default risk you are. No matter what your credit score is, you will be able to find a lender that will offer you a loan.
Typically, the higher your credit score the more likely you will be to receive loans. Also, because with high credit you are considered less of a risk, your interest rates will tend to be lower.
That doesn’t mean that less than great credit is a deal-breaker, but it's good to know what the numbers mean:
|Credit score rating||Credit score range||Average APR for market|
|Excellent||720 - 850||10.3% - 12.5%|
|Good||690 - 719||13.5% - 15.5%|
|Average||630 - 689||17.8% - 19.9%|
|Poor||629 and below||28.5% - 32.0%|
Having no debt history is not a good thing when it comes to your credit score. Most of the leading personal loan companies like to see that you’ve had debts in the past and that you’ve made your payments, and can be trusted to do so again.
Many lenders can provide loans even if you have bad credit, though you will face tougher interest rates and less leeway with the loan amount and repayment terms.
Typically anything under 630 is considered a bad credit rating, and even when people in this range do get loans, they tend to have a 28.64% APR on average. If you have collateral to put up, this can help you secure better terms despite a low credit rating.
In addition, many lenders allow cosigned loans. These are loans where someone with better credit co-signs the loan with you. While this is a way for you to get a loan that you’d be shut out from otherwise, there are some caveats. Mainly, the person who cosigned for the loan is on the hook too so if you default on the payment, it could wreck their credit as well as your own.
The interest rate is how much the lender charges a borrower for a loan. It is expressed as a percentage of the amount borrowed. For example, if you take out a loan for $10,000 with an interest rate of 5%, you’ll end up paying $10,500 over time. If you get an interest rate of 10% though, you’ll be paying $11,000. If you’re consolidating debt and the interest rate is still lower than your earlier loan, then you’re in good shape. If not, you need to examine if the interest rate makes the loan worthwhile for you.
The interest rate is going to be one of the most important things to look at when considering a personal loan. It adds a significant amount to the overall repayment terms, and even just one percentage point here or there can make a big difference
APR is an acronym for annual percentage rate. It combines the charges, fees, and payments to tell you the grand total of what your loan will cost you per year. The lower the APR, the less you are going to pay in the long run.
The APR calculation on personal loans will vary depending on your lender, but it will typically be lower than what you would receive from a payday or short-term loan – usually starting at 10% and capping at 35.99%. It is not ideal to owe any money, but if you require a loan, then a personal loan could certainly be a viable option.
APR rates mentioned include associated fees.
Full repayment for the loans displayed range between 61 days to 180 months.
Representative example: assuming a loan of $10,000 over 60 months at a fixed rate of 3.1% per annum and fees of $60.00. This would result in a representative rate of 3.3% APR, with monthly repayments of $180.80, for a total amount paid of $10,848.00.
There isn’t a clear right or wrong answer to this question - it all depends on your needs, your income and your abilities. If you’re trying to consolidate debt, your loan should be the same or larger than the outstanding loans you’re covering, and if you need to cover an expense like medical bills or home renovations, then it should meet your needs, so you don’t have to go through the hassle or expense of securing another loan.
At the same time, you need to make sure that the payments aren’t too heavy for you to keep up with. After all, there’s no sense taking out a loan to cover another debt, only to find yourself unable to keep up with the payments on the new loan.
This is a pretty simple calculation, but what works for you can be anything but simple. If you decide to go for a lender that offers short term loans you will have higher monthly payments but will pay less interest over the life of the loan. If you spread it out over a longer loan term, your monthly payments will be lower, but the overall interest you pay will be higher.
Paying more interest isn’t a bad idea if it means that you can lock down a monthly payment that you know you can make.
The main difference between an unsecured and secured loan is that an unsecured one doesn’t require you to put up any collateral. That’s the good news. The bad news is that because the loan is “unsecured” (no collateral), the lender is taking a bigger risk on you, and typically will assign you a higher interest rate. Lenders will also give you a lower ceiling on the loan, as well as a shorter repayment term.
These loans typically appeal to borrowers who don’t have assets like a car or a house, but still want some financial assistance.
A secured loan requires the borrower to put up some form of collateral. While it’s more risky for you in that you have to put up an asset that the bank can seize if you default on the debt, you stand to enjoy an easier interest rate, a higher borrowing ceiling, and a longer repayment period.
Peer-to-Peer lending has become a major industry in recent years, and provides all types of opportunities for borrowers who may have had less options in the past. Often called “social lending” or “crowd lending,” P2P sidesteps the banks and connects borrowers and lenders directly with one another online. It’s a solid option if you have less than great credit or lack assets to put down as collateral. That said, there are some costs, including origination fees which can range from 0.5% to 5% of the loan. Late fees can also be expensive if you don’t make your payments on time. In addition, as unsecured loans, the interest rates tend to be around 15% or so.
With a fixed rate loan the interest rate stays constant throughout the life of the loan, which will help you budget every month and stay on top of your payments. With variable rate loans, the interest rate fluctuates in accordance with the market. You may get a lower initial rate than you would with a fixed rate loan, but because the market can be unpredictable, it can be harder to know for certain what your future payments will be.
These are loans that are given as a line of credit that you can use for any purpose. They are typically unsecured, so the interest rates tend to be high, though not as high as a credit card. Also, these loans give you the freedom to draw from the credit line as needed, so you only owe what you spend.
These are sometimes called character loans or good faith loans. This is an unsecured loan that only requires you to put down your signature. Because there is no collateral and the lender is taking a risk, these loans come with higher interest.
A cash advance is taken against the credit line on your credit card, and typically comes with fees in addition to the interest on repaying the money. With a credit card balance transfer you move the money you owe on one card to another credit card with a lower interest rate. This typically includes a fee.
This is just a term to refer to a loan that is repaid over a set period of time with set payments. A mortgage and a car loan are good examples of installment loans.
The best online lenders usually have an easier loan application process than banks:
This is a company that directly loans money to borrowers and doesn’t merely facilitate lending between lenders and borrowers.
These are companies that don’t lend out money themselves, rather, they facilitate loans between borrowers and lenders, by creating an online marketplace where borrowers can apply to all types of lenders at the same time, typically with one simple application.
These are private lenders who are not part of a bank or other financial institution. These are private individuals who loan money, and often with interest rates and other terms that are not as good as those with more established lenders.
Peer-to-peer (P2P) lenders refers to private lenders and borrowers which are connected to one another online. P2P lending is a way for lenders to invest some money in small-scale loans, typically spread out across a large number of borrowers in order to offset the default risk. For borrowers without collateral who have less than ideal credit, these can be a great option, despite the origination fees and often high interest rates.
This is the most traditional, tried-and-tested way to attain a loan. That said, banks tend to be more cautious, and if you’re credit isn’t in good shape, or you don’t have any collateral, you might have real trouble finding a loan through a bank.
Most of the best lenders allow cosigner loans - including LendingClub, LightStream, and Freedom Plus, among others. Find one that allows co signers with your level of credit, and get an idea of what type of fees or other terms they require, and then look for a cosigner.
True, money and loved ones don’t always mix, but sometimes you have to count on the people close to you for help. Your cosigner will have to be someone with better credit than you, but also ideally, with some good collateral to put up. If the person has a spotless financial record, it could really help you get a loan with good terms. That said, you need to keep in mind that if you default, it will also affect the financial record of your cosigner. Make sure it’s someone who won’t hold this over you, and who you can work with to pay off the debt.
This may go without saying, but don’t settle on the first lender you find. Make sure to cast a wide net and really invest your time in reading online reviews and comparing the best personal loan companies so you can get the most competitive rates and save money in the long run. If the terms the company is offering you aren’t to your liking, feel free to look elsewhere and remember - you're the customer, they’re looking for your business, and are likely to try to meet you in the middle.
Does the lender have a good reputation? Do you find a high number of complaints online? What about customer service, are they responsive? Make sure to take a long look at the company’s pedigree to see if they are legitimate, how long they’ve been in business and whether or not they’ve built a good reputation with their clients.
The cost of your loan isn’t merely a matter of the interest or how much you took out - there are also often origination fees at the start of the loan, as well as late fees, processing fees, and the like. Make sure that the fees are not going to be too much of a burden, and add it to your list of considerations.
In order to choose the best personal loan provider for you, you must first determine what your needs are as a borrower, compare lenders and then see which one can fulfill those needs at the best rate possible.
Some of the key criteria that you should check when comparing loan providers are:
* LightStream Terms and Conditions:
Your loan terms, including APR, may differ based on loan purpose, amount, term length, and your credit profile. Rate is quoted with AutoPay discount. AutoPay discount is only available prior to loan funding. Rates without AutoPay may be higher. Subject to credit approval. Conditions and limitations apply. Advertised rates and terms are subject to change without notice. Payment example: Monthly payments for a $10,000 loan at 5.95% APR with a term of 3 years would result in 36 monthly payments of $303.99. © 2020 Truist Financial Corporation. SunTrust®, Truist, LightStream®, the LightStream logo, and the SunTrust logo are service marks of Truist Financial Corporation. All rights reserved. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Lending services provided by SunTrust now Truist Bank.
* Marcus By Goldman Sachs® Offer Terms and Conditions:
For NY residents, rates range from 6.99% to 24.99% APR. Only the most creditworthy applications qualify for the largest loan amounts and lowest rates. Your loan terms are not guaranteed and are subject to our verification of your identity and credit information. To obtain a loan, you must submit additional documentation including an application that may affect your credit score. Rates will vary based on many factors, such as your creditworthiness (for example, credit score and credit history) and the length of your loan (for example, rates for 36 month loans are generally lower than rates for 72 month loans). Your maximum loan amount may vary depending on your loan purpose, income and creditworthiness. Your verifiable income must support your ability to repay your loan. Marcus by Goldman Sachs is a brand of Goldman Sachs Bank USA and all loans are issued by Goldman Sachs Bank USA, Salt Lake City Branch. Applications are subject to additional terms and conditions.
* LendingClub Terms and Conditions:
All loans made by WebBank, Member FDIC. Your actual rate depends upon credit score, loan amount, loan term, and credit usage & history. The APR ranges from 6.95% to 35.89%. The origination fee ranges from 1% to 6% of the original principal balance and is deducted from your loan proceeds. For example, you could receive a loan of $6,000 with an interest rate of 7.99% and a 5.00% origination fee of $300 for an APR of 11.51%. In this example, you will receive $5,700 and will make 36 monthly payments of $187.99. The total amount repayable will be $6,767.64. Your APR will be determined based on your credit at the time of application. The average origination fee is 5.49% as of Q1 2017. In Georgia, the minimum loan amount is $3,025. In Massachusetts, the minimum loan amount is $6,025 if your APR is greater than 12%. There is no down payment and there is never a prepayment penalty. Closing of your loan is contingent upon your agreement of all the required agreements and disclosures on the www.lendingclub.com website. All loans via LendingClub have a minimum repayment term of 36 months. Borrower must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or be in the United States on a valid long term visa and at least 18 years old. Valid bank account and Social Security number are required. Equal Housing Lender. All loans are subject to credit approval. LendingClub’s physical address is: LendingClub, 71 Stevenson Street, Suite 1000, San Francisco, CA 9410
* Eloan Terms and Conditions:
Rates from 7.99% up to 19.49% APR. Your APR will be determined based or your risk score and credit history. Loans start from $2,000 up to $35,000. The loan amount will be subject to credit approval. Eloan is a Division of Banco Popular de Puerto Rico. Subject to credit approval and meeting the parameters set forth by Banco Popular de Puerto Rico (“Banco Popular”). This offer applies to personal loans without collateral. Offer subject to presenting evidence and verification of acceptable income to Banco Popular. Banco Popular may deny your application if you do not meet the parameters and the established conditions. Other terms and conditions may apply.
† Credible Terms and Conditions:
Credible is so confident in the personal loan rates you’ll find on Credible, we’ll give you $200 if you find and close with a better rate elsewhere. See full terms and conditions
‡ Upgrade Terms and Conditions:
Personal loans made through Upgrade feature APRs of 6.98%-35.89%. All personal loans have a 1.5% to 6% origination fee, which is deducted from the loan proceeds. Lowest rates require Autopay and paying off a portion of existing debt directly. For example, if you receive a $10,000 loan with a 36-month term and a 17.98% APR (which includes a 14.32% yearly interest rate and a 5% one-time origination fee), you would receive $9,500 in your account and would have a required monthly payment of $343.33. Over the life of the loan, your payments would total $12,359.97. The APR on your loan may be higher or lower and your loan offers may not have multiple term lengths available. Actual rate depends on credit score, credit usage history, loan term, and other factors. Late payments or subsequent charges and fees may increase the cost of your fixed rate loan. There is no fee or penalty for repaying a loan early. Personal loans issued by Upgrade's lending partners. Information on Upgrade's lending partners can be found at https://www.upgrade.com/lending-partners/.