Best Personal Loans for 2020

For many people who have lost jobs or wages during the COVID-19 pandemic, personal loans could be the best way to cover an emergency expense, consolidate debt or make a large purchase. Credit unions, banks and online lenders are still offering personal loans despite the pandemic — even if your credit score is fair or low, or if your income has recently changed. To determine the best personal loans of 2020, we compared every major lender’s interest rates, loan terms, customer satisfaction, customer support and fees using our proprietary SimpleScore methodology, and updated our ratings to reflect changes due to COVID-19. Just do us a favor: don’t take out a personal loan to buy the LEGO Star Wars Millennium Falcon.

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    Research Methodology

    The SimpleScore makes it easy to compare current mortgage rate products and services featured here on The Simple Dollar in a transparent, open and honest way. We rate these products and services using five factors and average them to come up with a single SimpleScore For Personal Loans, we compare: perks, credit impact to check rates, customer satisfaction, product variety and fees.

    In this article

      Best personal loan companies of 2020

      Best personal loan companies at a glance

      LenderAPR rangeLoan termMin. loanMax loanSimpleScore
      LightStream5.95%–19.99% w/AutoPay24 to 84 months$5,000$100,0004.8/5
      Marcus by Goldman Sachs6.99%–19.99%36 to 72 months$3,500$40,0005/5
      SoFi5.99%–18.28%24 to 84 months$5,000$100,0004.6/5
      Payoff5.99%–24.99%24 to 60 months$5,000$40,0004.5/5
      Discover6.99%–24.99%36 to 84 months$2,500$35,0004.4/5
      Upgrade7.99%–35.97%36 to 60 months$1,000$35,0003.5/5
      Upstart7.98%–35.99%36 to 60 months$1,000$50,0003.4/5
      LendingClub10.68%–35.89%36 to 60 months$1,000$40,0003.2/5
      Prosper7.95%–35.99%36 to 60 months$2,000$40,0003.2/5
      NetCredit34%–155%6 to 60 months$1,000$10,0002.3/5
      LendingPoint9.99%–35.99%24 to 48 months$2,000$25,0003/5

      Best overall – LightStream

      To borrow a term from The Mandalorian, LightStream is the Beskar steel of personal loans, but you’ll need a good credit score to enjoy it.

      APR Range
      5.95%–19.99% w/AutoPay
      Loan Amount
      24–84 months
      4.8 / 5.0
      SimpleScore LightStream 4.8
      Rates 5
      Loan Size 5
      Customer Satisfaction 4
      Support 5
      Fees 5

      You might not recognize the name LightStream, but it’s the lending division of Truist, the new bank formed by the 2019 merger of SunTrust Bank and BB&T Bank. You can use a Lightstream loan for virtually any reason — including home improvement, debt consolidation, adoption and fertility treatments — except for “college or post-secondary educational expenses.” But the best part about LightStream? Very low interest rates, as long as your credit score is high enough (minimum 660 to apply).

      LightStream does pull a hard credit check when you apply, but makes up for it with a $100 satisfaction guarantee for the first 30 days of your loan, and will beat any competitor’s interest rate by 0.10%. We also admired LightStream’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic (though we wish interest wouldn’t continue to accrue during deferrals). While LightStream and Marcus both earned a near-perfect SimpleScore of 4.8 out of 5.0, we awarded LightStream our #1 pick thanks to its higher loan range and unique guarantees.

      In the News

      In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lightstream is allowing borrowers to defer their payment once, as long as the account is not 90 days past due. Deferment won’t negatively impact your credit score, though it is reported to credit agencies.

      LightStream Disclosure

      Disclaimer: Your loan terms, including APR, may differ based on loan purpose, amount, term length, and your credit profile. Excellent credit is required to qualify for lowest rates. 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 4.99% APR with a term of 3 years would result in 36 monthly payments of $299.66

      © 2020 Truist Financial Corporation. SunTrust, Truist, LightStream, the LightStream logo, and the SunTrust logo are service marks of Truist Financial Corporation. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Lending services provided by Truist Bank.

      Best customer satisfaction – Marcus by Goldman Sachs

      Just like the esteemed Cornell that Andy Bernard attended, Marcus by Goldman Sachs has the reputation and benefits you’ll want to show off.

      APR Range
      Loan Amount
      36–72 months
      5 / 5.0
      SimpleScore Marcus by Goldman Sachs 5
      Rates 5
      Loan Size 5
      Customer Satisfaction 5
      Support 5
      Fees 5

      The lending division of the investment bank Goldman Sachs, Marcus, has an established reputation in the personal loans world. But it isn’t only the reputation that draws people in, Marcus by Goldman Sachs offers flexible loans with no origination, prepayment or late fees. Allowing you to tailor your loan to your lifestyle if you qualify, you’ll have some control over your monthly payments and repayment timeline. Other perks include the ability to defer one loan payment if you’ve made 12 or more consecutive monthly payments. In this case, your loan term will be extended for one month, but you don’t pay interest on the deferral month.

      You can take out a loan from Marcus for any reason in amounts up to $40,000, though the downside is not everyone will qualify. You must have a credit score of at least 660, be over 18 years old and have a valid U.S. bank account.

      In the News

      Despite the COVID-19 recession, in July 2020 Goldman Sachs reported earnings that exceeded expectations by $3.5 billion. But according to CNBC, that isn’t because of its personal loans: “Of the six biggest banks, Goldman gets the largest share of its revenue from Wall Street activities including trading and investment banking.”

      Marcus by Goldman Sachs Disclosure

      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. The availability of a loan offer and the terms of your actual offer will vary due to a number of factors, including your loan purpose and our evaluation of your creditworthiness. 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.

      Best for good credit – SoFi

      With the lowest median APR in the industry, SoFi is the club everyone wants to be in.

      APR Range
      Loan Amount
      24–84 months
      4.6 / 5.0
      SimpleScore SoFi 4.6
      Rates 5
      Loan Size 5
      Customer Satisfaction 3
      Support 5
      Fees 5

      Digital lender SoFi offers some of the lowest interest rates out there. As an added bonus, SoFi doesn’t charge origination, prepayment or late fees. The catch is: it can be difficult to qualify for a SoFi loan because of its rigorous credit standards. A borrower’s minimum credit score must be at least 680, with an annual income of no less than $45,000. However, qualifying for a SoFi loan is based less on your creditworthiness and more on how much of your income is left after expenses.

      SoFi has special deals for their borrowers that other lenders can’t match — like members-only networking events. If you lose your job through no fault of your own, SoFi may let you apply for a temporary forbearance for three months at a time. SoFi has a lot of perks, but they are generally reserved for those with the best credit scores.

      In the News

      SoFi is moving forward with its second attempt to become a national bank — three years after abandoning its first attempt. Gaining a national bank charter will allow it to offer customers mortgages, credit cards and checking accounts.

      SoFi Disclosure

      Fixed rates from 5.99% APR to 18.28% APR (with AutoPay). SoFi rate ranges are current as of October 5, 2020 and are subject to change without notice. Not all rates and amounts available in all states. See Personal Loan eligibility details. Not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, to qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including evaluation of your credit worthiness, income, and other factors. See APR examples and terms. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account.

      Best for credit card consolidation – Payoff

      Think of credit card consolidation as the golden idol in Raiders of the Lost Ark that Indiana Jones uses a bag of sand — a Payoff loan — to retrieve.

      APR Range
      Loan Amount
      24–60 months
      4.5 / 5.0
      SimpleScore Payoff 4.5
      Rates 5
      Loan Size 5
      Customer Satisfaction N/A
      Support 4
      Fees 4

      Personal loans from Payoff are intended for one thing: consolidating credit card debt. Even though they aren’t a fit for things like home renovation, the low APRs and lack of fees for origination, prepayment and late payment still make Payoff a good option.

      Payoff is refreshingly transparent about its eligibility requirements: you need a minimum FICO® score of 640, a debt-to-income ratio of 50% or less, three years of credit history, two open and satisfactory “trades” (lines of credit) and no more than one installment loan over the last year, no current delinquent accounts and no delinquencies longer than 90 days in the last year. One thing to keep in mind if you’re considering Payoff is that its overall minimum rate is 5.99%, which is higher than other alternatives. Its minimum rate for loans more than $15,000 is 6.99%.

      In the News

      In the spring of 2020, Payoff added relief programs and resources to help members who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

      Best for improving your credit score – Discover, Member FDIC

      Discover’s web and mobile access makes keeping track of your loan and credit score simple.

      APR Range
      Loan Amount
      36–84 months
      4.4 / 5.0
      SimpleScore Discover, Member FDIC 4.4
      Rates 5
      Loan Size 5
      Customer Satisfaction 3
      Support 5
      Fees 4

      If you have good credit and don’t need to borrow more than $35,000, then Discover is an excellent option for personal loans. Like other lenders, Discover doesn’t charge origination or pre-payment fees, but it “may” charge a $39 fee on late payments. Funding is typically very fast, with same-day decisions and direct deposits to your bank account — or to your creditors if you’re consolidating debt. It’s also one of the only lenders to offer repayment terms up to seven years. Discover’s lowest rate is 6.99%, so if you have an excellent credit score, you’ll probably be able to find lower rates from other lenders.

      One thing we love about Discover is the web and mobile access to its Free Credit Scorecard tool, which includes your up-to-date FICO® score and any recent inquiries or changes to your credit report. Assuming you make payments on time, personal loans can improve your credit score, and Discover’s tool makes it free and easy to keep track.

      In the News

      In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Discover added a detailed FAQ page with answers and resources for its customers, including personal loan borrowers.

      Best for financial support – Upgrade

      The high APRs and steep fees make Upgrade the equivalent of the one ring to rule them all — easy to give into but bad news in the long run. Sometimes it’s just better to cast it into the fires of Mount Doom.

      APR Range
      Loan Amount
      36–60 months
      3.5 / 5.0
      SimpleScore Upgrade 3.5
      Rates 2
      Loan Size 5
      Customer Satisfaction N/A
      Support 4
      Fees 3

      Supporting a wide range of credit scores and incomes, Upgrade is one of the few online lenders that consider cash flow (a monthly minimum of $800) over credit score. You still must have a credit score of at least 620 to qualify, but that’s much lower than what most lenders accept.

      Upgrade does have some things to watch out for — high APRs are just the start. Upgrade charges an origination fee that can go as high as 6% and late fees for any missed payments. It also doesn’t offer direct payment to creditors for debt consolidation and secured loan options. However, Upgrade does offer hardship plans if you lose your job. Should this happen, you may qualify for a temporary reduction in your monthly payment or a loan modification for the term of your loan.

      In the News

      In June 2020, Upgrade won a Santander InnoVentures-led $40 million investment as part of its Series D funding round. Expect to see continued growth as well as a potential expansion into banking.

      Upgrade Disclosure

      Personal loans made through Upgrade feature APRs of 7.99%-35.97%. 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 WebBank, Member FDIC.

      Best with no credit history – Upstart

      Looking at more than just your credit score, Upstart is a great option for people with little to no credit history.

      APR Range
      Loan Amount
      36–60 months
      3.4 / 5.0
      SimpleScore Upstart 3.4
      Rates 2
      Loan Size 5
      Customer Satisfaction 4
      Support 3
      Fees 3

      Upstart loans are great for younger borrowers and people with little or no credit history, but high earning potential. Upstart loans can be used for many purposes, such as college tuition, home improvements, medical expenses and debt consolidation. It provides quick funding, often within one day, but loans for education require a three-day waiting period before approval.

      To secure a loan with Upstart, borrowers must have a minimum credit score of 620 and a minimum annual income of $12,000. Upstart does charge an origination fee of 0% to 8%, and late fees of 5% of the past due amount or $15, whichever is greater. Also, Upstart’s rates are higher on average than some of our other top picks. But if you’re a new borrower with no recent bankruptcies or delinquent loans who needs fast funding, Upstart may be a great choice.

      In the News

      A leader in artificial intelligence platforms, Upstart recently announced the launch of a new auto lending service. With the aim of dramatically improving the experience, the auto loan platform would eliminate the extra steps the consumer has to take, like tracking down their VIN or license plate number.

      Upstart Disclosure

      * The full range of available rates varies by state. The average 3-year loan offered across all lenders using the Upstart Platform will have an APR of 19% and 36 monthly payments of $35 per $1,000 borrowed. There is no down payment and no prepayment penalty. Average APR is calculated based on 3-year rates offered in the last 1 month. Your APR will be determined based on your credit, income, and certain other information provided in your loan application. Not all applicants will be approved. ** Estimated savings are calculated based on the credit profiles of all loans originated by Upstart-powered lenders using the Upstart Platform as of April 1, 2019 in which the funds were used for credit card refinancing. Estimated savings are calculated by deriving current credit card APR using minimum monthly payment and 1% of the principal balance. The estimated credit card APR is then compared to the accepted loan to determine median savings per borrower. To evaluate savings on a loan you are considering, it is important to compare your actual APR from your existing debt to the APR offered on the Upstart Platform. More than 303,000 loans have been originated on the Upstart platform as of July 1, 2019. Images are not actual customers, but their stories are real. † If you accept your loan by 5pm EST (not including weekends or holidays), you will receive your funds the next business day. Loans used to fund education related expenses are subject to a 3 business day wait period between loan acceptance and in accordance with federal law. ‡ While most of our borrowers opt for automated recurring payment for ease of use, we also accept payments by check or one time electronic payments. Borrowers have the flexibility to choose the repayment method that works best for them. 9 out of 10 Upstart users surveyed internally reported that they would recommend Upstart. †† When you check your rate, we check your credit report. This initial (soft) inquiry will not affect your credit score. If you accept your rate and proceed with your application, we do another (hard) credit inquiry that will impact your credit score. If you take out a loan, repayment information will be reported to the credit bureaus. § Your loan amount will be determined based on your credit, income, and certain other information provided in your loan application. Not all applicants will qualify for the full amount. Loans are not available in West Virginia or Iowa. The minimum loan amount in MA is $7,000. The minimum loan amount in Ohio is $6,000. The minimum loan amount in NM is $5,100. The minimum loan amount in GA is $3,100.

      Best peer-to-peer lending – LendingClub

      LendingClub is the grandmother of personal loans. It will get you what you need, but it won’t move as quickly as other lenders.

      APR Range
      Loan Amount
      36–60 months
      3.2 / 5.0
      SimpleScore LendingClub 3.2
      Rates 2
      Loan Size 5
      Customer Satisfaction 3
      Support 3
      Fees 3

      LendingClub loans are “peer-to-peer” loans that let you borrow money from a person or a group of people instead of a bank. Borrowers are assigned a grade based on income and credit score, and your grade determines your interest rate. The strict credit score requirements of 600 to even apply may put LendingClub loans out of reach for many. If you need money fast, LendingClub is not the option for you. Waiting for your loan to get funded through the company’s network of peer lenders can take up to two weeks.

      LendingClub does have a hardship plan in case you have trouble making payments. Borrowers can make interest-only payments for up to three months until you get back on your feet. It does charge an origination fee between 1% and 6%, and it doesn’t offer a discount for auto-payments.

      In the News

      To support borrowers during the pandemic, LendingClub has launched a Member Center, a centralized portal for assistance and support. The Member Center will have resources and personalized tools to help borrowers regain control of their finances.

      LendingClub Disclosure

      All loans made by WebBank, Member FDIC. Your actual rate depends upon credit score, loan amount, loan term, and credit usage and history. The APR ranges from 10.68% to 35.89%. For example, you could receive a loan of $5,700 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 time of application. *The origination fee ranges from 1% to 6%; the average origination fee is 5.2% (as of 12/5/18 YTD).* 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 website. All loans via LendingClub have a minimum repayment term of 36 months or longer.

      Best for fair-credit joint loans – Prosper

      Prosper is like your backup ice cream flavor at the grocery store. If you can get it, LendingClub is what you really want. But if your credit needs some work, Prosper also satisfies the need for a personal loan.

      Fixed APR
      Loan Amount
      36–60 months
      3.2 / 5.0
      SimpleScore Prosper 3.2
      Rates 2
      Loan Size 5
      Customer Satisfaction 3
      Support 3
      Fees 3

      Prosper is another peer-to-peer lender that accepts high-risk borrowers, but you’ll pay significantly more in interest. To qualify, you must pass Prosper’s proprietary risk-rating system, which takes into account things like credit history, income and credit score. Prosper is also one of the few lenders that offer joint loans, meaning you can apply with someone who has a higher credit score, thus improving your chances at approval.

      Applicants must have a minimum credit score of 640 and two years of credit history, but there is no minimum annual income requirement. Prosper does not pay creditors directly if you’re consolidating debt, and you can’t adjust your payment schedule. It charges origination fees ranging from 2.4% to 5%, late fees and insufficient funds fees. However, Prosper offers fast funding and only does a soft credit check.

      In the News

      In June 2020, Prosper said it has been able to provide hardship benefits to 99.9% of the 40,000 customers who qualified for COVID-19 relief.

      Prosper Disclosure

      For example, a three-year $10,000 personal loan with a Prosper Rating of AA would have an interest rate of 5.31% and a 2.41% origination fee for an annual percentage rate (APR) of 6.95% APR. You would receive $9,759 and make 36 scheduled monthly payments of $301.10. A five-year $10,000 personal loan with a Prosper Rating of A would have an interest rate of 8.39% and a 5.00% origination fee with a 10.59% APR. You would receive $9,500 and make 60 scheduled monthly payments of $204.64. Origination fees vary between 2.41%-5%. Personal loan APRs through Prosper range from 7.95% (AA) to 35.99% (HR) for first-time borrowers, with the lowest rates for the most creditworthy borrowers. Eligibility for personal loans up to $40,000 depends on the information provided by the applicant in the application form. Eligibility for personal loans is not guaranteed, and requires that a sufficient number of investors commit funds to your account and that you meet credit and other conditions. Refer to Borrower Registration Agreement for details and all terms and conditions. All personal loans made by WebBank, member FDIC. Prosper and WebBank take your privacy seriously. Please see Prosper’s Privacy Policy and WebBank’s Privacy Policyfor more details. Notes offered by Prospectus. Notes investors receive are dependent for payment on unsecured loans made to individual borrowers. Not FDIC-insured; investments may lose value; no Prosper or bank guarantee. Prosper does not verify all information provided by borrowers in listings. Investors should review the prospectus before investing.

      Best loans for bad credit – NetCredit

      Remember when they lined us up in gym class and the captains alternated picking players for their team? Well, NetCredit is the kid left standing alone. You only pick it because you have no other option.

      APR Range
      Loan Amount
      6–60 months
      2.3 / 5.0
      SimpleScore NetCredit 2.3
      Rates 1
      Loan Size 2
      Customer Satisfaction N/A
      Support 3
      Fees 3

      NetCredit offers personal loans with much higher interest rates than many lenders, starting at 34% and soaring to 155% APR. To qualify, you must have a minimum score of 500 and meet their minimum annual income requirement of $20,000 or higher. Because of its high APR range, NetCredit should only be used for fast funding by borrowers with low credit scores and few other options. Still, even a 155% APR is much better than most payday loans, which can range from 300% to 600% and even higher.

      NetCredit charges an origination fee of 5% and may charge a late payment fee, but it doesn’t charge a prepayment fee. NetCredit offers fast funding, typically within three days of approval.

      In the News

      During the COVID-19 pandemic, NetCredit promised to work with borrowers to adjust their repayment schedules. Additionally, NetCredit has disabled the ability to take out a cash advance from existing lines of credit during the pandemic.

      Best for same-day approvals – LendingPoint

      Origination fees can run from 0% to 6%, so check the fine print like you would the butter consistency on your movie popcorn before you commit.

      APR Range
      Loan Amount
      24–48 months
      3 / 5.0
      SimpleScore LendingPoint 3
      Rates 2
      Loan Size 3
      Customer Satisfaction N/A
      Support 4
      Fees 3

      If you have fair credit, LendingPoint can help you secure a personal loan up to $25,000. Checking your options won’t impact your credit, and with same-day approvals, your loan can be deposited as soon as the next day. LendingPoint offers flexible loan options that are designed to meet your needs, meaning you can take out a loan as low as $2,000.

      The interest rates of LendingPoint loans aren’t the lowest, but they are not the highest, either. They can climb as high as 35.99% APR, so overall it isn’t the cheapest option out there. But you have up to 48 months to pay back your personal loan, and there’s no penalty if you decide to pay it off early.

      In the News

      In July 2020, LendingPoint announced SDKn™, a new lending system and “instant” pre-approval platform it says will provide customers with an even better financing and purchasing experience.

      What is a personal loan?

      An option for quick funding, a personal loan is expected to be paid back in monthly payments over a set term. Available from banks, credit unions and online lenders, personal loan offers can be used for anything. They’re a better alternative than high-interest credit cards or payday loans because it comes with fixed terms and comparatively low interest rates. Personal loans keep things simple, making them one of the easiest forms of debt to repay over time.

      Common uses of a personal loan:

      • Debt consolidation
      • Covering unexpected expenses
      • Medical bills
      • Wedding expenses
      • Home renovation
      • Paying off high-interest credit card debt

      Before you take out a personal loan, you should know there are two main types — secured and unsecured. Understanding how they differ is key to choosing the best loan for your needs.

      What is a good personal loan rate?

      As you shop around for a personal loan, you will see that interest rates vary from lender to lender. This may have left you confused as you try to determine what is considered a good personal loan rate.

      According to the Federal Reserve, the average APR on a 24-month personal loan is 9.34%. However, many lenders advertise rates as low as 3.99% — which is only available to borrowers with the best credit who borrow optimal amounts with shorter terms. Since your interest rate is one factor that can drive up the total cost of your loan, a lower interest is always better. But, of course, you’ll need good credit to have a chance of securing a lower rate because lenders use your credit score to determine your interest rate. 

      Credit Score*Expected Personal Loan Rate
      Excellent (720 and over)Under 9%
      Good (660–719)9%–14.99%
      Fair (600–659)15%–35.99%
      Poor (599 and below)Over 36%

      *These expected rates are based on lenders’ advertised rates and their advertised credit score and borrower eligibility requirements. Your personal loan rate may be higher or lower based on income, employment history and current debts. 

      Do you need good credit to get a personal loan?

      You might be wondering if you need good credit to get a personal loan. In short, no, you don’t need good credit to get a personal loan, but you can save a lot of money if you do have good credit. As we’ve already mentioned, your credit score determines your interest rate.. 

      It’s still possible to find a suitable option with fair or bad credit –– you’ll just have a higher APR and tighter restrictions. When you’re only a few points away from a lower rate tier and don’t need the loan right away, work towards raising your score as much as you can. If you can boost your score to the next tier, you’ll be able to unlock better rates. 

      You might hear that it isn’t possible to raise your credit score over a short period of time, but a small change is possible. While a significant increase may require more time, if you just need two or three points, you can improve your credit score by doing a few different things, including disputing errors, paying bills on time, and avoiding closing accounts. 

      How secured vs. unsecured loans work

      Secured loan: A secured personal loan is backed up by an asset — such as your car or your home — that the bank can seize if you don’t repay. Lenders use your collateral as assurance you’ll pay back your loan. The type of collateral you use will depend on the loan type. When you get a mortgage to buy a home, for example, your house serves as collateral — if you default on your mortgage, the lender can try to foreclose on the home to recover its losses. The same is true when you take out an auto loan to purchase a vehicle: Your loan is secured by the car you buy.

      Unsecured loan: With an unsecured loan, you can borrow money without putting down any collateral. Instead of relying on assets, lenders use your credit score as a way to predict your ability to repay your loan. Typically available to those with a good credit history, qualifying for a favorable unsecured loan can be difficult if your credit score is lacking.

      Types of personal loans

      Installment loans

      Installment loans are designed to be paid back in predictable monthly payments with a fixed interest rate. Mortgages, auto loans and student loans are all examples of installment loans. More affordable and much less risky, you should always choose an installment option over a payday or emergency loan.

      Payday loans

      Payday loans are a way to get money fast. Generally amounting to $500 or less, payday loans have high rates and considerable fees. While payday loans can help you if you’re in a bind, they are by default extremely expensive and expected to be repaid the next time you get paid. A payday loan only requires an income and bank account, so if you have bad credit, they can seem like an appealing option. Though this type of loan should be a last resort, never your first option.

      Home equity personal loans

      Often called a second mortgage, a home equity loan uses your home as collateral to secure the loan. Using the equity you’ve built up in your home, this type of loan typically has a low interest rate. Even though you’ll get a low rate, you should only take out a home equity loan if you know you can afford to pay it off. Remember, if you don’t make your payments on time, you run the risk of losing your home.

      Emergency loans

      Emergencies happen, regardless if you have the money in your savings account to pay for it. When things like hospital bills or auto repair costs come up, emergency loans can help when you need money quickly. Some lenders offer same-day financing, though you’ll be saddled with a significantly high interest rate. Only consider an emergency loan if you have no other option.

      How personal loans work


      The annual percentage rate or APR is the rate of interest charged to borrowers each year. More than just your interest rate, the APR includes any costs and fees you’ll pay in addition to interest. An interest rate alone will represent what percentage of the outstanding balance will be added to the amount owed, while an APR gives you the whole picture. Use it to compare offers from lenders and find ways you can save money in the long run.

      There are two types of APRs:

      Fixed APRVariable APR
      With a fixed APR, the interest rate for your loan will stay the same for the duration of the loanA variable APR will vary depending on the prime lending rate, which is the lowest rate a bank will charge to borrow money

      [ Read: Where to Find Financial Relief During the COVID-19 Pandemic ]


      The term is the timeline in which you will repay your loan with interest. Repayment terms vary by lender, but they generally range from one to seven years. A short term will result in a higher monthly payment, but that isn’t always a bad idea –– especially if you can afford it. Undeniably, a long term with a lower monthly payment may be easier to manage, but you’ll pay hundreds more in interest over time.

      For example, let’s say you borrow $20,000. Your credit is good, so you qualify for a lower interest rate of 3.49%. If the term of your loan is three years, your payment will be $583.00 per month and you’ll end up paying almost $1,100 in interest. However, if the length of your term is five years, your payment will be $364.00, but you’ll end up paying $1,825.00 in interest.


      Fees are part of the loan process –– for better or for worse. Not all lenders will charge fees and the ones that do may not charge the same ones. But as they tend to add up, you should be aware of them. Typical fees include:

      • Application fee: Before you even get your loan, you may pay an application fee which includes the costs of preparing, processing and reviewing documents.
      • Origination fee: Charged to cover the cost of processing your loan, origination fees happen when you’re approved for the loan and receive the money. It also may be called an underwriting or processing fee.
      • Closing fee: Closing fees generally include a lender’s commission and associated application fees.
      • Return check fee: If you don’t have the cash to cover your payment and your check bounces, you’ll be charged with a return check fee.
      • Late payment fee: Falling behind on your payments will not only hurt your credit, but you’ll be on the hook for late payment fees.
      • Prepayment penalty: Less common than the other types of fees, a repayment penalty happens if you pay your loan off ahead of schedule. It covers the money the lender lost in interest.

      Applying for a personal loan

      Personal loan requirements

      Credit score

      Your credit score is one of the most important factors that decide the term of a personal loan. If you have excellent credit (800 to 850), you are more likely to get a loan with better terms. A poor credit score (300 to 579) will make it difficult to get a low-interest personal loan from a traditional lender, such as a bank or credit union. However, there are several online lenders that offer bad credit personal loans. Personal loans for bad credit will come with higher APRs and more fees, but there are still options available. Taking the time to improve your score will help you earn more favorable terms.

      Minimum income

      Your income is another factor that will determine which personal loan option you can get. This shouldn’t come as a surprise — lenders want proof you have the ability to pay back your loan. Income requirements vary greatly from lender to lender, with some requiring annual thresholds and others settling for monthly. When you’re researching lenders, check the eligibility requirements FAQ section to see their requirements.

      Other considerations

      Every lender is different and what they consider during the loan process will vary. Some will look at other finance indicators like bankruptcies and how much you have in savings as a way to assess your ability to repay your loan. The debt-to-income ratio is also often considered. If you have high debt liabilities and low income, it could hurt your chances of being approved for a loan.

      Pros of a personal loanCons of a personal loan
      • Fixed monthly payments
      • Available for a number of reasons
      • Low interest rates
      • A form of debt
      • If you have bad credit, you’ll have a higher APR
      • Lenders charge fees

      [ Read: Is a Personal Loan My Best Option? ]

      How to choose the best personal loan for you

      Step 1. Determine how much you need. Because you can use a personal loan for anything, some people may be tempted to take out a loan for more than they actually need. But this can get you into trouble. Defaulting on your loan will hurt your credit score and impact the likelihood of getting a loan in the future. Borrowers should only take out what they need.

      Step 2. Check your credit score. Typically, lenders base your APR on your credit score, so you should have a firm grasp on your credit standing before applying for loans. Check your credit report for errors and make sure there’s nothing dragging down your score.

      Step 3. Shop for an online lender. Good credit will help you get the best personal loan terms and unlock a number of options — banks, credit unions and established online lenders. Even if your credit needs work, you still have options, though they will come with tighter restrictions, higher APRs and more fees.

      Step 4. Prequalify for your personal loan. Most banks, credit unions and online lenders let you prequalify for a loan with a soft credit pull. A simple process you can do in minutes online, prequalifying for a loan will give you a better idea of what terms and what APR you should expect. You’ll likely be asked for your credit score, income, best-to-income ratio, employment history, your age, payment history and if need be, your cosigner’s information.

      Step 5. Get approved. Depending on the lender, the approval process for your personal loan can take anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks. This will involve a hard credit pull. Remember: too many at one time will hurt your credit score, so narrow down your options before applying. Once you’re approved, the repayment period starts, so make a budget for your loan payments right away.

      Alternatives to personal loans

      Payday Loan: A payday loan allows you to borrow money and repay the loan on your next payday or in installments. Medical bills, rent, utilities and other smaller expenses can be taken care of using a payday loan, but it can be costly if you don’t repay it in that short amount of time you are given.

      Home equity loan: Homeowners have the option to borrow against the value of the home using a home equity loan. Not repaying this loan could mean you lose your home, but since you can get up to 85% of the equity in your home, it could be perfect for larger expenses. 

      Credit card: A credit card could work for a variety of situations depending on the limit. Of course, you want to be mindful of interest and how you can be affected in the long term if you don’t pay the full balance by the due date. 

      Asking a friend or family member for a loan: Perhaps a friend or family member would be willing to help you out by loaning you the case you need. There won’t be any restrictions on what you can use the loan for, and you can work together to hash out the repayment details.

      Paying off your personal loan

      Lenders calculate your monthly loan payment using the loan amount, interest rate, and loan term, and you are expected to repay your loan in full by the end of the term. Throughout the life of your loan, it may be necessary to budget and be more mindful of your spending, especially if you are concerned about your ability to make on-time payments. 

      It is important to avoid being charged additional fees by your lender, so consider setting up autopay to avoid incurring a late fee. And make sure the funds are always available in your account to avoid getting charged for insufficient funds. 

      If you have the cash and consider making additional payments to get your loan paid off quicker, check with your lender to confirm if they charge a prepayment fee, which is a fee charged to borrowers when they repay their personal loan before the loan term lapses.

      How to get the best interest rate on a personal loan

      One of the downsides of personal loans is that they often come with higher interest rates than other types of loans. Luckily, there are some things you can do to reduce your rate, saving you money over the life of the loan.

      • Shop around: Interest rates can vary widely from one lender to the next. Do your homework before selecting a personal loan lender, and make sure you’re going with the one that can offer you the best rate.
      • Increase your credit score: Your credit score is one of the most important factors in determining your loan interest rate. The higher your score, the better the rate you’ll be eligible for. If you don’t need the money immediately, it may be worth spending a few months boosting your score before applying for a personal loan.
      • Put up collateral: One reason that personal loans tend to come with higher interest rates is that they’re often not secured by any form of collateral. In other words, the lender is taking on more risk. Putting up collateral, such as home equity, a vehicle, a bank account or investment account may reduce your rate. Just don’t do this unless you’re 100% confident you’ll be able to pay it off.
      • Reduce your loan term: Lenders often reserve their best interest rates for the lowest loan terms. If you can afford the higher monthly payment, taking a shorter loan term can be an easy way to lower your interest rate.

      Tips for getting a personal loan

      Compare APRs

      The APRs offered to you will vary by lender, so take the time to shop around for the lowest APR you qualify for. If you’ve got a strong credit score, you’ll likely be able to land a lower APR. If your credit history isn’t as clear, you won’t have those benefits. Even if your credit score isn’t great, that doesn’t mean you should take the first offer to come your way. Your APR will help determine your monthly payment, so finding one you can actually afford is essential.

      Get pre-qualified

      Pre-qualification is the first step. After you provide your lender with documentation to show your financial standing, you’ll get an estimate of how much you can borrow. Often done online in minutes, pre-qualifying doesn’t impact your credit score because it’s only a soft credit pull. Allowing you to plan a budget for repayment, getting pre-qualified arms you with the information you need to choose the best personal loan for you.

      Save on interest

      You’ll end up paying interest on your loan –– how much is partly up to you. A bad credit score is going to eliminate the best offers, but you can save on interest by making additional or larger payments each month. A loan with a shorter term will have a higher monthly payment, but you’ll pay less in interest over time. So if you can afford it, a shorter term will save you money in the long run.

      Online personal loans

      You may have noticed that the lenders we suggested for personal loans are online lenders rather than traditional banks and credit unions. Online companies have become some of the most prevalent lenders of personal loans.

      Online lenders come with plenty of benefits. First, personal loans from online companies are often easier to qualify for. They also have a quick turnaround, with many lenders making funds available the same day you apply for the loan.

      [ Read: Best Online Lenders of 2020 ]

      How COVID-19 affects personal loans

      As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are having a hard time making payments on personal loans because of job loss. In an effort to help, many lenders are coming up with ways to provide relief to people who need it.

      SCE Federal Credit Union President and CEO Dan Rader says most credit unions and banks around the country will continue keeping a pulse on the economic fallout—and eventual recovery—stemming from the COVID-19 crisis as many consumers, workers and households face difficult financial decisions.

      “Relief options made available to borrowers include skipping payments with no fee on existing loans, emergency relief loans for up to two months of net pay with payment due within 90 days at 0% APR,” Rader says.

      How to detect personal loan scams

      Financial scams of all kinds are more prevalent than ever, with one in three adults falling victim to some type of scam. Let’s talk about a few ways to avoid scams when it comes to personal loans.

      Avoid lenders who guarantee approval

      A legitimate lender is going to be interested in your financial situation, including your credit score, income and debt-to-income ratio. If a lender guarantees loan approval and doesn’t care about your financial situation, it could be a scam.

      Avoid lenders who aren’t transparent about fees

      You’ll notice that many of the lenders we recommended have information about fees readily available on their websites. Even those that don’t should provide you a full rundown of the fees in the loan contract. If a lender won’t tell you what fees you’ll pay, or charges fees that you don’t know what they are, it could be a scam.

      Avoid lenders that aren’t registered in your state

      The federal government requires lenders to register in any state where they do business. You can check a financial institution’s website to see where it’s registered to do business. If your state isn’t on the list, don’t get a personal loan through that company.

      Avoid lenders who demand prepaid debit cards

      It’s not uncommon for scammers to require borrowers to provide a prepaid debit card. A legitimate lender won’t collect fees this way. If a lender asks for a prepaid debit card, take your business elsewhere.

      [ Read: How to Protect Yourself From COVID-19 Financial Scams ]

      Personal loans FAQ

      A personal loan is a sum of money set to be paid back over a set period with a defined APR. You can use a personal loan for anything, though the most common uses are: debt consolidation, home renovation, and paying for emergency expenses.

      Having a good credit score will unlock the best personal loans with the lowest APRs. But that doesn’t mean having a lower credit score rules out this option. There are personal loans for bad credit borrowers — you’ll just pay more in interest and fees.

      Generally, personal loans do not require collateral. Though bad credit borrowers may only qualify for a secured loan, meaning they will need to provide an asset or collateral to finalize the loan.

      Regardless if you go through a bank, credit union or an online lender, applying for a personal loan is now easier than ever. Most allow you to apply online in minutes.

      Ask the Experts

      Sam Hawrylack


      Camilo Maldonado


      Andrew Latham

      Personal Finance Counselor,

      Todd Christensen

      Financial Counselor,

      Michael Sullivan

      Personal Finance Consultant, Take Charge America

      What advice would you give people who are taking out loans to make ends meet given coronavirus?

      A personal loan is your best option if you need to borrow money during COVID-19. Keep in mind that you should apply for a loan with an institution that you have worked with before. Banks prioritize customers with which they have a standing relationship. You will have a more straightforward approval process and overall experience.

      You should avoid opting for a line of credit at this time. While it is a quick solution, it is not a wise one. Credit cards have high-interest rates and will cost you more and negatively affect your credit score in the long run.

      If a person is worried about making payments, what alternatives would you recommend to help them financially?

      There are numerous things you can do at this time to improve your financial situation overall and help you make loan payments. If you qualify for government assistance, take advantage of it. Track your spending to ensure every dollar of your income is used wisely. Consider cutting out some luxuries or making some extra cash through a side hustle. Tapping into your emergency fund should be a last resort.

      We welcome your feedback on this article and would love to hear about your experience with the personal loans we recommend. Contact us at with comments or questions.

      The impact of COVID-19 on personal loans.

      The coronavirus pandemic has forced lenders and borrowers alike to reconsider how to use personal loans. As government assistance programs like the CARES Act expire, more Americans may turn to personal loans as a way to cover short-term expenses. The good news is that many banks, credit unions and online lenders are offering coronavirus hardship loans, which come with lower interest rates and favorable terms. Though not everyone qualifies for this type of loan, it’s designed for those who’ve suffered a loss or reduction of income.

      Lenders are also waiving fees and deferring payments to help borrowers make ends meet during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, HSBC Bank is deferring personal loan payments and waiving late fees for 120 days from the time you enroll in HSBC’s hardship program.



      The SimpleScore is a proprietary scoring metric we use to objectively compare products and services at The Simple Dollar.

      For every review, our editorial team:

      • Identifies five measurable aspects to compare across each brand
      • Determines the rating criteria for each aspect score
      • Averages the five aspect scores to produce a single SimpleScore

      Here’s a breakdown of the five aspect scores and their rating criteria for our review of the best credit monitoring services of 2020.

      Why do some brands have different SimpleScores on different pages?

      To ensure the SimpleScore is as helpful and accurate as possible, we developed unique criteria for every category we compare at The Simple Dollar. Since most brands offer a variety of financial solutions, their products and services will score differently depending on what we’re scoring on a given page.

      However, it’s also possible for brands to have different SimpleScores across multiple pages on The Simple Dollar. For instance, if we compare Experian’s ID theft monitoring services using SimpleScore, it scores a 4 out of 5. However, if we apply our SimpleScore methodology for credit monitoring services, Experian scores a 4.4 out of 5. Each unique criteria results in separate SimpleScores for multiple brands based on what we’re comparing.

      Questions about our methodology?

      Email Hayley Armstrong at

      Basic plan price

      We award brands who have lower monthly costs for credit monitoring services with higher scores in our methodology.

      Premium plan price

      We award brands who have lower monthly costs for credit monitoring services with higher scores in our methodology.


      Who doesn’t like a nice perk? We awarded brands with higher scores if they offered perks to customers, such as free trials, family plans, discounts for annual billing and more than two pricing tiers.

      Customer support

      The SimpleScore system rewards brands that have multiple channels of support so customers can contact representatives in a variety of way.

      Mobile app rating

      We compared brands based on their mobile app ratings as an average of Google Play and iOS App Store ratings.

      Taylor Leamey

      Personal Finance Reporter

      Taylor Leamey is a personal finance reporter at The Simple Dollar who covers banking, savings, mortgages, loans and credit cards. Her writing has also been featured at, and

      Reviewed by

      • Courtney Mihocik
        Courtney Mihocik
        Finance Editor

        Courtney Mihocik is an editor at The Simple Dollar who specializes in insurance, personal finance, and loans. Previously, she wrote and edited for,, Ballantyne Magazine, Thread Magazine, The Post, ACRN, The New Political, Columbus Alive and the Institute for International Journalism.