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The top 1% of wealthy Americans know the power of personal loans. They borrow more than their fair share — in fact, they hold 5% of all personal debt in the country. They’re probably using the cash to buy real estate, but they also shop for private islands and escargot forks from time to time.
Meanwhile, average Americans are using small personal loans to make their lives better. These loans may not get you a private island, but they can help you improve your home, consolidate your debt or recover from financial emergencies.
We’ve reviewed the best small personal loans and to make top recommendations, using our proprietary SimpleScore methodology that evaluates each lender’s rates, terms, customer satisfaction, customer support and fees.
Check Your Personal Loan Rates
Answer a few questions to see which personal loans you pre-qualify for. It’s quick and easy, and it will not impact your credit score.
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Avant offers small loans with reasonable rates, flexible terms, and a quick, easy path to cash for average borrowers.
Avant rolls out the red carpet for middle-range borrowers, with excellent customer support, a mobile app, and no prepayment fees. Customers with poor credit could pay rates up to 35.99%, but that’s a great deal compared to the 400% APR some lenders charge. Borrowers with excellent credit may be able to get a better deal elsewhere. However, if your credit rating is in the mid- to high-600s, Avant offers one of the best small loan companies for you. Read our full Avant Personal Loans review to learn more.
The actual loan amount, term, and APR amount of loan that a customer qualifies for may vary based on credit determination and state law. Minimum loan amounts vary by state. Avant branded credit products are issued by WebBank, member FDIC.
OneMain can often get cash in your hand in one day, which could offer tremendous relief in a crisis.
OneMain’s online application process for small loans is quick and straightforward, but you can also apply at one of the brick-and-mortar locations in 44 states. There’s no minimum FICO score for these loans, making this a great emergency option for borrowers with low scores. OneMain Financial uses a holistic approach to evaluate your application, including work history and financial background. Borrowers with a poor credit history will pay higher rates, but the cap of 35.99% is much less than some lenders charge. Read our full OneMain Financial loans review.
Not all applicants will qualify for larger loan amounts or most favorable loan terms. Loan approval and actual loan terms depend on your ability to meet our credit standards (including a responsible credit history, sufficient income after monthly expenses, and availability of collateral). Larger loan amounts require a first lien on a motor vehicle no more than ten years old, that meets our value requirements, titled in your name with valid insurance. Maximum APR is 35.99%, subject to state restrictions. APRs are generally higher on loans not secured by a vehicle. The lowest APR shown represents the 10% of loans with the most favorable APR. Active duty military, their spouse or dependents covered under the Military Lending Act may not pledge any vehicle as collateral for a loan. OneMain loan proceeds cannot be used for postsecondary educational expenses as defined by the CFPB’s Regulation Z, such as college, university or vocational expenses; for any business or commercial purpose; to purchase securities; or for gambling or illegal purposes.
Borrowers in these states are subject to these minimum loan sizes: Alabama: $2,100. California: $3,000. Georgia: Unless you are a present customer, $3,100 minimum loan amount. Ohio: $2,000. Virginia: $2,600.
Borrowers (other than present customers) in these states are subject to these maximum unsecured loan sizes: Florida: $8,000. Iowa: $8,500. Maine: $7,000. Mississippi: $7,500. North Carolina: $7,500. New York: $20,000. Texas: $8,000. West Virginia: $7,500. An unsecured loan is a loan which does not require you to provide collateral (such as a motor vehicle) to the lender.
Upgrade offers a transparent loan process so borrowers with poor to average credit can improve their scores.
A small personal loan from Upgrade can boost your credit score by improving your credit mix and by moving some of your balances off your credit cards. When you apply for an Upgrade personal loan, you can get pre-approved without a hard pull on your credit report. Speaking of credit, you can also sign up for Upgrade Credit Health and get your credit score, recommendations and insights on how to improve your credit. It’s not just about what your score is before you apply, it’s about what your score could be after you’re done paying your loan. Read our full Upgrade personal loans review.
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.
Lightstream rewards your good credit with low rates, a smooth loan process, and a $100 guarantee.
LightStream’s rates for small personal loans start at just 2.49% with no origination fees, late fees, or prepayment penalties. No matter what rate you qualify for, you can knock off half a percentage point by signing up for automatic payments. The loan process is a piece of cake — you could even get your funds the same day.
The lender will pull a hard credit check, but it also offers a $100 guarantee if you decide you’re not happy with your loan. LightStream also offers to beat any competitor’s rate by 0.10%. However, borrowers with FICO scores below 660 will need to choose a different lender. Read our full LightStream personal loans review.
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
No fees ever plus a personalized payment schedule make Marcus Personal Loans a carefree option for borrowers.
Marcus offers competitive rates with no origination fees, late fees, or prepayment penalties — ever. The lender even lets you skip one payment after you’ve made 12 consecutive on-time payments, and you can change your date up to three times during your repayment timeline. When you apply, you’ll see a clear picture of what loan terms and payments are available to you before you apply. The majority of Marcus’s small loans go to borrowers with credit scores over 660, so this probably isn’t the best option for customers with poor credit. Read our full Marcus personal loans review.
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.
Peer-to-peer lenders remove some of the middleman functions from banking, letting investors loan directly to borrowers as a group. Approval takes a little longer, but this innovative model offers a variety of loans at reasonable rates. That group decision-making process means LendingClub loans can take a week or two to get approved and funded. Borrowers can choose from a wide range of loan purposes, including auto refinancing, medical procedures and small business funding, as well as the usual categories of home improvement, debt consolidation and major purchases. Although people with scores as low as 600 are invited to apply, most successful applicants have scores above 700. Read our full LendingClub review to learn more.
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 8.05% 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 www.lendingclub.com website. All loans via LendingClub have a minimum repayment term of 36 months or longer.
These loans are expensive, but they offer a solid alternative to payday or title loans.
A 199% APR might look scary, but it’s a huge savings over the average 400% APR of a typical payday loan. Opploans are accessible to borrowers with a minimum income of $18,000 and a credit score of 350. Origination fees are usually under 3%, and the late payment fee is $10. There’s no prepayment fee, so if a borrower manages to pay off the loan early, they can save a bundle. This loan could be life-changing for anyone trapped in a cycle of taking out payday loans to cover expenses. To learn more, read our full OppLoans review.
What is a small personal loan?
Small personal loans are unsecured loans in amounts ranging from $500 to $5,000, repaid over a set period of time.
A small personal loan is beneficial for moving high-interest debt off your credit cards, to lower your interest expense and improve your credit score. These loans can also improve your credit mix, which accounts for as much as 10% of your overall score.
How small personal loans work
Most lenders will let you prequalify for a small personal loan without performing a hard credit inquiry into your credit report. This means that the lender will just take a peek at your score and credit health.
If you decide to proceed, you’ll fill out a complete application and authorize a hard pull of your credit history, which will show up as an inquiry on your credit report. Some lenders can put cash in your bank account the day you apply; others take a week or even two to give you a decision.
Interest rates for unsecured personal loans vary widely, from 5.95% into triple digits. Your credit history is the most significant factor that influences rate. Lenders who are willing to work with high-risk borrowers charge much more in rates and fees than those who only accept clients with good credit scores.
Be sure when you compare rates that you’re looking at the APR, or annual percentage rate, for both lenders. This figure takes into account all the costs of the loan, including fees, over the entire borrowing period.
Some small personal lenders make loans as small as $500, but most have a higher minimum of $1,500–$2,000.
Since small personal loans are unsecured, your maximum loan amount depends on your income, debt load and credit history.
It’s best to apply for only the amount you need for a couple of reasons. If your credit is borderline, you’re more likely to be approved for a lower loan amount. However, a smaller loan amount means smaller monthly payments.
Most lenders offer terms ranging from one to seven years, although two to three years is the most common range for small personal loans.
Longer terms give you lower monthly payments, but you may pay less overall with a shorter-term loan. Multiply the monthly payments by the number of monthly to see the total amount you’ll be paying over the life of the loan.
To choose the best term for you, balance the lifetime cost of the loan against the ease of having lower payments.
Check Your Personal Loan Rates
Answer a few questions to see which personal loans you pre-qualify for. It’s quick and easy, and it will not impact your credit score.
Get a sense of your credit score and improve it if necessary.
Figure out how much you need to borrow. Try to keep your loan amount as low as possible, but make sure your needs are fully covered.
Make a note of any other special needs you have surrounding your loan. Do you need the funds immediately? Do you need to be able to make payments in person, or can you do it online?
Look over the lenders who are a good match for your credit score and loan amount. Compare their APRs, terms and fee structures.
Choose two or three lenders who seem like the best fit for your needs and have the lowest APRs. Visit their websites and check if they offer prequalification without a hard credit pull.
If so, fill out the form and compare the monthly payments available to you. Add up the total monthly payments to find the most economical lender.
Once you’ve chosen a lender, fill out the full application form and see if you’re approved.
If your first choice lender declines you, it should tell you why. Use that information to select a lender who is more likely to approve you
Small Personal Loans FAQs
Yes, but it will be more expensive. Lenders who specialize in making loans to high-risk borrowers charge much higher interest and fees, but you can find better deals than what your local payday loan location offers. A small personal loan can also help you build stronger credit if you make your payments on time.
Very fast! If you apply early in the day, some lenders can deposit the money to your bank account or put a check in your hand within hours. Approvals are often available within seconds after you apply. In some cases, a lender may need more time to evaluate your application.
Many lenders offer small personal loans online or in person. Some of the best options for different circumstances include Avant, OneMain Financial, Upgrade, LightStream, Marcus, LendingClub, and OppLoans. If you have good credit, your bank or credit union might be willing to make a small personal loan for you.
Too long, didn’t read?
Small personal loans are unsecured loans of $500–$5,000, with terms ranging from one to three years. The rates for these loans can vary from 5.65% to 400%, depending on your credit rating and other factors, with 8% to 35% being the most common range for the average borrower. Fees can make up a large portion of the loan expense, especially with high-risk loans. Customers usually use small personal loans to cover home improvements, debt consolidation, and major purchases.
We welcome your feedback on this article and would love to hear about your experience with the personal loans we recommend. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with comments or questions.
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 personal loans 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 the same product from the same brand to have multiple SimpleScores. For instance, if we compare NetCredit’s personal loans according to our criteria for the best personal loans, it scores a 2.3 out of 5. But when we compare NetCredit according to the criteria for the best bad credit personal loans, it scores considerably higher, since the criteria for the latter review are more lenient (lenders who serve borrowers with bad credit will always offer higher rates, so we needed to adjust our category methodology to account for different industry standards).
We looked at the maximum APR for each lender — the lower their maximum rate, the higher their score.
We awarded higher scores to lenders with more generous loan sizes.
We leveraged the J.D. Power 2019 Personal Loan Satisfaction Study℠ to see how customers rated their experience with each lender. (If a lender wasn’t included in J.D. Power’s study, we skipped this aspect and averaged the four remaining aspect scores.)
We awarded higher scores to lenders with the most channels for customer support.
We looked at the three most common fees — origination, late payment, and pre-payment — and penalized lenders for each fee charged.