This article was reviewed by Doug Noll, a member of the Finder Editorial Review Board and award-winning lawyer, mediator and author with over 40 years of experience in the legal field.
Debt consolidation involves taking out an unsecured personal loan to pay off credit cards and other unsecured debts. It can make it easier to manage your accounts and even save on interest — if you qualify for a lower rate.
Every borrower is unique. Our list includes providers that would fit a range of needs, from borrowers with excellent credit to those seeking to consolidate for a specific purpose. For 2021, we changed up our list slightly. Our best overall pick is Discover, and Marcus by Goldman Sachs has replaced Prosper for borrowers with good credit. We also changed out our pick for bad credit to OneMain Financial — but Monevo still makes the list as the best place to compare lenders.
Discover offers a simple debt consolidation process, earning it our best overall pick. It offers relatively competitive interest rates starting at 6.99% with no origination fee, and it allows you to return funds within 30 days if you decide it's not the right choice for you. But you can only consolidate up to $35,000 of debt. You'll also be stuck with no grace period for payments and a steep late fee if you miss your due date.
SoFi is one of the top lenders out there if you're looking for competitive rates on large loans. Your loan funds can be used for just about anything — including debt consolidation — and you'll have access to a large suite of membership benefits. And best of all, there are no fees. However, you'll need to consolidate at least $5,000 of debt, and only borrowers with a good to excellent credit score of 680 or higher qualify.
Not available in: Mississippi, Vermont
Competitive APRs from 4.99% to 19.63% with autopay
Fixed rates from 5.74% APR to 20.28% APR APR reflect the 0.25% autopay discount and a 0.25% direct deposit discount. SoFi rate ranges are current as of 1/18/22 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. Lowest rates reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. 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.
Marcus is another lender that offers loans with no fees. Unlike SoFi, you can qualify for a loan with slightly lower credit. It also offers the ability to defer a payment after 12 consecutive months of on-time payments. But its maximum amount is a relatively low $40,000 — not great if you have a larger amount of debt. You'll also be stuck with a higher APR if you make a late payment — so no late fees, but more interest paid overall.
Marcus By Goldman Sachs® Offer Terms and Conditions
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. Receive an APR reduction when you enroll in AutoPay. This reduction will not be applied if AutoPay is not in effect. When enrolled, a larger portion of your monthly payment will be applied to your principal loan amount and less interest will accrue on your loan, which may result in a smaller final payment. See loan agreement for details.
Upstart has one of the most holistic underwriting processes out there. Your credit score plays a role, but so does your education and current employment. Rates start relatively higher than some other lenders — but for a fair-credit option, it's not bad. And for high-cost credit card debt, you may still be able to save.
Not available in: West Virginia
Relatively competitive interest rates starting at 3.5%
Borrowers with bad credit should be cautious when looking into debt consolidation. Even lenders like OneMain Financial, which offers relatively good deals for scores under 600, may still be more expensive than your current debt. So while you may be able to get your funds the same day you apply, be aware of the cost. Not only is interest higher, but late fees and origination fees are much steeper than other lenders.
Not available in: Alaska, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, Rhode Island, Vermont
Example Loan: A $6,000 loan with a 24.99% APR that is repayable in 60 monthly installments would have monthly payments of $176.07.
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 annual percentage rate (APR) is 35.99%, subject to state restrictions. APRs are generally higher on loans not secured by a vehicle. Depending on the state where you open your loan, the origination fee may be either a flat amount or a percentage of your loan amount. Flat fee amounts vary by state, ranging from $25 to $400. Percentage-based fees vary by state ranging from 1% to 10% of your loan amount subject to certain state limits on the fee amount. 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: Iowa: $8,500. Maine: $7,000. Mississippi: $7,500. North Carolina: $7,500. New York: $20,000. West Virginia: $14,000. An unsecured loan is a loan which does not require you to provide collateral (such as a motor vehicle) to the lender.
Payoff is our top pick for credit card debt consolidation because that's its specialty — and its only option. If you have other types of debt, look elsewhere. But if you're looking to switch from credit cards to a personal loan with a lower interest rate, Payoff is worth considering. Interest rates start at just 5.99%, and you'll get access to monthly FICO score updates.
Not available in: Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, West Virginia
Lightstream is a great choice if you have good to excellent credit and want the most competitive rates on the market. Like SoFi, it also offers loans up to $100,000. But there's no preapproval process — so expect a hit to your credit score when you apply. And if you have less than $5,000 of debt, you won't qualify.
Monevo is a connection service — not a direct lender. When you fill out its online form, you can compare rates from its network of partners that offer loans for debt consolidation. It's ideal if you have a lower credit score and have struggled to find a lender willing to work with you. But as with all connection services, you could face marketing calls from its partners.
Debt consolidation loans are personal loans that combine two or more debts into one monthly repayment under one lender. A debt consolidation loan can help you manage your repayments and create a pathway out of debt. However, you should know the total cost of your debts before taking out a debt consolidation loan. This will help you determine if a loan is the right choice — or if it will cost you more over the long run.
When you apply, you will need to list the accounts you want to consolidate and the payoff amounts. If approved, your lender will either pay off your creditors directly or transfer your funds into your bank account so you can pay off your creditors yourself.
What rates can I expect?
The average annual percentage rate (APR) on a personal loan with a 24-month term is 9.65%, according November 2020 data from the Federal Reserve. But it can start around 4% and run as high as 36%. It all depends on your credit score and the loan term you select. In general, lenders give lower rates to borrowers who have an excellent credit score of 740 or higher and shorter loan terms. Borrowers with fair credit scores above 580 will likely only qualify for higher rates. And if your credit score is below 580, you probably won't qualify for a debt consolidation loan.
Will debt consolidation hurt my credit score?
Generally, it won't hurt your credit unless you continue to rack up debt. When you apply for a personal loan, your lender will do a hard pull of your credit to confirm you qualify. This will lower your score by a few points — but it will likely bounce back after a few months of on-time payments.
In fact, consolidating debt can often improve your credit. And the lower your score the more impactful it will be. A 2019 TransUnion study found that some 85% borrowers with poor credit saw a 20% increase or more after consolidating debt — only 15% of borrowers with the highest credit scores saw this kind of increase.
Your credit score might decrease if you continue to use your credit cards after consolidating them. The new FICO scoring model — which most creditors use — will penalize borrowers who consolidate debt and then continue to rack up credit card bills. It might also decrease if you miss payments on your new loan. But provided you keep up with your finances, you’re unlikely to see a big decrease in your score with a debt consolidation loan.
How much can I save?
How much will it cost?
Ideally, a debt consolidation loan won’t cost you anything you weren’t already going to pay in interest with your existing loans. While some debt consolidation loans come with origination fees — usually 1% to 5% of your loan amount — it’s possible to find a consolidation loan offering no upfront fees.
If your new loan’s interest rate is lower than the average interest rate on your current debts, you’ll save money overall and on your monthly payments. But even if it’s higher, you may be able to reduce your monthly payments with a longer term — just keep in mind that this can increase the total amount you pay in interest. In general, you need to have excellent credit and a low debt-to-income ratio to qualify for the lowest interest rates.
Balance transfer credit cards vs. debt consolidation loans
Balance transfer credit cards can offer exciting perks, like 0% interest for a year or more on transferred balances. But you face a high revert APR if you're not able to pay off your debt within the intro period.
A balance transfer credit card could be a suitable way to consolidate debt if you're certain you'll pay off your consolidated balance within a year. If you need more time, a debt consolidation loan could be a better deal because the interest rate is lower.
Keep in mind that getting a balance transfer credit card will add another account to your credit utilization ratio, so you'll want to consider the limit you're approved for. On the other hand, debt consolidation loans won't be added to your credit utilization ratio.
Debt consolidation might help some borrowers get on track, but the drawbacks can outweigh the benefits in some cases.
Combine monthly payments into one debt
Potentially lower average APR
Fixed interest rates and loan terms
May improve credit score over time
Does not eliminate debt
Continued spending can harm credit score
Longer loan terms may increase total interest paid
Higher minimum monthly payments
Am I eligible for a debt consolidation loan?
While every lender will have its own criteria, there are a few basic requirements you'll need to meet to qualify for a debt consolidation loan.
Minimum FICO credit score of 580
Annual income of at least $24,000
Active checking or savings account
Regular source of income
US citizen or permanent resident
At least 18 years old
No past bankruptcies or foreclosures
The most competitive loan terms are available to borrowers with a solid credit history and a low debt-to-income ratio (DTI).
What to know before applying for a debt consolidation loan
Look up the following numbers to help you decide which lender to go with — or if debt consolidation is a good idea.
Payoff amount. Reach out to your creditors and ask about the payoff amount, or how much you will owe if you paid off your balance by a specific date. This tells you how much you need to borrow.
Total annual income. Include government benefits, income from investments, alimony and child support — lenders consider this when calculating your DTI ratio.
Credit score. Check your credit score based on a soft credit check so you can find a lender that you can qualify with.
Current interest rates. If you don't know if off hand, look up the interest rates you're paying on your current accounts — and aim for a loan that's less expensive.
Monthly budget. Calculate how much money you have coming in and how much you typically spend to see how much you can afford to repay each month.
When is debt consolidation a good idea?
A debt consolidation loan can be a good idea in following situations:
You want to pay off debt over several years. If your plan is to get out of debt right away, a balance transfer credit card could help you save the most.
You owe less than 50% of your income. If you owe more, you likely won't qualify and might benefit from other solutions.
You have fair credit or higher. Your options are limited if you have a credit score below 580.
You have regular income. You need to prove you have the money to pay off the loan before you get approved.
You have a plan to stay out of debt. It could hurt your credit if you end up in more debt after consolidating. Make sure you have an emergency fund and budget to avoid this.
When isn't it a good idea?
Debt consolidation generally isn't a good idea when your debt is worth more than half of your income or you have bad credit, bankruptcies or foreclosures. You likely won't qualify — and even if you did, you'd get a high rate and monthly repayments that may fall outside of your budget.
It also won't help if you don't have a plan to reduce your spending — unless your debt is from a one-time emergency expense. If there's nowhere left to cut back, other options like credit counseling could be a better choice.
Apply for preapproval. Most lenders offer preapproval that allows you to check your rate before you borrow. This means no hard hit to your credit score until you're ready to complete a full application.
Keep your accounts open. Older accounts with repaid balances improve your score. Even when you pay off your credit cards with a debt consolidation loan, keep the accounts open — just avoid taking on new debt with them.
Correct your credit report. If there is any incorrect information on your credit report, reach out to the credit bureau and the creditor to have it fixed. This may help improve your score by a few points.
Steps to take after getting a debt consolidation loan
So you were approved for a debt consolidation loan? Here are a few ways to make the most of it.
Sign up for autopay. Some lenders offer an interest rate discount for borrowers who register to have automatic repayments withdrawn from their account each month. Plus it can help you avoid late fees.
Learn how to budget. Budgeting can help you avoid needing a debt consolidation loan again by helping you manage your spending.
Build an emergency fund. Most Americans can't afford a $400 emergency expense. Having at least six months of personal expenses saved up can help you avoid going into debt again when the unexpected happens.
More debt consolidation loans for credit card debt
These providers also offer personal loans that you can use to consolidate credit card debt.
Finder published a paper in August 2020 analyzing which types of debt puts stress on Americans, including which age and gender stress the most. Our paper includes original research and predictions from experts including Jennifer Tomko, LCSW and Owner of Clarity Health Solutions, Howard Dvorkin, CPA and Chairman of Debt.com and Timo Wilson, CEO of ASAP Credit Solutions.
The best debt consolidation loans allow you to lower your interest rate and should help you improve your credit score. But if it's not the best fit for you, browse our guide to debt consolidation for more ways to tackle your debt.
Frequently asked questions
Our answers to common questions about debt consolidation loans.
Will I be able to consolidate all of my debt with one loan?
It depends on your credit profile and eligibility. Lenders look at your total existing debt, overall creditworthiness and even the type of credit accounts you hold when considering your approved loan amount, rates and terms.
If your debt totals more than $100,000, you most likely won’t be able to consolidate all of it into one loan — most lenders max out their personal loans at $100,000. And this option is only available for borrowers with excellent credit.
Are debt consolidation loans safe?
As a tool, yes. It comes down to finding a legitimate lender.
You’ll find many reputable lenders offering debt consolidation. Look for privacy and security policies on a lender’s website, and read user reviews to get a feel for any lenders you’re considering.
Can I get a debt consolidation loan with bad credit?
A low credit score won’t necessarily stop you from getting a debt consolidation loan. There are lenders that offer personal loans for bad credit, but you may find that your APR is much higher than the average interest you pay on your current debts. Carefully od the math to determine if you'll save money with a debt consolidation loan before you apply with a lender.
Will a debt consolidation loan help me get out of debt faster?
It might. Your current APR, monthly payments and total interest can decrease with the right debt consolidation loan — ultimately saving you money.
However, these loans are often in terms of three to five years. This may be longer than it would take to pay off one or more of your individual debts. Even if it is, it’s worth considering the amount you’d save and the convenience of having your debt in one place before ruling out these tools.
Will a debt consolidation loan hurt my credit score?
It depends. Taking out a debt consolidation loan usually temporarily lowers your credit score by a few points. But it can help increase your credit score by adding on-time payments to your credit history and lowering your credit utilization ratio. If you make late payments or default on the loan, that can hurt your credit. It can also hurt your credit if you immediately get into more debt.
Will paying off a loan early hurt my credit?
No, but it can help your credit by establishing a record of on-time payments. However, some lenders might charge a prepayment penalty to make up for the interest you would have paid if you followed the original schedule. Check with your lender to learn what their prepayment policies are before you pay off a loan early.
What's the difference between a personal loan and a debt consolidation loan?
Technically, there isn't a difference between the two. Debt consolidation is one of the most common uses for a personal loan. However, some companies offer special services that make debt consolidation easier, like paying off your creditors directly. Often, these companies advertise debt consolidation loans — though you can often use the product for any legitimate purpose.
Anna Serio is a trusted lending expert and certified Commercial Loan Officer who's published more than 1,000 articles on Finder to help Americans strengthen their financial literacy. A former editor of a newspaper in Beirut, Anna writes about personal, student, business and car loans. Today, digital publications like Business Insider, CNBC and the Simple Dollar feature her professional commentary, and she earned an Expert Contributor in Finance badge from review site Best Company in 2020.
How likely would you be to recommend finder to a friend or colleague?
Very UnlikelyExtremely Likely
Thank you for your feedback.
Our goal is to create the best possible product, and your thoughts, ideas and suggestions play a major role in helping us identify opportunities to improve.
finder.com is an independent comparison platform and information service that aims to provide you with the tools you need to make better decisions. While we are independent, the offers that appear on this site are from companies from which finder.com receives compensation. We may receive compensation from our partners for placement of their products or services. We may also receive compensation if you click on certain links posted on our site. While compensation arrangements may affect the order, position or placement of product information, it doesn't influence our assessment of those products. Please don't interpret the order in which products appear on our Site as any endorsement or recommendation from us. finder.com compares a wide range of products, providers and services but we don't provide information on all available products, providers or services. Please appreciate that there may be other options available to you than the products, providers or services covered by our service.