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This article was reviewed by Brad Stevens, a member of the Finder Editorial Review Board and 30-year veteran of the credit industry who specializes in rehabilitating struggling banks.
Online lenders use technology to give borrowers access to personal loans with just a few swipes. You can typically apply in minutes and get money as soon as the next business day. But make sure you meet the eligibility requirements and are working with a legitimate lender before you apply.
Are online loans safe?
But like anything online, no company can ensure your information stays 100% safe. Confirm your lender has a secure website before following through with the application.
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Pros and cons of borrowing a loan online
Borrowing a personal loan from an online lender can be fast, but they often come with higher rates. Make sure the benefits outweigh the costs before applying.
- Won’t impact your credit. Most online lenders offer a preapproval process that allows you to check your potential rates without lowering your credit score.
- Quick turnaround. Banks and credit unions can take days or even weeks to process your application, but many online lenders can process and fund loans within one to two business days.
- Simple repayments. Many online lenders offer automatic payments with APR discounts. You can also take advantage of other online bill pay options, as well as view your loan schedule and terms on the lender’s website or app.
- Credit may not be everything. If you have the income to make repayments but don’t have the best credit, an online lender may still consider you. Just keep an eye on the APR — they usually come with higher rates.
- Harder to qualify if you’re self-employed. Most lenders don’t accept borrowers who are self-employed. And if they do, you’ll have to submit extra paperwork to prove you have a steady source of income.
- Higher rates. Online lenders tend to have higher rates than banks or credit unions, especially if you have good to excellent credit.
Online loans vs. bank loans vs. short-term loans
Although many lenders frequently advertise online personal loans, there’s a big difference in the price you pay and turnaround when you borrow from a bank, online lender or short-term lender.
How do I compare online loans?
While there are no hard-and-fast rules for comparing online lenders, these points can help guide you toward the best option for your financial situation.
- Eligibility requirements. You’ll need to meet minimum credit, income and debt-to-income (DTI) ratio requirements to qualify. And some online lenders only work with residents of certain states.
- APRs. Don’t just consider the minimum APR when comparing online lenders. Check the maximum, too. This way, you’ll be able to avoid paying high APRs if you don’t qualify for the lowest rates. And keep an eye on if the rates are fixed or variable. Fixed rates remain the same for the life of the loan, while variable-rate loans can change — up to a set maximum.
- Loan amounts. Minimum and maximum loan amounts vary by lender, so make sure it offers the amount of financing you need before applying.
- Fees. Not every lender charges fees. Try to pick a lender that has a low origination fee or minimal late fees so you can avoid paying extra on your loan. But no fees should be charged before you apply — that’s a surefire sign of a scam.
- Required documents. Each online lender requires different documents to finalize your application. If you’re looking for a fast process, go with one that requires the bare minimum.
How can I use an online loan?
Online loans are personal loans — which means you can use them for just about any expense, including: