Editor's choice: PenFed Credit Union personal loans
- Competitive rates as low as 6.49%
- No hidden fees
- Loans up to $35,000
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When you’re a member of the US Armed Forces, it can complicate your life outside the military. When transitioning from military to civilian life or supporting your family while on active duty, a personal loan can help cover costs you can’t pay up front.
You’ll find many lenders willing to lend a hand to service members, though the strongest rates and terms are typically reserved for those with high credit scores.
A handful of lenders are known for supporting members of the military with financing that’s flexible enough for your unique situation.
You know a credit union has military interests in mind when it’s open to members of the US Armed Forces, veterans and DOD employees primarily. Navy Federal Credit Union even offers a 0.5% rate discount on personal loans for veterans and active military. With low maximum rates and long loan terms, its loan options are among the most military friendly out there.
The downside: Its offices are in 30 states only. It also garners many negative online reviews, with several customers complaining that when things go wrong, they really go wrong. Your mileage with this lender may vary.
Not quite a bank or a credit union, USAA is a financial services group for former and current members of the armed forces and their families. Its owned by its nearly 12 million members and you’ll need to join to qualify. Applying is quick and straightforward and there are no application or origination fees.
You might not be able to qualify for a competitive rate if you don’t have excellent credit, however. It also has mostly negative online reviews — though its customer service team appears to do well.
Pentagon Federal Credit Union could be a good bet for small expenses. PenFed requires a lower minimum and maximum than most of the competition. It also operates offices in all 50 states, Guam, Puerto Rico and even Okinawa, which is great for active-duty members that move around a lot.
You’ll could have a hard time qualifying if your credit is less than stellar, however.
SoFi doesn’t specifically cater to members of the military. But it offers flexible financing through a process that’s often simpler than that of a credit union or bank. Its loans come with competitive rates, no fees and a wide range of loan amounts. It also has more deferment and forbearance options than your typical personal loan and allows you to apply with a coapplicant, if you think you’ll have trouble qualifying on your own.
It’s not always easy to build up and maintain a credit score while you’re on active duty. But you typically need good to excellent credit to qualify for a personal loan with competitive rates — even from lenders like Navy Federal Credit union and USAA.
Some providers are willing to look beyond your credit score to other aspects of your financial history when you apply for a loan. You might consider applying for a personal loan with a cosigner who has good or excellent credit to strengthen your chances of approval.
Those who volunteer their services to the United States Armed Forces are afforded specific legal protections that don’t apply to the general public.
Congress passed the Military Lending Act in 2016 to protect active-duty military and their families from predatory lending practices. According to the MLA, lenders can’t charge more than 36% APR — that includes interest and most fees. They also can’t charge prepayment penalties, require you to sign up for automatic withdrawals from your paycheck or ask you to give up your right to sue the lender as part of the contract.
Enacted in 2016, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act applies to existing loans and debts carried by active-duty members of the military. According to the SCRA, lenders can’t charge active-duty military rates higher than 6% while service members are away from home serving their country. This cap includes late fees and other fees.
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Loans backed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) might come with some of the lowest rates around, but they can also be one of the most difficult types of business financing to qualify for. If you’re a veteran, however, you’re in luck: The SBA sets aside a portion of its funds for its Veterans Advantage program.
This program can help you avoid upfront fees on SBA 7(a) loans of up to $125,000 or SBA Express loans of $150,001 to $350,000. Your fees are cut in half if you borrow from $150,001 to $350,000 through the 7(a) program.
You’ll still need to meet the SBA and your lender’s laundry list of eligibility requirements. Read our guide to SBA loans to learn more about what you can expect.
A personal loan can be a helpful resource for you and your family when you’re facing the extra costs that come with being a service member or veteran. It’s often less expensive than using a credit card, and you’ll find options specifically designed for needs of both active duty and retired military.
Before signing any contract, learn more in our comprehensive guide to personal loans to narrow down the best rates and terms you’re eligible for.
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