Personal loans vs. payday loans: Which is right for you? | finder.com

Personal loans vs. payday loans: Which is right for you?

We value our editorial independence, basing our comparison results, content and reviews on objective analysis without bias. But we may receive compensation when you click links on our site. Learn more about how we make money from our partners.

Before you sign on that dotted line, learn which option will be better for your finances.

Personal loans and payday loans may seem similar on the outside, but there are quite a few big differences that set these two options apart. Depending on your credit and the amount you need to borrow, you’ll want to know what you qualify for before you apply.

What are the key differences between a personal loan and a payday loan?

Personal loans and payday loans may both be useful when you need an extra boost to your finances, but that’s about where the similarities end. Loan amount, loan term and cost — among other factors — vary widely between these two options.

  • Loan amount. You may be able to borrow as much as $100,000 with a personal loan, though most lenders only offer around $50,000 to borrowers with excellent credit. With a payday loan, you can typically borrow anywhere from $50 to $1,000 — but some offer loans up to $5,000.
  • Cost. Personal loans will be cheaper overall — with interest rates that cap out at around 36% — but you’ll have to have good to excellent credit. Payday loans are generally much more expensive, but they don’t have strict credit requirements.
  • Loan term. Personal loans often have a minimum term of 12 months and can last as long as 7 to 10 years. Payday loans, on the other hand, have short terms of two to four weeks.
  • Eligibility. Personal loans offered by banks and credit unions have strict eligibility criteria, often requiring borrowers to have good credit and a strong financial background. Payday loans are much more flexible, and lenders usually only require that borrowers have a regular source of income to qualify.
  • Lenders. Personal loans are offered by banks, credit unions, online lenders and peer-to-peer lenders. Payday loans tend to be offered by lenders that specialize in short-term lending and check-cashing services.

Quick snapshot: Personal loans vs. payday loans

Personal loansPayday loans
AmountUsually between $5,000 to $50,000Usually between $200 to $1,000
Cost4% to 35.99%, depending on the lender and your credit scoreFixed finance of $10 to $20 per $100 borrowed
Repayment period2 to 5 years2 to 4 weeks

Compare personal loans vs. payday loans

Updated June 25th, 2019
Name Product Filter Values Minimum Credit Score Max. Loan Amount APR
620
$50,000
7.99% to 35.89%
Affordable loans with two simple repayment terms and no prepayment penalties.
550
$100,000
3.99% to 35.99%
Quickly compare multiple online lenders with competitive rates depending on your credit.
680
$100,000
5.99% to 16.74%
No fees. Multiple member perks such as community events and career coaching.
640
$40,000
6.95% to 35.89%
A peer-to-peer lender offering fair rates based on your credit score.
Good to excellent credit
$100,000
5.34% to 35.99%
Get personalized rates in minutes and then choose a loan offer from several top online lenders.
620
$50,000
7.98 to 35.99%
This service looks beyond your credit score to get you a competitive-rate personal loan.
550
$100,000
3.84% to 35.99%
Get connected to competitive loan offers instantly from top online consumer lenders.
550
$10,000
34% to 155% (Varies by state)
Check eligibility in minutes and get a personalized quote without affecting your credit score.
640 FICO®
$35,000
5.99% to 29.99%
A prime lender with multiple repayment methods.

Compare up to 4 providers

Updated June 25th, 2019
Name Product Filter Values Max. Loan Amount Turnaround Time Requirements
$5,000
1 business day
Direct deposit, meet minimum income requirements
Comes with the option to change your due date so you won’t fall behind on repayments.
$35,000
As soon as the next business day
Regular source of income, verifiable bank account, US citizen, ages 18+
Get connected with multiple lenders you might qualify with — even if you have bad credit.
$2,600
1 to 2 business days
Active checking account, regular source of income, email address
Get access to tools to help you plan a career move, make some extra cash or search for a better-paying job.
$15,000
1 business day
$1,000+ monthly income, direct deposit, US citizen or permanent resident, ages 18+
Get offers from potential lenders in minutes by filling out just one online form.
Varies by state
1 business day
Regular source of income, bank account, US citizen or permanent resident, ages 18+
Sign up for its discount program to get access to coupons and deals on everything from dining out to tax services.
$10,000
As early as 1 business day
$1,000+ monthly income after taxes, valid checking account
Explore its online education center to get tips on budgeting, how to prioritize your bills and more.
$250
As soon as the next business day
Checking account with ACH, proof of income, Social Security number, ages 18+
Get rewarded for making on-time repayments with better rates and terms on future loans.
Varies by state
1 business day
Steady source of income, checking or savings account, not currently in bankruptcy, ages 18+
Its satisfaction guarantee means you can return the full loan amount within 72 hours if you change your mind.
$1,000
1 to 2 business days
Bank account, email address, phone number, US citizen or permanent resident, ages 21+
Plus, get access to check cashing, cell phone top ups, bill pay and more at one of its many storefronts.

Compare up to 4 providers

How much will each option cost?

The cost of each product varies widely between lenders and the state you live in.

For a personal loan, you won’t have to pay more than 36% when you borrow. This is still a high interest rate, but it’s much lower than what you’ll get with a payday loan or other short-term loan. The exact interest rate you receive — along with your terms — will be based on your credit history, if you have collateral, the amount you want to borrow and the term of the loan.

On the other hand, payday loans can have APRs with three — or even four — digits. The actual cost will depend on the state you live in. However, it’s important to note that APR represents yearly cost. Most lenders also represent the cost of a loan as a fee you pay per $100. But no matter how it’s shown, payday loans are still more expensive than personal loans.

How can I decide which type of loan is right for me?

Deciding between a personal loan and a payday loan will likely depend on the amount you need to borrow as well as your credit. Asking yourself the following questions will help you decide which is the best choice.

  • How much money do I need to borrow?If you need to borrow between $50 and $1,000, a short-term loan may be better because personal loans tend to have minimums between $1,000 and $2,000.
  • How fast do I need the money? Short-term loans usually have faster turnaround times than personal loans because less is involved in the approval process. However, many personal loan providers are moving online, so quite a few have the same processing speeds as short-term lenders.
  • How is my credit history? If you have good to excellent credit, you could stand to save money by getting a low-interest personal loan rather than a high-cost payday loan.
  • How much will it cost me? Ultimately, it comes down to your monthly payments and total repayment amount. Be sure to compare multiple options and explore those lender’s online calculators to see which is most affordable for you.

Must read: Are there any alternatives to payday loans?

There are quite a few ways to borrow a small sum of money without taking out a payday loan. These include:

  • Payday alternative loans. Payday alternative loans are highly regulated to keep costs down. APRs max at 28% — lower than the personal loan max of 36% — and you can borrow up to $1,000 from multiple national credit unions.
  • Installment loans. Installment loans are also short-term loans, but rather than repay what you borrow in one lump sum, you’ll have a few months to repay your loan. However, these can still be expensive, so read your lender’s terms carefully before borrowing.
  • Pay advance apps. There aren’t many pay advance apps out there — yet. But these are quickly gaining steam because they allow you to borrow money against your paycheck without the high fees associated with payday and other short-term loans.

Of course, your options don’t stop there. Check out our guide to payday loan alternatives to learn more.

Bottom line

There are quite a few big differences between personal loans and payday loans, so you’ll want to be prepared when you’re looking to borrow. You can read up on personal loans and check out our guide to payday loans to make sure you’re making the right financial decision.

Frequently asked questions

Was this content helpful to you? No  Yes

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on finder.com:

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • finder.com is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder.com provides guides and information on a range of products and services. Because our content is not financial advice, we suggest talking with a professional before you make any decision.

By submitting your comment or question, you agree to our Privacy and Cookies Policy and Terms of Use.

Questions and responses on finder.com are not provided, paid for or otherwise endorsed by any bank or brand. These banks and brands are not responsible for ensuring that comments are answered or accurate.

US Payday Loans Offers

Important Information*
Logo for CashNetUSA Loan
CashNetUSA Loan

Apply for a short-term loan with an easy online application and dedicated customer service.

Logo for Check into Cash Payday Loan
Check into Cash Payday Loan

With 1,000 branches in 30 states, get $50 to $1,000 in days from this direct lender.

Logo for OppLoans Installment Loans
OppLoans Installment Loans

Installment loans with competitive rates from a top-rated direct lender.

Logo for LendYou Short-term Loans
LendYou Short-term Loans

Apply online with this loan-connection service offering unrestricted short-term loans with fast turnaround.

Go to site