LightStream personal loans
A personal loan is money you borrow to cover a large, one-time expense and repay with interest in monthly installments. Compared to credit cards, it can be a cheaper way to finance a big project like a home improvement or to consolidate debt.
But in a time of rising interest rates, getting the lowest rate and no fees requires near-perfect credit. But according to Finder’s Consumer Confidence Index, that hasn’t stopped the 37% of Americans who have or plan to get a personal loan.
White rates on personal loans typically range from 6% to 35.99%, the average personal loan interest rate is 11.53% as of November 8th – just slightly higher than 11.43% in October 2023. Some lenders also charge origination fees which can push up the APR, but if you have very good to excellent credit, you shouldn’t have to pay these.
The lenders in this list offer some of the most competitive rates and terms available today, with options for all credit types.
LightStream personal loans
Upstart personal loans
SoFi personal loans
|Min. credit score||680|
|APR||8.99% to 25.81%|
|Loan amount||$5,000 to $100,000|
OneMain Financial personal loans
Fiona personal loans
Discover personal loans
|Min. credit score||Good to excellent credit|
|APR||7.99% to 24.99%|
|Loan amount||$2,500 to $40,000|
PenFed Credit Union personal loans
Finder’s lending experts review more than 120 lenders against 16 key metrics to narrow down the best personal loans:
We weigh the lender’s minimum and maximum APR to focus on the best low-interest personal loans. And we regularly review our top selections as lenders enter and leave the market.
The following lenders could be a good option but didn’t quite measure up to our picks for the best in the category.
This lender specializes in fast, fair-credit personal loans as an alternative to what you’d find at a bank.
While there’s a chance you won’t pay an origination fee at Prosper, this lender charges slightly higher APRs than Upstart — from 6.99% to 35.99%. Upstart’s unique credit rating system makes qualifying for a reasonable rate easier, even when your credit history is thin. So, while Prosper might accept credit scores as low as 600, Upstart may offer a better deal to fair-credit borrowers.
Happy Money (formerly Payoff) offers a niche product for credit card consolidation. But Happy Money rates start at a high 11.52% APR, and origination fees are as high as 5% — meaning you might not be able to save as much as with other lenders. It doesn’t consolidate different types of debt, which makes it more limited than our debt consolidation winner, Discover.
Keep in mind these top factors to find the best personal loan for your budget and needs:
Also, consider how the application process meets your needs by looking at factors like the turnaround time and whether you can apply online. When you’ve narrowed your choices, prequalify with your top picks to compare personalized offers — if those lenders offer prequalification.
Ideally, a personal loan should help you save money or even increase your wealth. The most common way to use a personal loan is to consolidate debt or invest in a home improvement.
Debt consolidation involves getting a loan to pay off one or more credit accounts. According to LendingTree, the average credit card rate is 24.46%, about 13% higher than the average personal loan. That means you can likely save on interest and get out of debt more quickly by using a personal loan to pay down your accounts.
A personal loan’s low, fixed rates make it great for minor home improvements, such as renovating a bathroom, that can increase your home’s equity by inflating its value.
A personal loan can be a lifesaver to help cover a medical or emergency expense, but it might not be the best choice in a pinch.
Personal loan monthly payments are the same every month, which can strain your budget if your income changes. Payment flexibility can be essential as 43% of Finder’s Consumer Confidence Index respondents are stressed about personal loan payments, while only 34% worry about credit card debt.
Use the following strategies to get the lowest interest rate possible on a personal loan.
Check your credit score online to understand the number your lender will see.Most personal loans require a FICO score of 670 or higher. If your FICO score is below 670, consider improving your credit by paying your bills on time, reducing debt and correcting any inaccuracies on your credit reports.
Not all lenders rely solely on your FICO score to determine your creditworthiness. Some, like Upstart, have found their algorithms are more accurate in predicting your likelihood of defaulting on a loan. That allows lenders to specialize in specific borrowers — in Upstart’s case, young professionals who haven’t had the chance to build a strong credit history.
You still need strong personal finances to qualify with these lenders, but these alternative credit scoring methods offer more ways to highlight financial strengths, like a consistent savings habit.
Lenders tend to offer lower interest rates for short-term loans. For example, SoFi provides the lowest personal loan rates on two-year loans, while rates for their seven-year loans can be more than 5% higher.
The gap is tighter at LightStream, where seven-year loan rates are almost 4% higher than their two-year loans.
The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) bars federal credit unions from charging more than 18% interest. This maximum rate is regularly updated by the NCUA board, which could extend the cap or increase it on September 10, 2024.
But even if the rate increases a percentage point or two, it’s still lower than the average rates of many other lenders. For example, the average interest rate on Upstart personal loans is 26.57%, even though it offers rates as low as 6.4% APR.
Your bank might offer a relationship discount on your interest rate if you have a current checking or savings account. Banks can offer discounts as high as 0.5%, and using your own bank may also help you get your loan funds faster.
Some lenders offer a 0.25% rate discount if you sign up to have payments automatically debited from your account. This rate can be on top of your other relationship discounts if you use autopay for a loan from your current bank.
Lenders like LightStream don’t just offer competitive rates but also guarantee to beat other lenders if your offer meets specific requirements.
Don’t just go with the first loan offer you find. Comparing lenders can sometimes lead you to an even better deal.
Prequalifying for a loan allows you to see what kind of loan you can qualify for based on some basic financial and credit information. Because it usually involves a soft credit check, it doesn’t affect your credit score — unlike an application. There’s no guarantee you’ll get the rates and terms quoted, but prequalifying can give you an idea of the kind of offer you might receive.
If you decide to pursue the personalized offer after prequalification, the lender moves forward with a hard credit pull and asks you to provide more documents for loan approval.
Most lenders offer calculators that allow you to enter your own financial details to see the rates you qualify for without going through the prequalification process, but the results you get won’t be as accurate and aren’t binding.
While banks are a traditional choice for borrowing money, you can get a personal loan from various lenders, including digital lenders and fintechs.
|Credit unions||Customer-owned institutions that offer low rates to a wide range of credit types compared to other lenders. Federal credit unions legally can’t charge rates over 18%.|
|Banks||Offers some of the lowest rates out there with a credit score of at least 670 to qualify — and some only offer loans to current customers.|
|Online lenders||Lenders may offer higher rates on average, but typically put less weight on credit score than a bank or credit union.|
|Connection services||Helps you prequalify with partner lenders to find the lowest rate you qualify for.|
Your APR is not just your interest rate. It includes the interest and fees you’d pay over one year, giving you a more accurate idea of your loan’s cost.
The main fee that factors into your APR is the origination fee, which can run between 1% and 10% of your loan amount. Lenders include this in the APR because it applies to every borrower as part of the closing process.
However, your APR doesn’t include fees that borrowers might have to pay. Prepayment penalties, which some lenders charge if you repay your loan early to compensate for lost earnings on interest, don’t affect your APR since not all borrowers must prepay their loan. The same goes for late and insufficient funds fees — these only apply if you miss a payment.
We use APR to provide an apples-to-apples way to compare the cost of a loan for most borrowers. But it’s worth considering other fees if you think there’s a chance they might apply. If you’re considering prepaying the loan, ask the lender how it calculates interest. Some lenders front-load interest payments so that you won’t be able to save much by paying off the loan early, even if there isn’t a prepayment penalty.
Borrowers with good or excellent credit scores above 670 can find a lender that doesn’t charge fees. When interest rates were lower, the best lenders didn’t charge origination fees, prepayment penalties, late or NSF fees. However, no-fee personal loans were not available to borrowers with fair or bad credit. With a credit score below 670, you would likely need to pay an origination fee — if you qualify for a loan.
But no-fee personal loans have become difficult to find since the Federal Reserve raised interest rates. That’s because they increase the cost to fund a loan. Some lenders that previously offered no-fee personal loans, like Marcus by Goldman Sachs, have pulled back from the personal lending space altogether, while others have added fees.
A no-fee personal loan may not spell savings in the current economic climate. SoFi, known for its strict no-fee policy, offers personal loans with fees in exchange for lower APRs.
Your credit score is one of the most important factors that lenders use to determine the interest rates you qualify for. The two credit scoring models are FICO and VantageScore 4.0.
It’s not a perfect science, and FICO and VantageScore have some differences. Still, your credit scores help predict what interest rates you may receive.
|Credit score range||Average estimated interest rate (%)*|
|Less than 560||158.87%|
*Source: LendingTree consumer data, Q4 2022.
If you need your money fast, you can find lenders that fund your loan in 24 hours or less. But you may be trading a more competitive interest rate for a quicker turnaround time.
Consider the following factors that could affect how quickly your loan gets funded:
Doing your research and having your documents in order can also help move things along.
Planning how to manage your loan payments can give you more confidence as you apply.
Keep in mind these three loan management features:
A personal loan may not be the best option in all situations — especially when rates are high and it’s challenging to qualify for a low rate.
Consider four alternatives before you apply:
Rates on personal loans range between 6% and 35.99%, with the lowest rates reserved for very good credit borrowers with scores of 720 and up.
The rate may you qualify for depends largely on your credit score:
However, interest rates on personal loans from credit unions are currently capped at 18% regardless of your creditworthiness, if you are approved.
Your monthly personal loan payment amount depends on how much you borrow, the interest rate, and the loan’s repayment term. Use our personal loan calculator to get an estimate of what your monthly payment might be.
Yes, it’s possible to get a personal loan with bad credit – that is, a score under 579. However, if you do get approved for a bad credit personal loan, your rate will likely be over 20% and you’ll probably be on hook for origination fees up to 10%, making it an expensive form of financing.
Once you’ve submitted all your paperwork and have been approved for a loan, funds could be available as soon as one to three business days – or same day in some cases. For example, Sofi and OneMain Financial are two lenders that offer same-day funding.
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