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How to get preapproved for a personal loan

What you need to know to get the green light from a lender.

Chances are you’ve heard the term preapproval before, but it often only comes up when talking about mortgages. You might not have seen it attached to personal loans, but receiving preapproval for a loan is a vital part of the application process.

What is preapproval?

Preapproval is when a lender extends an unofficial offer on a loan, pending full approval. Preapproval doesn’t guarantee that you’ll qualify, but it’ll typically tell you two things:

  1. That you’ve met the lender’s basic eligibility requirements.
  2. What loan amount, rates, terms and monthly repayments you might qualify for.

When do I find out if I’m preapproved?

When a lender is willing to consider you for a personal loan, they’ll often notify you of your preapproval. Most online applications will end with either a preapproval offer or denial based on your financial situation and credit score. If you’ve been preapproved, your lender will likely contact you to finalize the loan and determine if you’re officially approved.

You may also receive an unsolicited offer from a lender in the mail or through email — these are to encourage customers who may not have previously considered borrowing. However, even if you receive a preapproval notice, you still may not get approved for the loan in the end.

How the preapproval process works

When you’re ready to apply for a loan, follow these steps to see if you can be preapproved by your lender:

  1. Select a lender from the table below.
  2. Fill out a preliminary loan application.
  3. Wait while the lender reviews your application.
  4. Receive your preapproval decision.

What happens after I get preapproved?

Your lender will likely contact you to confirm the information you’ve submitted if you’re preapproved for a loan. Be sure everything is accurate. At this point, your lender may take a day or two to fully underwrite your loan application. If you do receive an official approval, review your contract carefully and decide if you still want to move forward with the loan.

How long does it take?

In many cases, preapproval takes place online within just a few minutes. This is because the lender and its underwriting team haven’t evaluated your application yet and are using software to analyze the information you supply. On-the-spot preapprovals are often just indications that you may qualify for a loan.

Preapproval letters

If you received a preapproval letter from a lender, then this process doesn’t apply to you. The lender has used information available to them to determine that you may be eligible for one of its products. If you want to apply, you’ll need to follow the steps given in your letter.

How can I benefit from getting preapproved on a personal loan?

If you seek out preapproval, it can help you feel more confident when making a decision between different loans. You’ll know that a lender is likely to lend you the funds you need, and you’ll have an estimate of how much the loan will cost. Choosing the right loan can be difficult, but knowing your potential interest rate and the fees attached to the loan can help you make the right choice for your finances.

What’s the difference between conditional approval and preapproval?

Both terms are used often and may be confusing for people not used to industry jargon. Here’s how they break down:

  • Preapproval. This is a quick scan of your application to confirm your credit score, income and personal details align with the lender’s qualification criteria.
  • Conditional approval. This is given to applicants who may have to supply extra information to the lender, like pay stubs, bills and employment records. It means that the lender is likely going to approve your loan, but it still needs to gather specific information for its underwriting team.

Some personal loan providers will use these terms interchangeably. If you’re still confused after receiving preapproval or conditional approval, feel free to contact your lender to clarify exactly what it means.

What about prequalification vs. preapproval?

With personal loans, most lenders also use the terms prequalification and preapproval interchangeably. However, prequalification can sometimes mean that you meet the lender’s basic eligibility requirements. With preapproval, you typically get a quote of the rates, terms and loan amounts you might get approved for.

Compare personal loans now

How do lenders identify customers to offer preapproved loans to?

Banks and lenders possess quite a bit of information about their customers and will use it to promote various products. They make this decision based off your credit score and the personal information you’ve supplied to other lenders.

When you complete an online application, most lenders will perform a soft pull on your credit and run your application through an automated underwriting program. This allows them to quickly gauge your ability to afford a loan, which they then use to offer preapproval or deny your application.

Find out if that preapproved loan offer you received is legit

What do I need to submit for a preapproval application?

If you’re ready to submit an application, be prepared to share some personal information with the lender. This might include:

  • Your name, date of birth and Social Security number.
  • Your contact details, including your address, phone number and email.
  • Your employment details, including your current employer and income.
  • Your financial details, including your expenses and debts.

Lenders provide preapprovals based on your application. If it’s inaccurate or missing details, a lender won’t be able to offer you preapproval. Be sure to take the time to gather the necessary documents so that your application is as accurate as possible before you begin.

How can I avoid getting denied for a loan?

Lenders may decline preapproval applications for any reason. Some common ones include:

  • You haven’t supplied the proper documents for validating your income.
  • You have a low credit score or don’t meet other eligibility criteria.
  • You have too many inquiries on your credit report.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to avoid it besides making sure your application is accurate and reflects your ability to repay a loan. You can build your credit score if it’s low or pay down some other debts if your debt-to-income ratio is too high to meet a lender’s qualifications.

Just because you’ve been preapproved before doesn’t mean you will be again. Lenders have strict eligibility criteria, and you aren’t guaranteed to receive a loan even if you’ve been preapproved.

Watch out for preapproval scams

It may seem obvious, but there are scams out there that look legitimate. Some disreputable lenders will even send postcards in the mail or forward an email that mimics a real lender.

Always be wary of a lender’s reputation. Check customer reviews and the lender’s website, and never agree to a loan from a lender that you don’t trust. Confirm that these preapproval offers are real before proceeding with a loan application.

Bottom line

Being preapproved for a personal loan can help you make a more informed decision, but it can be a confusing process if you don’t know what to look out for. Remember that lenders will likely consider both your credit and income before extending preapproval. And even if you’re offered it, that doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to get approved for the loan in the end.

Compare your personal loan options to find the right lender before you submit an application. Or learn how car loan preapproval works or home loan products.

Frequently asked questions

How much can I borrow for a personal loan?

Maximum loan amounts vary by lender. Check out our personal loan comparison table to find a lender that works for you.

Should I bother with preapproval if I have excellent credit?

It depends on how ready you are to make a purchase or use your personal loan funds. If you’re simply testing the waters and want to compare how much different lenders would be willing to lend you, getting preapproved makes sense. If you need to borrow quickly and are confident in the rates you’ll receive, you might want to apply for the loan right away.

How are preapproval and prequalification different?

Prequalification is a preliminary process that determines if you meet the lender’s minimum eligibility criteria. Preapproval is a more involved process that evaluates your creditworthiness among other factors to determine how much you may be able to borrow from the lender.

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