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Everything You Need to Know About Personal Loans
When you want to finance a major purchase or expense that is too great to pay for out of your regular paycheck, then you may need a personal loan.
We’ve ranked the best personal loans in the following categories:
Best Personal Loans for Good Credit
Best Personal Loans for Bad Credit
What is a personal loan?
Most personal loans are unsecured, meaning you don’t have to offer any type of personal property as collateral to receive the funds. Lenders look at various factors to determine your loan offer, including your credit history and score; employment and income; and your current level of debt.
To get the best personal loan rates, you’ll need excellent credit; however, some new online lenders are changing traditional underwriting standards and instead weigh other factors more heavily, such as your education level or your payment history.
Either way, your personal loan APR is determined by the personal and financial information you submit in your application.
Selecting an online lender is both convenient and easy, but it does take some research to find the right one. No matter what type of personal loan credit score you have, there is most likely a lender available for you.
Most personal loan amounts range from $1,000 to $50,000, though some lenders go even higher than that. Not surprisingly, the higher credit score you have, the more money you’ll qualify to borrow.
Types of Lenders
Not all online lenders are the same; actually, personal loan companies vary greatly in what they offer. Typically, you’ll see three different types of lenders offering personal loans online: personal loan brokers, peer to peer lenders, and direct lenders.
Let’s take a look at each one so you know how to identify what type of lender you could potentially work with.
Personal Loan Broker
A personal loan broker is when you submit a single application with a broker who then finds lenders that are willing to make you a loan offer.
This is common for personal loans with bad credit but has also become an increasingly popular way for borrowers of all types to quickly and easily compare offers. When it comes time to take out the loan, you work directly with the lender, not the personal loan broker.
A peer-to-peer lender (or P2P lender) uses investors to fund each individual personal loan. The application process is similar to any other loan you would apply for, except that it’s then listed on a loan marketplace.
Depending on the lender, either one or several investors may contribute to your loan fund. Once your fund reaches 100%, the money is distributed. Then, you repay the loan to the P2P lender, who then distributes much of the interest to the investors.
A direct lender is really the simplest form of online lending. You apply for a loan through the lender’s website and the offer, funding, and servicing of the loan is all completed by the same personal loan company.
There’s not necessarily a major advantage in choosing a direct lender over any of the others, though you could potentially discover lower personal loan APRs since there’s no middleman. The best way to find out is by completing several pre-approval forms to compare offers.
How to Get a Personal Loan
Getting a personal loan online is easier than ever, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the process seriously. There are several things to consider when selecting your lender and comparing loan offers.
Plus, there are ways to strengthen your application and speed up the process. Let’s take a step-by-step look at how to get a personal loan, ideally with the best rates available to you.
Finding a Lender
You don’t necessarily need to find a personal loan company near you, but you do need to make sure any lender you work with is eligible to do business in your state. Most reputable companies explicitly list any geographic restrictions they might have.
If a lender isn’t nationwide, it’s not a red flag that there’s something wrong with them, it’s just that each state has its own regulatory guidelines. Some lenders may inherently not qualify to do business there (such as payday lenders in some states) while others simply may not have launched throughout the country yet.
How to Apply for a Loan
Most personal loan applications are pretty similar, so once you prepare for one, you should have nearly everything you need in case you want to apply to another.
Many online lenders offer a pre-approval process where they only perform a soft check on your credit before giving you an offer. This lets you check several loan offers without damaging your credit report.
Once you find an offer that you like, it’s time to complete the full application. You’ll have to enter in your personal and financial information, including facts about your employment and income.
You’ll also need to provide personal loan documents, which could include a copy of your government-issued ID, along with financial documents to verify your information. This could include pay stubs, tax returns, and bank account statements.
It’s helpful to start gathering these documents together once you know you’re going to be applying for a personal loan. That way you don’t have to slow down the approval process by digging through old files.
Considering Your Loan Offers
Once you apply for a personal loan, either through the pre-approval process or the formal application, it’s time to review your loan offers. Typically, you’ll see a minimum of a few different pieces of information, starting with your loan amount.
The amount you request isn’t necessarily the amount you’re offered, so don’t just gloss over that important detail. You’ll also see your APR, which includes your interest rate and any other costs such as an origination fee. This number is essential and helps you compare loan offers.
Another key piece of information you’ll receive is your loan term, or how long you’ll be making payments. Finally, you should see your monthly payment amount.
If you have a fixed rate loan, that amount will never change. However, if you choose a variable rate, it will change at some point depending on the nature of your personal loan agreement.
So, how do you compare your loan offers? A helpful tool to use is a personal loan calculator. You can see how much more you’ll save or spend in interest by choosing different loan options.
After all, even though one monthly payment is lower than another, it could still cost you more than a loan with a higher payment if it’s spread out over a longer period of time.
You may have to weigh the pros and cons of saving money over time versus saving money each month in your budget. If you’re a little more cash-strapped but need the personal loan for a necessity, it might be in your best interest to take a lower monthly payment over a longer loan term.
What Kind of Personal Loans Can You Find Online?
Now that you know what kind of lenders there are and what to expect during the application process, you can now narrow down what types of personal loans you can expect to find online. There are loans for different types of uses, as well as different types of borrowers.
Uses of Personal Loans
Credit card debt is a huge issue in America these days, and this phenomenon has translated into an influx of debt consolidation loans. They’re one of the most popular types of personal loans, if not the most popular.
Debt consolidation can refer to several things, but when it comes to getting a personal loan, it means paying off your various existing creditors with the loan funds and then making a single payment each month.
While some people appreciate the added convenience of just one due date, the real point behind debt consolidation with a personal loan is to save money through a lower interest rate.
Other than debt consolidation, there are countless things you can use them for, so it’s wise to use your discretion over whether a particular purchase, project, or event is worth the expense. Weddings, medical bills, home improvement projects, vacations, and even adoption are all common uses for personal loans.
Types of Borrowers
There are so many kinds of loans available online, almost anyone can find one regardless of credit. There’s just no guarantee over what kind of terms you’ll receive.
Obviously, if you have good or excellent credit, you’re likely to be eligible for the best loans. Low APRs, larger loan amounts, and flexible repayment periods are all at your disposal when you’re on the higher end of the credit spectrum.
But getting a personal loan with poor credit is also achievable, and many lenders actually focus on this type of borrower. Yes, you’ll pay more in interest, and you might be limited with how much money you can borrow at a time. So make sure that the reason behind your personal loan is a good one; really, it should be a necessity.
Otherwise, you put yourself at risk of damaging your credit even further, particularly if you already have other debt. That being said, it’s much easier to get a personal loan with bad credit through an online lender than your local bank or credit union.
Finally, many lenders also offer personal loans to those with no credit at all. Most frequently, these personal loan companies use alternative methods of underwriting to determine your creditworthiness. For recent graduates, they might look at your education, GPA, and future earning potential.
They might also consider your past payment history or employment history. These characteristics give them insight into your willingness and ability to repay the loan even if your credit history isn’t very long.
Best Online Personal Loans
It’s true that there are personal loans designed for every type of borrower out there. To help you navigate the crowded waters of online lending, we’ve developed a list of our five favorite personal loans.
We’ll get you started by showing you a bit of everything, so you can narrow down your choices quickly and efficiently.
We did the dirty work for you, digging through loan terms and borrower requirements, then pulled out the ones that suit a broad array of individuals. Whether you have great credit, average credit, poor credit, or none at all, there’s a lender focusing on your constituency.
Click here for a list of the best online personal loans.
Best Personal Loans for Good Credit
Good credit typically ranges between 690 and 720, with excellent credit being anything above that.
Since different lenders have different methods of judging applicants, it’s always good to shop around for the best offer, even if you have a great credit score. That way, you can find the one with the exact terms that work for your individual needs.
We’ve gone through dozens of online lenders to find the best ones offering personal loans for good credit.
Take a look at our top choices to learn more about what kind of loan terms each one offers, what they look for in an ideal borrower, and how you can apply. After each overview, you’ll also get links to more in-depth reviews so you can narrow down your favorite options.
Click here for a list of the best personal loans for good credit.
Best Personal Loan for Bad Credit
Online lenders for bad credit do exist, even if you’re searching for a personal loan after bankruptcy or another major negative item. But you have to be careful to make sure you’re not signing up with a predatory lender.
While it’s unfortunate, it is vital to do even more due diligence with bad credit lenders than with any other kind because they know you have fewer options available to you.
There are also many scammers posing as online lenders that either attempt to get your financial information or have you pay fees for loans that don’t even exist. But don’t worry. We’ve scoured the Internet and created a comprehensive guide to the best reputable lenders offering personal loans with bad credit.