Best Personal Loans of 2017

If you’re looking for a personal loan, you’ll definitely want to consult a variety of lenders to get the best rates and terms. To help you out in your search, we’ve compiled a list of the best personal loans after reviewing over 50 lenders.

Best Personal Loans for Credit Scores Under 680

Credit scores between 650 and 680 are considered fair to average, and credit scores under 650 are considered poor. While it may be more difficult to get a personal loan with a credit score in this range, many online lenders are willing to work with applicants who have less than perfect scores.

Credit Unions

Many local and federal credit unions are willing to work with borrowers who have limited, average or below average credit history. While you will need to be a member of the credit union, you can typically borrow anywhere from $500 to $35,000 or more with long terms and better rates than what you may find at an online lender or bank. For federal credit unions, in particular, the maximum interest rate is capped at 18%, so this is a good opportunity to get a lower rate than what you would find elsewhere. For comparison, many online lenders have rates going up to 30% or 36%.

Credit unions may also accept co-signers or collateral, which can drastically improve your chances of getting approved and help you qualify for a lower rate. Some credit unions, like Navy Federal, offer shares or savings secured personal loans and lines of credit that come with very low APRs. If you aren’t already a member of a credit union, rest assured that many credit unions aren’t difficult to join -- some only require that you live or work in the region they serve or have a close family member who is eligible or already a member.

Best for: Borrowers with below average credit history, especially for small-dollar loans, secured personal loans or cosigned personal loans.

  • APR: Up to 18%+
  • Loan terms: Varies
  • Days to get funds: 1 - 7+
  • Loan amount: Varies
  • Recommended credit score: Varies

Avant

If you have fair to average credit and good income, we recommend Avant for an unsecured personal loan. The lender states on its website that the average Avant borrower has a credit score between 600 and 700 and income between $50,000 and $100,000, and we advise borrowers fit into these ranges to increase their chances of getting approved. You can borrow anywhere from $1,000 to $35,000 with APRs between 9.95% and 35.99% and terms between two and five years. Each loan comes with an origination fee of 0.95% to 3.75% of the loan amount. There are also late and returned payment fees, but no prepayment penalties.

One of the benefits of using Avant is the flexibility the lender provides in repaying your loan. You can change your payment amount and due date up to one day before the payment is due, and there are no fees for repaying your loan by check or almost any other method. The lender also provides forgiveness on its $25 late fee if you make three consecutive on-time payments after your late payment. Avant is available in all states except Iowa, Colorado and West Virginia.

Best for: Borrowers with credit scores between 600 and 700 and salaries between $50,000 and $100,000.

  • APR: 9.95% - 35.99%
  • Loan term: 2 to 5 years
  • Origination fee: 0.95% - 4.75%
  • Loan amount: $1,000 - $35,000
  • 1+ days to get funds

OneMain Financial

We think OneMain Financial is a solid option for a personal loan if you have a sub-620 credit score. In 2016, almost half of the company’s total lending volume went to borrowers with credit scores under 620. And it’s one of the few online lenders we’ve found that has reasonable interest rates for borrowers with low credit scores. If your credit score is particularly low, you may be required to put up collateral to get approved. While putting up collateral is not without risks, it can net you a lower interest rate. In fact, the lowest interest rate at OneMain Financial, which is 9.99%, is only available to borrowers who take out auto-secured loans.

Similar to Avant, OneMain Financial offers rates between 9.99% and 35.99% for loans from $1,500 to $25,000. Terms range from three to six years, but there are no prepayment penalties so you can always pay off your loan earlier. Loans carry origination fees, but these fees vary by state and region. One downside to using OneMain Financial is that you may be required to make a branch visit to complete your loan application. However, the lender states that 83% of Americans live within 25 miles of a branch location.

Best for: Borrowers with credit scores under 650 who are okay putting up collateral.

  • APR: 9.99% - 36.00%
  • Loan term: 3 to 6 years
  • Origination fee: Varies by state
  • Loan amount: $1,500 - $25,000
  • 1+ days to get funds

Best Personal Loans for Good Credit (680 and Above)

A good to excellent credit score is considered any FICO score from 680 to 850. If you have a credit score in this range, you’ll be able to qualify for lower rates on a personal loan.

LightStream

A division of SunTrust bank, LightStream makes unsecured personal loans to applicants with strong credit scores and histories, and we think it’s one of the best options in the market when it comes to personal loans. The lender looks for borrowers who not only have good credit scores, but have a demonstrated history of financial responsibility. This means having a few years of credit history, a variety of account types (i.e., credit cards, mortgages, installment loans, etc.), liquid savings and assets and a low debt-to-income ratio.

One of the reasons we like LightStream is that the lender has a wide range of loan amounts and terms, competitive rates and few fees. You can borrow between $5,000 to $100,000 with rates from 2.19% to 17.49% with AutoPay and terms from two to seven years. The lender provides a discount of 0.5% on your APR if you enroll in its AutoPay program -- meaning a 6.0% APR would become a 5.5% APR with AutoPay. There are also no origination, late or returned payment or prepayment fees. Same-day funding is also available in some cases, which makes the lender a great option for borrowers in a pinch. LightStream is available in all 50 states.

Best for: Financially responsible borrowers with excellent personal credit.

  • APR: 2.19% - 17.49% with AutoPay
  • Loan term: 2 to 7 years
  • Origination fee: None
  • Loan amount: $5,000 - $100,000
  • Varies, same-day funding available to get funds

SoFi

We think SoFi is another excellent choice for a personal loan if you have strong credit history. With this lender, you can borrow up to $100,000 with low rates between 5.7% and 14.24% and terms of three, five or seven years. The average rate at SoFi is 8.5%, which is lower than the 15% to 17% average rates you see with other online lenders. There are no origination fees or prepayment penalties on SoFi personal loans. To improve your odds of getting approved, we recommend borrowers have credit scores of at least 680, a moderate to low debt-to-income ratio, solid income and a demonstrated history of saving.

One interesting thing about this lender is its social networking events and free professional development services. The lender offers networking and social events for its members across cities in the U.S. as well as career assistance and unemployment protection. In the event you lose your job through no fault of your own, SoFi will help you look for another job and suspend your loan payments until you get a new one. You can take advantage of the career services even if you haven’t lost your job. SoFi also makes mortgages and student loans and provides wealth management services, so it can be a nice one-stop shop for your financial needs. SoFi is available in all states except Mississippi and Nevada.

Best for: Borrowers with good to excellent credit, borrowers who want extra perks and borrowers who want to do other borrowing in the same place.

  • APR: 5.49% - 14.24% with AutoPay (variable rates also available)
  • Loan term: 3, 5 or 7 years
  • Origination fee: None
  • Loan amount: $5,000 - $100,000
  • 3+ days to get funds

Earnest

Earnest is also a great personal loan option for creditworthy borrowers, especially if you’re looking to make a major purchase or investment. Earnest looks for financially responsible borrowers with good credit history, so we do not recommend it as an option for significant debt consolidation. However, if you’re looking to make home improvements, invest in your professional development or relocate, Earnest makes low cost unsecured personal loans. You should have a credit score of at least 680, little non-mortgage or non-student loan debt and good income to improve your shot at getting approved.

Rates at Earnest are 5.25% to 12%, and you can borrow up to $50,000 for one to three years. One thing we like about this lender is the relative lack of fees. There are no fees except a returned payment fee of $8, which you would only be charged if you bank account is overdrawn when making a payment. Earnest is available in all states except Alabama, Delaware, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nevada and Rhode Island. Currently, you can’t check your rate at Earnest without affecting your credit score, so we only recommend taking out a loan here if you’re fairly certain you’ll be approved.

Best for: Creditworthy borrowers looking to pay for a major purchase or expense.

  • APR: 5.25% - 12.00%
  • Loan term: 1 to 3 years
  • Origination fee: None
  • Loan amount: $2,000 - $50,000
  • 1+ days to get funds

Best Debt Consolidation Loans

Debt consolidation, whether from other loans or credit cards, is one of the most common reasons people take out personal loans. If you’re looking to refinance debt, we’ve rounded up some of the best lenders for that purpose.

Marcus by Goldman Sachs

Marcus is the online personal loan arm of Goldman Sachs bank, and we think it’s a great option for a debt consolidation loan if you have good credit. You can borrow up to $30,000 through Marcus with rates between 6.99% and 23.99% and terms from two to six years, and Marcus lets you consolidate almost any type of debt from credit cards to medical bills. If you want to boost your chances of getting approved, we recommend that you have at least two to three years of credit history, a credit score of 680 or above and a debt-to-income ratio under 40%. Having a steady, ample source of income will also improve your chances.

One thing we like about Marcus is that the lender doesn’t charge origination fees, late fees, returned payment fees or prepayment penalties. If you make a late payment, you’ll only be charged for any extra interest you accumulated. Marcus is available in all states except Maryland.

Best for: Good credit borrowers looking to consolidate high-interest debt.

  • APR: 5.99% - 22.99%
  • Loan term: 2 to 6 years
  • Origination fee: None
  • Loan amount: $3,500 - $30,000
  • 2+ days to get funds

Payoff

If you have high-interest credit card debt to consolidate, we recommend Payoff. Payoff loans are specifically designed for credit card debt consolidation. The company makes debt consolidation loans from $5,000 to $35,000 with APRs from 8% to 25%. The company is also very clear about what it takes to qualify for one of its loans: a minimum FICO score of 660, a debt-to-income ratio of 50% or less, three years of credit history, two open and satisfactory trades, no current delinquencies and no delinquencies greater than 90 days in the last 12 months.

One benefit to using Payoff is the company has a full suite of tools and support to help you manage your credit card debt. The company gives you free FICO score updates, job loss support, quarterly check-ins with its membership team and other tools to help you better manage your finances in the future. Payoff is not currently available in Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Best for: Borrowers with good credit who need to consolidate high-interest credit card debt.

  • APR: 8% - 25%
  • Loan term: 2 to 5 years
  • Origination fee: 2% - 5%
  • Loan amount: $5,000 - $35,000
  • 2-5 days to get funds

Lending Club

One of the most well known online lenders, Lending Club is another one of our picks for a debt consolidation loan. You can borrow up to $40,000 through this marketplace lender, and in some cases, you can have Lending Club directly pay your creditors. Rates at Lending Club range from 5.99% to 35.89% with terms for three to five years. The average APR on a Lending Club personal loan is around 14%. You’ll want a credit score above 600, good annual income and a low debt-to-income ratio to improve your chances of getting approved. In fact, the average Lending Club borrower has a 700 credit score, annual income of $76,000 and a debt-to-income ratio of 18% (excluding mortgages).

An area where Lending Club falls a little short is its fee structure. Every loan will have an origination fee between 1% and 6% of the loan amount. While there are no prepayment penalties, there are late payment, returned payment and check processing fees, ranging from $7 to $15. And because Lending Club is a marketplace lender, you’ll likely have to wait a little longer to receive funds -- as many as seven or more days. Lending Club is available in all states except Iowa and West Virginia.

  • APR: 5.99% - 35.89%
  • Loan term: 3 or 5 years
  • Origination fee: 1% - 6%
  • Loan amount: $1,000 - $40,000
  • 7+ days to get funds

Summary of Best Personal Loans

In the table below, we’ve summarized the best personal loans for all types of borrowers and situations.

Best for…LenderAPRs
Credit scores under 680Credit unionsUp to 18%+
Avant9.95% - 35.99%
OneMain Financial9.99% - 36.00%
Credit scores from 680 to 850SoFi5.49% - 14.24% with AutoPay (variable rates also available)
Earnest5.25% - 12.00%
LightStream2.19% - 17.49% with AutoPay
Debt consolidationMarcus by Goldman Sachs5.99% - 22.99%
Payoff8% - 25%
Lending Club5.99% - 35.89%

Our Methodology

We evaluated over 50 different personal loan lenders to find the best personal loans for a variety of needs. We considered the following criteria in our review:

  • Fair fees: A good lender will charge fair fees, meaning reasonable origination fees, late fees and no prepayment penalties. This means no origination fee over 6%, no late fees over $25 or 5% monthly past due or prepayment penalties. In general, the lenders in this list met all of these requirements.
  • Competitive APRs: In most states, the maximum allowed APR on a personal loan is 36%. A 36% APR is considered the highest APR a lender can charge that a borrower can still reasonably afford. Many payday and alternative installment loans will charge much higher APRs (sometimes as high as 1,000%).
  • Lender credibility: We looked at each lender’s credibility and reputation based on user and third party reviews, Better Business Bureau (BBB) ratings and the company itself.
  • Transparent rate and fee disclosure: A trustworthy lender will present interest rates and fees upfront. It should be easy for the borrower to understand the cost of the loan before accepting.
  • Range of loan amounts and terms: We looked for lenders that offered a wide range of loan amounts (typically up to $25,000 or more) and a variety of repayment terms.
  • Geographic reach: We looked for lenders that were available in many states, with most lenders in the list being available in at least 35 to 40 states across the U.S. A lender may offer great rates and terms, but if it’s only available in one state, it is harder to recommend it for a broad audience.

In general, the lenders that we included in our list scored well in each of the criteria above. All of the lenders have clear rates, terms and fees disclosed on their website.

How to Find the Best Personal Loan

You’ll get the best rate on a personal loan if you can shop around a little bit. This means checking your rate at banks and credit unions in your area, but also at online lenders. Many online lenders have rates that are equal to or less than those offered by traditional banks. In many states, the maximum allowed APR on a personal loan is capped at 36%, so it’s best to look for loans with an APR equal or lower than this. If you see something higher, it’s likely to be more similar to a payday loan (which you should avoid).

While your credit score will be a big determining factor in whether or not you’re approved, lenders will also consider other criteria, such as your debt-to-income ratio, educational and work history, employment status, annual income, ability to save and your assets. You can sometimes overcome a less than stellar credit score by having a low debt-to-income ratio, savings built up, several years of credit history and a good annual income. Some lenders will allow you to apply with a cosigner or put up collateral, which can improve your chances of getting approved and help you qualify for a better rate. However, both of these strategies are not without risks.

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