What are the Best Personal Loans of 2018?

Choosing a personal loan can be a daunting task, which is why our researchers put together this guide to simplify that process. We examined dozens of online lenders, banks and credit unions to find the best personal loans available. The answer to "Who is best?" depends on which company will provide you the lowest interest rates. We built a comparison tool that allows you to compare rates from top online lenders in your area. Put in your desired loan amount, credit score and state then select whoever quotes you the lowest price.

Generally, you can't go wrong sticking with one of the above options. However, for readers that want to learn more about the top personal lenders and get to know each company's strengths and weaknesses, before applying check out our in-depth reviews below. If you're feeling overwhelmed, we recommend reading our guide on how to choose a personal loan.

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In-Depth Reviews of The Best Personal Loans

We spent countless hours comparing different lenders, including reading through terms and conditions, online user reviews and speaking with customer service representatives. We condensed all of that research here for you so that you can get a better understanding of how each lender can help to serve your needs.

Best Overall Choice: LightStream

LightStream, a division of SunTrust Bank, is one of the top personal loan options on the market because we've seen it consistently quotes lower than average rates. On top of that, the company provides fast funding times and a wide range of loan amounts and terms. The lender is best for financially responsible borrowers with good personal credit, as LightStream looks for borrowers who have a few years of credit history, a variety of account types, savings and a low debt-to-income ratio.

Credit Needed660 or higher
Loan Amount Range$5,000 - $100,000
APR Range3.09% - 14.24% with AutoPay (rates vary by loan purpose)

LightStream stands out from other lenders due to having a high loan amount limit with some of the best personal loan rates we've seen. 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 Bank For Personal Loans: PNC Bank

PNC Bank ranked as our top pick for the best bank for personal loans thanks to its competitive rates for secured loans (3.99%+) and unsecured loans (5.99%+). Unlike many other banks, you don't need to be an existing customer with PNC Bank to apply. And if you like the rates offered, you can register for an account which guarantees you a 0.25% discount for automatic payments.

Credit NeededNot specified
Loan Amount Range$1,000–$100,000
APR Range3.99%–25.44%

Although PNC offers both secured and unsecured loans, the lender only provides up to $35,000 for unsecured loans, which is low compared to many other lenders. PNC is a better choice for borrowers looking to get a secured loan as it offers up to $100,000 with loan terms from one to 15 years. You can secure your loan with non-real estate collateral such as cash or a vehicle, but this is always risky for the borrower since if you are unable to pay your loan, you will lose your asset.

Best Credit Union For Personal Loans: Pentagon Federal Credit Union

Pentagon Federal Credit Union (PenFed) is best for existing members with fair to average credit as its personal loan rates are capped at 18%. Credit unions, in general, are a good option for borrowers as they are willing to work with average or below average credit history. Generally, borrowers with credit scores under 650 may have a difficult time being approved for loans from banks and online lenders, especially for the rates that are as low as the ones PenFed offers.

Credit NeededNot specified
Loan Amount Range$500 - $25,000
APR Range6.49% - 17.99%

PenFed offers borrowers personal loan amounts up to $25,000, which is low compared to most online lenders. However, if you have bad credit, taking out a loan from a credit union may be your best option, considering that personal loan rates can go up to 35% or more. PenFed also accepts co-signers, which can drastically improve your chances of getting approved and help you qualify for a lower rate. Keep in mind that you will have to be a member of the credit union for approval. If you aren't already a member of a credit union, most aren't difficult to join.

Best Personal Loan for Bad Credit: OneMain Financial

If you have a credit score less than 620, OneMain Financial may be the best personal loan company for you, as almost half its total lending volume goes to borrowers with credit score under 620. The online lender offers personal loan interest rates starting at 16.05% (9.99% for secured loans), which seems high compared to other lenders. However, considering that the company lends to borrowers with such low credit scores, the rates are reasonable. If your credit score is particularly low, you may be required to put up collateral to get approved, which can get you a lower interest rate.

Credit Needed620 or higher
Loan Amount Range$1,500 - $30,000
APR Range16.05% - 35.99%

In fact, the lowest personal loan rates at OneMain Financial are only available to borrowers who take out auto-secured loans. The lender encourages those with poor credit to use collateral, making the loan less risky for them, but you risk losing your property if you default on the loan. One downside to using OneMain Financial is that, unlike many other online lenders, you are 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.

Alternative: Avant

Avant also ranked as one of our top personal loan options for borrowers with less than perfect credit scores. If you have fair to average credit and a good income, we recommend Avant's unsecured personal loan with APRs between 9.95% and 35.99% for loan amounts between $1,000 to $35,000. According to Avant's website, the average borrower has a credit score between 600 and 700 with an income between $50,000 and $100,000.

Credit Needed580 or higher
Loan Amount Range$2,000 - $35,000
APR Range9.95% - 35.99%

The main benefit of using an online lender like Avant is that the lender provides flexibility in repaying your loan, allowing you to change your payment amount and due date up to one day before the payment is due. The lender also provides forgiveness on its $25 late fee if you make three consecutive on-time payments following the late payment. Avant is available in all states except Iowa, Colorado and West Virginia.

Best Personal Loan for Good Credit: SoFi

SoFi is an excellent personal loan company for borrowers with strong credit histories. With this lender, you can borrow up to $100,000 at low rates between 6.57% and 16.25% 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. 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.

Credit Needed680 or higher
Loan Amount Range$5,000 - $100,000
APR Range5.81% - 16.25% with AutoPay (variable rates also available)

A huge benefit to using 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. 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.

Alternative: Earnest

Earnest is another lender with great personal loan rates and no origination fees, perfect for borrowers with good credit. 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 nonmortgage or nonstudent loan debt and a good income to improve your shot at getting approved.

Credit Needed660 or higher
Loan Amount Range$5,000 - $75,000
APR Range5.25% - 18.24%

One thing we like about this online 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 your bank account was overdrawn when making a payment. On the other hand, 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. And Earnest is not available in Alabama, Delaware, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nevada or Rhode Island.

Best Personal Loan for Debt Consolidation: Marcus by Goldman Sachs

Marcus is the online personal loan lender for Goldman Sachs, and we think it provides some of the best loans for debt consolidation if you have good credit. It is best for borrowers looking to consolidate high-interest debt. You can borrow up to $40,000 through Marcus with rates between 6.99% and 24.99% and terms from two to six years, and Marcus lets you consolidate almost any type of debt from credit cards to medical bills.

Credit Needed660 or higher
Loan Amount Range$3,500 - $40,000
APR Range6.99% - 24.99%

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. Marcus 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.

Alternative: Payoff

If you have high-interest credit card debt to consolidate, we recommend Payoff as its 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 lender is best for borrowers that meet its requirements, as the company is 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.

Credit Needed640 or higher
Loan Amount Range$5,000 - $35,000
APR Range8.00% - 25.00%

Payoff stands out among other top lenders due to its 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 Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio or West Virginia.

Alternative: LendingClub

LendingClub, one of the most well-known online lenders, is another one of our top loan companies for debt consolidation. LendingClub only requires a credit score of 600 to qualify for a loan. However, the average LendingClub borrower has a 700 credit score, annual income of $76,000 and a debt-to-income ratio of 18% (excluding mortgages). The average APR on a LendingClub personal loan is around 14%

Credit Needed600 or higher
Loan Amount Range$1,000 - $40,000
APR Range6.16% - 35.89%

The main drawback to using LendingClub is that 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 LendingClub is a marketplace lending partner, you’ll likely have to wait a little longer than you would with other lenders to receive funds -- on average six days or sooner. LendingClub is available in all states except Iowa.

How to Find the Best Personal Loan for You

To find the best personal loan rate, you should shop around a little bit to find a lender that offers you the lowest interest rate. This means checking your rate at some of the best banks and credit unions in your area, but also at online lenders. Many online lenders have rates that are equal to or lower than those offered by traditional banks.

Here are some good APR ranges you should expect from a personal loan:

  • Bad Credit (300 to 629): 17%–36%
  • Fair/Average Credit (630 to 689): 13%–30%
  • Good Credit (690 to 719): 8%–25%
  • Excellent Credit (720 to 850): 3%–15%

Your credit score will be a big determining factor in whether you’re approved. When searching for a lender, consider first filtering by choices that match your current creditworthiness. Lenders will also will look favorably at your application if you have a low debt-to-income ratio (below 30%), are employed full-time and have a good savings balance—enough so they see you're putting some money away each month and not living paycheck to paycheck. Therefore, if you're just out of the credit score range for a lender, you may still want to apply if these other factors paint you as a strong candidate.

If you need a loan but can't qualify, you can seek out a secured loan, which forces you to put up collateral. However, should you fail to repay your loan, the lender will seize whatever you put up, and your account may still be sent to collections, so this is a risky option.

What you want to use the loan for will also determine your eligibility. Most online lenders will provide funds for the following reasons:

  • Debt consolidation
  • Large purchases
  • Home improvements
  • To improve your credit

However, if you're looking for a loan to open a business or go to college, you may need to seek out a specialized type of loan. If you want a loan to start a business, look for special small business loans instead. And if you need a loan to afford college, you should look at your student loan options.

Does the term length matter when selecting a loan?

Term length always matters when selecting a loan, as a longer term can carry a higher interest rate and origination fee for the same loan amount. It's always best to pay off your loan in the shortest amount of time, as you accrue the least interest. However, if you aren't sure you can afford payments in that short amount of time, it is best to opt for a longer term as your monthly payments will be lower and you are less likely to default on the loan.

How We Arrived at Our Top Personal Loan Picks

We evaluated over 50 different personal loan providers to find the best loans for a variety of needs. In general, the lenders that we included in our list scored well in each of the criteria below. All of the lenders have clear rates, terms and fees disclosed on their websites. We considered the following criteria in our review:

ValuePenguin's Selection Criteria

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.

Rebecca Wessell

Rebecca is a Product Manager at ValuePenguin, focusing on small business lending and personal loans. She was a financial services and data management consultant at Ernst & Young.

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