Personal loans can be used to finance large purchases, make home improvements, consolidate high-interest debt, other existing debt, and much more. These loans can be a valuable tool in helping you achieve your financial and lifestyle goals, no matter what those goals might be.
Personal loans typically come with varying repayment term lengths, though they tend to be relatively short-term, often between two and five years. It's also possible to get a personal loan quickly — lenders may disburse loan funds as soon as the next business day after your online application is approved (and some lenders advertise same-day timelines).
But before you decide on the best personal loan for you, take some time to compare the personal loan offers from these top-rated personal loan lenders to look for the lowest interest rates and find the terms that will work for you.
- Best places to shop for a personal loan
- Best personal loans
- Best personal loan for financial support: SoFi
- Best personal loan for good credit or excellent credit: Marcus by Goldman Sachs
- Best personal loan for small loans: Upstart
- Best personal loan for secured personal loan: Avant
- Best personal loan for fair to bad credit: Upgrade
- Best personal loan for paying credit card debt: Happy Money
- Best personal loan for peer-to-peer lending: Prosper
- 6 things to know before you apply for a personal loan
- What can a personal loan be used for?
- Alternatives to personal loans
- Our methodology
- Personal loan lenders to avoid
- FAQ about personal loans
- The bottom line on personal loans
Best places to shop for a personal loan
Smart shopping can pay off when it comes to deciding on your personal loan. Thankfully, there are services that make comparing personal loan rates and terms easier for us. These services are free to use and can connect you to a wide range of lenders you might not even be aware of:
NerdWallet loan matching
Using its large network of lenders, NerdWallet loan matching service quickly shows you a variety of loan options with competitive interest rates. Like the other services on this list, it only does a soft credit check for the pre-approval process, which means your credit score won’t be hurt.
... or read our full NerdWallet loan matching review.
Founded in 2012, Credible is a lender marketplace based in San Francisco. Thousands of customers have received offers through Credible, and more than 280 partners, from Uber to Trunk Club, trust the company and use its services.
... or read our full read our Credible review.
AmOne is a trusted and reputable company that has been developing its service since it was founded in 1999. AmOne is unique in that it provides live assistance to borrowers so you can always call and speak with a loan expert.
... or read our full AmOne review.
Founded in 2015, Fiona is run by Even Financial, the leading search engine for financial services. Even though the company is relatively new, Fiona helped customers access more than $600 million in personal loans in 2019.
... read our full Fiona review.
... or read our full LoansUnder36 review
Best personal loans
Best personal loan for financial support: SoFi
Although SoFi offers a wide range of personal loans when it comes to the amount and the terms, it really shines when it comes to the financial support offered to its clients. It provides an in-depth resources section on its website that covers everything from budgeting and investing to how to deal with financial stress.
Additionally, SoFi understands that part of achieving your financial goals may involve career challenges. It provides career coaching and job search assistance, and it also offers unemployment protection that allows you to suspend your personal loan payments if you lose your job through no fault of your own. It also offers autopay discounts on certain personal loan products.
... or read our full SoFi review.
Best personal loan for good credit or excellent credit: Marcus by Goldman Sachs
Marcus by Goldman Sachs could be the right personal loan for you if you are in the good and/or excellent credit score range. Marcus loans have no origination fees and no prepayment penalty if you want to pay off your loan early. You’ll also have the freedom to adjust your due date and manage your loan via your mobile device, whether you have an iOS or Android device. They also offer a competitive range of interest rates, including fixed interest rates.
... or read our full Marcus by Goldman Sachs review.
Best personal loan for small loans: Upstart
Sometimes a small amount of money can make a big difference in life. With Upstart, you can borrow as little as $1,000. Like most of the companies on our list, Upstart offers a pre-approval process that runs only a soft credit check, so you don’t have to worry about damaging your credit score by exploring your personal loan options.
... or read our full Upstart review.
Best personal loan for secured personal loan: Avant
Most personal loans are unsecured, which means there is nothing you’re offering to the financial institution as collateral in the event you can’t pay back your loan. This means you sometimes can’t get approved for the amount you need or a low interest rate.
Avant is different in that it offers secured loans. Through Avant you can borrow money based on the value of your automobile and this may help you save money on your loan in the long run. Avant also has an app for iOS and Android to make managing your loan easy.
... or read our full Avant review.
Best personal loan for fair to bad credit: Upgrade
Sometimes life gets challenging and our credit score can take a hit. There’s nothing wrong with having a bad credit history, but it can make it harder to get a loan because some lenders require a minimum credit score. Upgrade is a personal loan provider that’s known for lending to people with fair credit to poor credit. Upgrade’s pre-approval process will only require a soft credit check, which won't appear on your credit report. So you don’t have to worry about lowering your credit score further just by exploring your personal loan options.
... or read our full Upgrade review.
Best personal loan for paying high-interest credit card debt: Happy Money
Although you can use a personal loan from just about any of the companies on our list to pay off credit card debt, Happy Money personal loans are specifically designed for this purpose. Additionally, Happy Money is very transparent about how its loans work, the loan terms that are potentially available, and its credit score requirements. If you’re looking for a straightforward way to refinance credit card debt, Happy Money could be a good online lender for you.
... or read our full Happy Money review.
Best personal loan for peer-to-peer lending: Prosper
When we think of personal loans, we mostly think of borrowing from financial institutions such as a bank or credit union. Prosper is different in that it is a peer-to-peer lender. With peer lending, the money comes from individual investors (even someone just like you), not a bank, and this makes peer-to-peer lending more flexible. If you’re curious what kind of loan terms you could get by looking beyond traditional banks, Prosper could be a good fit for you.
... or read our full Prosper review.
6 things to know before you apply for a personal loan
Before you make any personal finance decision, it's important to understand what you're getting. Here are six things you should know if you're considering a personal loan.
1. Personal loans can be a great option for debt consolidation
If you’re trying to pay down debt, having multiple payments each month can make it challenging. A personal loan can help you combine your debts into one simple monthly payment. Sometimes doing a debt consolidation loan can also mean you’re paying less overall interest on your debt as well.
2. Your credit score matters
The loan amount a lender will offer you, the repayment terms of that loan, and your annual percentage rate (the interest rate you’ll pay on the debt) will vary. Your creditworthiness is part of what determines these things. Other factors, like your debt-to-income ratio and annual income also come into play. If you apply for a loan now but you’re turned down or not offered an interest rate that you like due to not meeting the minimum credit score requirement, don’t give up. Work on improving your credit score and apply again in the future. You could be pleasantly surprised by lower interest rates.
3. Personal loans can help you raise your credit score
By making regular, on-time payments on your new personal loan, you can actually improve your credit score. In addition, lenders favor borrowers who have a mix of different types of credit lines. By getting a personal loan, you can add some diversity to your credit profile.
4. Personal loans aren’t always a great idea
Depending on the loan purpose, personal loans aren't necessarily a great idea. Especially if you end up with an unsecured personal loan with a high interest rate. If you want to go on vacation, buy a car, or pay for school, then a personal loan might not be your best option. There are other ways you can pay for those things that will be less expensive in the long run. Consider opening a savings account and/or looking at student loans or auto loans.
On the other hand, personal loans are a great option for:
- Debt consolidation
- Refinancing high-interest credit card debt
- Covering your moving costs
- Making home improvements or repairs
- Paying off medical expenses
If you're looking to refinance your credit card debt and you don't want to take out a personal loan, check out our list of the best balance transfer credit cards as an alternative.
5. Having a co-signer could be helpful
If you’re worried about how to get a loan or you simply want to get the best personal loan terms and lowest rate you possibly can, then talk to a trusted friend or family member about becoming a co-signer on your loan. Having a co-signer (or even a co-borrower) could increase your chances of loan approval; however, your co-signer will be legally responsible for your debt, just like you, though you’ll be the one making the payments.
Just remember to make those payments and never be late, or it could be both a financial and emotional strain on your relationship with your co-signer.
6. It’s important to read all the details
Every lender will operate a little differently, so it’s important that you understand all the details before you submit your loan application or take the time to go through a prequalification:
- Some personal loans will charge origination fees or late fees. Others will charge no fees.
- Most will offer fixed rates, but some will charge higher interest rates than others.
- Some will let you pay the loan off early and others won’t.
- Some might offer things like next day funding whereas others will take longer to get you your money.
- You'll likely see minimum loan amounts and maximum loan amounts as you compare your options.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and make sure you investigate all your options before you start the application process. Ultimately, this is your personal loan — so make sure it fits your goals, needs, and budget if you're prequalified. The right loan for you is out there.
What can a personal loan be used for?
You can use a personal loan for a variety of things, including:
- Debt consolidation: Pay off multiple other types of debt with your personal loan to keep your debt organized and potentially get a low rate of interest.
- Home renovations: Use a personal loan to help pay for important home renovations and improvements.
- Medical bills: Cover costly medical bills with a personal loan.
- Emergencies: Consider a personal loan if you have some unexpected expenses.
- Large purchases: Use a personal loan to cover large expenses involved with weddings, holidays, family gatherings, or moving houses.
When is it a good idea to get a personal loan?
It could be a good idea if you completely understand how personal loans work. This could include knowing the income requirements, whether there are flexible terms or other perks, and knowing if you might prequalify.
It’s also important to have a repayment plan ready so you don’t pay more interest than necessary when paying off the loan. A personal loan calculator can help you determine your estimated monthly payments, including how much interest you’ll pay.
Note that you don’t need the best credit history to qualify for different types of personal loans, as it depends on the loan companies you work with. But having a good to excellent credit score typically helps qualify you for the lowest APRs. A good credit score is at least 670 on the FICO scoring model, which is used by major credit bureaus.
When is it not a good idea to get a personal loan?
It’s not a good idea if you don’t understand how credit loans and installment loans work in general, can’t provide proof of income, can’t qualify for good interest rates, or don’t have a plan to repay the lump sum from the loan.
You should have an important reason to apply for and use a personal loan, and then a strategy for paying it off as quickly as possible while avoiding fees and high interest rates.
Alternatives to personal loans
There are plenty of alternatives to personal loans, including:
- Credit cards: A 0% intro APR credit card could help you avoid paying interest on purchases or balance transfers for a certain number of months, giving you time to pay down debt.
- Home equity loans or home equity lines of credit (HELOC): Home equity loans and HELOCs let you borrow money against the equity in your home.
- Personal lines of credit: Similar to a credit card, you can use a personal line of credit for different expenses up to the credit limit.
- Peer-to-peer (P2P) loans: Borrow money from individuals registered on P2P lending platforms.
- Retirement loans: Borrow money from your retirement savings, such as a 401(k) account.
In determining our list of the best personal loan lenders, we looked at eight popular companies and evaluated them according to a set of criteria we consider critical to the consumer. We did not evaluate all companies in the category. We used editorial judgment to determine what use or user each loan would be best for.
FinanceBuzz evaluation criteria include:
- Credit checks: We investigated whether a company requires a hard credit inquiry versus a soft credit check for you to check your eligibility.
- Fees: A variety of fees were taken into account in our assessment. Fees evaluated included late payment fees, origination fees, and prepayment fees.
- Transparency around rates and terms: Whom the company would be a best fit for also took transparency around APR range, loan terms, and approval requirements into account.
- Customer support and experience: Accounts were evaluated based on how the customer can access and manage the account (mobile app and/or web-based portal), as well as the methods by which the customer can communicate with support.
- Education resources available: When researching companies and whom they would be a best fit for, we also looked at the educational and support resources provided.
Companies with personal loan interest rates over 36% and companies with more than 700 CFPB complaints were excluded from our list.
The companies included on the list for the best places to shop for personal loans are all past or current partners with FinanceBuzz. We did not evaluate all companies in the market.
Personal loan lenders to avoid
Even if you’re in a desperate financial situation and have a low credit score, or you’re in a hurry to get your hands on cash or a line of credit, there are some types of lenders you’ll likely want to avoid.
- Payday lenders: These companies offer loans at an extremely high interest rate for a short period, essentially to tide the borrower over until the next paycheck. Some states have set laws capping a maximum amount for payday loan fees ranging from $10 to $30 for every $100 borrowed, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
- Title loan: If you take out this type of loan, a lien is placed against your car title so the vehicle is used as collateral. If the borrower fails to repay according to the loan terms — which typically includes sky-high interest rates — the lender may seize the car.
To ensure you’re working with a reputable lender, look up potential companies using the Better Business Bureau's website. Because lenders are required to register within the state where they do business, you can also check with your state attorney general’s office.
You can also use an online loan calculator to help figure out how long it would take you to complete loan repayment and how much you’d pay in interest over time.
FAQ about personal loans
What credit score is needed for a personal loan?
Many personal loan lenders require scores over 610, and the higher your credit score, the better loan terms you’re likely to get. The exact score you need to be approved for a personal loan depends on which lender you go with, but a FICO credit score that falls in the good, very good, or excellent range will be your best bet.
How big of a personal loan can you get?
Personal loan amounts can go as high as $100,000, but many lenders cap out lower than that. How big of a personal loan you personally can get depends on your credit score and other factors lenders will consider before offering you an amount. To get a $100,000 personal loan would likely require an excellent FICO credit score, among other factors.
Like any financial decision, personal loans come down to being a personal matter. In many cases, a personal loan offers fast funding and can be a great financial choice if you know you’ll be able to make the payments, if you potentially will be paying less in interest over time, and if you plan to use your loan money responsibly.
Taking out a personal loan can actually bring you a great deal of financial freedom — and help you reach your personal goals while maintaining your bank account balance. Just be sure to learn how to get a loan so you can shop around for the best rates and terms so you can discover a product that suits your needs.