Personal loans can be used to finance large purchases, consolidate debt, and much more. Personal loans can be a valuable tool in helping you achieve your financial and lifestyle goals, no matter what those goals might be. You might be drowning in debt and looking for a solution, or you might just be interested in a wedding loan or or a loan for an RV.
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 find the rates and terms that will work for you.
- Best personal loans
- Best personal loan for large loans: LightStream
- 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: Payoff
- Best personal loan for peer-to-peer lending: Prosper
- Best places to shop for a personal loan
- 6 things to know before you apply for a personal loan
- Our methodology
- The bottom line on personal loans
Best personal loans
Best personal loan for large loans: LightStream
If you are looking for a large personal loan, LightStream could be your best option. LightStream is a division of SunTrust Bank and offers personal loans up to $100,000. But that doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily have high payments, as it also offers terms up to 12 years in length.
It’s important to be aware that unlike some other personal loan companies, LightStream will do a hard credit pull before approving you. On the positive side, if you are not completely satisfied with your LightStream loan, you could get $100, thanks to its 30-day satisfaction guarantee.
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.
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 or excellent credit score range. Marcus loans have no 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. And although Marcus loans may have shorter terms, they also offer a competitive range of interest rates.
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 loan options.
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 at an interest rate that is affordable.
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.
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 personal loan. Upgrade is a personal loan provider that’s known for lending to people with fair to bad credit scores. Upgrade’s pre-approval process will only require a soft credit check, so you don’t have to worry about lowering your credit score further just by exploring your personal loan options.
Best personal loan for paying credit card debt: Payoff
Although you can use a personal loan from just about any of the companies on our list to pay off credit card debt, Payoff personal loans are specifically designed for this purpose. Additionally, Payoff is very transparent about how its loans work, the loan terms that are potentially available, and what credit history it requires. If you’re looking for a straight-forward way to refinance your credit card debt, Payoff could be a good lender for you.
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.
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:
Personal Loan Pro
Using its large network of lenders, Personal Loan Pro can quickly show you a variety of loan options. 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.
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.
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.
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.
GuideToLenders has been helping people with their personal loans since 2005. It’s answered more than $16 billion in loan requests during that time. It also provides articles and guides to help you improve your financial literacy.
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 way to consolidate debt
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 payment. Sometimes it can also mean you’re paying less overall interest on your debt as well.
2. Your credit score matters
How much money a lender will offer you and the terms of that loan (the interest rate you’ll pay on the debt) will vary. Your credit score is part of what determines these things. If you apply for a loan now but you’re turned down or not offered an interest rate that you like, don’t give up. Work on improving your credit score and apply again in the future.
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
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 financing specially designed for those purposes.
On the other hand, personal loans are a great option for:
- Consolidating debt
- Paying down credit cards
- Covering your moving costs
- Making home improvements or repairs
- Paying off medical bills
5. Having a co-signer could be helpful
If you’re worried about qualifying for a personal loan or you simply want to get the best loan terms you possibly can, then talk to a trusted friend or family member about becoming a co-signer on your loan. Your co-signer will be legally responsible for your debt, just like you, but 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
Some personal loans will have an origination fee. Some will let you pay the loan off early and others won’t. Every lender will operate a little differently, so it’s important that you read and understand all the details about your loan.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and make sure you investigate all your options. Ultimately, this is your personal loan — so make sure it fits your goals, needs, and budget. The right loan for you is out there.
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 account would be best for.
FinanceBuzz evaluation criteria include:
- Credit checks: We investigated whether a company requires a hard credit score inquiry versus a soft credit check.
- Fees: A variety of fees were taken into account in our assessment. Fees evaluated included late payment fees, origination fees, and prepayment penalty fees.
- Transparency around rates and terms: Whom the company would be a best fit for also took transparency around rate, 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 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 current partners with FinanceBuzz. We did not evaluate all companies in the market.
The bottom line on personal loans
Like any financial decision, personal loans come down to being a personal matter. A personal loan 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.