Review Your Personal Loan Options

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Home > Review Your Personal Loan Options

Where Can I Get a Personal Loan

With a personal loan, you borrow money and pay back in fixed monthly installments. The loan could come from a bank, but if you’re looking for an affordable interest rate and flexible qualifying requirements, the better choices probably would be:

  • Credit unions. A great option. Maximum allowable interest rate is 18%.
  • Family or friends. Easier to qualify and hopefully lower interest rates.
  • Find a co-signer. Use someone else’s high credit score to get a lower interest rate.
  • Tap home equity. Credit score not a factor. If you have equity, you can get a loan.
  • Online or P2P. Huge market of lenders who can be very flexible with terms.

You could add more options like payroll advances, loans from retirement accounts or borrowing against life insurance to the list, but those are last-ditch choices best left untouched unless everything else fails.

Importance of a Good Credit Score

Credit scores are an attempt to gauge the likelihood you will repay a loan. They range from 300-850. The higher your number, the more likely you will repay.

Bad credit scores start at 650 and go down from there. People in this category are considered a high risk and pay the highest interest rates. They are prime candidates for bad credit loans.

The definition of a “good” and “bad” credit score does vary from lender to lender. Some won’t touch anyone with a credit score under 650, some actually market to consumers with a sub-650 score.

So it’s hard to say what makes you “good” or “bad” on the credit scoreboard, but the accepted range looks something like this:

  • 760-850 – Excellent
  • 700-759 – Very good
  • 660-699 – Fair
  • 620-659 – Poor
  • Scores under 620 – Extremely poor

How Bad Credit Scores Affect Borrowing

Consumers in the good-to-excellent credit score category receive the lowest interest rates and best loan terms. Consumers in the poor and extremely poor categories are burdened with high rates and may not be approved for a loan at all.

Many consumers get that message and that is why the average credit score for U.S. consumers in 2018 is 700, an 11-point jump over the last decade. However, the real numbers worth paying attention to are the combination of score and age, which say a lot about how our economy operates.

According to FICO, people ages 60-and-above have an average credit score of 743, while those in the 18-29-year-old bracket average just 652. It’s one of the few places in life where being old pays off.

Still, that’s a 91-point difference, which is very costly when you are shopping for home and auto loans as the graphic below demonstrates.

How Your Credit Score Effects a 30-year, $200,000 Home Loan
ScoreInterest RateMonthly PaymentTotal interest paid
619-and lower5.582%$1,146$212,520
How Your Credit Score Effects a 6-year, $25,000 Auto Loan
ScoreInterest RateMonthly PaymentTotal interest paid
619-and lower15.29%$532.57$13,345

How to Get a Personal Loan

If you request a personal loan from a bank, be sure you are prepared with documents that prove you’re a good risk. Lending institutions love stability. If you can show them that you’ve lived in the same house (or city) and worked the same job (preferably for the same employer) for several years, it definitely helps your case.

Common things to bring that prove your credit worthiness include:

  • Tax returns, W-2s and 1099 forms from at least the last two years
  • Details of your job history, including salary and pay stubs
  • List of assets such as home, car, property and where you stand on paying them off
  • List of unsecured debts such as credit cards and medical bills
  • Whether you pay or receive alimony or child support
  • Bank statements for checking, savings and CDs

Not all of these documents are required, but if you have a poor credit history, anything you can produce that demonstrates you have become responsible with your money will be considered a plus. You should also expect the lender to ask questions about your credit history that may reflect negatively on you. Things like:

  • Have you been involved in any lawsuits?
  • Do you have any judgments against your or items in collection?
  • Have you declared bankruptcy or had a foreclosure judgment against you?
  • What is your ethnic background?

The last question would seem to violate anti-discrimination laws, but it is required by the government so that it can keep data on lending to minorities and make sure they aren’t routinely turned down or charged excessive fees.

The purpose of an in-person interview is to convince the lender that if you receive a loan, you can comfortably make payments. Any evidence you have that can support that fact – especially proof that you paid off loans on assets like a car, motorcycle or boat in the past – are going to work in your favor.

Pros and Cons of Personal Loans

It makes sense to use caution when taking on any loan, but if you have bad credit, things aren’t good. Don’t make it worse.

Be careful who do you do business with for a personal loan. If the lender doesn’t require a credit check, doesn’t check your income; guarantees you’ll be approved; can’t be found for customer reviews or a Better Business Bureau ranking, it might be time to look elsewhere. Those are red-flag warnings that you might get scammed.

Closely examine the pros and cons of the situation before making a final decision.

The pros for a personal loan are obvious:

  • Most loan applications are available online and only take a few hours to get a response. At some places, you can have the money in your account within a day.
  • If you are able to get a personal loan, it likely would come at a lower interest rate than you pay on your credit card debt.
  • The number of peer-to-peer lending businesses seems to double every year. If you’re patient, and make lenders compete for your business, you might find a loan with an interest rate that you can afford.
  • Depending on who the lender is, repayment terms could stretch anywhere from one to five years.
  • If you commit to making on-time payments, your credit score will improve and make you a more desirable candidate next time you need a loan.

The cons for personal loans are just as obvious:

  • High interest rates, if you have bad credit. You’re a risk so the lender wants a reward; sometimes a huge reward.
  • Fees and penalties. Read the fine print. Is there a loan origination fee? What is the late fee? You may have to pay a fee for making payments by check.
  • Collateral sometimes required. You may have to put a house or car at risk to get the loan. If you miss payments, you could lose that house or car.
  • Not every online lender is licensed in every state. Be sure the company you choose is certified in your state before you start paying for their service.

Be sure you have multiple offers before making a final decision. The competition gives you a chance to compare and research the company you eventually choose.

Places to Find Personal Loans

There are some outlets for people looking for personal loans, but it definitely will take some shopping around to find interest rates and repayment terms you can afford.

The big national and regional banks stick tightly to credit score ratings so don’t bother with that unless you have taken time to clean up your credit report and raise your score.

If you don’t have time to improve your score, find a loan from the sources listed below.

Visit a Credit Union

A credit union – especially one affiliated with your employer or one that is community-based – may be willing to look beyond a poor credit history and make a judgment about whether it will loan you money based on your character and your promise to repay. Think of credit unions the way you would a small community bank from years ago.

The most promising aspect of a credit union loan is the interest rate ceiling of 18%, which applies to anyone, regardless of their credit score. A similar loan from a bank could run you as much as 36% interest.

That can make a huge difference in the payout you make on a personal loan. Let’s say you have a three-year, $10,000 loan. Here is the total repayment:

  • 18% — $13,014.
  • 36% — $16,489.

The chance to save more than $3,000 makes it worth looking into enrolling in a credit union. Almost all credit unions are actively looking for borrowers. If you can afford terms that match your credit history, you are likely to find a credit union somewhere willing to work with you.

If you are a veteran of the armed forces, you might want to approach the Navy Federal Credit Union or PenFed Credit Union. If you are a teacher or government worker, you might check out State Employees Credit Union or Schoolsfirst Credit Union.

Almost every consumer could qualify for some credit union. By joining, you could position yourself for much more favorable loan terms, regardless of your credit score.

Borrow from Family or Friends

This is dangerous from a relationship standpoint, but makes a lot of sense from a financial and loan-anxiety standpoint because it should be easier to get approval and a break on terms.

Family and friends aren’t likely to put you through a grueling qualifying process and probably would cut you some slack on the interest rate charged compared to what you would get from lending institutions that make personal loans.

However, if you’re thinking about borrowing from family members or friends make sure to factor in what happens if you default. Not repaying a loan to a relative or close associate can poison relationships in ways that go far beyond a personal loan report.

Treat any loan from someone you know just as if it were an important business transaction between you and a stranger. That means it should be formalized with clear documentation and legally recorded. To avoid future problems, create a written contract that includes the loan terms and interest rate, and what will happen if you cannot repay the debt.

Get a Co-Signer

If borrowing from a friend or relative is not possible, you can still approach someone you know with good credit about co-signing on for a bad credit loan.

With a qualified co-signer, the lender will set the loan terms based on the credit score of the person with good credit, who will then be equally responsible for repayment. All payment information will be recorded on both your credit report and your co-signer’s, so if you default on the loan, or you’re late with payments, you both suffer. However, if you make timely payments, your own score will improve, making it easier to obtain future loans without a co-signer.

Tap Your Home Equity

If you have equity in your home, you can apply for a home equity loan or home equity line of credit (HELOC). Your home is used as collateral, and home equity loans can be obtained regardless of your credit score. The interest rate is usually low, because the loan is secured by the home. Also, the interest you pay on a home equity loan is usually tax-deductible.

It is important to remember that tapping your home equity puts your property in jeopardy if you don’t repay the debt. But if you are disciplined and have a reliable source of income, it is an inexpensive way to borrow from a reputable lender when you have bad credit.

Peer-to-Peer Lending

Peer-to-peer lending, also known as P2P lending, has only been around since 2005. It’s an online platform that allows you to get a bad credit loan directly from another individual or group of individuals rather than from an institution. Potential borrowers post a loan listing on various peer-to-peer websites, indicating the amount needed and what it’s for. Investors review the loan listings and choose borrowers they wish to fund.

Your credit score is still a factor, but since an individual investor has much greater leeway in how factors are weighted, these loans are often more readily available for people with bad credit. Lending standards are significantly more lenient and interest rates are usually lower than those offered by traditional lenders. In addition, peer-to-peer websites help evaluate risk for the lender, while verifying the lender’s credentials for the borrower.

Here are some examples of peer-to-peer lending institutions:

Peer-to-Peer Lender Examples
Lender NameBorrowing LevelsLoan TermsMinimum Credit ScoreInterest RangesOrigination FeeTime to Receive Funds
Lending Club$1,000 to $35,0003 years or 5 years6005.98% to 35.89%1% to 6% of loan amountOne week
Peerform$4,000 to $35,0003 years or 5 years6005.99% to 29.99%1% to 6% of loan amountUp to two weeks
Prosper Marketplace$2,000 to $35,0003 years or 5 years6405.99% to 35.99%1% to 5% of loan amountOne to three business days
SoFi$5,000 to $100,0003 years to 7 years6605% to 15%NoneOne week
Upstart$1,000 to $50,0003 years to 5 years6207.43% to 29.99%1% to 8% of loan amountOne day

Online Personal Loans

Technology and a wide gap in the marketplace have opened the door for Personal Loan Lenders, a new industry that has created an option for people with low credit scores.

These lenders are essentially banks that don’t have offices. They do their work online and offer bad credit loans for things like credit card debt consolidation and home repairs. Their primary appeal is they work fast. They can make decisions in minutes and deposit funds in an account in a few hours or days. Many have no application fee or pre-payment penalty.

Online personal loan applications are simple and easy to fill out. Credit scores are only a part of the decision-making process so this could be an appealing option if you have bad credit or no credit. In fact, some personal loan lenders have their own credit-score model and don’t use FICO scores. Other factors considered include whether you have a college degree, the school your degree came from and your employment history.

Online Personal Loan Lender Examples
Lender NameBorrowing LevelsLoan TermsMinimum Credit ScoreInterest RangesOrigination FeeTime to Receive Funds
Avant$2,000 to $35,0002 years to 5 years5809.95% to 35.99%4.75% of loan amountTwo days
Best Egg$2,000 to $35,0003 years or 5 years6405.99% to 29.99%0.99% to 5.99% of loan amountNext day
Earnest$2,000 to $50,0001 years to 3 years7205.25% to 14.24%NoneOne week
One Main$1,500 to $25,0001 years to 5 yearsNone17.59% to 35.99%Varies by stateSame day

Secured vs. Unsecured Personal Loans

If your credit score does not impress banks or credit unions, the best chance to get money you need is through a secured loan.

A secured loan is one in which you borrow against an asset you own, such as a home, car, boat, property, savings or even stocks.

The lender will hold the asset as collateral against you defaulting on the loan. Secured loans offer lower interest rates, better terms and access to larger amounts of money than unsecured loans.

An unsecured loan has nothing more than a promise that you will repay behind it and could be very difficult to get from most banks. Banks are willing to make unsecured loans to their best customers – people who have the income and credit history to prove they will repay the loan – but are very cautious about lending money otherwise.

An unsecured loan is no risk for the borrower, but high risk for the bank so you can expect considerably higher interest rate charges and little flexibility on qualifying or terms of the loans.

Some banks will make secured loans based on the amount you have in a savings account or the value of any stocks you own. The value of getting a secured loan against savings or stocks is that you will not need to liquidate the asset so when you have paid off the loan, you still own the savings or stocks.

However, if you plan to use savings or stocks as collateral, most financial advisors suggest you liquidate them and use the money to pay whatever debt you are trying to settle rather than take out a loan.

The good news for everyone involved is that paying off the loan, whether it’s secured or unsecured, will improve your credit score.

About The Author

Bill Fay

Bill “No Pay” Fay has lived a meager financial existence his entire life. He started writing/bragging about it in 2012, helping birth into existence as the site’s original “Frugal Man.” Prior to that, he spent more than 30 years covering the high finance world of college and professional sports for major publications, including the Associated Press, New York Times and Sports Illustrated. His interest in sports has waned some, but he is as passionate as ever about not reaching for his wallet. Bill can be reached at [email protected].


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