Best Online Personal Loans of September 2021

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The best online personal loan lenders of September 2021

Rates are current as of September 1, 2021.

If you find you’re in need of some fast cash to do things like refinance your credit cards, improve your home, or take a vacation, a personal loan could be a good option for you. With a personal loan, you apply to borrow a certain amount of money. The lender will show which offers are available to you based on financial factors such as your credit score, debt-to-income ratio, and ability to repay the loan. 

Keep in mind that some lenders have minimum credit score requirements that may make you ineligible for a loan with them. Other lenders may allow you to qualify for a loan with a poor credit score, but could saddle you with high interest rates as a result.

Be sure you’ve exhausted other options before choosing to take out a personal loan, such as borrowing money from a friend or family member, a home equity loan, or in some cases, a credit card. These options may offer lower interest rates than a personal loan.

If you want to turn to an online personal loan provider, here are a few of the best places to start your search.

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Lightstream

Lightstream’s personal loans are best for those with good credit. While you can qualify for a loan with a minimum score of 660, you won’t be able to take advantage of Lightstream’s lower rates without a score of around 800. The lender also has slightly more stringent eligibility requirements than some of our other top picks, including several years of credit history, stable income, and few or no payment delinquencies on your credit report.

If you’re looking to borrow a large sum of money, Lightstream’s maximum loan amount of $100,000 is significantly higher than most of the other lenders on our list. Its minimum APR is the lowest of all the lenders on our list of top picks, reducing the overall cost of your loan.

On the customer relations side, Lightstream topped J.D. Power’s 2020 rankings for personal lender satisfaction and has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. 

Read Insider’s full review of Lightstream here. 

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SoFi

SoFi has the highest minimum credit score requirement of any lender on our list — you’ll need at least a credit score of 680. But if you do qualify, you may like the lender’s low rates, high range in loan amounts, and unique perks.

Even if your credit history isn’t immaculate and you aren’t eligible for SoFi’s lowest rate, the company’s maximum APR is the lowest on our list. SoFi offers a higher maximum loan amount than most other lenders, allowing you to take out up to $100,000. SoFi also came in fourth in J.D. Power’s 2020 rankings for personal lender satisfaction.

Additionally, the company charges no origination fees and has no late payment penalty, lowering the overall cost of your loan. If you lose your job through no fault of your own, SoFi also has an unemployment protection program. If approved for the program, SoFi will put your loans into forbearance, suspending your monthly payments. It’s worth noting that interest will continue to accrue on your loan when it is in forbearance. 

Read Insider’s full review of SoFi here. 

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Avant

Avant is one of the easier lenders to qualify for on our list — its minimum credit is just a guideline, not a requirement, but most Avant borrowers have a credit score between 600 and 700. However, you can likely get a lower rate elsewhere if you have a high credit score. Credit cards may also offer a lower APR, provided you’re eligible. 

If you are looking for a smaller loan, Avant’s $2,000 minimum is lower than most comparable lenders. Avant funds loans quickly — if the company approves your loan by 4:30 p.m. CT Monday through Friday, funds are often put into your account by the next business day.

Avant also has excellent customer service hours, with its phone line open at least 13 hours every day of the week. The lender also has a strong mobile app, which is something not all lenders offer. 

Read Insider’s full review of Avant here.

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Payoff

Payoff could be another good option if you have a lower credit score, as its minimum requirement of 640 is relatively low. If you have a good credit score, Payoff also offers one of the lowest APRs of lenders on the list. 

Payoff personal loans are specifically designed to help borrowers eliminate high-interest credit card debt. This means you are limited in what you can use your loan for — you should choose a different lender if you aren’t aiming to consolidate credit card debt. 

The company doesn’t charge any prepayment fees or late fees, but may charge an origination fee between 0% to 5%. Payoff also has one of the slowest money transfer times of any personal loan company, as it takes between two to five business days to have money deposited in your account. 

Read Insider’s full review of Payoff here.

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Marcus by Goldman Sachs

Marcus by Goldman Sachs is the only lender on this list with an unspecified minimum credit score. Generally, you will need a credit score of 670 or above to qualify for a good rate. Marcus’ rates are competitive with comparable lenders. 

A unique feature of Marcus is that the company offers an “on-time payment reward.” If you pay your loan on time and in full every month for one year, you can forgo a month of payments and interest will not accrue during that period. Your loan will then be extended by one month. 

The company’s minimum loan length of three years is higher than most other lenders on this list. If you want to consolidate your payments over fewer years and save on interest, you may consider another lender. However, Marcus doesn’t have any prepayment fees, so if you wanted to pay off your loan before its term expires, you can do that. 

Marcus also came in second in J.D. Power’s 2020 rankings for personal lender satisfaction.

Read Insider’s full review of Marcus here. 

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Upstart

You may qualify for a loan more easily with Upstart than with some of the other lenders on our list — the minimum credit requirement for Upstart is 600. As a result, if your credit score is low, you might end up paying a high APR and could potentially get a better deal elsewhere. 

Upstart offers the smallest loan amount of all the lenders on our top picks, so if you just need a little cash to tide you over, this could be the lender for you. Additionally, the company usually funds loans within one business day, which is useful if you need your money fast. 

Read Insider’s full review of Upstart here. 

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Online personal loan credit score requirements

The credit score you’ll need to qualify for a loan will depend on the particular lender, though you’ll likely qualify for a better rate with a higher score.

If you need to access your credit report, you can get it at no cost from any of the three major credit bureaus on annualcreditreport.com weekly through April 20, 2022. This report will give you information about your payment and credit history — though it won’t provide you with your credit score. Looking over your credit report can help you spot errors and find areas for improvement.

You can get your score for free on your credit card statement or online account. You can also buy it from a credit reporting agency.

Credit scores range between 300 and 850. Here’s how scores break down, according to FICO: 

  • Very poor: 300 to 579
  • Fair: 580 to 669
  • Good: 670 to 739 
  • Very good: 740 to 799 
  • Exceptional: 800 to 850

Checking your rates with most companies will not impact your credit score because a majority of lenders will only generate a soft credit inquiry when showing you personalized rates. However, if you choose to accept a loan, lenders will likely conduct a hard credit inquiry, which may negatively affect your credit score. A hard inquiry offers a lender a comprehensive look at your credit history.

If you don’t qualify for a loan with your preferred lender or are receiving a higher APR than you can afford with another, here are some tips you may consider to improve your credit score: 

  • Ask for and review a copy of your credit report. Look for any errors on your report that may be tanking your score. If so, reach out the credit bureau to talk about rectifying the mistake.
  • Maintain low credit card balances. Keeping a credit utilization rate — the percentage of your total credit you’re using — of 30% or less will prove to lenders that you can manage your credit appropriately.
  • Devise a system for paying bills on time. Your payment history makes up a significant percentage of your credit score, and lenders like to see consistent and reliable payments in the past. Set up calendar reminders or automatic payments so you don’t fall behind.

Other personal loans we considered

  • OneMain Financial personal loans. OneMain is a solid option for borrowers with low credit scores, but you can only borrow up to $20,000. The company also doesn’t lend to residents of Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, or Vermont. Read Insider’s full review here. 
  • Upgrade personal loans. Upgrade has relatively low credit score requirements and offers next-day funding to most borrowers, but charges hefty origination fees and doesn’t allow co-signers. 
  • PenFed Credit Union personal loans. While PenFed offers relatively low rates and a range of loan terms, you’ll need to become a member to get your loan funded. 
  • Rocket Loans personal loans. Rocket Loans offers same day funding for some loans. But borrowers can only choose from two repayment term lengths and you’re not able to take out a joint or co-signed loan. 
  • Best Egg personal loans. Best Egg offers low rates to borrowers with good credit, but if your credit score is lower than 640 you won’t be eligible for a loan with the lender. Read Insider’s full review here. 
  • LendingClub personal loans. LendingClub has a relatively high maximum APR, and you may get your funding more slowly than with another lender. Read Insider’s full review here.
  • Discover personal loans. Discover’s maximum limit for personal loans is $35,000, which is lower than most other lenders on our list.

Which lender is the most trustworthy?

We’ve only selected online personal loan lenders with no public controversies in the last three years. We’ve also compared each institution’s Better Business Bureau score.

The BBB measures businesses’ trustworthiness based on factors like their responsiveness to consumer complaints, truthfulness in advertising, and clarity about business practices. Here is each company’s score:

All of our top picks are rated A or higher by the BBB, except Avant. The BBB currently does not have a rating for Avant because the BBB does not have sufficient information to issue a rating on this business. Keep in mind that a high BBB score does not guarantee a positive relationship with a lender, and that you should continue to do research and talk to others who have used the company to get the most comprehensive information possible. 

Frequently asked questions

How did we pick the best online personal loans? 

Personal Finance Insider’s mission is to assist smart people in making the best decisions possible with their money. With that in mind, we compared many different online personal loan lenders, digging into the fine print so you don’t have to. We evaluated several factors to determine the best lenders, including:

  • Annual percentage rates: The lower the interest rate you have to pay on your loan, the better. So we focused on lenders who have solid rates for people with fair or better credit histories.  
  • Loan term length: We looked for personal loans with a variety of repayment lengths. 
  • Loan amount range: We know some people are looking for a small amount of cash, while others are looking to take out a substantial amount. We found lenders with a variety of minimum and maximum loan amounts to best fit your needs.  
  • Minimum credit score: Depending on your credit score, you may be eligible to take out a loan from some lenders and may not qualify with others. We picked lenders with a range of minimum credit scores so you have options no matter your credit history.
  • Trustworthiness: Borrowing from an honest lender is often a top priority for many people. We made sure each lender had an A or above grade from the Better Business Bureau to provide the most transparent lenders possible. 

Are online personal loans legitimate?

Yes, online loans with a reputable lender are perfectly safe to take out. Read reviews of the company online, look for additional information about the company, and ignore offers that seem too good to be true. Look for personal loans that are backed by a Member FDIC bank or NCUA accredited credit union.

You can watch out for potential scams by looking out for these telltale signs:

  • The lender doesn’t ask about your payment history or credit score.
  • The lender’s website is unsecured.
  • The lender guarantees approval. 
  • The lender isn’t transparent about fees.
  • The lender coerces you into taking out a loan immediately. 

What can I use an online personal loan for?

You can use an online personal loan for a variety of purposes, though the list fluctuates depending on the lender. Some common reasons include: 

This list is not exhaustive, and you should check with your individual lender to see what options they offer. 

What’s the difference between an online personal loan and a payday loan?

A payday loan is designed to bridge the gap between paydays, so term lengths are much shorter than personal loans.  They also come with incredibly high APRs — the average interest rate on a payday loan is roughly 400% — so if you happen to miss a payment, the high interest rate could trap you in a cycle of debt quickly.

Payday loans also have lower minimums, which generally start around $50. This is much lower than the smallest amount you can borrow with a personal loan, which is $1,000 on our list of top picks.

Payday loans usually have more lax requirements than personal loans. Many payday lenders don’t run a credit check or even ensure you have the ability to repay the loan. Payday loans are also banned in many states due to predatory lending practices, whereas personal loans are generally accessible across the country. 

How much will an online personal loan cost?

This depends entirely on how much you’d like to take out, what APR you receive from your lender, and how long it takes you to pay off the loan. The higher the loan amount and APR, the more a loan will cost you. With a longer term length, you will spread out your payments over an extended period so your monthly payments will be smaller, but you will pay more in the long run. 

How quickly can I get my money? 

Depending on the lender, you can get your money as soon as the same day. Usually, a lender will send the money fairly quickly after the application is approved, but there is often no guarantee on the speed of the process.

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