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The Smart investor experts reviewed the top personal loan lenders in the US to help borrowers get a smarter loan decision. Understand lenders pros and cons, rates and fees.
When shopping for a personal loan, it is important to consider multiple lenders to find the lender with the best terms. Each lenders has different fees, rates, and terms, and the rates vary from loan to loan, and from borrower to borrower. Some of the key differences between personal loan lenders include:
The loan term is the duration is takes for a loan to be fully paid up. Personal loans require repayment in the short term or long term. Although a short term loan has higher monthly payments, you will end up paying a higher overall amount compared to a long-term loan with lower monthly payments.
Comparing the interest rate and the annual percentage rate (APR) that lenders charge can show how expensive each loan is. APR is a more accurate tool for showing the total costs of a loan compared to the interest loan only. The interest rate is calculated as a percentage of the total amount of the loan, while the APR comprises the interest rates and other loan costs such as origination fees and points.
There are a number of reasons for taking out a loan, but this can also influence the average loan amount. In this chart with LendingTree customer data, you can see that credit card refinancing has the highest average loan amount followed by debt consolidation.
Before settling on a specific lender, you should check if the lender charges any fees apart from the loan interest, which can increase the cost of the loan. You should scrutinize the loan agreement for undisclosed loan costs. Examples of fees to look out for include:
When comparing lenders, you should consider the monthly payment that you will pay during the loan term. You should make sure that the monthly payments do not stretch you financially, and that you can comfortably handle the repayments and the household budget. Also, watch out for loans with a variable interest rate, which may results in higher monthly repayments in certain months.
If you are in the market for a personal loan, there are plenty of options that you can consider. Personal loan lenders have different terms, fees, and interest rates, and each lender has varying terms for each borrower.
Here are things you can consider to determine the right provider for your needs:
Before you start shopping for a personal loan, you should check where your credit stands, and fix any inaccuracies. You can request a free credit report and check for any inaccuracies and inconsistencies in in the report.
If your credit score is below the expected credit score, check the report for any delinquent accounts and late payments and pay the outstanding amounts. A solid credit score shows lenders that you can be trusted to make payments on time, and you will get favorable rates and terms on your personal loan.
When taking a personal loan, you should first consider how the loan will be used. Once you have a specific purpose in mind, you can focus on personal loan lenders that offer loans for the specific purpose. Personal loans can be used for the following purposes:
Some lenders only offer loans for specific purposes, and knowing the purpose beforehand can help you avoid rejections.
Compare the interest rates charged by multiple lenders to get a clear picture of the amount you will be required to pay over the life of the loan. Also, make sure that the lender discloses other loan costs such as loan origination cost and closing costs associated with the loan.
Generally, personal loan lenders consider these factors when determining the interest rate on a loan:
Prequalifying for a personal loan provides an overview of how much the loan repayment will be and the interest rate charged for the specific amount you are borrowing.
Online lenders allow potential borrowers to prequalify for a loan in a few minutes by uploading digital documents and other personal information on the lender’s website. Physical lenders may require you to visit their offices to get prequalified.
Although prequalification does not guarantee loan approval, it proves that the lender is willing to provide a personal loan of a specific amount. Also, prequalification only involves a soft pull of your credit report, and it does not affect your credit score.
The J.D. Power 2020 US Consumer Lending Satisfaction Study shows the unique environment that consumer lenders operate in due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In an environment characterized by low-interest rates, increasing unemployment, and reliance on digital platforms, consumer lenders must adopt changes in their operations to attract and retain customers.
One of the key changes that lenders must focus on is the brand image. Lenders must build an image that consumers can trust by creating products that address consumer needs. Lenders should provide easy to use web tools that consumers can use to solve their specific needs. For example, the ability of consumers to reach live persons on phone can help built trust in the company.
Additionally, consumer lenders should create ease-to-use systems that simplify processes for consumers.
For example, lenders can adopt new measures to reduce the loan application and approval waiting time to only a few minutes. Lenders can also put systems in place for users to provide the required documents with ease or eliminate the need for consumers to provide physical documents in favor of alternative verification methods.
The J.D. Power 2020 study ranks personal loan lenders higher than home equity line of credit (HELOC) lenders in overall customer satisfaction. The study ranks Lightstream, an online lender, first with a score of 891, following by Marcus by Goldman Sachs at 884 and Discover at 877. US Bank ranks first among HELOC lenders at 875, followed by Chase and PNC Bank at 870.
The study surveyed personal loan and HELOC consumers based on the application and approval process, offering and terms, and loan management. In conclusion, the study ranks online lenders higher than traditional lenders.
Online lenders have better digital capabilities such as easy-to-use web tools and online customer service lines as well as quick loan application and approval process.
To check a lender on trust pilot, go to Trustpilot.com and search the name of the lender in the search page located on the homepage. You can also search the business by the industry category in which it falls. In the next page, click the name of the business to view its profile.
The profile page contains all business reviews and complaints, with the latest reviews appearing first. You can sort out these reviews based on the location, language, rating, and other filters.
You can also check if the lender has a record on BBB ratings by going to bbb.org, and typing the business name, phone number, company website address, or email address. You should also provide the location of the business you are looking for.
On the lender’s profile, go to “reviews and complaints” to view the most recent reviews as well as resolved and unresolved claims. BBB assigns a rating of A to F to businesses, with F being the lowest rating.
Trust Pilot and BBB ratings receive millions of complaints and reviews every year, and customers can reach resolutions with the business in question. Customers can look up positive and negative reviews about a specific lender, any resolved and unresolved claims against the lender, and its general rating.
A high number of resolved cases accompanied by a high rating reinforces customer confidence in the listed business.
If you are interested in taking a personal loan to pay a medical expense, a vacation or to consolidate your debts, there a few things you should consider.
First, you should evaluate the need. Is the expense necessary? You should also consider if you can afford the loan by looking at the monthly payments, associated fees, penalties, etc., and the loan term. If the answer is “Yes”, you should now determine if you qualify for a personal loan.
Here are key factors to consider to determine if you qualify for a personal loan:
Personal loan lenders use creditworthiness as one of the main qualification criteria for a personal loan. A credit score below 640 shows that you are a risky borrower, and the lender can either reject the loan application or offer credit at a relatively higher interest rate.
Knowing where your credit score stands can help you know if you qualify for a personal loan of a specific amount.
In this chart compiled with LendingTree customer data, you can see that those with a 720+ credit score pay an average of 7.63%. At the other end of the scale, for those with a poor credit rating of less than 560, the rate shoots up to an eye-watering 113%.
Before approving your loan application, personal loan lenders check your cash flow to determine your ability to make monthly payments on time.
Lenders look at the borrower’s sources of income such as employment income and business income to get a sense of the borrower’s financial ability. An unstable income can dim your chances of qualifying for a loan.
A series of missed payments or late payments will stay on your credit report for at least 7 years. Lenders expect to see a history of making on-time payments to get assurance that your loan repayments will be timely. A history of on-time payment of debts and zero instances of delinquent accounts can help get your loan approved quickly.
A personal loan can help you meet certain urgent expenses such as medical costs or vacation expenses. However, there are certain circumstances when a personal loan is not the best option for you. Some of these circumstances include:
When taking a personal loan, the lender requires you to make monthly repayments until the loan is fully paid up. However, if you do not have a steady employment income, it will be difficult to get a favorable interest rate. Still, some online lenders may reject your personal loan application if you are unemployed or have an unsteady business income.
If your credit score has been on a free fall, it might be a bad idea to take a new loan. Most lenders are hesitant to extend credit to borrowers with bad credit. Although some lenders may be willing to take the risk, they charge a high-interest rate for a short-term loan. Still, taking another loan puts you into a deeper debt hole, and this risks your future credit score even further. If your credit score has soared, you should try improving your credit before you borrow again.
Are you borrowing to spend on luxuries such as a new TV set or a vacation? If it is not an urgent need, you should determine the amount of money you need to spend and plan how to save the amount needed instead.
Personal loans can be used for just any purpose, and it can help you pay urgent expenses or re-organize your debt.
Some of the circumstances when a personal loan is required include:
If you are having trouble keeping up with multiple high-interest debts, you can take a personal loan and consolidate two or more bills into one bill. When consolidating these debts, you can take a personal loan equivalent to the amount of debt you owe and use the funds to pay off the debts at a lower interest than what you are currently paying.
For example, if you have two credit cards with a total debt of $15,000 and an interest rate of 25%, you can take a personal loan and roll the credit card debt into one debt with an interest rate of 18%.
In this chart compiled with data from TransUnion and The Wall Street Journal, you can see that over the last decade the outstanding balances have increased from $49 billion to $156 billion:
You can also take a personal loan to pay for home repairs and improvements that improve the value of your home. Also, paying for home repairs and improvements can help increase the value of your home, especially if you plan to sell it. Plus, it is better to take a personal loan than increase your credit card debt, which charges a higher interest rate.
Getting a lump sum amount deposited into your account can be tempting, especially when you don’t have a clear purpose in mind on how to spend the money.
If you intend to use the loan to satisfy a need, make sure the expense is truly unavoidable. For example, if you have a medical emergency and you don’t have an emergency fund, you can use the loan proceeds to pay for medical expenses.
However, a last-minute vacation is not an urgent need, and you can postpone the holiday until a later time when you have saved enough funds for the trip. Don’t let your vacation get you into a cycle of debt.
Lenders use credit scores as one of the determining factors on whether or not to approve a loan. Ideally, lenders require borrowers to share their financial profile, which including credit history, business or employment income, and list of assets.
A credit score shows the lender how likely the borrower will honor his/her debt obligations. However, the credit score does not tell the lender everything about your credit history. Therefore, the lender will assess your credit report to know your credit history and how you’ve handled past payments.
Some of the information that the lender considers in the credit report includes the total amount of outstanding debts, history of bankruptcy and foreclosures, recent inquiries for credit, delinquent accounts, etc.
The lender relies on financial information provided to decide whether or not to approve, the amount of loan, and the interest rate for the loan.
Different lenders have varying amounts of credit that they offer to potential borrowers. Some lenders offer personal loans under $100 to $ 50,000, and others can go up to $100,000. Personal loans under $1000 are easily accessible compared to high value personal loans. Borrowers with high credit scores can access personal loans of up to $100,000.
In deciding how much you can borrow, you should consider the amount of money you can afford in monthly loan payments and the interest rate you will pay during the loan term. This will help you find the right lender for the amount you want to borrow and also avoid the temptation to borrow more than you need. Some of the factors that influence the amount of loan you can borrow include:
The COVID-19 pandemic and the effects of the global shutdown have affected all spheres of the world economy, including the consumer credit market. The interest rates have hit a record low rate in decades, and there is a contraction in the supply of personal loans across all lenders. Loans have been harder to get, and borrowers have had to delay major purchases such as cars and homes. Some lenders have paused lending personal loans, while others have tightened their lending criteria by implementing restrictions on who they can lend to.
Even with a contraction in credit supply, the demand for loans has also fallen by 30 to 40%, as potential borrowers shy away from taking new credit. The decline in personal loan demand can be attributed to declining consumer confidence and the growing economic uncertainty. A high number of potential borrowers have been laid off, or a majority of struggling businesses have closed down. With the current conditions, people have put on hold key expenses such as home renovations and vehicle upgrades. Also, with the ban on airline travel to some countries and restrictions on tourism, borrowers have stopped taking loans for travel, air tickets, and vacations.
Personal loans come in handy if you are planning to pay certain medical expenses, change your house roofing, or get your vehicle back on the road. Knowing what potential lenders require for your loan approval can help you avoid common pitfalls. Here are things you can do before applying for a personal loan:
Before taking a new loan, request a free credit report to know where your credit stands. The credit report helps you evaluate your credit history, know your credit score, and see how the credit bureau calculated the credit score. Check your credit report for any mistakes, and submit complaints to the bureau. A favorable credit score and good credit history can help you get a competitive loan terms. However, if the credit score is in bad shape, you can postpone applying for a loan and work on improving your credit score.
Does your budget have room for another monthly bill? Before applying for a loan, you should calculate your monthly budget against your monthly income to see if your income can accommodate another payment. If your current income is $5000, and your monthly bills amount to $4800, it is unrealistic to add another payment. However, if the current payments amount to $2000 against an income of $5000, it means you have $3000 left to spend on another payment.
Before applying for a loan, you should compile all the loan documents that the lender requires for verification and in assessing your creditworthiness. Get the documents ready to avoid delaying the loan review process. Some of the documents that you should provide include:
Checking or making inquiries on your credit report does not affect your credit score. Every time someone (either you or a lender) checks on your credit report, an inquiry is recorded in the credit report. The inquiry can be classified as a soft inquiry or hard inquiry, depending on who is checking the report and why. Self-inquiries do not affect your credit score, since you have not officially applied for a loan.
A hard inquiry has an impact on your credit score, and it occurs when a lender checks your credit report as part of the loan review process. Multiple hard inquiries in a short period may mean that you are having difficulties paying bills on time, or you are taking too many debts. As a result, hard inquiries have a negative impact on your credit report.
If you are looking to get your loan approved quickly, you should know how long it takes for the lender to approve your loan. Usually, each loan application is different, and lenders can take as soon as a few minutes to a few days to approve your loan and disburse the funds to your account. Online and peer-to-peer lenders have a fast turnaround time compared to traditional lenders such as banks and credit unions.
The application process for a personal loan with an online lender takes less than 30 minutes, and you can get the funds in as soon as a few minutes or hours. Some online lenders may take longer to assess your creditworthiness, and the process can take up to 5 days. In contrast, traditional lenders take longer to approve loan applications due to their rigorous evaluation criteria, and it can take a few days or weeks to get your loan approved.
The interest rate charged on a loan varies, can it determined by several factors such as income levels and credit history. Generally, the interest rate charged on a personal loan varies depending on the lender, and the average interest rate ranges from 6% to 36%. Borrowers with a good credit score qualify for competitive rates ranging from 6% to 15%, while borrowers with poor credit scores can pay an interest rate of up to 36%, or higher. According to Experian, a good interest rate for a personal loan should be below the national average.
If you are looking for the best interest rate for a personal loan, you can get an estimate of the interest rate through prequalification. Prequalification allows you to get interest rate estimates from multiple lenders to know the interest rate you will receive depending on the loan amount and your credit status. When evaluating the interest rates estimates from potential lenders, you should also compare the following: