Best personal loans for veterans of 2023
Find Personal Loans near you
While there isn’t a government-sponsored personal loan program for veterans, many banks, credit unions and online lenders offer loans that veterans might find beneficial.
A lender that’s skilled at working with veterans can have unique insight into the specific needs of the military community. Plus, these lenders sometimes offer free ancillary services for veterans, like financial literacy programs, career services or financial counseling.
To make our top choices, our research team evaluated 61 banks and credit unions that offer personal loans. We then narrowed the list down to those lenders that have designated loans for service members and veterans or that focus on serving the military community in general. We selected four lenders based on factors that are important to borrowers, including minimum required credit scores, repayment terms, maximum loan amounts, annual percentage rates (APRs) and fees.
Our picks may be Authorized Partners that compensate us. This does not affect our recommendations or evaluations but may affect the order in which companies appear.
|Pentagon Federal Credit Union||Navy Federal Credit Union||USAA Banking||Armed Forces Bank|
|# of reviews||219||743||695||96|
|Loan amounts||Up to $50,000||$250 - $50,000||$2,500 - $100,000||$750 - $15,000|
|Term lengths||12 - 60 months||Up to 60 months||12 - 84 month||9 - 48 months|
|Mimimum credit score||Undisclosed||Undisclosed||Undisclosed||Less-than-perfect credit is acceptable|
|Read Reviews||Read Reviews||Read Reviews||Read Reviews|
Compare our top 4 personal loans for veterans picks
- CA user rating: 2.8
- Loan amounts: Up to $50,000
- Term lengths: 12 - 60 months
- Minimum credit score: Undisclosed
Pentagon Federal Credit Union (PenFed) was founded in 1935 and offers financial products and services to more than 2.9 million worldwide members. While PenFed is skilled at helping veterans and other military personnel, you don’t have to be affiliated with the military to be a member and apply for a personal loan. Rather, its membership is open to anyone.
As one of the largest federal credit unions in the U.S., PenFed’s mission is to help its members achieve financial well-being. One of the ways it does this is by providing them with financial literacy resources. PenFed is well-established as being military-friendly, and it donates a portion of its annual income to military-focused charities.
With PenFed, you can get an unsecured personal loan of up to $50,000 with a repayment term of up to 60 months. Its APRs are competitive, ranging from 7.74% to 17.99% (as of publication). Its lowest rates are reserved for those with excellent credit histories.
Anyone can see if they qualify for a PenFed personal loan in minutes with no credit score impact. If you accept the loan, you’ll need to become a PenFed member, consent to a hard credit check and verify your income (with pay stubs, tax returns, etc.). There are no origination or early payment fees. Plus, you can customize your payments to make them monthly or biweekly.
- What we like
- PenFed loans are appealing to many borrowers because they allow you to:
- Pre-qualify without affecting your credit score
- Take advantage of low APRs
- Customize payments to be monthly or biweekly
- What to consider
- PenFed won’t be a good lender for everyone because it:
- Only lends to its members
- Requires income verification
- Reserves its lowest rates for borrowers with excellent credit
- What reviewers say
- Most of the PenFed reviews on ConsumerAffairs are related to its general services, although some reviewers specifically praised PenFed’s loan officers and rates.
Austin from Pennsylvania said: “PenFed Credit Union was a great decision. Jeremy ** was our loan officer, and if I could give 10 stars, I would. He was great and very helpful in the whole process. Not only did the rate beat every other rate, but Jeremy also took time to answer my texts, emails and calls to help walk me through every step of the process.”
However, some other reviewers noted general issues with the functionality of PenFed’s website. John from Alabama said he had trouble applying for a PenFed personal loan on his phone. He also complained that PenFed’s website was slow.
- CA user rating: 2.8
- Loan amounts: $2,500 - $100,000
- Term lengths: 12 - 84 month
- Minimum credit score: Undisclosed
Founded in 1922, USAA provides financial products and services to members of the military, veterans, pre-commissioned officers and their spouses and children throughout the world. USAA has physical financial centers in four states (services are available fully online everywhere). Its members can apply for unsecured personal loans as high as $100,000 with terms as long as 84 months. APRs are based on your qualifications but won’t exceed 18.51% (as of publication).
If you’re not already a member, you’ll need to become one before you apply for a personal loan with USAA. You can quickly apply for membership online or by phone. Not only are USAA’s competitive personal loans suitable for veterans, but USAA also offers other services like insurance, investments and financial advice.
Loan proceeds can be used for nearly any purpose (except to pay for higher education) and may be deposited within 24 hours. You won’t pay any application fees and can pay the loan off early without penalty.
While USAA offers some of the largest personal loan amounts and longest repayment terms on the market, you’ll need to borrow incrementally more money to receive longer terms. For example, although you can borrow as little as $2,500 for a term of 36 months or less, you’ll need to borrow at least $20,000 to get a repayment term of 84 months.
- What we like
- Some of the benefits of taking out a personal loan with USAA Bank include:
- You can borrow as much as $100,000
- There’s no application or prepayment fee
- Its APRs are competitive
- Funds can be deposited within 24 hours
- What to consider
- USAA Bank’s personal loans might not be the best choice for those who:
- Want a small loan amount and a long repayment term
- Don’t want to join USAA
- Are interested in a loan amount below $2,500
- Value in-person banking and live outside Colorado, Maryland, New York or Texas
- What reviewers say
- While some ConsumerAffairs readers expressed general concern over USAA’s customer service, others said they’ve had a good experience working with this company.
Carlos O. from New York said, “As a veteran, my bank, USAA, has gone above and beyond to attend to my banking needs, regardless of situation and hour.”
Another reviewer, Andrea from Wyoming, said: “USAA is an excellent bank for veterans and their family members who have served in the military. The customer service is excellent and friendly, with the ability to inquire via phone or chat.”
However, Andrea also noted, “My one and only complaint is the wait times to reach a customer service representative, at times, can be a little long.” Andrea noted that USAA should possibly consider hiring more customer service reps. Even so, Andrea said this was “merely an inconvenience” and highly recommended USAA overall.
- CA user rating: 2.6
- Loan amounts: $750 - $15,000
- Term lengths: 9 - 48 months
- Minimum credit score: Less-than-perfect credit is acceptable
Armed Forces Bank (AFB) was founded in 1907. It offers personal loans and other banking services to the military community, including veterans, in all 50 states and around the world. AFB has branches on military bases in only 16 states, but you can access its services online.
While anyone can open accounts and access the banking products offered by AFB, its personal loans are a particularly great option for veterans, members of the armed forces and their family members. Since its branches are located only on military bases, this bank has a unique view into military life and the needs of this community.
You can use the unsecured personal military loan offered by AFB for any purpose, making it a flexible funding choice. Although the specific amount you can get and the terms you’ll be offered depend on your qualifications, AFB offers personal loans from $750 to $15,000 with terms of nine to 48 months. Plus, you can pay the loan back as quickly as you want with no fees. However, its APRs of 14.95% to 35.95% (as of publication) are relatively high.
Also, even those with less-than-perfect or no credit may qualify for a loan with AFB. But applicants who have not held a deposit account with AFB for at least six months will need a credit score of at least 700 to qualify for an AFB personal loan.
After applying online, you’ll know instantly if your loan is approved or requires further review. Once approved, your funds will be directly deposited into your AFB account. Payments must be made using autopay from an AFB account.
- What we like
- AFB’s personal loans are very appealing for veterans given that:
- Financing is available for those with poor credit or no credit history
- Loan funds can be used for any purpose
- Loan approvals may be instant
- What to consider
- Not everyone should apply for an AFB personal loan, given that:
- Its maximum loan amounts are small
- Autopay from your AFB account is required
- Its loan APRs are relatively high
- What reviewers say
- Many of the recent AFB reviews on ConsumerAffairs were focused on customer service related to AFB’s general banking products. Some of our readers praised AFB’s level of professionalism and service.
Patrick from Colorado said his AFB agent’s expertise in working with veterans was “truly invaluable” and that the agent was focused on offering “honesty and transparency” versus selling a banking product.
However, some other readers said they had trouble getting their customer service issues resolved.
What is a personal loan for veterans?
A personal loan for veterans often isn’t different from any other personal loan, although some lenders do have loans specific to the military community, explains Abby Waltz. She’s the national director of Homes for Heroes, a company that partners with real estate agents and lenders to help military-affiliated homebuyers save money.
“These loans may have eligibility requirements that are more favorable to veterans or offer specific benefits, such as lower interest rates or more flexible repayment terms,” she said.
Plus, lenders may offer other helpful services from which veterans might benefit, like “military-specific financial counseling or career transition services,” said Waltz. “Additionally, some personal loans for veterans may come with perks such as free credit monitoring or loan discounts.”
Where can you find personal loans for veterans?
As a veteran, you can find personal loans through banks, credit unions and online lenders. It is important to note that the government doesn’t provide these loans, nor does it offer veterans any personal loan benefits.
“There are companies that specialize in financing for the military, and it can be worth checking their rates,” said Kendall Meade, a financial planner with the online bank SoFi. However, she notes that these rates “may not be better than a personal loan through other companies.”
Whether you’re using a bank, credit union or other lender, take time to compare offers from multiple lenders.
Other loans for veterans
Other financial assistance options for veterans include loans from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and grants. With a VA loan, eligible veterans and service members may qualify for a mortgage with no down payment. Grants are a funding option that may help you meet a financial need with no repayment requirement.
- VA loans
- If you’re looking for home financing, a VA loan can be an excellent option. Since this type of mortgage is guaranteed by the VA, lenders can offer better terms and easier qualification requirements than you might get with another type of mortgage.
You finance up to 100% of the lesser of your home’s purchase price or its appraised value, up to the conforming loan limit. However, “applicants can go above the conforming loan limit if they are listed with any percentage of disability by the VA,” said D. Shane Whitteker, owner and chief broker of Principle Home Mortgage in State College, Pennsylvania.
Additionally, Thomas Christopherson, a mortgage loan officer with Altabank in Riverton, Utah, says that you can finance the funding fee associated with getting a VA loan. These fees generally range from 0.5% to 3.3% and vary based on:
- How many times you’ve used a VA loan
- The type of loan you’re getting (e.g., purchase, cash-out refinance, etc.)
- Your down payment
Not only can veterans finance this fee, but Whitteker explains that it’s waived for disabled veterans. Whitteker and Christopherson both share that the rates and fees of VA loans are highly competitive. Plus, you won’t need private mortgage insurance, and “the VA allows financing for veterans with lower credit scores under certain circumstances,” said Whitteker.» MORE: 10 VA loan benefits
- Grants for veterans
- Depending on their circumstances and needs, veterans or their family members may be able to receive funding from a grant. One of the primary benefits of a grant is that the money usually doesn’t need to be repaid so long as the funds are used for a specified purpose or other requirements are met.
Grants are offered by many different entities, including local nonprofits, private businesses, municipalities and even the VA. A few examples of veteran assistance through grant funding include:
- Specially Adapted Housing grants: This VA program helps veterans and service members with certain disabilities related to their service buy or renovate a home so they’re able to live more independently.
- VFW’s Unmet Needs program: This program by the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW) organization helps veterans, service members and military families who are facing financial difficulties related to their service by providing them with a grant of up to $1,500.
- SBA grants for veteran-owned businesses: These programs from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) provide veteran entrepreneurs and small business owners with funding options, training and federal contracting opportunities.
One way to search for grants is by visiting Grants.gov, which allows you to search for grants by keywords, eligibility criteria and many other methods. Plus, it includes helpful resources you can use as you’re searching and applying for funding.
Make sure to search for grant opportunities regularly, as these frequently change. Even if you don’t find something the first time you search for a grant, you might in the future.
How to choose the best personal loan for veterans
A personal loan’s qualification criteria can vary significantly from lender to lender.
To choose the best personal loan, pay attention to factors such as:
- Loan amount: Besides establishing the maximum loan amount you can get, some lenders also set minimums. Know how much money the lender will offer on both ends of the spectrum.
- Fees: Some lenders charge application, origination and other fees. Plus, you might be charged a prepayment penalty if you want to pay the loan off earlier than scheduled. Ask your lender about these types of fees to avoid any surprises.
- Interest rate and APR: Your lender should disclose the loan’s interest rate and APR. The interest rate reflects the amount of interest you’ll be charged, while the APR includes both interest and fees. APR is what you should use to compare offers.
- Repayment term: Repayment terms for personal loans commonly range from 24 to 84 months. Remember, while your payment will be smaller with a longer repayment term, you’ll pay more total interest. Choose the shortest term you can afford.
- Qualifications: Most lenders consider factors like your credit score, credit history, income, job stability and level of debt when evaluating your application. The goal of this evaluation is to approximate your ability and willingness to repay the loan.
Meade also stressed that “you should be aware that some personal loan applications may require a hard credit check, meaning this will be an inquiry on your credit report.”
To avoid absorbing a hard credit check for a loan you ultimately won’t be interested in, Meade suggests you look for lenders that use a soft credit check to show you the rates you can get. This way, a hard credit check “will only reflect on your credit if you choose to take that loan,” said Meade. The lender won’t run a hard credit check until you decide to proceed.
You might also want to inquire if the lender offers any discounts, features or services specific to veterans. For example, some lenders may offer free financial literacy resources.
Finally, Chris Bower, president and CEO of Endurance Federal Credit Union, notes that you should be aware of the Military Lending Act (MLA). The MLA is a federal law providing active-duty service members with protections on certain loans, like interest rate caps and no prepayment penalties.
Who is eligible for a military loan?
Borrowers affiliated with the military may be eligible for a loan guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). To show that you’re eligible for a VA loan, you’re required to provide a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) to your lender. In general, to get a COE, you need to meet the VA’s minimum active-duty service requirements, and you can’t have a dishonorable discharge.
Do all banks offer loans for veterans?
While not all banks offer loans specifically designed for veterans, the VA encourages banks, credit unions and other lenders to offer VA home loans to veterans, service members and others who are eligible.
Does the VA offer personal loans?
No, the VA does not offer personal loans. With the VA home loan program, the mortgage is backed by the VA, but you’ll get the loan through a private lender or financial institution.
What is the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act?
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) is a federal law that offers members of the military extra financial protections when they’ve been called to serve their country on active duty. The law caps interest rates on pre-service debt at no more than 6% and helps prevent foreclosure and repossession, among other protections.
What loans are not covered by the SCRA?
Loans that a service member received after entering active duty are not covered by the SCRA, as this law only applies to pre-service debt. Instead, the Military Lending Act (MLA) covers some debts taken out after entering active duty, like credit cards, payday loans, vehicle title loans, certain student loans and some other types of installment loans.
To make our top picks for our list of the best personal loans for veterans, we collected 24 individual data points from 61 well-known banks and credit unions. We then narrowed the options down to our top four based on the availability of loans specifically for veterans and military members. We compared the lenders according to different loan features, including:
- Repayment terms: We looked at the loan repayment options, giving preference to those lenders that offer a broad range of terms.
- APRs: We gave greater consideration to lenders that offer loans with low starting APRs.
- Loan amounts: Similar to repayment terms, we gave special consideration to those lenders that offer both a wide range of loan amounts and a low minimum loan amount, as not every borrower needs a large loan.
- Minimum credit score: Preference was given to lenders that work with borrowers who have low credit scores or lenders that evaluate loan applications based on factors other than credit scores.
- Fees: We considered loan fees such as origination, late payment and prepayment fees and favored lenders that charge minimal fees.
Since customer feedback is an important indicator when evaluating companies, this was an important consideration when selecting our top picks. However, for those companies on our list with no ratings on ConsumerAffairs, there were other features that made them stand out as good options for borrowers, and we factored those into our decisions.
- Article sources
- ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, "I'm a veteran shopping for a mortgage. I want to use my VA home loan benefit, but some lenders have said they don't offer VA loans. Can they do that?" Accessed May 12, 2023.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, "Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and Military Lending Act protections." Accessed May 12, 2023.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, "The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)." Accessed May 12, 2023.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, "What is the Military Lending Act and what are my rights?" Accessed May 11, 2023.
- Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, "Fair Lending Laws and Regulations." Accessed May 12, 2023.
- Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, "U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs - Overview." Accessed May 12, 2023.
- GovInfo, "50 U.S.C. - Servicemembers Civil Relief Act." Accessed May 12, 2023.
- Grants.gov, "Search Grants." Accessed May 11, 2023.
- Grants.gov, "U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)." Accessed May 11, 2023.
- Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, "Fair Lending." Accessed May 12, 2023.
- Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, “Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act.” Accessed May 12, 2023.
- U.S. Department of Justice, "Servicemembers Civil Relief Act [Summary]." Accessed May 12, 2023.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, "Disability housing grants for Veterans." Accessed May 11, 2023.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, "Eligibility requirements for VA home loan programs." Accessed May 11, 2023.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, "VA funding fee and loan closing costs." Accessed May 11, 2023.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, "VA home loan limits." Accessed May 11, 2023.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, "VA Home Loans." Accessed May 12, 2023.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, "VA-Guaranteed Home Loans for Veterans." Accessed May 11, 2023.
- U.S. Small Business Administration, "Veteran-owned businesses." Accessed May 11, 2023.
- Veterans of Foreign Wars, "Financial Grants." Accessed May 11, 2023.
You’re signed up
We’ll start sending you the news you need delivered straight to you. We value your privacy. Unsubscribe easily.