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Where to get a personal loan

Get help covering expenses or consolidating debt

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Written by Sandy Baker
Edited by Cassidy McCants

Take a Personal Loans quiz. Receive pre-qualified loan offers

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    A personal loan provides funds you can use for just about anything, making it an important financial tool for many. You can use a personal loan to consolidate debt at a lower interest rate, complete home renovation projects or pay for an emergency expense.

    Personal loans are widely available from traditional banks, credit unions, online lenders and specialized lenders. It’s important to shop around and compare your borrowing options when considering what lender to use.

    Best places to get a personal loan

    You can get a personal loan from a bank, credit union or online lender. A personal loan is typically an unsecured loan. These loans are meant for individuals with decent credit and the income to make regular payments. 

    Before taking out a personal loan, you'll want to determine how to borrow and how much you're comfortable paying each month. Then you can compare several lenders to get an idea of which is best for your needs.

    Banks

    Both community and nationwide banks can be good options for personal loans. If you have an existing relationship with a bank, you might have a greater chance of approval. Most require a credit score of about 640 for approval, but you may be able to get a personal loan with a lower score if you have a relatively high income or low debt-to-income (DTI) ratio.

    Personal loans from banks may provide:

    • Better approval odds (and quick funding) for those who already have a working relationship with the bank
    • Discounts to existing customers and loan holders
    • Larger loan amounts to qualified borrowers (maximums often as high as $100,000)
    • Loan term flexibility, which lets you choose between short or long repayment periods
    • Stability from a recognized financial institution

    Credit unions

    Credit unions are not-for-profit businesses with a mission to serve their members. They are usually local and can be highly specialized, like for those who belong to a specific professional group. Most often, credit unions offer the same financial tools as traditional banks, including personal loans.

    To borrow from a credit union, you need to become a member, which has benefits. Credit unions return their profits back to members in the form of higher savings rates, lower fees and lower lending loan rates.

    They also offer personalized customer service — a reviewer on our site from Florida mentioned it was their credit union that referred them to a nonprofit debt counseling company that helped them out in their time of need.

    Personal loans from credit unions usually include:

    • Local, friendly service, with member perks
    • Lower interest rates than most larger banks and some online lenders
    • More flexibility and focus on a borrower’s particular needs
    • Smaller loans, but with more flexible repayment terms
    • Fast access to loans and prompt help with immediate needs

    Online lenders

    Online lenders are some of the most flexible lenders out there. Many offer competitive rates and sizable amounts of money to those who can prove they can repay the debt. These lenders also make borrowing a personal loan convenient; you can apply, get a decision and get funds all in the same day in some cases.

    Personal loans from online lenders may offer:

    • Pre-qualification so you can see if you’re eligible prior to a formal, hard credit inquiry
    • Options for borrowers with poor credit, even if local lenders have turned them down
    • The ability to quickly compare numerous lenders so you can find the best rates and terms for you
    • Quick funding, sometimes on the same day and usually within a few days
    • Competitive rates, though rates can be higher for borrowers with low credit

    How to choose a lender for a personal loan

    So, which type of lender is right for your situation? To determine the right lender for you, you should first ask if you want in-person service; if you do, you can rule out online lenders. Next, start comparing offers from lenders based on factors such as:

    • Pre-qualification: It’s best to look for a lender that offers pre-qualification without a hard credit inquiry. This lets you see potential rates and borrowing amounts you may be eligible for without any effect on your credit score.
    • How much you can borrow: Choose a lender that offers enough money without pushing more than you can afford to repay.
    • Interest/APR: Look for the loan offer that meets your needs and has the lowest annual percentage rate (APR). APR includes both interest and fees, so it’s a good point of comparison between loans.
    • Repayment term: Some lenders give you more options for loan terms. Keep in mind that a longer term lowers your monthly payment, but you’ll end up paying more in interest.
    • Customer service: Make sure you choose a lender you feel comfortable working with. How easy is it to apply? Does the timeline for loan approval and fund disbursement work for you? Are the terms transparent and easy to understand? Is repayment simple? Can you speak to customer service over the phone? These are all questions that may matter to you as you’re choosing a lender.

    Take a Personal Loans quiz. Receive pre-qualified loan offers

      FAQ

      How can I get a loan online instantly?

      Some online lenders can tell you if you qualify for a loan within minutes and issue approval and pay out funds on the same day. Most online lenders make funds available within one to three business days.

      What is the best online loan?

      Many lenders offer online loans. The best online loan is one that offers the loan amount, interest rate, repayment term and customer service that best fits your needs. Compare offers from at least several lenders to find the best online loan.

      Where can I get a small loan?

      Many lenders offer small loans (often less than $3,000). You may be more likely to get a small loan from a bank or credit union, though some online lenders offer personal loans starting at $1,000 or less.

      Bottom line

      Choosing the best personal loan for you means comparing options from different kinds of lenders, including banks, credit unions and online companies. Banks and credit unions provide in-person customer service and may have special offers for account holders, while online lenders often make applying and borrowing convenient and fast.

      Start by looking for lenders that let you pre-qualify without a hard credit check so you can see potential terms without any negative effect on your credit score.

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