LightStream personal loans: 2017 comprehensive review

Courtesy of Lightstream.com

LightStream, the online consumer lending division of SunTrust Bank, offers unsecured personal loans to customers with good to excellent credit. Loans can be for anything from home improvement to medical bills to adoption financing. Lightstream works best for borrowers with a strong credit history and an assortment of assets.

Because the screening process is entirely virtual, LightStream can offer some of the lowest interest rates on the market. If a competitor’s rate is lower, LightStream will beat its offer by one-tenth of a percentage point. (Terms and conditions apply.)

Who is a LighStream personal loan good for?
Lending terms
Minimum borrower requirements
Fees and penalties
How to apply
What to do if you’re turned down

LightStream says that if a competitor’s rate is better and it meets certain terms and conditions, LightStream will beat that offer by one-tenth of a percentage point.

Who is a LightStream personal loan good for?

  • Borrowers with good to excellent credit. Borrowers typically must have a minimum credit score of 660. That’s slightly below the national average FICO score, which is 695. Check your credit score for free with MyBankrate™ before you apply.
  • Borrowers with an established credit history. The lender says borrowers should have “several years of credit history.” But simply having established credit isn’t good enough. LightStream also looks for borrowers with a variety of credit types, including credit cards, an auto loan and a mortgage.
  • Savers. Although the lender doesn’t specify how much you have to have in the bank, LightStream wants evidence you have liquid assets like a savings account or stock ownership.
  • Anyone borrowing for a non-traditional purpose. LightStream, like other lenders, offers personal loans for debt consolidation. But it also advertises unsecured loans to purchase cars, or to fund adoption, medical procedures, home improvement, orthodontics, weddings and timeshares. The company says it will tailor the annual percentage rate based on the loan purpose.
  • Borrowers who want to file a joint application. LightStream is one of a few lenders that allows multiple borrowers on a single loan.
How LightStream compares
LightStream Lending Club
Loan amounts $5,000 to $100,000 $1,000 to $40,000
APR range 3.09% to 14.24% 5.98% to 35.89%
Origination fee None 1% to 6%
Minimum credit score 680 600
Time to funding Same day A week or longer
Soft credit check with application? Yes Yes

Who should not accept a loan

  • Anyone with bad credit. If you have bad or thin credit, LightStream may not approve you for a loan. Or, the lender could require collateral to secure a personal loan.
  • Anyone looking to borrow under $5,000. LightStream personal loans require a minimum of $5,000. Borrowers looking for lower amounts should consider OneMain Financial or Lending Club personal loans.
  • Anyone looking for a face-to-face experience. LightStream’s loan process is entirely online. You cannot go into a SunTrust branch to make payments or ask questions in person.

Consider applying for a balance transfer credit card if you find one that offers more favorable terms.

Lending terms

LightStream aims to fill a niche with its unsecured loans — customers with strong credit profiles who may not be able to borrow money elsewhere for their purposes. The two notable exceptions to what they’ll consider a loan for are college tuition and business loans.

LightStream offers loans that range from $5,000 to $100,000.

The quote you receive is based on multiple factors, including:

  • Credit score / history
  • Loan amount
  • Repayment term (2 to 7 years)
  • Debt-to-income ratio
  • Available assets

LightStream’s unsecured personal loans carry a fixed annual percentage rate of 3.09% to 14.24%, assuming you choose the autopay option. If you choose to pay manually after receiving an email invoice, the quoted APR will be 0.50 percentage points higher.

Once approved, it takes about one to two business days to receive the funds in your bank account.

Minimum borrower requirements

The typical LightStream customer has a minimum FICO score of 660, according to a company spokesman. That’s not the only factor the lender uses to consider an applicant, however. LightStream also will review credit history, payment history, credit card and other debt history and income information.

Fees and penalties

  • LightStream charges no origination fees.
  • The lender does not charge late fees.
  • You’ll be charged a 0.50 percentage point higher interest rate if you pay by check. There is no fee if you set up an automatic ACH debit through your bank account.
  • You won’t be penalized for paying off your loan early.

How to apply

LightStream’s application process is straightforward and fast.

Here’s what you’ll need to apply for a loan with LightStream:

  • Loan purpose, amount, and term
  • Payment method
  • Personal information (includes address, phone number, email, and SSN)
  • Employment Information
  • Current monthly payments

LightStream will conduct a “soft” credit check, which won’t impact your credit rating. In most cases, LightStream’s loan rates are tailored to the purpose of your loan.

If you’re approved, the screen will display your individualized loan offer, including the loan amount, the terms, the annual percentage rate and the monthly payments due. If you accept these terms, click on the “Proceed to Loan Agreement” button, and the bank will perform a hard credit pull, which can adversely impact your credit score. A loan officer will review your application.

If you don’t like the terms you’re seeing, you also have the option to start over and ask for new terms with a different loan amount or repayment period or just cancel your application altogether.

What to do if you’re turned down

If you’re unable to qualify, or if you only qualify for one of LightStream’s highest-rate loans, which could be close to 15%, consider the following:

If LightStream rejects your application and you believe your financial standing is strong enough, consider asking for clarification. The explanation could be as simple as a processing error. Or there may be a negative mark on your credit report that you need to investigate.

A brief history of LightStream

Since launching in 2013, LightStream has financed billions in loans. Designed to deliver a streamlined lending experience, LightStream set out to revolutionize the lending experience, streamlining the process for borrowers.

LightStream offers niche loans for “practically anything”, from debt consolidation to horse ownership. And they offer a “Loan Experience Guarantee” of $100 if you aren’t satisfied with the ease of your loan process. (Available for 30 days after you receive your loan.)

For borrowers that don’t qualify for an unsecured auto loan, LightStream also offers a secured loan option.