The Bankrate promise
At Bankrate we strive to help you make smarter financial decisions. While we adhere to strict , this post may contain references to products from our partners. Here's an explanation for .
With most banks and credit unions following the trend of online lenders and offering online applications, applying for a personal loan is increasingly becoming a digital experience. And while completing an online application may simplify the process for some, it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach.
There isn’t a right or wrong answer when it comes to whether you should apply for a personal loan online or in person. Applying online is often faster and more convenient, but in-person assistance can help you better navigate the process and make it easier to take advantage of potential perks for existing customers.
Online vs. in-person loans
Online personal loans are offered by banks, credit unions and online lenders. They allow borrowers to submit an application through the institution’s website, rather than talking to a loan officer at a brick-and-mortar location.
In-person application processes require the consumer to apply by meeting with a loan officer at a bank or credit union. However, this is a rare requirement, as most banks and credit unions offer personal loan applications online as well.
It’s more likely that how you apply will depend on availability and personal preference rather than a requirement from the financial institution. That being said, it’s important to be fully informed on the details of both processes to ensure you’re getting the best loan for your needs and credit situation.
Pros and cons of applying online
Here are the key factors to be aware of before applying for a personal loan from a bank, credit union or lender through its online application portal.
- Prequalification. Borrowers can see their potential rates and approval odds without affecting their credit by prequalifying. Prequalifying also makes it easier to sift through lenders and find the most competitive offer.
- Faster funding. Most online applications are marketed as having a simple process and fast funding times, with some offering disbursement in one to two business days after approval.
- More flexible criteria. Banks typically have more stringent minimum requirements than online lenders.
- Limited assistance. While some lenders and banks offer personal assistance, there’s no guarantee that you’ll receive it online.
- Have to submit information online. Although lenders guarantee a secure online portal, some borrowers may be hesitant to submit sensitive information, such as their Social Security number, online.
- Easier to make an error. Filling out the application online leaves more room for errors in the process. For example, it’s easier to mistype when filling out your personal information online than it is in person with a loan officer reviewing your application as well.
Pros and cons of applying in person
Here’s what you need to know before applying for a personal loan at a brick-and-mortar location.
- Personalized assistance. The primary perk of applying for a loan in person is the individualized assistance. From application to origination, you’ll work with a loan officer to make sure the process is smooth and error free.
- Member benefits and perks. Some institutions offer perks to borrowers who have banked with them before. Being in person can make it easier to find these.
- Establishes a relationship. Applying in person allows you to establish a relationship with a loan officer at your bank. This relationship can make the application process easier down the road should you need to borrow from the institution again.
- Inconvenient process. Some may find having to physically be inside the brick-and-mortar location inconvenient, especially if it’s not a convenient location or is a long distance away.
- Prequalification is not as common. Most online lenders allow borrowers to prequalify, making it easier to compare potential offers. However, not every bank or credit union has this option, and if they do, it’s not as convenient as doing so online and comparing offers may be more difficult.
- Slower approval process. Depending on the institution, applying in person may result in slower funding times, especially if you have to fill out the application on paper, rather than online.
When to apply for a personal loan online
Online applications are often more streamlined, simple and efficient processes. If you’re comfortable with technology, then applying through an online portal may be your best option when it comes to finding the right loan for you.
This is especially true if you need the funds quickly. Online lenders can disburse the money in as soon as one to two business days following approval.
However, before starting an official application, check with your bank to see if there are any in-person benefits available to customers, like an interest rate reduction or a payment date grace period. This can save you money in the long run.
When to apply for a personal loan in person
In-person application processes are best for those who prefer individualized help and live within a convenient distance to their institution. If you’ve never applied for a personal loan before and are overwhelmed by the process, applying in person could reduce some stress, as the loan officer will lead you through the process.
It’s still important to compare rates with other institutions to ensure you’re getting the most competitive rate for your credit situation, especially if the bank or credit union doesn’t offer prequalification.
However, applying in person allows you to ask the officer directly about any rate discounts or perks available.
Frequently asked questions
It depends on your needs what would be considered “easier.” While online is typically faster and doesn’t require any travel, in person provides more face-to-face assistance to help with the application, which reduces error potential.
Typically, applying for a loan in person is a much slower process than applying online. Online applications are often quicker and many lenders or banks will send you the funds within one to two business days after approval. If the in-person application is filled out on paper, then it needs to be processed and that step alone can take up to a week.
It is safe to apply online for a personal loan from a credible online lender or bank. Generally speaking, the online application portals are encrypted and your information is safe and will only be used for that application. However, to best protect your information make sure that the lender is credible and not predatory or a scam.