PenFed and LightStream feature flexible personal loan products with attractive terms. Both are ideal for borrowers with good-to-excellent credit. That said, PenFed operates as a credit union, so you must become a member to apply for a personal loan. LightStream, on the other hand, serves anyone who meets its eligibility guidelines.

PenFed vs. LightStream at a glance

PenFed and LightStream offer personal loans at competitive rates. Here’s an overview of what to know about each when evaluating your options:

PenFed LightStream 
Bankrate Score 4.8 4.6
Better for Emergency loans Rapid funding
Loan amounts $600-$50,000 $5,000-$100,000
APRs 7.74% to 17.99% Fixed APR 7.99% to 25.49% Fixed APR (with Autopay)
Loan term lengths 1-5 years 2-7 years
Fees None None
Minimum credit score 700 Not specified
Time to funding One to two days Same-day funding available

PenFed personal loans


  • Low minimum loan amount.
  • No application or early repayment fees.
  • Co-signers permitted.


  • Membership required to apply for funding.
  • Eligibility guidelines not disclosed online.
  • Excellent credit needed to qualify.

PenFed takes the stress out of securing a personal loan to meet your financial needs. You can apply online in minutes without impacting your credit score. There’s also an option to use a co-signer to strengthen your approval odds. If you’re pre-approved for funding, you can view loan offers directly from the dashboard.

The starting APR is relatively low compared to what other lenders offer. You could get a loan term of up to 60 months to make the payments affordable. Even better, PenFed does not charge a host of pesky fees. You won’t be penalized if you wish to pay the loan off early. But you must be a member of the credit union to apply for a loan.

LightStream personal loans


  • No origination, late payment or prepayment fees.
  • Same-day funding.
  • Rate Beat Program.


  • Steep minimum loan amount.
  • Online prequalification not available.
  • Extensive credit history required.

LightStream, a division of Truist Bank, is a leader in the online lending space for many valid reasons. It offers loans for almost anything you can think of, and it features a seamless online application process that lets you explore options in real time. Plus, you can receive funding as soon as the same business day, and you won’t pay an origination fee. Or if you wish to defer the funding timeline, it can be pushed out as far as 30 days (or 90 days for home improvement loans).

The lender also doesn’t assess late fees or prepayment penalties, and its APRs are some of the best you’ll find in the industry. You could be eligible for an even lower APR if you’re approved for a comparable loan with a more competitive rate through another lender. LightStream will offer a discount of 0.1 percentage points to help you save on interest.

How to choose between PenFed and LightStream

Personal loans with both lenders are comparable. Still, PenFed offers a competitive edge if you’re seeking a small loan while LightStream gets you the cash you need sooner.

PenFed is better for emergency loans

You can take out a fee-free loan for as low as $600 with PenFed to get over your financial hump. However, this isn’t an option with LightStream, as the minimum loan amount is $5,000. So, if you’re dealing with a financial emergency and need to access a small amount of cash, PenFed is the better fit. You’ll avoid borrowing more than you need and avoid costly interest charges.

LightStream offers faster funding times

Perhaps you need to borrow a more sizable amount and have the funds in your account sooner than later. In this case, LightStream is ideal since borrowers can receive funding as soon as the same business day. You can borrow up to $100,000, which is significantly higher than the $50,000 limit with PenFed, and you won’t have to wait an extra day or two to access the cash you need.

Compare lenders before applying

PenFed and LightStream are both viable options if you have good-to-excellent credit. However, choosing the best fit comes down to your unique financial needs and what you’re looking for in a lender.

You’ll have the flexibility of choosing a loan amount and terms that work for you with both lenders. Still, some distinguishing factors can help you make an informed decision. PenFed has a lower loan limit and shorter terms than LightStream. However, its funding times are a bit slower. So, if you need a large amount of funding quickly, LightStream is likely a better fit. But PenFed could be best if you only want to borrow a small amount or wish to use a co-signer.

Be sure to get quotes from both lenders before applying. Also, shop around with one or two additional lenders to determine if better options are available elsewhere.