PenFed and LightStream feature flexible personal loan products with attractive terms. Both are ideal for borrowers with good-to-excellent credit. However, they do have some differences that set them apart. For example, 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 4.7 4.7
Better for Good credit borrowers who need a small loan Loan consolidation and home improvement
Loan amounts Up to $50,000 $5,000-$100,000
APRs 7.99% to 17.99% Fixed APR 7.49% to 25.49% Fixed APR (with Autopay)
Loan term lengths Up to 60 months 24 to 144 months
  • Late payment fee: $29
  • Returned payment or ACH fee: $30
Minimum credit score Not disclosed Not specified; only approves good-to-excellent credit profiles
Time to funding One to two days Same-day funding available

PenFed personal loans


Rating: 4.7 stars out of 5
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    • No origination fee.
    • Access to member benefits and discounts.
    • Co-signers permitted.
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    • Membership required to accept the loan offer.
    • Eligibility guidelines not disclosed online.
    • Lower maximum loan amount.

LightStream personal loans


Rating: 4.7 stars out of 5
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    • Offers loans for a wide range of needs.
    • Same-day funding.
    • Rate Beat Program.
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    • Specific financial requirements not disclosed.
    • Online prequalification not available.
    • Must have good-to-excellent credit history.

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 smaller loans

You can take out a fee-free loan under $50,000 to help you get back on track financially. While PenFed’s minimum loan amount isn’t listed, LightStream’s starts at $5,000, which is larger than most lenders and offers a maximum amount of up to $100,000.

That being said, if you’re dealing with a financial emergency and need to access a smaller amount of cash, PenFed is the better fit. You’ll just need to qualify for membership with the credit union to be eligible.

LightStream offers faster funding times

If you need to borrow a larger loan and need the funds as soon as possible, LightStream may be the better fit for your needs. The lender offers same-day funding, which is among the fastest approval timelines among personal loan lenders.

Just keep in mind that LightStream only works with individuals with good-to-excellent credit profiles. If you need your funds sooner than later, check your credit score before applying to expedite the approval process.

Compare lenders before applying

PenFed and LightStream are both viable options if you have a good credit score. 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, but its funding times are a bit slower. However, if your credit isn’t quite up to par, you can apply with a co-signer to increase your approval odds, while LightStream doesn’t offer this option. So, if you need a large amount of funding quickly and have a stellar credit profile, LightStream is likely a better fit for your needs.

Before going with one lender over the other, be sure to do your research and look into both lenders before applying. Also, shop around with one or two additional lenders to determine if better options are available elsewhere.