Best Personal Loan Rates for December 2020

As of

Personal loan interest rates currently range from about 3 percent to 36 percent. The actual rate you receive depends on multiple factors, such as your credit score, annual income and debt ratios. To find the best personal loan for your financial situation, it's best to shop around and compare personal loan rates from multiple lenders.

Check Your Personal Loan Rates

Answer a few questions to see which personal loans you pre-qualify for. The process is quick and easy, and it will not impact your credit score.

APR from
5.95%*
with AutoPay
Term
2-7yr*
Max. loan amount
$100,000
NEXT
APR from
5.99%
3 or 5 year term
Term
3-5yr
Max. loan amount
$30,000
NEXT
APR from
5.99%
with AutoPay
Term
2-7yr
Max. loan amount
$100,000
NEXT
APR from
5.99%
Term
2-5yr
Max. loan amount
$35,000
NEXT

Not Rated

APR from
6.49-17.99%
Term
1-5yr
Max. loan amount
$20,000
NEXT
APR from
6.99-19.99%
Term
3-6yr
Max. loan amount
$40,000
NEXT
APR from
7.95-35.99%
Term
3-5yr
Max. loan amount
$40,000
NEXT
APR from
7.98-35.99%
Term
3-5yr
Max. loan amount
$50,000
NEXT
APR from
7.99-35.97%
with AutoPay
Term
3-5yr
Max. loan amount
$50,000
NEXT
APR from
9.95-35.99%
Term
2-5yr
Max. loan amount
$35,000
NEXT
APR from
10.68-35.89%
with AutoPay
Term
3-5yr
Max. loan amount
$40,000
NEXT

Bankrate's guide to choosing the best personal loan

As of Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Why trust Bankrate?

At Bankrate, our mission is to empower you to make smarter financial decisions. We’ve been comparing and surveying financial institutions for more than 40 years to help you find the right products for your situation. Our award-winning editorial team follows strict guidelines to ensure the content is not influenced by advertisers. Additionally, our content is thoroughly reported and vigorously edited to ensure accuracy.

When shopping for a personal loan, compare APRs across multiple lenders to make sure you’re getting a competitive rate. Also look for lenders that keep fees to a minimum and offer repayment terms that fit your needs. Loan details presented here are current as of the publish date. Check the lenders’ websites for more current information. The personal loan lenders listed here are selected based on factors such as APR, loan amounts, fees, credit requirements and more.

Summary: personal loans in 2020

Best personal loan rates in December 2020

Lender Current APR Range Loan Term Loan Amount Best for
SoFi
5.99%–18.28% (with autopay)
2 to 7 years
$5,000–$100,000
Overall personal loan
LightStream
2.49%–19.99% (with autopay)
2 to 12 years
$5,000–$100,000
Generous repayment terms
Avant
9.95%–35.99%
2 to 5 years
$2,000–$35,000
People with bad credit
Marcus by Goldman Sachs
6.99%–19.99%
3 to 6 years
$3,500–$40,000
Debt consolidation
Best Egg
5.99%–29.99%
3 to 5 years
$2,000–$35,000
Low APRs
Upgrade
7.99%–35.97% (with autopay)
3 or 5 years
$1,000–$35,000
Fast funding
Payoff
5.99%–24.99%
2 to 5 years
$5,000–$40,000
Paying credit card debt
Upstart
7.98%–35.99%
3 or 5 years
$1,000–$50,000
Little credit history
LendingClub
10.68%–35.89%
3 or 5 years
$1,000–$40,000
Using a co-signer
PenFed
6.49%–17.99%
1 to 5 years
$600–$20,000
Credit union members
TD Bank
6.99%–21.99%
3 to 5 years
$2,000–$50,000
Few fees
PNC Bank
Starting at 7.24% (with autopay)
6 months to 5 years
$1,000–$35,000
In-person visits

Details: best personal loan rates in 2020

  • SoFi: Best overall personal loan
  • LightStream: Best personal loan for generous repayment terms
  • Avant: Best personal loan for people with bad credit
  • Marcus by Goldman Sachs: Best personal loan for debt consolidation
  • Best Egg: Best personal loan for low APRs
  • Upgrade: Best personal loan for fast funding
  • Payoff: Best personal loan for paying credit card debt
  • Upstart: Best personal loan for little credit history
  • LendingClub: Best personal loan for using a co-signer
  • PenFed: Best personal loan for credit union members
  • TD Bank: Best personal loan for few fees
  • PNC Bank: Best personal loan for in-person visits

SoFi: Best overall personal loan

Overview: SoFi, a digital lender, offers products ranging from personal loans to student loan refinancing, private student loans, home loans, investing and various types of insurance. It’s working on becoming an all-encompassing place to save, spend and manage your money.

Perks: SoFi offers a wide range of benefits that go beyond just funding your personal loan, including an autopay discount and unemployment protection in case you lose your job and can’t afford to repay your loan. It also offers career counseling and a referral bonus if a qualifying friend signs up. Members get personalized financial planning and aren’t charged any fees. Loans, which are fee-free, range from $5,000 to $100,000 and must be repaid in two to seven years. Fixed-rate loans range from 5.99 percent APR to 18.28 percent APR.

What to watch out for: You’ll need to have a solid credit score — at least 680 — to take advantage of these perks.

Lender SoFi
Bankrate Rating 4.7 / 5.0
Min. Credit Score 680
Est. APR 5.99%–18.28% (with autopay)
Loan Amount $5,000–$100,000
Term Lengths 2 to 7 years
Min. Annual Income Not specified
Fees None

Read Bankrate's expert SoFi Review

LightStream: Best loans for generous repayment terms

Overview: LightStream, a division of Truist, offers loans for practically any occasion and generous repayment terms. It offers auto loans, home improvement loans, loans for a medical emergency, loans for a family need and more.

Perks: Repayment terms range from two to 12 years, which means you can take longer to pay off your loan and benefit from lower monthly payments. Loan amounts go up to $100,000, which is good if you have significant expenses. There are no fees and no prepayment penalties, and you get a discount on your interest rate when you sign up for autopay.

What to watch out for: You’ll need to prove you have a few years’ worth of credit history with many different account types to qualify. Delinquencies, defaults and late payments could hurt your eligibility chances.

Lender LightStream
Bankrate Rating 4.6 / 5.0
Min. Credit Score 660
Est. APR 2.49%–19.99% (with autopay)
Loan Amount $5,000–$100,000
Term Lengths 2 to 12 years
Min. Annual Income Not specified
Fees None

Read Bankrate's expert LightStream Review

Avant: Best loan for people with bad credit

Overview: Avant specializes in lending to people with fair or poor credit. Not everyone has great credit, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be able to have the chance to borrow a loan.

Perks: Most Avant customers have a credit score between 600 and 700. You can get your money within a day after getting approved and take advantage of loans as low as $2,000, which is helpful if you don’t need to borrow a lot of money but still need fast access to cash. Terms go as high as five years.

What to watch out for: Interest rates start at 9.95 percent APR and can go as high as 35.99 percent APR, which is higher than interest rates from other lenders. Avant also charges an administration fee of up to 4.75 percent and $25 late fees.

Lender Avant
Bankrate Rating 4.5 / 5.0
Min. Credit Score 580 FICO and 550 Vantage
Est. APR 9.95%–35.99%
Loan Amount $2,000–$35,000
Term Lengths 2 to 5 years
Min. Annual Income Not specified
Fees Administration fee: up to 4.75%; Late fee: $25; Dishonored payment fee: $15

Read Bankrate's expert Avant Review

Marcus by Goldman Sachs: Best loan for debt consolidation

Overview: A debt consolidation loan is a loan that is used to pay off multiple outstanding debts. You’ll borrow money with one loan to pay off many smaller loans or credit cards that were charging much higher interest rates. Then you make one monthly payment to your new loan. Marcus specializes in debt consolidation loans with broad loan amounts and a relatively low APR cap.

Perks: Interest rates start as low as 6.99 percent, and you can borrow as much as $40,000. Marcus doesn’t charge any fees. You also have the chance to change your monthly due date up to three times during the life of the loan based on what works best for your finances.

What to watch out for: Marcus doesn't list any specific credit score, income or debt-to-income ratio requirements to help you learn if you're eligible, and it also doesn't allow co-signers.

Lender Marcus by Goldman Sachs
Bankrate Rating 4.7 / 5.0
Min. Credit Score Not specified
Est. APR 6.99%–19.99%
Loan Amount $3,500–$40,000
Term Lengths 3 to 6 years
Min. Annual Income Not specified
Fees None

Read Bankrate's expert Marcus by Goldman Sachs Review

Best Egg: Best for low APRs

Overview: Best Egg offers personal loans for a variety of purposes, whether it’s debt consolidation, credit card refinancing, family needs or home improvements.

Perks: Best Egg offers loans starting as low as $2,000, and you can borrow as much as $35,000. Interest rates start as low as 5.99 percent APR for those with the best credit. There are no prepayment penalties for paying off your loan early.

What to watch out for: Origination fees range from 0.99 percent to 6.99 percent, and $15 late payment fees are charged within three days of a missed payment.

Lender Best Egg
Bankrate Rating 4.7 / 5.0
Min. Credit Score 640
Est. APR 5.99%–29.99%
Loan Amount $2,000–$35,000
Term Lengths 3 to 5 years
Min. Annual Income Not specified
Fees Origination fee: 0.99% to 6.99% of the loan amount; Late fee: $15; Returned payment fee: $15

Read Bankrate's expert Best Egg Review

Upgrade: Best for fast funding

Overview: You can get your funds within a day with an Upgrade loan. Loan amounts range from $1,000 to $35,000, and you can use your personal loan for anything: debt consolidation, home improvement or covering a major expense.

Perks: Terms of three or five years let you pay off your loan on a schedule that’s best for your budget. Interest rates start at 7.99 percent as long as you have strong credit to qualify.

What to watch out for: All personal loans come with a 2.9 to 8 percent origination fee. There’s also a $10 failed payment — a shorter grace period than many competitors offer.

Lender Upgrade
Bankrate Rating 4.8 / 5.0
Min. Credit Score Not specified
Est. APR 7.99%–35.97% (with autopay)
Loan Amount $1,000–$35,000
Term Lengths 3 or 5 years
Min. Annual Income Not specified
Fees Origination fee: 2.9% to 8%; Late fee: Up to $10; Returned check fee: $10

Read Bankrate's expert Upgrade Review

Payoff: Best loan for paying credit card debt

Overview: Payoff loans are specifically geared toward borrowers who want to pay off high-interest credit card debt. If you’re struggling to get out of credit card debt and facing mounting interest rates, you can use a Payoff loan to get rid of it and then make fixed monthly payments to your one Payoff loan.

Perks: You have access to your free FICO score, updated monthly. There’s no penalty for paying off your loan early or making additional payments. There are also no late payment fees or fees if you have a returned check.

What to watch out for: You’ll need to have a credit score of at least 640 to qualify. Loans get funded between two and five business days after approval, which is slower than many other online lenders. There’s also an origination fee of 0 to 5 percent.

Lender Payoff
Bankrate Rating 4.6 / 5.0
Min. Credit Score 640
Est. APR 5.99%–24.99%
Loan Amount $5,000–$40,000
Term Lengths 2 to 5 years
Min. Annual Income Not specified
Fees Origination fee: 0% to 5%

Read Bankrate's expert Payoff Review

Upstart: Best loan for little credit history

Overview: While Upstart has minimum credit score requirements, it evaluates more than just your credit score when you apply. The lender looks at your education, your job history and some credit score factors when determining your eligibility.

Perks: You can apply even if you don’t have a long credit history. If you’re relatively new to borrowing money, you might be eligible. There’s no prepayment penalty for paying off your loan early, and you can borrow as little as $1,000.

What to watch out for: Co-signers aren’t allowed, and Upstart charges an origination fee and a late fee.

Lender Upstart
Bankrate Rating 4.5 / 5.0
Min. Credit Score 600
Est. APR 7.98%–35.99%
Loan Amount $1,000–$50,000
Term Lengths 3 or 5 years
Min. Annual Income $12,000
Fees Late fee: 5% or $15; Origination fee: up to 8%; Returned check fee: $15

Read Bankrate's expert Upstart Review

LendingClub: Best loan for using a co-signer

Overview: If you’re struggling to find a lender that will let you borrow, you might need to enlist the help of a co-signer. Unfortunately, not every lender offers the option to do this. LendingClub, on the other hand, lets you apply with a co-signer or a joint application.

Perks: LendingClub allows you to use a co-signer to qualify for a loan you wouldn’t otherwise have gotten or get a better interest rate. At LendingClub, rates start at 10.68 percent. There’s also a 15-day grace period in case you can’t pay your loan the day it’s due.

What to watch out for: It takes around four days to receive your funds. There’s also an origination fee ranging from 2 to 6 percent.

Lender Partner LendingClub
Bankrate Rating 4.5 / 5.0
Min. Credit Score 600
Est. APR 10.68%–35.89%
Loan Amount $1,000–$40,000
Term Lengths 3 or 5 years
Min. Annual Income Not specified
Fees Origination fee: 2% to 6%; Late fee: 5% or $15

Read Bankrate's expert LendingClub Review

PenFed: Best loan for credit union members

Overview: You don’t need to go with a traditional bank or online lender to find the best deals. Credit unions also offer personal loans. While PenFed is geared toward military and service members, there are other ways to become a member.

Perks: APRs start at 6.49 percent, and you can get a loan as low as $600.

What to watch out for: You’ll need to become a member of PenFed before receiving a personal loan. While anyone can become a member — you just have to maintain a $5 savings account with the company — it's still an extra step in the process that could be a deal breaker.

Lender PenFed
Min. Credit Score Not specified
Est. APR 6.49%–17.99%
Loan Amount $600–$20,000
Term Lengths 1 to 5 years
Min. Annual Income Not specified
Fees Late fee: $29; Returned check fee: $30

TD Bank: Best loan for few fees

Overview: TD Bank's Fit Loan can provide funding in as little as one business day, with a wide range of loan amounts. It also charges only one fee: a late payment fee of 5 percent or $10, whichever is less. It doesn't have any origination fees, monthly fees, annual fees, prepayment fees or insufficient funds fees.

Perks: While getting an online loan is usually fast and easy, it’s not always the most convenient option for everyone. If you need to visit a branch to talk to a human about borrowing a personal loan, try TD Bank. You can apply online, over the phone or at your local branch. The highest APR is 21.99 percent, while other lenders go as high as 35.99 percent.

What to watch out for: TD Bank loans are only available to residents of Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, New York, Washington, D.C., North Carolina, Florida, Pennsylvania, Maine, Rhode Island, Maryland, South Carolina, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Virginia.

Lender TD Bank
Bankrate Rating 4.2 / 5.0
Min. Credit Score Not specified
Est. APR 6.99%–21.99%
Loan Amount $2,000–$50,000
Term Lengths 3 to 5 years
Min. Annual Income Not specified
Fees Late fee: 5% or $10

Read Bankrate's expert TD Bank Review

PNC Bank: Best loan for in-person visits

Overview: Sometimes you just need to see someone face to face. PNC Bank has 2,300 locations across 37 states, making it a good choice for people who prefer in-person banking.

Perks: There are no application, origination or prepayment fees with PNC personal loans. You can apply online, over the phone or in person. Loan amounts start at $1,000, and you can apply with a co-applicant, which can help you qualify if you wouldn’t on your own.

What to watch out for: PNC products and features vary by location. When you visit PNC Bank online, you’re required to enter your ZIP code before seeing offers. The details listed here are accurate for the 10019 ZIP code.

Lender PNC Bank
Bankrate Rating 4.5 / 5.0
Min. Credit Score Not specified
Est. APR Starting at 7.24% (with autopay)
Loan Amount $1,000–$35,000
Term Lengths 6 months to 5 years
Min. Annual Income Not specified
Fees None

Read Bankrate's expert PNC Bank Review

What is a personal loan?

Personal loans are shorter-term loans that consumers can receive from banks, credit unions or private lenders, like online marketplace lenders and non-bank peer-to-peer lenders. The loan funds can be used for just about any purpose, such as paying off other debt, financing a home renovation or paying for family needs, like a wedding or adoption.

Borrowers receive a single lump sum that’s repaid over a number of years. Most personal loan terms range from 24 months to 60 months, but some can go as high as 72 months. The typical personal loan is repaid in monthly installments, similar to a car loan or home mortgage.

Personal loans are typically unsecured, meaning they are not backed by collateral such as a car, house or other assets.

If you need cash fast, these loans are a good choice because the approval and funding process is often faster than that of a home equity line of credit.

What are current personal loan interest rates?

Personal loan interest rates currently range from about 3 percent to 36 percent, depending on your credit score. As of Aug. 5, 2020, the average personal loan interest rate is 11.88 percent.

The better your credit score, the more likely you are to qualify for a personal loan with the lowest interest rate available. Compare personal loan offers to see what you are eligible for before applying for a personal loan.

Average personal loan interest rates by credit rating

Average personal loan interest rates range from 10.3 percent to 12.5 percent for “excellent” credit scores of 720 to 850, 13.5 percent to 15.5 percent for "good" credit scores of 690 to 719, 17.8 percent to 19.9 percent for "average" credit scores of 630 to 689 and 28.5 percent to 32.0 percent for “poor” credit scores of 300 to 629.

Credit Band Credit Score Range Average Personal Loan Interest Rate
Excellent Credit 720–850 10.3%–12.5%
Good Credit 690–719 13.5%–15.5%
Average Credit 630–689 17.8%–19.9%
Bad Credit 300–629 28.5%–32.0%

Rates as of 08/05/2020

Excellent-credit loans

Excellent-credit loans are loans that are geared toward borrowers with excellent credit, typically between 720 and 850. Having such a high credit score can come with many benefits, including average APRs as low as 10.3 percent — though some lenders go even lower 5.99. If your credit score falls into this range, look for excellent-credit lenders with low advertised rates and few fees.

Good-credit loans

Good-credit loans offer competitive interest rates and generally low fees. You're considered to have good credit if you have a credit score between 690 and 719, and with such a high score, you may qualify for average APRs as low as 13.5 percent. However, if you have good credit and are interested in a personal loan, shop around; you may be able to qualify for an interest rate even lower.

Fair-credit loans

If you have a fair or average credit score, it can be hard to find a personal loan that offers reasonable rates and fees. If your credit score falls between 630 and 689, your credit score is average. While this is considered a less-than-stellar score, you still may be able to qualify for a personal loan with an average APR as low as 17.8 percent. This list of the best personal loans for fair credit lists lenders that cater to people with scores in the mid-600s.

Bad-credit loans

You can get approved for a loan even with bad credit, although you won't qualify for the best APRs. If your credit score is between 300 and 629, the best interest rate available could be around 28.5 percent. However, a bad-credit loan, even one with a rate close to 30 percent, is a better financial option than a payday loan; to see what rates are available, compare offers from a few bad-credit lenders.

How does the coronavirus affect personal loans?

The impact of COVID-19 has left millions of Americans without a reliable source of income, and many may be searching for personal loans to cover emergency expenses. In response to unprecedented market conditions, some banks have announced new loan offerings and lower interest rates, though many have also begun tightening their eligibility requirements. Borrowers with existing personal loans may be able to take advantage of loan relief programs: While programs vary by lender, it may be possible to temporarily defer payments or waive fees.

What are coronavirus hardship loans?

Coronavirus hardship loans are short-term personal loans designed by lenders specifically to help people affected by the coronavirus pandemic. These loans are typically less than $5,000 and may have to be repaid within three years or less. Coronavirus hardship loans are popular among credit unions, in particular; if you need short-term relief, ask your local credit union about its offerings.

Pros and cons of personal loans

Pros:

  • One lump sum, usually with a fixed interest rate, which helps keep monthly payments on track.
  • Get money quickly, sometimes within as little as a day, depending on the lender you choose.
  • Many are unsecured loans, which means your home or car isn’t used to borrow money.
  • Interest rates are much lower than those of payday loans, which charge upward of 400 percent.
  • Unlike highly risky payday loans, personal loans give you a reasonable amount of time to repay the loan.

Cons:

  • APRs are generally higher than those of some secured loans.
  • If you have a low credit score, you might not qualify.
  • Some lenders charge fees, like origination, late and prepayment fees. The lower your credit score, the more likely you are to have a lender that charges more fees.
  • Some lenders don’t offer co-signers, which means you can only use your credit score and history to qualify.
  • You’re adding another bill to your monthly payments, which might stretch or even break your budget.

How to get a personal loan

With so many lenders to choose from, getting a personal loan can be a daunting task. Here are five tips for getting a personal loan:

  1. Determine how much you need. Write down the amount of money you'll need for your loan purpose, whether that's debt consolidation or a home repair. Make sure to factor in any origination fees, which some lenders take out of the total loan amount.
  2. Check your credit score. The higher your credit score, the better APR you'll receive. If you have fair or poor credit, consider adding a co-signer to your loan; a co-signer with good credit will improve your overall credit picture and earn you more favorable rates.
  3. Get prequalified. Many lenders allow you to check your rates using a process called prequalification, which won't hurt your credit score. Compare rates from a variety of lenders, including online lenders, banks and credit unions, to see which offers you the best deal.
  4. Complete the approval process. Once you receive an offer and accept the loan, you will likely have to submit pay stubs, tax documents and personal identification. Many lenders allow you to submit these documents online.
  5. Begin loan payments. After finalizing your loan, you'll likely receive your loan within a week, although many online lenders boast funding in as little as one business day. Make sure to note your first payment due date and consider setting up automatic payments if they're available; many lenders offer discounts for doing so.

For more information, check out our article on how to get a personal loan.

How to choose a personal loan company

It's always best to get quotes from a few different lenders before applying for a personal loan. When comparing lenders, keep an eye on the following factors.

Approval requirements

Every lender has its own threshold for approving potential borrowers. Lenders will likely consider your credit score, debt-to-income ratio, income and more. Many will list some or all of these requirements on their websites, so it's worth doing a little research before applying. If you have below-average credit, look for lenders that utilize other approval criteria; some will take into account things like your area of study or job history.

Interest rates

Your interest rate is one of the most important things to consider when comparing lenders. If you have good credit, you can focus on lenders that advertise low rates. However, the lowest advertised rate is never guaranteed, so make sure to compare your actual quotes as well.

When comparing interest rates, also make sure to incorporate any fees or penalties; origination fees or application fees can significantly add to the overall cost of your loan.

Loan amounts

You'll want to choose a lender that offers loans with your desired funding amount. If you need a loan for something small, like a minor car repair, you'll look at different lenders than you would if you need to pay for tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills.

Repayment options

A good personal loan lender usually offers multiple repayment terms so you can choose the one that makes the most sense for your situation. If you're borrowing a lot of money, you may want to look for a lender with long repayment terms — doing so will decrease your monthly payment. If you have a smaller loan, a shorter repayment term will cut back on the amount of interest you pay overall.

Unique features

In addition to the features above, you may want to keep an eye out for lenders with any unique perks (or restrictions). Ensure that any lender you're considering will allow you to use your loan for the purpose you're intending. Some, like Payoff, restrict their personal loans to specific uses, like debt consolidation.

It's also wise to investigate a company's customer service options, particularly if you prefer in-person service to online. If you need more information, you can always look up reviews about the company or check out its Better Business Bureau profile.

Reasons to get a personal loan

With the exception of loans from a few niche lenders, like Payoff, most personal loans can be used for any purpose. The most common reasons to get a personal loan are:

  • Debt consolidation. If you have multiple lines of credit card debt, for instance, you can pay them off with a personal loan and repay the loan over time, often with a better interest rate.
  • Emergency expenses. Unexpected expenses like a car repair or hospital bill can throw off your monthly budget, and a small personal loan can alleviate the immediate cost.
  • Home renovations. A personal loan is a great way to pay for a large home renovation project and boost the equity in your home.
  • Major purchase or event. Personal loans are often used to cover major expenses, such as a wedding or vacation.

To learn more, read our article on top six reasons to apply for a personal loan.

When you should get a personal loan

When used responsibly, personal loans can be a great tool to help consolidate debt, cover an emergency expense or finally install that pool you've been dreaming about. When thinking about applying, it's important to remember that a loan is borrowed money and will need to be paid off. If you have room in your budget to consistently make payments over a number of years, a personal loan may work for you.

When you shouldn't get a personal loan

While personal loans can be useful, they aren't ideal for every situation. If you're looking to use a personal loan for something that can be saved up for, like a vacation or a luxury item, a personal loan may not be the best option. You could be paying off that vacation for years to come.

You also may want to think twice before applying if your income isn't stable. On top of not having a steady flow of income to make the monthly payments, it can be difficult to qualify for a competitive rate. Some lenders take your income and employment into consideration when applying, so it's important to evaluate your financial health before considering a personal loan.

What you need to know about personal loans

What is APR?

APR stands for Annual Percentage Rate. APR refers to the extra amount borrowers pay on top of their loan amount, or principal. APR is different from your interest rate; it equals your interest rate plus any loan fees.

For more detail on how APR can affect your monthly payments, check out our personal loan calculator.

What's the difference between a secured loan and an unsecured loan?

Secured loans are backed by a piece of the borrower’s property as collateral, typically a vehicle or house. Because the borrower stands to lose personal property if they default, secured loans tend to have lower interest rates.

Unsecured loans are not backed by collateral, but instead by the borrower’s creditworthiness. Because the lender takes on more of a risk with an unsecured loan, interest rates tend to be higher. Lenders also require that borrowers seeking an unsecured loan have a higher-than-average credit score.

Learn more about the key differences between secured and unsecured loans.

What's a repayment term?

A repayment term refers to the length of time borrowers have to repay their loan. A personal loan's repayment term is typically between one and 10 years, depending on the lender.

How does my credit score affect my offer?

Because personal loans are often unsecured, they may come with higher APRs than other types of loans. With unsecured loans, lenders tend to pay extra attention to a borrower's credit score.

The lower a borrower's credit score is, the more they'll have to pay in interest. Lower credit scores can lead to APRs in the double digits. Loan rates differ by lender, but opting for a secured loan can often help lower APR, even for someone with bad credit. In some cases, secured loans can offer up to 6 percent less in APR than unsecured loans.

Will a personal loan hurt my credit score?

A personal loan can temporarily hurt your credit score, since lenders will do a hard credit check when you apply. However, you should be able to recover and even improve your score if you make on-time payments for the duration of your loan. If you miss payments of make consistently late payments, be prepared to see a more significant dip in your score.

What’s the difference between fixed and variable interest?

Depending on the loan and the lender, you may have a choice between a fixed rate (which stays the same over the life of the loan) and a variablehttps://www.bankrate.com/loans/personal-loans/home-improvement/ rate (which can rise or fall depending on changes in the market).

The interest on a variable-rate loan often starts low but may increase over time. The terms of the loan agreement will specify how often the lender is allowed to raise the interest rate, and some loans cap the maximum rate at a certain percentage. By contrast, the payments and interest charges on a fixed-rate loan will remain the same.

Base your decision on whether you prefer the stability of a fixed rate or the possibility of saving on interest with a variable rate.

Is a personal loan worth it?

A personal loan could be a good option for you if you need a large sum of money upfront and the stability of a predictable monthly payment. Personal loans typically have better APRs than credit cards or lines of credit, and most personal loans maintain that fixed rate over the life of the loan.

However, before committing to a personal loan, weigh the APR you're offered to make sure that a monthly loan payment fits into your budget. Some loans have repayment periods as long as 10 years, and some companies charge a fee if you choose to pay off your loan early. It's also important to take out only as much as you need for your project or expense; borrowing extra will increase your monthly payments and the total amount you'll pay in interest.

If you're unsure if you can afford a loan, try using a personal loan calculator to see how much you'll pay in interest on top of the cost of your loan.

What is a good interest rate on a personal loan?

A "good" interest rate on a personal loan depends on your credit score. In general, you should look for a rate below the average APR — 10.3 percent to 12.5 percent for excellent credit, 13.5 percent to 15.5 percent for good credit, 17.8 percent to 19.9 percent for average credit and 28.5 percent to 32 percent for bad credit.

The rate you're quoted depends on many factors, including your credit score, credit history and annual income. Many lenders offer prequalification, a step which allows you to see if you're eligible for a loan without a hard pull on your credit score. Checking your rate with a few companies can help you determine which will offer you the best APR.

What are the requirements for a personal loan?

While every lender's requirements will vary, you may be granted a personal loan based on three factors: your credit score, your income and your payment history. While all of these elements are important to overall financial health, lenders typically focus more heavily on your credit score. The lower your credit score, the less likely you are to get approved for the loan and the higher your interest rates if you are approved. It's important to complete an assessment of your credit and financial history to determine if a personal loan is the right fit for you.

When applying for a personal loan, the lender may also require you to show documentation. You may be asked to show your proof of identity, employer, income and address.

What is better: personal loans or low-interest credit cards?

When it comes to debt consolidation, both personal loans and credit cards could be useful in paying off high-interest debt. With a personal loan, you'll be able to borrow a specific amount from the bank and then pay it back in monthly installments. With a credit card, you'll be able to complete a balance transfer, or a method in which you transfer your existing debt to a new credit card.

Both options have drawbacks and benefits. With a personal loan, you're given the security of knowing the total loan costs, and you'll pay a fixed monthly amount, making it easier to budget and keep track of your expenses. The downside is that in some instances, a personal loan could have more upfront fees and a higher starting APR.

With a balance-transfer credit card, many card issuers will offer a 0 percent APR introductory period, which gives you the opportunity to pay down debt without accruing interest for a certain number of months. However, if you still have debt remaining after the introductory period, the APR could be higher than that of a personal loan, which may put you at risk of accumulating even more debt.

Before choosing a method, compare the rates and fees of each option and evaluate how much flexibility you're looking for when consolidating debt.

How much can you borrow with a personal loan?

The amount you can borrow with a personal loan depends on the lender and your credit score. Many lenders offer loans between $5,000 and $50,000, but some may offer loans as low as $500 or as high as $100,000.

Can I pay off my loan early?

There are some situations where you may want to pay off your personal loan early; if you get a raise or receive a cash gift, putting those funds toward your personal loan can help you save on interest and eliminate the loan from your monthly expenses. Many lenders will even let you pay off your loan early without charging a prepayment penalty.

If you'd like to make extra payments on your loan, let your lender know that you'd like the extra payment to go toward the principal — otherwise, the lender may apply the funds toward your next payment.

Keep in mind that paying off your loan early may not be worth it if you have other higher-interest debt on your plate, like credit card debt, or if you don't have emergency savings built up. In those cases, it may be better to put extra funds toward those projects instead.

What happens if I can't pay back my loan?

If financial hardship means that you can't pay back your loan, your loan will eventually fall into default. With some lenders, default could happen as soon as you miss a payment, while with others it could happen after a few months of missed payments.

With a defaulted loan, you'll likely rack up late fees and see a dip in your credit score. If you miss enough payments, your loan may also be sent to collections. To minimize the impact of a defaulted loan, contact your lender as soon as you know that you won't be able to make a payment; your lender may be willing to work with you on an adjusted payment plan.

Additional personal loan resources