LightStream, the online lending arm of SunTrust Bank, has positioned itself as a favorite among borrowers with good to excellent credit. The lender offers high borrowing amounts and low rates on its unsecured personal loans, which can be used for nearly any purpose, including home improvement projects, debt consolidation and adoption financing.
LightStream charges no fees on its personal loans and is even willing to beat competitors’ rates by 0.10 percent (with some restrictions). Plus, it offers $100 cash back if you’re unsatisfied with the loan process. If you have a strong credit history and plenty of assets, this lender could be a good fit for you.
Who is a LightStream personal loan good for?
- Borrowers with good to excellent credit. Borrowers typically need a credit score of at least 660. LightStream doesn’t offer a prequalification process where you can check rates with a soft credit inquiry. However, you can check you credit score for free with MyBankrate to see where you stand before applying.
- Borrowers with established credit. LightStream requires borrowers to have several years’ worth of credit history, a strong record of making on-time payments and a good mix of credit accounts, such as a mortgage, car loan and credit cards.
- Savers. Although the lender doesn’t specify how much you need in your bank account, LightStream wants to know that you have liquid assets such as a savings account or stock ownership.
- Anyone borrowing for nontraditional purpose. LightStream, like other lenders, offers personal loans for debt consolidation. But it also advertises unsecured loans to finance dozens of other purposes, such as a wedding, car purchase or preschool expenses. The annual percentage rate (APR) partly depends on the loan purpose.
- Borrowers looking for a long-loan term. Terms range from 24 months to 84 months for most loans, and 144 months for home improvement financing.
- Co-applicants. LightStream allows multiple borrowers on a personal loan, and one of the borrowers can have a lower credit score than the minimum requirement.
How LightStream Compares
|Loan amounts||$5,000 to $100,000||$1,000 to $40,000|
|APR range||3.99% to 16.99% with autopay||6.95%–35.89%|
|Origination fee||None||1% to 6%|
|Minimum credit score||660||600|
|Time to funding||As soon as same day||A week or longer|
|Soft credit check with application?||No||Yes|
Who should not apply for a loan
- Anyone with fair to poor credit. If you have bad credit or not enough credit history, LightStream may not approve you for a loan. Or, the lender could require collateral to secure a bad-credit loan.
- Anyone looking to borrow less than $5,000. LightStream personal loans start at $5,000, so if you need to borrow less, 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.
LightStream aims to fill a niche with its unsecured loans — customers with strong credit profiles who need flexible terms. Most LightStream loans come with two- to seven-year terms, though its loans for home improvement, swimming pools and solar financing may extend to 12 years. Loan amounts range from $5,000 to $100,000, and the fixed APR ranges from 3.99 percent to 16.99 percent, assuming you choose the autopay option.
However, it’s always best to shop around. If you find a better APR with a different lender, LightStream says it will beat the rate by 0.10 percent. That’s assuming you can show you were approved by the competitor for the same type of fixed-rate loan for the same amount, term, purpose and payment method.
Other lenders might offer lower loan amounts, shorter terms or more limitations on how borrowers can use the loan funds. LightStream does have a few restrictions, though. According to the fine print, you won’t be able to use a LightStream personal loan to:
- Fund college or post-secondary education expenses, though you can use LightStream loans for preschool and K–12 expenses
- Refinance previous college or post-secondary education loans
- Refinance existing LightStream loans
- Fund loans for businesses
- Fund a cash-out refinance loan
- Purchase stocks or bonds
LightStream also wants to reduce its risk by ensuring you can pay back the money you borrow. To do this, the lender will consider your:
- Credit score and credit history
- Requested loan amount
- Requested loan purpose
- Repayment term (two to 12 years, depending on the loan purpose)
- Available assets
Once approved, the lender will disburse funds to your account. That can happen as soon as the day you apply, as long as your application is verified and approved before 2:30 p.m. EST on a business day.
Minimum borrower requirements
The typical LightStream customer has a minimum FICO score of 660, according to a company spokesperson. The lender will also consider the applicant’s income, credit history and payment record on all loans and credit cards.
Fees and penalties
LightStream charges no origination fees, prepayment penalties or late fees, and there’s also no fee if you set up an automatic ACH debit through your bank account. However, your interest rate will be 0.50 percent higher if you pay manually.
How to apply
LightStream’s application process is quick and straightforward. Here are the details you’ll need to provide:
- Loan purpose, amount and term
- Payment method
- Personal information (including your address, phone number, email address and Social Security number)
- Employment information
- Current monthly housing payments, such as rent or mortgages
Once you’ve submitted the loan application, LightStream will review it, conduct a hard credit pull and email you with the status of your application. If approved, you can sign your loan agreement and set up your funding date and payment information online.
Who’s the best fit for a LightStream personal loan?
LightStream is a good fit for people who are looking for flexible loan terms and have good to excellent credit, as the lender clearly rewards people with a proven history of making on-time payments. Loans come with no prepayment and origination fees, long terms that allow you to stretch out payments over time, high borrowing amounts, and potentially low interest rates for those who qualify. The lender is also flexible on how you can use the funds.
A potential downside is the hard pull on your credit, as there’s no way to check if you prequalify with a soft pull. However, hard pulls usually only ding your credit score by five to 10 points, and the impact is temporary. This could be worth it, considering you may qualify for a low interest rate with this lender.
Another negative is the high credit requirements. Applicants with fair to poor credit may not qualify for these loans and will need to look elsewhere.
What to do if you’re turned down
If LightStream denies your application or quotes you a high interest rate, first contact the lender and ask for clarification. The lender could have made a simple processing mistake, or your credit report may contain an error.
If you still don’t qualify for a LightStream loan, then consider these alternatives:
- Balance transfer credit cards with long-term 0 percent balance transfer offers
- Secured credit cards to help rebuild credit
- A lender that has lower credit requirements, such as Avant or OneMain Financial
A brief history of LightStream
Since launching in 2013, LightStream has financed about $13 billion worth of loans and focuses on streamlining the loan process. It even offers a $100 loan guarantee for up to 30 days after you receive your loan if you’re unhappy with the process.
One of the best ways to assess an offer is to check out what customers have said about the lender. The Better Business Bureau gives LightStream an A+ rating, although the lender has dealt with a fair number of customer complaints. You can also check other online reviews and ask friends and colleagues about their experiences with different personal loan lenders.
How Bankrate Rates LightStream
Editorial disclosure: All reviews are prepared by Bankrate.com staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the lender’s website for the most current information.