Finding the Best Personal Loan Source for Your Needs

You have choices when you need money and are thinking about getting a personal loan, including banks, credit unions, and online lenders. However, selecting a personal loan provider from dozens of options may seem overwhelming. What you need is what will determine where to borrow money from.

Finding the most suitable lending institution for you

When you need one, there are three main places to look for a personal loan: banks, credit unions, and online lenders.

Banks may be the first location that springs to mind; they are for-profit financial institutions that provide personal loans and other products. There are several branches of many national banks where you can get assistance in person. However, banks frequently have more stringent qualification standards, making obtaining the most acceptable bank loans challenging. Several national banks, such as Bank of America and Chase, are not provided personal loans.

Credit unions are member-owned, nonprofit businesses. On average, they can provide personal loans at lower interest rates. Apps that offer a user-friendly digital experience might not exist for credit unions. To be eligible for a personal loan, you must join a particular credit union. Membership may depend on a person's family, place of employment, or general.

Online lenders are mostly for-profit companies that provide entirely digital experiences. You may look around for loans online, get prequalified, submit an application, and get the money quickly. In addition, lenders could offer lower interest rates than banks and credit unions since they are not required to maintain branches. However, there is probably no in-person customer assistance as a trade-off.

When choosing a personal loan provider, clients may default to a bank if they already have a checking or savings account. However, there are several significant distinctions between banks and the other kinds of lenders we're talking about, such as:

Customer service: If you need assistance or would rather not bank online, you can apply for a personal loan in person. This choice is not available when using an online lender. Banks are typically less favorable than credit unions, which also provide in-person assistance.

Apps for mobile devices: Banks may provide more app options than credit unions or internet lenders.

Size: The number of branches for banks and credit unions in the United States is comparable. However, national bank branches are more dispersed.

Guidelines and policies for lending: It might be challenging for applicants to get authorized for a personal loan because banks typically have stricter lending standards and procedures.

Anybody can apply for a personal loan at a bank, but each one has its standards for eligibility. For instance, a bank may check a borrower's credit, income, and work status to ensure they can afford their personal loan.

Generally speaking, applicants for bank loans with poorer credit ratings or irregular monthly income aren't considered the best choices. However, if approved, they might be given a smaller loan amount than requested at a higher interest rate or be asked to put up collateral.

Credit unions

Credit unions function as member-owned charities. These members join by fulfilling requirements, such as location or group participation. Credit unions provide various financial services and products, much like banks do. But there are clear distinctions between the two lenders:

Membership: Consumers must join a credit union to be eligible for personal loans. You might need to belong to a specific group, work in a particular industry, or make a small payment of between $5 and $25.

Common branches: You might be able to make payments on your loan at partner credit unions across the nation via services like the CO-OP Shared Branch network.

Community-focused: Many credit unions tend to be more active in their local communities. For instance, Chicago-area Alliant Credit Union in Illinois provides educational support and workshops on financial literacy.

They are making the decision to join a credit union could result in being approved for a personal loan with a fair interest rate because credit unions typically pass their savings to members. Personal loans from credit unions with balances over $1,000 have APR caps of 18%. Although many credit unions have lower minimum credit score requirements for personal loans than banks do, the acceptance decision will usually be based on your credit score and debt-to-income (DTI) ratio.

Said internet lenders give money to borrowers online for a range of purposes, including debt relief, paying for medical expenditures, and making repairs to their homes. Additionally, compared to banks and credit unions, these lenders may provide more niche products, such as loans for people with bad credit. Online lenders differ from other types of lenders in the following ways:

  • Strictly online: Unlike banks and credit unions, the majority of online lenders only conduct business online. As a result, they lack physical locations or branches.

  • Products and services: Since some internet lenders only offer personal loans, it's possible that they don't provide the common goods and services that banks and credit unions offer.

Online Lenders

Lending guidelines: Depending on the lender, borrowers with less-than-perfect credit may be approved.

For their applications, online lenders will evaluate comparable characteristics that banks and credit unions do. Some online lenders will consider factors other than an applicant's credit score when making a decision, even though the same information is taken into account. For instance, LendingClub, an online lender that provides peer-to-peer loans, forecasts your propensity to make payments on time. Borrowers with bad credit may benefit from this since they would probably be turned down by other lenders.

Payday and title loan lenders: use caution

Typically, predatory lenders try to trick customers into taking out expensive loans or subject them to unfair or harsh treatment. Avoid using these lenders if at all possible:

Payday lenders promote payday loans as an easily accessible means of bridging the time between paychecks. You agree to take out a lump sum loan and return it with interest and fees on your following payday. The lender may extend the loan term if you cannot make on-time payments, locking you in a vicious circle of debt.

In exchange for the title to your car, title loan lenders offer modest, brief loans. You typically have 30 days to pay the money and any costs to obtain the title back. The lender has the right to seize your car if you don't pay back the loan.

Not all predatory loans or lenders are immediately apparent as such. Here are some typical warning signs:

  • High-interest rates and fees: While many online personal loan lenders cap APRs at 36%, payday lenders sometimes impose triple-digit APRs. There is a distinct difference between that and rushing to obtain a personal loan with an APR of 36%.

  • Short phrases for repayment: While personal loans typically have repayment durations of at least 12 months, payday loans usually have terms of two weeks or less.

  • Lack of transparency: Predatory websites typically won't give you the facts you need to know, such as APRs, terms, and quantities, in order for you to make an informed choice. If you can afford the time to move on and you are unable to discover the answers you require, do so.

  • Simple approval procedure: Your ability to repay should be evaluated by a personal loan lender, who may also verify your work and credit history. There are many paydays and title loan providers, which might be troublesome, that provide no-credit-check solutions.

  • Pressure to obtain a loan: Whether it's a payday loan provider or a personal loan provider, you should never feel pressured to get a loan.

Choosing the lending option that offers the best loan for you

It's time to select the personal loan option that best suits your demands after reviewing the three main ways to find one. Although banks, credit unions, and online lenders all provide various services, the best personal loan providers typically offer cheap interest rates, reasonable payback terms, and exceptional customer service.

Consider whether you favor receiving customer service in person. 

That can only be obtained from a bank or credit union. You might have a better chance of being accepted or being eligible for a relationship discount if you currently have a checking or savings account with a bank or credit union. In the meanwhile, an online lender might be more reasonably priced and provide a quicker application process. Think about the following:

  • Banks: If you already have a relationship with a bank and prefer to interact with a representative in person, this sort of lender is suitable for you.

  • Credit unions: If you are eligible to join a credit union and want the option of in-person support, this type of lender can be a good fit for you.

  • Online lenders: These lenders can be helpful for borrowers who don't mind doing everything online or for those who are unable to find a loan with a low APR elsewhere.

To find the best loan, compare lenders.

Find lenders who offer prequalification first while searching for a personal loan. Prequalification enables you to check your eligibility for a personal loan without running a hard credit check.

Although it's less prevalent with credit unions and banks, prequalification is a regular practice among internet lenders (SoFi Bank, N.A., and Avant are a few examples). When evaluating lenders, there are several things to take into account in addition to prequalification:

  • APR: Your loan's cost will depend on the APR (interest rate plus expenses). APR comparison is crucial because some lenders have lower APRs than others.

  • Repayment terms: The majority of lenders let you pick the loan period you want. However, some lenders will change what they offer you. It may result in more money problems if you don't think you'll have time to pay back the loan.

  • Fees: Prepayment penalties, origination fees, and late fees all have the potential to raise the cost of your loan. Find lenders who don't impose fees. Make sure you are aware of the details if you choose one that does.

  • Credit rating: People with good credit are more likely to get personal loans. Whatever a lender deems creditworthy will differ, but your credit score may place restrictions on you. To find out what the lender's minimum credit criteria are, go to their website or get in touch with customer support.

Determine which lender is best for your needs by knowing how much you need in the way of a loan. PenFed Credit Union, for instance, provides personal loans up to $50,000. PenFed Credit Union is not the right lender for you if your loan amount is more significant than $35,000.

Process of approval: If you need the loan as soon as possible, look for a lender who accepts online applications and funds loans swiftly.

Applying formally for a personal loan

Here is a broad explanation of how the personal loan application procedure operates:

  • Expect the unexpected: The length of the application procedure varies by the lender; however, in certain cases, it might take up to two weeks from submission to funding.

  • Assemble your papers: To verify your address, you might be asked to submit current pay stubs, W-2 forms, tax returns, a copy of your driver's license or Social Security card, and utility bills.

  • Complete and send the application. When completing the application, if there is anything you don't understand, get in touch with the lender and request an explanation. Asking questions can help you avoid making mistakes on the application, which may influence your loan eligibility. A hard credit inquiry will be made when you formally submit your application, which could lower your credit score by a few points.

  • Stay seated. The lender will determine how soon financing will be available after approval. Borrowers may occasionally get funding the same day, but it usually takes longer. Contact the lender if you don't receive the money when you expect to.

How can a bank offer personal loans?

Check your credit rating before applying for a personal loan from a bank to determine your likelihood of approval. Using a site like MyLendingTree, you may find your VantageScore 3 credit score for nothing.

If you're a customer, certain credit card providers will also display your FICO Score. Additionally, allows you to request a free copy of your credit report. Keep in mind that while this report will provide your credit history, a credit score is not included.

Reviewing your credit will allow you to begin the application process. You may often apply for a personal loan in person or online with most banks. With no impact on your credit, you may compare offers from several lenders at once with LendingTree's free prequalification service.

You can submit a complete application for a loan if you find one you like. In addition to giving your personal information, you might need to provide supporting documents like pay stubs. The bank should respond to your inquiry about a personal loan decision promptly. While some banks may take a few days to process your application and deposit the funds into your account, some may even offer same-day funding.

How do personal loans function?

Installment loans, often known as quantities of money borrowed from a lender and repaid over a predetermined time period, are what personal loans are. The loans with the lowest interest rates are often unsecured, which means you may apply for one without putting up any security. It would help if you usually had a good credit score in order to qualify for one of these loans. Collateral is necessary for secured personal loans. These loans could have exorbitant interest rates, even predatory ones. Furthermore, if you are unable to repay them, you run the risk of losing your collateral.

Personal loan payback lengths typically range from 12 to 84 months, and you'll probably select your repayment period when you borrow the money. An origination charge may be applied to the amount you seek in some personal loans.

These loans can be used for many things, such as consolidating debt, making a large purchase, remodeling your house, paying for moving expenses, going on vacation, paying for a wedding, or paying for other personal cost. In order to get the best deal for you, make sure to compare rates and terms offered by different lenders.

You can get a personal loan with the lowest overall borrowing expenses by prioritizing the lowest APR. Additionally, making timely loan payments each month can help you improve your credit.

The difficulty of obtaining a personal loan

You can be approved for a personal loan the same day you apply, and the application process is often simple and uncomplicated. But while getting approved for a personal loan is frequently straightforward, applying may not be.

Good credit is typically defined as a score of 670 or better, which is required for the majority of unsecured personal loans. Borrowers with excellent credit scores of 700 or higher will pay the lowest rates.

It might be challenging to obtain a personal loan with poor credit, at least one with a manageable interest rate and fair terms.

What kind of purpose would a personal loan serve?

You shouldn't take out a personal loan unless you absolutely need to because they have high-interest rates. A personal loan might make sense if you need to pay for a significant expense, like medical bills.

For investments that potentially result in future profits, such as home improvements that could raise the value of your house, taking out a personal loan might also be worthwhile. Some borrowers gain from taking a personal loan for debt consolidation significantly if it lowers their debt's interest rates.

If you're thinking about taking out a loan to pay for a personal expense, such as a wedding or vacation, you must determine whether the cost is justified. After all, interest fees will cause you to repay more than the amount you borrowed eventually. Saving money to pay for these costs may be a more prudent financial move in the long term than taking on debt.

I don't have a bank account. Can I still acquire a loan?

It would be challenging to obtain a personal loan without a bank account. Lenders check your bank account to make sure you have enough money coming in to repay your loan on schedule and in full. Without a bank account, you might be able to find a payday lender that will lend to you, but they might charge you exorbitant fees and interest rates. Without a bank account, you can also apply for a secured credit card, but these come with high-interest rates if you don't make payments on time.

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