8 Best Personal Loans Online: Compare Online Lenders for Personal Loans in 2021

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Many people will need or want to use a personal loan at some point in their life. Whether you want to consolidate credit card debt or perhaps make an improvement to your home, personal loans can be an easy, responsible way to handle your finances.

However, just like any major financial decision, you need to make this one carefully. 

Do your research about online loan providers, and make sure you can responsibly fulfill the terms. Unfortunately, there are many predatory lenders out there who try to offer you hope or a big advance amount but will end up jeopardizing your future and ruining your credit history.

We took a look at some of the most famous personal loan companies to help you find the best personal loan for your needs. Continue reading to see the best personal loan lenders.

Top Personal Loan Providers: First Look

  1. Best Personal Loan Provider Overall – LoanPioneer 
  2. Best for Low Rate Unsecured Personal Loans – Quicken Loans (Rocket Loans) 
  3. Competitive Personal Loan Rates – LightStream
  4. Best for Personal Loans for Tuition – SoFi
  5. Flexible Loan Purposes – Upstart
  6. Best lender for bad credit – Avant
  7. Best for Canadians – Fairstone
  8. Connects High-Risk Borrowers to Loan Lenders – ZippyLoan

1. LoanPioneer – Best Personal Loan Provider Overall

Pros

  • Fast cash approval
  • No fees
  • No prepayment penalties
  • Flexible loan use

Cons

  • Hard-pull credit checks
  • Non-competitive APRs

LoanPioneer connects you to its trusted network of lenders. And because the company doesn’t charge a thing for its service, it might make them stand out from the pack, unlike some top picks on our list. Ensure you’re a US citizen or permanent resident before getting your hopes high, though.

While it may conduct hard-pull credit checks, LoanPioneer’s fast approval rate might come in handy if you need the money for emergency use. You can have your funds ready as early as the next business day!

This company boasts non-competitive APRs, at least comparatively, starting from 5.99%. But they don’t limit your use of the loan, unlike some providers. Whether you want to consolidate debt, improve your home, go on vacation, etc., you could qualify for a loan with one, or more, of LoanPioneer’s lenders.

  • Min Credit Score: >500
  • APR: 5.99% to 35.99%
  • Term Lengths: 3 months to 36 months
  • Origination Fee: Information unavailable
  • Prepayment Penalty: None

2. Quicken Loans (Rocket Loans) – Best Providers for Low Rate Unsecured Loans

Pros

  • No prepayment penalties
  • Easiest online application
  • Fast cash approval
  • High maximum loan amount

Cons

  • Non-competitive APRs
  • Moderate/High origination fees
  • Late fees

Quicken is the giant in the room when it comes to online financial management. They finance large loan amounts and mortgages through a second brand, Rocket Loans. For mortgage refinancing, here are a few home mortgage refinance lenders to consider.

They can approve applicants with credit scores as low as 640, which is pretty forgiving. If you have a great credit history, you can get an APR as low as 7.141%.

Because of Quicken’s established online processes, they can often offer some of the fastest cash approval, sometimes within 2-4 days. Quicken only grants loans to U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

  • Min Credit Score: 640
  • APR: as low as 7.161%, up to 29.99%
  • Term Lengths: 36 months, 60 months
  • Origination Fee: 1%-6%
  • Prepayment Penalty: None

3. LightStream – Competitive Personal Loan Interest Rates

Pros

  • No prepayment penalties
  • No fees
  • ‘Rate-Beat Program’ – will beat opponent’s APR by 0.1%
  • Fast cash approval

Cons

  • Requires 660 credit score
  • No prequalification process
  • Hard-pull credit checks

LightStream offers very competitive interest rates. Not only are the rates low, but they guarantee lower rates than competing lenders and will beat any other APR by 0.1%.

With good credit history, you can get a decent APR. With an excellent credit score, you can get an APR as low as 2.49%! But be forewarned, LightStream conducts ‘hard pull credit checks, which can affect your credit score.

LightStream can sometimes approve loans and deposit cash within a single day.

With the best personal loan rates, Lightstream offers the best personal loans and is best for debt consolidation for qualifying U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

  • Min Credit Score: 660
  • APR: 2.49% to 19.99%
  • Term Lengths: 2 to 12 years
  • Origination Fee: None
  • Prepayment Penalty: None

4. SoFi – Best for Personal Loans for Tuition

Pros

  • No origination or late fees
  • No prepayment penalty
  • Promotional cash gifts
  • Flexible use for loans

Cons

  • Slow cash approval 

SoFi is another online personal loan lender. They are currently offering a cash gift of $360 if you get a soft credit check and approval for a loan from them.

Unlike some of the other lenders in this article, you can use SoFi’s loans to cover expenses, like tuition, that are usually forbidden for loan amounts.

SoFi’s approval process is relatively slow compared with Rocket or LightStream. Approval can take up to 11 days. SoFi only grants loans to U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

  • Min Credit Score: 640
  • APR: 5.99% – 20.99%
  • Term Lengths:  2-7 years
  • Origination Fee: None
  • Prepayment Penalty: None

5. Upstart – Flexible Loan Purposes

Pros

  • Approval not necessarily based on credit history
  • Flexible loan purposes

Cons

  • $50,000 maximum loan amounts
  • Potentially high fees
  • High APRs

Upstart was founded by ex-Google employees, so you can be sure that they will think outside the box when it comes to personal loan approval. Their approval is not only based on your credit. 

Rather than focusing solely on your credit history, Upstart will look at literally thousands of different factors while considering your loan application. However, don’t let your credit score slide—it’s still the primary factor in getting a low APR.

While Upstart’s personal loan rates aren’t as competitive as others in this article, they will allow you to use your loan money for the largest variety of purposes. After all, if they think outside the box, you can also. 

In addition to being a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, Upstart requires that you have a minimum annual income of $12,000.

  • Min Credit Score: 620
  • APR: 6.18% to 35.99%
  • Term Lengths: 36 months, 60 months
  • Origination Fee: 0%-8%
  • Prepayment Penalty: None.

6. Avant – Best Personal Loans for Bad Credit

Pros

  • Offers secured loans
  • Approval with a bad credit score

Cons

  • High APRs
  • Moderate origination fees
  • $35,000 maximum loan amounts

If you have a poor credit score, Avant might be the best option for you. They accept applications based on your credit scores as low as 580.

Avant also offers guaranteed loans. This means they can provide lower interest rates and lower origination fees if you have a car that you are willing to put up as collateral.

Because they finance riskier borrowers, they naturally have higher interest rates and late payment fees. They boast next-day approval and cash availability.

  • Min Credit Score: 580
  • APR: 9.95% to 35.99%
  • Term Lengths: 24 months to 60 months
  • Origination Fee: from 2.5% up to 4.75%
  • Prepayment Penalty: None

7. Fairstone – Best Online Lender for Canadians

Pros

  • Offers secured loans for homeowners
  • Longest payback periods (with secured loans)
  • No origination fees

Cons

  • For Canadian citizens only
  • $35,000 maximum loan amounts
  • Prepayment penalty

Because most banks require U.S. citizenship, Canadian citizens have limited options for personal loans. Fairstone is a Canadian lender who specializes in personal loans for Canadians.

Fairstone, unfortunately, offers loan interest rates that are comparable to credit card interest rates. However, if you are a homeowner, you can offer your home as collateral for a secure loan. Secure loans have lower interest rates and longer payback periods, giving you a very low monthly payment. 

Just remember that you will be making these payments for a long time, and the total amount paid will be excessively large. Fairstone only grants loans to Canadian citizens or permanent residents. It is the best option for Canadians.

  • Min Credit Score: Information unavailable
  • APR: 19.99% to 39.99%
  • Term Lengths: 36 months to 60 months, or 120 months for a secured loan
  • Origination Fee: None
  • Prepayment Penalty: Yes, for secured loans. Unsecured loans have no prepayment penalty

8. ZippyLoan – Connects High-Risk Borrowers to Lenders

Pros

  • Bad credit scores accepted
  • Offers lowest minimum loan amount

Cons

  • Very High Fees
  • Short payback periods
  • Late payment fees

ZippyLoan is not actually a lender. They are a service connecting high-risk borrowers to lenders. As such, ZippyLoan can help customers with very low credit scores and history. But as you might expect, rates will be high, and terms will be unforgiving.

The fees associated with ZippyLoan personal loans can be as high as 30% of the loan amount. This works out to amazingly high interest debt.

Loans like this are often called “payday loans” because they are meant to be paid back when paychecks are deposited. Payday loans usually have the lowest minimum loan amount.

ZippyLoan usually only accepts applications from borrowers with a regular paycheck.

  • Min Credit Score: None
  • APR: Varies
  • Term Lengths: 6 months to 6 years (some can be paid off in a few weeks)
  • Origination Fee: 15%-30%
  • Prepayment Penalty: None

Choosing the Right Lender: Your Questions Answered

How Do Personal Loans Work? 

A personal loan (also called an installment loan) is a type of loan where the lender provides you a large upfront amount, which you repay in monthly installments for a certain period of time.

The loan amount can range from $1000 to $100000, depending upon your credit score and your debt to income ratio (DTI).

The repayment period usually ranges between one and seven years.

Personal loans differ from other loans also based on the purpose of the money. For example, most lenders will not grant a personal loan for the purposes of paying tuition, business expenses, or with the intention of gambling.

What Are the Qualification Requirements for a Personal Loan?

Aside from having a good credit score and a low DTI, there are other qualifications that you will probably have to meet to get a personal loan online.

Citizenship: If you apply for a loan from a U.S. financial institution (or even many online lenders), they may require you to prove your citizenship or permanent residency. You will need a social security number for almost any kind of loan. 

If you are not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, you may be able to apply for a loan with an eligible cosigner who has U.S. citizenship.

State of residence: Additionally, most banks or lenders with physical offices will require that you have a permanent address in a state in which they conduct business. They might ask you for proof, such as utility bills mailed to that address.

Minimum age: Most banks and lenders will not approve a loan to anyone under 18 without a cosign.

Government-issued identification: Before applying for a loan, make sure you have a driver’s license, social security card, or another form of government-issued ID.

Steady Employment/Regular Income: You should be ready to show proof of employment (going back a few months, hopefully) or other sources of income. This will help determine your DTI as well. Lenders may ask for paycheck stubs, bank statements, or other documentation.

Meet credit score requirements: Each lender will have minimum credit score requirements. See our description of each lender for an estimate of each one’s minimum credit score.

How Much Do Personal Loans Cost?

Personal loans have three cost factors to consider before you sign on the bottom line.

Interest rates: Depending on your credit score, your personal loan might have an interest rate anywhere between 5% and 35%. Of course, you’ll want to improve your credit score as much as possible to get the lowest rate. Learn more about how to fix your credit.

You should also consider that the shortest payback period will help you save the most on interest payments. If you can pay off your loan in one or two years, that will be much cheaper than paying it off over seven years. 

Origination fees: Lenders typically charge a fee for processing and approving your loan application. This fee can be between 1%-6% of the total loan amount.

Early cancellation fee: If possible, you will want to find a personal loan without an early cancellation fee. Banks and other lenders charge this fee to make up for the interest payments they will lose if you pay off your loan early. 

Basically, this is a penalty for responsible loan management. Avoid it if at all possible, or try to get the smallest cancellation fee offered.

When Is a Personal Loan a Good Idea/Bad Idea?

A personal loan is usually a great idea if you have multiple debts with high interest rates, and you can consolidate them into a single loan with a lower interest rate.

If you have credit card debt with outstanding balances and high interest rates, a personal loan is a good way to save money on interest payments. However, there are several self-assessment indicators that you should not take out a personal loan:

Covering basic living expenses: If you are taking out a personal loan to make rent or utility payments, this is a dangerous indicator that you may be living above your means. Loan providers are hesitant to lend money in these situations because it indicates that you may have trouble making payments.

Paying for luxury items or events: It’s also not a good idea to take out a personal loan for expensive electronics, jewelry, or weddings, or vacations. This is a bad financial habit to get into, and it’s much better to save up for expenses like these.

Using the loan for investment: Investments always carry a risk, and it’s a bad idea to use loan money for a risky purpose. If your investment opportunity is safe, it will have a lower interest return than your loan conditions. If your investment suggests a higher return, that indicates a higher risk that you could actually lose money. 

Either way, it’s a bad idea to take out a personal loan for investment purposes.

Is Using a Loan To Pay off Debt a Good Idea?

Consolidating your debt into one loan with a low interest rate can be a great idea. But if you have multiple debts, this may be an indication of other financial problems.

Before listening to the commercials that promise ‘one low monthly payment,’ consider consulting a licensed financial manager. He can help you create a budget and make sure your spending habits fall within your means.

If you have gotten your budget under control, then the top debt consolidation loans are a great way to reduce your overall interest payments and simplify your debts.

Risk and Benefits

If you begin to miss your monthly payments on a personal loan, it will impact your credit score. Lenders might use debt collection agencies to recoup the loan, which can quickly turn unpleasant. You will also quickly find that other banks and lenders will not conduct business with you.

However, if you can responsibly make monthly payments, you might be able to get some quick cash necessary to improve your home, pay emergency medical bills, or consolidate debt. If you have a good credit score and a low DTI ratio, a single low monthly payment for a few years might take care of your immediate needs.

Best Personal Loans: The Takeaway

If your credit has seen better days, look into LoanPioneer. They offer flexible loans that can be used to sort out debt, pay for home improvements, go on vacation, and so on! Alternatively, Quicken Loans are a solid choice if you’re looking for potentially higher loan amounts. 

On the other hand, if you have good credit, LightStream can give you the best APR and payment plans. It’s a great choice for home improvement loans or debt consolidation. 

Payday loans like ZippyLoan are not recommended except in dire emergency cases. You should also consider looking into the best credit repair company for your unique needs before proceeding to your next loan. An improved credit score always translates to better rates.

Always be sure to compare monthly payments to your current payments before consolidating, and examine all of the fine print before signing a new loan. 8 Best Personal Loans Online: Compare Online Lenders for Personal Loans in 2021