Best Personal Loans for April 2020

Matt is a Certified Financial Planner® and investment advisor based in Columbia, South Carolina. He writes personal finance and investment advice, and in 2017 he received the SABEW Best in Business Award.

We are committed to full transparency in our mission to make the world smarter, happier, & richer. Offers on The Ascent may be from our partners - it's how we make money - and we have not reviewed all available products and offers. That transparency to you is core to our editorial integrity, which isn’t influenced by compensation.

The personal lending market has exploded in recent years, and there are now dozens of companies that offer quick and easy access to personal loans with competitive interest rates. These loans can help borrowers pay off credit card debt, complete home renovations, and more. Here are the best personal loans on the market today and what you should know before you apply.

Ratings Methodology
Lending Partner Best For Min. Credit Score Loan Amounts APR Range Next Steps

Upstart

Best For:

Reducing high interest debt

Min. Credit Score:

620

Loan Amounts:

$5k - $30k

APR Range:

6.18 - 35.99%

Check Rate

On Secure Website.

SoFi

Best For:

Low APR for borrowers with high income

Min. Credit Score:

660

Loan Amounts:

$5k - $100k

APR Range:

5.99% - 18.64% (w/AutoPay)

Check Rate

On Secure Website.

Payoff

Best For:

Reducing high-interest credit card debt

Min. Credit Score:

640

Loan Amounts:

$5k - $35k

APR Range:

5.99 - 24.99%

Check Rate

On Secure Website.

Avant

Best For:

Borrowers with poor credit scores

Min. Credit Score:

580

Loan Amounts:

$2k - $35k

APR Range:

9.95 - 35.99%

FreedomPlus

Best For:

Borrowers with good to excellent credit scores

Min. Credit Score:

640

Loan Amounts:

$7.5k - $40k

APR Range:

6.99 - 29.99%

Marcus

Best For:

Low overall APR

Min. Credit Score:

660

Loan Amounts:

$3.5k - $40k

APR Range:

6.99 - 28.99%

LightStream

Best For:

Borrowers with good credit

Min. Credit Score:

660

Loan Amounts:

$5,000-$100,000

APR Range:

5.49%-17.49%

Upstart: Best for Reducing high interest debt
Minimum credit score: 620 Logo for Upstart

Started in 2012 by former Google employees, Upstart stands out with a unique underwriting process that is not solely dependent on credit score. Young people with little credit history but strong future earning potential can be particularly helped by Upstart's innovative approach. As always, we at The Ascent encourage you to shop around and find the best personal loan rates and terms for you. Read the full review to learn more.

SoFi: Best for Low APR for borrowers with high income
Minimum credit score: 660 Logo for SoFi

One of the top lenders for those with good credit scores and high income, SoFi stands out on our list for having by far the lowest APR ceiling and the highest potential loan amount. This is because they're very selective with who they approve -- average borrowers have over 700 credit score and over $100,000 in income. On top of its low APR rates, we like that SoFi has no origination fees and features a fast online application process. Combine all this and you get one of the top lenders in the industry, for those that can get approved at least. Read the full review to learn more.

Payoff: Best for Reducing high-interest credit card debt
Minimum credit score: 640 Logo for Payoff

Payoff is a peer-to-peer lender that issues loans for people looking to get out of credit card debt. A unique feature is their personalized recommendation service that helps encourage you on your journey out of debt. Additionally, Payoff stands out for offering payment flexibility during events such as a job loss. Instead of charging a late fee, Payoff will work with you on a new payment schedule. This may be a good option for you if you have high-interest credit card debt and have exhausted balance transfer credit card options. Read the full review to learn more.

Avant: Best for Borrowers with poor credit scores
Minimum credit score: 580 Logo for Avant

Featuring the lowest minimum credit score on our list, Avant is an option for borrowers that might struggle to be approved at other lenders. Avant sports a fast approval process, getting most borrowers an answer within 15 minutes of submitting their application. We're also fans of Avant's late fee forgiveness policy - if you miss one payment but then make the next three, you get your $25 late fee back. Overall, this can be a solid option for those with poor to fair credit. Read the full review to learn more.

FreedomPlus: Best for Borrowers with good to excellent credit scores
Minimum credit score: 640 Logo for FreedomPlus

Known for their fast application process, Freedom Plus will let you know quickly whether you're approved or not. While they do look at factors beyond just credit score, Freedom plus still plays it close to the vest with an average borrower credit score of 720. But if you get approved, their quick funding times and no hidden fees are certainly a plus. Read the full review to learn more.

Marcus: Best for Low overall APR
Minimum credit score: 660 Logo for Marcus

With a minimum FICO score of 660, Marcus (a division of Goldman Sachs) targets its products to those with good credit scores and those that have credit histories. Marcus offers a best-in-class fee structure which features no prepayment, origination, or late fees. Add flexible loan terms on top of that, and it's easy to see that Marcus is a great option. Read the full review to learn more.

LightStream: Best for Borrowers with good credit
Minimum credit score: 660 Logo for LightStream

Lightstream might be the most flexible personal loan provider on this list. The lender offers a wide array of loan terms and no fees or prepayment penalties. Even better that it has a low rate and customer experience guarantee. Read the full review to learn more.

Get our latest tips and uncover more of our top picks to help you conquer your money goals

By submitting your email address, you consent to us sending you money tips along with products and services that we think might interest you. You can unsubscribe at any time. Please read our Privacy Statement and Terms & Conditions.

Your Definitive Guide to Personal Loans

When you're shopping for a personal loan, you want to choose a trustworthy lender with the best personal loan rates you can qualify for. Our experts have identified the lenders above as top choices for factors such as their good customer service and lack of hidden fees. The interest rates they offer to individual borrowers will vary based on factors such as FICO® Score and income, so make sure you shop around to find the lowest rates for you.

Personal loans offer more flexibility than virtually any other type of loan: You can use them for just about anything, from medical bills to car repairs to debt consolidation. Millions of Americans turn to personal loans when they simply need cash to make ends meet.

Here's what you need to know about personal loans and how to pick one that suits your needs.

How should I choose a personal loan lender?

Interest rates and fees can vary dramatically between lenders, even for the same borrower. Applying to several lenders instead of one or two can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars.

A fixed-rate personal loan is the better choice for most borrowers. Market interest rates are still low, so there’s more risk in accepting a variable rate. Many of the top personal lenders don’t even offer variable-rate loans, although a few do.

After the pre-approval process, choose the lender that offers the best terms on a loan that meets your needs. Then it’s time to go beyond the pre-approval process and formally apply for the loan.

How much can you save with a personal loan?

Let's say you have a credit card balance of $5,000. The below table breaks down your interest savings with a personal loan versus a typical credit card.

Credit card APR Personal loan APR Interest saved over 3 years
18% 6% $1,031
18% 8% $867
18% 10% $699
18% 12% $529

As you can see, personal loans can save you a small fortune in interest compared to the typical credit card, even on a relatively small balance of $5,000. The advantage of a lower APR is that more of your payment goes toward paying down your debt, which means you'll make more progress toward being debt-free every single month.

Here are a few things you should know before you start shopping for an online personal loan:

  • Origination fees matter -- Technically, an origination fee isn't interest, but it does add to the cost of the loan. An origination fee of 0% to 5% is common, which means you can expect to pay a fee of up to $250 on a $5,000 loan, which will be added to the balance or subtracted from the loan proceeds. Luckily, the APR you see quoted for a loan includes interest and fees. So a loan with an APR of 7% is less expensive (interest and fees included) than a loan with an APR of 8%. You may be eligible for a no-origination-fee personal loan if you have a prime credit score (720 or better).
  • Rates vary -- The same person could apply for a personal loan from two different lenders and get two vastly different quotes. Likewise, the same bank may quote different rates for the same applicant depending on when they apply. The point is that it can pay to shop around, as lenders are constantly adjusting their rates and terms. A lender that has the lowest APR today might not have the lowest APR a month from now.
  • It pays to shop around -- Many people fear that shopping around for rates will hurt their credit scores when the hard credit checks start showing up on their credit reports. But getting multiple quotes will only help you find the best deal. As Experian explains on its website, “generally, credit scoring models will count multiple hard inquiries for the same type of credit product as a single event as long as they occur in a short window of a few weeks.” In short, if you condense your shopping into a short period of time, you won’t be penalized for it.

Is a personal loan right for me?

It depends. Personal loans can be an excellent way for many people to borrow money. They often have reasonable and fixed interest rates, especially for borrowers with strong credit histories. And they make sense for debt consolidation and funding large purchases.

One alternative you might consider is a balance transfer credit card or a 0% APR credit card. There are several credit cards on the market with 0% APR periods of 18 months or longer for new cardholders. If you’re confident you can pay back the debt in that amount of time, it could be a better option.

Like any personal finance product, personal loans aren’t right for everyone. However, competition is high among personal lenders, and that means that it could be a great time to find a good deal. Explore a few of your loan options to see if it could be a smart move for you.

FAQs

  • Personal loans have two defining characteristics:

    1. First, personal loans are unsecured loans. This means that they aren’t backed by an asset. When you get an auto loan, the car backs the loan; if you stop paying the loan, the lender can repossess the car. A personal loan isn’t asset-backed. If you buy a boat with a personal loan and stop paying, the lender can send your loan to a collection agency or even sue you. But they can't show up at your house to haul the boat away.
    2. Second, personal loans are installment loans. This means you make payments for a specified length of time. At the end of that time, the loan’s balance will be zero. This is in contrast to a revolving loan such as a credit card or home equity line of credit.
  • Personal loans can generally be used for anything you want, from repaying other debt to making home improvements to funding a wedding or large purchase. Some lenders impose restrictions, though, such as prohibiting you from using a personal loan to pay for school.

    Some personal loan lenders also market loans for specific purposes. They may advertise "home improvement loans" or "wedding loans." These are generally marketing gimmicks; you can apply for any general personal loan and borrow from the bank, online lender, or credit union that provides you with the best rate.

  • Using a personal loan can sometimes help you to repay your debt. It can make debt payoff easier if you qualify for a low-interest personal loan that you use to repay higher-interest debts.

    But if you can't commit to paying off your loan on time and avoiding additional borrowing, it won’t help you become debt-free. In fact, you could end up in deeper debt if you use a personal loan to repay credit cards, only to max out your cards again.

    You should take out a loan for debt consolidation only if you can qualify for a loan at a lower rate than you’re currently paying and you’re serious about responsible debt repayment.

  • Please note that the FICO credit scoring formula is a well-guarded secret, and personal loans can have different effects on borrowers’ credit.

    When you apply for a new loan, a credit inquiry will appear on your credit report. That affects the “new credit” category of the FICO formula, which makes up 10% of your score. The new loan itself also affects the new credit category. And because you haven’t yet paid down your loan balance, it can adversely affect the “amounts you owe” category, which makes up 30% of your score.

    Again, assuming you pay down your loan balance with on-time payments, you should see your credit score improve in the long term.

  • There are some personal lenders who specialize in making loans to borrowers with bad credit.

    The best personal loans for bad credit offer reasonable terms, and the lender may consider factors besides your credit score when deciding your interest rate. However, if you get a personal loan with bad credit, you’ll probably get a much higher interest rate and potentially higher fees than a borrower with good credit. In fact, there are personal lenders whose APR ranges go as high as 35.99% as of this writing. That’s higher than most credit cards.

    One possible solution is to apply for a personal loan with a cosigner. Not all personal lenders allow cosigners, but a handful of the best lenders do. A cosigner is a creditworthy person who agrees to accept legal responsibility for your loan. They’re essentially letting you borrow their credit history for your loan qualification.

    There’s a lot you need to know before asking someone to cosign a loan. But the main point is this: Doing so can help borrowers with bad credit qualify for better loan terms than they otherwise would.

  • It is sometimes possible to get a personal loan with no credit. There are personal loan lenders that consider other criteria, such as your income, education level, and employment status. Unfortunately, the interest rate is generally much higher on personal loans if you have no credit history or have poor credit. Be sure to understand the terms of the loan and consider applying with a cosigner if you’re looking for the most affordable rate.

To recap, here are the best personal loans for 2020:

Lending Partner Best For Min. Credit Score Loan Amounts APR Range Next Steps

Upstart

Best For:

Reducing high interest debt

Min. Credit Score:

620

Loan Amounts:

$5k - $30k

APR Range:

6.18 - 35.99%

Check Rate

On Secure Website.

SoFi

Best For:

Low APR for borrowers with high income

Min. Credit Score:

660

Loan Amounts:

$5k - $100k

APR Range:

5.99% - 18.64% (w/AutoPay)

Check Rate

On Secure Website.

Payoff

Best For:

Reducing high-interest credit card debt

Min. Credit Score:

640

Loan Amounts:

$5k - $35k

APR Range:

5.99 - 24.99%

Check Rate

On Secure Website.

Avant

Best For:

Borrowers with poor credit scores

Min. Credit Score:

580

Loan Amounts:

$2k - $35k

APR Range:

9.95 - 35.99%

FreedomPlus

Best For:

Borrowers with good to excellent credit scores

Min. Credit Score:

640

Loan Amounts:

$7.5k - $40k

APR Range:

6.99 - 29.99%

Marcus

Best For:

Low overall APR

Min. Credit Score:

660

Loan Amounts:

$3.5k - $40k

APR Range:

6.99 - 28.99%

LightStream

Best For:

Borrowers with good credit

Min. Credit Score:

660

Loan Amounts:

$5,000-$100,000

APR Range:

5.49%-17.49%

About the Author