If today's low interest rates have you thinking about a personal loan, you have plenty of great unsecured personal loan lenders from which to choose. Whether you want to consolidate debt or make an addition to your home, the first step is pre-approval. Here, we'll tell you what you need to know about the pre-approval process and discuss what you can expect after you've made it through.
We'll also cover some tips to help you navigate the process and choose the best personal loan for you.
Pre-approval is the period during which a lender determines your eligibility for a loan. It's a simple process. You provide the lender with information about your income and employment. The lender then runs a soft credit check to get a sense of how well you've handled debt in the past and whether you can easily handle the monthly payment.
After they've run the soft credit check, the lender lets you know whether you qualify for a loan with them, and if so, what your interest rate will be. It's also during this time that you'll learn more about the loan offer, including terms, origination fee, and other charges levied by the lender.
To be clear, a pre-approval isn't a binding offer. The pre-approval is based on the information in your credit report and other information you provide. The personal loan application involves more documentation.
For example, your pre-approval might be based on a certain amount of income. What happens if your lender is unable to verify your income? You could be rejected for the loan -- even though you passed the pre-approval process.
No, not usually. Most personal lenders conduct what's known as a soft credit pull. Think of this as an "unofficial" credit check. The lender views a report containing your credit score and credit history, but no official credit inquiry (also known as a hard credit pull) is performed. A soft credit check has no impact on your credit score.
Although most personal lenders let you check your rates without a hard credit pull, not all of them do. Are you worried that a particular lender's rate-checking process could result in a hard credit pull and adversely affect your credit score? Look for an indication on the pre-approval page that checking your rates won't affect your credit score or something similar. If there's any confusion, ask the lender before allowing them to pull your credit report.
The first step in getting pre-approved for a personal loan is to make a list of which lenders best meet your needs. Since most personal lenders allow you to check your loan offers without affecting your credit score, it's in your best interest to check your rate and loan term with at least a few lenders.
To find the best lender for your situation, start with our list of the best personal lenders. Compare their profile against what you're looking for. For example:
Once you've narrowed down your list, go ahead and get pre-approved with each of the lenders. Write down the annual percentage rates (APRs) and loan terms they're prepared to offer you.
Don't just look at the interest rates as they don't tell the whole story. Instead, compare the APRs of each loan. APRs include any origination fees a lender might charge. Since many personal lenders don't have origination fees, this helps make an apples-to-apples comparison of each loan's cost.
Once you've decided on the personal loan that makes the most sense for you, you'll need to proceed past the lender's pre-approval process and complete a loan application.
When you apply for a personal loan, you'll be asked for information that wasn't part of the pre-approval process. For example, the lender will want to verify your income with a W-2 or 1099, pay stubs, and/or a recent tax return or two. You'll probably also need to submit a copy of your driver's license or other ID and your Social Security card.
It's also a good idea to have your bank account information handy. Lenders generally don't require you to automate your loan payments, but many offer an interest rate discount if you do. Autopay can also be a good idea if you're concerned about getting your payments in on time each month.
Expect several rounds of documentation requests before the loan is finalized. This is especially true if you're self-employed or if any part of your application is complicated. This is normal, so don't be discouraged.
Once all of your documentation is received and verified, your lender will send you a promissory note and other documents to sign. Once the documents are returned to the lender, your funds can be disbursed. Depending on your lender, funds typically show up in your bank account in anywhere from one business day to two weeks (although some loans can take a bit longer). As you shop lenders, make sure to check out their funding times if you need the money quickly.
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