A personal loan can help you cover expenses such as home improvement projects, moving expenses, or debt consolidation. Now you have to find out where to get one.
Your three main options for a person loan are online lenders, credit unions , and banks. Here’s how borrowing from each institution will work.
1. Online lenders
Online lenders are known for their speed — most can get you your rates in as little as a few minutes, and some can even deposit your money the same day your loan is approved. Online lenders provide a digital-first experience, and many offer perks like the ability to manage your personal loan from a mobile app.
If you have excellent credit and want the best rates you can find on a personal loan, you won’t do better than with LightStream. The lender offers APRs as low as 2.49%. SoFi and Marcus by Goldman Sachs are also good options.
2. Credit unions
Personal loans at banks and online lenders can come with APRs upwards of 30% for borrowers with poor credit, but the maximum interest rate a credit union can charge on most loans is capped at 18% by the National Credit Union Administration. If your credit isn’t in the best shape, you may qualify for a lower rate with a credit union than with a bank or online lender.
Many credit unions also offer lower minimum loan amounts than banks or online lenders, which could be helpful if you only need a bit of money to tide you over. For instance, both Navy Federal Credit Union and Service Credit Union offer loans of as little as $250.
However, you’ll have to become a member of your preferred credit union to actually take out a loan with the institution. Our list of the best credit unions for personal loans includes credit unions that are easy to join.
You might prefer a bank to a credit union or online lender if branch access across the country is important to you. For example, Wells Fargo, a national bank that offers personal loans, has over 5,000 branches in 36 states and Washington, DC.
Banks, specifically brick-and-mortar institutions, will usually charge higher interest rates to cover overhead costs like building space and utilities. Some banks don’t even offer smaller personal loans because low interest rates and small profit margins don’t make up for the costs of administering and managing the loan.
How to choose a personal loan lender
Before you start searching for different lenders, consider which features of each financial institution are most important to you:
- If you value in-person financial help, a bank or credit union is probably the best choice.
- If you need a smaller amount of money, it’s easier to get a personal loan with a credit union or online lender than with a bank.
- If you want a top-notch online experience, banks and online lenders usually have more up-to-date technology than credit unions.
- If you’re looking to take out a personal loan at the same place you keep your checking and savings accounts, a bank or credit union might be the best choice.
After you’ve thought about the different features you’re looking for in a lender, start shopping around to find the best rate possible.
„Leverage soft credit inquiries at a handful of different lenders to see what your rate would actually be before making a decision,” Brian Walsh, CFP and senior manager of financial planning at SoFi, told Insider. „That way you can make sure that you know you’re getting the best deal.”
Additionally, check the company’s Better Business Bureau score to make sure it is reputable and has no major recent scandals. The BBB assesses a company’s trustworthiness by evaluating a business’ responses to consumer complaints, truthfulness in advertising, and openness about business practices.
No matter where you choose to get a personal loan from, make sure to do thorough research and prioritize what’s important to you in a lender.