Best Online Personal Loans

You can get a personal loan online for almost any reason

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There are many reasons why you might prefer to search for a personal loan online instead of with traditional banks and credit unions. Online lenders may approve borrowers with a wide variety of credit scores. Some may offer flexible loan amounts, both large and small, depending on your borrowing needs. Online lenders can often offer fast funding solutions when you need access to cash in a hurry.

Searching for a personal loan online can often make for an easier rate-shopping experience as well. You can easily consider multiple loan offers side by side, from the comfort of your home. Perhaps best of all, many online lenders often offer a prequalification process, helping you make loan comparisons without risking damage to your credit score.

Best Online Personal Loans for August 2021

  • Best Online Personal Loan: LightStream
  • Best Online Loan for Good Credit: SoFi
  • Best Online Loan for Fair Credit: Upstart
  • Best Online Loan for Bad Credit: Avant
  • Best Online Debt Consolidation Loan: Payoff

Best Online Personal Loan : LightStream


LightStream

LightStream is the online lending division of Truist Bank (a merger between SunTrust and BB&T). According to LightStream, its goal is to offer a simple online loan experience and excellent interest rates to consumers with good credit.

Low rates and no fees make LightStream stand out among the competition. Its interest rates start as low as 2.49% on certain types of personal loans, and it offers loan amounts as high as $100,000 to well-qualified borrowers.

Pros
  • Competitive APRs

  • Loans available for many purposes

Cons
  • Need good to excellent credit

  • No prequalification available

  • Difficult principal-only payments

Pros Explained

Competitive APRs – LightStream’s interest rates range from 2.49% to 19.99% annual percentage rates (APRs), which is competitive in the market, and you get a 0.50% rate decrease if you enroll in the autopay program.

Loans available for many purposes – You can use your loan for a myriad of purposes, including debt consolidation, home improvement, medical bills, buying a car, funding a wedding, and more.

Cons Explained

Need good to excellent credit – LightStream doesn’t specify its minimum credit score requirement online, but it’s reported to be 660, with several years of established credit history also required.

No prequalification available – You can’t see what rates you might qualify for through a soft credit inquiry. Instead, you must agree to a hard inquiry, which could temporarily diminish your credit score, to check rates and apply for financing.

Difficult principal-only payments – You must schedule payments on your exact due date for extra funds to be applied to principal.

Other important information:

  • Minimum/maximum amount you can borrow – $5,000 to $100,000
  • Fees – Zero fees (though Florida residents are subject to a documentary stamp tax of 0.35%)
  • Repayment terms – 24 to 144 months depending on loan purpose
  • Time to receive funds – As soon as the same business day, if your loan is approved and processed by 2:30 p.m. ET.

Read the full review: LightStream Personal Loans

Best Online Loan for Good Credit : SoFi


SoFi

SoFi

The SoFi platform offers a variety of online financing options, including personal loans, student loans, and mortgages. SoFi personal loans may work well for borrowers with good credit ratings.

Interest rates on SoFi personal loans start at 5.99%. Applicants with good credit and sufficient income who can satisfy SoFi’s conditions may be able to borrow as much as $100,000. 

Pros
  • Competitive interest rates

  • Prequalification available

  • Flexible monthly due date

Cons
  • Need good to excellent credit

  • Higher interest rates than some competitors

  • Slow funding process

Pros Explained

Competitive interest rates – Well-qualified borrowers can get an APR as low as 5.99%, which includes a 0.25% discount for enrolling in autopay.

Prequalification available – You can check what rates and terms you may qualify for through a soft credit inquiry that won’t affect your credit score.

Flexible monthly due date – You can change your monthly due date (once) to any date between the 1st and 25th of the month.

Cons Explained

Need good to excellent credit – SoFi doesn’t specify a required credit score, but it is reported to be 680, and a strong credit history is also needed.

Lower interest rates elsewhere – Borrowers with excellent credit will find lower APRs available from other lenders.

Slow funding process – Once you e-sign your loan agreement, you must wait for a confirmation call, after which it can take several days to get your funds.

Other important information:

  • Minimum/maximum amount you can borrow – $5,000 to $100,000
  • APR range – 5.99% to 19.63%
  • Fees – No origination fees or late payment fees and no prepayment penalties
  • Repayment terms – 2 to 7 years

Read the full review: SoFi Personal Loans

Best Online Loan for Fair Credit : Upstart


Upstart

Upstart is an online lending platform that works with several different lending partners. The platform uses artificial intelligence and alternative data to help find affordable personal loans for borrowers with fair or better credit ratings. 

In addition to your credit score, your education, area of study, and job history might help you land a lower interest rate on your loan—possibly as low as 6.76%. According to Upstart, its rates are lower than traditional lenders. Qualified applicants may be able to borrow $1,000 to $50,000.

Pros
  • Next-day funding

  • Low minimum loan amount

  • Prequalification available

  • Fair credit borrowers accepted

Cons
  • High origination fees

  • High average APR

  • Low maximum loan amount

Pros Explained

Next-day funding – Once you’ve signed your loan documents, 99% of Upstart borrowers get funding within 24 hours.

Low loan amounts – Most people won’t have to borrow more than they need due to Upstart’s minimum loan amount of $1,000.

Prequalification available – As with SoFi, you can check what rates and terms you may qualify for through a soft credit inquiry that won’t affect your credit score.

Fair credit borrowers accepted – If your score falls into the fair credit range of 580-669, you can still apply for a personal loan with Upstart. (More on this below.)

Cons Explained

High origination fees – Though they can start as low as 0%, origination fees can go as high as 8%.

High average APR – At 25.64%, the average APR for 3-year loans is over 15%.

Low maximum loan amount – You can borrow as little as $1,000 (and up to $50,000), which is low compared with some other lenders.

Other important information:

  • Typical APR range – 6.76% to 35.99%, based on credit, income, and other information considered in your loan application. Your education, area of study, and job history might help you qualify for a better rate.
  • Fees – In addition to the above-noted potential origination fee between 0% to 8% (depending on the lending partner), the late fee is the lesser of $15 and 5% of the past-due amount, and the returned payment fee is $15. Lending partners, however, do not charge prepayment penalties. 
  • Recommended minimum credit score – You must have a minimum score of 580, and Upstart will accept applicants with insufficient credit history to produce a credit score. Your income-to-debt ratio will be considered, along with any inquiries, delinquencies, or bankruptcies in your credit report. To be eligible, you must have fewer than 6 inquiries on your report in the last 6 months (excluding student loans, auto loans, or mortgages).
  • Repayment terms – 3-year and 5-year terms available

Read the full review: Upstart Personal Loans

Notes: Your loan amount will be determined based on your credit, income, and certain other information provided in your loan application. Not all applicants will qualify for the full amount. Loans are not available in West Virginia or Iowa. The minimum loan amount in Massachusetts is $7,000. The minimum loan amount in Ohio is $6,000. The minimum loan amount in New Mexico is $5,100. The minimum loan amount in Georgia is $3,100.
If you accept your loan by 5 p.m. ET (not including weekends or holidays), you will typically receive your funds the next business day. Loans used to fund education related expenses are subject to a 3-day wait period between loan acceptance and funding in accordance with federal law.
The full range of available rates varies by state. The average 3-year loan offered across all lenders using the Upstart platform will have an APR of 25.64% and 36 monthly payments of $37 per $1,000 borrowed. There is no down payment and no prepayment penalty. Average APR is calculated based on 3-year rates offered in the last 1 month. Your APR will be determined based on your credit, income, and certain other information provided in your loan application. Not all applicants will be approved.
When you check your rate, Upstart checks your credit report. This initial soft inquiry will not affect your credit score. If you accept your rate and proceed with your application, Upstart will do another hard credit inquiry that will impact your credit score. If you take out a loan, repayment information will be reported to the credit bureaus.

Best Online Loan for Bad Credit : Avant


Avant

Avant

Getting a personal loan, online or otherwise, may not be easy when you have bad credit. Nevertheless, you have options. One of the most competitive online lenders for bad credit is Avant.

Founded in 2012, Avant offers online loans to borrowers with credit scores as low as 600. Qualified applicants may receive up to $35,000 in funding, with interest rates starting at 9.95%.

Pros
  • Easy online application

  • Competitive starting APR

  • Quick funding process

  • Prequalification available

Cons
  • High maximum APR

  • Hefty administrative fee

  • Uncompetitive rates for some

  • Low maximum loan amount

Pros Explained

Easy online application – You can complete the process in mere minutes.

Competitive starting APR – At 9.95%, Avant does well compared with other subprime lenders, though you could pay more depending on your credit score and other qualifying factors.

Quick funding process – Many borrowers get their funds as soon as the next business day (if approved by 4:30 p.m. CT).

Prequalification available – As with SoFi and Upstart, you can check what rates and terms you may qualify for through a soft credit inquiry that won’t affect your credit score.

Cons Explained

High maximum APR – At 35.99%, it’s higher than that of many competitors.

Hefty administrative fee – It can go as high as 4.75%, and it may come directly out of your loan proceeds.

Uncompetitive rates for some – If you have a good or excellent credit score, you can likely find lower interest rates with other lenders.

Low maximum loan amount – At $35,000, it’s low compared with other online lenders.

Other important information:

  • Minimum/maximum amount you can borrow – $2,000 to $35,000
  • Fees – In addition to the above-noted possible administrative fee of up to 4.75%, Avant also charges a late fee of $25 after a payment is 10 days past due and a "dishonored payment fee" of $15 for returned payments. 
  • Recommended minimum credit score – Avant states that most of its borrowers have a credit score of 600 to 700, and that it considers each applicant's individual credit situation and history.
  • Repayment terms 24 to 60 months

Read the full review: Avant Personal Loans

Best Online Debt Consolidation Loan : Payoff


Payoff

Payoff is an online loan platform that helps people who are looking to pay off high-interest debt. The platform matches applicants with lending partners that offer interest rates as low as 5.65% (5.99% APR). Compared with an average credit card interest rate of 16.28% (as of November 2020, according to the Federal Reserve), well-qualified borrowers may be able to save a bundle.

Pros
  • Qualify with a fair credit score

  • Potential to build credit

  • Prequalification available

Cons
  • Only for debt consolidation

  • Slow funding process

  • High minimum APRs

Pros Explained

Qualify with a fair credit score – You may be able to qualify with a credit score as low as 640.

Potential to build credit – If you manage your loan well, you can build your credit with the 3 main U.S. credit bureaus: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian.

Prequalification available – As with all the majority of lenders reviewed here (all but LightStream), you can check what rates and terms you may qualify for through a soft credit inquiry that won’t affect your credit score.

Cons Explained

Only for debt consolidation – You can only use your loan proceeds to consolidate debts, such as credit cards and some unsecured installment loans.

Slow funding process – Loans are funded within 2 to 5 business days after you complete the verification process—slow compared with other lenders.

High minimum APRs – For loans of more than $15,000, APRs start at 6.99% and can be even higher depending on your credit history and other factors.

Other important information:

  • Minimum/maximum amount you can borrow – $5,000 to $40,000
  • APR range – 5.99% to 24.99%
  • Fees – Payoff lenders may charge a 0% to 5% origination fee, but most other fees, such as late fees and prepayment fees, don’t apply.
  • Recommended minimum credit score – In addition to the above-noted 640 FICO score, your credit report must not have current delinquencies. Payoff will also consider your debt-to-income ratio, length of credit history, and other factors on your credit report.
  • Repayment terms – 2 to 5 years

Read the full review: Payoff Personal Loans

Notes: Loans are not available in Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nebraska, or Nevada. The minimum loan amount in Maryland is $6,100. The minimum loan amount in New Mexico is $5,100.

Once you've decided which lender is right for you, it's crucial to know exactly what kind of monthly payment, loan term, and interest rate you can afford. A personal loan calculator would be useful for this endeavor.

Compare The Best Online Personal Loans

Lender APR Range Minimum Loan Amount Maximum Loan Amount Terms Recommended Credit Score
LightStream Best Online Personal Loan 2.49%-19.99% (with autopay) $5,000 $100,000 24–144 months 660+
SoFi Best Online Loan for Good Credit 5.99%–19.63% (with autopay) $5,000 $100,000 2–7 years 680+
Upstart Best Online Loan for Fair Credit 6.76%-35.99% $1,000 $50,000 36–60 months 580+
Avant Best Online Loan for Bad Credit 9.95%-35.99% $2,000 $35,000 24–60 months 600+
Payoff Best Online Debt Consolidation Loan 5.99%-24.99% $5,000 $40,000 24–60 months 640+
Loan amounts, APR, and repayment period may vary by loan purpose or type.

FAQs

What Are the Pros and Cons of Personal Loans?

Using a personal loan to try to get out of debt faster or to increase the value of your home can be a smart financial move. A personal loan can also be a lifeline when you have unexpected expenses and don’t have an emergency fund to cover costs

However, sometimes a personal loan may hurt you financially instead of improving your situation. Before you apply for a new loan, consider both the benefits and drawbacks you could face. 

Pros

  • Interest rates on personal loans can be lower than the rates lenders charge for other types of debt. For example, the Federal Reserve reveals that the average rate on credit cards that assessed interest as of May 2020 was 16.28%. Meanwhile, the average rate on a 24-month personal loan was 9.65%. Borrowers with excellent credit may be able to qualify for personal loan interest rates as low as 5% or 6%.
  • Using a personal loan to consolidate revolving credit card debt might improve your credit score. Credit scoring models place significant emphasis on your credit utilization ratio—the percentage of your credit card limits in use according to your credit reports. If you consolidate credit card debt with a personal installment loan, your credit utilization ratio may drop, potentially boosting your credit score. 
  • Your monthly payments are fixed. Most personal loans are fixed-rate installment loans, so your interest rate and the size of your monthly payment remain constant over the life of your loan. Fixed payments can make your monthly budget more predictable. 

Cons

  • You’re not guaranteed approval or a low APR. If you have credit challenges, a high debt-to-income ratio, or any other red flags that lenders look for, you could have trouble qualifying for a loan. Even if you qualify for a personal loan with bad credit or another factor that increases your risk in the eyes of a lender, the APR you are offered may be high. APRs on some personal loans can commonly climb as high as 35.99%. 
  • You could face financial problems if you don’t manage your debt carefully. For example, some people use personal loans to consolidate credit card debt but then turn around and charge up new balances on those same credit cards afterward. It’s usually not a good idea to close your credit cards after a debt consolidation, because doing so could lower your credit score. However, it is important to avoid charging more on your credit cards than you can afford to pay off each month.
  • Fees can be high. If your credit is excellent, you may be able to qualify for a personal loan with no fees. Yet some lenders charge origination fees—sometimes as high as 8% or more—that come directly from your loan proceeds. Be sure to factor in the cost of lender fees when you’re shopping for the best personal loan.

How to Get a Personal Loan Online

If you want to borrow money and are confident that you can afford the new debt, it’s time to start searching for the right loan. Thankfully, comparing online loans tends to be a quicker, easier process than comparing loans from traditional financial institutions. 

Before you apply for any type of loan, it’s important to check and review your credit reports and scores with all three credit bureaus. Next, search for lenders that offer loans to people with your credit rating (excellent, good, fair, bad). You should make sure the lenders you’re considering offer the type of online loan you need (consolidation loan, home improvement loan, medical loan, etc.). Finally, compare available rates and fees and choose your top 3 lenders as you prepare to begin the application process. 

How to Apply for an Online Personal Loan

  1. Submit a prequalification request (if available) to at least 3 lenders. 
  2. Choose the lender that offers you the best overall deal and fill out your official loan application. 
  3. Promptly send any additional documentation the lender requests and e-sign your loan agreement. 
  4. Wait to receive your funds.

Is Getting an Online Personal Loan Safe? 

It’s not difficult to find a safe, online loan through a reputable online lender. Still, it is important to do your homework to make sure you’re dealing with a legitimate lender before you provide your personal information. Search for reviews of the best online lenders. It’s also helpful to look up any complaints lenders have received with various agencies, such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Can You Get an Online Personal Loan With No Credit Check? 

Finding an online loan (or any type of financing) with bad credit can be difficult. If you’re searching for bad-credit loans, you may find lenders that advertise “no credit check loans” or “guaranteed approval.” Any such promises should be a red flag. According to the Federal Trade Commission, a lender that isn’t interested in your credit score or history might be running an advance-fee loan scam. 

Can I Get an Online Personal Loan With a Cosigner?

Though whether or not you can apply for a joint loan with a cosigner is up to each individual lender, there are plenty that do allow joint loan applications. Keep in mind, however, that just because you’re allowed to apply for a loan with a cosigner doesn’t mean you should do so. Cosigning involves significant risk for your friend or loved one. As a cosigner, that person will be equally liable for the debt, just as much as the primary borrower. 

Should anything go wrong, late payments or a default could cause severe damage to both of your finances and credit reports, not to mention your relationship. Consider these risks carefully before you ask someone to cosign. 

Can I Get a Personal Loan Online Instantly?

Many online lenders offer instant approval (if you can qualify) when you apply for financing. However, an instant loan approval isn’t the same as instant access to your loan proceeds.

Once you qualify for a loan, the lender may require you to complete some additional steps. For example, you may need to send documentation verifying your identity and income. You may also need to e-sign your loan agreement before funds will be disbursed. 

The Bottom Line

The beauty of online loans is that it’s simple to shop around for the best deal. You can compare multiple lenders and fill out prequalification applications in the space of a single afternoon. By taking the time to search for the loan that best fits your situation, you might also be able to save hundreds of dollars (sometimes thousands) in interest and fees over the course of your loan.  

How We Chose the Best Online Personal Loans

Investopedia is dedicated to providing consumers with unbiased, comprehensive reviews of personal loan lenders for all borrowing needs. We collected over 25 data points across more than 50 lenders—including interest rates, fees, loan amounts, and repayment terms—to ensure that our content helps users make the right borrowing decision for their needs.

Article Sources

Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. U.S. Federal Reserve. "Consumer Credit - G.19." Accessed March 17, 2021.

  2. U.S. Federal Trade Commission. "Advance-Fee Loans." Accessed Aug. 4, 2020.