Best Small Personal Loans

Our guide to finding small personal loans of $2,000 or less

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Getting a personal loan to cover an emergency, finance a steep expense or just to keep a big bill from being overdue could be a saving grace. But lenders set minimums on the loans they offer, and some of these can be in the high four figures. If you only need $1,000 or so, you might be forced to borrow considerably more than you really require. And extra debt is never a good idea, especially when you're paying interest on it.

Instead of taking out more financing than you need, try to find a more flexible lender. To jump-start your search, we've scouted around and come up with the best such specialists in small personal loans. Here are our picks for the top five; while they all have different strengths, they'll all loan you amounts in the low four figures—and sometimes even less.

Best Small Personal Loans of December 2021

The highest APR that any credit union can charge on most loans is currently capped at 18% per the National Credit Union Administration

Best Online Lender : Upgrade


Upgrade

Upgrade

Upgrade has a pleasant range of options—it offers loans starting as low as $500 and as high as $50,000—and they're available to those with credit scores in the merely good range. The online lender moves fast: After you’re approved Upgrade will transfer the funds as soon as one business day.

Pros
  • Prequalification available: You can get a sense of rates/terms without actually applying and dinging your credit score

  • Low Minimum: You can borrow as little as $500

Cons
  • Considerable charges: Origination fee (2.9% to 8.0%); Late or failed payment fee applies

  • Higher APRs: Maximum 35.97% is high compared to other lenders

Other important information:

  • Maximum/minimum amount you can borrow: $1,000 to $50,000
  • APR range: 5.94%–35.97%
  • Fees: 2.9% to 8.0% origination fee; late or failed payment fee applies
  • Recommended minimum credit requirements: Not listed
  • Repayment terms: 36 to 60 months
  • Time to receive funds: Within one business day

Read the full review: Upgrade Personal Loans

Best for Bad Credit : Avant


Avant

Avant

If your credit score is less-than-perfect, you may have limited options for small personal loans. Avant offers a flexible loan for borrowers with credit scores as low as 600. Even better: You may have access to the money with one business day. 

Pros
  • Quick funding: Avant will transfer the money within one business day of approval

  • Prequalify with soft credit inquiry: You can check rates without hurting your credit score

Cons
  • High fees: Avant charges an administrative fee of up to 4.75%, which is deducted from the loan proceeds

  • No joint applications: Avant doesn’t offer the opportunity to co-sign with another applicant

Other important information:

  • Maximum/minimum amount you can borrow: $2,000 to $35,000
  • APR range: 9.95%–35.99%
  • Fees: Up to 4.75% administrative fee; $25 late fee; $15 dishonored payment fee
  • Recommended minimum credit requirements: Most borrowers have a credit score between 600 and 700, according to Avant’s website.
  • Other qualification requirements: Applicants need to provide proof of income
  • Repayment terms: 24 to 60 months
  • Time to receive funds: Next business day
  • Restrictions: Can only refinance loan a limited number of times

Read the full review: Avant Personal Loans

Best for Hardship Protection : Alliant Credit Union


Alliant

Alliant

Alliant, a credit union available nationwide (via the internet) specializes in short-term loans at extremely competitive rates. But perhaps its strongest claim to fame is its repayment terms: Should some sort of emergency or unexpected event (layoff, disability) impair your ability to pay bills, you can suspend monthly payments—or even the entire loan balance—without penalty or extra interest. This optional Debt Protection program, as Alliant dubs it, does incur a small monthly fee if you join it.

Pros
  • No origination fee or prepayment penalty

  • Low APRs: Rates max out at 10.24%, vs. some other lenders' ceilings of almost 36%

  • Fast process: same-day deposit in many cases

Cons
  • Membership in credit union required (but joining is easy)

  • Debt protection costs extra: monthly fee based on size of loan balance

  • No long-term loans: 5-year maximum length

Other important information:

  • Maximum/minimum amount you can borrow: $1,000 to $50,000
  • APR range: 6.24%–10.24% (with autopay)
  • Fees: No origination fee or prepayment penalties
  • Recommended minimum credit requirements: Not Available
  • Other qualification requirements: A monthly fee is charged for the Debt Protection program
  • Repayment terms: 12 to 60 months
  • Time to receive funds: Typically same day
  • Restrictions: Credit union membership required

Best Repayment Terms : PenFed Credit Union


PenFed

PenFed

PenFed is one of the largest credit unions in the United States. Its services include mortgages and checking accounts, among many others. But it also offers personal loans at reasonable rates. Once you get approved for your loan, you could see funds in your account as soon as the next day with repayment terms anywhere from six months to five years.

Pros
  • Super-low minimums: As little as $600

  • No origination fee

  • Wide range of repayment terms: From six months to five years

Cons
  • Credit union membership required

Other important information:

  • Maximum/minimum amount you can borrow: $600 to $50,000
  • APR range: 5.99%–17.99%
  • Fees: None
  • Recommended minimum credit requirements: Not stated
  • Other qualification requirements: Co-borrowers income, debts, and credit score will be taken into consideration, if applicable
  • Repayment terms: 6 to 60 months
  • Time to receive funds: As soon as the next business day
  • Restrictions: Membership required

Read the full review: PenFed Personal Loans

Best for Lowest Borrowing Amounts : Navy Federal Credit Union


Navy Federal

This whole list is devoted to sources for small loans. But Navy Federal Credit Union offers really small loans—as low as $250. Usually, a usurious payday loan provider is your only source for such minimal sums (see "Payday Loan" section, below). Navy Federal not only offers them, but it also does so on reasonable terms and at competitive interest rates.

Pros
  • Varied repayment terms: Shorter loans of up to 36 months are available as well as longer loans of 37 months to 5 years

  • Co-applicants allowed: If your credit score or financials are weak, a co-borrower can help you secure a loan at a lower rate

Cons
  • No prequalifying option: Application triggers a hard credit inquiry, which can hurt your credit score

  • Credit union membership required

Other important information:

  • Maximum/minimum amount you can borrow: $250 to $50,000
  • APR range: 7.49%–18.00% (APR goes up for terms 36 months and up)
  • Fees: None
  • Recommended minimum credit requirements: Not listed
  • Other qualification requirements: Need to be a member of the credit union
  • Repayment terms: Up to 60 months
  • Time to receive funds: Often same day
  • Restrictions: Hard inquiry only

Read the full review: Navy Federal Personal Loans

Best for Fair Credit : Upstart


U

Upstart looks at factors other than just your credit score when looking at your application using their artificial intelligence technology. Factors include education, occupation, and income. Applicants should have a minimum credit score of 600 and typical rates are between 5.31% to 35.99%.

Pros
  • Conducts soft credit inquiry when checking initial rate

  • Receive proceeds as soon as the next business day

  • Make extra payments without incurring a penalty

Cons
  • Origination fees as high as 8%

  • Can only choose from three or five year terms

Other important information:

  • Maximum/minimum amount you can borrow: $1,000 to $50,000, based on credit, income, and other information considered in your application
  • Typical APR range: 6.76%–35.99%
  • Fees: 0% to 8% origination fee
  • Minimum recommended credit score: 600+ (Negotiable depending on other factors)
  • Other qualification requirements: Applicants need to be at least 18+ in most states
  • Repayment terms: 36 or 60 months
  • Time to receive funds: As soon as the same business day, two business days if you accept the offer past 5pm EST
  • Restrictions: No bankruptcies and/or delinquencies on credit report allowed

Read the full review: Upstart Personal Loans


Note: Your loan amount will be determined based on your credit, income, and certain other information provided in your application. Not all applicants will qualify for the full amount. Loans are not available in West Virginia or Iowa. The minimum loan amount in MA is $7,000. The minimum loan amount in Ohio is $6,000. The minimum loan amount in NM is $5100. The minimum loan amount in GA is $3,100.
If you accept your proceeds by 5pm EST (not including weekends or holidays), you will receive your funds the next business day. Proceeds used to fund education related expenses are subject to a 3 business day wait period between acceptance and funding in accordance with federal law.
The full range of available rates varies by state. The average three-year loan offered across all lenders using the Upstart platform will have an APR of 25.42% 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 application. Not all applicants will be approved.

Best Credit Union : First Tech Credit Union


FTFCU2

This lender doesn’t require strict membership requirements compared to other credit unions—join the Financial Fitness Association for $8. First Tech Credit Union offers competitive rates and offers those with less than stellar credit access to up to $50,000 in personal loans.

Pros
  • No origination fees

  • Large maximum loan amount

  • Joint applications available

Cons
  • Requires hard inquiry when checking rates

  • Need to become a member of the credit union

  • Lengthy minimum loan term

Other important information:

  • Maximum/minimum amount you can borrow: $500 to $50,000
  • APR range: 6.70%–18.00%
  • Fees: None
  • Minimum recommended credit score: Not listed
  • Other qualification requirements: First Tech Credit Union will take an applicant’s income and debt into account 
  • Repayment terms: 24 to 84 months
  • Time to receive funds: Not stated
  • Restrictions: Credit union membership required

Read the full review: First Tech Credit Union

Best Peer-to-Peer Lender : LendingClub


LC

LC

Headquartered in San Francisco and launched in 2007, Lendingclub has helped to facilitate over $60 billion in personal loans. Though funding times may be longer than other lenders, qualifying for a loan through LendingClub may be more accessible, especially if you submit a joint application. Rates start at 7.04% not including the origination fee, which can be as high as 6%.

Pros
  • Personal loan amounts starting at $1,000 is a great option for those looking to borrow less money

  • LendingClub offers joint loan applications for those who want to boost their chances of being approved for a more competitive rate

  • No early prepayment penalties

Cons
  • Certain terms and amounts are unavailable in certain states

  • LendingClub has longer funding times compared to other online lenders: a few days or more

  • Borrowers are subject to origination fees

Other important information:

  • Maximum/minimum amount you can borrow: $1,000 to $40,000
  • APR range: 8.05%–35.89%
  • Fees: 3% to 6% origination fee; Late fee may apply
  • Minimum recommended credit score: Not Specified
  • Other qualification requirements: Borrowers need to be the age of majority in their state
  • Repayment terms: 36 or 60 months
  • Time to receive funds: A few days or more
  • Restrictions: Loans not available to residents of U.S. territories

Read the full review: LendingClub Personal Loans

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 Best Small Personal Loans

Lender APR Range Minimum Loan Amount Maximum Loan Amount Terms Recommended Credit Score
Upgrade Best Online Lender 5.94%–35.97% $1,000 $50,000 36–60 months Not Listed
Avant Best for Fair Credit 9.95%–35.99% $2,000 $35,000 24–60 months 600+
Alliant Credit Union Best for Hardship Protection 6.24%–10.24% $1,000 $50,000 12–60 months Not Listed
PenFed Credit Union Best for Fast Funding 5.99%–17.99% $600 $50,000 6–60 months Not Listed
Navy Federal Credit Union Best for Lowest Borrowing Amounts 7.49%–18.00% $250 $50,000 Up to 60 months Not Listed
Upstart Best for Fair Credit 6.76%–35.99% $1,000 $50,000 36 or 60 months 600+
First Tech Credit Union Best Credit Union 6.70%–18.00% $500 $50,000 24–84 months Not Listed
LendingClub Best Peer-to-Peer Lender 8.05%–35.89% $1,000 $40,000 36 or 60 months Not Listed
Loan amounts, APR, and repayment period may vary by loan purpose or type.

FAQs

Where Can You Get Small Personal Loans?

You'd think that borrowing a small amount of money would be easier than borrowing a big sum, wouldn't you? But that's not how financial institutions think. Servicing a small personal loan—roughly defined as between $1,000 and $5,000—can be just as expensive as servicing a big one, and many banks just don't want to bother, especially in these days of low interest rates and razor-thin profit margins.

Online Lenders

Because they have little overhead, online lenders can afford to offer small sums that other lenders might sniff at. Most online lenders also have a pre-qualification option: that is, you can plug in some basic financials to see if you’re eligible for financing, without actually having to apply (which involves the lender pulling your credit history, which can ding your credit score. This isn’t commonly done for personal loan applicants at many banks and credit unions.

Credit Unions

Your best bet for very low-dollar loans is going to a credit union, a non-profit type of financial cooperative that provides traditional banking services. While you might need to join to qualify for a personal loan—credit unions are member-owned organizations—this is relatively easy and cheap to do; and once you're a member, you’ll be able to borrow what you need with a low APR.

Banks

Finding a loan source among the brick-and-mortar banks could be a challenge. Some of the best-known, like Bank of America, don't offer personal loans at all. Others set the bar somewhat high: for example, Wells Fargo's personal loans start at $3,000. You’re more likely to find a small personal loan available from a local or small regional bank over a big-name, national lender. It also helps if you already are a client of that bank.

What Are Alternatives to Small Personal Loans?

It’s a good idea to compare your options before deciding on a small personal loan.

Small Loans vs. Credit Cards

The ubiquity of credit cards may be one reason for the dearth of small personal loan providers. There are very few places that don't take credit cards nowadays. When you put something on your plastic, you are basically financing the purchase—it's actually not that different from borrowing money from any other source. You repay the lender (the card issuer) when your monthly statement arrives, either in full or in part. If it's in part, you pay interest, of course.

Unlike banks, credit card issuers love to lend you money—either by you charging your purchase or by you taking out a cash advance. They'll even raise your credit limit to let you do so if you've got a good record. The catch, of course, is the interest they charge; credit card interest rates tend to be higher than those on personal loans, especially for cash advances.

But it depends on the card issuer and personal loan lender in question. You need to do the math and see which option costs less overall. Some special circumstances might apply, too. If you have a rewards credit card and can cover your expense while earning points or cash back, you should. Or if a card is offering a special zero-APR promotion on balance transfers for, say, 24 months—about the time you'd take to pay back a personal loan—that could be a better deal too.

Generally, though if you want to save on interest or don’t have a credit card, look into a small personal loan.

Small Loans vs. Payday Loans

Payday loans are a type of short-term borrowing, in which an independent small-credit merchant gives you an immediate loan against your next paycheck—kind of an advance on your wages. If they don't need all that much money—these loans are often capped at around $500—many borrowers look at payday loans as ideal because the lenders don’t typically check credit scores or history, and the money is instantaneous.

While the loan principal is small, APRs on payday loans are upwards of 400%.

No, we didn't leave out a decimal point. They're 400%. To add insult to injury, there are often various little fees as well. You can easily end up paying much more on a payday loan than you originally borrowed. If you can get a small personal loan from a credit union, especially one of those who offer three-digit loans, you’ll save a lot more money in interest compared to payday loans. Plus, you'll have months, even years to repay, in contrast to having to cough up by your next payday.

The Bottom Line

When you’re considering taking out a loan, you may not need to borrow a lot of money to cover a big expense. Instead, you may just need a little extra cash to stay (or get) current on your bills or cover a new bill so your credit score doesn’t drop. Various lenders cater to such small needs, but their terms vary, so shop around and be sure to consider which aspects work best for you—or against you.

How We Chose the Best Small Personal Loans

Investopedia is dedicated to providing consumers with unbiased, comprehensive reviews of personal loan lenders for all borrowing needs. We collected over twenty five data points across more than fifty 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.