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LightStream Personal Loans Review

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

LightStream Personal Loans Review

Updated December 11, 2015

LightStream is the online lending division of SunTrust Bank. If you’re not a member of SunTrust Bank, you can still apply for a loan with LightStream*.

While LightStream is bank owned, its approval process is similar to other online lenders: straightforward and quick. If you get all of your documents in on time, you might actually be eligible for same-day funding.

LightStream is so sure you’ll have an easy time applying for a loan, it will give you $100 if you don’t have a satisfactory experience.

With that kind of guarantee, it’s worth taking a look at whatLightStream’s personal loan has to offer.

Personal Loan Details

LightStream personal loans are offered on terms of 2 to 7 years, and you can borrow between $5,000 and $100,000.

It also offers low rates – its APR range is 2.49% – 17.49%, although the website says auto loans start as low as 2.49%, and home improvement loans start as low as 4.99%.

What’s different about LightStream is your intended use of the loan changes the terms available (including the APR). Normally, online personal loan lenders ask you why you’re taking out the loan, but your answer doesn’t affect your rates.

LightStream uses the following payment example on its website: if you borrow $20,000 at a 2.5% APR for 5 years, your monthly payment will be $354.95.

The Pros and Cons

LightStream offers very competitive rates and terms, and its max loan amount and term are higher than what other lenders have to offer. Typically, personal loans max out at 5 years and you can only borrow between $25,000 – $35,000.

If you have a large home improvement project you want to tackle, or a lot of debt to consolidate, LightStream could be a great option for you.

However, you’re locked into using the funds for the purpose you specify on the application, and different terms and rates apply for each. For example, the 2.29% APR offered on auto loans isn’t offered for wedding loans.

You’ll also need good or excellent credit to qualify for a loan with LightStream. It wants to see a strong, positive credit history with multiple lines open. You’ll have a better chance at being approved if your credit score is over 680.

What You Need to Qualify

To qualify for the best rates, you’ll need to have “excellent credit,” which is defined by LightStream as having 5 or more years of significant credit history, an excellent payment history with no delinquencies, money saved up, and stable and sufficient income. Your credit lines should also have some variation.

LightStream defines “good credit” as just a few steps below that, with only several years of significant credit history.

A credit score of 720 is recommended, and you shouldn’t have any recent late payments or delinquencies on your credit.

Application Process and Documents Needed to Apply

The application process is fairly straightforward, and you don’t need any documents to apply. However, if you proceed with the loan agreement, you might be asked to supply basic proof of income and residency.

There’s no pre-approval process, and you must apply online. There are three stages of the application:

  1. Providing the terms of the loan you would like
  2. Entering your personal information (including address and employment information)
  3. Entering security information.

Note that LightStream uses a hard credit inquiry when submitting your application.

You can receive same-day funding on business days if you complete all the necessary steps and submit your final documents by 2:30pm EST.

According to the application page, you’ll need a valid Visa or Mastercard credit card for verification purposes before you can receive your funds.

Who Benefits the Most from a Personal Loan with LightStream?

Those with great credit will benefit the most as they’ll have the highest chance of getting approved.

Unfortunately, the one downside to note is LightStream is unable to refinance student loans, unlike other personal lenders. If you’re looking to do that, you’ll need to apply with another lender. There are many personal loans out there without that restriction.

LightStream pushes its home improvement loans on its social media platforms and website, and for good reason. If you’re looking to do a major overhaul on your home, like an addition or kitchen renovation, you might need more than the $35,000 other lenders offer.

Overall, potential borrowers are more likely to be approved if they’ve been responsible with their use of credit in the past, and with how they handle money in their everyday lives.

The Fine Print

Is it hard to believe that there’s no fine print with LightStream’s personal loan? Its website states there are no fees of any kind that will be incurred.

Further inquiry yielded the same results, as a customer service representative clarified, “There are no fees (application fee, late fee, prepayment penalty) associated with our loans.”

What happens if you’re late on a payment? “You must pay the interest accrued on a per diem basis until you make the payment.”

Most other lenders charge around $15 any time you miss a payment or a payment fails to go through, so this is good to hear.

Transparency Score

LightStream’s website is fairly straightforward and easy to use, but there were a few missing elements we had to check up on. It doesn’t explicitly state whether or not a hard or soft credit check is used, and it doesn’t go over eligibility requirements.

At first glance, it might not look like you can call LightStream. If you go to its “Questions” page, only an email form is listed. However, if you’re filling out the application, a “Contact Us” link appears at the top of the page, which gives you the phone number to call if you have questions.

Understandably, LightStream is trying to keep costs down (so it can pass the savings onto borrowers), so you should send an email if it’s not urgent. It’s good to know the option to call is there, but representatives are on the ball when it comes to answering questions via email as well.

How LightStream Stacks Up

LightStream has very good terms and the fact it has no fees associated with its personal loan makes it a great choice. However, if your credit score isn’t up to par, you might not be approved. Here are a few other choices to consider when applying for a personal loan.

SoFi’s personal loan has similar rates and terms: the max amount you can borrow is $100,000, the max term is 7 years, and the fixed APR ranges from 5.49% – 14.24% if you’re enrolled in autopay. The variable APR range is 5.29% – 11.44% (with a 14.95% cap). SoFi does not use FICO, but you do need to be “prime” or “super-prime” to qualify. It uses a soft pull for your credit to tell you your rates, and there are no origination or prepayment penalties.

SoFi

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If you don’t need that much money and it’s only for credit card debt, consider Payoff. You can borrow up to $35,000 on a max term of 5 years, and the APR range is 8.00% – 25.00%. Its minimum credit score is only 700, and you’ll only have to undergo a soft credit check to find out your rates. Unfortunately, Payoff does have an origination fee of 2%-5%, but there aren’t any prepayment or penalty fees.

*referral link

Shop Around First

Those looking to apply with LightStream for a personal loan will likely need excellent credit, but they’ll benefit from not having to worry about any fees. The downside is that you must use the loan for the purpose you select, whereas other lenders don’t have such limitations. If you’re looking to refinance student loans, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

It might be worth looking into an alternative like SoFi that uses a soft pull of your credit before shopping with lenders like LightStream that use a hard credit pull. You can see what rates you’re eligible for at those lenders first. If you choose to shop around, doing so within a 30-day period is recommended as it will have the least negative impact on your credit score.

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Erin Millard
Erin Millard |

Erin Millard is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Erin at erinm@magnifymoney.com

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Personal Loans

Where to Get the Best Personal Loan Rates Online

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Where to Get the Best Personal Loan Rates Online

Updated December 01, 2017

If you want a personal loan to pay off credit card or other debt, the absolute fastest and most effective way to lower the interest you pay is to apply for a balance transfer, with a 0% rate. You can read our guide to balance transfers to learn about their pros and cons.

But a balance transfer isn’t for everyone, especially if your credit score isn’t perfect or if you need to borrow cash.

A personal loan with a set payoff period a few years from now is often the next best thing with these advantages:

  • One monthly payment
  • A set rate
  • You don’t need absolutely perfect credit
  • You can check your rate without touching your score

There are more attractive deals than ever thanks to some new online lenders and you can see sample rates below for excellent credit and good credit.

Tip: Apply for several loans to check rates. Every lender has different approval criteria and different pricing models – and the difference in rate between lenders (even for people with excellent credit) can be significant. So long as you shop with lenders that use a soft credit pull, you can check your rate without negatively impacting your credit score.

Start Here – Multiple Lenders at Once

LendingTree

LendingTree

Dozens of lenders participate in LendingTree’s personal loan shopping tool – including all of the lenders listed on this page. (Full disclosure, LendingTree is our parent company.) With one online form, LendingTree will perform a soft credit pull (with no impact to your score) and match you with multiple loan offers. This is our favorite (because it is easy) way to get multiple offers from lenders in minutes. For people with excellent credit, you could get an interest rate below 6%. For people with less than perfect credit, there are many lenders participating with more liberal acceptance criteria.

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Why is this a good way to save?

Banks don’t care much for personal loans because the lower rates earn them less profit than credit cards.

Fortunately, some new companies believe you should be able to get a competitive rate without dealing with credit card intro offers, even if your credit isn’t perfect.

They’re doing it by lending online only without the overhead of branches.

They pass the savings on to you through better rates, and you can check up on them below.

Personal loans for Excellent Credit

The following providers are for you if you want the absolute lowest possible rates that reward a record of no late payments and good income, even though you have some high rate debt you want to clean up.

Unless you get a rate of 5% or less, you’re probably better off with balance transfer deals, but the convenience of a fixed payment and walking away from credit cards makes personal loans appealing.

SoFi

SoFi

SoFi offers some of the lowest interest rates available if you’re looking to refinance your credit card debt or borrow cash. You’ll need to have a good record of paying your bills on time, but they’re willing to offer rates that are very competitive without an origination fee.

Sofi’s believes if you’ve graduated college or went to grad school you’ll be a more responsible borrower, so they may be more likely to give you a better rate, even if your credit history is limited.

For example, if you have $10,000 in credit card debt, good income, and great credit, their best rate could save you as much as 0% balance transfer deals once you factor in the fees for each.

What we like best about SoFi is that they offer no origination fee and no prepayment penalty. If you think you may be able to pay off your loan earlier (or want the flexibility to do that), SoFi is the only lender we reviewed that charges no fee at all. Given their very low rates, we think anyone with good credit should start with SoFi first, and then compare their offer to the rest of the providers.

Rates: 5.49% -14.24%, fixed*, with AutoPay. You can also select a variable interest rate. With AutoPay, the variable rates are from 5.29% – 11.44%*. Rates are based upon 1-month LIBOR.

Upfront fee: 0% – No origination fees, no prepayment fees and no balance transfer fees

Amount: $5,000 – $100,000

Period: 3, 5 or 7 years

Available states: All states except Tennessee and Nevada.

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BestEgg

BestEgg

BestEgg is an online personal loan company that offers low interest rates and quick funding. BestEgg is one of the fastest growing personal loan companies in the country, largely because it has been able to provide one of the best combinations of interest rate and loan amount in the market.

You can check to see your interest rate without hurting your score, and they do approve people with scores as low as the mid-600s. If you have an excellent credit score, BestEgg will be very competitive on terms.

Upfront fee: 0.99% – 5.99%

Amount: up to $35,000

Period: up to 5 years

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Lightstream

LightStream

Lightstream is a great choice for people with excellent credit. It is actually part of a bank you might have heard of, SunTrust Bank. They were recently set up to offer some of the best personal loan rates available, and they are delivering. The interest rate you are charged depends upon the purpose of the loan. Interest rates can be as low as 2.49% for a new car purchase (and Lightstream does not put their name on your title. They just put the cash in your bank account, and you can shop around and pay cash for the car). Home improvement loans start at 4.99% APR with AutoPay , making them cheaper and easier than a home equity loan.

They’ll also approve and deposit your money fast, often the same day, and give extra consideration if you have money in your 401K or equity in your home.

LightStream has created an exclusive offer, just for MagnifyMoney readers. (This offer went live in January 2016). Credit card consolidation loans for MagnifyMoney readers are now as low as 5.49% fixed. The highest fixed rate is 14.44%. Just beware: LightStream does a hard credit pull.

Upfront fee: None

Amount: $5,000 – $100,000

Period: 2 – 7 years

Available states: All


Personal Loans for Good Credit

These providers may be able to help you out if you’re not approved for the very best rates or a 0% balance transfer offer. Check those deals first, there’s no real harm to do that, but if they fall through, give these a try.

LendingClub*

Lending Club

You might not have heard of LendingClub yet, but they are a big player in online loans. And they offer a wide range of rates and terms based on your credit profile and needs. Generally you’ll need a score of about 600 or higher to get approved.

Rates: 5.99 – 35.89% fixed APR

Upfront fee: 1 – 6%

Amount: up to $40,000

Period: up to 5 years

Available states: All except Iowa and West Virginia

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BestEgg

BestEgg (reviewed earlier in this post) will approve people with credit scores as low as the mid-600s. If you have good credit and are looking for a loan, you should consider BestEgg.

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Upstart*

Upstart

Upstart offers loans that look a lot like the ones from the bigger online lenders like LendingClub or Prosper.

They’ll let you borrow up to $50,000 for 3-5 years. But the key is they will take into account the schools you attended, your area of study, the grades you earned in school, and your work history to see if you can get a better rate.

So while the range of rates Upstart offers is similar to the bigger guys, if you did well in school, you might find the rate you actually get is lower than what the others will offer you, so it’s worth trying.

You’ll need a 640 or better FICO and your monthly payments can’t be more than 55% of your monthly income.

Rates: 9.56% -29.99%

Upfront fee: 3.655% – 8%

Amount: $5,000 – $50,000

Term: 3 & 5 year loans available

Available states: All


PenFed

Previously, PenFed offers a fixed rate of 9.99% interest rate for 5 years. Veterans get extra special attention so it’s worth checking this online only offer. You have to be a member of the PenFed credit union, but that’s easy and anyone can do that online as part of the process.

Rates: 9.99% fixed APR

Upfront fee: None

Term: 5 years

Available states: All


Personal Loans for Bad or Minimal Credit

Avant*

APRs range from 9.95% – 35.99% and there is no prepayment fee. Checking your Loan Options will not affect your credit score. Just one warning: if you are willing to borrow money at 35.99%, then you really need to step back and think about building a longer term financial plan. You can download our free Debt Guide, which will help you put together a plan so that you never have to pay interest rates this high again.

Avant’s platform offers access to loans from $2,000 to $35,000, with terms from 2 to 5 years. The minimum credit score varies, but we have seen people with scores as low as 580 get approved.

The good thing about Avant is that these loans are amortizing. That means it is a real installment loan, and you will be reducing your principal balance with every payment.

Rates: 9.95% – 35.99% APR

Upfront fee: 4.75%

Amount: up to $35,000

Period: up to 5 years

Available states: All except: Colorado, Iowa, West Virginia, and Vermont.

For Example: A $5,700 loan with an administration fee of 4.75% and an amount financed of $5,429.25, repayable in 36 monthly installments, would have an APR of 29.95% and monthly payments of $230.33.

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Avant branded credit products are issued by WebBank, member FDIC.


OneMain Financial

OneMain Financial offers personal loans through its branch network to people with less than perfect credit. You can start your application online. If you qualify, you will have to visit a branch to complete the application. Once in the branch, if you have all of the required documents, you can receive you loan proceeds immediately via check.

You can borrow from $1,500 to $25,000. The interest rates are not low, and can go up to 36%. They will also charge an up-front origination fee that is not refundable. You should definitely shop around at other lenders first, given the high cost of the loan and the need to visit a branch.

Rates: 25.10%-36.00% APR

Upfront fee: Varies

Amount: Up to $25,000

Period: Up to 5 years

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As these new companies evolve, expect even more attractive options to emerge, so when you think about lowering your rates, don’t just look to the banks you know.

Give an online lender a chance. You may be rewarded with lower rates, good service, and faster freedom from debt.

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Got questions? Get in touch via Twitter, Facebook or email (info@magnifymoney.com)

Brian Karimzad
Brian Karimzad |

Brian Karimzad is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brian at brian@magnifymoney.com

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Personal Loans

SoFi Review: Personal & Student Loans with Low Rates and No Fee

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

SoFi Review: Personal & Student Loans

SoFi is an online loan company that offers student loan refinancing options, mortgages and personal loans. SoFi offers some of the lowest interest rates and the best consumer experience in the market. We have researched thousands of products from hundreds of companies, and SoFi is one of our favorites. However, they have strict credit criteria and target people with good jobs, good income, a proven ability to manage a budget and good credit history. If SoFi* approves you, you will probably have a difficult time finding a lower interest rate anywhere else.

In this post, we will review both Student Loans and Personal Loans. (They have just launched mortgages, and we will be updating this post later with a review of that product). For each, we will discuss:

  • The details of the product: how much can you borrow, and at what price
  • Approval criteria: how does SoFi underwrite, and who are they likely to accept

In addition, at the end we will give you more details of SoFi, including who funded them, how big they are and their reputation.

SoFi’s student loan refinance offerings

SoFi Student Loan Refinance: At a Glance

Variable APR

2.75% – 6.84%*

Fixed APR

3.25% – 7.50%*

Terms available

5, 7, 10, 15, or 20 years

Balance range

$10,001 – No max

*These rates are available so long as you enroll in auto-pay.

*Rates current as of Dec. 1, 2017.

SoFi has just reduced the minimum loan amount. You can now refinance as little as $5,000 of student loan debt. There is no cap on how much you can refinance. Based upon your cash flow, SoFi will try to provide an option to refinance all of your student loan debt.

There is no origination fee and no prepayment penalty. It offers some of the lowest rates out there. Fixed APRs range from 3.25% – 7.50%*, and variable APRs range from 2.75% – 6.84%.* with auto-pay These rates are available so long as you enroll in auto-pay. Given that interest rates are at an all-time low, you should think carefully before signing up for a variable interest rate. If you can pay off your loan in a short period of time, you could save a lot of money. If it will take you longer, you may not want to take the interest rate risk.

You can refinance on a 5, 10, 15, or 20 year term.

For example, if you borrow $30,000 on a 10 year term at an APR of 4.615%, your monthly payment will be $312.58. Under those terms, you’re paying back a total of $37,509.60 (120 payments). If you borrow the same amount, but have a 6.8% APR, your monthly payment is $345.24, paying back a total of $41,428.80. In this case, SoFi’s low rates have the potential to save you nearly $4,000.

SoFi will refinance both private and federal student loans. However, if you refinance a federal loan you will give up all federal protections and programs, including income-based repayment programs. SoFi is unique among private lenders because it offer unemployment insurance, free of charge. If you lose your job for no fault of your own (you can’t quit), SoFi will suspend your monthly payments until you find a new job. You can do this for up to 12 months. The interest that accrues during this period would be added to the loan.

SoFi also offers an entrepreneur program to help graduates who dream of owning a business.

Under this program, loans can be deferred for six months so borrowers can focus on growing their businesses. SoFi provides access to networking events, mentors, and investors.

The downsides of refinancing with SoFi

Refinancing with SoFi isn’t an option for everyone. First, refinancing is currently unavailable to those residing in Nevada, and variable rate options aren’t available to those in Ohio or Tennessee.

Second, SoFi has a list of available schools and programs it services. If your school or program isn’t on that list, you won’t be eligible to refinance.

Third, SoFi typically requires applicants to have excellent credit. It occasionally accepts co-signers – you must call to review your situation with a representative. However, there’s no co-signer release if you move forward with one on your loan.

Eligibility requirements

To be eligible to refinance your student loans with SoFi, you need to meet the following requirements:

  • You must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident 18 years or older
  • You need to have a 4-year undergraduate or graduate degree from a Title IV accredited institution
  • You have to be employed or have an offer of employment starting in 90 days from the time you apply
  • You need to be in good standing on your current student loans
  • You should have a good, stable employment history
  • A strong monthly cash flow is a must
  • An excellent FICO score will improve your chances of being approved

How to apply

The application process is straightforward and SoFi’s pre-approval should take you less than 15 minutes to complete. You likely won’t need most of the documents listed below until you’re ready to move forward with a loan, but they’re good to have on hand while you’re shopping around.

  • Existing student loan information (SoFi will need your account information for the loans you wish to finance)
  • Employment information – salary, offer of employment, length of employment
  • Most recent pay stubs as proof of income and employment (if you’re currently employed)
  • Diploma or transcript in the event SoFi needs to verify your graduation

It’s good to note SoFi accepts screenshots from your PC and pictures taken from a phone, so if you don’t have access to a scanner, there’s no need to worry.

If you’re ready to get started, you can apply for a refinance and check your rate by clicking the button below.

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SoFi medical residency refinancing

According to The Association of American Medical Colleges, 75% of medical school graduates in 2016 had loans with an a median debt load of $192,000. In October 2017, SoFi launched its Medical Resident Student Loan Refinancing product to go along with existing offerings of student loan refinancing, personal loans and mortgages. The Medical Resident Student Loan Refinancing program can be used to lock-in a lower monthly payment or pay off your existing medical loans sooner. There are no origination fees or prepayment penalties.

SoFi Medical Residency Refinancing: At a Glance

Variable APR

3.000% - 7.470%*

Fixed APR

3.500% – 7.870%*

Terms available

5, 7, 10, 15, or 20 years

Balance range

$10,000 – No max

*Includes AutoPay discount.

*Rates current as of Dec. 1.

Highlights

SoFi’s sales point on Medical Resident Student Loan Refinancing is that participating students can avoid compounding interest on their debt for up to 54 months of residency. Minimum payments are only $100 a month. Like many lenders, SoFi offers a 0.25% interest rate reduction on loans if you agree to have monthly payments automatically deducted from your bank.

Applicants may use refinancing to consolidate qualified public and private medical school loans into a single rate and payment. But take heed, per SoFI: “Upon completion or departure from your residency program, your loan will re-amortize and your payment amount will increase according to a fully amortized loan schedule.”

Lowlights

SoFi refi loans are private loans and do not offer the repayment options of federal loan programs. For example, there are no SoFi equivalents that peg monthly payments to your family’s income and family size, like the federal Income-Contingent Repayment Plan (ICR Plan), Income-Based Repayment Plan (IBR Plan) or Pay as You Earn Repayment Plan (PAYE Plan). Also, private education loans are ineligible for federal loan repayment remedies, such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

SoFi doesn’t offer these loans in every state, either.

Residents of Nevada, Mississippi, Montana and the District of Columbia are not eligible. Minimum loan amounts in Pennsylvania are $25,001, and $15,001 in Connecticut and Kentucky.
Eligibility requirements

  1. You must be a medical resident or fellow with no more than four years remaining in your program.
  2. You must have more than $10,000 in federal or private student loan debt.
  3. You must be a graduate of a Title IV-accredited university or graduate program within the United States.

How to apply

Start the process at SoFi’s Medical Resident and Fellow Student Loan Refinancing homepage. You can see if you are preapproved by using this online form. Since it’s only a soft pull on your credit report, it won’t affect your credit score. When you officially apply for refinancing, however, there will be a hard credit pull.

SoFi personal loans

At SoFi, you can borrow between $5,000 and $100,000.

There is no origination fee, no prepayment penalty and no balance transfer fee. They are truly unique in this regard.

You can borrow the money for 3, 5 or 7 years.

In addition, SoFi offers unemployment protection. Unlike traditional personal loan companies, they are not looking to make money from unemployment insurance. Instead, they are offering it as a feature and a brand promise. And the insurance is generous. If you lose your job through no fault of your own, you will be given a payment holiday. Interest will continue to accrue on the loan (and be added to the balance), but no payment will be due and your loan will continue to be reported as current to the credit bureau. You can have 3 consecutive months of payments made at a time, and you can have up to 12 months of payments made during the life of the loan. That offers great flexibility. In addition, they offer job placement services to help you find a job.

Fixed interest rates range from 5.49% to 14.24%* – but you have to sign up for auto-pay in order to get these rates. In addition, SoFi offers variable interest rates from 5.29% – 11.44%* with auto-pay. The rates are based upon 1-month LIBOR and are capped at 14.95%.*

You can use the loans for almost any purpose: pay off credit card debt, home improvement, or anything else because the money can be deposited as cash in your checking account.

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Eligibility requirements

In order to be approved for a loan, you must at least meet the following requirements:

  • You are a US citizen or permanent resident
  • You are at least the age of majority in your state (typically 18)
  • You are currently employed
  • You have graduated from a selection of Title IV accredited universities or graduate programs (only for the student loan product. For personal loans, there is no university requirement).

Personal loans are not available to residents of the following states: Mississippi, Nevada and Tennessee.

If you fail to meet the above criteria, you will be rejected. However, just because you meet these criteria does not mean that you will be approved. SoFi will:

  • Perform an analysis of your ability to repay. They do a “cash flow analysis” looking at your income and expenditure, making sure you can pay
  • Perform an analysis of your history with credit. Missed payments and defaults will most likely get your rejected. You need to have a strong history of repayment. Although they are not a FICO-driven lender (because they look at education, employment and cash flow), the following people will likely have a difficulty getting approved:
    • People who do not have excellent credit. In particular, if you have missed payments or have rapidly built up debt, you could find it difficult to qualify.
    • If you have a “thin credit file”, you will still have a good chance of getting approved. A thin file means that you do not have much information in your credit report. Although that could be a problem with traditional credit scores, SoFi might still be willing to work with you.
    • People with collection items, judgments or other negative legal action

SoFi offers some of the lowest interest rates out there, and they are picky about who they approve. If you have a good degree, a good job and a history of making payments on time, you will likely be able to benefit from SoFi.

And here is the best news: you can check to see if you will be approved, and the interest rate you would receive, without hurting your credit score. SoFi uses what is called a “soft pull” to determine your interest rate and your loan amount.

Given how low the interest rates are at SoFi, if you have a college degree you should take the 3-4 minutes to see if you can be approved. The only cost is your time.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 6.49.15 PM

Remember that you’re in no way obligated to take a loan once you apply.

Unless you accept the loan and go through with the hard credit inquiry, SoFi doesn’t hold you to taking the loans presented to you.

Learn more about SoFi

SoFi is a very well funded start-up, having raised $164 million from some of the biggest and most influential venture capital firms in the Silicon Valley.

They have also built a very strong relationship with investors, and have funded more than $2 billion in loans to date.

SoFi was created with a mission to revolutionize the way we borrow in this country. In particular:

  • They want to make it easy for people to shop for a loan, believing that you should be able to get your interest rate without hurting your score
  • They want to create an easy, seamless experience with a great user experience
  • They want to cut out the costs of the big banks, giving lower interest rates to borrowers and higher interest rates to lenders
  • They want to create a different type of borrowing experience, by providing unemployment insurance as a free benefit.

Their mission, and their personal loan product, align to the vision of MagnifyMoney. When we created MagnifyMoney, we hoped to find lenders like SoFi, and are pleased to award them an A+ Transparency Score.

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We only have one criticism: their underwriting criteria is very tight right now. Hopefully, over time, they will be able to expand the criteria and be able to provide the great experience to people who may have experienced some financial difficulties in the past.

Nick Clements
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Nick Clements is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Nick at nick@magnifymoney.com

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Is it Possible to Refinance a Personal Loan?

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Trapped in a personal loan with a high interest rate or a massive monthly payment? It is possible to refinance to a loan that better suits your financial needs. We’ll explain how to refinance a personal loan and pitfalls to avoid when refinancing unsecured debt.

Is it possible to refinance a personal loan?

Refinancing a personal loan involves taking out a new loan to pay off an existing personal loan. Some people will refinance by negotiating new loan terms with their existing lender. However, many people refinance by taking out a new loan from a different lender. They use the proceeds of the loan to payoff their current loan.

It’s important to note that many lenders don’t advertise personal loan refinancing. However, you shouldn’t necessarily exclude them from your loan refinance search.

For example, a company spokesperson from SoFi (one of our top-rated personal loan issuers) explains that it treats all personal loans like incremental debt. If the company believes you can handle the payments on both your existing loan and your new loan, you may qualify for the new personal loan. On the other hand, Lightstream, a division of SunTrust Bank, specifically offers personal loan refinancing. Lightstream prices loans differently based on their intended use. Either company could be a great option to refinance your personal loan.

Depending on your income, your credit score, and your credit usage you may find a great rate at any number of personal loan companies.

When does it make sense to refinance a personal loan?

Refinancing your personal loan generally makes sense when the new loan comes with better terms or you need to refinance in order to remove a cosigner.

For example, your credit may have improved or your income increased significantly enough that you may qualify for a loan with a better APR. On the other hand, you may be struggling to meet your monthly payments and want to take out a new personal loan with lower monthly payments and a longer loan term.

“It could make sense to refinance almost any time if you can get better terms,” says Todd Nelson, business development officer for Lightstream, a division of SunTrust Bank. “Less interest is always a good thing.”

How to refinance a personal loan

No matter your goal, you’ll want to take a few steps to make sure that you get the best possible deal on your new loan.

Understand your existing loan

Before you pay off an old loan, check whether your loan has prepayment penalties, so you can factor any penalties into your loan analysis. Most banks do not charge prepayment penalties for personal loans, but those that do will typically charge a set fee for paying off a loan early. The terms and conditions of your loan will outline whether or not you have to pay a prepayment penalty. If you don’t understand the terms, you can talk to your lender to clarify the rules.

In addition to understanding your prepayment penalties, you’ll want to know your interest rate, the time remaining on your loan, and the required monthly payment. Refinancing your loan may affect all three of these numbers.

Get your credit in order

Once you understand your existing loan, you’ll want to check your credit score. You may need to make some efforts to clean up your credit before applying for a loan refinance. In particular, removing errors from your credit report and paying down credit card debt may help to improve your odds of approval. If possible, avoid applying for additional loans for three to six months before you refinance your personal loan. Applying for multiple lines of credit in a short time period makes you look like a worse credit risk according to the Fair Isaac Corporation, which creates the FICO® scores that are widely used in lending decisions.

Although your credit score matters, it’s not the only factor lenders will consider when setting your loan rate. “A great credit score doesn’t mean you’ll get the best rate,” Nelson cautions. Lenders will also consider your existing debt load, your income and how you’ve used debt in the past.

Prepare a budget

Refinancing a debt means your monthly payment will change. You’ll want to be sure that you can handle the change by preparing a budget. You need to know how much you can realistically pay each month, so you can continue to make timely payments every month.

Start shopping around for a new loan

Once you have your finances in order, you’ll want to start shopping for new loans. A great place to start is with LendingTree, where you can fill out a short online form and potentially get quotes from several lenders at once. LendingTree is the parent company of MagnifyMoney.

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If you don’t see banks offering better terms, you may want to stick with your current loan until you pay it off.

Apply for multiple loans

When you see the potential for savings, start applying for new personal loans. When you apply for a new personal loan, you will see a hard credit inquiry on your credit report. The more places you apply, the more credit inquiries you’ll see.

However, multiple credit inquiries won’t destroy your credit if you apply within a few weeks.
According to the credit reporting bureau Experian, “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.”

When you apply for a personal loan refinance, you’ll need all your personal identification documents, and you may need proof of income (such as a pay stub, W-2 form or a tax return).

Check out our list of the best personal loans for 2017.

Choose the best offer

Once you have a few offers in hand, you’ll want to compare them to see which is the best deal for you.

You can use this calculator to compare the interest you expect to pay on your existing loan (use your current balance, current interest rate, and current monthly payment at the top) with the interest and fees you’ll pay on a new personal loan.

When you find the best offer, you can accept the loan terms with your new lender.

Pay off your old loan

The process for paying off your old loan will vary by lender. According to Nelson from Lightstream, lenders who work with high-credit-score applicants will generally deposit the funds into your checking or savings account. Then it’s up to you to pay off your existing debt.

In general, you can close your old debt by making a payment through the Bill Pay portal on your lender’s website. After you make the payment, you should see a balance of $0. You can call your lender to be sure that the final payment is processed and the loan is closed.

Lenders that work with subprime borrowers may pay off the old debt directly. In those cases, you should still call the lender to confirm that your old debt is closed.

Shopping for lower interest rates

If you’re looking for a lower interest rate, you’ll probably find a better personal loan in one of two circumstances. First, you may find a better interest rate if your credit score improved since taking out the loan. The more your credit score improved, the more likely you are to see great refinancing options.

You may also find a better interest rate if you didn’t originally shop around. In this situation, it may pay off to compare personal offers from a few different lenders. You may be surprised by how low your rate can go.

Of course, a lower interest rate doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily save money when you refinance your personal loan. You will want to do the math the following to see if you will actually save money with a refinance. If the origination fees and the total cost of interest are lower than the remaining interest on your loan, it makes sense to refinance the loan.

Finding lower monthly payments

Anyone looking to lower their monthly payments will usually want to refinance to a longer loan. While credit score improvements may lower your monthly payment a little, spreading the payments over a longer period lowers the payments even more.

If you’re facing a pinched cash flow, refinancing to a longer loan may make sense (especially if you can combine it with a better interest rate). The problem with refinancing to a longer loan is that you’ll generally pay more interest in the long run. Use this personal loan calculator to see how much more you’ll pay over time.

Taking out a larger loan

Some people consider refinancing a personal loan when they want to take on a bigger loan for an upcoming expense, or to consolidate additional debt. Refinancing makes sense if the new loan has a lower interest rate. In general, you want to keep your loan at the lowest interest rate possible, even if that means having two payments. If you want to take on more debt, be sure your budget can handle the added expense. Create a debt payoff plan before you take on any new debts.

When to avoid refinancing a personal loan

Even with lenders offering tantalizingly low interest rates, refinancing a personal loan doesn’t always make sense.

Refinancing isn’t cost-effective

For example, you don’t want to choose a new loan if it won’t save you money. This calculator can help you compare your current costs to the interest and fees you’ll pay if you choose to refinance. High origination fees may keep an otherwise attractive offer from being cost-effective.

Aggressive debt payoff

Refinancing a personal loan may backfire if you’re on an aggressive debt payoff plan. A loan with an origination fee may require several months of standard payments to reach a break-even point. This refinance calculator can help you determine how long it takes to reach the break-even point. (Use a tax rate of 0 percent.)

When you don’t have a debt payoff plan

Some people feel tempted to refinance a personal loan when their budget gets tight, and the monthly payments feel high. A personal loan refinance could be a smart financial move, but the refinance needs to be part of your comprehensive money management strategy. Before refinancing, create a realistic debt payoff plan.

Things to watch out for

In general, personal loans are straightforward, but you should beware of these personal loan traps (especially if you’re trying to refinance a subprime personal loan).

Prepayment penalties: Most major banks don’t charge prepayment penalties, but before you refinance, you’ll want to check your existing loan, too, to make sure one isn’t lurking in the fine print. A prepayment penalty may negate some of the savings you get from lowering your interest rate.

Credit insurance: Some lenders will try to get you to buy life insurance to cover the cost of the loan if you die. In general, this is not a good value. In fact, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has adopted measures that restrict the sale of credit insurance. However, you may still hear a pitch for the product.

It makes a lot of sense to have some level of insurance in place to cover your debts if you’re married, lose a job, etc. However, an inexpensive term life policy is a far better value than a loan specific policy. Job loss credit insurance may be a more compelling product, but it can be very expensive. Be sure to weigh the cost of the insurance before purchasing it.

Origination fees: Many personal loans come with origination fees, which can be as high as 8 percent of the loan’s value. That makes taking out a new loan an expensive proposition. Compare the remaining interest on your loan to the cost of the origination fee plus the interest cost of the new loan before deciding to refinance.

Late payment fees: Some lenders will charge you a late fee if you miss your payment date. Late fees can drive up your loan costs in a hurry. Anyone who has struggled with payments in the past will want to check this fee before refinancing.

Alternatives to refinancing a personal loan

Refinancing a personal loan to another personal loan isn’t always the cheapest option. If you’ve got great credit, or you own a home you might find cheap options to eliminate your debt.

Balance transfer credit cards

Some credit card companies will allow you to transfer a personal loan balance to a promotional 0 percent intro APR balance transfer credit card. This can be a quick way to drop your interest rate in a hurry.

Before you apply for a balance transfer credit card, you’ll want to check on a few things. First, you won’t want to apply for a credit card from a bank that holds your debt. For example, you won’t want to opt for the Citi Simplicity® credit card if a Citi Affiliate owns your debt.

It’s also important to clarify that the credit card company will allow you to transfer a personal loan balance to your credit card. For example, the Chase Slate® card does not allow you to transfer personal loan balances to your credit card.

You can generally learn more about a lender’s balance transfer policy by reading their terms and conditions page in a section entitled Balance Transfers. However, if the terms aren’t clear, you should take the time to call a bank representative before applying.

A balance transfer credit card is an appropriate solution for people who can pay down their personal loan debt before the introductory rate expires.

HELOCs

Homeowners who have equity in their house may also find that a HELOC, or home equity line of credit, offers better terms than their existing personal loan. A HELOC has tax-deductible interest, and it operates like a line of credit. You can use a HELOC to pay off higher interest debts, or to pay for other important expenses. However, you need to be careful not to treat a HELOC as free money. You still need to pay off your HELOC in time.

Hannah Rounds
Hannah Rounds |

Hannah Rounds is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Hannah at hannah@magnifymoney.com

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Using a Cosigner to Get a Personal Loan

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Life can get expensive, whether it’s paying for a child’s wedding or unexpectedly buying a new furnace when yours breaks in the middle of winter. Personal loans can be a quick and easy way to borrow the money you need — if you have good credit — as you can get a lump sum in a variety of amounts that you can use at your discretion.

Some borrowers, however, may have trouble qualifying for a personal loan. This often happens due to a low credit score, past bankruptcies or the lack of a credit history. In these cases, one way to increase your chances of qualifying for a personal loan is to persuade a friend or family member with good credit to serve as your cosigner.

What is a cosigned loan?

When lenders assess loan applications, they are looking at applicants’ financial histories to determine how likely they are to repay what they borrow. Lenders may turn down applicants who have a poor credit score, lack a steady income or don’t have much of a credit history. To a financial institution, people with those attributes may pose too great a risk.

But a cosigner gives applicants a way around these circumstances.

A personal loan cosigner is someone who agrees to assume equal responsibility for the loan, which means that if you can’t make the payments, the cosigner must. Typically, a cosigner for a personal loan has a good credit score and and the ability to repay the loan, based on his or her income and other debt obligations.

You can benefit from a cosigner in two ways. First, a cosigner’s good credit score and financial history may help you — an otherwise unqualified borrower — get a personal loan. Secondly, a cosigner can assist you in receiving a significantly lower interest rate.

Pros and cons of a cosigned loan

Pros:

  • A cosigner can help you qualify for a personal loan or get a lower interest rate you wouldn’t otherwise get because of poor or thin credit or insufficient income. A cosigner also can increase the number of loan offers you receive, according to a spokesperson for LendingClub, an online lender.
  • A personal loan with a cosigner can provide you with much-needed cash, whether it’s to pay off high-interest debt or fund home repair.
  • If you’re determined to improve your credit, you can use a cosigned personal loan to build your credit rating by making regular, on-time payments until the loan is paid off.

Cons:

  • The account will show up on your credit report, but also on the cosigner’s. If you miss a payment, both you and your cosigner will see your credit suffer.
  • If the cosigner applies for a mortgage or other loan, the cosigned personal loan could show up on his/her credit report as a monthly obligation and lower that person’s debt-to-income ratio — even though the cosigner is not making the payments on the personal loan.

Cosigner versus coborrower

The person who agrees to apply for a personal loan can take on one of two roles in the process: cosigner or coborrower. Both roles require taking full responsibility for the loan if the you default on payments.

Coborrower: A coborrower, also called a joint applicant, acts like a partner in the transaction, accepting equal responsibility for paying off the loan and allowing his/her income and assets to be considered on the loan application. The coborrower’s name will appear on loan documents.

Coborrowers are entitled to a share of the loan’s proceeds and share in the obligation to repay the loan.

Cosigner: A cosigner’s name also appears on loan documentation, but rather than sharing ownership in the loan, the cosigner agrees to repay the loan if you cannot make the payments. The cosigner serves as a guarantor of the loan and is only liable if the applicant fails to make payments.

How to get a cosigned personal loan

Income requirements

Most lenders will look at an applicant’s work history and current employment when determining whether he/she is likely to repay the loan. While a lender may not require a minimum income, the applicant will need to demonstrate that there will be a secure income over the life of the debt.

Credit requirements

Because the personal loan market has grown more competitive, lenders offer a range of interest rates based on the amount and length of the loan and the borrower’s credit history. Most lenders only will consider good or excellent credit, although there are options for people with bad credit. Here are the best personal loan rates available now, for a variety of credit levels.

How to get the best personal loan rate

One advantage of personal loans is that they are simple financial products, which means borrowers only need to compare loans’ interest rate and fees. Personal loans are approved for a certain amount, which the borrower receives upon loan approval. The borrower then makes fixed payments at a fixed interest rate until the load is repaid.

If you want to get the best rate possible or want to get a loan without a cosigner, there are several actions you can take to improve your financial standing.

Improve your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio

Lenders use DTI to figure out what percentage of your income is spent on paying debts. It’s determined by dividing your monthly debt payments, including credit cards, vehicle loans and student loans, by your gross monthly income (income before taxes). Lenders look for a low DTI, which indicates better financial health.

Lenders often look favorably on applicants with DTIs in the 30s. For example, Wells Fargo lists on its site that a DTI of 35 percent or less shows that the borrower likely has money to save after paying bills. A DTI between 36 and 49 percent indicates that the borrower may struggle to handle unforeseen expenses, and lenders may look at other eligibility criteria for borrowers in this range, according to Wells Fargo.

A DTI of 50 percent or higher shows that most of a borrower’s income is going toward paying off debts, leaving little or no money for unexpected expenses. Lenders may be unlikely to consider applicants in this category.

If your DTI is too high, with time and financial discipline you can improve the picture. You’ll need to reduce your total monthly debt payments, which you can do by paying off loans or refinancing or consolidating loans for a lower interest rate and/or monthly payment.

Increase your credit score

According a November 2017 analysis of personal loan offers aggregated by MagnifyMoney, lenders require credit scores ranging from minimums in the mid-500s to 720. A higher credit score will typically result in a lower interest rate on a personal loan.

Here are the best ways to increase your credit score, according to credit scoring giant FICO:

  • Pay your bills on time.
  • Reduce the amount of debt you owe, which you can do by make extra payments toward your debts and curbing your spending to keep your credit card balances low.
  • Check your credit report for errors that could be hurting your score.

Shop around for rates

A number of lenders have entered the personal loan market, and it’s worthwhile to check offers online. LendingTree, our parent company, is a good place to start comparing personal loan offers.

Be sure to examine each loan’s repayment terms and rates, as they could differ — even from the same lender. Additional charges can include personal loan origination fees that can range from 0.99 to 8 percent of the amount of the loan (although some lenders don’t charge this fee), late payment fees, check processing fees and penalties for paying off the loan early.

Lenders that allow cosigned personal loans

Here are three lenders from our list of best personal loan rates that offer loans with cosigners.

Lightstream: Lightstream is the online lender of SunTrust, and if offers a streamlined application process that can result in funding in one business day. For a $10,000, 36-month personal loan, Lightstream offers an interest rate of 3.24 percent for applicants with excellent credit and rates up to 7.34 percent for applicants with credit as low as the minimum score of 680. Lightstream does not require an origination fee, but it does adjust its terms based on the intended use of the personal loan. The online lender rates well for its transparency with its terms, and it does not charge additional fees.

LendingClub: LendingClub offers an easy online application process that will provide you with a table of loan options based different amounts, lengths of the loans and interest rates. The lender will offer loans as high as $40,000 for up to 60 months, and interest rates are determined by LendingClub’s internal scoring system. Scoring is based on the applicant’s DTI ratio (it should not be above 50 percent excluding mortgage payments), a credit report with few hard inquiries, a credit score of at least 600, and evidence of some credit history. LendingClub charges an origination fee of 1-6 percent of the amount of the loan.

Note that LendingClub does not offer loans to residents of Iowa and West Virginia.

OneMain: While OneMain will offer personal loans to applicants with credit scores of 600 and same-day financing, the tradeoff is high interest rates and stricter personal requirements. Applicants must have a job and verifiable income, no bankruptcy filings and some credit history. Interest rates will range between 17.59 percent and 35.99 percent, and OneMain offers personal loans up to $25,000. The lender does not offer loans for tuition or businesses expenses. OneMain does not charge an origination fee, but lenders likely will try to sell you unemployment, life or disability insurance when you apply for a loan.

Finding a cosigner

Approaching a trusted friend or relative about cosigning a personal loan can be touchy; you are asking them to risk their credit and finances for you to borrow money.

Most importantly, your cosigner should be financially stable and have enough money to repay the loan should you be unable to do so. A spokesperson for LendingClub said many borrowers asking about loans often bring up the idea of asking a close friend or family member to cosign. “Be sure your cosigner has a solid financial history and a strong credit profile,” the spokesperson said. These factors will play a significant role in the rates and offers you’ll get for a personal loan.

Even with all of those factors in place, be prepared for everyone you ask to say no. Cosigning a loan presents a significant risk that some people — no matter how much they like you — won’t be willing to take.

When it comes to repayment, it is vital that you make every monthly payment on time. Missed payments will show up on your cosigner’s credit report, which will hurt that person’s credit as well as yours. If someone trusts you enough to risk his or her good financial standing, rise to the occasion and do whatever it takes to pay off your cosigned personal loan responsibly and on time.

If you’re the one considering cosigning a loan, the Federal Trade Commission recommends you ask the creditor to notify you if the borrower misses a payment — get the agreement in writing. The FTC also encourages you to get copies of all documents pertaining to the loan and keep them for your records.

Can I remove my cosigner from the personal loan in the future?

The option to release a cosigner varies by lender. Some lenders, such as LendingClub, will not allow you to remove a cosigner from a loan at any point, while others may allow you to release a cosigner after the primary borrower has made a certain number of on-time payments. Before you commit to a loan, ask if removing a cosigner is an option and, if so, how to go about it when the time comes.

Personal loans with cosigners can greatly benefit borrowers, but it’s important to keep in mind that cosigners are putting their finances on the line to help you. Borrowers can best protect their cosigners by making sure they are vigilant about keeping a steady income, making payments — and yes, using the loan responsibly.

Marty Minchin
Marty Minchin |

Marty Minchin is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Marty here

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Can I Get a Holiday Loan?

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If you’re stressed over the possibility of racking up holiday debt this year, you may be right to worry. In our 2016 holiday debt survey, 65.2 percent of respondents who added debt during the holidays said they did so unexpectedly and didn’t budget for the extra expenses.

This just goes to show what can happen if you take on debt without a plan. If you charge holiday purchases and don’t have a plan to pay them off, you can wind up making monthly payments for longer than you think — and fork over lots of interest payments along the way.

While most people said credit cards were the main source of their debt, nearly 9 percent said they used personal loans to finance their holiday spending, making it the third most popular borrowing option overall.

If you’re considering using a personal loan to fund your holiday shopping this year, it’s important to know the pros and cons first.

First up … what’s a holiday loan?

A holiday loan is simply a personal loan issued by a financial institution, like an online lender, bank or credit union. While these loans are intended to cover holiday expenses, they are not the same as other short-term loans such as payday or cash advance loans.

Since holiday loans are unsecured, you can borrow money without putting up anything as collateral. But because the lender is assuming more risk this way, these loans can carry very high interest rates. That being said, if you have good credit, relatively low levels of debt and sufficient income, you might qualify for lower rates.

Generally speaking, you can get a holiday loan (or other unsecured personal loan) in amounts up to $35,000 with several lenders. However, some may let you borrow quite a bit more. Your interest rate can vary depending on your creditworthiness, and the amount of time you have to repay your loan depends on how much you borrow and the loan terms you select. Personal loans are issued with a fixed repayment period, which can last up to 84 months.

Why get a loan for the holidays?

While some people budget throughout the year, setting aside money for the holiday season, there are plenty of ways to get off track. It’s possible that other expenses will pop up and cause your savings plan to go awry, or that you’ll need to pay for holiday travel or to get your home ready for guests.

Applying for a personal loan may be a good way to bridge the gap between the money you have and the money you need, says Jeff Rose, a certified financial planner and Discover Personal Loans partner. “Borrowing a set amount of money with a fixed repayment term and fixed rate can help you meet your financial obligations over the holidays while having a set budget with a clear payoff schedule, resisting the temptation to rely on revolving debt.”

Rose says he has seen situations where a holiday loan made sense. In one situation, an acquaintance of his was desperate to return home for the holidays to see his dying father on what could be his last Christmas. In that case, taking out a personal loan to travel home was “one of the best investments they’ve ever made,” Rose tells MagnifyMoney.

But, holiday travel isn’t the only reason to take out a holiday loan.

For example, the holidays are a popular time to propose, and “engagement rings can get expensive,” says Rose. You might even find the perfect ring that costs more than you have saved, but the time is ripe for asking.

“That’s where a personal loan can be a financially responsible tool to help you make this purchase,” he adds.

Or, perhaps you want to borrow money to cover the costs of holiday gifts, replace the appliances in your home or make a special purchase for your family.

What it takes to qualify

Getting a personal loan to cover expenses during the holidays is no different than getting a personal loan any other time of year, notes Rose. “Different lenders have different qualifications for loan approval and offer different rates, so my advice would be to research and find what fits your financial situation,” he says.

Generally speaking, however, some typical minimum requirements for a personal loan include being a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, being at least 18 years of age, and having a low debt-to-income ratio.

Your credit score may also impact your ability to get a personal loan. While it’s possible to get a personal loan with a FICO score of 500 or above, the best loan rates and terms go to those with good or excellent credit.

In addition to your credit score, another important requirement for getting a personal or holiday loan is that DTI — debt-to-income ratio — says San Diego financial adviser Taylor Schulte. To calculate your debt-to-income ratio, add up your monthly debt obligations (i.e. mortgage, auto loan) and divide that by your monthly gross income.

“Some experts say a debt-to-income ratio higher than 36 percent can dramatically reduce your chances of getting a loan or increase the interest rate to an unreasonable number,” he says. To improve your debt-to-income ratio, try paying down your existing debts,, picking up extra work to bring in additional income or putting on your game face and asking for a raise.

Schulte also notes that, if all else fails, you could ask a family friend or family member to cosign for your loan. While this can help you get a lower interest rate and better terms, this also means your cosigner is jointly responsible for repayment.

Holiday loans versus credit cards

While a holiday loan can be a good option for consumers who need cash to cover end-of-year or holiday expenses, some consumers also turn to credit cards to meet their needs. This strategy can be advantageous since some credit cards may offer a 0 percent intro APR on purchases for 12 months or longer. But, before you decide between a holiday loan and a 0 percent intro APR credit card, it’s important to note how each one works — and the reasons one option might work better for you than the other.

If you’re considering a personal loan, know that these financial products typically have a fixed interest rate and are structured with equal payments made over a specified time period. In that respect, a personal loan may be easier to pay off in a timely manner since you know exactly when your last payment will come due.

With a credit card, on the other hand, you’ll get access to a line of credit you can use to charge purchases. Because the amount you borrow may vary, you may not know your exact monthly payment. Plus, your monthly payment will increase as you use your card to charge more purchases.

While many cards offer 0 percent intro APR on purchases for more than 12 months, your APR, or interest rate, also resets after the introductory offer is over. If you don’t pay off your balance before that happens, you could wind up paying a hefty interest rate on your balance that is higher than what you would pay on a personal loan.

Things to watch out for

While borrowing money for the holidays can make sense, that doesn’t mean this option is foolproof. There are plenty of risks that come with borrowing.

Risk #1: Borrowing without a plan

Whether you decide to take out a holiday loan or charge your holiday purchases on a credit card, Rose recommends making sure you have a clear plan for the funds you borrow and a true need, along with the ability to repay the loan.

“Also, consider the repayment timeline and total cost of the loan, including any fees, from the start to ensure you can afford the monthly payments,” he adds

Any time you borrow money, you should also make sure you’re not borrowing to buy things you can’t truly afford — or just being wasteful in general. “Around the holiday season, it can be easy to spend more than you planned,” says Rose.

If you rack up too much debt and don’t have a clear plan to pay it back, you could wind up spiraling into more and more debt or taking years to pay it all off. And obviously, more debt inevitably leads to more interest charges layered on top.

Risk #2: Too many fees

Look for personal loans that do not charge additional fees — examples of these would be origination fees and prepayment penalties.

And understand other potential traps, such as with personal loan companies that precompute interest or ask you to pay for unnecessary insurance. In a precomputed loan, the total amount of interest that you would pay during the entire term of the loan is calculated and added to the balance up front.

Risk #3: Not shopping around

Another major risk of personal loans is that you won’t take the time to shop around, Schulte says. Through his personal experience, Schulte has seen how many people wrongly assume their primary bank is the best place to get a loan — even when that’s not even close to being accurate.

“It doesn’t hurt to start with your primary bank to see what they can offer,” says Schulte. “But, failing to shop around could literally cost you thousands.”

Schulte suggests shopping around with at least three to five lenders before making a decision. Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to get multiple loan quotes online.

We recommend you shop online to find lenders without those tricks and traps. A good place to start the search is with LendingTree, MagnifyMoney’s parent company. With a short online form LendingTree will perform a soft credit pull (with no impact to your score) and match you with multiple loan offers.

Because dozens of lenders participate in LendingTree’s program, you may also find lenders willing to accept borrowers with less-than-perfect credit.

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Tips for financial success during the holidays

There are a number of things you can do throughout the year to help yourself financially when the holidays roll around, Rose says. If you’re eager to make the most of this holiday season, or at least escape the holidays with minimal financial damage, consider these suggestions:

  • Save for the holidays all year long.“If each month you put a portion of your income in a separate account designated for holiday spending, you should have a nice amount of money set aside when the season arrives,” says Rose. While it may be too late to start saving for this year’s holiday season, it’s never too early to start saving for next year.
  • Set appropriate expectations for your family.Whether you’re worried you’ll have a skimpier array of gifts under the tree or not, Rose says it’s important to have an upfront conversation with your family (spouse and children) about how many gifts they are going to receive and how much you’re going to spend. “It’s easy to get caught up in the season and start adding more and more to the pile and buying stuff you don’t need,” he says.
  • Stock up on gifts all year long.“You can also take advantage of buying gifts when retailers are having big sales,” says Rose. On Cyber Monday, you can typically get huge savings on everything from clothes to electronics. Buying in advance on these type of sales is huge, and right after this year’s holiday season can be a great time to stock up on next year’s gifts.
  • Opt out of gift exchanges.If you’re involved in multiple gift exchanges or “Secret Santa” arrangements, opting out for the year can help you save some cash. By not participating in these holiday “extras,” you can save money for the gifts that are most important.
Holly Johnson
Holly Johnson |

Holly Johnson is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Holly here

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PNC Personal Loan Review

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personal loan_lg

Updated November 08, 2017
With about 2,800 branches in 19 states and the District of Columbia, PNCis the fifth largest bank in the United States. It’s primarily located in the eastern half of the US, with most of its branches and its headquarters being in the northeast.

If you’re looking for a personal loan from a trustworthy, familiar source, PNC might be your answer. It offers an unsecured personal loan on par with most lenders, as well as a secured loan that allows up to $100,000 to be borrowed.

Most traditional banks haven’t been able to compete with online-only lenders in the personal loan space, so let’s see how PNC compares.

Personal Loan Details

PNC has three personal loan options – secured and unsecured installment loans, and a line of credit. For the purpose of this review, we’ll be focusing on the installment loans.

Most online lenders only offer unsecured loans. In case you’re not sure of the difference:

  • Secured loans require an agreement to let your creditor use your assets as collateral in the event you default on your loan. This protects the creditor as it can sell your assets and recoup the cost of the loan.
  • Unsecured loans are the exact opposite – there’s no collateral involved. There’s less risk for the borrower and more for the creditor.

While secured loans seem to take the creditor’s side, the bonus is they often have more favorable terms because creditors are taking on less risk. You may have access to better interest rates or more money.

A simple example of a secured loan is a mortgage loan. Your home (property) is used as collateral. If you don’t pay your mortgage, your mortgage lender can seize the property and sell it.

Now that you know what it means to have a secured or unsecured loan, we’ll take a look at the differences between the details.

PNC’s unsecured personal loan allows you to borrow between $1,000 and $25,000 on a variety of terms: 6 months, and 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5-year options are available.

PNC’s secured loan allows you to borrow much more – between $2,000 and $100,000. The collateral required for this loan is non-real estate (a vehicle, for example).

Both the unsecured and secured loans have fixed interest rates.

Unfortunately, you can’t check APRs or sample payments for secured loans online, and when we called, we were told they vary based on your credit. They were unable to give any APR range.

The APR for unsecured loans varies by the loan amount:

  • For a $5,000 loan, the APR ranges from 9.49% – 21.99%
  • For a $10,000 loan, the APR ranges from 6.74% – 19.24%
  • For a $15,000 loan and up, the APR ranges from 5.99% – 18.49%

A payment example: if you borrow $20,000 on a 5-year term with an APR of 7.74%, your monthly payment will be $403.04.

The Pros and Cons

Applying for a personal loan with a bank is typically a bit more time consuming than applying with an online-only lender. This is because banks are thorough with the documentation they request.

However, PNC states the application should take no longer than 15 minutes online.

Unfortunately, if you’re looking at the secured loan option, you can’t apply online. You can only apply by phone, or in person at a branch. You can apply online with the unsecured loan option.

PNC’s APRs are also quite high, especially for the loan amounts. Many online-only lenders are offering better rates starting in the 5% range.

An additional negative might be that PNC only offers fixed rates. While variable rates aren’t stable, they’re usually lower than fixed rates. If you’ll have the ability to pay the loan off soon after it’s disbursed, having the lower variable rate can be beneficial.

If you fall on hard times, there’s a possibility that PNC will allow you to defer your payments, but this is reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

PNC urges borrowers to contact the bank at the first sign of trouble – before their payment is due.

Application Process and Documents Needed to Apply

If you’re applying for an unsecured loan, you can easily apply online and be done within 15 minutes. PNC recommends having the following information ready:

  • Your photo ID
  • Annual income, plus any other sources of income you have
  • Employer information (if you’ve been working there for less than 2 years, have your previous employer information as well)
  • Address/proof of residence (if you’ve been living there for less than 2 years, have your previous address ready)
  • If you’re applying with a co-applicant, you’ll need the same information for them
  • If you’re applying for a personal loan to consolidate debt, you’ll need account statements as PNC needs to know your account number, monthly payment, and outstanding balance

PNC’s application is straightforward, and it also has a checklist available for you on the application in case you need to reference it.

PNC will use a hard credit inquiry when applying for a loan with them.

Who Qualifies for a Personal Loan With PNC?

To have the best chances of being approved for a loan with PNC, you need very good and established credit, along with a reasonable debt-to-income ratio. Your loan terms greatly depend on these two factors. Being a customer with PNC doesn’t increase your chances of getting approved.

Just a note – if you choose the secured loan and want to use your vehicle as collateral, it must be less than 8 years old and have less than 80,000 miles on it.

Who Benefits the Most from a Personal Loan With PNC?

Borrowers looking for a larger loan amount would benefit from the secured personal loan with PNC.

SoFi is the only other personal loan lender offering that much money, and while the loan is unsecured, it doesn’t have any physical locations. If you feel more secure applying in-person and receiving assistance from a trusted bank, you might prefer to go with PNC.

However, most borrowers will benefit from going elsewhere to get an unsecured personal loan.

The Fine Print

There is no prepayment penalty for either loan, so you can pay your loan in full at any time.

There’s no origination nor annual fee for the unsecured personal loan.

When called, a PNC representative wouldn’t disclose any other fees associated with the loan (late fees, returned payment fees, etc.).

Transparency

Since there is so little information on its website about the secured loan, it was important to find out as many details as we could from a call.

Unfortunately, the PNC representative that answered the call wasn’t very helpful. The most she could offer was that the loan rates and terms were dependent upon credit, and that the credit score and debt-to-income ratio of an applicant was extremely important.

When asked about late fees for the loan, she said “another department” handles that, and was unable to transfer the call to the appropriate personnel, as you need to have a loan with PNC before fees can be discussed.

This was rather disappointing. Most lenders are open to discussing these details with potential borrowers – fees can make a huge difference when considering loan options. To be one of the few lenders unwilling to discuss fees and rates beforehand kicks PNC’s transparency down a notch.

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Alternative Personal Loan Solutions

As mentioned, SoFi* is the closest competitor as it allows borrowers a maximum of $100,000 as well. The minimum you can borrow is $5,000. Most personal loan lenders have limits of around $25,000 – $35,000.

SoFi offers fixed rates and variable rates, while PNC only offers fixed rates for its installment loans. SoFi’s fixed APR ranges from 5.49% – 14.24%, and its variable APR ranges from 5.29% – 11.44%, if you’re enrolled in autopay (with a cap of 14.95%).

There are no fees associated with SoFi’s personal loan except for a late fee, which is 4% of the amount due or $5 – whichever is less.

You can borrow funds on 3, 5, or 7-year terms, and personal loans are available in 46 states, including the District of Columbia.

SoFi also offers unemployment protection. If you lose your job through no fault of your own, you can apply for payment assistance.

SoFi uses a soft credit inquiry when you first apply to get your rates, which means your credit score won’t be affected. If you choose to move forward with the loan, a hard credit inquiry will be used.

SoFi

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If you’re looking for good alternatives to PNC’s unsecured loan, take a look at Earnest. You can borrow between $2,000 and $50,000 on a 1, 2, or 3-year term.

There are no hidden fees associated with Earnest’s personal loan, and it’s offered in 23 states plus the District of Columbia.

You’ll need a minimum credit score of 720 to be eligible for approval with Earnest, and a minimum of 700 to be approved with SoFi, but both lenders take other factors into account, unlike PNC. Your employment history, education, and salary matter as well.

*referral link

It Pays to Shop Around

While it would be convenient to have the first lender you apply with be the best solution, that’s not always the case, even with a trusted lender like PNC. Personal loans from bigger banks are falling by the wayside as online-lenders are offering much better rates and terms. Do yourself a favor and shop around to get the best rates, even if you have a prior relationship with the bigger names out there. If you shop around within a 30-day window, your credit won’t take a big hit.

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Erin Millard
Erin Millard |

Erin Millard is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Erin at erinm@magnifymoney.com

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Top 4 Personal Loans for an Engagement Ring

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Engagement ring

Updated November 08, 2017
Getting engaged is an exciting yet nerve-wracking milestone. You’re eager for your partner to say “yes” and hoping she’s impressed by what she sees when you open the box.

The best way to afford the ring of her dreams is planning early and saving up. Financing an engagement ring should be your absolute last resort. After all, there are other larger expenses that come after marriage including moving, buying a home or starting a family that you could spend that money on instead.

Still, if you decide financing is right for you, here are a few personal loans that provide funds for engagement rings:

Earnest

Rates from 5.25% APR

Earnest has the lowest interest rate of the loans on our list and no origination fee. Loan terms are 1, 2 and 3 years. Earnest will lend you $2,000 to $50,000. Other than your credit score, Earnest will look at your income, education, earning potential and other factors to decide if you’re eligible for the loan. There’s no origination fee and no prepayment penalty. There is, however, a hard pull of your credit report.

Earnest could be a good option if you have limited credit history, but an offer letter or current position that pays you more than enough money to cover loan payments. After submitting an application, you’ll get a response within 2 business days.

LendingClub

Rates from 5.99% APR

LendingClub is a peer-to-peer loan marketplace where people who need to borrow money are matched up with investors. You can get a loan for up to 5 years. You can borrow up to $40,000. The origination fee is 1% to 6%. Your origination fee is assigned based on your credit profile. The higher your credit score the less you’ll pay for origination. You can check to see if you’re approved and your rate without harming your credit score.

After applying for LendingClub, peer investors will see your profile in the marketplace and hopefully fund your loan. Once your loan is funded by investors and your application documents check out, you’ll get the money wired to your account.

To get the very best rates through LendingClub you’ll need an excellent credit history, low debt-to-income ratio and a high credit score among other factors.

LendingClub loans are not available in Iowa or West Virginia.

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Karrot

Karrot is not currently offering new loans. Should you have an outstanding loan, Karrot states they are still servicing those loans.

Karrot gives out personal loans from $5,000 to $35,000. Loan terms range from 3 to 5 years. The loan has an origination fee of 1.05% to 4.75% that’s non-refundable and deducted from the loan upfront. Karrot doesn’t charge prepayment penalties. Other than origination, fees will only come into play if you skip out on a payment, have a check returned or request copies of your loan documents.

Shopping for loan rates on the site won’t ding your credit score. Karrot doesn’t go into specifics about the credit score you need to qualify, but you do need to at least have a credit history and a bank account to verify your income.

Prosper

Rates from 5.99% APR

You can borrow as little as $2,000 and up to $35,000 from Prosper, another peer-to-peer lending marketplace. Loan terms are 3 and 5 years. Prosper loans have a 1% to 5% origination fee, but no prepayment penalties.

At a minimum, you must have a 640 FICO score to qualify for Prosper. You also need to have a debt-to-income ratio less than 50%. Shopping for rates with Prosper won’t impact your credit score either.

Honorable Mention – LendingKarma

LendingKarma isn’t a lender. Instead, it’s a site that manages loans between people who know each other. As a rule of thumb, you should avoid borrowing or lending money to friends and family since involving money in relationships tends to cause drama.

But, if someone you know agrees to help out and you’re both on the same page, LendingKarma can make your life easier. LendingKarma takes care of the logistics of borrowing including the contract, payment schedule and friendly reminders. The fee for contract administration is paid one time and $50 to $100 per loan.

Final Thought

Financing an engagement ring is not something we recommend. It’s just not worth going into debt over. Explore all of your options instead. Here are a few:

  • Get what you can afford in cash now and upgrade when you have more money.
  • Try unclaimed diamond and discount jewelry stores to get a deal.
  • Skip the diamond altogether for gems that are a little more affordable like amethyst or sapphire. These gems are popular now anyway.
  • Buy a stone similar to a diamond like moissanite or a replica until you can get a real one. If you choose a “fake” starter ring, make the decision as a couple. You don’t want her to find out from another source that her ring isn’t a true diamond.

At the end of the day, an engagement ring is supposed to symbolize commitment. Sadly in some ways it’s morphed into a symbol of status. That doesn’t mean you should feel pressured to get a ring (or ask for a ring) you can’t afford. Do what’s best for you.

Taylor Gordon
Taylor Gordon |

Taylor Gordon is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Taylor at taylor@magnifymoney.com

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Marcus Personal Loan Review: Goldman Sachs Takes on Online Lenders with Exclusive New Loan

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Updated November 06, 2017

This offer is temporarily unavailable.

Goldman Sachs officially made its debut in the personal lending market this week with Marcus, its long-awaited online lending platform. With Marcus, the 147-year-old investment bank will offer consolidation loans up to $30,000 to credit-worthy consumers.

Goldman Sachs began to expand its audience from the super-wealthy to the average consumer earlier this year when it launched an online savings account with a super low $1 deposit. Named for founder Marcus Goldman, Marcus will offer the average American a way to “save money over high-interest credit cards,” the company says. If this works for the megabank, it could lead to similar changes in the industry, challenging the dominance of credit card issuers.

Another reason this is a big deal: Goldman has a big advantage over Silicon Valley competitors when it comes to funding. As a deposit-gathering bank, Goldman can raise FDIC-insured deposits. But Goldman also has deep relationships with institutional investors who might want to purchase consumer loans. Companies like Prosper use Goldman to help them fund their loans: now Goldman will be competing with its own customers. Plus it has the power of a well-established brand behind it. Marcus could be a major disrupter for developing online personal loan businesses.

In this Marcus by Goldman Sachs review, we will explain:

  • Who’s eligible for a Marcus loan
  • How to see if you’re prequalified
  • How to apply, how long it will take, and what documents you will need
  • The terms of the loan offers
  • Pros and cons

Who’s Eligible for a Marcus Loan

First you need the “secret” code

Marcus is super exclusive right now. You can only apply if you got a special code in the mail from the firm inviting you to use it. The bank says it’s doing that to get feedback on the service for now, but will offer Marcus to a broader audience in a few months. If you don’t have a code, you can sign up to be the first to know when Marcus expands its service. Also, you can’t apply just yet if you live in Maryland, but the bank says they are working on it.

So, if you received a code in the mail, and you live in one of the qualifying 49 states, you can go to Marcus.com and apply to see your offers for loan amounts and interest rates. The rate you get (6.99% – 23.99%) will depend on your creditworthiness and the length of the term of the loan. The fintech firm bases the amount of your loan offer on your creditworthiness, information in your application, and the company’s review of your ability to pay back the loan.

Healthy credit

Goldman says they are looking to service consumers with “prime” credit scores. That distinction usually lands someone at about 660 or higher on the FICO scale. The higher your credit score, the better your chance of being approved.

Having too many recent credit inquiries on your credit report could raise a red flag to their underwriters. Note: A soft pull, like the one used by Marcus to prequalify, will not count as a hard inquiry on your credit report. Although not reported, we expect that Marcus will have credit policy requirements on top of the credit score minimum. For example, people who have missed payments recently will likely be rejected, regardless of their credit score. Marcus will be a way for people with good credit scores to get a lower interest rate.

Debt-to-income ratio under 40%

You can get denied if your debt-to-income ratio is too high. For example, if your total monthly payments (including rent/mortgage and all items on your credit bureau) are more than 40% of your income, you would likely be denied.

If it’s above 50%, you might have a hard time getting approved for credit by most lenders. The ratio is calculated with the monthly payments that show up on your credit report, and other debt that shows up on your bureau. If your total monthly bills are $500, and your total monthly income is $2,500, you would have a 20% debt-to-income ratio.

A job

You must be employed and be able to verify your income to get approved for a Marcus loan.

Marcus will also consider other factors in your loan application, such as your intended use of the loan, to determine how much you’ll be offered. The bank will likely have its own combination of rules and scoring to determine your final offer.

How to See if You’re Prequalified

If you want to avoid a hard pull on your credit report, see if you prequalify for a Marcus Loan here. It is considered a soft pull on your credit and won’t harm your score. Later on in the process — if you decide to get the loan — you’ll get a hard pull on your credit score.

How to Apply

The Marcus site’s layout makes it super easy to apply for a personal loan. Of course, the first step would be inputting that special code you got in the mail. After that, it’s similar to other loan applications.

Step 1: The basics

First up, fill out the basic information in the online application. You’ll be prompted to fill out basic personal and financial information such as your name, address, income, etc. to determine if you qualify. You’ll also be asked for information about how much you’d like to borrow, what you’ll use the money for, among other questions about the loan. The soft pull occurs after you submit that information.

online application for personal loan

Step 2: Choose from your offers

If you qualify for a Marcus loan based on the information you submitted, you’ll be presented with a list of options for loans, rates, and terms.

Step 3: Submit

If you decide to proceed with the loan, you then have to complete a few more steps. At that point, you’ll add information to verify your identity such as your full Social Security or tax I.D. number or be asked for government-issued photo identification and additional information as necessary. Marcus might also ask for documents to verify your income such as recent pay stubs, bank statements, or a W2. This is when the hard pull happens, which will impact your credit score.

screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-3-06-06-pm

Terms

Marcus offers debt consolidation and credit consolidation loans up to $30,000 with an annual percentage rate (APR) that can be low as 6.99% and as high as 23.99%.

You can borrow the money for 2 to 6 years.

There are no fees, and your rate will be fixed for the life of the loan.

You can use a debt consolidation loan to pay off credit card debt, medical bills, or financed purchases such as rings, cars, or furniture. You cannot use a Marcus loan to refinance an existing student loan.

Pros & Cons of Marcus

Pros:

No origination fee. Because Marcus forgoes an origination fee — a fee you’d pay to receive the loan— the APR is your interest rate, even if you pay it off before the full term has expired. That’s unlike competitors like Lending Club and others that charge origination fees. If you pay an origination fee and end up paying off the loan ahead of time, your actual APR will be higher than stated.

No late fees. If you miss a payment, you won’t be charged a fee, but you will add on to the life of the loan and add more interest, and your final payment will be larger. This doesn’t save you from hurting your credit score, however. Your late payments will be reported to a credit agency, and will negatively impact your score. Eventually, after missed, partial, or late payments, your loan may default, and that will also impact your credit score.

Defer payments after a year of good behavior. If you’ve made payments on time for a full year, Marcus gives you the option to defer one payment. Marcus will also waive your interest payment for that month. The payment will extend your loan by one month, at which point you’ll pay the interest on it. If you miss a payment or make one late payment, you will lose access to the payment deferral feature for the life of your loan.

Cons:

Marcus is exclusive. At this point, Marcus is extremely exclusive, so you need to be invited to use it to try it out and see if you qualify. You also can’t sign up for it if you live in Maryland.

Lower APR with a balance transfer card. If your goal is to pay down credit card debt, you might be able to find a low or 0% APR balance transfer card and pay less overall. If you don’t have much debt, a balance transfer may be a better option.

Lower APR with SoFi and LightStream. If you want a personal loan without an origination fee, there are other options. SoFi and LightStream do not charge origination fees. They also offer APRs as low as 5.49% and 2.49%, respectively, and both top out around 15% on the high end compared to 22.9% with Marcus. With SoFi, you can check your rate without hurting your credit score. Just be warned: LightStream (which is a division of SunTrust Bank) does not offer soft pull functionality.

Make sure to compare your offer from Marcus with offers from SoFi and LightStream, as you could possibly end up with a lower APR overall. The downsides here would be that LightStream requires a minimum 680 FICO score, so it could be a bit more difficult to qualify for a loan. They also use a hard pull to determine your eligibility. Also, SoFi might take longer than the speedy 1-2 business days that Marcus promises to get your money to you since they have to connect you with other individuals.

Don’t get distracted by “no fees.” It’s easy to get pulled in by the promise of “no fees, ever,” but you should definitely still shop around because you might find a lower rate or better terms.

Several alternatives to Marcus exist to apply for a personal loan. We have compiled a list of the best personal loan companies here.

Every personal loan company has its own pricing model, which means you could get very different interest rates from different companies. It is in your best interest to shop around for the best rate before making a decision.

Some of the best alternatives today include SoFi and LightStream because of the many reasons mentioned above. Competitors such as Santander, Discover, and Best Egg or credit unions like SAFE Credit Union and Affinity, may give you a better offer as well depending on the information you provide. Some may have an origination fee, but use a lower credit score threshold to qualify applicants, or they might offer you a better APR.

Final verdict:

We believe that the growth of personal loans is great news for consumers. For people drowning in high-interest credit card debt, a low rate on a structured personal loan could offer significant savings. Marcus is good news for consumers. Goldman Sachs is using its access to low-cost funding as a way to challenge the big credit card companies. Their no-fee, low-interest rate loan could be a great way for consumers to consolidate debt. Unfortunately, it’s pretty difficult to gain access to the platform right now since it’s so exclusive, but we expect that to expand over time.

You can learn more about us and how we make money here.

Brittney Laryea
Brittney Laryea |

Brittney Laryea is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brittney at brittney@magnifymoney.com

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Personal Loans

Getting Loans from Someone Other than a Bank

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Getting Loans from Other Bank

Updated November 06, 2017

Personal loans allow borrowers to have access to a fixed amount of money at a fixed interest rate, with a fixed monthly payment and you know when you’ll have completely paid off the loan. They are a great resource for someone looking to refinance debt and can’t use a balance transfer. If you need cash, personal loans are usually the best way to borrow. Personal loans tend to be much cheaper and simpler than a credit card.

How to get a personal loan?

Step 1: Check and see if you can get a loan with an Internet-only lender.

Ideally, you should start your shopping with a site like LendingTree, which lets you shop at dozens of lenders with just one simple online form (described below). LendingTree is the parent company of MagnifyMoney.

Step 2: Go to your local credit union and see if they can match or beat your P2P loan

Step 3: Take the loan with the lower interest rate

If you aren’t eligible for a P2P loan from an Internet-only lender then try your local credit union.

Internet-only lenders

The rise of technology allowed a new wave of lenders to offer an alternative to traditional bank loans. Peer-to-Peer lending (or P2P for short) allows borrowers to receive loans from “peers” often in the form of individual investors or hedge funds, endowments and pension funds.

Peer-to-peer loans are interesting because they were developed specifically for the digital environment. This makes them accessible with a few clicks on a computer and a relatively simple application process. Companies like Prosper, LendingClub and Upstart facilitate matching borrowers with investors. There is no need to visit a bank branch. The aim of P2P lending is to give a borrower lower interest rates while giving investors higher returns.

Interestingly, some big banks have acquired or built their own online lenders which are offering consumers even better rates. SunTrust has done that with the acquisition of LightStream, and Goldman Sachs has recently invested in building Marcus.

Step 1: Shop Online for a Personal Loan (without hurting your score)

[Disclosure: LendingTree is the parent company of MagnifyMoney.] At LendingTreee, you can shop for a loan at dozens of lenders with just one online form (that takes less than 5 minutes to complete). LendingTree will perform a soft credit pull (with no impact to your score), and you can get real offers – including how much you can borrow and the interest rate. We think this is one of the best places to start your personal loan shopping journey.

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LightStream*

Pro:

  • If you have excellent credit, LightStream offers some of the lowest interest rates in the market. Rates start as low as 2.49% (to finance an auto) and 5.49% (to refinance credit card debt).
  • You can get the money by the next business day. This is a remarkably fast process.
  • LightStream has a rate match promise: if you find a lower interest rate somewhere else, they will match it.
  • There is no pre-payment penalty and no origination fee.

Con:

  • You must have excellent credit to qualify.
  • LightStream does not have “soft pull” functionality. If you apply for a loan, there will be a hard inquiry on your credit report.

LendingClub*

Pro

  • Their interest rates are most likely lower than other loans with an APR range of 5.99% to 35.89%.
  • You can find out your interest rate without a hard inquiry on your credit score. Prosper uses a “soft pull” so there will be no point reductions on your credit score, nor an inquiry left on your report for finding out the interest rate.
  • There is no pre-payment penalty(fine if you pay off the loan early), but they won’t refund your loan fee.

Con:

  • You must have a high credit score (600 or higher) to be eligible to get a personal loan from LendingClub.
  • You probably won’t be accepted if you have a history of missed payments.
  • There is an upfront fee, but your APR will include the fee. Be sure to compare the APR and not just the interest rate when you’re shopping around.

Upstart*

People with minimal credit history can turn to Upstart for an opportunity to be eligible for a personal loan.

Upstart evaluates where you went to school, your area of study, your grades and employment history to determine your eligibility for a loan and your interest rate.

Step 2: Credit Unions

Credit unions are not-for-profit organizations that offer alternatives to traditional banks. They have more of an emphasis on serving their community than worrying about a corporation’s bottom line. Unlike banks, credit union members own the credit unions.

Credit unions do offer loans, but first you must become a member of the credit union. Some credit unions are closed. But others (like PenFed) will let you join if you make a $15 donation to a charity.

Pros

  • Loans from a credit union usually have lower interest rates than a bank, and possibly the lowest you can find.

Cons

  • You will need to join a credit union, and may not qualify for a loan so you could be out the cost to join.

PenFed offers a 9.99%-14.99% interest rate with no upfront fee for a term of five years. However, you will need to have a 700+ credit score to be competitive for this personal loan.

Non-bank lenders

OneMain is a non-bank lender owned by Citigroup. You will have to physically visit a branch to get approved. But, the process usually takes less than 30 minutes. Borrowers with high credit scores should first explore the P2P space and credit unions before turning to OneMain, because it will be a more expensive form of borrowing.

Pros:

  • If having face-to-face contact is important to you, then you can visit physical branches.
  • OneMain will approve people with credit scores as low as 550, so it is possible to get a loan when other reject you. Although expensive, OneMain will be much less expensive than payday loans or title loans.

Cons:

  • You have to visit a branch, even if you’re preapproved online. If you don’t have a branch near you, this could be a serious hassle.
  • There will be a hard inquiry on your credit report
  • Likely higher interests rates (APRs) than a loan from P2P lenders like Prosper or LendingClub
  • A few complex terms and conditions

Warning:

  • Don’t bother with the insurance products they’ll try to sell you.

Step 3: Take the Lowest Interest Rate

Personal loans can be valuable tools to help pay down debt, reduce interest rates and save you hundreds to thousands of dollars. But remember; don’t rush into a personal loan just because it seems like a good deal. Take the time to do your research, shop around and ensure your getting the absolute best interest rate you can. Even the difference of .01 can make a difference in the long run.

Read where to find the best personal loan rates online here.

Erin Lowry
Erin Lowry |

Erin Lowry is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Erin at erin@magnifymoney.com

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