Personal Loans

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

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SoFi Review: Personal & Student Loans

Updated February 9, 2017

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.

Student Loan Refinance (Skip Ahead for Personal Loans)

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 3.38% – 6.74%, and variable APRs range from 2.36% – 6.28%. 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, 7, 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.

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.

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

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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Details on SoFi’s Personal Loan

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 5.70% 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 4.78% – 10.88% 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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What Does It Take to Get Approved?

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.

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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.

All About SoFi

You can trust SoFi. They are 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 has been 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.

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Investing, Personal Loans

Earnest: Personal & Student Loans for Responsible Individuals with Limited Credit History

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Earnest - Personal & Student Loans for Responsible Individuals with Limited Credit History

Updated January 24, 2016

Earnest is anything but a traditional lender for unsecured personal loans and student loans. They offer merit-based loans instead of credit-based loans, which is good news for anyone just starting to establish credit. Their goal is to lend to borrowers who show signs of being financially responsible. Earnest is working to redefine credit-worthiness by taking into account much more than just your score.

They have a thorough application process, but it’s for good reason – they consider different variables and data points (such as employment history, education, and overall financial situation) that traditional lenders don’t.

Earnest*, unlike traditional lenders, says their underwriting team looks to the future to predict what your finances will look like, based upon the previously mentioned variables. They don’t place as much emphasis on your past, which is why a minimal credit history is okay.

Additionally, as their underwriting process is so thorough, Earnest doesn’t take on as much risk as traditional lenders do. With their focus on the financial responsibility level of the borrower, they have less defaults and fraud, which allows them to offer some of the lowest APRs on unsecured personal loans.

Personal Loan (Scroll Down for Student Loan Refinance)

Earnest offers up to $50,000 for as long as three years, and their APR starts at a fixed-rate of 5.25% and goes up to 12.00%. They claim that’s lower than any other lender of their type out there, and if you receive a better quote elsewhere; they encourage you to contact them.

Typical loan structure

How does this look on paper? If you needed to borrow $20,000, your estimated monthly payment would be $599-$638 on a three- year loan, $873-$911 on a two- year loan, and $1,705-$1,744 on a one-year loan. According to their website, the best available APR is on a one-year loan.

Not available everywhere

Earnest is available in the following 36 states (they are increasing the number of states regularly, and we keep this updated): Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Washington D.C., West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Get on LinkedIn

Earnest no longer requires that you have a LinkedIn profile. However, if you do have a LinkedIn profile, the application process becomes a lot faster. When you fill out the application, your education and employment history will automatically be filled in from your LinkedIn profile.

What Earnest Looks for in a Borrower

Earnest AppEarnest wants to lend to those who know how to manage and control their finances. They want borrowers to know the importance of saving, living below their means, using credit wisely, making timely payments, and avoiding fees.

They look at salary, savings, debt to income ratio, and cash flow. They want borrowers with low credit utilization – not those maxing out their credit cards and experiencing difficulty in paying.

Borrowers must be over 18 years old and have a solid education background. Ideally, they attended college or graduate school, have a degree, and have a history of consistent employment, or at least a job offer that gives them the opportunity to grow.

Overall, Earnest wants to make sure borrowers are taking their future as seriously as they are. After all, they’re investing in it! The team at Earnest knows that money often holds people back when it comes to being able to achieve their dreams and goals, and they’re all about helping borrowers get there.

For that reason, Earnest seeks to learn more about those that apply for loans with them. They review every line of your application, and they want to develop a lifelong relationship with their borrowers. They genuinely want to help and see their borrowers succeed.

The Fine Print – Are There Any Fees?

Earnest actually doesn’t charge any fees. There are no late fees, no origination fees, and no hidden fees.

There’s also no penalty for prepaying loans with Earnest – they encourage borrowers to prepay to reduce the amount of interest they’ll pay over the life of the loan.

Earnest states that one of its values is transparency (and of course, here at MagnifyMoney, that’s one of ours as well!), and they are willing to work with borrowers who are struggling to make payments.

Hala Baig, a member of Earnest’s Client Happiness team, says, “We would work with the client to make accommodations that are appropriate to help them through their situation.”

She also notes that if borrowers are late on payments, they do report the status of loans on a monthly basis.

What You Can Do With the Money

The $30,000 loan limit is enough to pay off debt such as an undergraduate student loan, medical debt, or consumer debt, relocate for a job, improve your home or rental property, help you fund a down payment, or further invest in your education.

Earnest’s APR is much, much better than you’ll receive on many credit cards, and it could be a viable way to decrease the burden of debt you’re currently experiencing.

Earnest logo 1

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The Personal Loan Application Process

Earnest does a hard inquiry upon completion of the application. They’re very open about this on their website, stating that hard inquiries remain on credit reports for two years, and may slightly lower your credit score for a short period of time.

Compared to Upstart, their application process is more involved, but that’s to the benefit of the borrower. They aim to underwrite files and make a decision within 7 business days – it’s not instantaneous.

However, once you accept a loan from Earnest and input your bank information, they’ll transfer the money the next day via ACH, so the money will be in your account within 3 days.

Student Loan Refinance

When refinancing with Earnest, you can refinance both private and federal student loans.

The minimum amount to refinance is $5,000 – there’s no specific cap on the maximum you can refinance.

We encourage you to shop around. Earnest is one of the best options, but there are others. You can see the best options to refinance your student loans here.

Earnest offers loans up to 20 years. Unlike other lenders, Earnest allows borrowers to create their own term based on the minimum monthly payment you’re comfortable making. Yes, you can actually choose your monthly payment, which means the loan can be customized to your needs. Loan terms start at 5 months, and you can change that term later if needed.

You can also switch between variable and fixed rates freely – there’s no charge. (Note that variable rates are not offered in IL, MI, MN, OR, and TN. Earnest isn’t in all 50 states yet, either.)

Fixed APRs range from 3.75% to 6.74%, and variable APRs range from 2.55% to 6.03% (this is with a .25% autopay discount).

If you refinance $25,000 on a 10 year term with an APR of 5.75%, your monthly payment will be $274.42.

The Pros and Cons of Earnest’s Student Loan Refinance Program

Similar to SoFi, Earnest offers unemployment protection should you lose your job. That means you can defer payments for three months at a time, up to a total of twelve months over the life of your loan. Interest still accrues, though.

The flexibility offered from being able to switch between fixed and variable rates is a great benefit to have should you experience a change in your financial situation.

As you can see from above, variable rates are much lower than fixed rates. Of course, the only problem is those rates change over time, and they can grow to become unmanageable if you take a while to pay off your loan.

Having the option to switch makes your student loan payments easier to manage. If you can afford to pay off your loans quickly, you’ll benefit from the low variable rate. If you have to take it slow and need stability because you lost a source of income, you can switch to a fixed rate. Note that switching can only take place once every 6 months.

Earnest also lets borrowers skip one payment every 12 months (after making on-time payments for 6 months). Just note this does raise your monthly payment to adjust for the skipped payment.

Beyond that, Earnest encourages borrowers to contact a representative if they’re experiencing financial hardship. Earnest is committed to working with borrowers to make their loans as manageable as possible, even if that means temporary forbearance or restructuring the loan.

Lastly, if you need to lower your monthly payment, you can apply to refinance again. This entails Earnest taking another look at your terms and seeing if it can give you a better quote.

Who Qualifies to Refinance Student Loans With Earnest?

Earnest doesn’t have a laundry list of eligibility requirements. Simply put, it’s looking to lend to financially responsible people that have a reasonable ability to pay their loans back.

Earnest describes its ideal candidate as someone who:

  • Is employed, or at least has a job offer
  • Is at least 18 years old
  • Has a positive bank balance consistently
  • Has enough in savings to cover a month or more of regular expenses
  • Lives in AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, FL, GA, HI, IL, IN, KS, MA, MD, MI, MN, NC, NE, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OR, PA, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, Washington D.C., and WI
  • Has a history of making timely payments on loans
  • Has an income that can support their debt and routine living expenses
  • Has graduated from a Title IV accredited school

If you think you need a little help to qualify, Earnest does accept co-signers – you just have to contact a representative via email first.

Application Process and Documents Needed to Refinance

Earnest has a straightforward application process. You can start by receiving the rates you’re eligible for in just 2 minutes. This won’t affect your credit, either. However, this initial soft pull is used to estimate your rates – if you choose to move forward with the terms offered to you, you’ll be subject to a hard credit inquiry, and your rates may change.

Filling out the entire application takes about 15 minutes. You’ll be asked to provide personal information, education history, employment history, and financial history. Earnest takes all of this into account when making the decision to lend to you.

The Fine Print for Student Loan Refinance

There aren’t any hidden fees – no origination, prepayment, or hidden fees exist. Earnest makes it clear its profits come from interest.

There are also no late fees, but if you get behind in payments, the status of your loan will be reported to the credit bureaus.

Earnest logo

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Who Benefits the Most from Earnest

Those in their 20s and 30s who have a good grip on their finances and are just getting started with their careers will make great borrowers. If you’re dedicated to experiencing financial success once you earn enough money to actually achieve it, you should look into a loan with Earnest.

If you have a history of late payments, being disorganized with your money, or letting things slip through the cracks, then you’re going to have a more difficult time getting a loan.

Amazing credit score not required

You don’t necessarily need to have the most amazing credit score, but your track record with money thus far will speak volumes about how you’re going to handle the money loaned from Earnest. That’s what they will be the most concerned about.

What makes you looks responsible?

Baig gives a better picture, stating, “We are focused on offering better loan alternatives to financially responsible people. We believe the vast majority of people are financially responsible and that reviewing applications based strictly on credit history never shows the full picture. One example would be saving money in a 401k or IRA. That would not appear on your credit history, but is a great signal to us that someone is financially responsible.”

Conclusion

Overall, it’s very clear that Earnest wants to help their borrowers as much as possible. Throughout their website, they take time to explain everything involved with the loan process. Their priority is educating their borrowers.

While Earnest does have a nice starting APR at 4.25%, remember to take advantage of the other lenders out there and shop around. You are never obligated to take a loan once you receive a quote, and it’s important to do your due diligence and make sure you’re getting the best rates out there. If you do find better rates, be sure to notify Earnest. Otherwise, compare rates with as many lenders as possible.

Shopping around within the span of 45 days isn’t going to make a huge dent in your credit; the bureaus understand you’re doing what you need to do to secure the best loan possible. Just make sure you’re not applying to different lenders once a month, and your credit will be okay.

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Auto Loan, Featured, Personal Loans

5 Things You Should Do Before You Buy a Car

Advertiser Disclosure

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.

When it comes to buying a car, whether used or new, the real work should happen before you even set foot on the lot. Taking the time to go through a few crucial steps will make your time at the dealership a breeze. To top that, a few pre-checks could save you money, time, and the hassle of dealing with a bad auto purchase in the future.

When you finally get to the dealership, Jack Nerad, executive market analyst at Kelley Blue Book, says it will pay off to come with a price in mind and all of the legwork done. The salesperson is going to ask you questions like what you’re looking for, how soon you’re going to buy, if you’ve looked at other dealerships, and what you do for a living, because they want some sense that they aren’t wasting their time with you.

“Demonstrate to them in your answers that you know about your own finances and that you know largely what you want in terms of a vehicle, and it will go pretty well for you,” says Nerad.

 

Step 1: Set a budget

When you get to the lot you should already know your credit score and how much you can afford for a car. Make sure to set a budget, and stay under your budget if you can. Unless you’re paying cash for your car, you’ll likely finance or lease your vehicle, so you should figure out how much you can afford in a monthly payment. Generally, all your monthly debt payments — credit cards, auto loans, student loans, and mortgage — should not exceed 50% of your monthly income.

Outside of the value of the car, you should budget for the taxes and any other one-time costs such as title fees and dealer fees. It could also be beneficial to create some space in your personal budget for costs such as gas and insurance. You may also want to open an alternate savings account to allocate separate funds to recurring costs such as ongoing maintenance, car insurance, and any future repairs.

“They are going to try to sell you more stuff like the insurance, treatments, etc. Most of that stuff is not worth nearly what they are selling it to you for,” says Nerad. “It could hurt the deal that you’ve worked hard to get. Just say no to most of it or do it aware of the financing.”

Don’t forget to weigh your savings options. Consider putting down a larger down payment if you can. If you won’t need it anymore, selling or trading in your current vehicle can help you come up with extra funds for a down payment. You could also consider a less-expensive vehicle, cut back on the add-ons and features, or improve your credit score, to save on the overall cost of the vehicle.

Step 2: Get pre-approved for financing

Shopping for an auto loan is another tedious process, but you should have already completed the first step in setting your budget.

Your next step will be to shop for the best used-auto loan rates and get pre-approved for the best offer for which you are eligible. What’s better, you won’t need to leave your computer to shop for an auto loan. A growing number of online-only banks, such as LightStream, PenFed, and Capital One, offer competitive interest rates on auto loans. Your best bet is to get pre-approved for financing before you get to the dealership. Coupled with your budget, getting pre-approved will help you have an idea of what your monthly payment will be.

When shopping online for a used-auto loan, the application process will look like that of a brick-and-mortar bank, but more streamlined. You should have the following information at hand:

Your contact information: Name, address, phone number, email address

Vehicle information (if known — required for lenders that do not offer online pre-approval): Make, model, mileage, VIN, dealership information

Your financial information: Employment information, gross income, and expenses

While you’re at the dealership, negotiate the price of the car before telling the salesperson that you are approved for financing. When the salesperson tries to get you to finance the purchase through the dealership’s affiliated lender, you can show them your pre-approved financing offer. There is a good chance they will try to beat your pre-approved offer, which could save you thousands of dollars in interest over the life of the loan. If they can’t beat it, you’ve already found your lowest rate and can continue your vehicle purchase.

Step 3: Choose your vehicle

Research and make a decision regarding what kind of car you want. You can use websites like Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds, and TrueCar to figure out a fair purchase price.

During your search keep in mind all of the specifications that are most important to you. You should think about how you intend to use the vehicle, not just how cool you’ll look in it. If you have a long commute to work, fuel economy may be important to you. If you have small children, having enough space for a car seat could possibly weigh in your options. If you live in the city, you might want to consider how much parking parking space you’ll have access to. Get the picture? A few other considerations:

Do you want a new car or a used vehicle?

Do you want to lease or purchase?

Do you need all-wheel drive?

Do you need a lot of cargo capacity?

How many passengers do you need to carry?

What type of driving do you do: highway, surface streets, off-road?

What safety features are important to you?

Will you drive in ice and snow?

Will you be doing any towing?

Again, think about what you need in addition to what you want.

When it comes to add-ons, remember anything you add — line items such as tire treatments, insurance, etc. — will be factored into the total purchase price and financing. The salesperson at the dealership may try to get you to purchase more than you bargained for, so come in knowing what you want to add on and where your line is drawn in your budget.

Step 4: Pick the right dealership

Next, you should find out who has the car you want within your budget. Back in the day, you would have combed through newspaper advertisements or had to visit several dealerships in person to see the cars you’re interested in. Now, with the internet, you can view multiple cars at several dealerships in your area and set filters to make sure they have what you want, for the price you want.

“More often than not the sales process is going to depend on the dealership and training of the salespeople there. If you come in knowledgeable, then you are going to be in a way better position,” says Katherine Hutt, director of communications at the Better Business Bureau.

After you get a healthy list of the dealerships in your area that have the car you want, you should check out their ratings on the Better Business Bureau website. Search for auto dealers in your area to find out which ones are BBB accredited, then look at the company’s profile to see if and why they have had any complaints filed against them.

Checking the dealerships for any serious complaints regarding their sales tactics or a negative rating will help you decide which ones are worth visiting.

Step 5: Run a background check on the car you want

Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety (CARS) is a consumer advocacy group for the auto industry best known for leading the nationwide adoption of the lemon law, which entitles consumers to reimbursement or compensation if they are sold a vehicle that fails to perform as it was expected to within a certain amount of time.

Founder Rosemary Shahan encourages consumers to check the vehicle’s background by getting a vehicle history report through resources such as the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, CARFAX, and AutoCheck.

In the vehicle history report you should check…

Name and description

Check the name and description that pops up to make sure the car you are looking at is the same as the car in the report. This will help you avoid VIN cloning, a type of vehicle fraud that involves using a VIN from another registered car and putting it on a stolen or similar vehicle, as well as other forms of vehicle fraud. Check for the name, color, and even details like the engine type to make sure you have the right car.

Number of owners

The number of owners a vehicle has had should be weighed cautiously in your consideration. You can’t be sure that each owner was a responsible and caring car owner like you, but the chance that the car has had a bad owner rises with the number of owners it has had. However, there is no magic number of owners that will disqualify a used car. Overall, you should place more import on the vehicle’s mechanical condition and how it has been cared for than on the number of owners it’s had.

Routine maintenance

Check to see that the car was regularly serviced. If it was, it will usually last longer and may be more expensive in general. The details about the vehicle’s maintenance may also help you answer any questions you may have about its repairs or servicing. If you know where its other owners took it for servicing, you can call up those locations and ask them if they can clear up anything that concerns you.

Anything suspicious

Be sure to ask about records that don’t quite line up. For example, if you see any records of body work but no reported incident, you should look into why the vehicle got work done. It’s not often that owners want a new side door and coat of paint just to spruce up the vehicle. It’s more likely that there may have been an accident that prompted the body work.

Finally, have the car looked at by an unaffiliated mechanic before buying no matter who you choose to purchase from. You can use a resource like Car Talk to find a mechanic in your area.
When you’ve checked off these steps, pay attention to what the salesperson tells you to make sure you get the best deal.

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Personal Loans

Where to Get the Best Personal Loan Rates Online

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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 January 3, 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. You can apply to each personal loan company separately, or use the tool created by MagnifyMoney to do it all at once.

Some personal loan providers let you check the rate you’ll get without impacting your score, unlike credit cards.

They’ll do a ‘soft pull’ with your Social Security Number so your best plan is to give your information to several of them and see who gives you the best rate. You can use our new personal loan tool to compare interest rates from multiple companies at once, or start by inputting your information below:

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Once you get rates, put them in our Balance Transfer vs Personal Loan calculator to see how they compare on interest paid and time to paying off your debt.

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

SofiSoFi 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: 5.70% -14.24%, fixed, with AutoPay. You can also select a variable interest rate. With AutoPay, the variable rates are from 4.77% – 10.87%. 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

bestegg11BestEgg 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

Apply Now

Lightstream

lightstream2Lightstream 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 1.99% 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 3.99%, 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 4.19%. The highest rate is 14.49%. Just beware: LightStream does a hard credit pull.

Upfront fee: None

Amount: $5,000 – $100,000

Period: 2 – 7 years

Available states: All

Apply Now

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*

LendingClub logoYou 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% APR

Upfront fee: 1 – 6%

Amount: up to $40,000

Period: up to 5 years

Available states: All except Iowa and West Virginia

Apply Now

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.

Apply Now

Upstart*

Upstart logo 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 $35,000 for 3 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: 4.82% -29.99%

Upfront fee: 1% – 6%

Amount: $5,000 – $50,000

Period: 3 years

Available states: All

Apply Now

PenFed

Previously, PenFed offers a fixed rate of 9.9% 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%

Upfront fee: None

Term: 5 years

Available states: All

Apply Now

Personal Loans for Minimal Credit

Avant*

Avant interest rates range from 9.95% – 36.00% and there is no prepayment penalty. You can check to see your interest rate without hurting your credit score. Just one warning: if you are willing to borrow money at 36.00%, 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.

They’ll let you borrow up to $35,000 for up to 5 years. The minimum FICO 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%-36.00%

Upfront fee: 0.95% – 3.75%

Amount: up to $35,000

Period: up to 5 years

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

Apply Now

Springleaf

 

Springleaf 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%

Upfront fee: varies

Amount: up to $25,000

Period: up to 5 years

Apply Now

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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Personal Loans

Payoff Personal Loan Review

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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.

Payoff Personal Loan Review

Updated December 13, 2015

Payoff* is a company that offers personal loans. Their goal is to help consumers get out of debt, and they don’t even like to be described as a loan company. If their algorithm is able to detect that you are going to use this loan to go further into debt, rather than payoff your existing debt at a lower interest rate, they may decline you. The goal of their business is in their name: they want you to payoff your high interest rate credit cards so that you can accelerate your debt repayment.

They currently offer a personal loan product, and in this review we will describe:

  • The terms of the loan (price, maximum loan amount, interest rate)
  • The qualification criteria
  • The application process

Terms of the Loan

Interest Rate: Between 8% and 25% APR

Loan Amount: $5,000 – $35,000

Term: Up to 60 months

Origination Fee: Between 2% – 5% of the loan amount, deducted from your proceeds when you book the loan

There are no prepayment or penalty fees with the loan.

The Qualification Criteria

Payoff is extremely transparent about their requirements for a loan. If you don’t meet the minimum criteria outlined below, you should not bother applying. If you do meet these minimum requirements, you should then apply online to see what interest rate and loan amount you would be offered. The great thing about Payoff is that you will not hurt your credit score by applying online. They use a “soft pull” – not only for the initial application, but all the way through to funding. They do not believe that shopping for a faster way to get out of debt should harm your credit score.

Here are the requirements:

Minimum FICO Score: 660 or higher (these scores can vary month to month. If you have a score in the mid-600s, you should give an application a try)

Debt-to-income ratio: 50% or lower. Payoff uses an “unsecured debt-to-income” ratio. Take the monthly payment of personal loans, credit cards and other debt, and divide that by your monthly income. If that ratio is 50% or less, you can get approved. For example, if you make $1,000 a month and pay $500 towards your credit cards and personal loans, you will have a 50% deb-to-income ratio (= 300 / 1000).

Age of credit history: You need to have at least 3 years of credit. In other words, you oldest open credit card should have been opened at least 3 years. They are not looking to work with people who are brand new to credit, and already in a lot of debt.

Other credit requirements: You need to have at least 2 “open and satisfactory” accounts. That means you have at least 2 accounts that are open, and where you have been paying on time. In addition, you can not have opened more than 1 personal / installment loan in the last 12 months. Remember: they want to target people who have debt but want to get out, and a lot of recent borrowing could indicate that you are headed further into debt.

Delinquencies: You should be current on all of your debt. In addition, you should not have been 90 days or more delinquent on any debt in the last 12 months.

And you can not have any tax liens.

In summary: Payoff is looking for people who have found themselves in debt. If you make your payments on time and are responsible, but just feel like the balance on your debt is never going down (because all of your money goes to interest), Payoff could be for you. If you have bad credit, very little credit, or continue to take on more debt every month, Payoff is not the right option.

The Application Process

The application process is very simple. You start by visiting Payoff and applying online. You can do that here*.

You will be asked a few questions, and Payoff will look to see if you are qualified for the loan. They will give you an indication of the loan amount and interest rate. You can do all of that without hurting your credit score.

Payoff may want to verify some of your information. They will walk you through the process.

Once all of the verification is complete, they will transfer the funds to your bank account.

It is a very easy, digital process. But they also have a call center that can answer your questions along the way.

In Conclusion

We spoke to the management team at Payoff. They really are trying to be different. Their goal is to help people get out of debt, and they only want to work with people who share that goal.

If you have a score in the mid-600s, have never missed a payment and are serious about getting out of debt (so that you stop putting all of your money towards interest), Payoff could be the best option for you. And given that you can see your interest rate with a soft pull, you really don’t have anything to lose by checking.

You can apply at Payoff here:

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You can see other personal loan options here.

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Featured, Personal Loans, Reviews

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

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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.

woman working on laptop

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 (5.99% – 22.99%) 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.

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Terms

Marcus offers debt consolidation and credit consolidation loans up to $30,000 with an annual percentage rate (APR) that can be low as 5.99% and as high as 22.99%.

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 4.83% and 4.19%, 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.

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Pay Down My Debt, Personal Loans, Reviews

Best Egg Personal Loan Review

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Best Egg Personal Loan Review

Updated October 5, 2016

Best Egg is a personal loan company trying to make the borrowing process fast and simple for people looking to refinance credit cards or who need funds for personal use. In this review, we will examine the costs and loan application process for applying for a loan through Best Egg. We encourage everyone to shop around for the best rate, and you can find the best personal loans here.

Overview

Best Egg offers unsecured personal loans. These are installment loans with a fixed monthly payment for the life of the loan, but like a credit card, are not secured with property such as a car or home. Meaning you don’t have to provide collateral in order to receive a loan.

Best Egg offers loans up to $35,000 with up to a 5 year term. Your interest rate is determined by your credit history and can range from 5.99%-29.99% with an origination fee ranging from 0.99%-5.99%.

Best Egg loans are originated through Cross River Bank, which is located in New Jersey. You do not need to be a New Jersey resident to apply for a Best Egg loan.

Pros

The best features of Best Egg are the simple terms and competitive interest rates for borrowers with a strong, positive credit history. Beyond the interest charge and origination fee, there are virtually no fees with Best Egg.

The company charges $15 for a late payment and $15 for a returned payment, which is lower than the typical $25 fee. There are no application fees and the origination fee is deducted from your starting loan proceeds, so there is no out-of-pocket cost to get started. However, this does mean you need to factor in the origination fee when you request the amount you need for a loan.

There are no pre-payment fees, so if you are able to make extra payments or pay off your entire balance early, you will not be charged any additional fees.

Cons

Best Egg only offers payback periods of 3 years or 5 years. If you want a shorter loan payback period than 2 years or a longer payback period than 5 years, Best Egg will not meet your needs.

As a borrower, your interest rate is based on your credit score and is locked in at the time of origination. While some borrowers may qualify for a 5.99% interest rate and 1% origination fee, Best Egg does not disclose the requirements to qualify for its best rates.

Even at 1%, the origination fee is certainly a negative considering other personal loans like SoFi offer no origination fee and no pre-payment penalty.

The highest interest rates are nearly 30% with a 6% origination fee. These rates are comparable to the worst credit card interest rates and may not offer you any benefit compared to using a credit card, which has no origination fee.

At the worst interest rates, this is still much better than typical payday loans or auto title loans, but you may have lower cost options available including lending platforms like Avant.

What Do I Need to Qualify?

Best Egg loans are approved based on your credit history. If you qualify, you are assigned a letter grade which corresponds to an interest rate between 5.99% and 29.99%. Current rates are available here.

The application process requires giving your email, and Best Egg uses a “soft pull” on your credit report to determine whether you qualify and find out your interest rate. A soft pull does not impact your credit score.

When you apply, you will need your Social Security number and current contact information handy for the application process, which is typical for any loan application.

Who is this Best For?

If you have credit card debt with a high interest rate, refinancing with Best Egg could save you a lot of money on interest over the life your debt. If you can lower your interest rate and set a fixed payback period compared to the open ended time frame on a revolving credit account, you could easily save thousands of dollars.

The site suggests using loan proceeds to help pay for a move, vacation, home improvement, debt consolidation, home purchase, or vehicle purchase. This product may save you money compared to credit cards, but it is a best practice to avoid debt where possible, particularly for optional luxury purchases like a vacation.

What About the Fine Print?

One of the biggest benefits of using Best Egg compared to competitors is that loans with Best Egg do not come with a mountain of fine print. There is almost no fine print actually.

You do not pay unless you get a loan and the only fees you will encounter are the origination fee and from late payments and rejected payments from your bank account. That is really it. There is no catch.

Unless you’re in Massachusetts, then the fine print states that your minimum loan amount is $6,000.

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Alternatives

SoFi

One alternative for your personal loan needs is SoFi. SoFi charges no origination fee, no pre-payment penalty fees and offers larger loans up to $100,000. SoFi also offers longer loan terms with a 3, 5, and 7 year option.

SoFi offers fixed rates between 5.95% – 14.24% and variable rates between 4.91% – 11.43%. Although SoFi does not use FICO, you do need to be a prime or super-prime borrower. That means you must be current on all of your obligations. And if you ever filed for bankruptcy, you will not be approved.

SoFi logo

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LendingClub

LendingClub is a social peer-to-peer lending site where your loan is funded by a large group of investors who each contribute to your loan. A $3,000 loan could be funded by as many as 120 individual investors.

LendingClub loans assign a letter grade which corresponds to an interest rate, similar to Best Egg. Interest rates are similar, ranging from 5.99% to 35.89%. The largest loan available on LendingClub is $40,000.

If you are unhappy with your interest rate at Best Egg, it could be worth applying at LendingClub to see how your rate comes in. Depending on your history, your rate may be better or worse than Best Egg. Just be aware: LendingClub is not available in Iowa or West Virginia.

LendingClub

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Always Shop Around

It doesn’t hurt your score to see your offer with Best Egg, but there are other personal loan providers who also offer a soft pull. Don’t just take the first offer you receive. You should always be shopping around for the best possible rate, especially because lenders offering a soft pull don’t harm your credit score.

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Eliminating Fees, Personal Loans

4 Companies That Help You Get Your Paycheck Early

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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.

Financial emergencies have a habit of cropping up at the worst possible time — when you’re stuck in-between paychecks. Perhaps you need $250 for an emergency car repair, but you just paid rent and won’t have the funds until your next payday in two weeks. Normally, you might want to turn to a credit card or a payday loan, racking up onerous fees in the process.

What if you could get a portion of your next paycheck early without paying hefty fees or interest?

That’s the premise behind the following four services. They try to help workers make ends meet without taking on debt by giving them access to the money they earn when they earn it.

Activehours

  • Available if you have direct deposit.
  • Withdraw up to $100 each day and $500 per pay period.
  • No fees or interest.

ActivehoursWhat it is: Activehours is an app-based service available on Android and iPhone smartphones. Once you download the app and create an account, you connect your bank account and verify your paycheck schedule. You must have direct deposit set up and linked to a checking account.

How it works: In order to use Activehours, you need to upload your timesheet, either manually or by connecting a time-tracking account to the app (your employer must use one of the eligible timesheet partners in order for this to work). Using this information, Activehours estimates your average take-home hourly rate after taxes and deductions.

As you work, the hours will be automatically shared with Activehours, or you may have to upload your timesheet. You can then cash out a portion of your earned pay before payday.

You can withdraw up to $100 each day. Based on your account balances and Activehours use, the pay-period maximum could increase up to $500. The payment will arrive in your checking account within a few seconds, or within one business day, depending on where you bank.

Activehours doesn’t connect to your employer’s payroll. It connects to whatever bank account you use to collect your pay. The next time your paycheck hits your bank account, Activehours will automatically withdraw what you owe. There aren’t any fees or interest charges for using the service, however Activehours does ask for support in the form of tips.

DailyPay

  • Works with popular ride-share and delivery services.
  • Get paid daily for your fares or deliveries.
  • There’s no interest. You pay a flat fee that is subtracted from the day’s earnings.

dailypayWhat it is: DailyPay caters to workers who are employed by ride-share or delivery services, such as Uber, Postmates, Instacart, Fasten, and DoorDash. It can also be used by workers at restaurants that use delivery apps, such as GrubHub, Seamless, or Caviar.

How it works: After signing up for DailyPay, you’ll need to connect a bank account where DailyPay can send you payments. Next, you’ll need to connect your DailyPay account with the system your employer uses to track your hours. DailyPay tracks the activity within the accounts and sends you a single payment with the day’s earnings, minus a fee. Restaurant workers get paid for the previous day’s delivery earnings, minus a fee, from all the connected delivery programs.

About those fees…

Fees are based on how much you ear per day. As a driver or on-demand worker, when you make less than $150 during a day you’ll pay a $0.99 fee. For workers who earn more than $150 in a day, the fee is $1.49. Restaurant workers’ fees vary based on order volume, but are often around $2.49 for each payday. In either case, you’ll need to update your account with each service and redirect the payments to go to DailyPay.

PayActiv

  • Employer must sign up and offer PayActiv as a benefit.
  • You can withdraw up to $500 in earned income before payday.
  • $5 fee for each pay period when you use the service.

PayActivLogo-200PayActiv is an employer-sponsored program that allows employees to withdraw a portion of their earned wages before payday. While you can’t sign up on your own, you can ask PayActiv to contact your employer about offering the service. There’s no setup or operating costs for employers.

Once your employer offers PayActiv, you sign up and withdraw money as soon as you earn it. You can withdraw up to $500 early during each pay period via an electronic transfer or withdrawal from a PayActiv ATM (available at some employers’ offices).

The early payment comes from PayActiv, but it isn’t a loan and you won’t need to pay interest. Instead, your employer will automatically send PayActiv an equivalent amount from your next paycheck.

There is $5 fee per pay period when you use the service, although some employers cover a portion of the fee, according to Safwan Shah, PayActive’s founder. As a member, you’ll also get free access to bill payment services and savings and budgeting tools.

FlexWage

  • Employer must sign up and offer FlexWage as a benefit.
  • You’ll receive a reloadable debit card tied to an FDIC-insured account where your employer deposits your pay. You can add earned pay to your account before payday.
  • There is a flat fee of $3 to $5 for early transfers.

Flex WageFlexWage is an employer-sponsored program that relies on the use of a payroll debit card and integrates with employers’ payroll systems. If your employer offers FlexWage, you can get your paycheck deposited into an FDIC-insured account with the linked Visa or MasterCard debit card. You can also add earned, but unpaid, wages to your account before payday without paying any fees.

With FlexWage, the employer determines how often you can make early withdrawals and the maximum amount you can withdraw. Unlike PayActiv, FlexWage doesn’t act as a middle-man. Your paycheck advances will come directly from your employer’s account.

Bottom Line

These four companies work slightly differently, but they share the same basic premise: giving you early access to the money you earned, without saddling you with a painful assortment of fees. If you’ve had to rely on borrowing money in the past when funds are tight, these could be a better alternative to credit cards or payday loans.

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Personal Loans

Should You Finance or Lease Solar Panels for Your Home?

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Finance or Lease Solar Panels

Who doesn’t want to save the planet and maybe save a little money along the way? One way to chip in and do your part is by changing where you get your electricity on a day-to-day basis. Instead of using traditional electricity to power your home, you can look into greener alternatives like solar panels.

These systems used to be very expensive, however, as more people have moved into the market, the pricing on these sun-gathering energy collectors has come down rapidly.

On top of decreased costs at the time of purchase, solar panel systems can actually have a profitable return on investment. Here are some of the costs and benefits you should take under consideration before making the plunge.

Cost of solar panels

When figuring out upfront costs, you’ll want to account not just for the panels, but also for their installation. The national average cost to purchase and install a solar panel system is $3.50 per watt, with the average American home requiring a 5,000 watt system. That means that the average upfront investment is $17,500.

The price for your power system may vary your particular home in your state. You should, of course, do local research, but we’ll go with the national average for the purposes of our calculations.

The Federal government offers a 30% tax credit for the installation of solar or wind systems at residential properties, so this will effectively bring the average cost down to $12,250. On top of federal tax credits, also do some research for state and local tax credits or programs that can further bring down costs.

Over the life of your solar panels, which will likely be between 25 and 40 years, you will have to perform regular maintenance. National averages for this cost come out to a little over $20 per year.

You will also want to call your insurance provider to see what will happen to your homeowner’s premiums. In many cases the costs stay the same or even go down as those who are eco-conscious enough to install solar panels are currently viewed as more responsible than the general populace. The rate cut is even more likely if you have the panels set up in your yard rather than on your roof. Some insurers will raise rates, though, because of the added load to the structure when panels are installed on the roof.

Benefits of using solar panels

If you’re going to spend about $12,500 on a solar panel system and then pay at least $500 in maintenance over the term of its life, warm and fuzzies about saving the planet may not be doing it for you. You’ll want to know there’s a return on investment.

Producing solar power is not inherently cheaper than using regular electricity at this point in time. When you purchase your solar panels, you are essentially paying for your electricity for the next 25 to 40 years up front. Depending on where you live, this may or may not be cheaper than actual costs of electricity.

However, one beauty in making this investment is that you can actually sell off any excess energy you generate.  Those that deliver electricity have to meet certain quotas of green energy per month. They do this less often by generating green energy themselves, and more often by buying green electricity from others.

That green energy is bought and sold via Renewable Energy Certificates, or RECs. When you generate 1 megawatt-hour in excess of what you actually use, you will be issued a certificate that you can then sell to your local utility company. How much you get for each of these certificates will vary both by geographic location and current market value, but to give you an idea, last year you could get about $200 per certificate in the state of New Jersey.

Financing Your Solar Panels

Don’t have $17,500 up front to invest? Because of the potential savings on energy, depending on your area, and the added bonus of RECs, it may be worth it to finance. (You’ll have to wait until tax season to see that 30% credit from the IRS.)

The government offers Energy Efficient Mortgages to fund these types of improvements. In order to obtain one, you will need to get your home assessed so the government can calculate how much savings the solar panels would provide to you. That way, they know the loan is a good investment.

You can also take out a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) where your home serves as collateral if you are unable to repay your loan. Taking out a HELOC means you have the potential to lose your home if you fall behind.

Another option is personal loans. Here are some of the most competitive lenders in the personal loan industry, all of them providing unsecured lending, so you won’t have to hand over any collateral.

SoFi

SoFi provides unsecured personal loans, currently at a rate of 5.95%-12.99% APR depending on your cash flow and credit history. Loans can be for either 3-, 5- or 7-year periods with no origination fees, and if you lose your job during that time, SoFi may temporarily pause your payments and help you find new employment through its Career Services resources.

LightStream

LightStream actually provides loans specifically for the purchase of solar panels. Shorter terms of 2-3 years based on our average loan come at a fixed rate of 3.99% for those with excellent credit, and rates increase with your term up to 7.59% on 7-year loans for those with excellent credit. It charges no origination fees.

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Earnest

If you have a credit score of 720 or over, you may want to look into Earnest. It provides personal loans in 1-, 2- and 3-year increments at starting fixed interest rates of 5.25%, 5.50% and 6.00% APR respectively, based on our $17,500 number. These loans also have no origination fees.

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Upstart

Upstart loans do come with an origination fee of 1%-6%, but they are more likely to accept a wider range of applicants than the above lenders. Its interest rates are competitive starting at 4.93% APR, though those with lesser credit scores can end up paying up to 29.99% APR if approved. Upstart’s loans come in three-year terms.

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When to Lease

If you can’t qualify for a personal loan, or simply don’t want to go through the hassle of installation and maintenance, there is hope yet. You don’t necessarily have to purchase your own solar panels in order to turn your house into a green machine.

Many companies now allow you to lease panels. Typically you lease panels for 20 years, with most companies installing and maintaining your panels for free. You pay them a flat monthly fee that will generally increase somewhere between 1.5% and 3% per year depending on your contract. In some years, that will be less than your electric company increase its prices, and in other years it will be more. The national average for annual energy cost increases to consumers between the years of 2003 and 2015 was 3.19%.

The reason companies are able to install and maintain your panels free of charge is that they will be taking all of those tax credits; you don’t get to claim them come April. They will also be benefiting from the sale of any RECs your household generates.

You are likely to save a little money long-term when you lease, and you’ll be making a decision that will help the planet for future generations. Doing so costs very little up front, and you won’t have to deal with any stress related to maintenance over the years.

If you’re looking for an investment that will net you cash long-term, though, buying is the way to go if you can afford it or get your hands on a personal loan with a competitive interest rate. Be sure to do research relative to your local community as far as costs and energy generation goes, as solar panels will be far more financially advantageous in some regions of the country over others.

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Best Options for Covering the Cost of Adoption

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adoption

You probably can’t put a price on the value of your child, but for couples who wish to adopt, the entire process can be quite costly.  According to AdoptionHelp.org, it can cost anywhere from $0 to $1000 to adopt a child from a county foster program and anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000 to adopt a newborn through a non-profit agency.

Also, adoption attorneys for newborns general run anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000. The adoption process may vary from state-to-state but if you go through a private agency, costs usually include agency fees, legal expenses, hospital documentation and retrieval of medical records, and disruption rates just to name a few.

If you feel that you are ready to start or grow your family through adoption but don’t have the funds to cover all the fees and expenses, you may consider an adoption loan.

What is an Adoption Loan?

An adoption loan is basically a personal loan that you can take out to use for adoption-related costs. There are many personal loans on the market so you shouldn’t limit your options as long as the loans you are considering are low-interest, have no or low fees, and flexible repayment terms.

If you search online for the term ‘adoption loans’ you may find a few offers, but it’s best to search for personal loans to broaden your search at first and help you locate the best loan option for you. We will feature some of the best personal loans to use for adoption below to help you get started.

What to Watch Out For

Before you choose a loan for adoption costs, there are a few things you need to watch out for. Consider a realistic amount of how much you need. You may be able to cover some of the costs on your own but some lenders who offer personal loans for adoption might encourage you to take out more than you need.

When taking out a loan, only you know how much you truly need so it’s important to research the process thoroughly and formulate a realistic amount of expenses you can’t cover from your savings.

Another thing to watch out for is how some lenders may prey on couples’ vulnerability and eagerness to adopt with this loan. Companies who send out messages like “your child’s life is worth any costs” should be examined with caution.

Heartfelt promotional messages, catchphrases, and unrealistic promises should not be an effective way to market a loan to a consumer. When you take out a personal loan, you should always look at how affordable it will be. Is the interest rate low? Is there an origination fee or any hidden fees? How short or long are the terms? Is there a prepayment penalty?

Ask yourself all of these questions and make sure you are positive about the answers and comfortable with them before you take out a loan. Like with any loan, you’ll ideally want something low interest, with no fees and no prepayment penalties.

Be wary of lenders promising affordable loans for people with bad credit as this is almost never possible. In order to secure a low interest rate for your loan, you need to have good credit.

Affordable Adoption Loan Requirements

Lightstream allows you to borrow anywhere from $5,000 to $100,000 with fixed APRs that range from 4.19% (with autopay) to 14.49%. Terms range from 24-84 months and the shorter your term is, the lower your rate may be. However, the lowest rates are reserved for borrowers with excellent credit. There is no origination fee and the minimum credit score you need to apply is 680.There will be a hard pull of your credit report upon applying.

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America’s Christian Credit Union specializes in adoption loans and lend up to $50,000 which should be more than enough to cover adoption expenses. APR rates start at 6.99% but can range from 8.90% to 10.90% for most borrowers. Borrowers have up to 84 months to pay back their loan and the loan is good for domestic and international adoptions. This lender also offers home equity loans with no closing costs or annual fees to use for adoption costs which includes a quarterly adjustable HELOC with a current starting APR of 3.5% and an annual adjustable HELOC with a current starting APR of 4%.

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SoFi is a popular lender offering a variety of personal loans at competitive rate and terms. Borrowers can receive anywhere from $5,000 to $100,000 with fixed APRs ranging from 5.95% to 14.24% and variable APRs ranging from 4.83% to 11.43% as long as borrowers sign up with auto pay. Terms go all the way up to 7 years and there are no fees or minimum credit score required as long as your accounts are all in good standing.

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Upstart offers quick and easy approvals for loans up to $50,000 with APR rates ranging from 4.93% – 29.99%. Borrowers need at least a minimum credit score of 640 to qualify. Loan terms are 3 and 5 years and there is no early repayment fee. There is however, an origination fee of 1%-6% to keep in mind.

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Other option for adoption: Grants

Before you look into loan options, you should to see if you qualify for any grants to help fund the costs of adoption. An adoption grant can help provide you with partial funding throughout the adoption process to ease the financial burden.

There are quite a few adoption grants available, but most have specific criteria. For example, in order to qualify for a specific grant, you may need to adopt through a licensed agency or adopt within the country.

National Adoption Foundation – This organization has very few strict requirements and even considers single adults who wish to adopt. The program has no exclusions as to race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation and income and awards grants ranging from $500 to $2000 depending on the needs of the family and the circumstances surrounding the adoption.

HelpUsAdopt.org– This organization has awarded $920,000 in adopting grants since 2007. They award grants to needing couples, singles, and LGBT applicants who are U.S. citizens and wish to adopt. Recipients can use the funds for private, agency, or domestic adoption and award amounts range from $500 to $15,000. The organization awards grants in February, June, and October each year.

A Child Waits Foundation – If you are adopting internationally and your annual household income falls below $120,000, you may qualify for an adoption grant from this agency as long as you are a U.S. or Canadian citizen. Applicants can apply for a grant no sooner than 3-4 months prior to when their family makes their final adoption trip. There is a $20 application fee and grant amounts equal up to $5,000.

If you need funding to help you adopt a child, its best to consider all your options and try to obtain a grant along with a low interest loan to help cover the rest of your financial needs. You can compare more personal loan options for adoption all in one chart with our comparison tool.

 

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