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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.

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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.

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
Nick Clements |

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

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Pay Down My Debt, Personal Loans, Reviews

PNC Personal Loan 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.

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.

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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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Wedding Loans: Find Better Options with Lower Rates

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.

Frugal Wedding

Updated November 03, 2017
Did you know that the average cost of a wedding in the United States is around $31,200? That’s the number uncovered in a 2014 survey conducted by The Knot, a top resource for wedding planning. A figure that doesn’t even include the honeymoon.

If you’re planning a wedding, you’re probably well aware that your big day isn’t likely to be cheap, especially if you have a guest list that exceeds 100.

So what can you do if you can’t afford your dream wedding and aren’t willing (or ready) to compromise on cost? You may have already come across wedding loans, but it’s important to know a few things before you sign for one.

This guide is intended to walk you through the pros and cons of a wedding loan, what to look out for with lenders, other methods you can use to affordably finance your wedding, and finally, what alternatives are available if you realize that a loan isn’t the right option for you.

Wedding Loans Are Personal Loans in Disguise

When searching Google for “wedding loans,” you’ll find plenty of lenders offering them. However, you should know that a wedding loan is really just a personal loan that anyone can get. They’re not specifically meant for weddings. In fact, if you fill out an application for a personal loan and have to choose the purpose of the loan, you’ll likely have a few options to choose from.

Lenders are aware that people are searching for “wedding loans” just like they’re searching for “home renovation loans” and “vacation loans.” They create these specific pages you find for those keywords (so they get more search engine traffic), when they actually offer more than just wedding loans.

What this means is that you should broaden your search to all personal loan lenders. You don’t have to specifically search for wedding loans as, in most cases, you can use a personal loan for a wedding (or anything, for that matter). The good news is that there are plenty of personal loan lenders out there for you to shop around with.

What to Watch Out For

As with any loan, you want to get the lowest APR possible. Unfortunately, because lenders have these “wedding loan” pages, you may not be aware that other types of loans are offered at a lower APR. If you find yourself on such a page, try going to the lender’s homepage to see how the rates compare.

promo-personalloan-halfFor example, upon searching “wedding loans,” Karrot’s wedding loan came up in the results. The landing page says it offers APRs as low as 8.99%, but if you visit the main page, you’ll see that personal loans are available with APRs starting at 6.44%. For the most part, the APR you’re eligible for won’t depend on the purpose of the loan; it will depend on your credit history. It’s worth digging deeper so you’re not caught paying more than you have to.

As you go through search results, you may also find that there are sites specifically for wedding loans that are a bit misleading. For example, MyWeddingLoans.com looks like a legitimate site, but when you click “apply,” it leads to LendingClub’s website.

The URL of the application also contains a “partner ID,” which means it’s an affiliate of LendingClub and receives a commission every time someone applies through that link. MyWeddingLoan discloses this in the fine print on its “Terms of Use” page. It’s important to know that MyWeddingLoans isn’t the actual lender or the company you’ll be dealing with if you obtain financing.

Other “wedding specific” lenders, such as Promise Financial, claim there are no hidden fees and prepayment penalties. While its fees aren’t necessarily “hidden,” there are fees to watch out for, such as an origination fee. You need to make sure you read the fine print for any loan you’re considering; otherwise it may cost you more.

[Four Times You Shouldn’t Use a Personal Loan]

What Will a Wedding Loan Cost You?

Do you think weddings are expensive? Then you should know how costly personal loans are. You’re going to pay interest on your loan, which means you’ll end up paying more than what you borrow. Let’s look at an example.

Say you want to finance $20,000 of your wedding as you’ve already saved $10,000. $20,000 on a 3-year term at a fixed APR of 7.246% results in a monthly payment of $619.79. You’ll pay a total of $22,312.44. If you choose a 4-year term at a fixed rate of 8.247%, your monthly payment will be $490.58, for a total amount of $23,547.84.

Both of these are actual examples, and in each case, you end up paying a few thousand dollars in interest. The APR you’re eligible for is largely based on your credit score. Having a higher credit score and a longer credit history will make lower APRs available to you.

If you’re absolutely set on borrowing money for your wedding, then it literally pays to increase your credit score prior to applying for a personal loan. Do yourself a favor and check your score using a free tool like Credit Karma or Credit Sesame, and download your free credit report at annualcreditreport.com. Is your score below 700? Then have a look at 6 ways you can improve your credit score before you shop for a loan.

As you’ll see below, some lenders have APRs with a large range. To get on the lower end of that range, you should have a score close to 700. Having a score below 600 will put you on the high end of the range, which will make the loan less affordable.

Least Expensive Wedding Loan Options – Good Credit Required

These lenders are your best bet if you must take out a personal loan to afford your wedding. They have the lowest APRs, lowest fees, and the most flexibility. These are all online lenders for a reason – traditional banks tend to have pricier personal loans.

We recommend shopping around to all the lenders that make the most sense for your situation. Similar inquiries to your credit made within a 30-day period will only count as one inquiry, so your credit score won’t take too much of a hit.

SoFi: One of the leading online lenders in almost all categories, SoFi offers borrowers excellent terms. There’s no origination fee to worry about, and fixed APRs range from 5.49% to 14.24% if enrolled in autopay. Variable rates range from 5.29% – 11.44% with a cap of 14.95%. You can borrow a maximum of $100,000 (hopefully you don’t need that much for your wedding) on terms of up to 7 years. There’s no minimum credit score required, although your accounts should be in good standing.

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Earnest: Another good choice for personal loans, Earnest offers borrowers up to $50,000 on a 3-year term with no origination fee. You need a minimum credit score of 720 to be approved.

LightStream: You can borrow up to $100,000 on terms ranging from 2 to 7 years. APRs range from 5.99% to 15.69%, and there’s no origination fee. The minimum credit score needed to apply is 680. LightStream’s maximum APR is slightly higher than SoFi’s and Earnest’s, and it’s the only lender out of these choices that requires a hard credit pull.

Upstart: We recommend looking at SoFi and Earnest first, only because of the lack of an origination fee. However, if your credit isn’t the best, lenders such as Upstart can help. You can borrow up to $50,000 on a 3 or 5-year term with APRs ranging from 9.56% to 29.99%. Origination fees range from 3.655% to 8% depending on the terms of your loan, and a minimum credit score of 640 is required.

Prosper: This is a peer-to-peer marketplace where people can invest in your loan. As a result, requirements are a bit leaner, but you’ll pay for it with higher APRs and an origination fee. APRs range from 5.99% to 36.00%, origination fees range from 1% to 5%, and the maximum amount you can borrow is $35,000. You can borrow on 3 or 5-year terms, and need a minimum credit score of 640 to qualify.

LendingClub: Another great option is LendingClub, which has a minimum credit score requirement of 600. It works in much the same way as Prosper as it’s also a peer-to-peer marketplace lender. Again, you can borrow up to $40,000 for up to 5 years, and APRs range from 5.99% to 35.89%, with origination fees ranging from 1% to 6%. LendingClub is not available in Iowa or West Virginia.

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PenFed: Pentagon Federal Credit Union offers personal loans starting with a fixed interest rate of 9.99%APR for 36 months. You do need to be a member of the credit union, but anyone can become. You pay a one time dues to Voices for America’s Troops for $14 or National Military Family Association for $15 in order to become eligible for a PenFed membership.

As you can see, Upstart, Prosper, and LendingClub all have high APR caps. If your credit isn’t in the best shape, you’ll likely be approved for a rate on the higher end.

Also note that aside from LightStream and PenFed, all of these lenders allow you to apply for a pre-approval without a hard credit pull. That means you can see your potential terms before committing, and your credit score won’t be harmed in the process. Just remember that these rates and terms are estimated; those rates and terms may change after a hard credit pull.

[How to Create a Frugal Wedding]

Credit Card Options for Those With Good Credit

We wouldn’t normally recommend that you finance your wedding on a credit card, as purchase APRs are typically much higher than APRs on personal loans. However, if you have the means to pay off the debt quickly, then you might want to consider these 0% APR offers. This gives you a way to avoid paying interest on your debt for a short period of time.

Please keep in mind when using this method that you should be absolutely certain you could pay off the amount you finance within the 0% APR introductory period. If you don’t, you’ll be subject to very high interest rates after it expires, negating the entire point of this strategy.

For that reason, it’s a good idea to know how much you’re planning to finance beforehand. You can use that number to calculate how much you’ll have to pay per month to get your balance paid off. Make sure it’s realistic for your situation.

Citi Simplicity: This card has a 21-month 0% introductory APR. That means you have just shy of two years to pay off your balance before the regular purchase APR kicks in. The Citi Simplicity card also has no late fees, no annual fee, and no penalty APR if you’re late in making a payment. These benefits make it a great everyday use card after you’re done paying off your wedding charges.

Chase Slate®: With this card, you can save with no transfer fee and get a 0% introductory APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers made within the first 60 days. This is one of our favorite balance transfer offers.

If you don’t qualify for any of these offers, you can try checking around local credit unions and community banks for low interest credit cards. Many of our top recommendations have APRs ranging from 6.25% to 9%. While these aren’t ideal, they may be more affordable than a personal loan, depending on your credit.

Because credit cards are revolving debt, if you go this route, do not be fooled into making just the minimum payments. Do your best to pay extra and get the balance paid off within 3 years or less.

We also want to mention the possibility of using a 0% APR balance transfer offer. This should only be considered if you have strong credit (otherwise you might not be approved for one). If you must charge wedding expenses to your card and can’t pay them off right away, or you plan on using your credit card to finance most of your wedding, then you can still avoid paying interest with this option.

[Find the Best 0% APR Balance Transfer Offers Here.]

Top Wedding Loans for Those With Bad / Poor Credit

There are a few solutions available for couples with bad or poor credit that don’t qualify for any of the above offers, but they come with a hefty price tag. We’re hesitant to recommend going this route in the first place, but if your wedding can’t wait and you don’t have time to improve your credit score, these options might be worth looking at.

Avant: With no prepayment fee and APRs ranging from 9.95% to 35.99%, Avant could be a good option. You could borrow $2,000 to $35,000 and need a credit score of 580 to apply. Through Avant, you could get your money as soon as the next business day. Loans through Avant are available in all states except Colorado, Iowa, West Virginia, and Vermont.

Avant

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

OneMain Financial: This company is known for making loans to those with less than stellar credit, and its rates reflect that reality. You can only borrow a maximum of $10,000 on terms of 3 or 5 years. While there’s no origination fee, the APRs range from 17.59% to 35.99%, and you need a minimum credit score of 600 to apply.

OneMain Financial

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FreedomPlus: With APRs ranging from 4.99% to 29.99%, this loan is similar to Avant in that you’re probably looking at an APR closer to 29.90%. There’s also an origination fee ranging from 1.38% to 5% that you need to watch out for. You can borrow up to $35,000on a term of up to 5 years, and need a minimum score of 600 to qualify.

Note that with the exception of Avant, all of these lenders use a hard credit pull when you check your rate. (Avant does not use a hard pull to check your rate, but will complete a hard pull if you decide to take out the loan).

Consider Creative Alternatives to Borrowing

As you can tell, financing all or part of your wedding may cost a lot more than you anticipated. If it’s at all possible, we suggest using one of the alternatives below as opposed to going into debt for your big day.

While it’s undoubtedly a day you want to remember forever, starting out married life with a bunch of debt (especially if you already have consumer debt or student loans to deal with) doesn’t feel great. It also doesn’t bode well for your relationship, considering arguments about money are a top reason for divorce.

Instead of taking chances with debt and your sanity, try these alternatives instead.

Hold off on the wedding: According to another survey conducted by The Knot in 2014, the average length of an engagement is 14 months. That’s not a long time to save up $10,000, let alone $30,000 (the estimated average cost of a wedding). That would take a monthly savings of $714 and $2,142 respectively. Instead of rushing to the altar, try lengthening your engagement to lessen the financial burden. Giving yourself more time to save is a wise idea; what’s the rush?

“Crowdfund” your honeymoon: We don’t literally mean asking strangers on the internet to fund your honeymoon, but you could ask your family and friends to “crowdfund” your honeymoon by using sites like Honeyfund. It’s a honeymoon registry that allows you to ask for cash from your wedding guests in a classier way, and hopefully, they feel more comfortable giving it. Remember, that $31,000 figure didn’t take the honeymoon into account. Now isn’t the time to go further into debt for your dream vacation.

Side hustle for extra money: If you’re really hurting for money, you need to find a way to earn more of it. Side hustling can be a great option if you have marketable skills that are in demand, especially online. These extra jobs should also be flexible – what’s better than working from home? You can also try picking up extra shifts at your job, working overtime, or getting a part-time job temporarily to cover costs. This doesn’t have to be forever; you just need enough stashed away in your wedding savings fund to cover your needs.

Reevaluate your wedding budget: Speaking of needs, are you going over your original wedding budget? Something might have to give. It’s time to take another look at it. For example, maybe you need to narrow your guest list down. Perhaps you need to reconsider your dream venue if it’s costing you an arm and a leg. Can you have DIY decorations and invitations? Postage often costs couples much more than they thought; classy invitations from Paperless Post can help offset that cost. The Knot has a list of common wedding expenses and what percentage of your budget can be expected to go toward each here if you need a comparison.

Know how to deal with deposits: Many items, such as the venue, food, and photography, will require a deposit. That means you don’t need to pay an overwhelming amount in one lump sum, but it does mean that you need to come up with something to reserve these things. If you have anything saved for your wedding, you should earmark it for deposits first to ensure you can pay the upfront cost.

You can pay for deposits with cash or check, but some advice says to pay via credit card to cover you in case something happens. As most deposits are non-refundable, if you’re unhappy with the services provided, or if services aren’t provided, you can contact your credit card company and dispute the charge as long as you do so within 60 days of the event. Some vendors and merchants might do wrong by you, and miscommunication can occur. Using your credit card gives you a better chance of recovering your money.

Of course, you should only charge expenses that you have the cash to cover. Putting your wedding expenses on a credit card and then not paying it off in full can be extremely expensive – the average credit card APR is 15%!

Remember to keep in mind that the deposit is only one portion of what you have to pay. You’ll need to come up with the rest of the funds prior to your wedding. Do your best to save up before then. If it helps, create a separate “wedding expenses” savings account so you won’t be tempted to raid it for another reason.

[How to Effectively Combine Income and Debts After Marriage]

Be Realistic and Create a Plan

You now have all the information you need to create a plan to fund your wedding. You might find that it’s not as easy as you thought it would be, but don’t let that dampen your spirits. If your wedding means that much to you, you’ll find a way to make it happen. Whether you take on side jobs to earn more, slash everyday expenses (such as cutting cable and brown-bagging lunch), or work toward improving your credit score, you can make room in your regular budget for your wedding.

Just stay realistic on costs and include your future spouse in all discussions pertaining to your finances. Now is the time to work as a team, not to surprise each other by going into debt to afford certain aspects of your wedding. Talk it through –your future spouse may have a great idea on how to lessen the financial burden of your wedding

Erin Millard
Erin Millard |

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

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No Credit, or Poor Credit? Here Are Your Loan Options

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.

Mixed Race Young Female Agonizing Over Financial Calculations in Her Kitchen.

Updated November 03, 2017
Don’t have a credit history established, or have a low credit score? It can be challenging to find lenders that will approve you if you have a thin credit file or poor credit, but it’s not impossible.

You still have options when it comes to personal loans, and these options come from reputable lenders.

What’s even better is that these lenders will only conduct a soft credit inquiry when you apply to find out what rates they can offer you. This means your credit score won’t be negatively affected, so you don’t have to worry about damaging it further.

In this article we’ll review how to find reputable lenders, why you should stay away from two popular options people turn to when they’re in a poor credit situation: payday and title loans. And what you can do to increase your credit score.

Check for approval without a credit hit

It’s worth noting low scores aren’t always indicative of how responsible you are with credit. A low score, or thin file, could just be a result of a short credit history. If you have a clean history (no late payments, low credit utilization, etc.), you’ll have an easier time obtaining a loan over someone who has had delinquencies on their record, but might have a higher score.

If you have bad (or no) credit, you should apply to as many lenders as possible that use a soft pull to ensure you don’t hurt your credit score. We recommend starting with LendingTree, where you can use one short application form to get rates from multiple lenders at one.

LendingTree: Dozens of lenders partner with Lending Tree – and many of them may approve people with poor or no credit. You can fill out a simple form and compare multiple offers in minutes. We highly recommend starting your shopping experience here first to have a good chance of getting a loan. (Note: MagnifyMoney is owned by LendingTree)

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Here are 5 personal loan lenders for people who have less than ideal credit (meaning under 700) that will let you check your rate without impacting your credit score:

OppLoans: If you have no or bad credit, OppLoans is an online lender that could help. If your credit score is below 630 (or if you have no credit score at all), OppLoans will work with you. You can check to see if you are approved without impacting your score. And – unlike payday lenders – OppLoans offers much more affordable borrowing options. They also have great reviews – with a customer service rating of 4.9/5 stars.

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LendingClub: People with credit scores below 600 can get approved. You can borrow $1,000 – $40,000 and get the money deposited into your account within a few days. Fixed APRs range from 5.99%-35.89% on terms up to 5 years. LendingClub has an origination fee of 1%-6% on its loans. LendingClub is not available in Iowa or West Virginia.

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Upstart: Borrow between $3,000 and $50,000 for up to 5 years with APRs ranging from around 9.56% to 29.99%. While the minimum credit score needed to qualify is 640 (Upstart will also consider applicants who don’t have a score), you must have a clean credit history. You could also be eligible for next day funding.

Avant: You could borrow anywhere from $2,000 to $35,000 through Avant, and you could receive your funds as soon as the next business day. APRs range from 9.95% – 35.99%. Although the minimum credit score varies, you have a much better chance if your score is above 580. Avant is available in all states except Colorado, Iowa, West Virginia, and Vermont.

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

Prosper: Another peer-to-peer marketplace lender, Prosper’s loans are similar to LendingClub’s. You can borrow $2,000 to $40,000 with APRs ranging from 5.99%-36.00% on 3 and 5 year terms. There’s an origination fee of 1%-5%, and its minimum credit score is 640.

There are several other personal loan lenders that will do a soft credit check. You can find them on our personal loan table here. While many of these lenders have minimum credit score requirements, you’ll find they take other factors into account aside from your FICO score.

Additionally, since these lenders only do a soft credit pull, you’re free to shop around for the best rates without fear of damaging your credit score.

Why You need to Stay Away from Payday Loans and Title Loans

Not eligible for personal loans? Don’t turn to payday loans or title loans.

If you’re not familiar with either, you might be wondering what’s so bad about them. After all, they seem convenient – most offer “fast cash,” and if you live in a populated area, you’ll probably find a payday loan or title loan shop nearby.

However, both require you to give something in exchange for funds, and neither require any sort of stringent approval process to ensure borrowers can afford the loans.

Payday Loans

Payday loan companies require you to write a check for the amount you wish to borrow, plus a set fee. The lender holds onto the check until the loan becomes due (typically on the borrower’s next payday, hence the name), and gives the borrower the money they need in the meantime.

The problem? If you can’t pay when the loan balance becomes due, you can choose to extend the term of the loan. When you do, you get hit with more fees. The APR on payday loans is extremely high, so you’ll pay more each time you extend your loan term.

Payday loans are on the smaller side – anywhere from $100 to $1,000. According to PayDayLoanInfo.org, the average term is two weeks, with 400%+ APRs. When you factor in fees, the APR can go up to 780%.

[Stuck in a Payday Loan Trap? Here are the ways out.]

Title Loans

Title loans require you to give your car’s title to the title loan company in exchange for an amount equal to the appraised value of your car. You usually have to own your car outright to be eligible for a title loan, and the term is around 30 days.

Like payday loans, if you can’t pay on time, you may choose to roll the loan over to the next month, incurring more fees. If you can’t pay back the loan at all, you run the risk of the lender repossessing your car.

As you can tell, both of these options are bad ideas if you want to stay clear of getting into a horrible debt cycle. These loans are purposely too expensive for borrowers to afford. If people are looking for quick cash because they don’t have any, it stands to reason they’ll be in the same situation a week or two from the time they borrow.

Non-Profit Credit Counseling to Rebuild Credit Score

You want to make every effort to improve your credit score, even after you’re approved for a loan, because having a good credit score will benefit you in other areas of life. For that reason, you might want to consider teaming up with a non-profit credit counseling service.

These companies can provide you with personalized advice on your specific situation so you can work on rebuilding your credit score. They can also work with your creditors and negotiate on your behalf to possibly lower interest rates or get better terms on your existing debt.

It can be tricky to find a reputable credit counseling agency – even with a non-profit organization. If you’re interested in a credit counseling service, USA.gov lists a few considerations and questions you should ask before committing. You want to make sure the credit counseling agency is actually going to help you get your credit and financial situation under control.

Alternative to Ways to Build Your Credit Score

If you don’t qualify for a personal loan, and don’t want to turn to payday or title loans, there are a few steps you can take to increase your credit score. This post has 6 tips to help get you started. These methods won’t boost your score immediately, but over time, you’ll see an improvement.

The Federal Trade Commission also has 6 alternatives to payday loans on its website, which might apply to your situation. For example, if you’re a member of a credit union, you could inquire about a loan through them as you have an established relationship already.

Also, if you haven’t started budgeting and tracking your spending, you should – doing so can help you spot problem areas with your money.

Read the Fine Print and Shop Around

Regardless of which loan you decide to apply for, always consider the cost. You want to make sure you’re getting the best possible terms, which means getting the lowest APR offered. Typically, cash advances and credit cards are going to have higher APRs than personal loans but lower than payday lenders.

Remember to always read the fine print. Loans of any type have plenty of fees associated with them that you should avoid. Shop around for the best deals and work on improving your credit score so better options become available to you.

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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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22 Options for a Home Improvement 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.

ChexSystems Big

Updated November 03, 2017

Are you ready to make some improvements to your home? Are you looking for financing options that offer more flexibility and better rates than you would get putting home improvements on a credit card?

Below, you will find an extensive list of lenders willing to finance home improvements. If you are interested in comparing terms for more loan providers all in one place, check out our comparison tool.

Besides more competitive interest rates, longer terms and higher loan amounts, financing home improvements with an installment loan gives you more flexibility. Most contractors will not accept credit cards, and being able to write a check for a contractor’s bill gives you a larger pool of contractors to choose from. It also provides an opportunity to get financing if you have not yet built enough equity in your home to qualify for a home equity line of credit. A home improvement installment loan is also an unsecured loan and your home will not be used as collateral as it would in a home equity loan or home equity line of credit.

Are You Ready To Apply?

Before you start comparing loans, it is wise to make sure that you are prepared for the loan application process, that your debt-to-income ratio is in good shape, and that you have the proper documentation prepared.

While lending requirements vary by bank, most will require the following things:

  • Proof of Income: Lenders want to know that you income is enough to not only meet your current obligation, but to potentially meet the obligation of a new loan as well.
  • Low Debt-to-Income ratio: Lenders typically want you to have less than 40% DTI.
  • A Decent Credit Score: credit score requirements vary by lender, as you will see below, but excellent or good credit scores will be eligible for the best rates and the offers with no origination fees. It is wise to have a good idea of your credit score before you start applying and comparing offers.

Why A Home Improvement Loan?

Interest Rates: Financing home improvements through a loan rather than a credit card gives you access to interest rates that are often much lower than credit cards. The list below will show that if you have excellent credit, you could see home improvement loan rates as low as 4% with no origination fee.

Easy Application: Online lenders have the easiest loan applications around. The initial application will only do a “soft pull” on your credit, which will not affect your credit score, and will allow you to see your rate.

Shorter Terms: Credit cards, because of their high interest rates and the ability to pay on them for 10 years or more, leave you in debt longer. By choosing a home improvement loan with a term of 36 to 60 months, you not only lower the interest you are paying, you will have the loan paid off in a shorter amount of time, which of course saves you money.

The Ability to Shop Around: Some lenders do a soft pull, which does not affect your credit score. This gives you the confidence to shop around without harming your score. If you’re interested in providers that do a hard pull, be sure to do all your shopping in a 30-day window in order to minimize the impact on your credit score.

Where to Get Your Home Improvement Loan

If you have excellent credit, it is worth applying for the best offers in home improvement loans. Better rates and terms will save you money in the long run.

Here are the top three offers:

  • Lightstream*: A great online option for those with excellent credit. It can finance $5,000 to $100,000.Your rate will depend upon the term and the amount of the loan, and is 0.50% higher if you do not enroll in autopay. To qualify, you’ll need good credit, as well as enough income to meet your current obligations and the loan.

*referral link

  • Earnest*: Earnest offers home improvement loans of up to $50,000. It offers no origination fee and terms of up to 36 months. Earnest does a soft pull to determine your rate. The minimum credit score needed to apply is 720.

*referral link

  • SoFi*: Fixed rates for loans start at 5.49% and variable rates start at 5.29%. There is no origination fee and SoFi will finance $5,000 to $100,000.
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*referral link

Other Options (in alphabetical order)

  • Avant*: Offers access to loans from $2,000 to $35,000 which could be deposited as soon as the next business day. Rates vary from 9.95% to 35.99%. Not available in Colorado, Iowa, West Virginia, and Vermont. Avant branded credit products are issued by WebBank, member FDIC.
  • Best Egg: Rates range from 5.99% to 29.99% and it has an origination fee of 1.00% to 5.00%. It offers loans up to $35,000 for up to 60 months, and the minimum credit score need to apply is 640.
  • Discover: Discover offers home improvement loans with no origination fee. Its rates vary from 6.99% to 24.99% and it offers loans of up to $35,000 for up to 84 months. You could receive the funds in as little as 1 day, but you must have at least a 660 credit score to apply.
  • Freedomplus*: Freedomplus offers home improvement loans up to $35,000 with terms up to 60 months. Its rates vary from 8.45% to 29.90% and there is an origination fee of 1.38% to 5.00%. In order to apply, your credit score must be 600 or greater.
  • Karrot: Karrot offers loans to applicants with a minimum credit score of 660. Loan APRs range from 6.44% to 29.27% and origination fees vary from 1.05% to 4.75%. It offers terms up to 60 months and you must have a credit score of at least 660 to apply.
  • LendingClub*: With rates ranging from 5.99% to 35.89% and a minimum credit score needed of 600, LendingClub is an excellent option for those with lower credit scores. It offers loans up to $40,000 but is not available in West Virginia or Iowa.
  • Loan Depot: Loan Depot offers loans of up to $35,000 with rates ranging from 6.17% to 29.99% and origination fees of 1.00% to 5.00%. It offers 3-year terms and you must have a credit score of at least 640 to apply.Santander
  • OneMain*: OneMain charges no origination fee. Its APRs range from 17.99% to 35.00% on loans of up to $10,000 for up to 60 months. You must have a credit score of at least 550 to apply for a OneMain home improvement loan.
  • Peerform: Peerform offers loans up to $25,000 for up to 3 years with rates from 7.12% to 28.09%. Its origination fee varies from 1.00% to 5.00%.
  • PenFed Credit Union: While there is no origination fee for a home improvement loan from PenFed Credit Union, you must have a credit score of at least 700 to apply and be a member of the credit union. It offers a 9.99% APR, and loans of up to $25,000 for 60 months.
  • Prosper: Prosper’s rates vary from 5.99% to 36.00% on loans of up to $35,000.The origination fee ranges from 1.00% to 5.00% and you need a credit score of at least 640 to apply.
  • Santander: Santander offers loans of up to $25,000 with rates ranging from 6.99% to 14.99% and terms up to 60 months. There is no origination fee, but you must have a credit score of at least 680 to apply.
  • Upstart*: Upstart offers loans of up to $50,000 with rates of 9.56% to 29.99% for up 3 or 5 years. The minimum credit score needed to apply is 640 and the origination fee varies from 3.655% to 8.00% upfront.
  • USAA: Home improvement loans from USAA have no origination fee on loans of up to $20,000. It offers terms of up to 72 months and rates range from 8.99% to 10.99%. You must have a credit score of at least 700 to qualify for a loan from USAA and be eligible through a military affiliation.

When shopping around for a home improvement loan, make sure that you not only compare the APR you have been offered, but the origination fee as well. Additionally, be sure the compare all of the factors at the same term. As with any loan, regardless of the bank’s determination of your eligibility, make sure that the loan works with your budget and comfort level.

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Gretchen Lindow
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Gretchen Lindow is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Gretchen at gretchen@magnifymoney.com

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Best Options for Covering the Cost of Adoption

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.

adoption

Updated November 03, 2017
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 5.99% (with autopay) to 16.19%. 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.

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 5.99% 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%.

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 5.49% to 14.24% and variable APRs ranging from 5.29% to 11.44% 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 9.56% – 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 3.655%-8% to keep in mind.

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.

Chonce Maddox
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Chonce Maddox is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Chonce at chonce@magnifymoney.com

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FreedomPlus Review: An Option for Below Average Credit Scores

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.

Option for Average Credit Scores

Updated November 01, 2017

FreedomPlus is a personal loan provider that provides funding for life events like home remodeling, debt consolidation and travel. Loan terms are available from 2 to 5 years and you can borrow $5,000 to $35,000. Freedom Plus APR ranges from 4.99% to 29.99%.

The key selling point of FreedomPlus is the convenience of same day approvals and loan funding within 48 hours – although some restrictions may apply. Because of its low credit score requirement, FreedomPlus may be ideal for people who can’t get approved for other lines of credit with more competitive rates.

Here we’re breaking down the FreedomPlus loan in detail to help you weigh it as an option. We’ll even compare it to two other popular online lenders, so you can see a head-to-head comparison of the loan product against competitors.

Loan Details

The basic qualifications for getting approved by FreedomPlus appear on the website. At bare minimum, you must have a valid ID, be over 18 years old and a U.S. citizen.

A call placed to FreedomPlus shed some light on other qualifying criteria. At the very least you need a credit score of 700, $25,000 worth of verifiable income and no bankruptcies within the last two years.

As far as interest and loan terms, FreedomPlus determines what you qualify for based on the loan amount, your credit score, overall debt and debt-to-income ratio.

Fees and Gotchas

FreedomPlus charges an origination fee of 1.00% to 5.00% which comes out of your loan before it’s deposited into your account. FreedomPlus determines how much you pay for origination after considering your credit history and income. There’s no fee for early repayment of a loan, which can help you reduce the amount of interest you pay over time.

Other potential hidden fees for situations like returned or late payments are not listed publicly. But FreedomPlus told us via the phone that these conditions are covered in the final contract.

Transparency Score

We give the FreedomPlus loan a transparency score of “A” because its fine print details and fee structures are unclear. For information regarding most of its loan conditions you must speak directly with a FreedomPlus agent.

However, pre-qualifying for a rate only requires a soft pull, which doesn’t impact your credit report or score. So you do have the option to apply for a rate and then ask for more loan information during your one-on-one appointment with a lending agent. FreedomPlus performs a phone screening with each applicant before final approval.

Pros and Cons

Now let’s dig into the pros and cons of taking out a loan with FreedomPlus:

Pros

  • People with a below average credit score have a shot at getting approved.
  • FreedomPlus personalizes its application process. It aims to go above and beyond just scrutinizing your credit to qualify you personally during a phone interview.
  • You can get approved within a day and receive your loan within just 48 hours.
  • There’s no fee for prepayments.
  • You can pre-qualify online to check rates with a soft pull.

Cons

  • The APR range starts pretty high at 4.99%
  • The FreedomPlus website is simplistic to a fault. It doesn’t have a wealth of information on fine print to reference when weighing your options.
  • Miscellaneous fees for situations like a failed payment aren’t available to review. We strongly advise borrowers interested in a FreedomPlus loan to go through the final loan contract with a fine-tooth comb before signing.

Freedom Plus Against Competitors

If you want a personal loan, you should make sure you shop around for the best deal. MagnifyMoney has a list of the best personal loans – which is a good place to start. The first lender on our list is SoFi, which has interest rates as low as 5.29% APR (variable with auto-pay) and 5.49% APR (fixed). You can check your rate without hurting your credit score.

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Avant charges APRs ranging from 9.95% – 35.99%. Checking your Loan Options will not affect your credit score and you may get funds as soon as the next business day. Avant is available in all states except Colorado, Iowa, West Virginia, and Vermont.

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

Compared to both FreedomPlus and Avant, SoFi offers the lowest interest rates. In fact, SoFi’s high-end APR is not to far off the lowest APR available at Freedom Plus. The highest SoFi APR is 14.24% (if you sign up for auto-pay) where the APR range for Freedom Plus begins at 8.47%. But you need to have excellent credit in order to qualify for a loan at SoFi.

Who will benefit most from a FreedomPlus Loan?

A FreedomPlus loan may be a good solution for you if you have a low credit score. Especially if you’re getting denied elsewhere and you’re in an emergency situation or you wish to consolidate debt as soon as possible.

However, FreedomPlus APR is comparable to Avant, so you should apply for both loans if your credit is less than stellar to see which one will benefit you more.

Don’t count out SoFi (or other personal loan provides that allow you to see a rate with a soft pull), because it will save you money if you have enough flexibility to build your credit before you take out a loan. Whichever loan you do decide to settle on, make sure you feel completely comfortable with the terms and hidden fees before signing off on a contract.

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

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6 Personal Loans for 600 to 700 Credit Scores

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.

7 Personal Loans for 600 to 700 Credit Scores

Updated November 01, 2017

If you have a less-than-perfect credit and want to pay off credit card debt, fund home improvement projects, or pay for unexpected expenses, then finding a lender that will consider your credit might seem like an uphill battle.

Refinancing high-interest debt with a personal loan can quickly cut down the amount of interest you’re paying, which effectively allows you to pay if off in less time. You particularly want to avoid payday and title loan lenders at all costs.

Many personal loan companies approve people with scores as low as 600. The best way to shop for a loan is to apply with as many lenders as possible who perform a soft credit pull (which doesn’t harm your credit score). With our first recommendation, LendingTree, you can apply for a loan with multiple lenders (including all of those on our list below) with one application form and no negative impact to your score.

1. LendingTree

With LendingTree, you only need to fill out one short online form. A soft credit pull will be performed – so your credit score will not be harmed. LendingTree has a panel of dozens of lenders who will then compete for your business. You may be able to see how much you can borrow and the interest rate. This is a great place to start – especially for people with credit scores below 700. (Note: MagnifyMoney is owned by LendingTree)

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2. LendingClub

LendingClub offers loans of up to $40,000, for individuals with a minimum credit score of 600. Its APR ranges from 5.99% to 35.89%. LendingClub also uses a soft credit pull to determine your rate, which will not affect your credit.

The Fine Print

In order to qualify for a LendingClub personal loan you must:

  • Not have more than 5 hard credit inquiries in the last 5 months
  • Have at least two active credit accounts open
  • Have a credit history of at least 36 months
  • Debt-to-income ratio of less than 40%
  • Be able to verify employment and income

Once you have met the minimum criteria, LendingClub uses its own scoring system to determine what amount you can borrow as well as your rate.

You can borrow money for up to 60 months, but it does charge up-front (origination) fees depending on credit worthiness, which come out of the loan amount.

Pros

  • Can see your rate with a soft credit pull
  • Will consider applicants with credit scores as low as 600
  • Offers very competitive interest rates for people with scores below 700
  • The application process only take a few minutes

Cons

  • Missed payments or items in collections will result in your application being rejected
  • Loan processing could take a week or more
  • APR can be as high as 35.89%
  • It does charge origination fees
  • Is not available in Iowa or West Virginia

LendingClub will approve people with credit scores as low as 600. If approved, the interest rates offered can be very competitive and the online application process is easy. This is good first stop for anyone with a score of 600 or higher to find the best deal.

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3. BestEgg

BestEgg offers personal loans up to $35,000 for people with credit scores as low as 640. APRs range from 5.99% to 29.99%. You can check your rate without hurting your credit score, and BestEgg has an excellent application process (that can result in funding your loan very quickly).

The Fine Print

BestEgg does charge an origination fee, which can be between 0.99% and 5.99%. However, there is no prepayment penalty, and you can pay off your loan early without penalty.

Pros

  • Can see your rate with a soft credit pull
  • Will consider applicants with credit scores as low as 660
  • Offers very competitive interest rates
  • Fast application process and fast funding

Cons

  • APR can be as high as 29.99%
  • It does charge origination fees

BestEgg offers competitive rates and a quick online process to get your loan. It is an excellent option for people with less than perfect scores.

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4. Avant

Avant offers access to loans from $2,000 to $35,000. There is no prepayment fee. It is possible to get your loan as soon as the next business day. Although every case is unique, we have seen Avant accept people with credit scores as low as 580 be approved.

The Fine Print

APRs range from 9.95% to 35.99%. The Avant platform does charge an up-front origination fee of 4.75%, which is lower than most of the competition.

Checking your Loan Options through Avant only requires a soft pull to see your rate, which does not affect your credit score, and there are no prepayment fees.

A personal loan through Avant received an “A” from MagnifyMoney’s Transparency Score.

Pros

  • Approved people with lower credit scores
  • “A” Transparency Score
  • Can see your Loan Options with a soft credit pull
  • Fixed terms, fixed interest rate, no prepayment fees

Cons

  • Interest rates as high as 35.99%
  • Charges an origination fee
  • Not available in Colorado, Iowa, West Virginia, and Vermont

Avant is a good option for people with less than perfect credit. You can check your Loan Options without hurting your score and it has an “A” transparency score.

Avant

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

5. OneMain

OneMain offers loans up to $25,000 for individuals with credit scores starting at 600. It offers terms of up to 60 months and APR ranges from 17.59% to 35.99%.

The Fine Print

In order to be accepted for a OneMain Loan, you must live near a OneMain branch, as a face-to-face meeting is required to finalize the loan. OneMain personal loans are not available in Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Nevada, Rhode Island, Vermont, or Washington D.C.

In order to qualify you must have:

  • Verifiable, steady income
  • No bankruptcy filings, ever
  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Have at least some established credit history
  • Credit score of at least 600

If, at any time during the application process, OneMain becomes aware that you intend to use the personal loan for gambling, your loan application will be cancelled. OneMain personal loans cannot be used for business expenses or tuition.

You cannot see your OneMain rate until it performs a hard credit pull, which does affect your credit, and the OneMain personal loan earns a “B” Transparency score.

Pros

      • Credit score as low as 600
      • Fixed Rates
      • No Prepayment penalty
      • Fixed terms

Convenient location, at OneMain branches

Cons

  • APR ranges from 17.59% – 35.99%
  • Loans cannot be used for business expenses or tuition
  • Cannot see rate without a hard credit pull
  • Personal loans only available up to $10,000
  • Loans not available in Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Nevada, Rhode Island, Vermont, or Washington D.C.
  • You must visit a OneMain branch to complete the loan.

The OneMain personal loan caters to people with low credit scores, or who would prefer to complete the personal loan application process at a branch, rather than online.

OneMain Financial

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6. Freedomplus

Freedomplus offers loans ranging from $5,000 to $35,000 that can be used for everything from debt consolidation, to unexpected expenses. APR ranges from 4.99% to 29.99%.

Its biggest selling point is the same-day approval and availability of funds within 48 hours, a lifesaver in some circumstances.

The Fine Print

In order to qualify for a Freedomplus loan, you must:

  • Be 18 years or older
  • Be a legal US resident
  • Have a valid ID
  • Minimum credit score of 700
  • At least $25,000 in verifiable income
  • No bankruptcies in the last two years

Freedomplus charges origination fees ranging from 1.00% to 5.00%, which is deducted from the loan amount before you receive the funds. There are no prepayment penalties.

The Freedomplus personal loan scores a “B” Transparency score because its fee structure and much of the fine print is unclear or not covered by the final contract.

You can prequalify with a soft credit pull, which does not affect your credit score. However, Freedomplus requires a phone screening with each applicant before the loan is approved.

Pros

  • Will approve credit scores as low as 700
  • The phone screening may improve your chances of being approved for the loan
  • Same-day approval and funds within 48 hours
  • No prepayment penalty
  • Can prequalify with a soft credit pull

Cons

  • APR ranges from 4.99% to 29.99%
  • The fee structure is not readily available for review
  • Origination fee of 1.00% to 5.00% applies

The Freedomplus personal loan is a good option for you if you have less than perfect credit, and need access to funds quickly, without visiting a physical branch.

7. Prosper

The Prosper personal loan process is a little different than a traditional lender. It is not a bank, but rather a peer-to-peer lender. Once you have applied, and checked loan terms and rates, you create a loan “listing” that then appears on in the Prosper marketplace.

From these listings, peers (investors) choose which loans they would like to finance. When your loan listing is financed, the money is transferred to your bank account.

Prosper offers loans from $2,000 to $35,000, and APR ranges from 5.99% to 36.00%. It offers loans terms of either 36 or 60 months. Your APR is determined during the application process, and is based on a credit rating score created by Prosper. Your score is then shown with your loan listing to give potential lenders an idea of your creditworthiness.

The Fine Print

Your loan listing will remain active for 14 days. After 14 days, your loan must be at least 70% funded to receive the funds. If you are not 70% funded within 14 days, you must reapply to have your loan re-listed.

Origination fees range from 1% to 5% and are based on your Prosper score. In order to qualify, you must:

  • Have a bank account
  • Have a social security number
  • No more than 7 inquiries on your credit in the last six months
  • A verifiable, steady income
  • A credit-to-debt ratio of less than 50%
  • At least three open accounts, such as checking, savings, and credit card.
  • No bankruptcies in the last year

A returned payment may result in a $15 fee, and late payments past 15 days are charged a 5% fee, with a minimum of $15.

Prosper’s overall fine print is very clear is its fees are quite minimal, so it scores it an “A” Transparency Score. Also, you can check your Prosper rate with a soft credit pull, which will not affect your credit score.

Pros

  • Minimum credit score of 640
  • Can see your rate with a soft pull
  • No prepayment penalties
  • Paying off a Prosper loan can reduce your APR on future Prosper loans

Cons

  • Only 14 days to secure financing from peer lenders
  • Origination fee of 1% to 5% applies
  • APR varies from 5.99% – 36.00%

Prosper is a flexible alternative with a low-end APR that beats a credit card.

Shop Around to Find the Best Deal

If you have made past credit mistakes, or have very little credit, there are personal loans out there for you. Many of these lenders offer rates much lower than what you would be paying on a credit card, shaving month and hundred or thousands of dollars off of your debt.

Don’t give up on a personal loan just because of your credit – there are options out there for you. It never hurts to shop around and look for the best rates available, especially if the lender does a soft credit pull to show you your options.

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Gretchen Lindow
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Gretchen Lindow is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Gretchen at gretchen@magnifymoney.com

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Vouch Review: Returning Personal Loans to Trust-Based Lending

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.

personal loan_lg

Updated October 24, 2017
UPDATE: Vouch has ceased operations, and is no longer a loan provider.

Vouch* is another alternative lender for personal loans, though it has a very unique twist as you might be able to tell from the name: friends and family are able to “vouch” for you – in terms of your financial responsibility and trustworthiness – and in turn, your interest rate will decrease. Vouch is about being able to leverage your network to get a great loan.

This is very different from the other lenders we’ve reviewed so far, because Vouch is pioneering the “trust-based lending” model in today’s market place.

Vouch is also not a peer-to-peer lender; the money that the company loans comes directly from them.

While Vouch does have requirements for their loans, having the support of your friends and family is going to make a difference here. Vouch is attempting to go back to the days when lending was actually personal and based on trust.

How Does Vouch Work?

Essentially, you’re asking friends and family to put in a good word for you to help you get the best loan term possible.

vouch email

It’s important to note that when you ask a contact to vouch for you, no personal information is given. Vouch is clear on what information is shared in its privacy policy, and you can look it over to see examples of the messages they send.

A simple note is sent to those you reach out to, stating that you’re asking them to vouch for you for a loan.

Those that want to vouch for you will be given 3-5 questions to answer, and all they need to do is submit their answers. They’re then notified when you accept Vouch’s loan offer, but amounts and terms aren’t disclosed.

Those that vouch for you can also pledge money toward your loan, in case you’re unable to make payments. This is not necessary for them to do, but they can choose to vouch a dollar amount starting from $25. If you default on the loan, they’ll be required to pay the amount they pledge.

This is a creative way for Vouch to make loans more affordable, as they’re distributing the risk to those in your network.

What Do Vouch Loans Look Like?

Vouch is currently offering between $500 – $7,500 installment loans with interest rates between starting at 10.68%.  Remember, when your network vouches for you, your interest rate improves. Vouch showcases an example of this on their homepage.

Vouch states that most of their loans are paid off within 1-3 years, which is consistent with other alternative lenders.

The really neat thing is your interest rate isn’t set in stone, so it’s possible you’ll end up paying less as more people vouch for you.

Requirements for a Vouch Loan

In order to obtain a loan with Vouch, you must meet these requirements:

  • Must be 18 years or older
  • Be a legal U.S. resident
  • Have a verifiable bank account
  • Have a FICO score of 600 or greater
  • Must be current on existing accounts and not in bankruptcy or foreclosure proceedings

It’s also recommended that you have a strong support network. If you’re uncomfortable asking people for help, then you won’t be able to get the most out of Vouch.

Vouch states on its website that they’re mainly looking to give loans to those that can afford to take them on. However, Vouch has recently exited their beta testing stage, so these requirements might be flexible as they figure out what works and what doesn’t. It never hurts to try!

Vouch’s Application Process

It’s easy to get started. At the top of their website, you’re prompted to enter in your phone number to receive a security code to enter. By entering this security code, you’re agreeing to Vouch’s privacy policy.

vouch app (1)Going through this process took me less than 5 minutes! The security code was promptly sent to my phone, and I filled out the sections below.

Vouch asks for personal information such as your name, address, date of birth, amount you pay for housing, and your job situation.

After that, Vouch takes 24-48 hours to get back to you with a loan offer. In the meantime, you’ll receive a Welcome email from them, telling you what to expect.

At no point did I have to enter my social security number, and being the transparent company they are, Vouch specifically states that agreeing and submitting your information will not affect your credit.

The Fine Print: Any Fees?

Vouch isn’t a fan of hidden fees, so there are no application fees, annual fees, orprepayment fees.

However, they do have an origination fee of 1%-5% of your loan amount, and their late fee is 5% of your payment amount with a minimum of $15.

Who Would Benefit the Most from a Loan with Vouch?

Those with big support networks will benefit the most from a loan with Vouch, simply because the terms of your loan is dependent upon how many people will Vouch for you.

If you’d rather stay private about financial matters, then Vouch wouldn’t be the right company to get lending from. There are other alternative personal loan lenders offering lower interest rates to start with, with no credit requirements.

As it stands right now, the maximum amount you can borrow from Vouch is $7,500, which isn’t large when compared with other lenders, so this loan is ideal for those that are looking to fund smaller pursuits.

What Can You Use the Money For?

Vouch does ask you what you plan on using the money for, and a few of the options to choose from are:

  • Debt consolidation
  • Moving
  • Wedding
  • Financing smaller purchases

Vouch can also be a good idea if you’re looking to supplement the savings you already have. For example, if you have $10,000 saved for your wedding, but need another $3,000, then you can get the funds from Vouch.

An Interesting Loan Solution, If You Have A Strong Network

Vouch is an interesting concept in the personal loan space – no other company is taking this kind of approach. Peer-to-peer lending isn’t the same, as investors often don’t have personal connections with borrowers.

With Vouch, you can enlist the help of family and friends, as you might be inclined to do regardless. It’s also a great way for your network to show support, and you can pass along the favor by vouching for others.

Because Vouch doesn’t require a hard credit inquiry, you have nothing to lose by applying with them and seeing what terms they can offer you. You aren’t committed to taking a loan with them by applying, and can continue to shop around if the terms aren’t good for you.

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

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

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.

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

Updated August 21, 2017

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 14.24%. 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.

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.)

Earnest Fixed APRs range from 3.25% to 6.39%, and variable APRs range from 2.57% to 6.19% (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.

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 3.20%, 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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Erin Millard
Erin Millard |

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

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