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Pay Down My Debt

Fair Debt Collection Practices Act: Understanding Your Rights

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

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Falling behind on debt payments can be stressful, and the last thing anyone wants is a barrage of calls or letters from a debt collector threatening repercussions if you don’t pay up now. While companies do have the right to ask consumers to pay their bills, there are government rules in place to keep debt collectors from unduly harassing you.

Calls from unscrupulous debt collectors can be frightening and unsettling. Before engaging with anyone who contacts you claiming that you owe money, it’s important to know your rights. Often, debt collectors may be lying or breaking federal law.

What is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act?

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), a federal law that was passed in 1978, provides guidelines on the actions that debt collectors can take when they try to get consumers to make payments on their debts. It prohibits abusive, deceptive or unfair practices and puts limits on when and how third-party debt collectors can contact people who owe money.

The FDCPA covers the collection of credit card, mortgage and medical debt, as well as debts from household, personal or family purposes, including student loans and auto loans. The FDCPA does not cover business debt or debts for agricultural purposes.

In-house collection versus third-party collection

One important aspect of the FDCPA is that it only applies to third-party collections. That means that the company where the debt originated, such as a bank or credit card company, does not have to abide by FDCPA rules when collecting debt.

But original creditors typically don’t collect their own debt or sue people who owe them money because it would make them look bad, said Ira Rheingold, executive director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates. Instead, these companies hire someone else — a third-party collection agency — to do it for them.

“It’s reputational,” Rheingold said. “If you are a credit card company, do you really want your name on all these lawsuits?”

If a debt collector contacts you, they likely are working for a third party such as a debt buyer or a debt collection agency. Some of these companies buy past-due debts, often at pennies on the dollar, and then use abusive means to try to collect the debt.

5 illegal debt collector practices

What debt collectors CAN do

What debt collectors CAN’T do

Call, email or send letters and texts

Harass you or anyone else with obscene language, lies or threats of violence

Contact you and your spouse

Contact you at work or call your employer

Contact other people once to get your address, home phone number and employer name

Claim to be attorneys, federal officials or government agents

Threaten to take your property if the process would be legal

Threaten consumers with postdated checks

Call you during the day at a convenient time

Contact you at an inconvenient time or between 9 p.m. and 8 a.m.

The bottom line is that third-party collectors are allowed to contact you within the FDCPA’s guidelines if you owe money. But if their behavior breaks the law, which includes threatening to call your grandma or your neighbor about your debts, you have recourse.

How to stop debt collector calls and letters

If you get a call from a debt collector, do not engage with them. That means do not give them personal or financial information, no matter how forcefully they ask. Instead, here’s how to handle unwanted calls and letters.

1. Be brief

It’s important to make calls short, but make sure you get some important information before you hang up. Tell the debt collector you want verification of your debt in writing. “Say to them, ‘I don’t believe I owe this debt. What proof do you have?’” Rheingold said. By law, the debt collector is required to tell you:

  • The creditor’s name
  • The amount you owe
  • That you can dispute the debt
  • That you can ask for the original creditor’s name and address

The debt collector is required to send you the information within five days of the initial contact.

While it can be tempting to try to negotiate over the phone with a debt collector, Rheingold recommended proceeding with caution, and don’t fall for a debt collector’s argument that you have a moral obligation to pay your debt.

Often, debt collectors pile exorbitant fees on top of the amount you owe. “Be very careful,” Rheingold said. “Oftentimes, it’s just throwing good money after bad.”

2. Get their information

Ask the caller for their company’s name and mailing address. If you receive a letter, save the return address.

3. Send a letter

Send the debt collector a letter by certified mail telling them to stop contacting you, and keep a copy for your records. This letter will trigger FDCPA rules that require the debt collector to leave you alone.

Keep in mind, however, that a letter will not magically banish a third-party debt collector. They are still legally allowed to contact you to confirm there will be no further contact or to notify you of any actions it can legally take, including a lawsuit or reporting negative information to a credit reporting company.

What to do if a debt collector does something illegal

If a collector contacts you, they could be breaking the law as they try to get you to repay debts. Rheingold said one common fraud is debt collection companies buying past-due debt for extremely low prices at “debt auctions” and then trying to collect it. Often, the debt collection company only has a little information about the debtor and no information about the actual debt. If you don’t pay, however, they may try to take you to court.

“They use our court system to collect debts when the debt is not provable,” Rheingold said. “They don’t have the original contract or accounting of how much money is owed. They will say you owe money, and if you don’t pay it, they sometimes will sue you.” If you don’t show up in court, the debt collector may get an easy win.

If you think a debt collector is doing something illegal, here are some options:

  1. Call yourstate attorney general’s office. Many states have additional laws about debt collection practices that may apply to original creditors and fraudulent lawsuits, and the office can give you details about your state’s laws.
  2. File a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) online or by calling 855-411-2372.
  3. Talk to an attorney who specializes in debt collection. Attorneys can investigate whether a debt collector is breaking state or federal law and whether the claim is valid, defend you in court against a fraudulent lawsuit and respond to legal summons for you. You can get representation through a nonprofit legal aid clinic (where legal services are free), pro bono clinics at courthouses or private attorneys.

Debt collection: FAQs

Personal debts typically are considered delinquent after you miss the first payment, and if you don’t make any payments for six months or respond to the original lender’s collection efforts, the lender may turn the debt over to a third-party debt collection company.

At this point, you may start receiving letters, emails and phone calls to get you to make payments on the debt. Third-party debt collectors typically will try these tactics for about 90 days, and then they may sue you or sell your debt to another collection company.

Yes. The law requires a debt collector to send you a “validation notice” within five days of making contact with you. The notice must include the name of the creditor you owe money, how much money you owe and information about steps you can take if you don’t think the debt is yours.

First, never agree that the debt is yours. The FDCPA requires debt collectors to provide validation, such as a copy of a bill showing how much you owe on the debt, when you ask.

After you get the debt collector’s mailing address, send the company a letter within 30 days stating that you don’t owe the money and asking for verification of the debt. The debt collector also is required to stop contacting you if you ask in writing.

It’s likely that the debt collector has the incorrect amount for your debt or has tacked on high fees — Rheingold said you may owe $500, but a third-party debt collector may inflate that number to $2,500 with fees. Both of these practices are illegal. Third-party debt collectors cannot misrepresent the amount you owe or collect fees or interest above what’s stated in your original contract.

After sending a letter requesting that the debt collector verify the loan amount, file a complaint with the CFBP. If the debt collector sues you, seek legal assistance and respond to all court summons.

There’s a possibility that a third-party debt collector will sue you if you don’t agree to make payments on your debt, regardless of whether you actually owe the money. If you do receive a court summons, do not ignore it, Rheingold said. Be sure to show up on your appointed date, with an attorney if you can, to make sure that the court doesn’t rubber-stamp a judgment against you.

If a debt collector is contacting you about more than one debt and you do want to make payments, you can dictate where the payment goes. It’s illegal for a third-party debt collector to apply your payment to a debt that you have said you don’t owe.

You also may want to consider a serious assessment of your financial situation, Rheingold said. “You need to have a real understanding of what you can afford and what you can’t,” he said. “Maybe that’s the time to sit down with a financial counselor.”

You’ll also want to figure out which debts to prioritize. If you need your car for work, for example, you’ll want to pay your auto loan.

Any payments you can make need to be substantial, Rheingold said. “Paying a little money here and a little there isn’t going to do you any good,” he said. Making minimum payments while accumulating more debt will not lead to financial health, and, in extreme situations, consumers may want to look at bankruptcy options.

It depends. Debt collectors can have money taken from your paycheck and your bank account with a court order. But the debt collector first must sue you. That’s why it’s vital that you respond to any legal notices from debt collectors, preferable with legal counsel.

Federal benefits such as Social Security typically cannot be garnished for repayment of debts.

A statute of limitations, which begins when you miss your first debt payment, limits the window of time that debt collectors have to sue you and win payment. When that time frame passes, an unpaid debt is considered “time-barred.”

The length of the statute of limitations is determined by the type of debt and the laws in the state where your contract originated. Be careful: If you make a payment or acknowledge your debt in writing during the statute of limitations, the time will reset.

Conclusion

While debt collectors may be annoying or bordering on abusive, at times they are trying to collect a legitimate debt. In most cases, you can legally make debt collectors leave you alone, but your inability to pay outstanding debt remains.

“If you owe the debt, you can’t get blood from a rock,” Rheingold said. “But you can still say, ‘I don’t want you to call me anymore.’”

When you get the debt collectors off your back, take a hard look at your options. Making minimum payments typically isn’t enough to reduce debt, and it could prove difficult to rein in spending while you make debt payments.

Rheingold said nonprofit credit counselors will provide free guidance for people struggling to get out of debt, including information about bankruptcy. “Sometimes you’re better off getting a fresh start so that you can renew your credit (history),” he said. “If you find yourself in that position, think about how you got there and maybe seek help.”

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Marty Minchin
Marty Minchin |

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

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Get A Pre-Approved Personal Loan

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Won’t impact your credit score

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Personal Loans

Earnest Personal Loan Review

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Disclosure : By clicking “See Offers” you’ll be directed to our parent company, LendingTree. You may or may not be matched with the specific lender you clicked on, but up to five different lenders based on your creditworthiness.

Earnest
APR

6.99%
To
18.24%

Credit Req.

650

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

36 to 60

months

Origination Fee

No origination fee

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

Instead of offering credit-based loans, Earnest has taken a very nontraditional approach using a merit-based system.... Read More

Earnest personal loan details
 

Fees and penalties

  • Terms: Earnest loan terms range from 36 to 60 months.
  • APR range: The APR for this loan is 6.99% to 18.24%.
  • Loan amounts: You may borrow between $5,000 and $75,000.
  • Time to funding: Earnest aims to respond to most loan applications within five to 10 business days.
  • Hard pull/soft pull: Earnest performs a hard inquiry on your credit and only shows your rates once you have submitted your loan application, though the company says it’s working on a rate check for personal loan applications. This inquiry will appear on your credit report and will slightly lower your credit score.

Not only are there no fees, if you find yourself in a difficult situation that affects your ability to repay your loan, Earnest will work with you. It offers several ways to help borrowers.


  • Late payments: Earnest extends a seven-day grace period beyond the originally scheduled payment date to all clients. The lender also allows borrowers to adjust their monthly auto-payment date.
  • Unexpected financial changes: Earnest staff are available to immediately discuss borrowers’ situations with them.
  • Death or disability: If the borrower dies or becomes permanently and completely disabled, the executor of of the borrower’s estate can petition Earnest for relief.

Eligibility requirements

  • Minimum credit score: Earnest requires a minimum credit score of 650.
  • Minimum credit history: The lender looks for those with enough savings to cover two months of expenses, spend less than they earn, do not carry large amounts of credit card debt and have a history of making payments on time.
  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: Though Earnest’s website does not specify a certain debt-to-income ratio, the lender consistently describes its target audience as responsible borrowers who keep their credit levels relatively low.

Earnest personal loans are not available everywhere — residents of Alabama, Delaware, Kentucky, Nevada and Rhode Island are ineligible. You must be 18, a U.S. citizen, long-term permanent resident alien or conditional permanent resident alien or hold certain visas through the life of the loan. Applicants must show that they are paid in U.S. dollars and have a consistent income.

Applying for a personal loan from Earnest

Earnest’s loan application process starts online like many other lenders, but it may require you to submit more information than competitors. The process begins with the borrower selecting a loan amount, terms and reason for applying such as credit card consolidation, debt refinance, or paying for a home improvement, security deposit on a rental property, vacation or honeymoon, wedding, a move or career development. “Other” also is an option.

The borrower must then create an account, providing name, state of residence and email address.

Applicants also will be asked to provide:

  • Education and employment information: The application will ask for all of your educational background and work history. Underwriters will use the information to get a picture of your academic and career growth as well as your earning potential to assess how likely you are to pay back your Earnest loan.
  • Financial information: You must provide Earnest with read-only access to financial transactions in your bank accounts by linking them to your Earnest profile. Underwriters will look at your balance history and transactions only, not your charges, and will use secure data from your accounts and LinkedIn profile to verify your identity. Earnest doesn’t sell any personal data or ever have access to your usernames or passwords.
  • Personal information: Earnest does not operate physical branches where staff could verify an applicant’s identity in person, so applicants are asked to securely upload a government-issued photo ID such as a driver’s license. You also will be required to enter your Social Security number so that Earnest can run a hard pull on your credit.

Earnest communicates through email once you submit your loan application. You may check the status of your loan during the review process by signing in to your Earnest account and clicking on “My Loans” at the top of the page. You may receive an email asking for additional information, and the final decision will be emailed. You can find more details about your loan offer when you sign in to your Earnest account.

You have seven calendar days to accept an offer. Earnest encourages successful applicants to contact the company during this period with any questions or concerns. Earnest will transfer the money to you by the next business day after you accept the offer and provide your bank account information. The funds should appear in your account within one to two days of signing.

Pros and cons of an Earnest personal loan

Pros:

Cons:

  • Low rates. Earnest has some of the lowest rates on the market, with a maximum APR of 18.24%.
  • Smooth application process: Despite the lengthy application process, Earnest’s reviews praise its ease and helpful customer service.
  • Comprehensive website: Earnest is upfront about its terms, rates and loan requirements, and its website is easy to navigate and provides detailed information about Earnest personal loans.
  • Extensive application: Earnest has a more involved application process than many other lenders, and it requires documentation of your financial, personal, education, and employment information.
  • Hard pull: Personal loan applicants will not receive their rate until their loan is approved, a process which requires a hard pull on your credit.
  • Responsibility required: Even though Earnest doesn’t base its loan decisions solely on credit scores, borrowers must prove they are financially responsible. Applicants who have struggled to pay bills in the past and whose finances are disorganized likely will not be approved.

Who’s the best fit for an Earnest personal loan?

Earnest personal loans are an excellent option for people in their 20s and 30s who have a college education and are establishing their careers but need to build credit. Unlike most lenders, Earnest will make a decision about their loan application based on their potential and career trajectory rather than just their past. As long as underwriters can determine that an applicant is financially stable, financially responsible and likely to pay back the loan, the applicant likely will be approved.
Borrowers who want a good deal on a versatile loan also should consider Earnest. The lender does not charge any fees, and its APR range is lower than many other lenders. While Earnest personal loans cannot be used to repay student loans or for businesses, they can be used for everything from consolidating debt to new job expenses to relocation.

Alternative personal loan options

Before you sign up, it’s important to research other lenders who offer different terms, stipulations and rates to make sure you get the best loan for your situation. MagnifyMoney’s online tool for comparing personal loans will give you a comprehensive look at your options.

This roundup includes loans that allow you to check rates with a soft pull.

Lending Club

APR

6.95%
To
35.89%

Credit Req.

600

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

36 or 60

months

Origination Fee

1.00% - 6.00%

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

LendingClub is a great tool for borrowers that can offer competitive interest rates and approvals for people with credit scores as low as 600.... Read More

LendingClub, established in 2007, works with borrowers with credit scores as low as 600, which is lower than Earnest’s minimum credit score of 600 though APR rates are as high as 35.99%. Unlike Earnest however, LendingClub will conduct a Hard Pull of your credit; it will not affect your credit score and will allow you to get rates and terms before deciding to apply.

Upgrade

Upgrade
APR

6.99%
To
35.97%

Credit Req.

620

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

36 or 60

months

Origination Fee

1.00% - 6.00%

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

Upgrade is an online lender that offers fairly priced personal loans for a term of either 36 or 60 months.... Read More.

Like LendingClub, Upgrade is an online lender available to those with fair credit that also offers a Soft Pull. A LendingClub loan may be a quicker turnaround than Earnest — once your application is approved, the money will be transferred to your bank account within four business days.

Marcus by Goldman Sachs®

Marcus by Goldman Sachs®
APR

6.99%
To
24.99%

Credit Req.

Varies

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

36 to 72

months

Origination Fee

No origination fee

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

Marcus by Goldman Sachs® offers personal loans for up to $40,000 for debt consolidation and credit consolidation. ... Read More

This relatively new line of personal loans was launched by Goldman Sachs Bank USA. The lender offers no-fee personal loans, which sets it apart from others in this list, but its APR rates are somewhat higher than Earnest’s. Marcus will conduct a Soft Pull on your credit to generate rates and offers borrowers the option to defer one payment without accruing extra interest or fees. More than 80% of borrowers last year had a credit score of at least 660, according to Goldman Sachs’ most recent annual report.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Marty Minchin
Marty Minchin |

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

TAGS: ,

Get A Pre-Approved Personal Loan

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Won’t impact your credit score

Advertiser Disclosure

Personal Loans

FreedomPlus Personal Loan Review

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Disclosure : By clicking “See Offers” you’ll be directed to our parent company, LendingTree. You may or may not be matched with the specific lender you clicked on, but up to five different lenders based on your creditworthiness.

APR

4.99%
To
29.99%

Credit Req.

700

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

24 to 60

months

Origination Fee

0.00% - 5.00%

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

With a personalized application process that includes a phone interview, FreedomPlus gives people with below average credit a shot at getting approved for a personal loan.... Read More

FreedomPlus personal loan details
 

Fees and penalties

  • Terms: FreedomPlus loan terms range from two to five years.
  • APR range: The APR range for FreedomPlus loans is 4.99% to 29.99% APR.
  • Loan amounts: You can borrow from $7,500-$35,000.
  • Time to funding: If you submit a completed application, which includes your signature, a valid ID and verification of your income and bank account, early in the day, you could receive the money within 48 hours.
  • Hard pull/soft pull: Checking personal loan rates with FreedomPlus only requires a Soft Pull. The Soft Pull will not impact your credit history. However, a hard pull is required to complete the full application. The hard inquiry may appear on your credit report and can impact your credit score.
  • Origination fee: 0.00% - 5.00%
  • Prepayment fee: $0
  • Late payment fee: TBD
  • Other fees: TBD

Eligibility requirements

  • Minimum credit score: Varies
  • Minimum credit history: Varies
  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: 40%

While FreedomPlus doesn’t detail its credit requirements on its website, it has outlined other requirements for loan approval and its loan parameters. At a minimum, all applicants must be over 18 years old, be a U.S. citizen and have a valid ID. Applicants also need at least $25,000 of verifiable income and cannot have filed for bankruptcy in the last two years.

Loan limitations can vary by state. FreedomPlus does not arrange loans in Arizona for less than $10,500, in Massachusetts for less than $6,500, in Ohio for less than $5,500, and in Georgia for less than $3,500. Otherwise, FreedomPlus will determine the terms of your loan based on the loan amount and your credit score, total debt, and debt-to-income ratio.

Applying for a personal loan from FreedomPlus

FreedomPlus’s simple application process starts on its website. The application prompt will ask for the amount you’d like to borrow, how you plan to use the money, your credit score (you can choose among several score ranges) and the state where you live. Before submitting, you will also need to provide your name, email address and phone number.

After FreedomPlus receives your application, a loan consultant will follow up with a phone call. The platform advertises that it “goes beyond your credit report” to qualify you for a loan, and this conversation will allow you and the consultant to further discuss the loan and your qualifications.

If you apply early in the day and submit all required documents (a valid ID and bank and income documentation) quickly, your loan could be approved the same day. Following approval, funds should be available within 48 hours.

Pros and cons of a FreedomPlus personal loan

Pros:

Cons:

  • Lower credit score: FreedomPlus looks at more than your credit score, so if your credit score isn’t stellar but you are financially stable and pay your bills on time, you could get approved for a loan.
  • Easy application process: Applying for a FreedomPlus loan simply requires filling out an online form, submitting a few documents and speaking with a loan consultant on the phone. Applicants also can expect a quick response, and, if approved, access to the money within as little as 48 hours.
  • No fee for prepayment: You can reduce interest paid on the loan by paying off the loan early.
  • Credit score check: You can pre-qualify for a loan and check your rate with only a Soft Pull on your credit.
  • Origination fee: FreedomPlus charges an origination fee between 0.00% - 5.00%. On a $20,000 loan, for example, you could pay an origination fee as high as $1,000. The fee typically is deducted from the loan before it’s deposited into your account.
  • Potentially high rates: The APR on a FreedomPlus loan can be as high as 29.99%, which is high compared with some other personal loan companies that focus on borrowers with prime credit scores. It’s more on par with similar lenders. BestEgg, for example, works with borrowers with credit scores as low as 660 and offers rates between 5.99% and 29.99%. Upstart also give loans to borrowers a credit score of 640 with rates between 8.16% and 35.99%.
  • Simple website: FreedomPlus’s website is straightforward and easy to navigate, but it doesn’t provide many details about fees and other loan details you’ll need when deciding which loan is best for you.

Who’s the best fit for a FreedomPlus personal loan

While FreedomPlus doesn’t offer the lowest rates, it could be a good choice for those who have a lower credit score and can show they are in a good financial position. The platform offers a quick turnaround, and qualified applicants could have the money in the bank within two days of loan approval.

Borrowers who are motivated to improve their finances also could benefit from a FreedomPlus loan. The platform doesn’t charge a prepayment fee, which means that you can pay off the loan early and save money in interest payments without paying a fee.

Alternative personal loan options

As with any loan, you will want to look at options before making a decision. Different personal loan companies will offer different terms, so be sure to read through the detailed terms of each one before making a decision about which loan will most benefit you. You’ll want to consider fees, terms and whether the pre-qualification process will impact your credit score. A good place to start is MagnifyMoney’s online tool for comparing personal loans.

Here are some other lending platforms that offer similar terms to FreedomPlus loans.

Upgrade

Upgrade also offers an easy online application process and fast response. It’s willing to work with borrowers with credit scores as low as 620. However, it charges a slightly higher origination fee compared to FreedomPlus, at 1.00% - 6.00%. Pre-qualification, which only requires a Soft Pull, involves a one-page application, and Upgrade will return a decision almost instantly. The platform provides a wider range of loans than FreedomPlus, as applicants can qualify for loans of $1,000 to $50,000 with terms of 36 or 60 months. Money will be deposited to applicant’s bank accounts with days of verification.

Upgrade
APR

6.99%
To
35.97%

Credit Req.

620

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

36 or 60

months

Origination Fee

1.00% - 6.00%

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

Upgrade is an online lender that offers fairly priced personal loans for a term of either 36 or 60 months.... Read More.

SoFi

Like FreedomPlus, Sofi doesn’t charge a prepayment penalty and offers a simple online application process. Because it has higher credit requirements, borrowers with excellent, good credit looking for more options may want to consider SoFi. The platform provides loans ranging from $5,000 to $50,000 and its maximum APR is 14.99% (if you enroll in autopay). SoFi offers other benefits as well, including No origination fee, live customer support seven days a week and a pause in payments if you lose your job.

SoFi
APR

6.99%
To
14.99%

Credit Req.

680

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

36 to 84

months

Origination Fee

No origination fee

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

Advertiser Disclosure

SoFi offers some of the best rates and terms on the market. ... Read More


Fixed rates from 6.99% APR to 14.99% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 6.26% APR to 13.99% APR (with AutoPay). SoFi rate ranges are current as of October 5, 2018 and are subject to change without notice. Not all rates and amounts available in all states. See Personal Loan eligibility details. Not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, to qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including evaluation of your credit worthiness, years of professional experience, income and other factors. See APR examples and terms. Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at 14.95%. Lowest variable rate of 6.26% APR assumes current 1-month LIBOR rate of 2.22% plus 4.285% margin minus 0.25% AutoPay discount. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account.

To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull.

See Consumer Licenses.

SoFi Personal Loans are not available to residents of MS. Maximum interest rate on loans for residents of AK and WY is 9.99% APR, for residents of IL with loans over $40,000 is 8.99% APR, for residents of TX is 9.99% APR on terms greater than 5 years, for residents of CO, CT, HI, VA, SC is 11.99% APR, and for residents of ME is 12.24% APR. Personal loans not available to residents of MI who already have a student loan with SoFi. Personal Loans minimum loan amount is $5,000. Residents of AZ, MA, and NH have a minimum loan amount of $10,001. Residents of KY have a minimum loan amount of $15,001. Residents of PA have a minimum loan amount of $25,001. Variable rates not available to residents of AK, TX, VA, WY, or for residents of IL for loans greater than $40,000.

Terms and Conditions Apply. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi's underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

LightStream

LightStream is a great option for borrowers with excellent credit, as it offers a low APR and flexible terms, and has No origination fee or prepayment fees. Loan terms are determined by what you use the loan for, as an APR for an auto loan can be as low as 3.34% while the APR for home improvement loans starts at 4.99% with autopay. If you are approved for a loan and complete all necessary steps before 2:30 p.m. EST, the money can be deposited in your bank that day. Unlike FreedomPlus, LightStream does a Hard Pull, which may have a small impact on your credit score. Borrowers can apply for loans between $5,000 and $100,000.

APR

3.34%
To
16.99%

Credit Req.

660

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

24 to 144

months

Origination Fee

No origination fee

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

Advertiser Disclosure

LightStream is the online lending division of SunTrust Bank.... Read More


Your APR may differ based on loan purpose, amount, term, and your credit profile. Rate is quoted with AutoPay discount, which is only available when you select AutoPay prior to loan funding. Rates under the invoicing option are 0.50% higher. Subject to credit approval. Conditions and limitations apply. Advertised rates and terms are subject to change without notice. Payment example: Monthly payments for a $10,000 loan at 3.34% APR with a term of 3 years would result in 36 monthly payments of $292.31.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Marty Minchin
Marty Minchin |

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

TAGS:

Get A Pre-Approved Personal Loan

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Won’t impact your credit score

Advertiser Disclosure

Personal Loans

Requirements to Get Your Personal Loan Approved

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Disclosure : By clicking “See Offers” you’ll be directed to our parent company, LendingTree. You may or may not be matched with the specific lender you clicked on, but up to five different lenders based on your creditworthiness.

iStock

For the right consumers, personal loans can be a quick way to get much-needed cash for anything from a home repair to a college tuition. With the right qualifications, you can be approved for a personal loan in the morning and have the cash deposited into your account in as little as one day depending on the lender.

While applying is easy, qualifying for a personal loan may be more difficult. Here’s what you need to know about personal loans and how to get approved for one.

What is a personal loan?

A personal loan allows a consumer to borrow a lump sum of money for personal use and pay it back in fixed monthly payments over a set amount of time.

One significant difference between unsecured personal loans and other types of loans is that they don’t require collateral. When you buy a car, for example, the car serves as collateral and the lender can repossess it if you fall behind on your mortgage payments. To get an unsecured personal loan, you just have to qualify.

Personal loans come in a wide range of amounts and interest rates. The terms of personal loans vary by lender and range from six months to 84 months as of Feb. 2, 2018. They can be for as little as $2,000 and as much as $100,000, although the majority of personal loans are for much less. Best Eggs’ loans average between $13,000 and $14,000, according to Bobby Ritterbeck, chief marketing officer for the company.

What are personal loans used for?

iStock

Unlike a mortgage, which is a loan for a house, or an auto loan, which must be spent on a vehicle, personal loans can be used for almost anything.

“People use it for a ton of reasons, from home repairs to medical [expenses] to all kinds of major purchases,” Ritterbeck said. People most commonly take out personal loans, however, for debt consolidation. In this process, borrowers use a personal loan to pay off other high-interest debts, which can simplify and reduce their monthly debt payments.

Alia Dudum, millennial money expert at LendingClub, said that LendingClub encourages anyone who needs credit to think about personal loans as “a responsible way to pay for something expensive,” whether the expense is planned or unexpected.

“You can’t always control when you have a major expense, but you can make good decisions,” she said. LendingClub’s borrowers primarily use personal loans to pay off high-interest debt, unexpected expenses such as medical bills or car repairs or a planned expense such as a vacation or home remodel.

How do I qualify for a personal loan?

Most lenders will look at two factors when you apply for unsecured personal loans: your credit history and your ability to repay the loan. Borrowers don’t have to provide collateral, such as a house or car to back their loan, nor do they need a cosigner (unless a cosigner is needed to strengthen your odds of getting approved).

Instead, lenders will look at your personal credit history and other factors, such as your income.

“That makes it easier for us to provide you quicker and easier access to your loan in comparison, to say, a mortgage loan that requires an appraisal of your home,” Dudum said.

Here’s a breakdown of how lenders determine whether you qualify for a loan.

Credit score

Each lender will determine its minimum credit score for receiving a personal loan, and some are more lenient than others regarding what scores they will accept. For BestEgg, for example, the average credit score for qualified applicants is 710. Ritterbeck said that most conservative financial institutions are comfortable issuing personal loans to applicants with scores around 680 and above.

Your credit score matters because it is a reflection of your ability to repay a loan. The score is compiled from information gleaned about how you handle credit, which could include:

  • Types of credit or loans you’ve carried (revolving, like credit, or non-revolving, like a mortgage)
  • The amount of each loan or the credit limit for each credit card you own vs. how much of that balance you are using from month to month
  • Whether you paid on time
  • Collections activity, bankruptcies, foreclosures or other negative marks

There are three federal credit reporting agencies that compete to compile American consumers’ credit histories: Equifax, Experian and Transunion. While each agency collects about the same information on each consumer, their credit score calculations may differ because the agency may not have collected the exact same information or it may store or display the information differently than the other agencies.

It’s important to note that your credit score will change over time as credit reporting agencies collect more information and tweak their calculation models. That means your score could be different from one month to the next.

Get your credit report and score for free

Each of the three reporting agencies will provide one free credit report a year, which you can get by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com or calling 1-877-322-8228.

There are lots of ways to get your credit score or credit score estimate for free these days. The Discover Scorecard, for example, offers a free FICO score.
Here’s our guide on getting your free credit score >

How to improve your credit score to get better loan terms

 

First, look for errors on your credit report, where you may find information that is inaccurate or wrong. If you find errors that could have lowered your credit score, dispute the error with the appropriate credit bureau. Check all three reports.

Then, take a look at your financial situation and make some changes.

  • Lower your debt: Stop spending on credit cards and come up with a strategy for paying down your balances.
  • Pay your bills on time: As much as 35 percent of your credit score could be based on your payment history, so make sure you pay all of your bills on time. If you are forgetful, set up automatic payments or monthly reminders.
  • Don’t close your unused credit card accounts: Unless your credit cards carry expensive annual fees, there’s no real benefit to closing them even if you aren’t using them. Your credit score will take into account the average length of time you’ve been using credit, so holding an account for a long time could actually benefit your score.
  • Don’t open new credit: As you rein back your spending, avoid the temptation to apply for more credit cards. Lenders may consider you risky if you open a lot of new accounts in a short amount of time.

The length of time it takes to improve your credit score depends on why your credit score is low in the first place. In any case, the personal financial discipline you develop as you work to improve your score will leave you with better spending and saving habits.

Debt-to-income ratio (DTI)

Your DTI is the amount of monthly debt obligations you have, including credit card payments, auto loans and student loans, divided by your monthly gross income. The calculation shows lenders the percentage of your income that you use to pay off debts.

“Lenders see this as an indicator of your ability to comfortably take on and pay off more debt,” Dudum said.

Wells Fargo lists a DTI of 35 percent as “looking good” and indicating that your debt is manageable in relation to your income, and that you likely have spending money left over after you pay your bills.

If you have a DTI between 36 and 49 percent, you may want to improve your financial situation so that you are in better shape to handle extra expenses. If your DTI is in this range, lenders
may look at additional eligibility criteria, like your income or whether you have a cosigner.

Credit utilization rate: This rate is calculated by dividing how much credit you’re using (the statement balance for each of your accounts) by the amount of credit you have
access to. “If it’s higher than about 30 percent, many financial companies see this as an indicator that you might not be as responsible as you could be,” Dudum said.

Credit history: How you’ve managed debt in the past can be a good determinant for how likely you are to pay back a personal loan. That means if you have little or no credit history, lenders may not approve your personal loan application.

“If you don’t have a track record with credit, it’s difficult for lenders to guess how you might handle paying your debts,” Dudum said.

Cosigner: If you have trouble meeting personal loan requirements, which could happen if you have a low credit score, no credit history or a bankruptcy in your past, you may need a cosigner.

Typically, cosigners are trusted friends or family members with good credit who will agree to take responsibility for the loan if you can’t make the payments. Lenders will factor in your cosigner’s credit history and credit score rather than yours when determining whether you qualify for the loan, which will up your chances of qualifying and securing a good interest rate.

Proceed with caution when considering a cosigner. If you don’t make your loan payments, you could ruin your cosigner’s credit history, stick them with the balance of the loan, and wreck your relationship with your cosigner.

How to apply for a personal loan

The application process for an unsecured personal loan is simple and fast.

“The old way is you’d walk into your local bank, wait in line to speak with a loan officer and apply that way,” Ritterbeck said. “In a lot of cases today you can still do that, but you also can go online, and in some cases call, and get a decision in a couple of minutes of what options are available to you.”

Online lending platforms will first ask you to fill out an application to check your credit rate. The personal loan industry can often show you your personal loan options without running a “hard” credit inquiry that would impact your credit score. These are typically called pre-approvals or prequalification checks but they aren’t final. When you are ready to apply for the loan, it will result in a hard credit inquiry. You may be able to get free quotes from LendingTree’s personal loan marketplace by filling out a short online form. LendingTree is the parent company of MagnifyMoney.

After you receive options for a personal loan, including the amount you qualify for and the interest rate, you can choose one to apply. “Generally speaking, the better your credit profile, the lower the rate of interest you’ll be charged in exchange for borrowing,” Dudum said. “That said, there are many other factors we take into consideration. One number couldn’t tell your whole financial story.”

Interest rates vary, but they can be as high as each state allows. OneMain, for example, can offer interest rates as high as almost 35.99% on personal loans, and Best Egg’s highest rate is 29.99%.

Once you decide which loan to apply for, you’ll need to submit proof of employment and income, such as a pay stub, said Kim Wijkstrom, chief marketing officer for OneMain Financial. Decisions on the loan can come within the hour, and the money could be deposited in your account the same day.

Lenders with alternative qualifications

Not all lenders follow the typical formula for personal loan requirements. OneMain, for example, uses credit scores as a guideline that gives a picture of a consumer’s credit history and focuses more on the applicant’s income and debt obligations, Wijkstrom said.
Here are others:

SoFi: SoFi is strict about approvals, as it prefers applicants with a good job and a history of on-time payments. It also does not allow cosigners or joint applicants. SoFi is unique in that there is No origination fee and has additional perks like loan forbearance if a borrower loses a job through no fault of his or her own. Interest will continue to accrue and is added to the loan balance, and SoFi will not report your payments to a credit bureau as being overdue.
Read our review of SoFi here.

SoFi
APR

6.99%
To
14.99%

Credit Req.

680

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

36 to 84

months

Origination Fee

No origination fee

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

Advertiser Disclosure

SoFi offers some of the best rates and terms on the market. ... Read More


Fixed rates from 6.99% APR to 14.99% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 6.26% APR to 13.99% APR (with AutoPay). SoFi rate ranges are current as of October 5, 2018 and are subject to change without notice. Not all rates and amounts available in all states. See Personal Loan eligibility details. Not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, to qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including evaluation of your credit worthiness, years of professional experience, income and other factors. See APR examples and terms. Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at 14.95%. Lowest variable rate of 6.26% APR assumes current 1-month LIBOR rate of 2.22% plus 4.285% margin minus 0.25% AutoPay discount. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account.

To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull.

See Consumer Licenses.

SoFi Personal Loans are not available to residents of MS. Maximum interest rate on loans for residents of AK and WY is 9.99% APR, for residents of IL with loans over $40,000 is 8.99% APR, for residents of TX is 9.99% APR on terms greater than 5 years, for residents of CO, CT, HI, VA, SC is 11.99% APR, and for residents of ME is 12.24% APR. Personal loans not available to residents of MI who already have a student loan with SoFi. Personal Loans minimum loan amount is $5,000. Residents of AZ, MA, and NH have a minimum loan amount of $10,001. Residents of KY have a minimum loan amount of $15,001. Residents of PA have a minimum loan amount of $25,001. Variable rates not available to residents of AK, TX, VA, WY, or for residents of IL for loans greater than $40,000.

Terms and Conditions Apply. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi's underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

Upstart: While Upstart initially focused on helping graduate students with significant debt, it now also offers loans to consumers with a strong credit history. Upstart’s formula for calculating approval is unique and considers an applicant’s career, education, job history and standardized test scores.
Read our review of Upstart here.

APR

8.16%
To
35.99%

Credit Req.

640

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

36 & 60

months

Origination Fee

0.00% - 8.00%

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

Upstart is an online lender created by ex-Googlers.... Read More

Earnest: Unlike most lenders, Earnest uses a merit-based system for determining who qualifies for a loan. Recent graduates and others who are starting to build credit history may qualify for these loans, which offer some of the most flexible terms along with customized loan and repayment plans.
Earnest
APR

6.99%
To
18.24%

Credit Req.

650

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

36 to 60

months

Origination Fee

No origination fee

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

Instead of offering credit-based loans, Earnest has taken a very nontraditional approach using a merit-based system.... Read More

What if you are rejected for a personal loan?

You may not qualify for a personal loan the first time you apply, but it is possible to improve your financial position and successfully qualify later.

“People are of course usually very disappointed if they don’t get a loan, and the first thing to address is the emotional response,” Wijkstrom said. “Don’t be defeated when rejected.”

At OneMain, financial advisers will talk with clients about why they were not approved and what they can change. Sometimes that means fixing their credit history, such as paying bills on time for a set period. Others may find errors on their credit report that hurt their chances of qualifying for a personal loan.

You may also want to look into other options for credit, such as equity in your home that could help you get a different kind of loan, Ritterbeck said.

When used wisely, personal loans can help you get out of debt and manage large expenses. Regardless of when you need a personal loan, it’s never too early to integrate good habits into your financial life to ensure that when you do apply for a personal loan, you will qualify for the amount you need.

 

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Marty Minchin
Marty Minchin |

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

TAGS:

Get A Pre-Approved Personal Loan

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Won’t impact your credit score

Advertiser Disclosure

Building Credit

Do Credit Builder Loans Actually Work?

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

If you have no credit or bad credit, getting a loan may seem impossible.

That’s because when lenders are considering a loan application, their main concern is whether the applicant can pay the loan back. They look at an applicant’s credit history, which shows an one’s debt and payment history, to determine how likely the applicant can pay off a loan in the future.

If an application has no debt — and therefore no loan repayment history, or a spotty record of late payments or loan defaults, a lender likely will determine that lending to the applicant would be too risky.

A credit builder loan is one way you can start building a strong credit history that will eventually qualify you for other loans.

What is a credit builder loan?

Building good credit, whether you are starting from scratch or repairing a bad credit history, requires patience. You’ll need time to show lenders that you are a consistently reliable borrower who makes on-time debt payments.

A credit builder loan is a great way to begin establishing a good credit history. Here’s how it works:

A financial institution such as a credit union, which typically issues credit builder loans, deposits a small amount of money into a secured savings account for the applicant. The borrower then pays the money back in small monthly installments — with interest — over a set period of time. At the end of the loan’s term, which typically ranges from six to 24 months, the borrower receives the total amount of the credit builder loan in a lump sum, plus any interest earned if the lender offers interest.

Borrowers who make all of their payments on time will benefit significantly. Lenders report the payments to credit reporting companies, which helps the borrower begin build a solid credit history.

LendingTree
APR

5.99%
To
35.99%

Credit Req.

Minimum 500 FICO

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

24 to 60

months

Origination Fee

Varies

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

LendingTree is our parent company

LendingTree is our parent company. LendingTree is unique in that you may be able to compare up to five personal loan offers within minutes. Everything is done online and you may be pre-qualified by lenders without impacting your credit score. LendingTree is not a lender.

How a credit builder helps boost credit

A credit builder loan helps consumers build their credit by providing an opportunity for them to make small monthly payments. As the lender reports regular loan payments to credit reporting agencies, your credit history will show that you can make regular, on-time loan payments over the life of a loan.

Most credit builder loans are small, ranging from $300 to $1,000, which means they have also small monthly payments. Interest rates vary by bank, so be sure you compare all your options to get the best rate. We found rates ranging from low as 5% all the way up to 16% at various banks.

To apply for a credit builder loan, consumers can visit a local lender’s branch or apply online. Because the borrower won’t receive any money until the loan is paid in full, credit builder loans typically are easy to qualify for.

What to watch out for

Credit builder loans are not free, so be sure to ask about fees and interest rates. Some lenders may charge an application fee, and interest rates vary widely among lenders. While some offer rates in the single digits, other lenders’ rates may be significantly higher.

Where to get a credit builder loan

Here are examples of a few types of credit builder loans.

Credit unions

Many credit unions, which offer credit builder loans as a way to help clients establish good credit, list details of the loans online and provide an online application.

1st Financial Federal Credit Union, for example, offers these terms:

  • Minimum Loan Amount: $500
  • Maximum Loan Amount: $1,000
  • Loan Term: 12 months
  • Interest Rate: 12%
  • Payment history reported to credit bureaus
  • 50% of interest refunded back with on-time payments

Banks

Some regional or local banks, like credit unions, offer credit builder loans with the intention of helping clients build a good credit score as they work toward good financial health.

The Sunrise Banks Credit Builders Program, for example, places loan funds into a Certificate of Deposit (CD) for the borrower. The CD earns interest as the borrower repays the loan, which can be withdrawn when it’s paid in full. Consumers can borrow $500, $1,000 or $1,500, and they are assigned a repayment schedule of monthly principal and interest payments. Payments are reported to Experian, Transunion and Equifax.

Self Lender

Self Lender, based in Austin, Texas, is designed to help consumers increase their financial health. Working in partnership with multiple banks, Self Lender offers a credit-builder account that is essentially a CD-backed installment loan. In other words, you open a CD with the bank and they extend a line of credit to you for the same amount. When you make payments, they report it to the credit bureaus.

The money you put in the CD itself is what secures the loan.

Self Lender offers four loan amounts, each with 12- or 24-month terms. Borrowers can receive loans of $525, $545, $1,000, or $2,200 with interest rates up to 15.65% APR. These terms and rates are current as of Jan. 31, 2018.

Self Lender reviews rate the services as 4.8 out of 5 stars, with many reviewers noting that their credit score increased after paying off their Self Lender loan and praising the platform’s easy and simple process.

Pros of credit builder loans

  • A credit builder loan forces you to save money, as you are essentially making payments into a savings account.
  • Credit builder loans are secured by the money the bank has deposited for you, so they are typically easy to apply for.
  • When the loan is paid off, you will receive a payment in the amount of the loan. Some lenders also pay you dividends or refund a portion of your interest.
  • You will develop good savings habits through a credit builder loan, which requires you to set aside money every month for a loan payment.
  • As you make payments on time every month, you will develop financial discipline that you apply to bigger loans.

Cons of credit building loans

  • Late or missed payments will be reported to credit reporting agencies, which could hurt your credit score.
  • They aren’t all free. Self Lender charges a $9 to $15 administrative fee, which is included in the APR.

Learn more:

Why your credit score matters

Credit scores are calculated from your credit report, which is a record of your credit activity that includes the status of your credit accounts and your history of loan payments. Many financial institutions use credit scores to determine whether an applicant can get a mortgage, auto loan, credit card or other type of credit as well as the interest rate and terms of the credit. Applicants with higher credit scores, which indicate a better credit history, typically qualify for larger loans with lower interest rates and better terms.

Three federal credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and Transunion, collect information from data providers and lenders, and use it to calculate your credit score. These credit reporting agencies report credit scores to lenders and personal finance websites.

Consumers typically have multiple credit scores, which differ due to the way they are calculated, the information that the credit bureau uses in the calculation and the time that they are calculated. The two major scores are FICO and Vantage.

Here are more details about each one.

FICO scores

FICO scores show the likelihood of a borrower paying back a loan on time, and scores range from 300 to 850. More than 90% of lending decisions in the U.S. are influenced by an applicant’s FICO score.

Five factors determine a consumer’s FICO score:

  • Payment history (35%)This is a record of your loan payment and notes whether they were on time, late or missed.
  • Amounts owed (30%)Also known as utilization, amounts owed is how much you use your credit limit. For example, if you have a credit card with a $15,000 limit and you have a debt $3,000 on the card, your utilization is 20%.Ideally, your utilization should be less than 30% on all debts combined.
  • Length of credit history (15%)This measures the length of time that you’ve had credit. If you opened your first credit card 20 years ago when you were a college student, for example, your credit history likely would be slightly higher than someone who took out their first loan one year ago.
  • New credit (10%)New credit looks at how frequently you’ve inquired about your credit and opened new accounts. For example, when you open a new credit card, your credit score could be slightly lower for six months before going back up.

Vantage scores

Vantage scores, which also measure your credit risk, are used by 20 of the 25 largest financial institutions. Like FICO scores, higher scores lead to better loan opportunities. Vanguard scores range from 300 to 850, and are available for free online.

Vantage scores, which are calculated using data from a consumer’s credit report, take six factors into account.

Extremely influential

  • Payment history

Highly influential

  • Your age and type of credit (maintaining a mix of accounts over a long time is beneficial)
  • Percentage of your credit limit used (utilization)

Moderately influential

  • Your total debt balance

Less influential

  • Recent credit inquiries and credit behavior (don’t open a lot of new accounts at one time)
  • Available credit

How do I get my credit score?

There are numerous ways to get your FICO and VantageScore for free. Check out our guide on Ways to Get Your Free FICO Score.

Other ways to build credit

Credit builder loans aren’t the only way to establish a good credit score. Here are some other options if you don’t want to take out a loan.

Secured credit cards

Like credit builder loans, secured credit cards are an easy way to build or rebuild credit history. The application process is the same, but secured credit cards require a deposit between $50 and $300 into a separate account. The bank then issues a line of credit that is typically equal to the deposit, allowing you to build a credit history without putting the lender at risk.

Many secured credit cards allow you to “graduate” and move to a traditional credit card after you’ve proven that you can make payments consistently. Lenders will report your payments to credit reporting bureaus, and some offer autopay, online payments and alerts to make sure you pay your monthly bill on time.

Secured credit cards are not always free. Some require annual fees and have APRs as high as 25%.

Unsecured personal loans

Unsecured personal loans can be easy to qualify for and can help you build credit. These loans typically range from between $2,000 and $50,000, and some lenders will offer them to borrowers with lower credit scores.

The borrower will receive the money in a lump sum upfront, and a disciplined consumer who is focused on building credit can use the money to repay the loan.

Using an unsecured personal loan to build credit, however, can be risky. Many unsecured personal loans come with origination fees and interest rates can be as high as 36%, which can make the loan an expensive way to build credit.

LendingTree
APR

5.99%
To
35.99%

Credit Req.

Minimum 500 FICO

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

24 to 60

months

Origination Fee

Varies

SEE OFFERS Secured

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While credit building loans can be a key step in establishing a strong credit history, it’s imperative that you make all of your payments in full and on time. When you are committed to building a strong financial future with personal budgeting and spending discipline, successfully paying off a credit builder loan can lead to approval for good rates and terms on mortgages, auto loans and other loans in the future.

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Condo, House or Townhouse: Which Is Best for You?

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The decision to buy a home can be complicated whether you are a first-time homebuyer or are looking for a second home, especially if you are shopping for property in an urban area. What kind of residence can you afford? Should you buy a house in a suburb or a historic downtown? What about a condo within walking distance of a train station? Or a townhouse in a new urban infill community?

Choosing between a townhouse, condominium or house involves questions of location, maintenance, lifestyle and price. These housing styles also have a lot of overlap, so choosing one over the others may involve less sacrifice than you might expect.

What is a condominium?

A condominium, called a “condo” for short, is actually a kind of ownership, while the terms “townhouse” and “house” (a standalone structure most people would think of as a traditional single-family home) refer to physical structure styles.

As such, condos can come in a variety of shapes in sizes, though they are often similar in size and appearance to an apartment. At the same time, some condos can be quite expansive. Condos typically are private residences that are part of a building or multiple-unit communities, although some detached condominiums are available. They are privately owned and occupied by an individual or a family.

Condos comes in many configurations beyond apartment-style buildings, said Mark Swets, executive director of the Association of Condominium, Townhouse, and Homeowners Associations. “Condos have less restrictions,” he said. “They can be converted from old office buildings or loft space.”

Regardless of their location or size, condo owners all share in the ownership of common areas and facilities that are maintained by a board that is comprised of members elected from the condo community. The board collects dues from the community’s condo owners and uses the money to maintain and operate common areas and amenities such a community pool, gym, and landscaping.

Condos often are found in urban areas where land for construction is scarce.

What is a townhouse?

A townhouse typically is a vertical, single-family structure that has at least two floors and shares at least one ground-to-roof wall with a residence next door.

Townhouses, which are individually owned, can be lined up on a row or arranged in a different configuration. Owners buy both the structure, including its interior and exterior, and the piece of land that the townhome is built on, which may include a small yard.

“A townhome is not a kind of ownership, but refers more to the physical structure,” Swets said, referring to the vertical design. “From an ownership perspective, some townhomes are classified as condos while others aren’t. It all depends upon what’s listed in the declaration and bylaws for each association.”

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Should I buy a house, townhouse or condo?

Here are some factors to consider when deciding what kind of residence to buy:

Maintenance

Are you good at home repairs, or do you prefer to have a handyman on speed dial? While a single-family house gives you freedom to fix up or renovate as you please, you also are responsible for all repairs and maintenance. The monthly fee you pay to a board or association if you own a condo may take care of maintenance such as mowing, exterior repairs and snow shoveling. Townhouse homeowners association fees may care of maintenance of the community’s common areas, such as a shared backyard or playground, but it’s not guaranteed.

“If I were to look at a condo, it would be because I didn’t want to worry about the maintenance outside,” said Lori Doerfler, the 2018 president of the Arizona Association of Realtors. “If I wanted to have a piece of land but not a lot of yard, a townhome would be a good choice.”

Location and lifestyle

Condos, townhomes and standalone houses can offer a wide range of lifestyles and locations. Homebuyers should think through whether they’re interested in an urban, walkable lifestyle, a suburban neighborhood, or something in between. Where you live also will determine your commute to work and proximity to family and friends.

Restrictions on ownership

While condos can offer convenience and amenities, they also come with monthly dues, occasional assessment fees for special community projects and property rules, which can be strict. Single-family homes, especially those in neighborhoods without a homeowners association, have few or no restrictions.

Buyers should always check the community’s bylaws to understand the rules.

“I always want to get the covenants, conditions and restrictions to the buyer,” Doerfler said. “They describe the requirements and limitations of what you can do with your home as well as the grounds.”

Monthly fees

Any type of dwelling may come with a monthly fee to help pay for upkeep of the community’s amenities. Owners of a standalone single-family house in a neighborhood with a homeowners association will pay monthly or annual HOA fees, and condo and townhouse owners will pay fees every month to the community board or association.

When factoring your monthly mortgage payment, be sure to add in the HOA or condo association fees to determine how much you’ll pay to live in the dwelling. Fees could significantly increase your cost, putting a seemingly affordable dwelling out of reach.

Lending and price

Where you live will determine the price that you’ll pay for your home. Homes in desirable areas, such as downtowns and good school districts, can cost significantly more that homes with a long commute to a city.

Interest rates also vary by state and by lender, so it’s important to research loan terms from several lenders before making a decision.

Condo vs. townhouse

Benefits: Again, condos and townhouses aren’t mutually exclusive, but their potentially different physical attributes and homeownership structures make them worth comparing in some ways. Both offer less maintenance than a house, the opportunity to get to know neighbors and build a strong community, and walkable amenities such as a pool or community gathering space. Condos may offer a variety of amenities, and with new developments providing over-the-top extras such as rooftop bars, doormen and catering kitchens.

Risks: Condo and HOA fees can be expensive, and you are trusting the HOA or condo association to provide satisfactory upkeep to the property. Condo fees tend to be higher than townhouse HOA fees because condo associations typically provide more maintenance and amenities, and condo associations can enact special assessments to pay for one-time facilities expenses.

House vs. condo

Benefits: While condos offer a range of amenities and maintenance for exterior property, owning a single-family home provides owners with freedom from the rules and restrictions of condominium ownership. Buyers looking for privacy, a rural or suburban lifestyle or a larger property also will have more options with a single-family house.

Risks: Owning a single-family home means that the homeowner must pay for damage and upkeep to the interior and exterior property that isn’t covered by insurance. Condo associations are liable for exterior property and, if stated in the bylaws, “common elements” such as the roof and windows.

Townhouse vs. house

Benefits: Single-family house and townhouse owners both own their entire units, giving them freedom to renovate and change them as they see fit within any guidelines for exterior changes set by HOAs.

Risks: Single-family homeowners assume responsibility for the entirety of their property, which townhome owners may not be liable for repairs, upkeep, or incidents that occur outside of their unit and the land it sits on, depending on their homeowner’s association.

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Which is best for you?

Your decision in buying a home vs. a condo vs. a townhouse should depend on what you can afford, how much maintenance you want to do, where you want to live and the type of community you want to live in. Young families, for example, may want a yard and a house near a good school, while a single professional may be more interested in a downtown condo that is within walking distance to nightlife and the office.

As you consider what kind of dwelling to buy, be sure to include the costs of condo or HOA fees into your budget to be sure that your new home fits your lifestyle and your budget.

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APR vs Interest Rate: Understanding the Difference

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When you’re shopping for a loan, don’t let your research end with a comparison of lenders’ interest rates. While a low interest rate is appealing, it’s important to also look at each loan’s annual percentage rate (APR), which will provide a clearer picture of how much the loan will cost you when fees and other costs are factored in.

APR vs Interest Rate: Understanding the differences

The difference between APR and interest rate is that APR will give borrowers a truer picture of how much the loan will cost them. While APR is expressed as an interest rate, it is not related to the monthly payment, which is calculated using only the interest rate. Instead, APR reflects the interest rate along with fees and other one-time costs a borrower will pay for a loan.

“You can find a mortgage that has a 4-percent interest rate, but with a bunch of fees, that APR may be 4.6 or 4.7 percent,” said Todd Nelson, senior vice president-business development officer with online lender Lightstream. “With all of those fees baked in, they are going to swing the interest rate.”

For example, one lender may charge no fees, so the loan’s APR and interest rate are the same. The second lender may charge a 5 percent origination fee, which will increase the APR on that loan.

How the APR is calculated

Lenders calculate APR by adding fees and costs to the loan’s interest rate and creating a new price for the loan. Here’s an example that shows how APR is calculated using LendingTree’s loan calculator.

A lender approves a $100,000 at a 4.5 percent interest rate. The borrower decides to buy one point, a fee paid to the lender in exchange for a reduced rate, for $1,000. The loan also includes $900 in fees.

With these fees and costs added to the loan, the adjusted balance being borrowed is $101,900. The monthly payment is then $516.31 with the 4.5 percent interest rate, compared with $506.69 if the balance had remained at $100,000.

To find the APR, the lender returns to the original loan amount of $100,000 and calculates the interest rate that would create a monthly payment of $516.31. In this example, that APR would be 4.661 percent.

APRs will vary from lender to lender because different lenders charge different fees. Some may offer competitive interest rates but then tack on expensive fees and costs. Lenders with the same interest rate and APR are not charging any fees on that loan, and lenders that offer APR and interest rates that are the closest will charge the least-substantial amount of fees and extra costs.

What can impact my APR?

While APR will change as interest rates fluctuate, lenders’ fees and costs will have the greatest impact on APR. Here are some of the fees that will affect the APR.

Discount points: Buying points to lower a loan’s interest rate can have a significant impact on APR. Lenders allow buyers to purchase “points” in return for a lower interest rate. A point is equal to one percent of the mortgage loan amount. For example, a buyer approved for a $100,000 loan could buy three points, at $1,000 each, to lower the interest rate from 4.5 to 4.15.

Loan origination fees: Loan origination fees typically range between 1 and 6 percent, according to Nelson. This can be especially significant for larger loans.

Loan processing: This fee, which some lenders will negotiate, pays for the cost of processing a mortgage application.

Underwriting: These fees cover an underwriter’s review of a loan application, including the borrower’s income, credit history, assets and liabilities, and property appraisal, to determine whether the lender should approve the loan application and what terms should be applied to the loan.

Appraisal review: Some lenders pay an outside reviewer to make sure an appraisal meets underwriting standards and that the appraiser has submitted an accurate report of the home’s value.

Document drawing: Lenders often charge a fee for creating mortgage documents for a loan.

Commonly not included in APR are notary fees, credit report costs, title insurance and escrow services, the appraisal, home inspection, attorney fees, document preparation and recording fees.

Because APR includes a loan’s interest rate, rising interest rates will increase APR for mortgages, auto loans and other types of loans and credit.

Interest rate vs APR: What should I focus on when shopping for a mortgage?

While lenders often push their low interest rates when they advertise loans, Nelson said it’s vital that consumers check loans’ APR when shopping around and pay attention to how loan advertisements are worded.

“Look for a lender that’s transparent about disclosing all of those fees,” he said. Lenders may advertise “no hidden fees,” he said, but that might mean there are other fees that simply aren’t hidden.

Here’s how two loans for the same amount can have different APRs.

Loan amount

Fees and costs

Fixed interest rate

APR

$200,000

$1,700

4.5%

4.572%

$200,000

$2,600

4.5%

4.61%

The Truth in Lending Act requires lenders to disclose APR in advertising so that consumers can make an equivalent comparison between loans. If two loan offers have similar APRs, request a Good Faith Estimate (GFE) or Loan Estimate from each lender.

Lenders are required to provide this document, which shows all expenses associated with the mortgage, within three business days of the loan application date. Some lenders may be willing to supply a loan estimate for consumers who are shopping for a loan.

APRs on Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMs): What to know

It’s important to remember that the APR on ARMs will not apply for the life of the loan, as the payment on the loan will change as the economy fluctuates. APR on ARMs is calculated for the interest rate during the loan’s introductory period, and no one can predict how much the rate will increase in years to come.

A loan with a 7/1 ARM, for example, will have a fixed rate for the first seven years that is determined by the current economic conditions on the day the loan was approved. After seven years, the lender will begin to adjust the rate based on movement of the economic index, which likely will not be the same as it was when the loan was approved. Rates fluctuate daily, and no economic forecaster can predict where the index will be in 20 or 25 years.

Understanding mortgage interest rates

A mortgage rate is another term for interest rate, which is the rate that a lender uses to determine how much to charge a customer for borrowing money. Mortgage rates can be either fixed or adjustable.

Fixed mortgage rates do not change over the life of a loan. For example, if you take out a 30-year loan at a 4.25 percent interest rate, that rate will stay the same regardless of changes in the economy and market index, through the entire lifetime of the loan.

Adjustable rate mortgages (ARM), on the other hand, will change as the market changes after an introductory period, often set at five or seven years. That means your interest rate could go up or down depending on economic conditions, which will in turn raise or lower your payments.

ARMs, which are a common type of mortgage loan with an adjustable rate, often start with a lower interest rate than a fixed mortgage — but only for that introductory period. After that, the rate could go up as it adjusts to market conditions, which could raise your payment accordingly.

If you are considering an ARM, it’s important to talk to your lender first about what the adjustable rate could mean for your loan payment after the introductory period. The federal government’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recommends researching:

  • Whether your ARM has a cap on how high or low your interest rate can go.
  • How often your rate will be adjusted.
  • How much your monthly payment and interest rate can increase with each adjustment.
  • Whether you can still afford the loan if the interest rate and monthly payment reach their maximum under your loan contract.

How is your mortgage rate calculated?

Don’t be surprised if a lender offers you a mortgage interest rate that is higher than what is advertised. Each loan’s interest rate is primarily determined by market conditions and by the borrower’s financial health. Lenders take into account:

  • Your credit score: Borrowers with higher credit scores generally receive better interest rates.
  • The terms of the loan: The number of months you agree to pay back the loan can make a difference. Generally, a shorter term loan will have a lower rate than a longer term loan but higher monthly payments.
  • The location of the property you are purchasing: Interest rates are different in rural and urban areas, and sometimes they can vary by county.
  • The amount of the loan: Interest rates can be different for loan amounts that are unusually large or small.
  • Down payment: Lenders may offer a lower rate to borrowers who can make a larger down payment, which often is an indicator that the borrower is financially secure and more likely to pay back the loan.
  • Type of loan: While many borrowers apply for conventional mortgages, the federal government offers loan programs through the FHA, USDA, and VA that often offer lower interest rates.

How often do mortgage rates change?

Mortgage rates fluctuate on a daily basis. Because the market changes so often, lenders typically give borrowers the opportunity to lock in or float your interest rate for 30, 45, or 60 days from the day your lender approves your loan. That way you won’t get burned if rates rise soon after you secure a loan.

If you choose to lock in your rate, lenders will honor that rate within the agreed-upon time period before closing regardless of market fluctuations. Floating your rate will allow you to secure a lower interest rate before closing, should rates drop during that period.

How do mortgage rate changes impact the cost of borrowing?

Small differences in the interest rate can cost a borrower thousands of dollars over the life of the loan. Here’s an example for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage using our parent company LendingTree’s online mortgage calculator tool:

Mortgage (30-year)

Fixed interest rate

Monthly payment

Total borrowing cost

$200,000

3.65%

$914.92

$129,371.20

$200,000

3.85%

$937.62

$137,543.20

$200,000

4.25%

$983.88

$154,196.80

What’s a good rate on a mortgage?

While mortgage rates change daily, Nelson noted that mortgage rates have stayed low for several years now and don’t show signs that they will increase drastically in the nearly future.

LendingTree’s LoanExplorer tool recently showed interest rates for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage as low as 3.625% for borrowers with excellent credit.

Shop wisely

When shopping for loans, you can best compare loans by getting mortgage quotes from lenders at the same day on the same time. Online marketplaces such as LendingTree also can provide real-time loan offers from multiple lenders, which makes it easier to compare mortgage APR vs. interest rates.

Don’t be dazzled by low interest rates. If the loan’s APR matches its low interest rate, you likely have a good deal. Otherwise, investigate the costs and fees behind a loan’s APR to best determine which loan offer is the best deal.

Learn more about how you can compare quotes from lenders at LendingTree.com.

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Using a Cosigner to Get a Personal Loan

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personal loan cosigner

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

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

What is a cosigned loan?

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

But a cosigner gives applicants a way around these circumstances.

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

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

Pros and cons of a cosigned loan

Pros:

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

Cons:

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

Cosigner versus coborrower

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

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

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

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

How to get a cosigned personal loan

Income requirements

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

Credit requirements

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

How to get the best personal loan rate

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

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

Improve your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio

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

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

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

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

Increase your credit score

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

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

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

Shop around for rates

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

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

Lenders that allow cosigned personal loans

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

Lightstream:LightStream is the online lender of SunTrust, and if offers a streamlined application process that can result in funding in one business day. For a $10,000, 36-month personal loan, Lightstream offers an interest rate of 3.24 percent for applicants with excellent credit and rates up to 7.34 percent for applicants with credit as low as the minimum score of 660. Lightstream does not require an origination fee, but it does adjust its terms based on the intended use of the personal loan. The online lender rates well for its transparency with its terms, and it does not charge additional fees.

LendingClub:LendingClub offers an easy online application process that will provide you with a table of loan options based different amounts, lengths of the loans and interest rates. The lender will offer loans as high as $40,000 for 36 or 60 months, and interest rates are determined by LendingClub’s internal scoring system. Scoring is based on the applicant’s DTI ratio (it should not be above 50 percent excluding mortgage payments), a credit report with few hard inquiries, a credit score of at least 600, and evidence of some credit history. LendingClub charges an origination fee of 1.00% - 6.00% of the amount of the loan.

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

OneMain: While OneMain Financial will offer personal loans to applicants with credit scores of 600 and same-day financing, the tradeoff is high interest rates and stricter personal requirements. Applicants must have a job and verifiable income, no bankruptcy filings and some credit history. Interest rates will range between 16.05% and 35.99%, and OneMain offers personal loans up to $30,000. The lender does not offer loans for tuition or businesses expenses. OneMain does not charge an origination fee, but lenders likely will try to sell you unemployment, life or disability insurance when you apply for a loan.

Finding a cosigner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

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What Is the NSLDS? A Tool to Keep Track of Student Loans

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

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Over the course of a college career, a student may take out multiple education loans of different amounts and term lengths. Loans are often granted on an annual basis, and by the time you graduate, it’s easy to lose track of your total borrowing.

What’s more, holders of federal loans get a short reprieve from repayment after graduation — up to six or nine months, depending on the loan time — making it can be easy to forget that you’ve got money due. It’s smart to use that grace period to begin planning for repayment, rather than viewing it as a vacation from thinking about your college loans.

One of the best ways to keep track of your federal student loans and payments is through the National Student Loan Data System, a centralized database for federal student loan and grant information managed by the U.S. Department of Education. By checking in regularly on the NSLDS, you can stay on top of how much you owe, the repayment terms of your loans and the monthly payment amounts.

For new graduates making a budget — sometimes for the first time — this student loan information can help them understand how much money they need to set aside for monthly payments, or if they need to look into alternative loan repayment programs.

“It’s a helpful tool, and so often as humans, we’re inclined to denial or procrastination,” says Melinda Opperman, executive vice president with Credit.org, a nonprofit organization focused on personal finance education. “By ignoring that tool, you could have a problem compounding. See what’s in there, and get yourself anchored and prepared.”

What’s the purpose of the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS)?

The NSLDS was authorized as part of the 1986 Higher Education Act (HEA) Amendments and is administered by the Office of Federal Student Aid. It was formed with three purposes:

  • To better the quality of student aid data and its accessibility
  • To decrease the administrative work required for Title IV Aid
  • To decrease fraud and abuse of student aid programs

The NSLDS initially focused on federal loan compliance but eventually expanded to encompass detailed data from federal student loan and grant programs in which students are enrolled.

Where does the NSLDS get its information?

The NSLDS gets information from several government and loan processing services. Here are the sources for NSLDS data:

  • Guaranty agencies, which are state agencies or private, nonprofit organizations that provide information on the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program
  • Department of Education loan servicers
  • Department of Education debt collection services (information about defaults on loans held by the Department of Education)
  • Direct loan servicing (information on federal direct student loans)
  • Common origination disbursement (information on federal grant programs)
  • Conditional disability discharge tracking system (information on disability loans)
  • Central processing system (information on aid applicants)
  • Individual schools (information on federal Perkins loan program, student enrollment and aid overpayments)

When data from these sources are combined, you can get a comprehensive overview of your outstanding loans, repaid loans and repayment schedules.

The NSLDS is updated according to each organization’s loan reporting schedule. Some report monthly, and many report data more frequently.

What you’ll find on the NSLDS

After signing up for an FSA ID (Federal Student Aid ID), you can log into the NSLDS to see the updated status of your federal student loans and grants, as well as your college enrollment status and the effective date of your status.

Loans are listed from newest to oldest, and you can find more information about each, including the loan servicer’s name and contact information, by clicking on the loan number. You also will have access to an array of details about each of your federal loans and grants:

  • Name
  • Disbursed amount
  • Date of disbursement
  • Last-known balance
  • Outstanding interest
  • Status (e.g. repayment, in grace, paid in full)
  • Status effective date
  • Interest rate
  • Progress toward the 120 qualifying payments needed for Public Service Loan Forgiveness
  • Income-driven repayment plan anniversary date

“It gives a centralized, integrated view of the loans and grants under the student’s complete life cycle,” Opperman says. “Everything is there.”

You may see a lot of terms and abbreviations you don’t recognize, but there’s a glossary to help you understand them.

What you won’t find

The NSLDS only provides information about federal loan programs, so you will not see details about private loans. To get that information, you’ll need to contact your private loan’s servicer or your school’s financial aid department. You also can review your credit report (you are entitled to one free credit report annually) to find the information.

You also won’t find:

  • Real-time balance accounts. You should see the outstanding principal balance for each loan, but this number may not include the most recent data. Contact your loan servicer for the most up-to-date numbers.
  • Information about nursing and medical loans. While these are federal loan programs, they are not included in the NSLDS. Contact your school’s financial aid department for information about nursing or medical loans.
  • Loans you are not responsible for paying. Any federal loans your parents took out on your behalf, including federal PLUS loans, will not be listed on your NSLDS account. For information about federal student loans that they are responsible for paying, your parents will need to create their own FSA ID and password to access the NSLDS data.

Even with these gaps in information, the NSLDS is a great place to start when you’re not sure whom to contact with student loan questions or when you’re trying to get on top of your loan payments. It’s also helpful if you’re trying to figure out what type of loans you have, which is necessary when you’re applying for certain loan forgiveness programs.

How to sign up for the NSLDS

As mentioned previously, to use the NSLDS you must have an FSA ID username and password, which serve as your login information and allow you to access data about your federal loans and grants online. The ID and password also provide access to many other Department of Education websites.

To create an FSA username and password, visit this link. Opperman says the certified student loan counselors who work with Credit.org recommend you never give out your FSA number or password, even to credit counselors. This information carries the legal weight of a signature, and it can be used to commit identity theft. Credit counselors can get student loan information from you rather than by directly accessing your NSLDS account.

The FSA ID and password application requires your email address, mailing address, date of birth and Social Security number. A cellphone number can be provided if you’d like to bypass answering security questions to retrieve an FSA ID or password.

To look at your federal loan and grant information, click on “Financial Aid Review” after entering your FSA ID and password into the NSLDS website. You do not have to enter loan information, as agencies that issued your federal grants and loans will be responsible for reporting information to the NSLDS.

Is this site accurate?

While the information on the NSLDS generally is accurate because it is provided by loan servicers, it is usually not up to date. Organizations that provide loan information for the NSLDS report on different schedules..

What if the info is wrong?

The NSLDS is not infallible; it’s important to check your page regularly for errors and inaccuracies. Here are some common issues with the NSLDS and how to remedy them:

An error

Check the NSLDS record for this loan, and contact the data provider listed. You will need to give the data provider information that will help the organization look into the error and remedy it. If the data provider is uncooperative and will not fix the error, contact the NSLDS Customer Service Center at (800) 999-8219.

Missing data

If updated loan information is not available within 45 days of disbursement, contact a guaranty agency, the loan’s servicing center or your school’s financial aid office. Otherwise, allow for typical time lapses in reporting.

Frequently asked questions about NSLDS

Usually, no. Typically, only data providers can update information related to your loan when they make their reports to the NSLDS.

The site has an SSL certificate, which means all data passing between your web browser and the site server is encrypted (provided you’re using an SSL-compatible browser, like the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari or Internet Explorer).

The Department of Education does not charge a fee to use the site.

The site is designed to work best with Microsoft Internet Explorer. You can use other browsers, but keep in mind that the NSLDS pages may not function or display properly on other browsers. The NSLDS system requirements page provides help with browsers and a link to contact information for further assistance.

You are strongly advised not to share your FSA password — ever — as your FSA ID and password are for your use only. Anyone else who uses your FSA information is committing a security violation, and your user ID can be terminated. Organizations can lose access to the NSDLS if they share FSA IDs and passwords.

No. FSA ID passwords expire every 90 days. Fifteen days before the password expires, you will see a warning that it must be changed soon. Users can reset their passwords anytime during that 15-day window by clicking on the “change password” link on the FSA login page.

In this situation, call the NSLDS support number: (800) 999-8219.

You can call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at (800) 4FED-AID — 1-800-433-3243 — between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. This helpline is not available on federal holidays. You can also contact the office by email or live chat through the website.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Marty Minchin
Marty Minchin |

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

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Mortgage

How to Determine If a No Closing Cost Refinance Is Right for You

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

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A home mortgage refinance doesn’t come cheaply, as homebuyers typically must pay thousands of dollars in closing costs and fees to finalize a loan. These expenses can seem endless as you get bills for everything from attorney fees to an appraisal to a loan origination fee. Closing costs vary by lender, loan amount and location, but in the end, they’re usually up to 3 percent of the home’s purchase price. For a $200,000 loan, that means closing costs of roughly $6,000.

For many homebuyers, these upfront costs put refinancing out of reach.

What is a no closing cost refinance?

A no closing cost refinance means that you refinance your home mortgage without paying thousands of dollars in upfront closing costs and fees to close the loan. But that “no” in the name can be confusing, because you’re not really avoiding that expense. While this process can save homebuyers money upfront, lenders work in closing costs elsewhere either by slightly raising interest rates or adding the closing costs to the balance of the loan.

How do I get one?

You can refinance your mortgage with no closing costs at banks, credit unions or other lenders. Standard qualifications for refinancing will apply, including a property value that exceeds the amount of the refinance and a credit score that is greater than lender minimums (usually more than 620). Lenders also typically expect your refinance payment and other debt payments to total less than 43 percent of your gross income.

Savings analysis: No closing cost refinance vs. regular refinance

No closing cost refinance doesn’t always result in savings. Homeowners who have a good idea how long they will stay in the house will be in the best position to decide whether refinancing without closing costs is a good idea.

Here is a comparison between a standard refinance and a no closing cost refinance where the lender slightly raises the interest rate to compensate for the lost closing costs. Loan officers will raise your interest rate based on daily market rates.

Regular refinance

No closing cost refinance

Mortgage balance

$200,000

$200,000

Closing costs

$4,800

None at loan closing

Refinance interest rate

3.5%

4.1%

Term

30 years

30 years

Monthly payment

$898

$966

Total cost of mortgage*

$323,312

$347,903

In this example, a homeowner who stays in his home for at least 30 years will save $68 per monthly payment and more than $24,500 over the life of the loan with a lower interest rate. The additional interest that comes with the no closing cost refinance loan far exceeds the $4,800 of closing costs with a regular refinance.

Another common way lenders will refinance a mortgage with no closing costs is to roll the costs into the balance of the loan. Here’s the same mortgage using this option.

Regular refinance

No closing cost refinance

Mortgage balance

$200,000

$204,800

Closing costs

$4,800

None at loan closing

Refinance interest rate

3.5%

3.5%

Term

30 years

30 years

Monthly payment

$898

$920

Total cost of mortgage*

$323,312

$331,072

The no closing cost refinance costs an extra $22 per month. If you stay in your home for the duration of the loan, the no closing cost refinance would add an additional $2,960 to your mortgage expenses (after accounting for the $4,800 you’d pay upfront for the regular refinance).

For homeowners who only plan to stay in their homes five years or fewer, however, refinancing with no closing costs could help them break even or come out ahead on closing costs. Here’s a breakdown.

Regular refinance

No closing cost refinance

Mortgage balance

$200,000

$200,000

Closing costs

$4,800

None at loan closing

Refinance interest rate

3.5%

4.1%

Terms

30 years

30 years

Remaining balance after five years

$179,394.15

$181,185.57

With a no closing cost refinance, you would pay about $1,790 more on a $200,000 mortgage if you got a regular refinance; however, you would have paid the $4,800 in closing costs upfront, meaning you’d save money in the long run with a no closing cost refinance (assuming you sell the house after five years).

Is a no closing cost refinance a good idea?

The upside

The biggest advantage of a no closing cost refinance is you do not have to come up with several thousand dollars in cash to close on your refinanced mortgage. Closing costs can add up quickly as you factor in an appraisal, loan origination fee, and other charges, and many buyers simply can’t afford them. A no-cost refinance doesn’t eliminate those costs, but it does spread them out into monthly payments, allowing you to pay for them over time.

The downside

Over the life of a loan, a refinance with no upfront closing costs can add up to a significantly more expensive choice than a traditional refinance. You can use a refinance calculator to help you figure out whether a no-cost refinance is worth it.

Is a no closing cost refinance right for you?

As you are thinking through whether a refinance with no closing costs is right for you, here are some questions to consider.

Will you qualify to refinance your mortgage?

Before applying, make sure your credit score is high enough to be approved for a refinance loan. You’ll also need to have sufficient equity in your home and a debt-to-income ratio of less than 43 percent, in most cases.

Will refinancing lower your monthly payment?

If your goal is to get a lower monthly mortgage payment through refinancing, a traditional refinance will likely be your best bet. A no closing cost refinance could also lower your monthly payment, though. Don’t forget to calculate in either the higher balance or higher interest rate you’ll have after the lender factors in closing costs. Before you agree to the refinance terms, be sure they will lower your monthly payment enough to be worthwhile.

How long do you plan to stay in your house?

If you are planning on selling your house in less than five years, a refinance with no closing costs almost always will save you money. You may have a higher monthly payment than a regular refinance, but if you get out of the mortgage after a few years, you likely will have spent less than if you had taken out a traditional refinance and paid closing costs.

If you plan to stay in your house indefinitely or longer than several years, a no closing cost refinance may be much more costly in the long run.

How to shop for mortgage refinance loans

To compare no closing cost refinance offers, visit financial institutions and talk with loan officers. They will look at current interest rates and your financial information to help you determine whether refinancing with no closing costs will work for you.

One advantage of no closing cost refinances is that they eliminate the closing costs and fees that can make loan-offer comparisons complicated. With quotes for no closing cost refinance mortgages in hand, you can easily compare interest rates. This allows mortgage shoppers to more effectively shop around and find the best deal.

What to look out for

As you should before agreeing to any loan terms, make sure you understand all costs involved. While a lender may not be charging closing costs when the loan is signed, there may be other fees and expenses that aren’t waived. Ask about fees and what they include. These could be:

  • Government transfer taxes
  • Homeowners insurance
  • Escrow funds

Some no closing cost refinance loans come with prepayment penalties to steer borrowers away from refinancing the loan quickly for a lower interest rate. Check the rules of the loan to make sure there are no prepayment penalties.

Where to shop for no closing cost loans

Traditional lenders, such as banks and credit unions, as well as other private lenders, may offer a refinance mortgage with no closing costs. You can compare current refinance rates with the online comparison tool by LendingTree, our parent company, but you’ll need to talk to a mortgage loan officer to determine what your refinance with no closing costs would look like.

If you have kept up with your mortgage payments but have little or no equity in your home to qualify for refinancing your mortgage, the federal Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) can help. If you qualify, you could refinance with a low interest rate and favorable terms. HARP also does not require a minimum credit score and will roll closing costs into the new loan.

Beware of closing cost scams

While refinancing your mortgage, you may receive emails that appear to be from your lender asking you to wire them closing costs. Do not respond, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns, as this is a phishing scam trying to get your personal information and empty your bank account. This scam begins when hackers break into homebuyers’ or real estate professionals’ email accounts and steal information about real estate transactions they are working on.

You should never send financial information by email, the FTC warns.

How to save on closing costs

If you’re worried upfront closing costs will make refinancing your mortgage too expensive, shop around. Closing costs can vary widely by lender and location, and remember that they’re negotiable. The more options you research, the better you will be able to choose the deal that allows you to pay the least for closing costs.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Marty Minchin
Marty Minchin |

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

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