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Pay Down My Debt

8 Inspirational Stories of People Who Overcame Debt

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

That escalating figure on your student loan bill or credit card statement makes you cringe every month. You pay when you can, but it feels like you’ll never pay it off. Don’t despair — with dedication, patience and some lean living, you can whittle down the bills. The evidence: Eight former debtors share their stories of triumph over debt.

Success story #1: Set a deadline

J.R. Duren, 39, Jacksonville, Fla.
Debt:
$22,000
Payoff time: 27 months

These days, J.R. Duren is a personal finance expert at HighYa.com, but when he and his wife married, they had $22,000 in credit card debt between them. Paying off the debt as soon as possible was a priority, so the couple created a handwritten list of each card and its balance, interest rate and monthly payment. “Doing so gave us tangible evidence of what we were facing, and gave us the motivation and courage to try and tackle it,” Duren said.

From there, the newlyweds created a detailed budget to determine how much money they had left over at the end of the month. “Knowing what you’re earning and what you’re spending is key to paying down debt,” Duren said, “whether it’s $22K or $220.”

After paying down $1,000 per month for 18 months, the Durens were only about halfway closer to their goal thanks to interest rates that continued to drive up their debt. To speed things up, they transferred the balance to a 0% card and used the sign-up bonus to pay off the balance transfer fee. They gave themselves a deadline of nine months and met it. Altogether, it took them a little more than two years to wipe out the debt — 27 months to be exact — but they learned a lot about financial responsibility along the way. “Deadlines are key because they give you a finish line for the race,” Duren said. “Something to shoot for and a tangible end to the fight.”

Success story #2: Absolute discipline

Matthew Burr, 32, Elmira, N.Y.
Debt: $74,000
Payoff time: 24 months

Matthew Burr used a 15-year-old TV, delayed buying a new car and bypassed big cities for his first job in order to pay off his six student loans. He prioritized the high-interest loans first and worked his way down. “I set small goals to pay off one loan at a time, by making multiple payments per month, and kept the interest low instead of allowing significant accrual,” he said. Because Burr had no other debt and his rent was low, he was able to put extra funds, including holiday bonuses and tax refunds, toward the debt. He focused on needs vs. wants, and set achievable goals, but he stressed that the process took serious discipline. He even wrote a book about his experience, “$74,000 in 24 Months.”

Success story #3: The snowball

Ty’Lisha Summers, 32, Houston
Debt: $100,000
Payoff time: 8 years

Ty’Lisha Summers and her husband racked up $100,000 in debt after they graduated college. They became debt-free with the help of a financial planner and the debt snowball method from popular author/radio host Dave Ramsey. The snowball approach is similar to Burr’s — prioritize debt from the highest to the lowest interest rate. “Once the first debt was paid off, we would use the monthly allocated amount and roll it over to the next debt on the list, paying above the minimum required until the next debt was paid off, and then we continued down the list until we were debt-free,” Summers said.

She and her husband began helping other people become debt-free with SpenDebt, an app that adds a set amount to every debit transaction, then sends that money to the creditor.

Success story #4: Using a home equity loan

Katrina McGhee, 37, Minneapolis
Debt: $42,000
Payoff time: 22 months

Katrina McGhee’s MBA left her with $60,000 in student loan debt. Although she landed a solid corporate job right out of school, she initially wasn’t rigorous about paying off her loan. McGhee paid the monthly minimums and applied her annual bonus and tax refund to the balance, but was primarily saving for a big trip. “I had saved up $40,000 and quit my job to travel around the world for 20 months,” she said. Her student loans went into deferment.

Despite earning 25% less at her new job upon her return, McGhee set a goal to pay off the remaining $42,000 of her loan in 22 months. She accomplished this by creating a budget spreadsheet and tracking everything she spent. She paid more when she could — a lump sum every few months and any extras, including tax refunds. “I still traveled internationally and had fun, but I was very intentional about how I spent my money. I made trade-offs and lived significantly below my means.”

Down to about $30,000 in debt, she rolled it into a home equity line of credit and continued to pay aggressively. The interest rate on the equity loan was less than half the rate of her student loans, and it’s tax deductible. Today, McGhee is a certified life coach. She helps others “find the courage to pursue their own unconventional path to freedom, including … financial freedom by paying off their own debt.”

Success story #5: Accountability is key

Danielle Desir, 27, Bridgeport, Conn.
Debt: $63,000
Payoff time: 4 years

When Danielle Desir realized that the student loan interest from her graduate degree cost her more than $10 per day, she was determined to pay it off as quickly as possible. She lived at home with her mom — her “biggest champion” — to save money. “Despite the long commute to work, I kept my living expenses low and made extra payments, which shaved years off of my loans,” Desir said.

She also started The Thought Card, where she gives travelers advice on how to plan and save for their trips. “My blog kept me accountable and helped me connect with other like-minded people who wanted to gain financial independence while pursuing the things they loved,” she said.

Success story #6: Living on a shoestring

Phil, 27, Germantown, Md.
Debt: $30,000
Payoff time: 12 months

Phil moved into his dad’s basement, lived on $500 a month and poured the rest of his $3,000 monthly take-home pay into his student loans. Living rent-free made all the difference. “I did not pay rent while I was paying off debt,” Phil said. “Instead, I added value by being an on-call babysitter for his young kids, cutting the grass, doing the dishes etc.” He also brought his lunch to work every day except Friday, which he called “Yum Yum Friday.”

Today, Phil shares his experiences at Young Adult Survival Guide.

Success story #7: The student mindset

Kevin, 30, Minneapolis
Debt: $87,000
Payoff time: 2.5 years

Kevin’s first step in paying off his student-loan debt was to increase his income with side hustles, including dog-sitting via Rover and making bike deliveries through Postmates. “The great thing is that every extra dollar you earn is a dollar you don’t need, which means you can use it all toward debt,” he said.

Next, Kevin kept expenses low by living like a student. He rented an apartment that was well below his budget and didn’t buy a car. “I biked to work to avoid the cost of a car or parking, or I used the bus on really bad weather days.”

Kevin blogs about personal finance and side hustles at Financial Panther.

Success story #8: Conquering your demons

Jon Dulin, 38, Philadelphia
Debt:
$10,000
Payoff time: 1 year

Jon Dulin began accruing substantial credit card debt in college, trying to impress a girlfriend. “I thought, in order for her to love me, I had to buy her things. So I showered her with gifts and dinners out. This quickly led to debt,” he said.

After graduation, Dulin had trouble finding work during an economic downturn. He became depressed. His fix: Shopping. “I turned to buying things, clothes and electronics, mainly. This made me feel good,” he said. He thought that he had everything under control and that he would soon find a job.

In the meantime, he opened two additional credit cards to take advantage of free balance transfers. Dulin initially used only the new cards, but soon was using all of them. It took an “aha moment” for him to realize that shopping only made matters worse.

He sought professional help for depression and for his spending, and started temp work. Taking care of his emotional and mental health helped Dulin focus on his debt. Soon, he landed a full-time job and eventually took an additional part-time gig. He put himself on a strict budget and paid off his debt in one year. His personal experience inspired a blog, MoneySmartGuides.

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Trae Bodge
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Trae Bodge is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Trae here

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7 Best Options to Refinance Student Loans – Get Your Lowest Rate

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

Updated: April 1, 2018

Are you tired of paying a high interest rate on your student loan debt? You may be looking for ways to refinance your student loans at a lower interest rate, but don’t know where to turn. We have created the most complete list of lenders currently willing to refinance student loan debt. We recommend you start here and check rates from the top 7 national lenders offering the best student loan refinance products. All of these lenders (except Discover) also allow you to check your rate without impacting your score (using a soft credit pull), and offer the best rates of 2018:

LenderTransparency ScoreMax TermFixed APRVariable APRMax Loan Amount 
SoFiA+

20


Years

3.25% - 7.13%


Fixed Rate*

2.54% - 7.38%


Variable Rate*

No Max


Undergrad/Grad
Max Loan
Learn more Secured
earnestA+

20


Years

3.25% - 6.32%


Fixed Rate

2.57% - 5.87%


Variable Rate

No Max


Undergrad/Grad
Max Loan
Learn more Secured
commonbondA+

20


Years

3.14% - 7.25%


Fixed Rate

2.72% - 7.27%


Variable Rate

No Max


Undergrad/Grad
Max Loan
Learn more Secured
lendkeyA+

20


Years

3.15% - 8.12%


Fixed Rate

2.56% - 7.94%


Variable Rate

$125k / $175k


Undergrad/Grad
Max Loan
Learn more Secured
A+

20


Years

3.37% - 7.02%


Fixed Rate

2.80% - 5.90%


Variable Rate

No Max


Undergrad/Grad
Max Loan
Learn more Secured
A+

20


Years

3.50% - 8.34%


Fixed Rate

2.88% - 7.98%


Variable Rate

$90k / $350k


Undergraduate /
Graduate
Learn more Secured
A+

20


Years

5.24% - 8.24%


Fixed Rate

4.74% - 7.99%


Variable Rate

$150k


Undergraduate /
Graduate
Learn more Secured

You should always shop around for the best rate. Don’t worry about the impact on your credit score of applying to multiple lenders: so long as you complete all of your applications within 14 days, it will only count as one inquiry on your credit score.

We have also created:

But before you refinance, read on to see if you are ready to refinance your student loans.

Can I get approved?

Loan approval rules vary by lender. However, all of the lenders will want:

  • Proof that you can afford your payments. That means you have a job with income that is sufficient to cover your student loans and all of your other expenses.
  • Proof that you are a responsible borrower, with a demonstrated record of on-time payments. For some lenders, that means that they use the traditional FICO, requiring a good score. For other lenders, they may just have some basic rules, like no missed payments, or a certain number of on-time payments required to prove that you are responsible.
LenderMinimum credit scoreEligible degreesEligible loansAnnual income
requirements
Employment
requirement
 
SoFi

Good or Excellent
score needed

Undergraduate
& Graduate

Private, Federal,
& Parent PLUS

None

Yes


(or signed job offer)
Learn more Secured
earnest

660

Undergraduate
& Graduate

Private, Federal,
& Parent PLUS

None

Yes


(or signed job offer)
Learn more Secured
commonbond

660

Undergraduate
& Graduate

Private, Federal,
& Parent PLUS

None

Yes


(or signed job offer)
Learn more Secured

680

Undergraduate
& Graduate

Private & Federal

$24K

Yes

Learn more Secured

Not published

Undergraduate
& Graduate

Private, Federal,
& Parent PLUS

None

Yes


(or signed job offer)
Learn more Secured

680

Undergraduate
& Graduate

Private, Federal,
& Parent PLUS

$24K

Yes

Learn more Secured

Not published

Undergraduate
& Graduate

Private & Federal

None

Yes

Learn more Secured

If you are in financial difficulty and can’t afford your monthly payments, a refinance is not the solution. Instead, you should look at options to avoid a default on student loan debt.

This is particularly important if you have Federal loans.

Don’t refinance Federal loans unless you are very comfortable with your ability to repay. Think hard about the chances you won’t be able to make payments for a few months. Once you refinance student loans, you may lose flexible Federal payment options that can help you if you genuinely can’t afford the payments you have today. Check the Federal loan repayment estimator to make sure you see all the Federal options you have right now.

If you can afford your monthly payment, but you have been a sloppy payer, then you will likely need to demonstrate responsibility before applying for a refinance.

But, if you can afford your current monthly payment and have been responsible with those payments, then a refinance could be possible and help you pay the debt off sooner.

Is it worth it to refinance student loans?

Like any form of debt, your goal with a student loan should be to pay as low an interest rate as possible. Other than a mortgage, you will likely never have a debt as large as your student loan.

If you are able to reduce the interest rate by refinancing, then you should consider the transaction. However, make sure you include the following in any decision:

Is there an origination fee?

Many lenders have no fee, which is great news. If there is an origination fee, you need to make sure that it is worth paying. If you plan on paying off your loan very quickly, then you may not want to pay a fee. But, if you are going to be paying your loan for a long time, a fee may be worth paying.

Is the interest rate fixed or variable?

Variable interest rates will almost always be lower than fixed interest rates. But there is a reason: you end up taking all of the interest rate risk. We are currently at all-time low interest rates. So, we know that interest rates will go up, we just don’t know when.

This is a judgment call. Just remember, when rates go up, so do your payments. And, in a higher rate environment, you will not be able to refinance your student loans to a better option (because all rates will be going up).

We typically recommend fixing the rate as much as possible, unless you know that you can pay off your debt during a short time period. If you think it will take you 20 years to pay off your loan, you don’t want to bet on the next 20 years of interest rates. But, if you think you will pay it off in five years, you may want to take the bet. Some providers with variable rates will cap them, which can help temper some of the risk.

Diving Deeper: The best places to consider a refinance

If you go to other sites they may claim to compare several student loan offers in one step. Just beware that they might only show you deals that pay them a referral fee, so you could miss out on lenders ready to give you better terms. Below is what we believe is the most comprehensive list of current student loan refinancing lenders.

You should take the time to shop around. FICO says there is little to no impact on your credit score for rate shopping as many providers as you’d like in a single shopping period (which can be between 14-30 days, depending upon the version of FICO). So set aside a day and apply to as many as you feel comfortable with to get a sense of who is ready to give you the best terms.

Here are more details on the 7 lenders offering the lowest interest rates:

1. SoFi

LEARN MORE Secured

on SoFi’s secure website

Read Full Review

SoFi : Variable rates from 2.54% and Fixed Rates from 3.25% (with AutoPay)*

SoFi was one of the first lenders to start offering student loan refinancing products. More MagnifyMoney readers have chosen SoFi than any other lender. The only requirement is that you graduated from a Title IV school. In order to qualify, you need to have a degree, a good job and good income.

Pros Pros

  • Borrowers can refinance private, federal and Parent PLUS loans together: Through SoFi, borrowers have the ability to combine all of their student loans (private, federal and Parent PLUS) when refinancing. Along with the ability to refinance Parent PLUS loans, parents can also transfer the PLUS loans into their child’s name.
  • Access to career coaches: SoFi offers their borrowers access to their Career Advisory Group who work one-on-one with borrowers to help plan their career paths and futures.
  • Unemployment protection: SoFi offers some help if you lose your job. During the period of unemployment they will pause your payments (for up to 12 months) and work with you to find a new job. However, just remember that any unemployment protection offered by SoFi would be weaker than the income-driven repayment options of federal loans.

Cons Cons

  • No cosigner release: While they offer you the opportunity to refinance with a cosigner, it is important to know that SoFi does not offer borrowers the opportunity to release a cosigner later on down the road.
  • You lose certain protections if you refinance a federal loan: This con is not unique to SoFi (and you will find it with all other private lenders). Federal loans come with certain protections, including robust income-driven payment protection options. You will forfeit those protections if you refinance a federal loan to a private loan.

Bottom line

Bottom line

SoFi is really the original student loan refinance company, and is now certainly the largest. SoFi has consistently offered low interest rates and has received good reviews for service. In addition, SoFi invests heavily in building a “community” – which means you can start to get other benefits once you are a SoFi member.

SoFi has taken a radical new approach when it comes to the online finance industry, not only with student loans but in the personal loan, wealth management and mortgage markets as well. With their career development programs and networking events, SoFi shows that they have a lot to offer, not only in the lending space but in other aspects of their customers lives as well.

2. Earnest

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on Earnest’s secure website

Read Full Review

Earnest : Variable Rates from 2.57% and Fixed Rates from 3.25% (with AutoPay)

Earnest focuses on lending to borrowers who show promise of being financially responsible borrowers. Because of this, they offer merit-based loans versus credit-based ones. 

Pros Pros

  • Flexible repayment options: Earnest offers some of the most flexible options when it comes to repayment. They allow you to choose any term length between 5-20 years. You can choose your own monthly payment, based upon what you can afford (to the penny). Earnest also offers bi-weekly payments and “skip a payment” if you run into difficulty.
  • Ability to switch between variable and fixed rates: With Earnest, you can switch between fixed and variable rates throughout the life of your loan. You can do that one time every six months until the loan is paid off. That means you can take advantage of the low variable interest rates now, and then lock in a higher fixed rate later.
  • Loans serviced in-house: Earnest is one of just a few lenders that provides in-house loan servicing versus using a third-party servicer.

Cons Cons

  • Cannot apply with a cosigner: Unlike many of the other lenders, Earnest does not allow borrowers to apply for student loan refinancing with a cosigner.
  • No option to transfer Parent PLUS loans to Child: If you are a parent that is looking to refinance your Parent PLUS loan into your child’s name, it is important to note that this cannot be done through refinancing with Earnest.
  • You lose certain protections if you refinance a federal loan: When refinancing with any private lender, you will give up certain protections if you refinance a federal loan to a private loan.

Bottom line

Bottom line

Earnest, who was recently acquired by Navient, is making a name for themselves within the student refinancing space. With their flexible repayment options and low rates, they are definitely an option worth exploring.

3. CommonBond

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on CommonBond’s secure website

Read Full Review

CommonBond : Variable Rates from 2.72% and Fixed Rates from 3.14% (with AutoPay)

CommonBond started out lending exclusively to graduate students. They initially targeted doctors with more than $100,000 of debt. Over time, CommonBond has expanded and now offers student loan refinancing options to graduates of almost any university (graduate and undergraduate).

Pros Pros

  • Hybrid loan option: CommonBond offers a unique “Hybrid” rate option in which rates are fixed for five years and then become variable for five years. This option can be a good choice for borrowers who intend to make extra payments and plan on paying off their student loans within the first five years. If you can a better interest rate on the Hybrid loan than the Fixed-rate option, you may end up paying less over the life of the loan.
  • Social promise: CommonBond will fund the education of someone in need in an emerging market for every loan that closes. So not only will you save money, but someone in need will get access to an education.
  • “CommonBridge” unemployment protection program: CommonBond is here to help if you lose your job. Similar to SoFi, they will pause your payments and assist you in finding a new job.

Cons Cons

  • Does not offer refinancing in the following states: Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, South Dakota and Vermont.
  • You lose certain protections if you refinance a federal loan: When refinancing with any private lender, you will give up certain protections if you refinance a federal loan to a private loan.

Bottom line

Bottom line

CommonBond not only offers low rates but is also making a social impact along the way. Consider checking out everything that CommonBond has to offer in term of student loan refinancing.

4. LendKey

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on LendKey’s secure website

Read Full Review

LendKey : Variable Rates from 2.56% and Fixed Rates from 3.15% (with AutoPay)

LendKey works with community banks and credit unions across the country. Although you apply with LendKey, your loan will be with a community bank. Over the past year, LendKey has become increasingly competitive on pricing, and frequently has a better rate than some of the more famous marketplace lenders.

Pros Pros

  • Opportunity to work with local banks and credit unions: LendKey is a platform of community banks and credit unions, which are known for providing a more personalized customer experience and competitive interest rates.
  • Offers interest-only payment repayment: Many of the lenders on LendKey offer the option to make interest-only payments for the first four years of repayment.

Cons Cons

  • Rates can vary depending on where you live: The rate that is advertised on LendKey is the lowest possible rate among all of its lenders, and some of these lenders are only available to residents of specific areas. So even if you have an excellent credit report, there is still a possibility that you will not receive the lowest rate, depending on geographic location.
  • No Parent PLUS refinancing available: Unlike several of the other student loan refinancing companies, borrowers do not have the ability to refinance Parent PLUS loans with LendKey.
  • You lose certain protections if you refinance a federal loan: As when refinancing federal loans with any private lender, you will give up your federal protections if you refinance your federal loan to a private one.

Bottom line

Bottom line

LendKey is a good option to keep in mind if you are looking for an alternative to big bank lending. If you prefer working with a credit union or community bank, LendKey may be the route to uncovering your best offer.

5. Laurel Road Bank

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on Laurel Road Bank’s secure website

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Laurel Road Bank : Variable Rates from 2.80% and Fixed Rates from 3.37% (with AutoPay)

Laurel Road Bank offers a highly competitive product when it comes to student loan refinancing.

Pros Pros

  • Forgiveness in the case of death or disability: They may forgive the total student loan amount owed if the borrower dies before paying off their debt. In the case that the borrower suffers a permanent disability that results in a significant reduction to their income,Laurel Road Bank may forgive some, if not all of the amount owed.
  • Offers good perks for Residents and Fellows: Laurel Road Bank allows medical and dental students to pay only $100 per month throughout their residency or fellowship and up to six months after training. It is important for borrowers to keep in mind that the interest that accrues during this time will be added on to the total loan balance.

Cons Cons

  • Higher late fees: While many lenders charge late fees,Laurel Road Bank’s late fee can be slightly steeper than most at 5% or $28 (whichever is less) for a payment that is over 15 days late.
  • You lose certain protections if you refinance a federal loan: While not specific to Laurel Road Bank, it is important to keep in mind that you will give up certain protections when refinancing a federal loan with any private lender.

Bottom line

Bottom line

As a lender,Laurel Road Bank prides itself on offering personalized service while leveraging technology to make the student loan refinancing process a quick and simple one. Consider checking out their low-rate student loan refinancing product, which is offered in all 50 states.

6. Citizens Bank

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on Citizens Bank’s secure website

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Citizens Bank : Variable Rates from 2.88% and Fixed Rates from 3.50% (with AutoPay)

Citizens Bank offers student loan refinancing for both private and federal loans through its Education Refinance Loan.

Pros Pros

No degree is required to refinance: If you are a borrower who did not graduate, with Citizens Bank, you are still eligible to refinance the loans that you accumulated over the period you did attend. In order to do so, borrowers much no longer be enrolled in school.

Loyalty discount: Citizens Bank offers a 0.25% discount if you already have an account with Citizens.

Cons Cons

Cannot transfer Parent PLUS loans to Child: If you are looking to refinance your Parent PLUS loan into your child’s name, this cannot be done through Citizens Bank.

You lose certain protections if you refinance a federal loan: Any time that you refinance a federal loan to a private loan, you will give up the protections, forgiveness programs and repayment plans that come with the federal loan.

Bottom line

Bottom line

The Education Refinance Loan offered by Citizens Bank is a good one to consider, especially if you are looking to stick with a traditional banking option. Consider looking into the competitive rates that Citizens Bank has to offer.

7. Discover

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on Discover Student Loans’s secure website

Discover Student Loans : Variable Rates from 4.74% and Fixed Rates from 5.24% (with AutoPay)

Discover, with an array of competitive financial products, offers student loan refinancing for both private and federal loans through their private consolidation loan product.

Pros Pros

  • In-house loan servicing: When refinancing with Discover, they service their loans in-house versus using a third-party servicer.
  • Offer a variety of deferment options: Discover offers four different deferment options for borrowers. If you decide to go back to school, you may be eligible for in-school deferment as long as you are enrolled for at least half-time. In addition to in-school deferment, Discover offers deferment to borrowers on active military duty (up to 3 years), in eligible public service careers (up to 3 years) and those in a health professions residency program (up to 5 years).

Cons Cons

  • Performs a hard credit pull: While most lenders do a soft credit check, Discover does perform a hard pull on your credit.
  • No Parent PLUS refinancing available: Discover does not offer borrowers the option of refinancing their Parent PLUS loans.
  • You lose certain protections if you refinance a federal loan: Be careful when deciding to refinance your federal student loans because when doing so, you will lose access federal protections, forgiveness programs and repayment plans.

Bottom line

Bottom line

If you’re looking for a well-established bank to refinance your student loans, Discover may be the way to go. Just keep in mind that if you apply for a student loan refinance with Discover, they will do a hard pull on your credit.

 

Additional Student Loan Refinance Companies

In addition to the Top 7, there are many more lenders offering to refinance student loans. Below is a listing of all providers we have found so far. This list includes credit unions that may have limited membership. We will continue to update this list as we find more lenders:

Traditional Banks

  • First Republic Eagle Gold. The interest rates are great, but this option is not for everyone. Fixed rates range from 1.95% – 3.95% APR. You need to visit a branch and open a checking account (which has a $3,500 minimum balance to avoid fees). Branches are located in San Francisco, Palo Alto, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Newport Beach, San Diego, Portland (Oregon), Boston, Palm Beach (Florida), Greenwich or New York City. Loans must be $60,000 – $300,000. First Republic wants to recruit their future high net worth clients with this product.
  • Wells Fargo: As a traditional lender, Wells Fargo will look at credit score and debt burden. They offer both fixed and variable loans, with variable rates starting at 4.74% and fixed rates starting at 5.24%. You would likely get much lower interest rates from some of the new Silicon Valley lenders or the credit unions.

Credit Unions

  • Alliant Credit Union: Anyone can join this credit union. Interest rates start as low as 4.75% APR. You can borrow up to $100,000 for up to 25 years.
  • Eastman Credit Union: Credit union membership is restricted (see eligibility here). Fixed rates start at 6.50% and go up to 8% APR.
  • Navy Federal Credit Union: This credit union offers limited membership. For men and women who serve (or have served), the credit union can offer excellent rates and specialized underwriting. Variable interest rates start at 4.07% and fixed rates start at 4.70%.
  • Thrivent: Partnered with Thrivent Federal Credit Union, Thrivent Student Loan Resources offers variable rates starting at 3.63% APR and fixed rates starting at 3.99% APR. It is important to note that in order to qualify for refinancing through Thrivent, you must be a member of the Thrivent Federal Credit Union. If not already a member, borrowers can apply for membership during the student refinance application process.
  • UW Credit Union: This credit union has limited membership (you can find out who can join here, but you had better be in Wisconsin). You can borrow from $5,000 to $150,000 and rates start as low as 3.57% (variable) and 3.99% APR (fixed).

Online Lending Institutions

  • Education Loan Finance:This is a student loan refinancing option that is offered through SouthEast Bank. They have competitive rates with variable rates ranging from 2.69% – 6.01% APR and fixed rates ranging from 3.09% – 6.69% APR. Education Loan Finance also offers a “Fast Track Bonus”, so if you accept your offer within 30 days of your application date, you can earn $100 bonus cash.
  • EdVest: This company is the non-profit student loan program of the state of New Hampshire which has become available more broadly. Rates are very competitive, ranging from 4.29% – 7.89% (fixed) and 3.82% – 7.42% APR (variable).
  • IHelp : This service will find a community bank. Unfortunately, these community banks don’t have the best interest rates. Fixed rates range from 4.75% to 9.00% APR (for loans up to 15 years). If you want to get a loan from a community bank or credit union, we recommend trying LendKey instead.
  • Purefy: Purefy lenders offer variable rates ranging from 2.88%-8.23% APR and fixed interest rates ranging from 3.20% – 9.64% APR. You can borrow up to $150,000 for up to 15 years. Just answer a few questions on their site, and you can get an indication of the rate.
  • RISLA: Just like New Hampshire, the state of Rhode Island wants to help you save. You can get fixed rates starting as low as 3.49%. And you do not need to have lived or studied in Rhode Island to benefit.

You can also compare all of these loan options in one chart with our comparison tool. It lists the rates, loan amounts, and kinds of loans each lender is willing to refinance. You can also email us with any questions at info@magnifymoney.com.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are 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 card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

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

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Balance Transfer, Best of, Pay Down My Debt

9 Best 0% APR Credit Card Offers – April 2018

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. This site may be compensated through a credit card partnership.

There are a lot of 0% APR credit card deals in your mailbox and online, but most of them slap you with a 3 to 4% fee just to make a transfer, and that can seriously eat into your savings.

At MagnifyMoney we like to find deals no one else is showing, and we’ve searched hundreds of balance transfer credit card offers to find the banks and credit unions that ANYONE CAN JOIN which offer great 0% interest credit card deals AND no balance transfer fees. We’ve hand-picked them here.

If one 0% APR credit card doesn’t give you a big enough credit line you can try another bank or credit union for the rest of your debt. With several no fee options it’s not hard to avoid transfer fees even if you have a large balance to deal with.

1. The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express – Introductory 0% for 15 Months,  $0 balance transfer fee.

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express

APPLY NOW Secured

on American Express’s secure website

Terms Apply

Rates & Fees


This offer is a new addition to the list and edges out competitors with the longest 0% intro period and standout perks. The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express has increased value with an intro 0% for 15 Months on purchases and balance transfers, then 14.49%-25.49% Variable APR and a $0 balance transfer fee. (For transfers requested within 60 days of account opening.) In addition to the great balance transfer offer, you can earn rewards — 2x points at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x), 1x points on other purchases.

2. Chase Slate® – 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months and 0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months, $0 Introductory Balance Transfer FEE

Chase Slate<sup>®</sup>

APPLY NOW Secured

on Chase’s secure website

This deal is easy to find – Chase is one of the biggest banks and makes this credit card deal well known. Save with a 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months and Intro $0 on transfers made within 60 days of account opening. After that: Either $5 or 5%, whichever is greater. You also get a 0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, and $0 annual fee. After the intro period, the APR is currently 16.49% - 25.24% Variable. Plus, see monthly updates to your free FICO® Score and the reasons behind your score for free.

3. BankAmericard® Credit Card – 0% Introductory APR for 15 billing cycles, $0 Introductory Balance Transfer FEE

BankAmericard® Credit Card

APPLY NOW Secured

on Bank Of America’s secure website

Cardholders can benefit from an intro 0% for 15 billing cycles and  $0 intro balance transfer fee if you complete the transfer within 60 days of opening your account (after 3% of each transaction; minimum $10). Once the intro period ends, there is a 13.24% – 23.24% variable APR. You can benefit from a $0 annual fee and access to your free FICO® Score.

Tip: The remaining no fee cards on this list are deals for 12 months or less. You might be better off paying a standard 3% balance transfer fee for a longer deal, like 0% for 18 months from the Discover it® - 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer, one of the better deals with a balance transfer fee of 3%. If you’re trying to transfer from Chase, consider a deal from Bank of America with $0 transfer terms.

4. Alliant Credit Union Credit Cards – 0% Introductory APR for 12 months, NO FEE

Visa<sup>®</sup> Platinum Card from Alliant CU

APPLY NOW Secured

on Alliant Credit Union’s secure website

Alliant is an easy credit union to work with because you don’t have to be a member to apply and find out if you qualify for the as low as 0% introductory APR deal (after the intro period, there is 10.49%–22.49% variable APR for the Visa® Platinum Card, 14.49%–24.49% variable APR for the Visa® Platinum Rewards Card).

Just choose ‘Apply as New Member’ when you apply and if you are approved you’ll then be able to become a member of the credit union to finish opening your account.

Anyone can become a member of Alliant by making a $10 donation to Foster Care to Success.

If your credit isn’t great, you might not get a 0% intro rate – rates for transfers are as high as 5.99%, so make sure you double check the rate you receive before opening the account, and they might ask for additional documents like your pay stubs to verify the information on your application. Note there is no intro period for the Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Credit Card.

5. Edward Jones World MasterCard – 0% Intro APR for 12 months on Balance Transfers through 10/31/2018, NO FEE

Edward Jones World MasterCard<sup>®</sup>

APPLY NOW Secured

on Edward Jones’s secure website

You’ll need to go to an Edward Jones branch to open up an account first if you want this deal. Edward Jones is an investment advisory company, so they’ll want to have a conversation about your retirement needs. But you don’t need to have money in stocks to be a customer of Edward Jones and try to get this card. Just beware that you only have 60 days to complete your transfer to lock in the intro 0% for 12 months, and after the intro period a 14.49% variable APR applies. This deal expires 10/31/2018.

6. First Tech Choice Rewards – 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 12 months, NO FEE

Choice Rewards World MasterCard® from First Tech FCU

APPLY NOW Secured

on First Technology Federal Credit Union’s secure website

Anyone can join First Tech Federal Credit Union by becoming a member of the Financial Fitness Association for $8, or the Computer History Museum for $15. You can apply for the card without joining first. This introductory 0% for 12 months on balance transfers and no transfer fee on balances transferred within first 90 days of account opening is for the First Tech Choice Rewards World MasterCard. After the intro period, a variable APR as low as 11.24% applies. You also get 20,000 Rewards Points after you spend $3,000 on the card in your first 2 months.

7. La Capitol Federal Credit Union – 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 12 months, NO FEE

Visa Rewards Card from La Capitol FCU

APPLY NOW Secured

on La Capitol Federal Credit Union’s secure website

Anyone can join La Capitol Federal Credit Union by becoming a member of the Louisiana Association for Personal Financial Achievement, which costs $20. Just indicate that’s how you want to be eligible when you apply for the card – no need to join before you apply. And La Capitol accepts members from all across the country, so you don’t have to live in Louisiana to take advantage of this deal on the Prime Plus card or the Rewards card. The introductory 0% for 12 months on balance transfers applies to balances transferred within first 90 days of account opening . After the intro period, as low as 7.50% variable APR for the Prime Plus card and as low as 11.50% variable APR for the Rewards card applies.

8. Purdue Federal Credit Union – 0% Intro APR for 12 months, NO FEE

Visa Signature Credit Card from Purdue FCU

APPLY NOW Secured

on Purdue FCU’s secure website

The 0% intro APR for 12 months offer is only for their Visa Signature card – other cards have a higher intro rate. After the intro period ends, 11.50%-17.50% fixed APR applies. The Purdue Federal Credit Union doesn’t have open membership, but one way to be eligible for credit union membership is to join the Purdue University Alumni Association as a Friend of the University.

Anyone can join the association, but it costs $50. The good news is you can apply and get a decision before you become a member of the Alumni Association.

9. Logix Credit Union Credit Card – 0% APR for 12 months , NO FEE

The Logix Platinum MasterCard

APPLY NOW Secured

on Logix Federal Credit Union’s secure website

Although this card isn’t available for everyone, it can be a good choice if you live in AZ, CA, DC, MA, MD, ME, NH, NV, or VA. Residence in those states allows you to join Logix Credit Union and apply for this deal. Some applicants have reported credit lines of $15,000 or more for balance transfers, so if you have excellent credit, good income, but a large amount to pay off (like a home equity line), this could be a good option. You must transfer your balance within the first 90 days your credit card account is open qualify for the intro 0% APR for up to 12 months (after, as low as 9.74% variable APR).

10. Premier America Credit Union – 0% Intro APR for 6 months, NO FEE

Premier Privileges Rewards MasterCard<sup>®</sup> from Premier America CU

APPLY NOW Secured

on Premier America’s secure website

Premier America is unique because it has a Student Mastercard® that’s eligible for the balance transfer deal, though limits on that card are $500 – $2,000. There is a 11.00% variable APR after the intro period. There’s also a card for those with no credit history – the Premier First Rewards Privileges®, with limits of $1,000 – $2,000 and a 19.00% variable APR. If you’re looking for a bigger line, the Premier Privileges Rewards Mastercard® is available with limits up to $50,000 and a 7.95%-17.45% fixed APR.

Anyone can join Premier America by becoming a member of the Alliance for the Arts. You can select that option when you apply.

Other 0% Intro APR cards to consider

11. Money One Credit Union – as low as 0% Intro APR for 6 months, NO FEE

Visa Platinum Card from Money One FCU

APPLY NOW Secured

on Money One Federal’s secure website

Anyone can join Money One Federal by making a $20 donation to Gifts of Easter Seals. And you can apply without being a member. You’ll see a drop down option during the application process that lets you select Gifts of Easter Seals as the way you plan to become a member of the credit union. Credit lines for the Visa Platinum card are as high as $25,000. After the as low as 0% intro APR for 6 months, the APR varies as low as Prime + 3.50%, and currently is as low as 8.25% variable APR.

12. Andigo Credit Union – 0% Intro APR for 6 months, NO FEE

Visa Platinum Card from andigo

APPLY NOW Secured

on Andigo’s secure website

You’ll have a choice to apply for the Andigo Visa Platinum Cash Back, Visa Platinum Rewards, or Visa Platinum. The Visa Platinum without rewards has a lower ongoing APR at 10.90% – 19.90%, compared to 11.49% – 20.49% for the Visa Platinum Cash Back and 12.90% – 21.90% for the Visa Platinum Rewards card. So, if you’re not sure you’ll pay it all off in 6 months the Platinum without rewards is a better bet.

Anyone can join Andigo by making a donation to Connect Vets for $15, and you can submit an application for the card without being a member yet.

13. Evansville Teachers Credit Union – 0% Intro APR for first 6 months on Balance Transfers, NO FEE

ETFCU's Platinum Rewards Credit Card

APPLY NOW Secured

on Evansville Teachers Federal Credit Union’s secure website

You don’t need to be a teacher to join this credit union. Just make a $5 donation to Mater Dei Friends & Alumni Association. The Platinum Prime Plus card has an ongoing APR as low as 7.50% variable, so you can enjoy a low rate even after the intro deal ends. And, with a slightly higher APR is the Platinum Rewards card with as low as 9.50% variable APR.

14. Elements Financial Credit Card – 0% Intro APR for 6 months on Purchases and Balance Transfers, NO FEE

Elements Financial Platinum Visa® Credit Card

APPLY NOW Secured

on ELFCU’s secure website

To become a member and apply, you’ll just need to join TruDirection, a financial literacy organization. It costs just $5 and you can join as part of the application process. The ongoing APR is 10.24% variable which is lower than typical cards.

15. Justice Federal Credit Union – 0% Intro APR for 6 months on Purchases, Balance Transfers, and Cash Advances, NO FEE

Student VISA<sup>®</sup> Rewards Credit Card from Justice FCU

APPLY NOW Secured

on Justice Federal’s secure website

If you’re not a Department of Justice, Homeland Security, or U.S. court employee (or a few others), you need to join a law enforcement organization to be a member of Justice Federal. One of the eligible associations for membership is the National Native American Law Enforcement Association. It costs $15 to join.

You can apply as a non-member online to get a decision before joining. And Justice is unique in that its Student VISA Rewards card is also eligible for the 6-month 0% introductory rate on purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances. So, if your credit history is limited and you’re trying to deal with a balance on your very first card, this could be an option. The APR after the intro period ends is 16.90% fixed.

16. XCEL Platinum Visa – 0% Intro APR for 6 months, NO FEE

XCEL’s Platinum VISA® Credit Card

APPLY NOW Secured

on Xcel Federal’s secure website

The XCEL Platinum Visa offers 0% intro APR for 6 months and as low as a 10.99% variable APR. Anyone can join XCEL by becoming a member of the American Consumer Council, and you can apply for the card as a non-member of the credit union, but not everyone who is approved for the card will get the low intro rate. XCEL advises you contact them to get as sense of whether your income, credit history, and employment history will qualify for the intro rate.

17. Michigan State University Federal Platinum Visa – 0% Intro APR for 6 months, NO FEE

Platinum Visa Card from Michigan State FCU

APPLY NOW Secured

on Michigan State University Federal Credit Union’s secure website

There is the option to apply for the Platinum Plus Visa or the Platinum Visa. The Platinum Visa has a lower ongoing APR at 8.90%-16.90% variable, compared to the 12.9%-17.90% variable APR for the Platinum Plus which can earn you rewards. Anyone can join the Michigan State University Federal Credit Union by first becoming a member of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs. However, this comes at a high fee of $30 for one year.

Are these the best deals for you?

If you can pay off your debt within the 0% period, then yes, a no fee 0% balance transfer credit card is your absolute best bet. And if you can’t, you can hope that other 0% deals will be around to switch again.

But if you’re unsure, you might want to consider…

  • A deal that has a longer period before the rate goes up. In that case, a balance transfer fee could be worth it to lock in a 0% rate for longer.
  • Or, a card with a rate a little above 0% that could lock you into a low rate even longer.

The good news is we can figure it out for you.

Our handy, free balance transfer tool lets you input how much debt you have, and how much of a monthly payment you can afford. It will run the numbers to show you which offers will save you the most for the longest period of time.

promo balancetransfer wide

The savings from just one balance transfer can be substantial.

Let’s say you have $5,000 in credit card debt, you’re paying 18% in interest, and can afford to pay $200 a month on it. Here’s what you can save with a 0% deal:

  • 18%: It will take 32 months to pay off, with $1,312 in interest paid.
  • 0% for 12 months: You’ll pay it off in 28 months, with just $502 in interest, saving you $810 in cash. That even assumes your rate goes back up to 18% after 12 months!

But your rate doesn’t have to go up after 12 months. If you pay everything on time and maintain good credit, there’s a great chance you’ll be able to shop around and find another bank willing to offer you 0% interest again, letting you pay it off even faster.

Before you do any balance transfer though, make sure you follow these 6 golden rules of balance transfer success:

  • Never use the card for spending. You are only ready to do a balance transfer once you’ve gotten your budget in order and are no longer spending more than you earn. This card should never be used for new purchases, as it’s possible you’ll get charged a higher rate on those purchases.
  • Have a plan for the end of the promotional period. Make sure you set a reminder on your phone calendar about a month or so before your promotional period ends so you can shop around for a low rate from another bank.
  • Don’t try to transfer debt between two cards of the same bank. It won’t work. Balance transfer deals are meant to ‘steal’ your balance from a competing bank, not lower your rate from the same bank. So if you have a Chase Freedom® with a high rate, don’t apply for another Chase card like a Chase Slate® and expect you can transfer the balance. Apply for one from another bank.
  • Get that transfer done within 60 days. Otherwise your promotional deal may expire unused.
  • Never use a card at an ATM. You should never use the card for spending, and getting cash is incredibly expensive. Just don’t do it with this or any credit card.
  • Always pay on time. If you pay more than 30 days late your credit will be hurt, your rate may go up, and you may find it harder to find good deals in the future. Only do balance transfers if you’re ready to pay at least the minimum due on time, every time.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are 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 card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

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

TAGS: ,

Advertiser Disclosure

Balance Transfer, Best of, Pay Down My Debt

Best balance transfer credit cards: 0% APR, 24 months

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. This site may be compensated through a credit card partnership.

btgraphic

Looking for a balance transfer credit card to help pay down your debt more quickly? We’re constantly checking for new offers and have selected the best deals from our database of over 3,000 credit cards. This guide will show you the longest offers with the lowest rates, and help you manage the transfer responsibly. It will also help you understand whether you should be considering a transfer at all.

1. Best balance transfer deals

No intro fee, 0% intro APR balance transfers

Very few things in life are free. But, if you pay off your debt using a no fee, 0% APR balance transfer, you can crush your credit card debt without paying a dime to the bank. You can find a full list of no fee balance transfers here.

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express

APPLY NOW Secured

on American Express’s secure website

Terms Apply

Rates & Fees

Read Full Review

Annual fee

$0

Intro Purchase APR

0% for 15 Months

Intro BT APR

0% for 15 Months

Balance Transfer Fee

$0 balance transfer fee.

Regular Purchase APR

14.49%-25.49% Variable

Rewards Rate

2x points at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x), 1x points on other purchases.


There’s a new offer for the The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express that includes an extended intro period now at an intro 0% for 15 Months on balance transfers and purchases (14.49%-25.49% Variable APR after the promo period ends) and a $0 balance transfer fee. (For transfers requested within 60 days of account opening.) This offer is in direct competition with other $0 intro balance transfer fee cards like Chase Slate®.In addition to the intro periods, you can benefit from a rewards program tailored to U.S. supermarket spenders where you earn 2x points at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x), 1x points on other purchases.The intro offers, coupled with the rewards program make The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express the frontrunner among balance transfer cards, outpacing competitors. This card presents cardholders with the unique opportunity to transfer a balance and make a large purchase during the intro period, all while earning rewards on new purchases. To qualify for this card, you need Excellent/Good credit. 

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  • Simple Welcome Offer
  • The 2-point bonus on grocery store spending is capped
  • You need 20 transactions each month to get the the 20% bonus

 

Read our full review of the The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express here.

 

Chase Slate<sup>®</sup>

15 month 0% intro APR with $0 intro transfer fee

Chase Slate® – 0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months, $0 Introductory BT Fee

With Chase Slate® you can save with a Intro $0 on transfers made within 60 days of account opening. After that: Either $5 or 5%, whichever is greater. You can also save with a 0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months and a 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 months, and $0 annual fee. Plus, see monthly updates to your FICO® Score and the reasons behind your score for free.

You can get longer transfer periods by paying a fee (either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater), so this deal is generally best if you have a balance you know you‘ll pay in full by the end of the promotional period. And don’t expect a huge credit line with this card, so it may be best for smaller balances you can take care of quickly.

Also keep in mind you can’t transfer a balance from one Chase card to another, so this is good if the balance you want to move is from a bank or credit union that’s not Chase.

Transparency Score
Transparency Score
  • Interest is not deferred during the balance transfer period, which means if you do not pay off your balance by the end of the promo period, you will not be charged the interest that would have accrued during the deferral period.
  • There are late payment and cash advance fees

Tip: You have only 60 days from account opening to complete your balance transfer and get the introductory rate.

APPLY NOW Secured

on Chase’s secure website

BankAmericard® Credit Card

Long 0% intro APR with no intro balance transfer fee
(For Excellent credit)

BankAmericard® Credit Card – 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles, $0 Intro BT Fee

There is an introductory 0% APR for your first 15 billing cycles for purchases and for any balance transfers made within 60 days of opening your account. After that, a Variable APR that’s currently 13.49% to 23.49% will apply.

You need excellent credit to get this card and you can only transfer debt that is not already at Bank of America.

You can get longer transfer periods by paying a fee, so this deal is generally best if you have a balance you know you’ll pay in full by the end of the 15 month promotional period.

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Transparency Score
  • Interest is not deferred during the balance transfer period, which means if you do not pay off your balance by the end of the promo period, you will not be charged the interest that would have accrued during the deferral period.
  • No penalty APR – paying late won’t automatically raise your rate (APR)
  • There are late payment and cash advance fees

Tip: You can provide the account number for the account you want to transfer from while you apply, and if approved, the bank will handle the transfer.

APPLY NOW Secured

on Bank Of America’s secure website

 

0% balance transfers with a fee

If you think it will take longer than 15 months to pay off your credit card debt, these credit cards could be right for you. Don’t let the balance transfer fee scare you. It is almost always better to pay the fee than to pay a high interest rate on your existing credit card. You can calculate your savings (including the cost of the fee) at our balance transfer marketplace.

These deals listed below are the longest balance transfers we have in our database. We have listed them by number of months at 0%. Although you need good credit to be approved, don’t be discouraged if one lender rejects you. Each credit card company has their own criteria, and you might still be approved by one of the companies listed below.

Discover it<sup>®</sup> - 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer

Decent 0% intro balance transfer period

Discover it® - 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer: Intro APR of 0% for 18 months, 3% BT fee.

This is a basic balance transfer deal with an above average term. If you don’t have credit card balances with Discover, it’s a good option to free up your accounts with other banks. With this card, you also have the ability to earn cash back, and there is no late fee for your first missed payment and no penalty APR. Hopefully you will not need to take advantage of these features, but they are nice to have.

Transparency Score
Transparency Score
  • Interest is waived during the balance transfer period, no foreign transaction fees and no late fee for your first late payment
  • The range of the purchase interest rate based on your credit history.  The 13.49% - 24.49% Variable APR is fairly standard.
  • There is a cash advance fee

Tip: Complete your balance transfer as quickly as possible for maximum savings.

APPLY NOW Secured

on Discover Bank’s secure website

Rates & Fees

Citi<sup>®</sup> Diamond Preferred<sup>®</sup> Card– 21 Month Balance Transfer Offer

Longest 0% intro balance transfer card

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card– 21 Month Balance Transfer Offer: 0%* for 21 months on Balance Transfers*, 5% balance transfer fee

The Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card– 21 Month Balance Transfer Offer offers the longest intro period on our list at intro 0%* for 21 months on Balance Transfers* made within 4 months from account opening. There is also an intro 0%* for 12 months on Purchases*. After the intro periods end, a 14.49% - 24.49%* (Variable) APR applies. The balance transfer fee is typical at 5% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum.. This provides plenty of time for you to pay off your debt. There are several other perks that make this card great: no annual fee, Citi® Private Pass®, and Citi® Concierge.

Transparency Score
TRANSPARENCY SCORE
  • Interest is not deferred during the balance transfer period, which means if you do not pay off your balance by the end of the promo period, you will not be charged the interest that would have accrued during the deferral period.
  • Interest rate is not known until you apply.

Tip: Complete your balance transfer within four months from account opening to take advantage of the 0% intro offer.

APPLY NOW Secured

on Citibank’s secure website

Low rate balance transfers

If you think it will take longer than 2 years to pay off your credit card debt, you might want to consider one of these offers. Rather than pay a balance transfer fee and receive a promotional 0% APR, these credit cards offer a low interest rate for much longer.

The longest offer can give you a low rate that only goes up if the prime rate goes up. If you can’t get that offer, there is another good option offering a low rate for three years.

Variable Rate Credit Card from UNIFY Financial CU

Long low rate balance transfer card

Unify Financial Credit Union – As low as 6.24% APR, no expiration, no BT fee

If you need a long time to pay off at a reasonable rate, and have great credit, it’s hard to beat this deal from Unify Financial Credit Union, with a rate as low as 6.49% with no expiration. The rate is variable, but it only varies with the Prime Rate, so it won’t fluctuate much more than say a variable rate mortgage. There is also no balance transfer fee.

Just about anyone can join Unify Financial Credit Union. They’ll help you figure out what organization you can join to qualify, and you don’t need to be a member to apply.

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  • Interest is not deferred during the balance transfer period, which means if you do not pay off your balance by the end of the promo period, you will not be charged the interest that would have accrued during the deferral period.
  • There are late payment fees.

Tip: If you’re credit’s not great, this probably isn’t for you, as the rate chosen for your account could be as high as 18%.

APPLY NOW Secured

on UNIFY Financial Credit Union’s secure website

Prime Rewards Credit Card from SunTrust Bank

Long low rate balance transfer card

SunTrust Prime Rewards – 4.75% variable APR for 36 months, $0 intro BT fee

If you live in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, D.C., or West Virginia you can apply for this card without a SunTrust bank account.

The deal is you get the prime rate for 3 years with no intro balance transfer fee. That’s currently 4.75% variable, though your rate will change if the prime rate changes, either up or down, and you have 60 days to complete your transfer with no fee. After that, it’s $10 or 3% of the amount of the transfer, whichever is greater. Also beware the prime rate deal isn’t for new purchases, so only use this card for a balance transfer.

Transparency Score
Transparency Score
  • Interest is not deferred during the balance transfer period, which means if you do not pay off your balance by the end of the promo period, you will not be charged the interest that would have accrued during the deferral period.
  • The range of the purchase interest rate is based on your credit history: 12.74%-22.74% (v), and is more than 10%, which is high.
  • There are late payment and cash advance fees.

Tip: You have only 60 days from account opening to get the intro $0 transfer fee.

APPLY NOW Secured

on SunTrust Bank’s secure website

For fair credit scores

In order to be approved for the best balance transfer credit cards and offers, you generally need to have good or excellent credit. If your FICO score is above 650, you have a good chance of being approved. If your score is above 700, you have an excellent chance.

However, if your score is less than perfect, you still have options. Your best option might be a personal loan. You can learn more about personal loans for bad credit here.

There are balance transfers available for people with scores below 650. The offer below might be available to people with lower credit scores. There is a transfer fee, and it’s not as long as some of the others available with excellent credit. However, it will still be better than a standard interest rate.

Just remember: one of the biggest factors in your credit score is your amount of debt and credit utilization. If you use this offer to pay down debt aggressively, you should see your score improve over time and you will be able to qualify for even better offers.

Platinum Mastercard<sup>®</sup> from Aspire FCU

For less than perfect credit

Aspire Credit Union Platinum – 0% intro APR for 6 months, 0% intro BT fee

Balance transfer deals can be hard to come by if your credit isn’t great. But some banks are more open to it than others, and Aspire Credit Union is one of them, saying ‘fair’ or ‘good’ credit is needed for this card. Anyone can join Aspire, but if you’re looking for a longer deal you also might want to check if you’re pre-qualified for deals from other banks, without a hit to your credit score, using the list of options here.

You’ll be able to check with several banks what cards are pre-screened based on your credit profile, and you might be surprised to see some good deals you didn’t think were in your range. That way you can apply with more confidence.

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  • Interest is not deferred during the balance transfer period, which means if you do not pay off your balance by the end of the promo period, you will not be charged the interest that would have accrued during the deferral period.
  • The ongoing interest rate isn’t known when you apply.

Tip: Only Aspire’s Platinum MasterCard has this deal. Its Platinum Rewards MasterCard doesn’t have a 0% offer. And if you transfer a balance after 6 months a 2% fee will apply.

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2. Learn more

Checklist before you transfer

Never use a credit card at an ATM

If you use your credit card at an ATM, it will be treated as a cash advance. Most credit cards charge an upfront cash advance fee, which is typically about 5%. There is usually a much higher “cash advance” interest rate, which is typically above 20%. And there is no grace period, so interest starts to accrue right away. A cash advance is expensive, so beware.

Always pay on time.

If you do not make your payment on time, most credit cards will immediately hit you with a steep late fee. Once you are 30 days late, you will likely be reported to the credit bureau. Late payments can have a big, negative impact on your score. Once you are 60 days late, you can end up losing your low balance transfer rate and be charged a high penalty interest rate, which is usually close to 30%. Just automate your payments so you never have to worry about these fees.

Get the transfer done within 60 days

Most balance transfer offers are from the date you open your account, not the date you complete the transfer. It is in your interest to complete the balance transfer right away, so that you can benefit from the low interest rate as soon as possible. With most credit card companies, you will actually lose the promotional balance transfer offer if you do not complete the transfer within 60 or 90 days. Just get it done!

Don’t spend on the card

Your goal with a balance transfer should be to get out of debt. If you start spending on the credit card, there is a real risk that you will end up in more debt. Additionally, you could end up being charged interest on your purchase balances. If your credit card has a 0% balance transfer rate but does not have a 0% promotional rate on purchases, you would end up being charged interest on your purchases right away, until your entire balance (including the balance transfer) is paid in full. In other words, you lose the grace period on your purchases so long as you have a balance transfer in place.

Don’t try to transfer between two cards of the same bank

Credit card companies make balance transfer offers because they want to steal business from their competitors. So, it makes sense that the banks will not let you transfer balances between two credit cards offered by the same bank. If you have an airline credit card or a store credit card, just make sure you know which bank issues the card before you apply for a balance transfer.

Comparison tools

Savings calculator – which card is best?

If you’re still unsure about which cards offer you the best deal for your situation, try our calculator. You get to input the amount of debt you’re trying to get a lower rate on, your current rate, and the monthly payment you can afford. The calculator will show you which cards offer you the most savings on interest payments.

Balance transfer or a loan?

A balance transfer at 0% will get you the absolute lowest rate. But you might feel more comfortable with a single fixed monthly payment, and a single real date your loan will be paid off. A lot of new companies are offering great rates on loans you can pay off over 2, 3, 4, or 5 years. You can find the best personal loans here.

And you might find even though their rates aren’t 0%, you could afford the payment and get a plan that takes care of your debt for good at once.

Use our calculator to see how your payments and savings will compare.

Questions and Answers

Yes, you can. Most credit card companies will allow you to transfer debt from any credit card, regardless who owns it. Just remember that once the debt is transferred, it becomes your legal liability.

Yes, you can. Most banks will enable store card debt to be transferred. Just make sure the store card is not issued by the same bank as the balance transfer credit card.

As a general rule, if you can pay off your debt in six months or less, it usually doesn’t make sense to do a balance transfer.

Here is a simple test. (This is not 100% accurate mathematically, but it is an easy test). Divide your credit card interest rate by 12. (Imagine a credit card with a 12% interest rate. 12%/12 = 1%). In this example, you are paying about 1% interest per month. If the fee on your balance transfer is 3%, you will break even in month 3, and will be saving money thereafter. You can use that simplified math to get a good guide on whether or not you will be saving money.

And if you want the math done for you, use our tool to calculate how much each balance transfer will save you.

With all balance transfers recommended at MagnifyMoney, you would not be hit with a big, retroactive interest charge. You would be charged the purchase interest rate on the remaining balance on a go-forward basis. (Warning: not all balance transfers waive the interest. But all balance transfers recommended by MagnifyMoney do.)

Many companies offer very good deals in the first year to win new customers. These are often called “switching incentives.” For example, your mobile phone company could offer 50% off its normal rate for the first 12 months. Or your cable company could offer a big discount on the first year if you buy the bundle package. Credit card companies are no different. These companies want your debt, and are willing to give you a big discount in the first year to get you to transfer.

Completing a balance transfer is easy. If you are applying for a new credit card, most credit card companies will just ask you for the account number of the credit card that has the debt. The transfer will then happen automatically. (It will look like the balance transfer credit card made a payment for you). You can also call your credit card company, and complete the transfer easily on the phone.

Automate your payments so that it doesn’t happen! If you do miss a payment, you will be charged a late fee. If you become 60 days late, you could lose your promotional interest rate and could be charge the punitive rate, which is often near 30% with most companies.

No, you can’t. Credit card companies are trying to steal balances from their competitors. So these deals are only good if you bring balances from competitors.

Many credit card issuers will allow you to transfer money to your checking account. Or, they will offer you checks that you can write to yourself or a third party. Check online, because many credit card issuers will let you transfer money directly to your bank account from your credit card. Otherwise, call your issuer and ask what deals they have available for “convenience checks.”

In most cases, you cannot. Once a balance transfer is complete, it is complete.

Yes, it is possible to transfer the same debt multiple times. Just remember, if there is a balance transfer fee you would be charged that fee every time you transfer the debt.

You can call the bank and ask them to increase your credit limit. However, even if the bank does not increase your limit, you should still take advantage of the savings available with the limit you have.

Yes. You decide how much you want to transfer to each credit card.

No. You do not earn rewards with a balance transfer. No cash back, no points and no miles can be earned with a balance transfer.

No, there is no penalty. You can pay off your debt whenever you want without a penalty.

Mathematically, the best balance transfer credit cards are no fee, 0% offers. You literally pay nothing. The best in the market is offered by Chase, which has a 15 month 0% introductory offer with a $0 introductory fee.

However, if your debt is already with Chase, or you think it will take years to pay off your debt, you should consider a longer duration offer or a personal loan. You can find 21 month offers with 3% fees and 24 month offers with 4% fees. Your savings over the two years would likely be substantial, even when you include the cost of the fee.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are 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 card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

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

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Personal Loans for People with Bad Credit

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

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Can I get a personal loan with bad credit?

If you have bad credit, it can be difficult but not impossible to get a personal loan. For some, it’s a situation full of painful irony: You have bad credit because you’re in debt; refinancing or consolidating that debt would help improve your credit but you have trouble qualifying for a good loan because you have bad credit.

Fortunately, there are lenders out there who will extend financing to those with less-than-stellar credit. You may not get the lowest interest rate, but you won’t be disqualified simply because your credit score is less than stellar. Lenders will consider other information as well as your credit, such as your income level and whether or not you have a cosigner with strong credit.

One of the most versatile ways to get funding is through a personal loan. Personal loans are unsecured installment loans, which means you’ll get a lump sum upfront to pay off your debts, and you’ll be left with just one fixed loan payment that will be due over a set period of time. Because the loan is unsecured, you won’t have to put up any collateral.

How does a bad credit score affect my loan?

A bad credit score indicates to lenders that you aren’t a reliable borrower. For whatever reason, you have struggled to make on-time payments in the past, or you have taken on a large amount of debt relative to your income.

Because you look risky, they may be more reluctant to lend you money at all. When you are offered a loan, it’s likely to be for a smaller amount with higher interest rates.

Where to shop for a personal loan

When you’re shopping for a personal loan, it’s important to comparison shop. You want to be sure you are getting the best rates and terms before signing your name on the dotted line.

MagnifyMoney’s parent company, LendingTree, can potentially connect you with numerous lenders who offer personal loans to those with less-than-perfect credit. Their personal loan tool will ask you some basic questions, weeding out lenders who aren’t a good match, and saving you time and unfruitful hard inquiries on your credit report.

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Credit Unions and community banks

In your search for a lender, don’t overlook credit unions and community banks. Rachael Bator, CFP at Lake Street Advisors, says these institutions tend to have lower minimum credit score requirements on top of lower interest rates. And they are often willing to work with people with low credit scores.

Find a credit union in your area here. Look for a community bank here.

LendingClub

Most LendingClub borrowers have a credit score of at least 600. All loans are issued at a fixed APR between 5.99% and 35.89%. Your credit score, current debt burden and the amount you want to borrow will all affect where you fall in that range. LendingClub issues personal loans up to $40,000.

LendingClub personal loans do come with some fees:

  • Origination fees. This will be 1%-6% of the amount you’re borrowing. You will not have to pay it upfront; it will be rolled into your loan, and included in your APR.
  • Late payment fees. If your monthly payment is more than 15 days late, LendingClub may charge you a late payment fee. This fee will be the greater of $15 or 5% of the unpaid payment.
  • Check processing fees. If you choose to pay your loan via paper check, you will be charged a $7 check processing fee.

The application process happens online and will require information about your employment history and income, on top of identifying information like your address and Social Security number. If you’re not confident you’ll qualify with your credit history, you can add a co-borrower with a better history to your application to increase your odds of approval.

“If you’re considering your options and want to talk through your unique situation, don’t hesitate to reach out to us,” said Alia Dudum, spokeswoman for LendingClub.

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LendingPoint

LendingPoint is on a mission to provide access to financing for those without good credit.
“Most of our competitors have started to deny anyone below a 660-680 [credit score], running up the credit rankings,” said Mark Lorimer, LendingPoint’s CMO. “We’ve started trying to provide access to more — the way down to a 590 [credit score].”

LendingPoint recently launched a program called Step Into More, which helps those with a lower credit score and other negative aspects of their credit rating get personal loans and improve their score at the same time.

The program starts with a $2,000-$3,000 loan which is to be repaid over the course of two years at 34.99% APR. If you make on-time payments for the first three months, your interest rate drops by one percentage point. If you continue making on-time payments up to the six-month mark, your interest rate will drop by yet another percentage point. At the twelve-month mark, your interest rate will go down at least two percentage points more if you have consistently made on-time payments.

You may qualify for a personal loan from LendingPoint independent of the Step Into More program — even with a credit score of 590. Your score alone isn’t enough to get you approved; your income, debt and other factors will be a part of the decision process. But Lorimer says that with a 590 credit score, most applicants could expect to be offered an interest rate of 23.99% to 34.99% APR. Loan amounts vary from $2,000-$25,000.

There is an origination fee ranging anywhere from 0%-6% depending on your state of residence. This origination fee will already be accounted for in your APR.

You can apply online and will need to provide basic identifying information such as name, address and Social Security number. You will also need to verify your bank account with the routing and account number. If you need help with the process, the company has telephone support; a live human being can help walk you through the process.

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SoFi

Read our full review of SoFi’s personal loans here.

SoFi doesn’t publish any specifics about its credit score requirements. It is a unique lender in that they focus more heavily on things like education, employment and income potential. Those with higher income or income potential are more likely to be approved. To this end, SoFi’s personal loans come with unemployment protection — which defers payment and helps you find a new job should you find yourself unemployed.

SoFi grants personal loans from $5,000-$100,000 with interest rates between 5.49% and 13.49% APR after a 0.25% discount for setting up autopay. They do not charge origination fees, and the terms on these loans can be anywhere between three and seven years. If you’re 15 days or more late with your payment, you may be assessed a fee 4% or $5 — whichever is less.

You can apply online. Come armed with your basic contact information, education history and employment information. You may have a hard time getting approved with a bad credit history, but SoFi does a soft pull on your credit report — which does not negatively affect your score. If you have a solid education and earn a decent income, it’s worth seeing if they will take you on.

Avant

Read our full review of Avant’s personal loans here.

In some cases, online lender Avant will issue personal loans to those with credit scores of 580. Their personal loans range from $2,000 to $35,000, and have terms between two and five years. Interest rates are between 9.95% and 35.99% APR.

There is an administration fee of 1.50%-4.75%. Other fees include a $25 late fee after your payment is 10+ days delinquent, and a $15 fee if your payment is returned.

You can apply online with your name, address, Social Security number and income information. If you are approved, you could have funds in your bank account the very next day.

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

Alternatives to personal loans

Bator says that while a personal loan may be a good option in certain situations, in others you may be served by a different product.

First, she says you can ask family members if they’d be willing to give you a loan. She does note that in order for this money to be considered a loan and not a potentially taxable gift, your family member will have to charge you the applicable federal rate, which is usually much lower than the interest rate you would get with a lender — especially if you have bad credit.

Another area for examination is a home equity line of credit (HELOC). Bator says because your home is put up as collateral, the interest rate on this product tends to be lower than that of a personal loan.

One source of funding she does not recommend is payday loans.

“The repayment periods are incredibly short,” said Bator. “You can expect to pay outrageous interest rates — they’re illegal in many states for good reason. It’s proven that they don’t help people get out of debt, but rather the debt snowballs into an uncontrollable situation which profits the lender — not the borrower.”

How to rebuild your credit score

Just because you have a bad credit score now doesn’t mean you will forever. There are steps you can take to rebuild it.

The two best things you can do to improve your credit score are making on-time payments and lowering your utilization rate (you can do that by paying down your balances). Your utilization rate is calculated by dividing the total amount of all your statement balances by your credit limits. If you do get a personal loan, be sure to make your payments on time every month to fulfill the first course of action. Be sure you’re paying other bills on time, too, like rent and your cellphone bill.

If you are consolidating debt with a personal loan, making on-time monthly payments may slowly help improve your credit score as you will be eliminating debt.

Other financial options

How your score is calculated: Your credit score is calculated after reviewing your credit report, which includes a record of loans and other accounts in your name and your history of payments. Think of it like your grade point average in school. It’s a score calculated on your overall credit performance over time.

The same way a failed exam would hurt your GPA, a missed credit card payment or significant negative event like a bankruptcy or foreclosure could hurt your score. Vice versa, if you failed that one exam in the early part of the year but score A’s on every other exam moving forward, that new positive information will be factored into your score as well and can boost it.

After a lender looks at your credit report, they will take the information and plug it into a scoring model. There are two main models: FICO and Vantage. Ninety percent of lenders use FICO models, so for our purposes, we’ll assume your credit score is calculated using a FICO model.

Credit scores fall into five different categories:

  • 750+ – Excellent Credit
  • 680-749 – Good Credit
  • 620- 679 – Average Credit
  • 550-619 – Sub-Prime Credit
  • Below 550 – Poor Credit

If you fall into the sub-prime or poor credit categories, you have are going to have a harder time borrowing money — especially with low interest rates.

How to get your credit score: Check your credit cards. Many offer customers access a free FICO score once per month. Otherwise, use a free tool, such as through Discover, which you can access even if you don’t have any accounts with the company.

How to prepare your personal loan application

Before you apply for a personal loan, make sure you take advantage of your free credit report. Check it for accuracy, and if you find any errors, take measures to fix them.

After you’ve made sure your credit report contains only accurate information, you’ll want to get your paperwork together. Many lenders will ask you to provide:

  • Your full name
  • Address
  • Social Security number
  • Residency status
  • Proof of income
  • Information regarding your debts — especially if you are consolidating

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are 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 card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Brynne Conroy
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Brynne Conroy is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brynne here

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Pay Down My Debt

The Benefits of Living Debt-Free

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

When it comes to debt, most of us have outstanding balances of one kind or another. Indeed, a whopping 80 percent of Americans are living in the red, according to a 2015 Pew Charitable Trusts report — eight in every 10 U.S. adults.

It goes without saying that debt can majorly impact your financial freedom. At one point, Simone Dennis, a 29-year-old health policy analyst in Baltimore, was shelling out in excess of $1,000 a month in minimum payments alone on a combination of auto, student and medical debt.

“I wrote that number down and looked at it every day,” she told MagnifyMoney. “I wanted to escape a life where I was burdened by debt and unable to change my situation because I needed the income.”

In other words, every financial decision she made revolved around her debt. But then she took charge and set her sights on becoming completely debt-free. At the starting line, she owed $65,000 in student loans, had $14,000 left on her car loan and had to contend with another $1,000 in medical bills.

Earlier this month, she reached her goal, wiping out $80,000 in just three years. (We’ll dive into how she did it in a bit.) These days, she’s excited to kick off a life where her income goes toward funding her long-term goals — not the creditors.

The benefits of living debt-free are often life-changing. If your current debt management style is making minimum payments and calling it a day, you might want to perk up and pay attention. Here are all the reasons why living a debt-free life should be your top priority.

What are the benefits of being debt-free?

More funds for your future goals

Unshackling yourself from debt frees up cash that was previously going toward paying down your balances. That means keeping more of your take-home pay. In some cases, it could mean breaking the cycle of living paycheck to paycheck.

Instead of being beholden to creditors, you can use this money to further other financial goals, like building up your emergency fund, kicking up your retirement contributions or whatever else comes to mind. Dennis is using that $1,000 of newfound cash to increase her 401(k) contributions for the employer match. She’s also planning a Mexican vacation to celebrate her accomplishment.

Marissa Lyda and her husband, Jacob, recently crossed the debt-free finish line after paying off $87,000 in student loan debt over a two-and-a-half-year period. This means they finally have some real saving power; getting out of debt has unlocked $750 a month that went toward minimum payments.

“We want to have a full emergency fund and start saving for a good down payment on a house,” Lyda, a 23-year-old accounting specialist in Portland, Ore., told MagnifyMoney. “We’re also putting more toward our retirement accounts.”

You’ll save money in the long-term

You’ll really feel the impact of getting debt-free if you carry any high-interest balances. Let’s say, for example, you have a $3,000 balance on a credit card with an 18 percent interest rate and a $125 minimum monthly payment. If you pay just that minimum, our handy debt payoff calculator reveals that it’ll take you 30 months to get to zero — and you’ll pay $747 extra in interest. These numbers are compounded even further if you have multiple balances and interest rates, which could cost you big time in the long run. (You’re essentially paying creditors to be mired in debt.)

In addition to the immediate financial freedom you can achieve, living debt-free can also majorly supercharge your retirement efforts. Think about it: If you took $400 you were spending each month on debt and redirected it toward a Roth IRA, it would grow to more than $485,000 over the next 30 years, assuming 7 percent annual returns. This mentality could make your golden years a lot more comfortable.

Your health might improve

Another interesting tidbit is that living debt-free may very well be good for our health. Money is the No. 1 stressor in the United States, according to the American Psychological Association’s 2015 Stress in America survey.

Chronic stress can suppress our immune systems and disrupt everything from our digestion to our sleep to our reproductive systems, says the National Institute of Mental Health. There’s also a link between long-term stress and depression and anxiety. It stands to reason that eliminating your debt worries could actually be good for your health.

Risks of debt-free living: How extreme is too extreme?

Conventional wisdom tells us that living without debt is the healthiest way to manage our finances, but this doesn’t mean swearing off credit all together. Doing so, in fact, can work against your financial fitness, according to certified financial planner and senior CFP Board ambassador Jill Schlesinger.

“If you live an all-cash life, then the moment you actually need a loan, you may be in trouble,” she told MagnifyMoney. “It’s highly unlikely you’re going to be able to buy a large asset, like a car or a house, in cash.”

When the time comes to apply for a car loan or mortgage, getting approved — and getting the best rate possible — is wholly intertwined with your credit score. A number of factors go into determining this number. Fifteen percent of your FICO score, for example, is determined by the length of your credit history. New credit makes up another 10 percent; having a mix of credit counts for another 10 percent. In other words, actively using credit responsibly accounts for 35 percent of your credit score. Going completely credit-free translates to a thin credit file that can impact important financing options down the road.

“I totally understand the anxiety of not wanting to live with debt, but going too extreme can be shortsighted,” said Schlesinger, who suggests one of two pathways for maintaining a robust credit score:

  • Use credit cards responsibly: This means paying off your balances in full every month and never carrying a balance. Your credit utilization ratio (i.e. how much of your available credit you’re actually using) makes up nearly one-third of your FICO score. Our experts recommend keeping your credit utilization ratio under 30 percent.Reaching for a credit card instead of cash or a debit card to pay for regular living expenses, like gas and groceries, is a great way to use credit to your advantage, so long as you’re paying off the balance in full every billing cycle. (If you can rack up rewards in the process, all the better.) Making on-time payments also shows future lenders that you know how to handle your credit.
  • Consider a secured credit card: Don’t trust yourself with a credit card? Thankfully, there are other ways to keep your credit score alive and well. Enter secured credit cards. These require the cardholder to put down a cash deposit, which determines their credit line, right off the bat. From there, you can use it like a regular credit card without the fear of digging yourself into a debt hole. Not carrying a balance and making on-time payments is key to boosting your credit as your activity is reported to the credit bureaus.

Eliminating debt: How to start

Pick a strategy

Making the minimum payment across all your open accounts isn’t the most effective way to pay down your debt. Dennis used what’s known as the snowball method to get debt-free as fast as she did. This means she continued making the minimum payments on all of her accounts, except for the one with the lowest balance, which she hit extra hard with bigger payments.

Once the lowest balance is paid off, you take whatever you were paying on that bill and apply it to the next lowest balance. It has a compounding effect, plus you can see your accounts closing one after the other, which can make you feel like a financial rockstar.

“I made monthly ‘mega-payments’ of about $2,700 on the debt with the smallest balance and repeated this method until all my debts were paid in full,” said Dennis. “The quick wins of the debt snowball method motivated me to keep going.”

One side note: While you’ll end up paying more in interest over the long haul, this tactic works wonders when it comes to keeping up motivation, according to The Journal of Consumer Research.

Alternatively, you can tackle your debt by prioritizing the accounts that have the highest interest rates. From a black-and-white, numbers perspective, this is smarter than the snowball method since you’ll ultimately get out of debt sooner and pay less in interest. Not sure which method is right for you? Our Snowball versus. Avalanche Calculator can help you make sense of your options.

You can accelerate your debt payoff journey even more by using balance transfer offers. These let you transfer high-interest balances over to new, lower-interest accounts with super-low promotional rates. These typically come with a 3-4 percent transfer fee, but if you can get a 0 percent card and pay off the balance within the promotional period, you can save big time in the long run.

Learn to budget

The key to accelerating your get-out-of-debt timeline is freeing up extra cash that you can throw at your debt. This, of course, requires sticking to a budget. Begin by listing out all your incoming money (income) for the month and subtracting all your outgoing money (expenses), which should include monthly contributions to your savings account. (Don’t worry, you can pay off debt and save at the same time. More on this shortly.)

What’s left represents how much you have to allocate toward your debt. If you come up with a negative number, it means you’re running in the red and need to make some lifestyle tweaks to avoid going even further into debt, which brings us to our next point.

Live within your means

Are there any ways to decrease your expenses? Dennis downgraded her cable package and cellphone plan, stopped paying for garage parking, and cooked meals at home in order to direct more money toward her debt. On a more extreme note, Lyda and her husband sacrificed their personal space and moved in with her parents to kick their debt repayment into high gear.

“We felt very suffocated by debt,” she said. “We weren’t making much, our rent was a lot, and our debt was enormous.”

In addition to lowering your expenses, think of out-of-the-box ways to increase your income, like picking up a side gig. Dennis tipped the scales by selling gently used household items on Craigslist and eBay. She also took on a part-time gig at a local yoga studio in exchange for a free membership.

How to maintain a debt-free life

Once you cross the debt-free finish line, celebrations are certainly in order, but you have to be intentional about not backsliding. Ask yourself how you got into debt in the first place. The way you answer is personal, but pay attention so you don’t repeat past mistakes.

Redirect debt payments toward savings goals

To keep you moving in the right direction, Schlesinger suggests immediately taking whatever you were putting toward your debt and redirecting it to some sort of savings vehicle, whether that be beefing up your emergency fund or upping your retirement contributions.

“It’s a great way to prevent falling back into those bad habits, and the more you can automate it, the better; out of sight, out of mind,” she said.

Top off your emergency fund

If you have nothing in your savings account, you’ll likely rack up new debt to see you through unexpected pop-up expenses. Set your sights on socking away three to six months’ of take-home pay in your emergency fund.

This, along with sticking to a budget, living within your means, and using credit responsibly, plays a major role in breaking the debt cycle once and for all. In some cases, your emergency fund could save you from financial ruin. The good news is that you don’t have to wait until getting debt-free to get your savings off the ground.

Debt versus savings: Which comes first?

According to Schlesinger, there’s a common misconception out there that competing money goals represent an either/or situation. But she says that it’s all about changing your mindset so you can fill more than one bucket at the same time.

“When people ask, ‘What should I do: pay off my debt, establish my emergency fund or contribute to my retirement account?’ my answer is always is the same: Yes!” said Schlesinger. “These big goals require some multitasking.”

If you’re actively in debt-payoff mode, press pause and focus your energy on setting the foundation for your emergency fund. Our insiders suggest setting a starting target of $1,000. Once you hit that milestone, go back to focusing on debt until it’s knocked out, at which point you can switch back to building your savings up to the three- to six-month mark.

Retirement savings don’t have to be put on hold, either.

“If you have 22 percent [interest] credit card debt, it’s hard not to make that the priority, but if you have a 401(k) match, you should put in enough to at least get that match; we shouldn’t be leaving free money on the table,” Schlesinger added.

The takeaway? You don’t want to be so laser-focused on paying off debt that you rob your future self of a comfortable retirement.

What you should do when you’re finally debt-free

Now is the time to ratchet up your savings goals. After bolstering your emergency fund, the next rung on the ladder, according to Schlesinger, is dialing up your retirement contributions — which is exactly what both Lyda and Dennis are doing. Schlesinger said the goal should be to max out your accounts.

Once that’s on track, you can start focusing on other savings goals like travel, saving for a down payment on a home, or saving for your children’s college education. Investing should also be a top priority at this point. We’re not talking about individual stock picking. Instead, the sooner you can zero in on low-cost index funds, the better. This will position you to really maximize your investment returns.

The path to getting, and staying, debt-free is rarely a linear one, but staying the course definitely pays off. The key is to strike a balance between using credit responsibly and sticking to a plan that lets you contribute to your other overarching financial goals.

The good news? A debt-free life is totally doable.

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PNC Personal Loan Review

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

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

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

Personal Loan Details

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Both the unsecured and secured loans have fixed interest rates.

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

The APR for unsecured loans varies by the loan amount:

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

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

The Pros and Cons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Application Process and Documents Needed to Apply

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

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

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

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

Who Qualifies for a Personal Loan With PNC?

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

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

Who Benefits the Most from a Personal Loan With PNC?

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

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

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

The Fine Print

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

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

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

Transparency

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

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

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

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

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Alternative Personal Loan Solutions

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

SoFi offers fixed rates and variable rates, while PNC only offers fixed rates for its installment loans. SoFi’s fixed APR ranges from 5.49% – 13.49%, and its variable APR ranges from 5.37% – 13.37%, if you’re enrolled in autopay (with a cap of 14.95%).

There are no fees associated with SoFi’s personal loan, including no late payment fees.

You can borrow funds on 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7-year terms, and personal loans are available in all states except Mississippi.

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

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

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If you want to get a personal loan from a more traditional lender, Marcus by Goldman Sachs®. Is a great option. Goldman Sachs Bank USA has been around for over a century and Marcus is one of their brands that offers no-fee, fixed-rate personal loans, along with high-yield online savings accounts and certificates of deposit. Getting a personal loan through Marcus is an entirely online experience, making it easy to get the money you need from the comfort of your home.

Marcus personal loans have rates that range between 6.99% to 24.99% APR, with terms between 36 and 72 months.

There are a lot of perks that come with getting a personal loan through Marcus. First, there are absolutely no fees.Marcus doesn’t charge an initial origination fee for their personal loans and you won’t have to pay a late payment fee if you end up paying late or missing a payment, though, that payment will accrue additional interest and your total payment will be larger. Marcus also offers the chance to defer payments after you have made on time payments for a full year.

There is a only a soft pull on your credit when you initially apply for the loan, so you can compare rates and terms without the worry of your credit score being affected.
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If you’re looking for good alternatives to PNC’s unsecured loan, take a look at Earnest. You can borrow between $2,000 and $50,000 on a 1, 2, or 3-year term.

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

You’ll need a minimum credit score of 650 to be eligible for approval with Earnest, and a minimum of 700 to be approved with SoFi, but both lenders take other factors into account, unlike PNC. Your employment history, education, and salary matter as well.

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It Pays to Shop Around

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

*We’ll receive a referral fee if you click on offers with this symbol. This does not impact our rankings or recommendations. You can learn more about how our site is financed here.


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Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are 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 card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check for approval without a credit hit

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

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

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

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

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

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LendingClub: People with credit scores below 600 can get approved. You can borrow $1,000 – $40,000 and get the money deposited into your account within a few days. Fixed APRs range from 5.98%-35.89% on terms up to 5 years. LendingClub has an origination fee of 1%-6% on its loans. LendingClub is not available in Iowa or West Virginia.

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Upstart: Borrow between $3,000 and $50,000 for up to 5 years with APRs ranging from around 7.73% to 29.99%. While the minimum credit score needed to qualify is 640 (Upstart will also consider applicants who don’t have a score), you must have a clean credit history. You could also be eligible for next day funding.

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

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

Prosper: Another peer-to-peer marketplace lender, Prosper’s loans are similar to LendingClub’s. You can borrow $2,000 to $40,000 with APRs ranging from 5.99%-35.99% on 3 and 5 year terms. There’s an origination fee of 1%-5%, and its minimum credit score is 640.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Payday Loans

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

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

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

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

Title Loans

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

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

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

Non-Profit Credit Counseling to Rebuild Credit Score

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

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

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

Alternative to Ways to Build Your Credit Score

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

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

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

Read the Fine Print and Shop Around

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

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

*We’ll receive a referral fee if you click on offers with this symbol. This does not impact our rankings or recommendations. You can learn more about how our site is financed here.

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Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are 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 card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

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

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Top 6 Personal Loans for Handling Medical Debt

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

Personal Loans for Handling Medical Debt

Updated November 03, 2017
With medical debt plaguing 26% of adults, it’s no wonder people are looking for an easier way to pay it back. According to a study by The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, this problem isn’t exclusive to the uninsured, either. Those who have health insurance are struggling to afford crippling bills as well.

While there isn’t always an “easy” or quick solution, refinancing your medical debt with a personal loan that has lower interest rates and more favorable terms may help. However, before you consider refinancing, you should exhaust your options with your hospital first.

If you’re looking for help with affording medical debt, we’re covering how you can try to lower the amount of medical debt you owe, and which personal loan lenders are the best for refinancing medical debt.

Negotiating Medical Debt With a Hospital

Are you struggling to pay back any medical debt you owe? Your first stop should be the hospital at which you received treatment. You may be able to negotiate with the billing department or settle on a lower amount owed. The worst thing you can do is ignore your medical bills only to have them sent to collections. You want to do everything in your power to avoid that.

Plus, some hospitals, particularly non-profits, offer something called charity care for low-income families or those who are uninsured. You never know what financial aid programs your hospital has unless you ask.

Have you tried negotiating with the hospital to no avail? Then you might want to consider trying a professional service, such as copatient.com. Besides negotiating your medical bills on your behalf, Copatient also reviews your bills for any errors.

Hospitals aren’t exempt from making billing errors, and it’s important to ensure you’re on the hook for the correct services received, especially if you have insurance coverage. In fact, on its website, Copatient states that 80% of the billing statements it reviews contain errors. Unfortunately, medical bills can be hard to understand, which is why having a second pair of trained eyes to review it may help.

As Copatient doesn’t require you to pay for its services unless it’s successful at negotiating your bill, it could be worth a try. It charges you 35% of what it saves you, so if you were able to save $8,000, the fee would be $2,800.

Maybe you’ve tried negotiating your medical debt and either weren’t successful, or still can’t afford to pay. In that case, refinancing your medical debt is a solution you should look into, especially if your interest rates are high. Here are our top six choices for personal loan lenders for those with excellent and good credit.

1. SoFi

We recommend refinancing with SoFi for a variety of reasons, and medical debt is no exception. While it doesn’t have a specific program for medical debt, most personal loan lenders will allow you to use a personal loan for just about anything, medical expenses typically included.

SoFi has some of the lowest APRs of any lender, with fixed rates ranging from 5.49% to 13.49%, and variable rates ranging from 5.37% to 13.37%. You can refinance $5,000 up to $100,000 on 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7 year terms as well.

There’s no minimum FICO score you need to qualify, though higher is better, as is not having any negative marks. Having a stable employment and education history will help you qualify for a better rate, too. You must be employed to be approved for a loan, and SoFi’s personal loan isn’t available to residents of Mississippi.

SoFi uses a soft credit pull to provide you with estimated rates, and if you want to move forward with the loan, then it will use a hard credit pull. That means you can see if the loan is workable for you before committing and before having the inquiry impact your credit.

There are also no hidden fees with SoFi, so what you see is what you get in terms of the loan amount as there is no origination fee and no pre-payment penalty.

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2. Earnest

Earnest is similar to SoFi in terms of its low APRs. Fixed APRs range from 5.25% to 14.24%, but terms are 1, 2, and 3 years. This makes Earnest a good option for those with less debt, though you can refinance $2,000 up to $50,000.

The only downside to Earnest is that it isn’t available in many states. You must be a resident of the following states to be approved: AK, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, FL, GA, HI, IL, IN, KS, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, NC, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, SC, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, Washington DC, WI, WV, and WY.

If you don’t reside in a state on this list, check back often as Earnest has been adding several states to its roster over the last year.

You should have a minimum credit score of 650 to be approved for a loan with Earnest, though it also takes into account your savings, employment history, education history, and income. You can apply for a loan using your LinkedIn account (which pre-fills some fields for you), but it isn’t necessary.

Earnest doesn’t have origination fees or pre-payment penalty fees, though it does use a hard credit inquiry when you complete the application. According to its FAQ, it is working on building a tool that will give you preliminary rates and terms on a personal loan without a hard pull.

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3. LightStream

LightStream is an online division of SunTrust and offers great deals on personal loans. You can refinance $5,000 up to $100,000 on terms ranging from 2 to 7 years. Fixed APRs range from 5.49% to 16.44%, and there are no origination fees. Rates do vary based on the term you select, so be sure to look at all your options here.

LightStream has one of the faster application processes – if you get all the necessary documents in by 2:30pm ET, you may be eligible for same-day funding. Additionally, if you’re unhappy with the services provided by LightStream, its customer service is backed by a $100 guarantee.

LightStream requires a hard credit inquiry, which makes it a slightly less attractive option. You might want to check with the personal loan lenders that use a soft credit pull first.

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4. Upstart

Upstart and the following two lenders are better options for those with less-than-ideal credit, or those that haven’t been getting approvals elsewhere.

You can refinance $1,000 up to $50,000 with Upstart (be aware it says $35,000 on its FAQ page and $50,000 when you check your estimated rates). Fixed APRs range from 7.73% to 29.99% on its 3 and 5 year terms.

You need a minimum FICO score of 640 to qualify for a loan with Upstart, but that’s just one part of the equation. You should still have a clean credit report – no delinquencies, no collections, less than six inquiries on your credit report within the last six months, and you’ll also be required to verify your income.

Upstart has origination fees ranging from 0.00% to 8% of the loan amount, so take this into consideration when applying.

The good news is that Upstart uses a soft credit pull to give you estimated rates. A hard credit inquiry will happen should you choose to move forward with the loan.

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5. Prosper

Prosper, like LendingClub below, is a peer-to-peer marketplace. That means investors (individual and corporate) can fund your loan request, giving you a slightly better chance of approval.

You can refinance between $2,000 and $35,000 on terms of 3 and 5 years, and fixed APRs range from 5.99% to 35.99%. That’s a high cap, and as with any loan, you should run the numbers to make sure consolidating your medical debt this way will save you money.

Prosper isn’t available to residents of Maine, North Dakota, or Iowa. You need a minimum FICO score of 640 to qualify, and Experian is used to run credit. A soft pull is used at first, and a hard pull will not be used unless your loan gets funded.

There are no fees at all to post a listing to the marketplace, but if you want to fund your loan through Prosper, you will face “closing fees” ranging from 0.50% to 4.95%, depending on the “Prosper Rating” your loan is given. This rating is Prosper’s proprietary grading system, mostly for the benefit of investors, so they can evaluate how risky your loan is.

6. LendingClub

LendingClub is another peer-to-peer marketplace and its loan offerings are similar to those of Prosper. You can refinance $1,000 up to $40,000 on terms of up to 5 years. Fixed APRs range from 5.98% to 35.89%, and there are origination fees ranging from 1% to 6% of the loan amount.

LendingClub will loan to those with lower credit scores – as low as 600 – depending on the situation. You should still have a good track record with limited missed payments in the mast. LendingClub does not make loans in Iowa or West Virginia.

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Shop Around for the Best Rates and Negotiate

If you’re one of the many people in the United States struggling to afford medical bills, then start working on a solution to overcome it. Try negotiating with your hospital’s billing department, review your statements for any errors, call your insurance company to see if anything can be done, and check to see if a personal loan will make things easier on you.

Depending on the interest rate your medical debt is at, a personal loan may or may not be the right fit for you. It’s important to get all the details so you can run the numbers to see if you’ll come out ahead with savings. That’s why it’s a good idea to shop different lenders, especially with the ones that don’t use a hard credit inquiry right off the bat. This allows you to get a preview of the types of rates and terms that are available to you.

Whichever route you decide to take, make sure you stay on top of your financial obligations. Don’t ruin your credit and your financial situation because you can’t afford to pay; this will only make things harder for you in the future. Take all the actions listed here instead of ignoring your bills, and you’ll come out ahead.

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Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are 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 card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Erin Millard
Erin Millard |

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

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6 Personal Loans for 600 to 700 Credit Scores

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

7 Personal Loans for 600 to 700 Credit Scores

Updated November 01, 2017

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

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

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

1. LendingTree

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

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2. LendingClub

LendingClub offers loans of up to $40,000, for individuals with a minimum credit score of 600. Its APR ranges from 5.98% to 35.89%. LendingClub also uses a soft credit pull to determine your rate, which will not affect your credit.

The Fine Print

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

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

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

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

Pros

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

Cons

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

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

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3. Marcus by Goldman Sachs®

Marcus by Goldman Sachs® offers personal loans for up to $40,000 for debt consolidation and credit consolidation. With APRs ranging from 6.99% to 24.99%, they offer one of the best personal loan options that is available from a traditional lender. While Goldman Sachs Bank USA has been around for over a century, Marcus is a completely online, streamlined experience that lets you complete your application and submit all of the needed documents from your computer.

The Fine Print

There are no specific credit requirements to qualify for a personal loan through Marcus by Goldman Sachs®, though, the company does target those with “prime” credit, which usually includes those with a FICO score higher than 660. While the credit requirements are lower than many other lenders, you will more than likely be rejected if you have missed payments recently or have any other negative marks on your credit report.

Applicants must be over 18 (19 in Alabama and Nebraska, 21 in Mississippi and Puerto Rico) and have a valid U.S. bank account. You are also required to have a Social Security or Individual Tax I.D. Number.

Terms currently range from 36 to 72 months and there is no origination fee. They also will only do a soft pull on your credit if you want to compare your loan options, which won’t affect your credit score. Additional perks of getting a personal loan through Marcus are no late fees (if you miss a payment, your loan will be extended and more interest will be added) and the ability to defer payments after you have made on time payments for a full year.

Pros

  • No origination fees
  • No late fees
  • Ability to defer payments after a year of on time payments
  • Wide range of repayment terms available between 36 and 72 months
  • Can see rates with a soft pull

Cons

  • Currently not available in Maryland
  • Rates up to 24.99% APR
  • No clear qualification information
  • Late payments will accumulate more interest, resulting in a larger final payment.

Marcus is a great option if you have good credit and want to get a personal loan that has a lower rate. It is also a great option for those that want to work with a traditional lender.

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4. BestEgg

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

The Fine Print

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

Pros

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

Cons

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

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

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5. Avant

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

The Fine Print

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

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

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

Pros

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

Cons

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

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

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

6. OneMain

OneMain offers loans up to $30,000 for individuals with credit scores starting at 600. It offers terms of up to 60 months and APR ranges from 9.99% to 35.99%.

The Fine Print

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

In order to qualify you must have:

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

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

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

Pros

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

Convenient location, at OneMain branches

Cons

  • APR ranges from 9.99% – 35.99%
  • Loans cannot be used for business expenses or tuition
  • Cannot see rate without a hard credit pull
  • Personal loans only available up to $30,000
  • Loans not available in Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Nevada, Rhode Island, Vermont, or Washington D.C.
  • You must visit a OneMain branch to complete the loan.

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

OneMain Financial

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7. Freedomplus

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

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

The Fine Print

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

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

Freedomplus charges origination fees ranging from 0.00% to 5.00%, which is deducted from the loan amount before you receive the funds. There are no prepayment penalties.

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

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

Pros

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

Cons

  • APR ranges from 4.99% to 29.99%
  • The fee structure is not readily available for review
  • Origination fee of 0.00% to 5.00% applies

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

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8. Prosper

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

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

Prosper offers loans from $2,000 to $35,000, and APR ranges from 5.99% to 35.99%. It offers loans terms of either 36 or 60 months. Your APR is determined during the application process, and is based on a credit rating score created by Prosper. Your score is then shown with your loan listing to give potential lenders an idea of your creditworthiness.

The Fine Print

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

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

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

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

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

Pros

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

Cons

  • Only 14 days to secure financing from peer lenders
  • Origination fee of 1% to 5% applies
  • APR varies from 5.99% – 35.99%

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

Shop Around to Find the Best Deal

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

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

*We’ll receive a referral fee if you click on offers with this symbol. This does not impact our rankings or recommendations. You can learn more about how our site is financed here.

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Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are 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 card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Gretchen Lindow
Gretchen Lindow |

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

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