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How to Choose the Right Type Of Debt Consolidation

Editorial Note: 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 prior to publication.

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If you’re feeling buried by what you owe, debt consolidation could provide you with both immediate relief and a quicker path to debt-free.

Debt consolidation is the process of taking out a new loan and using that money to pay off your existing debt. It can help in a number of ways:

  • A lower interest rate could save you money and allow you to pay your debt off sooner
  • A longer repayment period could reduce your monthly payment
  • A single loan and single payment could be easier to manage than multiple loans

But debt consolidation isn’t without its potential pitfalls. First and foremost: Consolidating your debt doesn’t address the behavior that got you into trouble in the first place. If you’re in debt because of overspending, consolidating may actually exacerbate your problems by opening up new lines of credit that you can use to spend even more.

And every debt consolidation option has its own set of pros and cons that can make it a good fit or a bad one, depending on your circumstances.

This post explains all of those pros and cons. It should help you decide if debt consolidation is the right move for you, and, if so, which option is best.

Six Consolidation Options to Choose From

1. Credit card balance transfers

A credit card balance transfer is often the cheapest debt consolidation option, especially if you have excellent credit.

With this kind of transfer, you open a new credit card and transfer the balance on your existing card(s) to it. There is occasionally a small fee for the transfer, but if you have excellent credit, you can often complete the transfer for free and take advantage of 0 percent interest offers for anywhere from 12-21 months. None of the other debt consolidation options can match that interest rate.

There are some downsides, though:

  • You need a credit score of 700 or above to qualify for the best interest rate promotional periods.
  • Many cards charge fees of 3 to 5 percent on the amount that you transfer, which can eat into your savings.
  • Unless you cancel your old cards, you’re opening up additional borrowing capacity that can lead to even more credit card debt. Let’s put that another way: Now that you’ve paid off your old cards, you might be tempted to start using them again. (Don’t!)
  • If you don’t pay the loan back completely during the promotional period, your interest rate can subsequently soar. Some balance transfer cards also charge deferred interest, which can further increase the cost if you don’t pay your debt off in time.
  • This just isn’t for people with high levels of debt. Credit limits are relatively low compared with those tied to other debt consolidation options.

Given all of that, a credit card balance transfer is best for someone with excellent credit, relatively small amounts of debt and strong budgeting habits that will prevent them from adding to their burden by getting even further into debt.

2. Home equity/HELOCs

Home equity loans and home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) allow you to tap into the equity you’ve built in your home for any number of reasons, including to pay off some or all of your other debt.

The biggest benefit of this approach is that interest rates are still near all-time lows, giving you the opportunity to significantly reduce the cost of your debt. You may even be able to deduct your interest payments for tax purposes.

But again, there are perils. Here are some of the downsides to using a HELOC/home equity loan for debt consolidation:

  • Upfront processing fees. You need to watch out for upfront costs, which can eat into or even completely negate the impact of lowering your interest rate. You can run the numbers yourself here.
  • Long loan terms. You also need to be careful about extending your loan term. You might be able to reduce your monthly payment that way, but if you extend it too far, you could end up paying more interest overall. Home equity loans typically have terms of five to 15 years, while home equity lines of credit typically have 10-to-20-year repayment periods.
  • You could lose your home. Finally, you need to understand that these loans are secured by your home. Fail to make timely payments, and you put that home in jeopardy. This is why, though the interest rates are lower than with most other debt consolidation options, there’s also added risk.

Home equity loans and HELOCs are generally best for people who have built up significant equity in their home, can get a loan with minimal upfront costs, and either don’t have excellent credit or need to consolidate more debt than is possible with a simple balance transfer.

You can ask your current mortgage provider about taking out a home equity loan or line of credit. Also, compare offers at MagnifyMoney’s parent company, LendingTree, here and here.

3. Personal loans

Personal loans are unsecured loans, typically with terms of two to seven years. Interest rates typically range from 5 to 36 percent, depending on your credit score and the amount you borrow.

The advantage of a personal loan over a credit card balance transfer is that it’s easier to qualify. While you typically need a credit score of 700 for a balance transfer, you can get a personal loan with a credit score as low as 580. You can also qualify for larger loan amounts than the typical balance transfer.

And the big advantage over a home equity loan or line of credit is that the loan is not secured by your house. This means you can’t lose your home if you have trouble paying back the debt. You can also apply for and obtain a personal loan very quickly, often at a lower cost than a home equity loan or line of credit.

The biggest disadvantage is that your interest rate will likely be higher than either of those options. And if your credit score is low, you may not find a better interest rate than what you already have.

Generally, a personal loan is best for someone with a credit score between 600 and 700 who either doesn’t have home equity or doesn’t want to borrow against his or her home.

You can shop around for a personal loan at LendingTree. It’s important to compare offers to get the best debt consolidation loan possible.

LendingTree
APR

5.99%
To
35.99%

Credit Req.

Minimum 500 FICO

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

24 to 60

months

Fees

Varies

LEARN MORE Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

LendingTree is our parent company. LendingTree is unique in that they allow you to compare multiple, personal loan offers within minutes. Everything is done online and you can have your loan pre-approved without impacting your credit score. LendingTree is not a lender, but their service connects you with up to five offers from personal loan lenders.

4. Banks and credit unions

In addition to shopping for a personal loan online, you can contact your local banks or credit unions to see what types of loan options offer.

This is more time-consuming than applying online, and it can be harder to compare a variety of loan options. But it may lead to a better interest rate, especially if you already have a good relationship with a local bank.

One strategy you might try: Get quotes online using a service like LendingTree’s, then take those quotes to the bank or credit union and give it a chance to do better.

This strategy is best for anyone who already has a good and lengthy banking relationship, particularly with a credit union. But if you’re going the personal-loan route, it’s worth looking into in any case.

You can find credit unions in your area here.

5. Borrowing from family or friends

If you’re lucky enough to have family members or friends who have ample assets and are happy to help, this could be the easiest and cheapest debt consolidation option.

With no credit check, no upfront fees and relatively lenient interest rate policies, this might seem like the best of all worlds.

Even so, there are some things to watch out for.

First: A loan fundamentally changes your relationship with the person from whom you borrow. No matter what terms you’re on now or how much you love and trust this person, borrowing money introduces the potential for the relationship to sour in a hurry.

Consequently, if you do want to go this route, you need to do it the right way.

Eric Rosenberg, the chief executive of Money Mola, an app that lets friends and family track loans and calculate interest, suggests creating a contract that outlines each party’s responsibilities, how much money will be borrowed, the timeline for repayment, the payment frequency and the interest rate. He also suggests using a spreadsheet to keep track of the payments made and the balance due.

And Neal Frankle, a certified financial planner and the founder of Credit Pilgrim, suggests adhering to the current guidelines for Applicable Federal Rate (AFR), which as of this writing require a minimum interest of 1.27 to 2.5 percent, depending on the length of the loan. Otherwise, you may have to explain yourself to the IRS and the person lending you the money could be charged imputed interest and have to pay additional taxes.

If you have a family member or a friend who is both willing and able to lend you money, and if your credit isn’t strong enough to qualify favorably for one of the other options above, this could be a quick and inexpensive way to consolidate your debt.

6. Retirement accounts

Employer retirement plans like 401(k)s and 403(b)s often have provisions that allow you to borrow from the accumulated sums, with repayment of the loan going right back into your account.

And while you can’t borrow from an IRA, you can withdraw up to the amount you’ve contributed to a Roth IRA at any time without penalties or taxes, and you can withdraw money from a traditional IRA early if you’re willing to pay both taxes and a 10 percent penalty (with a few exceptions).

The biggest advantage of taking the money out of a retirement account is that there is no credit check. You can get the money quickly, no matter what your credit history looks like. And with a 401(k) or 403(b), you are also paying interest back to yourself rather than giving it to a lender.

Still, while there are situations in which borrowing from an employer plan can make sense, most financial experts agree that this should be considered a last-resort debt consolidation option.

One reason is simply this: Your current debt is already hindering your ability to save for the future, while taking money out of these accounts will only exacerbate the problem. Another is that tapping a retirement account now may increase the odds that it will happen again.

“I’d stay away from a 401(k) loan like the plague,” says Ryan McPherson. McPherson, based in Atlanta, Ga., is a certified financial planner and fee-only financial planner and the founder of Intelligent Worth. “With no underwriting process, and because you’re not securing it with your house, you’re more likely to do it again in the future.”

If you are in dire straits and cannot use any of the other strategies above, then borrowing or withdrawing from a retirement account may be the only consolidation option you have. Otherwise, you are likely to be better off going another route.

Things to consider before picking a debt consolidation strategy

With all these debt consolidation options at your disposal, how do you choose the right one for your situation? To be sure, it’s a key decision: The right option will make it easier for you to pay your obligations, and less likely that you’ll fall back into debt.

Here are the biggest variables you should consider before making the choice:

  1. Have you fixed the cause of the debt? Until you’ve addressed the root cause of your debt, how can any consolidation option help you get and stay out of debt?
  2. How much debt do you have? Smaller debts can be handled through any of these options. Larger debts might rule out balance transfers or borrowing from relatives or friends.
  3. What are your interest rates? You need to be able to compare your current interest rates with the interest rates you’re offered by the options above, if you want to know whether you’re getting a good deal.
  4. What is your credit score? Your score determines eligibility for various debt consolidation options, as well as the quality of the offers you’ll receive. You can check your credit score here.
  5. When do you want to be debt-free? Shorter repayment periods will cost less but require a higher monthly payment. Longer repayment periods will cost more but with a lower monthly payment. With this in mind, you need to decide both what you want and what you can afford.
  6. Do you have home equity? This determines whether a home equity loan or line of credit is an option. If it is, you should decide if you’re comfortable putting your home on the line.
  7. Do you have savings? Could you use some of your savings, outside of retirement accounts, to pay off some or all of your debt? That may allow you to avoid debt consolidation altogether and save yourself some money.

So … what’s the best consolidation strategy?

Unfortunately, there is no single answer to this tough question. The right answer for you depends the specifics of the situation.

Your job is to know what you currently owe and understand the pros and cons of each option we’ve outlined above. In this fashion, you can make an informed choice, one that’ll get you out of debt now and keep you out of it forever.

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.

Matt Becker
Matt Becker |

Matt Becker is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Matt here

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5 Best Ways to Consolidate Credit Card Debt

Editorial Note: 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 prior to publication.

More than half — some 112 million Americans — carry credit card debt from month to month. The average balance debt holders carry is $4,453.

Credit card debt can quickly spiral out of control if you don’t pay it off in full each month, especially if you have debt on more than one card. With interest rates well into the double-digits, failing to aggressively attack credit debt can leave you paying far more than you ever intended.

One of the best ways to face credit card debt on multiple cards is to look for ways to consolidate that debt into one new loan with one monthly payment. This makes your payments easier to manage (you’ll only have one!) and it can save you boatloads on interest charges, especially if you can get a loan that carries a lower APR.

To consolidate, you’ve got several options. You can open a new credit card and complete a balance transfer or take out one of several loans to cover your debt. In this post, we’ll discuss how to get out of debt with a balance transfer, personal loan, home equity loan and 401(k) loan, as well as tips on becoming debt-free for good.

Note: If you have a credit score less than 640, struggling to make monthly debt payments and would like to explore your options to reduce your debt by up to 50%, then please click our option below to customize a personal debt relief plan.

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5 options to consolidate credit card debt

1. Balance transfer

What is it? Balance transfers are when you transfer debt from a current credit card to a new card, ideally one with a 0% intro APR period. The intro period is for a set amount of time that can range from 6-21 months. Many cards offer 0% intro APR balance transfer offers in order to convince credit card users to give them their business. It’s a win-win situation for the lender and the borrower.

When should you use it? If you’re looking for an interest-free way to consolidate your debt, a balance transfer can be a great choice — as long as you pay off your debt before the end of the intro period.

Pros:

  • May be able to pay off your debt during the 0% intro period, therefore avoiding any interest charges.
  • The new card you open may provide long-term value if it offers additional perks or rewards.
  • There are cards that have $0 intro balance transfer fees, allowing you to cut costs if requirements are met.
  • No prepayment penalty.

Cons:

  • Balance transfers can’t be done between cards from the same issuer.
  • You will need good or excellent credit to get the best BT offers.
  • If you don’t pay your balance before the end of the intro period, you may be hit with all the interest you accrued — known as deferred interest.
  • A balance transfer fee may be charged, typically 3% of your total transfer.
  • Most balance transfer cards require good or excellent credit.

Balance transfer rules to follow: Transfer balances soon after opening the card since many offers are only available for a limited time, usually around 60 days. And, make sure you aren’t late on payments since that may result in the cancellation of your 0% intro period. Also, make sure you pay your balance before the intro period ends so your debt isn’t hit with the ongoing APR and you avoid possible deferred interest.

How long a balance transfer takes: Balance transfers typically take 14 days to post to your account. While you wait for the transfer to post, continue to make payments on your balance so you don’t incur late fees if a bill is due soon.

Where to find the best options: Start by comparing offers online. Read our guide on the best balance transfer cards that includes options with long intro periods and $0 intro balance transfer fees. And, you can use our personalized tool to find even more options.

2. Personal loan

What is it? Personal loans are unsecured loans that offer a fixed amount of money for a fixed amount of time and at a fixed interest rate.

When should you use it? If you’re someone with less-than-perfect credit looking for a straightforward way to consolidate debt, a personal loan may provide increased approval odds compared with a balance transfer credit card.

Pros:

  • You can pre-qualify for many personal loans without hurting your credit score, allowing you to shop around for the best rates.
  • Personal loans are unsecured, meaning if you default on your loan, the bank can’t take your personal property.
  • May be able to get approved even with poor credit, but expect higher interest rates in return.
  • Payments are fixed so you’ll know how much money to set aside each month to pay back your loan.
  • Typically no prepayment penalty. That means if you pay your loan early, you won’t incur fees.

Cons:

  • Interest rates vary by credit score with rates as low as 3.09% and upward of 36%. If you have a credit score below 600, you most likely will receive a high-interest rate.
  • There may be an origination fee (also known as an upfront fee) which is nonrefundable and deducted from your total loan amount before you receive the loan.
  • The loan amount is typically capped at $100,000, which is low compared with some secured loans (though it’s unlikely you’ll need more than $100,000 for credit card debt).

How to use it effectively: Use the funds from the loan to pay off any debts you may have across various credit cards. After your credit card debt is paid off, it’s time to pay off your personal loan. Set up autopay or set aside the monthly payment amount so you can make payments on time and avoid late fees and damage to your credit score.

How long does it take to get the funds? Depending on the loan you take out, you may receive funds in one business day or in a few days.

Where to find the best options: View our list of best options for debt consolidation loans and you can use our interactive comparison table for more options.

3. Home equity loan

What is it? Home equity loans are for a fixed amount of money for a fixed time and at a fixed interest rate — but they are secured by your home. That means your home is collateral, and if you default on your loan, the lender may foreclose on your home. You can borrow a certain percentage of your home equity. That’s how much your home is worth minus how much you owe on the mortgage.

When should you use it? If you don’t mind putting your home up for collateral to pay off your credit card debt, a home equity loan may provide you with a large sum of money that can be used to pay off more than just credit card debt.

Pros:

  • Typically longer terms and lower rates than personal loans.
  • While lenders typically cap home equity loans at 85% of the equity in your home, the loan amount may be larger than what a personal loan would offer.

Cons:

  • Your loan is secured by your home, so if you don’t make loan payments, your home may be foreclosed upon.
  • Home equity loans come with more fees than personal loans and may have appraisal, application and processing fees in addition to an origination fee.

How to use it effectively: Pay off credit card balances with the money you receive from your home equity loan. Then, stay current on your loan payments so you don’t fall behind, risking fees, damage to your credit score and the foreclosure of your home.

How long is the application process? It may take up to a month.

Where to find the best options: You can compare home equity loans within minutes via LendingTree’s home equity page. Disclosure: LendingTree is the parent company of MagnifyMoney.

4. 401(k) loan

What is it? A 401(k) loan is when you borrow money from your existing 401(k) plan to pay off debts. The amount you can borrow is limited to the lesser of $50,000 or 50% of your vested balance. After you withdraw the money, a repayment plan is created that includes interest charges. You typically have five years to pay off the loan, and if you take out the loan to buy a house, your term may be extended to 10-15 years.

When should you use it? If you are willing to take the risk that you’ll still be at your current job during the length of time it takes to pay off your loan, you may be able to consolidate credit card debt with a 401(k) loan.

Pros:

  • The interest you pay on your loan is to yourself, not a lender.
  • You typically repay the loan via automatic payroll deductions, so you don’t have to worry about when your payment is due.
  • The interest rate is usually lower than what you’re currently paying on your credit card(s).
  • There is no credit check, so this could be a decent option for people with bad or fair credit.

Cons:

  • If you lose your job, your loan is typically due in full within 60 days. And, if you can’t pay it off in that time, the remaining balance will be taxed and may incur a 10% penalty.
  • You have to stay at your current job until the loan is paid off in order to avoid the fees mentioned above.
  • You miss out on potential investment gains while you owe money on your loan.

How to use it effectively: The money you withdraw from your 401(k) loan should go directly to paying off your credit card debt. After your debts are paid off, payments most likely will be taken from your paychecks until your loan is repaid. If not, continue to make regular, on-time payments. While you’re repaying your loan remember to keep your job — don’t quit and avoid any actions that may lead to your dismissal so you aren’t subject to penalties.

How long until I get the loan? The time it takes to get your loan depends on your plan and whether you can fill out the application online or with physical forms.

Where to find the best options: Your loan option depends on your 401(k) plan. Contact your plan provider or benefits representative.

5. Debt management plans

What is it? A debt management plan, or DMP, consolidates your credit card payments — not your credit card debt. Instead of making several payments to various creditors, you make one payment to your DMP and your credit counselor will use that payment to pay the debt you owe to various lenders. Your counselor may also try to negotiate lower rates and fees associated with your debt.

When should you use it? If you struggle to make minimum payments on your credit card and bring in a stable income, a DMP may be the solution to consolidate your payments and potentially lower rates and fees you’re charged on debt.

Pros:

  • Before you open a DMP, a credit counseling session is required. This helps analyze your current financial situation and even recommend a different program that is better suited to your situation.
  • Typical plans take four or five years to complete, which is shorter than it would take if you only made the minimum payment on your credit card debt.
  • Your counselor may negotiate better terms for your debts which may include lower interest rates and less fees.

Cons:

  • In most cases, you can’t use your credit card while a DMP is active and you can’t open new cards. Creditors may even suspend or close your lines of credit.
  • There may be a fee for the initial credit counseling session and for enrollment. That’s in addition to monthly fees.

How to use it effectively: After you complete your credit counseling session, stick with the DMP your counselor set up. That means make consistent, on-time payments, and you can see your credit card debt begin to decrease.

Where to find the best options: We recommend the nonprofit, National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), which provides a financial counseling session that may recommend a DMP run through an NFCC member agency. The NFCC’s plans typically take 36-60 months to pay off debts. Learn more here.

>> Still unsure as to which option to pick? View our article on choosing the right debt consolidation method to help your decision making process.

Staying debt free after consolidating credit card debt

Pay your bills in full and on time.

Payment history is a very important factor of your credit score, making up 35% of FICO Scores. And, it’s key to pay on time and in full every month to avoid late payments, penalty APRs and debt. You can set up autopay to prevent yourself from missing payments or sign up for payment reminders.

Create a budget.

The cause of your debt may be due to overspending, and that’s where creating a budget can help. You can view a snapshot of your expenses and see where you’re able to cut costs and hopefully save money to pay off debts you may have. There are plenty of budgeting apps that are free and allow you to link various accounts to get a holistic view of your finances.

Set up an emergency fund.

Sometimes you fall into debt due to unexpected expenses that may arise from medical issues or other events. An emergency fund can be a great way to provide yourself with a safety net in the case of unexpected expenses that may otherwise put you in debt. It’s up to you how much you put into an emergency fund, but keep in mind it should be somewhat easily accessible so you can quickly withdraw it to pay bills before they become past due.

Resist the temptation to overspend just to earn rewards.

If you have a rewards card, you may be tempted to spend more money than you have just to earn rewards. As a result, you may need to rethink why you’re using your credit card. You may come to the conclusion that a rewards card isn’t the best option for you. That doesn’t mean you can’t still use credit cards — there are plenty of credit cards you can choose that are basic and don’t have rewards.

>> View the many benefits of living debt-free here! <<

Bottom line

Ultimately, the best option to consolidate your credit card debt depends on your financial situation. If you want a quick application process and the potential for no fees, you may choose a balance transfer credit card. Meanwhile, if you don’t have the good or excellent credit needed for a balance transfer credit card, you may look toward loans. If that’s the case, the question becomes whether you’re willing to put your home up for collateral to get a potentially higher loan amount, or withdraw from your 401(k) or simply receive cash from an unsecured option like a personal loan. And, if you struggle with managing payments for various credit card debts, you may lean toward a debt management plan. Whichever option you settle on, make sure you have an actionable plan that allows you to fully repay the loan during the term and maintain a debt-free life.

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.

Alexandria White
Alexandria White |

Alexandria White is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Alexandria at alexandria@magnifymoney.com

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What Is Debt Consolidation?

Editorial Note: 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 prior to publication.

Dealing with multiple personal debts might feel a lot like playing whack-a-mole – different bills with different due dates, minimum balances and late fines and penalties. Just when you’ve sent in one payment, another bill pops up. It’s easy to see how people get behind when repaying multiple debts overwhelms them. Debt consolidation can help by essentially rolling all your debt payments, most often credit cards, into one with a single due date and an interest rate that is often lower than what you are currently paying.

Debt Consolidation: Understanding the Basics

When choosing the right type of debt consolidation, there are two primary ways to concentrate debt payments into one bill: transferring debt to a 0% balance transfer credit card, or loans.

What is a debt consolidation loan?

In many cases, debt consolidation loans offer lower interest rates and extended terms compared with your current payments. People typically choose to consolidate debt to simplify their finances or to save money on interest payments. Borrower beware: Upfront fees or temporary terms could eat into that savings. Plus, consolidating debt without a plan to address the behavior that got you into trouble in the first place may actually exacerbate your debt if new lines of credit tempt you to start spending again.

How debt consolidation works

When you obtain a debt consolidation loan, you receive a lump sum to pay off your existing debts. Then, instead of juggling multiple payments, you can focus on making the one new loan payment. “You essentially take multiple loans that might be causing confusion with different interest rates and different terms, and roll them into a single loan, which leaves you with one single payment needing to be made,” said Todd R. Tresidder, money coach at FinancialMentor.com.

What types of debt can I consolidate?

Debt consolidation can be used to simplify almost any type of unsecured consumer debt. This includes:

“Though debt consolidation is most often used for credit cards, there’s not a boundary line. You could consolidate pretty much any type of loan that you have,” Tresidder said.

Which loans can be used to consolidate debt?

Based on LendingTree data (our parent company), personal loans are the most popular option for debt consolidation. There are companies that specialize in debt consolidation loans, or you may choose to work with your preferred local bank or credit union. To make it easier for you, we’ve compiled a list of the best personal loans for debt consolidation. You can view that list here!

One caveat: You will need good credit to ensure you’re able to obtain a loan with better rates and terms than your existing debt.

Note: If you have a credit score less than 640, struggling to make monthly debt payments and would like to explore your options to reduce your debt by up to 50%, then please click our option below to customize a personal debt relief plan.

Custom Debt Relief Plan

Depending on your unique needs and situation, there are different loan products that can help you consolidate and streamline your debt payments. View our guide on choosing the right debt consolidation method to get a better understanding of the options available for you.

Where can I find the best debt consolidation loans?

Since achieving a lower interest rate and better terms are imperative when consolidating debt, comparing offers is essential. Since this will require that the lender do a credit check, be sure to get all your shopping done within 45 days. Multiple hard credit pulls outside of that time window can be damaging to your FICO credit score.

Online lending marketplaces such as LendingTree simplify the process by enabling you to see offers from multiple lenders. Local financial institutions are another place to start shopping for debt consolidation loans. “The familiar is good if you have a credit union or a trusted bank. Start there just as your comparison point before you start looking at … companies online,” Dlugozima said.

LendingTree
APR

5.99%
To
35.99%

Credit Req.

Minimum 500 FICO

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

24 to 60

months

Fees

Varies

LEARN MORE Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

LendingTree is our parent company. LendingTree is unique in that they allow you to compare multiple, personal loan offers within minutes. Everything is done online and you can have your loan pre-approved without impacting your credit score. LendingTree is not a lender, but their service connects you with up to five offers from personal loan lenders.

Dlugozima advised contacting the National Foundation for Credit Counseling’s referral service. “They have stringent industry standards, so you will be referred to a legitimate nonprofit organization that can help you choose the best approach.”

When does debt consolidation make sense?

Read the fine print, Sokunbi said, since some debt consolidation products have terms that may be temporary. “People should be mindful of whether there are any penalties or fees or if you’re going to lose any special perks or be charged any fines,” Tresidder added. “You also have to find out from the company offering the bulk loan what types of loans they will allow to be consolidated.”

Don’t dig a deeper hole. Most importantly, consumers should examine their budgets to determine whether they can comfortably afford the new monthly payment. “Do not add insult to injury when you’ve already got a debt problem,” said Tresidder. “The fact that you’re a debtor shows that you lack financial savvy to begin with, so do extra due diligence and recognize that you’re trying to solve a problem and you don’t want to make it worse.” Make sure to get the lowest interest rates possible. Shopping around to find the best offer will save you money in the long run.

Calculate your loan payments and how long it will take to repay your debts using LendingTree’s debt consolidation loan calculator. LendingTree is the parent company of MagnifyMoney.

When is debt consolidation a good idea?

Chris Dlugozima, education specialist with GreenPath Financial Wellness, said that debt consolidation is ideal for individuals with a reasonably good credit score who have an isolated reason for having fallen behind on their debts. “A debt consolidation loan can make sense for someone who has identified the cause of why their debt has crept up and has already addressed that. Like, ‘I lost a job, but now I’m back at work.’ Or, ‘I was overspending, but now I’ve had some success following a budget and I’m confident I won’t get back into that situation,’” he said.

It may be a necessity for others, a lifeline for those in danger of falling behind on bill payments. “If you’re in a situation where you can’t make your payments and the lower interest rate, and the extended terms allow you to make your payment so you don’t go into default, then that helps as well,” said Tresidder.

When is debt consolidation a bad idea?

A certified credit counselor might recommend a debt-management plan as an alternative to debt consolidation for those with significant debt, or for people who are struggling to address the root cause of their debt.

“If you’ve ever tried to shovel in a blizzard, it might feel like you’re accomplishing something, but are you?” said Dlugozima. Debt consolidation can often feel the same way. “You get a sense of relief that you’ve solved a problem when you maybe haven’t.” When existing debts are paid off with a debt consolidation loan, some consumers may start feeling comfortable and become tempted to let those debts creep back up again, especially with credit cards.

What’s your goal? Debt consolidation may even increase your financial burden if you don’t carefully review an offer. A lower monthly payment might be deceptive if the terms are significantly longer. “A lot of people think only in terms of monthly payments, but you’ve got to look at the total of what you’re paying. You might have a lower interest rate and a longer term, but effectively you’re paying a higher total cost,” Tresidder said.

If you aren’t focused on the end game of becoming debt-free, a debt consolidation loan might not be the best approach for dealing with existing debts. “If you’re just trying to avoid a creditor or shift your pay dates around, that doesn’t solve a problem, it just delays the inevitable,” Sokunbi said. She advised searching online or picking up a book on debt repayment strategies to start you off on the right foot. “They will talk you through the best approach to paying off this now consolidated debt, because that’s just Step 1 to getting yourself out of debt.”

How does debt consolidation affect your credit?

Consolidating debt with a loan can have both positive and negative effects on your credit score. “It’s very nuanced. It depends,” said Dlugozima. “If it’s done in a way that doesn’t allow additional debt to accumulate, it probably won’t immediately affect the credit until the debt gets paid down.”

The negative effects of debt consolidation on your credit score

If you close your accounts as they are paid off, that can be damaging to your score. Older accounts make for a better credit score; closing accounts means that your credit utilization ratio increases as your credit limit decreases, which also negatively impacts your score. On the flip side, if you continue to spend on the accounts you’ve paid off with your loan, your credit score can take a dive. “If you just pay the minimum balance on your debt consolidation loan and go back to those old zero-balance credit cards and start racking up debt, it’s going to negatively impact your credit,” said Sokunbi.

How debt consolidation can improve your credit score

Successfully paying off debt will most certainly have a positive effect on your score in the long term, as large debts and late payments can really bring your score down. “If you’re currently incurring penalties because you can’t make your payments and by consolidating you’re able to make your payments, clearly that’s going to help your credit score over time,” said Tresidder.

Alternative options to pay off debt

A debt consolidation loan is just one approach to consolidating debt. Depending on your unique needs and financial situation, another option might be preferable.

Balance transfer

Balance transfer is a popular approach to managing credit card debt. By transferring the balances on existing cards to a new card with a more attractive interest rate, consumers get the mutual benefits of simplified payments and cost savings. Many individuals take advantage of introductory offers of 0% interest for a certain length of time in order to make headway on their debt without the added expense of interest.

“You have to read the fine print and you have to understand the numbers. If you know you’ll be able to pay off the entire balance before the introductory offer expires, it can save you a significant amount of money,” Sokunbi said. “But once that introductory rate expires, it’s often much higher than where you are coming from.” Some 0%-interest credit cards also have severe penalties and rate increases if you miss a payment, so proceed with caution.

It is convenient to shop for a balance transfer credit card online with our list of the best balance transfer credit card offers.

Pros

  • Lower interest rate
  • Simplified payment schedule
  • Easy to shop online

Cons

  • Attractive rates are often for a limited time only
  • May have penalties and rate increases

Budgeting

Snowball versus avalanche. If you have the willpower to stick with a DIY debt repayment strategy, a debt snowball or debt avalanche approach might be right for you. With both approaches, you pay the minimum balance each month on all but one debt.

In a debt snowball, you pay all extra money toward the smallest debt until it is paid off and then move on to tackling the next smallest until all of your debts are gone. In a debt avalanche, you pay your debts off in order of their interest rate (highest first), which gives you the lowest mathematical cost of paying off the loan.

“One is focused on cost, but the other gives you the highest emotional satisfaction, because you can see those loans getting paid off quicker, which allows you to stick with it better,” said Tresidder. “One is financially the best solution and the other is emotionally the best solution. It’s going to depend on the individual, what they need to stick with the plan.”

>> Enter your debts into our Debt Snowball vs Debt Avalanche calculator to see which method is best for you!

Sticking to a budget is self-satisfying and free of fees. But, you need to be realistic about whether or not you have the determination to stay on task. In many cases, people who are already deeply in debt might not be equipped to make the most responsible financial choices.

Pros

  • No-cost option
  • Emotionally satisfying

Cons

  • May be difficult to stick with

Debt relief programs

When engaging with a debt settlement company, it is essential to first check their reputation. “You have to be very careful with these companies. They’re one of the top consumer complaints,” Tresidder warned. “But, there are people who have gone down the tube so far they’re completely desperate and this may be their only choice.”

With debt settlement, a company will negotiate your debts with your creditors on your behalf for a fee. Often, you pay the settlement company and they make your payments for you. In the process, they allow some of your accounts to go into default so your creditors will be more motivated to negotiate down the balances. “I would not go with any debt settlement company that tells you to pay them before they have a negotiated deal and before you begin payments directly on the amount,” Tresidder said.

Pros

  • Offers help for individuals in serious debt trouble
  • Provides strict payment schedule

Cons

  • Some companies in this space may use predatory practices
  • Can negatively impact your credit score
  • May result in legal ramifications if not done properly

How to make debt consolidation work for you

When deciding the best way to consolidate your debts, or whether a debt consolidation loan is the right step for you, first consider your financial habits and your commitment to make a change. “A debt consolidation [loan] is putting a Band-Aid on a problem. It’s not a solution. Debt consolidation is merely changing the terms of your loan to create a payment that’s easier for your situation,” Tresidder said.

As part of your debt consolidation efforts, consider speaking with a debt management planner or a credit counselor. “There are a lot of great non-profit ones that are actually there to support you and help you and guide you. When you meet with a legitimate credit counselor, you will have a budget, you will look at your credit report, you will analyze your debt and your options, and you will leave with a detailed written action plan,” said Dlugozima.

Most importantly, do your research. Shop around and find an offer that helps you streamline your payments and saves you money.

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.

Ashley Sweren
Ashley Sweren |

Ashley Sweren is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Ashley here

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College Students and Recent Grads, Pay Down My Debt

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

Editorial Note: 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 prior to publication.

Updated: May 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*

2.56% - 7.40%


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
commonbond A+

20


Years

3.20% - 7.25%


Fixed Rate

2.54% - 7.41%


Variable Rate

No Max


Undergrad/Grad
Max Loan
Learn more Secured
lendkey A+

20


Years

3.15% - 8.12%


Fixed Rate

2.58% - 7.96%


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

2.90% - 8.00%


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

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on SoFi’s secure website

Read Full Review

SoFi : Variable rates from 2.56% 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

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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

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CommonBond : Variable Rates from 2.54% and Fixed Rates from 3.20% (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

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LendKey : Variable Rates from 2.58% 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 2.90% 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 3.85% – 7.45% 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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Advertiser Disclosure

Balance Transfer, Best of, Pay Down My Debt

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

Editorial Note: 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 prior to publication. 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

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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.

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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.
  • 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.

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on Chase’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.

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  • 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.

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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.

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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 Visa<sup>®</sup>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.

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 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%.

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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.

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 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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on Aspire Federal Credit Union’s secure website

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

It depends, some credit card companies may allow you to transfer debt from any credit card, regardless of who owns it. Though, they may require you to first add that person as an authorized user to transfer the debt. Just remember that once the debt is transferred, it becomes your legal liability. You can call the credit card company prior to applying for a card to check if you’re able to transfer debt from an account where you are not the primary account holder.

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.

If you transfer your debt and use your card responsibly to pay off your balance before the intro period ends, then there is no trap associated with the 0% APR period. But, if you neglect making payments and end up with a balance post-intro period, you can easily fall into a trap of high debt — similar to the one you left when you transferred the balance. As a rule of thumb, use the intro 0% APR period to your advantage and pay off ALL your debt before it ends, otherwise you’ll start to accumulate high interest charges.

Balance transfers can be easily completed online or over the phone. After logging in to your account, you can navigate to your balance transfer and submit the request. If you rather speak to a representative, simply call the number on the back of your card. For both options, you will need to have the account number of the card with the debt and the amount you wish to transfer ready.

You will be charged a late fee by missing a payment and may put your introductory interest rate in jeopardy. Many issuers state in the terms and conditions that defaulting on your account may cause you to lose out on the promotional APR associated with the balance transfer offer. To avoid this, set up autopay for at least the minimum amount due.

No, you can’t. Balances can only be transferred between cards from different banks. That includes co-branded cards, so be sure to check which issuer your card is before applying for a balance transfer card — since you don’t want to find out after you’ve been approved that both cards are backed by the same issuer.

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. However, if you transfer a balance when you open a card, you may be able to. Some issuers state in their terms and conditions that balance transfers on new accounts will be processed at a slower rate compared with those of old accounts. You may be able to cancel your transfer during this time.

Yes, it is possible to transfer the same debt multiple times. Just remember, if there is a balance transfer fee, you could be charged that fee every time you transfer the debt. Also, don’t keep on transferring your debt without making payments because you won’t accomplish much.

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 are given. Transferring a portion of your debt is more beneficial than transferring none.

Yes, you decide how much you want to transfer to each credit card. For example, if you have $3,000 in debt, you can transfer $2,000 to Card A and $1,000 to Card B.

No, balance transfers are excluded from earning any form of rewards whether it’s points, miles or cash back.

No, there is no penalty. You can pay off your debt whenever you want without a penalty. It’s key to pay off your balance as soon as possible and within the intro period to avoid carrying a balance post-intro period.

Mathematically, the best balance transfer credit cards are no fee, 0% intro APR offers. You literally pay nothing to transfer your balance and can save hundreds of dollars in interest had you left your balance on a high APR card. Check out our list of the best no-fee balance transfer cards here. However, those cards tend to have shorter intro periods of 15 months or less, so you may need more time to pay off your balance.

If you are running out of time on your intro APR and you still have a balance, don’t sweat it. At least two months before your existing intro period ends, start looking for a new balance transfer offer from a different issuer. Transfer any remaining balance to the card with the new 0% intro offer. This can provide you with the additional time needed to pay off your balance. Ideally, look for a card that has a 0% intro APR and also no balance transfer 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

TAGS:

Advertiser Disclosure

Balance Transfer, Best of, Pay Down My Debt

9 Best 0% APR Credit Card Offers – May 2018

Editorial Note: 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 prior to publication. 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

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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>

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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.

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.

3. 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.

4. 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>

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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.

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

Choice Rewards World MasterCard® from First Tech FCU

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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.

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

Visa Rewards Card from La Capitol FCU

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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.

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

Visa Signature Credit Card from Purdue FCU

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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.

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

The Logix Platinum MasterCard

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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).

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

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

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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

10. 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.

11. 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 11.15% – 20.15%, compared to 11.74% – 20.74% for the Visa Platinum Cash Back and 13.15% – 22.15el% 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.

12. 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 7.75% 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 9.75% variable APR.

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

Elements Financial Platinum Visa<sup>®</sup> 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 10.49% variable which is lower than typical cards.

14. 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.

15. 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.

16. 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

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Pay Down My Debt

8 Inspirational Stories of People Who Overcame Debt

Editorial Note: 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 prior to publication.

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.

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.

Trae Bodge
Trae Bodge |

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

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Get A Pre-Approved Personal Loan

$

Won’t impact your credit score

Advertiser Disclosure

Pay Down My Debt, Personal Loans

Personal Loans for People with Bad Credit

Editorial Note: 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 prior to publication.

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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.

LendingTree
APR

5.99%
To
35.99%

Credit Req.

Minimum 500 FICO

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

24 to 60

months

Fees

Varies

LEARN MORE Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

LendingTree is our parent company. LendingTree is unique in that they allow you to compare multiple, personal loan offers within minutes. Everything is done online and you can have your loan pre-approved without impacting your credit score. LendingTree is not a lender, but their service connects you with up to five offers from personal loan lenders.

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.

Lending Club
APR

5.98%
To
35.89%

Credit Req.

600

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

36 or 60

months

Fees

1.00% - 6.00%

APPLY NOW Secured

on Lending Club’s secure website

LendingClub is a great tool for borrowers that can offer competitive interest rates and approvals for people with credit scores in the mid-600s.... Read More

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.

LendingPoint
APR

15.49%
To
34.99%

Credit Req.

585

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

24 to 48

months

Fees

Fee Varies

APPLY NOW Secured

on LendingPoint’s secure website

LendingPoint offers personal loans for a wide variety of reasons, including paying for home repairs, consolidating credit card debt, or to make a large purchase. Their online process can help you to quickly apply for a personal loan, get qualified, and receive funding. While their interest rates can be higher than others, they do offer fast approval and can transfer funds to your bank account in 24 hours.

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 5.95% and 14.74% 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.

SoFi
APR

5.95%
To
14.74%

Credit Req.

No Minimum FICO Score

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

36 to 84

months

Fees

No origination fee

APPLY NOW Secured

on SoFi’s secure website

Advertiser Disclosure

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


Fixed rates from 5.950% APR to 14.740% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 5.825% APR to 14.365% APR (with AutoPay). SoFi rate ranges are current as of May 18, 2018 and are subject to change without notice. Not all rates and amounts available in all states. See Personal Loan eligibility details. Not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, to qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including evaluation of your credit worthiness, years of professional experience, income and other factors. See APR examples and terms. Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at 14.95%. Lowest variable rate of 5.825% APR assumes current 1-month LIBOR rate of 1.90% plus 4.175% margin minus 0.25% AutoPay discount. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account.

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

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

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.

Avant
APR

9.95%
To
35.99%

Credit Req.

Varies

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

24 to 60

months

Fees

1.50% - 4.75%

APPLY NOW Secured

on Avant’s secure website

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

If you want a speedy process with your personal loan, you can’t go wrong with Avant, who could get you your loan as soon as the next business day. In terms of rates, qualifications, and repayment terms, Avant keeps things the same as most other lending options, though, it is important to shop around to secure the best offer. Avant is available in all states except: Colorado, Iowa, West Virginia, and Vermont. For Example: A $5,700 loan with an administration fee of 4.75% and an amount financed of $5,429.25, repayable in 36 monthly installments, would have an APR of 29.95% and monthly payments of $230.33."

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
Brynne Conroy |

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

Editorial Note: 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 prior to publication.

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.

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.

Marianne Hayes
Marianne Hayes |

Marianne Hayes is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Marianne here

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Pay Down My Debt, Personal Loans, Reviews

PNC Personal Loan Review

Editorial Note: 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 prior to publication.

personal loan_lg

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

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

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

PNC Bank
APR

7.24%
To
17.15%

Credit Req.

0

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

60

months

Fees

0.00% - 0.00%

APPLY NOW Secured

on PNC Bank’s secure website

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.

PNC Bank
APR

7.24%
To
17.15%

Credit Req.

0

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

60

months

Fees

0.00% - 0.00%

APPLY NOW Secured

on PNC Bank’s secure website

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 5.95% – 14.74%, and its variable APR ranges from 5.83% – 14.37%, 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.

SoFi
APR

5.95%
To
14.74%

Credit Req.

No Minimum FICO Score

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

36 to 84

months

Fees

No origination fee

APPLY NOW Secured

on SoFi’s secure website

Advertiser Disclosure

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


Fixed rates from 5.950% APR to 14.740% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 5.825% APR to 14.365% APR (with AutoPay). SoFi rate ranges are current as of May 18, 2018 and are subject to change without notice. Not all rates and amounts available in all states. See Personal Loan eligibility details. Not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, to qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including evaluation of your credit worthiness, years of professional experience, income and other factors. See APR examples and terms. Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at 14.95%. Lowest variable rate of 5.825% APR assumes current 1-month LIBOR rate of 1.90% plus 4.175% margin minus 0.25% AutoPay discount. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account.

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

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

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.
Marcus by Goldman Sachs®
APR

6.99%
To
24.99%

Credit Req.

Varies

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

36 to 72

months

Fees

No origination fee

APPLY NOW Secured

on Marcus By Goldman Sachs®’s secure website

Your loan terms are not guaranteed and are subject to our verification of your identity and credit information.... Read More

If you’re looking for good alternatives to PNC’s unsecured loan, take a look at Earnest. You can borrow between $5,000 and $75,000 with terms that range from 36 to 60 months.

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 660 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.

Earnest
APR

5.49%
To
18.24%

Credit Req.

660

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

36 to 60

months

Fees

No origination fee

APPLY NOW Secured

on Earnest’s secure website

Instead of offering credit-based loans, Earnest has taken a very non-traditional approach and used a merit-based system. This is great for recent graduates and those that are just beginning to establish credit. In addition, they offer some of the most flexible terms among all personal loan lenders, allowing for borrowers to get a customized loan and repayment plan that fits their financial situation.

*referral link

It Pays to Shop Around

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

*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.


promo-personalloan-wide

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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Get A Pre-Approved Personal Loan

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