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The Ultimate Guide to Budgeting

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In a consumer culture where we are bombarded with opportunities to spend money, whether it’s picking up a latte on the way to work, or splurging on a favorite retailer’s online sale, it’s easy to lose track of our money.

While creating and maintaining a budget is rarely how anyone wants to spend their free time, it is foundational to managing money.

“Everyone, no matter their financial situation, should have a budget in place,” said Rachel Kampersal, a marketing communications and program associate with American Consumer Credit Counseling.

Budgeting your monthly income can help you with everything from setting financial goals to making sure that you pay your bills on time and in full.

When you don’t budget your money, you are likely to overspend, said Melinda Opperman, executive vice president of Credit.org.

“A lot of people feel they simply don’t have enough money and think budgeting would be a waste of time, but budgeting helps people break even or even come up with extra money for savings and goals,” she said.

Those savings goals could be long-term, such as retirement, or for upcoming expenditures such as a new kitchen appliance, a down payment on a house, or a big vacation.

Budgets don’t have to be complicated, and there are plenty of tools to help you get started. The key is to find a budgeting strategy that works for you and stick with it.

5 budgeting tools to keep handy

An important component of any budgeting system is planning and keeping track of your expenditures, whether you are entering them into an app or spreadsheet, writing them on a paper calendar, or saving your receipts in a shoebox and tallying them on the weekend.
“Be sure to write a ‘receipt’ for everything you spend, including things like vending machines,” Opperman said.

“This is an individual process, so it’s important to try multiple tools until you come up with something that works for you,” she added. “A lot of people today might benefit from specialized budgeting apps, but there are still many who might prefer to keep track of their spending in a written journal.”

One convenient way to keep track of your budget is through an app or online budgeting tool that can help you manage your earnings and spending. Here are five to consider:

1. Mint

This free app, which is owned by Intuit, provides users with a comprehensive overview of their finances. Like many budgeting tools, Mint allows you to connect to your bank account from your mobile device and manage bills, build a budget with detailed categories, track spending, and analyze cash flow.

One of Mint’s best features is that it allows users to pay their bills — including credit card and utility bills — directly from the app. This adds another level of organization to a budget, as users can see what they owe, pay it, and see how the payment has affected their cash flow, all in a few clicks. For those who like a detailed analysis of their monthly spending and saving, Mint also provides charts and graphs and additional financial information, such as the current value of your house and your credit score.

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2. Pocketguard

This app, which is free, is marketed as a simpler approach to budgeting, and it does a lot of the initial set-up work for you. After you provide information for PocketGuard to sync up with your bank accounts, it analyzes your transactions and divides them into “pockets” based on repeated bills and charges it finds (you can manually correct any miscategorized items). After you enter spending limits for each category, the app lets you know how much money you have left in each category — a helpful feature when you need to know whether a purchase is within your budget.

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3. You Need a Budget (YNAB)

While this app is fee-based, many find it worth the price — it’s one of the most highly rated budgeting apps on the market. It asks users to set up a budget by “giving every dollar a job,” or assigning all of your income into categories that you create. YNAB encourages users to be intentional with their money and create categories for recurring and occasional large expenses. That way, when a large bill comes in for a car repair or a vacation, the money already has been allocated for it.

You can try YNAB for 34 days for free, and after that it costs about $5 per month, or $50 per year. Along with the app, the fee will give you access to helpful personal finance videos and resources, as well as an online community.

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4. HomeBudget

When budgeting is a family affair, HomeBudget is a great app to keep track of an entire household’s spending. Through its unique Family Sync feature, each family member’s income and expense transactions can be synced from their devices into one budget.

The app also allows you to track bills and payments due and correlate categorized transactions with your bank and credit card accounts. As of the date of publishing, the app currently costs $5.99 on Amazon App Store and has a monthly fee of about $1.66. You also can download a trial version before committing.

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5. Spendee

This easy-to-use app keeps it simple. It connects with your bank accounts to automatically enter expenditures into your budget (you can enter transactions manually, too), and then it creates infographics to help you understand and keep track of your spending and income.

The app costs $1.99 per month as of the date of publishing.

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How to create a budget in 5 simple steps

You do not have to have a college degree in accounting to set up a personal budget. You’ll need to collect some personal financial information first, and then figure out which budgeting strategy is best for you.

1. Determine your monthly income

This first step is short simple: Find out how much money you bring in each month. Track down your paychecks from the past few months for a more accurate picture.

If you are married or sharing expenses with a partner, you’ll need to work together to figure out your joint income.

2. Track your expenses for a month

This should include everything from big expenses, such as your mortgage or rent payment, to your “fun” money for eating out or spur-of-the-moment purchases.

“If you sit down today and start planning your spending, you will miss all sorts of small expenses and you will be frustrated when your budget doesn’t line up,” Opperman said. “But if you diligently track all of your spending for a full month, then you will know all of the monthly expenses you can expect to face, and your budget will be more realistic.”

There are many ways to track spending; choose what fits with your lifestyle. Anything from a spreadsheet to a notebook will work.

3. Decide how much you want to save each month

Savings shouldn’t be only for known expenses, such as a wedding or planned home improvement. You’ll want to consider incorporating other “emergency” expenses into your savings calculations, such as replacing appliances or costly car repairs — that way, when the expense comes, you’ll be prepared.

There are several ways to figure out how much you’d like to save. You can decide on a percentage of your income or a dollar amount that you’d like to put aside each month.

4. Work in some ‘wiggle room’

No matter how carefully you track and forecast your spending, you will never spend the same amount each month — and you need to be prepared. “You might have particular months where you always spend more, like holiday gift shopping or back-to-school expenses,” Opperman said. “You have to plan for those variances in advance.”

In these situations, you may need to make sure that your budget is flexible enough to allow for extra expenditures when needed.

5. Choose a budgeting strategy

Once you’ve compiled your income and spending data and thought through your saving goals, it’s time to choose a budget style. Keep in mind that there is no right way to budget — any method that helps you manage your spending and save money will benefit you financially.

“A budget should be personalized and tailored to fit an individual’s or family’s needs,” Kampernal said.

Here are some strategies for budgeting:

Penny tracking

While the most detailed (and the most eye-opening), this method will show you exactly how much you are spending and leave no question as to whether you are living within your means.

To start, choose an amount for each category in your monthly budget. You can determine this from your month of tracking your spending or use financial experts’ guidelines. According to Kampernal, professionals’ guidelines include:

  • Transportation: 20%
  • Investments/savings: 20%
  • Housing: 35%
  • Debt: 5%
  • Other expenses: 20%

Once you’ve allocated your income into categories, you can begin entering each expenditure on a spreadsheet or online budget tracker. For example, if you bring home $3,000 every month and allocate $75 for eating out, you’ll mark every restaurant visit expenditure in this category — even that $1.69 soda you bought at the gas station. As the month progresses, you’ll be able to see whether you are on track to overspend or are staying within your “eating out” budget.

This method forces you to be accountable for your spending and provides a real-time picture throughout the month of where you are with your budget. If the consumer above has spent $60 on eating out by the 15th of the month, for example, he knows he’ll need to rein in the restaurant spending for the next two weeks to stay on budget.

Penny tracking can be tedious and doesn’t have to be a lifelong practice, but if done consistently, it will show you where you tend to overspend and how to realistically allocate your money. It can help you pay off debt, build savings, and develop realistic spending habits that could provide a lifetime of financial benefit. And if you ever wondered where all your money went, now you’ll know.

‘Leftovers’ budgeting

This type of budgeting is a little more relaxed than penny tracking, allowing you to lump your discretionary money into one category while still providing enough accountability to keep you from overspending.

Leftovers budgeting requires you to first pay your essential bills. Here’s an example of a budget for someone with a monthly take-home income of $2,700 (this is after taxes and a 401(k) contribution):

  • Rent/mortgage: $850
  • Utilities (power/water/sewer): $120
  • Cell phone: $75
  • Student loans: $250
  • Vehicle (monthly payment/insurance/gas): $250
  • Groceries: $400
  • Savings: $300

Your total monthly bills are $2,245. When expenses are subtracted from your income of $2,700, that leaves $455 for eating out, clothing purchases and any other spending you choose. Any discretionary funds leftover at the end of the month can be rolled into savings.

The envelope method

With this system, consumers assigned expenses to three categories of their budget following a 50/20/30 rule: Fixed bills (50%), savings and other financial goals (20%), and flexible spending (30%). You then monitor your spending within those categories.

For someone with a $2,700 monthly take-home income, that means fixed bills should total no more than $1,350 and savings and other financial goals should be allocated $540, leaving $810 for flexible spending — including groceries, entertainment and purchases.

The idea is that “when the money runs out, spending should stop,” Kampernal said. While you don’t have to literally put cash in envelopes for each category every month (the practice this style of budget is named after), you can imagine that when you’ve spent down a category to $0, the envelope is empty until it’s replenished next month.

Staying on track with your budget

No budget system will work if you cheat or stop paying attention to your spending — even for a few days. Here is some advice from budgeting experts on how to stick to your budget.

Keep it flexible: Unexpected expenses will crop up, which likely means you’ll need to re-evaluate your budget. Or, you may find yourself spending more in one category than you anticipated, and you’ll need to reduce another category to make up for it. “Stick to the process for a few months, making adjustments until you get the budget into a comfortable place for you,” Oppenheimer said.

Pay your debts off first: Debt payment can command a lot of your budget, and the faster you pay them off, the more quickly you’ll free up room in your budget for other spending.

Focus on paying off your debts up front. As you eliminate those obligations, you’ll have an easier time with the rest of your budget.

Automate your payments: Setting up automatic bill payments through your bank’s website for as many monthly payments as you can will ensure that those bills are paid on time and keep that part of your budget on track.

Consider going cash-only: Opperman said that many Credit.org clients benefit from living on a cash basis. “If people are struggling to stick to their budget, we suggest leaving the debit card at home,” she said. “This takes away the ability to afford unplanned purchases.” If you really want to buy something, you’ll be forced to think about it until you can return with your card.

An alternative strategy to limit impulse buying is to give yourself a pre-paid credit card or gift card with a small limit, Opperman said.

Be careful with credit cards: Credit card spending can sink even the most well-intentioned budget, especially if you are paying off debts.

Oppenheimer recommends making it a priority to end borrowing with credit cards, as you’ll only accumulate more debt — and throw off your budget.

“If you do use credit cards, you have to make it part of your budget that you pay off the balance in full every month — before the grace period, so you don’t add interest charges to your spending plan,” Opperman said.

Knowing how you are spending your money eliminates risk and allows you to take charge of your finances. Keep the long-term game in mind — disciplined spending now equates to more savings, and, thus, more financial freedom, in the future.

Give yourself a little freedom: If you stray from your budget, don’t give up or punish yourself, Kampernal said.

“Sometimes, life happens,” she said. “Allow yourself to make mistakes and aim to do better in the future. Budgeting is now an ‘all or nothing’ mentality.”

Give yourself a reward if you have a little space in your budget at times. Get that take-out meal or buy that small item you’ve had your eye on.

“That way, you don’t feel trapped within your budget, but know that discretionary spending is accounted for,” Kampernal said.

The most important factor in budgeting is that you do it. Take the time to organize your financial information, track your spending, and personalize a budget style to fit you or your family’s needs.

“No two budgets are equal, so make yours realistic and livable so you are more likely to follow it,” Kampernal said.

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

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Guide to Credit Counseling: 7 Key Questions to Ask

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If you have little knowledge on the topic of personal finance and are struggling with your own money issues, you might want to think about getting credit counseling.

Credit counselors can help you set a budget and advise you on how to manage your debt, which can include credit card debt, student loan debt and even housing debt.

Reputable credit counseling organizations have certified counselors who are trained in consumer credit, budgeting, and money and debt management. Credit counselors will work with you to come up with an individualized plan to address any money problems you may have. This can be done in person, over the phone or online.

Seeking credit counseling is typically voluntary but can be required when filing for bankruptcy. In this guide, we’ll answer some key questions you might have about credit counseling and whether it’s right for you.

How do you find a credit counselor?

Before settling on a credit counseling organization, do your homework to make sure they are not only reputable but will also be the most helpful for your particular financial circumstances. Check with your state’s attorney general and consumer protection agency to see if there have been any complaints filed against the organization.

Ensure that the organization is accredited and certified. Check to see if they are members of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or the Financial Counseling Association of America. Most non-profit credit counseling agencies are associated with these organizations.

When researching agencies, first ask what information or educational materials they provide for free. Organizations that charge for information are typically more interested in their bottom line than in helping you. Also, ask about the types of services they offer. Limited services can be a red flag. The fewer services they offer, the fewer solutions they may provide for you.

You should also attempt to understand the organization’s fee system — not only how much services will cost but also how employees are paid. If employees make more based on the number of services you receive, look for another credit counseling organization.

MagnifyMoney has come up with a list of some of the best credit counseling options, which is a great place to start. If you are looking for credit counseling as a pre-bankruptcy measure, the U.S. Trustee Program has a list of approved credit counseling agencies that can provide pre-bankruptcy counseling.

How much does credit counseling cost?

Credit counseling can involve both start-up and monthly maintenance costs. The Department of Justice says that $50 per month is a reasonable fee. Further, the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) suggests that a start-up fee should not exceed $75 and monthly maintenance fees should not be more than $50 per month.

Credit counseling agencies may offer fee waivers or reductions, depending on your income levels. Where credit counseling is required, the DOJ says that, if household income is less than 150% of the current poverty line, the client is entitled to a fee waiver or reduction.

Other regulations, such as when fees can be collected and circumstances that would warrant a fee reduction or waiver, may also be outlined by your state.

How long does credit counseling last?

While the length of your credit counseling session depends on the complexity of your financial problems, sessions typically last 60 minutes. After the initial session, credit counselors will follow up to ensure you understand the actions you need to take and that you have been able to get started on the plan they developed. Another session may be necessary depending on how your financial situation unfolds following the first session.

What do you accomplish with credit counseling?

According to the NFCC, reputable counseling involves three things. First, there must be a review of a client’s current financial situation. You cannot move forward unless you know from where you are starting. Second, there should be an analysis of the factors that contributed to the client’s bad financial situation. You don’t want bad habits to undermine your progress. Lastly, there must be a plan to address the situation without incurring negative amortization of debt. Negative amortization occurs when the amount of debt you have increases because you aren’t paying enough to cover the interest, even though you are making payments.

Understanding these three factors of good credit counseling gives you a place to start in improving your financial situation.

What is the difference between credit counseling and debt management programs?

A debt management plan is just one solution a credit counselor may recommend based on your financial situation. Having a debt management plan is not the same as credit counseling.

A debt management plan involves the credit counseling organization acting as an intermediary between you and your creditors. Each month you will deposit an agreed upon amount of money to your credit counseling agency, which they will, in turn, apply it to your debts.

The credit counseling agency works with your creditors to determine how the amount will be applied each month, and negotiates interest rates and any fee waivers. It’s important to call your creditors directly to check whether they are open to negotiating interest rates or offering waivers for fees. In some cases, a credit counseling firm may promise to negotiate those items for you but be stonewalled when they discover a creditor isn’t even open to the discussion.

Before agreeing to a debt management plan, make sure you understand any fees associated and any choices you might be giving up. For example, some debt management plans may require you to give up opening up new lines of credit for a specified period of time. Remember that a debt management plan is just one of many solutions a credit counselor may advise you to consider.

How does credit counseling impact your credit score?

Not directly. While the fact you are in credit counseling may show up on a credit report, that does not affect your credit score. The actions you take as a result of credit counseling, however, can impact your score.

For example, if you don’t choose a reputable credit counseling agency, the agency may submit a payment on your behalf late to your creditors. So even though you submitted your payment on time to the credit counseling agency, your score may still be dinged. This is just one reason why it’s important to make sure you use a reputable credit counseling agency.

Who should consider credit counseling, and when?

While credit counseling is sometimes required, such as in instances of bankruptcy, you always have an ability to seek credit counseling.

Boston-based Bankruptcy attorney Julie Franklin explains, “For bankruptcy purposes, there are two course requirements — a debtor must complete the first credit counseling course prior to filing and obtain a certificate that is filed with the court in their initial bankruptcy petition documents. Post bankruptcy filing, the debtor is required to take a second course, and upon completion, the certificate that is issued must be filed with the court in order for the debtor to obtain an order of discharge.”

Anyone struggling with their personal finances can consider credit counseling as an option. Franklin also notes that “the first credit counseling course is a tool for debtors, as it compels the individual taking the course to closely examine the household assets, income, liabilities and spending habits to determine if there’s a way to save the debtor from having to file bankruptcy.”

If you are considering bankruptcy, you will have to attend some credit counseling anyhow, but doing so could also help you avoid filing for bankruptcy at all. Keep in mind that filing for bankruptcy will always have a significant effect on your credit score, and can hurt your changes for getting loans or new credit for years to come. If you can avoid it, you probably should.

Voluntary credit counseling might not help if you are already being sued to have a debt collected. However, you may be able to negotiate terms with the debt collector that result in a withdrawal of the suit if you agree to enroll in credit counseling and possibly a debt management program. Not all creditors will agree to such terms, but it is possible.

Bottom line

Many people run into trouble with their finances, whether they have too much credit card debt, are struggling to make their housing payments or just find general budgeting to be a challenge. Some people are dealing with more serious issues, such as potential bankruptcy. There are credit counselors available to help you with any difficult financial situation you may be facing. The most important thing is to ensure you work with a reputable credit counseling agency, so do your research first. A good credit counselor can help you get on the road to financial health, but working with a bad one can lead to more problems than you already have.

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

Liz Stapleton
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7 Personal Loans for 600 to 700 Credit Scores

Updated June 03, 2019

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

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

Many personal loan companies approve people with scores as low as 600. The best way to shop for a loan is to pre-qualify with as many lenders as possible who perform a soft credit pull (which doesn’t harm your credit score). With our first recommendation, LendingTree, simply fill out an online form and obtain up to 5 lender quotes (including all of those on our list below) with one online form and no negative impact to your score.

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5.99%-28.99%

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700

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*The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the cost of credit as a yearly rate and ranges from 5.99%-29.99%, which may include an origination fee from 0.99% - 5.99%. Any origination fee on a 5-year loan will be at least 4.99% and is deducted from loan proceeds. The APR offered will depend on your credit score, income, debt payment obligations, loan amount, loan term, credit usage history and other factors, and therefore may be higher than our lowest advertised rate. Requests for the highest loan amount may resulting an APR higher than our lowest advertised rate. You need a minimum 700 FICO® score and a minimum individual annual income of $100,000 to qualify for our lowest rate.

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Borrowers should refer to their loan agreement for specific terms and conditions. A loan example: a 5–year $10,000 loan with 9.99% APR has 60 scheduled monthly payments of $201.81, and a 3–year $5,000 loan with 5.99% APR has 36 scheduled monthly payments of $150.57. Your verifiable income must support your ability to repay your loan. Upon loan funding, the timing of available funds may vary depending upon your bank's policies.

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Not all applicants will qualify for larger loan amounts or most favorable loan terms. Loan approval and actual loan terms depend on your ability to meet our credit standards (including a responsible credit history, sufficient income after monthly expenses, and availability of collateral). Larger loan amounts require a first lien on a motor vehicle no more than ten years old, that meets our value requirements, titled in your name with valid insurance. Maximum annual percentage rate (APR) is 35.99%, subject to state restrictions. APRs are generally higher on loans not secured by a vehicle. The lowest APR shown represents the 10% of loans with the most favorable APR. Active duty military, their spouse or dependents covered under the Military Lending Act may not pledge any vehicle as collateral for a loan. OneMain loan proceeds cannot be used for postsecondary educational expenses as defined by the CFPB’s Regulation Z, such as college, university or vocational expenses; for any business or commercial purpose; to purchase securities; or for gambling or illegal purposes. Borrowers in these states are subject to these minimum loan sizes: Alabama: $2,100. California: $3,000. Georgia: Unless you are a present customer, $3,100 minimum loan amount. Ohio: $2,000. Virginia: $2,600.

Borrowers (other than present customers) in these states are subject to these maximum unsecured loan sizes: Florida: $8,000. Iowa: $8,500. Maine: $7,000. Mississippi: $7,500. North Carolina: $7,500. New York: $20,000. Texas: $8,000. West Virginia: $7,500. An unsecured loan is a loan which does not require you to provide collateral (such as a motor vehicle) to the lender.

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6.95%-35.99%

36 or 60

months

640

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

Advertiser Disclosure.

For example, a three-year $10,000 loan with a Prosper Rating of AA would have an interest rate of 5.31% and a 2.41% origination fee for an annual percentage rate (APR) of 6.95% APR. You would receive $9,759 and make 36 scheduled monthly payments of $301.10. A five-year $10,000 loan with a Prosper Rating of A would have an interest rate of 8.39% and a 5.00% origination fee with a 10.59% APR. You would receive $9,500 and make 60 scheduled monthly payments of $204.64. Origination fees vary between 2.41%-5%. APRs through Prosper range from 6.95% (AA) to 35.99% (HR) for first-time borrowers, with the lowest rates for the most creditworthy borrowers. Eligibility for loans up to $40,000 depends on the information provided by the applicant in the application form. Eligibility is not guaranteed, and requires that a sufficient number of investors commit funds to your account and that you meet credit and other conditions. Refer to Borrower Registration Agreement for details and all terms and conditions. All loans made by WebBank, member FDIC.

Consider LendingTree

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

LendingTree
APR

As low as 3.99%

Credit Req.

Minimum 500 FICO®

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

24 to 60

months

Origination Fee

Varies

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

LendingTree is our parent company

Advertiser Disclosure

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


A Personal Loan can offer funds relatively quickly once you qualify you could have your funds within a few days to a week. A loan can be fixed for a term and rate or variable with fluctuating amount due and rate assessed, be sure to speak with your loan officer about the actual term and rate you may qualify for based on your credit history and ability to repay the loan. A personal loan can assist in paying off high-interest rate balances with one fixed term payment, so it is important that you try to obtain a fixed term and rate if your goal is to reduce your debt. Some lenders may require that you have an account with them already and for a prescribed period of time in order to qualify for better rates on their personal loan products. Lenders may charge an origination fee generally around 1% of the amount sought. Be sure to ask about all fees, costs and terms associated with each loan product. Loan amounts of $1,000 up to $50,000 are available through participating lenders; however, your state, credit history, credit score, personal financial situation, and lender underwriting criteria can impact the amount, fees, terms and rates offered. Ask your loan officer for details.

As of 28-Feb-2019, LendingTree Personal Loan consumers were seeing match rates as low as 3.99% (3.99% APR) on a $10,000 loan amount for a term of three (3) years. Rates and APRs were based on a self-identified credit score of 700 or higher, zero down payment, origination fees of $0 to $100 (depending on loan amount and term selected).

1. LightStream

LightStream offers personal loans for between $5,000 and $100,000. It requires a minimum credit score of 660 and offers APRs between 3.99% and 16.99%. That low 3.99% APY includes a 0.50% rate discount for signing up for automatic payments.

To check rates, you’ll need to submit to a hard credit check. Don’t let that scare you off from this lender, though. LightStream offers a Rate Beat Program, where it’ll outmatch any qualifying rate. And if you’re unhappy with your loan, you can earn $100 for completing a questionnaire that helps LightStream improve its services.

The Fine Print

LightStream doesn’t offer fees, but in order to qualify for a loan, you’ll need to have good credit. On its website, LightStream says it finds borrowers with good credit tend to have the following characteristics:

  • Healthy credit history showing a variety of accounts, such as lines of credit (credit cards) and installment debt (auto loan, mortgage)
  • Solid payment history
  • Evidence that you know how to save and manage money, such as by having retirement savings and balancing revolving debt
  • Good income and assets that show you can repay your outstanding debts and a loan offered to you by LightStream

You can use a LightStream personal loan for a variety of purposes, from buying a car to consolidating debt. However, LightStream personal loans can’t be used for college expenses or to refinance college loans.

Pros

  • Low-interest rates
  • No fees
  • Loans for between $5,000 and $100,000
  • You may receive same-day funding
  • Will beat qualifying competitor rates
  • Offers $100 Guarantee Program

Cons

  • Requires a minimum 660 credit score
  • Hard Pull to check rates
  • You can’t change the payment due date
  • Doesn’t offer preapproval
  • Can’t refinance student loans

LightStream is a solid choice for borrowers with solid credit who want fast funding. LightStream’s Rate Beat Program means you can receive a competitive rate, while its $100 Guarantee Program shows that this lender cares about your satisfaction.

APR

3.99%
To
16.99%

Credit Req.

660

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

24 to 144

months

Origination Fee

No origination fee

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

Advertiser Disclosure

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


Your APR may differ based on loan purpose, amount, term, and your credit profile. Rate is quoted with AutoPay discount, which is only available when you select AutoPay prior to loan funding. Rates under the invoicing option are 0.50% higher. Subject to credit approval. Conditions and limitations apply. Advertised rates and terms are subject to change without notice. Payment example: Monthly payments for a $10,000 loan at 3.99% APR with a term of 3 years would result in 36 monthly payments of $295.20.

2. LendingClub

LendingClub offers loans of up to $40,000, for individuals with a minimum credit score of 600. Its APR ranges from 6.95% to 35.89%. LendingClub also uses a soft credit pull to determine your rate, which will not affect your credit.

The Fine Print

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

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

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

You can borrow money for 36 or 60 months, but it does charge up-front (origination) fees ranging 1.00% - 6.00% depending on credit worthiness, which come out of the loan amount.

Pros

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

Cons

  • Missed payments or items in collections will result in your application being rejected
  • Loan processing could take a week or more
  • APR can be as high as 35.89%
  • It does charge origination fees (1.00% - 6.00%)
  • Is not available in Iowa or West Virginia

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

APR

6.95%
To
35.89%

Credit Req.

600

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

36 or 60

months

Origination Fee

1.00% - 6.00%

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

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

3. Marcus by Goldman Sachs®

Marcus by Goldman Sachs® offers personal loans for up to $40,000 for debt consolidation and credit consolidation. With APRs ranging from 5.99% to 28.99% they offer one of the best personal loan options that is available from a traditional lender. While Goldman Sachs Bank USA has been around for over a century, Marcus is a completely online, streamlined experience that lets you complete your application and submit all of the needed documents from your computer.

The Fine Print

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

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

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

Pros

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

Cons

  • Currently not available in Maryland
  • Rates up to 28.99% APR
  • No clear qualification information
  • Late payments will accumulate more interest, resulting in a larger final payment.

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

Marcus by Goldman Sachs®
APR

5.99%
To
28.99%

Credit Req.

Varies

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

36 to 72

months

Origination Fee

No origination fee

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

Advertiser Disclosure

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


Your loan terms are not guaranteed and are subject to our verification of your identity and credit information. To obtain a loan, you must submit additional documentation including an application that may affect your credit score. Rates will vary based on many factors, such as your creditworthiness (for example, credit score and credit history) and the length of your loan (for example, rates for 36 month loans are generally lower than rates for 72 month loans).Your maximum loan amount may vary depending on your loan purpose, income and creditworthiness. Your verifiable income must support your ability to repay your loan. Marcus by Goldman Sachs is a brand of Goldman Sachs Bank USA and all loans are issued by Goldman Sachs Bank USA, Salt Lake City Branch. Applications are subject to additional terms and conditions. For New York residents, rates range from 5.99% to 24.99% APR.

4. BestEgg

BestEgg offers personal loans up to $35,000 for people with credit scores as low as 700. APRs range from 5.99% to 29.99%. You can check your rate without hurting your credit score, and BestEgg has an excellent application process (that can result in funding your loan very quickly).

The Fine Print

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

Pros

  • Can see your rate with a soft pull
  • Will consider applicants with credit scores as low as 700
  • Offers very competitive interest rates
  • Fast application process and fast funding

Cons

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

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

APR

Up to 29.99%

Credit Req.

700

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

36 or 60

months

Origination Fee

0.99% - 5.99%

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

Advertiser Disclosure

People looking for a process that is fast and straightforward can’t go wrong when applying through Best Egg for a personal loan. ... Read More


*The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the cost of credit as a yearly rate and ranges from 5.99%-29.99%, which may include an origination fee from 0.99% - 5.99%. Any origination fee on a 5-year loan will be at least 4.99% and is deducted from loan proceeds. The APR offered will depend on your credit score, income, debt payment obligations, loan amount, loan term, credit usage history and other factors, and therefore may be higher than our lowest advertised rate. Requests for the highest loan amount may resulting an APR higher than our lowest advertised rate. You need a minimum 700 FICO® score and a minimum individual annual income of $100,000 to qualify for our lowest rate.

Best Egg loans are unsecured personal loans made by Cross River Bank, a New Jersey State Chartered Commercial Bank, Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender. "Best Egg" is a trademark of Marlette Funding LLC. All uses of "Best Egg" on this site mean and shall refer to "the Best Egg personal loan" and/or "Best Egg on behalf of Cross River Bank, as originator of the Best Egg personal loan," as applicable. Loan amounts generally range from $2,000-$35,000. Offers up to $50,000 may be available for qualified customers who receive offer codes in the mail. The minimum individual annual income needed to qualify for a loan of $50,000 is $130,000. Borrowers may hold no more than two open Best Egg loans at any given time. In order to be eligible for a second Best Egg loan, your existing Best Egg loan must have been open for at least six months. Total existing Best Egg loan balances must not exceed $50,000. All loans in MA must exceed $6,000; in NM, OH must exceed $5,000; in GA must exceed $3,000.

Borrowers should refer to their loan agreement for specific terms and conditions. A loan example: a 5–year $10,000 loan with 9.99% APR has 60 scheduled monthly payments of $201.81, and a 3–year $5,000 loan with 5.99% APR has 36 scheduled monthly payments of $150.57. Your verifiable income must support your ability to repay your loan. Upon loan funding, the timing of available funds may vary depending upon your bank's policies.

To help the government fight the funding of terrorism and money laundering activities, federal law requires all financial institutions to obtain, verify, and record information that identifies each person who opens an account. When you open an account, we will ask for your name, address, date of birth, and other information that will allow us to identify you.

5. Avant

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

The Fine Print

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

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

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

Pros

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

Cons

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

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

APR

9.95%
To
35.99%

Credit Req.

Varies

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

24 to 60

months

Origination Fee

Up to 4.75%

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

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

Avant is an online lender that offers personal loans ranging from $2,000 to $35,000. ... Read More

6. OneMain

OneMain Financial offers loans up to $30,000 for individuals with credit scores starting at 600. It offers terms of up to 60 months and APR ranges from 16.05% to 35.99%.

The Fine Print

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

In order to qualify you must have:

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

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

Pros

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

Convenient location, at OneMain branches

Cons

  • APR ranges from 16.05% to 35.99%
  • Loans cannot be used for business expenses or tuition
  • See potential rate with a hard pull
  • Personal loans only available up to $30,000
  • Loans not available in Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Nevada, Rhode Island, Vermont, or Washington D.C.
  • You must visit a OneMain branch to complete the loan.

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

APR

16.05%
To
35.99%

Credit Req.

Varies

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

24 to 60

months

Origination Fee

Varies

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

Advertiser Disclosure

If you have a credit score below 600, OneMain Financial is one of the few lenders that you can use to get a personal loan.... Read More


Not all applicants will qualify for larger loan amounts or most favorable loan terms. Loan approval and actual loan terms depend on your ability to meet our credit standards (including a responsible credit history, sufficient income after monthly expenses, and availability of collateral). Larger loan amounts require a first lien on a motor vehicle no more than ten years old, that meets our value requirements, titled in your name with valid insurance. Maximum annual percentage rate (APR) is 35.99%, subject to state restrictions. APRs are generally higher on loans not secured by a vehicle. The lowest APR shown represents the 10% of loans with the most favorable APR. Active duty military, their spouse or dependents covered under the Military Lending Act may not pledge any vehicle as collateral for a loan. OneMain loan proceeds cannot be used for postsecondary educational expenses as defined by the CFPB’s Regulation Z, such as college, university or vocational expenses; for any business or commercial purpose; to purchase securities; or for gambling or illegal purposes. Borrowers in these states are subject to these minimum loan sizes: Alabama: $2,100. California: $3,000. Georgia: Unless you are a present customer, $3,100 minimum loan amount. Ohio: $2,000. Virginia: $2,600.

Borrowers (other than present customers) in these states are subject to these maximum unsecured loan sizes: Florida: $8,000. Iowa: $8,500. Maine: $7,000. Mississippi: $7,500. North Carolina: $7,500. New York: $20,000. Texas: $8,000. West Virginia: $7,500. An unsecured loan is a loan which does not require you to provide collateral (such as a motor vehicle) to the lender.

7. Freedomplus

FreedomPlus offers loans ranging from $7,500 to $40,000 that can be used for everything from debt consolidation, to unexpected expenses. APR ranges from 5.99% to 29.99%.

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

The Fine Print

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

  • Be 18 years or older
  • Be a legal US resident
  • Have a valid ID
  • Minimum credit score of 0
  • At least $25,000 in verifiable income
  • No bankruptcies in the last two years

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

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

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

Pros

  • Will approve credit scores as low as 0
  • The phone screening may improve your chances of being approved for the loan
  • Same-day approval and funds within 48 hours
  • No prepayment penalty
  • Can prequalify with a hard pull

Cons

  • APR ranges from 5.99% to 29.99%
  • The fee structure is not readily available for review
  • Origination fee of 0.00% - 5.00% applies

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

APR

5.99%
To
29.99%

Credit Req.

Varies

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

24 to 60

months

Origination Fee

0.00% - 5.00%

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

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

8. Prosper

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

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

Prosper offers loans from $2,000 to $40,000, and APR ranges from 6.95% to 35.99%. It offers loans terms of either 36 or 60 months. Your APR is determined during the application process, and is based on a credit rating score created by Prosper. Your score is then shown with your loan listing to give potential lenders an idea of your creditworthiness.

The Fine Print

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

Origination fees range from 2.41% - 5.00% and are based on your Prosper score. In order to qualify, you must:

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

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

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

Pros

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

Cons

  • Only 14 days to secure financing from peer lenders
  • Origination fee of 2.41% - 5.00% applies
  • APR varies from 6.95%– 35.99%

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

APR

6.95%
To
35.99%

Credit Req.

640

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

36 or 60

months

Origination Fee

2.41% - 5.00%

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

Advertiser Disclosure

Prosper is a peer-to-peer lending platform that offers a quick and convenient way to get personal loans with fixed and low interest rates. ... Read More


For example, a three-year $10,000 loan with a Prosper Rating of AA would have an interest rate of 5.31% and a 2.41% origination fee for an annual percentage rate (APR) of 6.95% APR. You would receive $9,759 and make 36 scheduled monthly payments of $301.10. A five-year $10,000 loan with a Prosper Rating of A would have an interest rate of 8.39% and a 5.00% origination fee with a 10.59% APR. You would receive $9,500 and make 60 scheduled monthly payments of $204.64. Origination fees vary between 2.41%-5%. APRs through Prosper range from 6.95% (AA) to 35.99% (HR) for first-time borrowers, with the lowest rates for the most creditworthy borrowers. Eligibility for loans up to $40,000 depends on the information provided by the applicant in the application form. Eligibility is not guaranteed, and requires that a sufficient number of investors commit funds to your account and that you meet credit and other conditions. Refer to Borrower Registration Agreement for details and all terms and conditions. All loans made by WebBank, member FDIC.

Shop Around to Find the Best Deal

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

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

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

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

Gretchen Lindow
Gretchen Lindow |

Gretchen Lindow is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Gretchen at [email protected]

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