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Personal Loans

Are Long-Term Personal Loans Ever a Good Idea?

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

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

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The importance of having a rainy day fund can’t be overstated — you’re sure to encounter a storm at some point. While our insiders suggest setting your target at a minimum of three to six months’ worth of expenses, actually doing so can be a slow climb. This is especially true if you’re splitting your efforts between paying off debt. For many, a trip to the emergency room or a stint of unemployment is enough to seriously rock the financial boat.

That’s where long-term personal loans come in. Like any type of financing, they come with both benefits and risks. But if used wisely, they could potentially rescue you from a financial nightmare.

What is a long-term loan?

Personal loans are doled out by lenders and, unlike credit cards, are not revolving lines of credit. When we say “long-term” personal loans, we’re referring to loans that stretch beyond the one-year mark. Some may last only 12 months, while others can take a decade or more to pay off.

The most important thing to remember about personal loans is that the interest rate, monthly payment and payoff timeline are all fixed, meaning there’s virtually no wiggle room when it comes to how much you have to pay every month. In other words, when you sign on, you’re committing to this bill for the long haul. This could be taken as either a pro or a con, depending on how you look at it.

On the one hand, the fixed payment keeps the finish line in sight. Credit cards, on the other hand, give you the oh-so-tempting option of just paying the minimum, which stretches out the life of the loan, resulting in you paying more in interest over the long term. On the flip side, if you stumble upon financial hard times, having the ability to make lower monthly payments can be a godsend.

That said, long-term personal loans can be used for just about anything — from consolidating debt to seeing you through a financial emergency. Since the money is typically deposited straight into your bank account, you can use it however you wish. Of course, they don’t come without some strings attached.

Let’s break down the fees and rates for personal loans

For starters, personal loans are considered unsecured debt.

“Unlike your mortgage or an auto loan where you’re leveraging an asset (your home or your car) as collateral, personal loans are attached to no such security,” Pamela Capalad, certified financial planner and founder of Brunch & Budget, tells MagnifyMoney.

“As such, lenders understandably see them as being inherently riskier,” she added.
“This is precisely why you can expect strict repayment terms and potentially higher interest rates.”

The APR may not stand alone. In some cases, you could be hit with an origination fee to the tune of 1% to 6%. Some companies will also try and sell you insurance or other expensive, unnecessary products with these loans, says Lynn Ballou, certified financial planner and CFP Board ambassador.

“And if they’ve front-loaded that loan with extra interest or charged you an origination fee, that’s actually costing you quite a bit more than if you’d just looked for a less expensive option,” she added.

In other words, borrowers beware. Before signing on the dotted line, be sure to read carefully through the terms and fees. Ballou then suggests running the numbers through an independent loan calculator to make sure it’s actually a good deal for you. After factoring in the interest rate and potentially an origination fee, would it be less expensive to go with a different financing option? (We’ll explore this shortly.) Also, is the monthly payment within your budget? These are make-or-break questions to ask yourself before pulling the trigger.

When a long-term personal loan makes sense

Now that we’ve picked apart the nitty-gritty details, let’s explore when a long-term personal loan might be a good idea. A personal loan can be a powerful consolidation tool for those struggling to eliminate high-interest debts — assuming you snag a better APR. In addition to saving money, you’ll have a clear timeline in place and the convenience having just one monthly payment.

When it’s the cheapest borrowing option

“Personal loans actually have some great interest rates, especially now since the market has gotten really competitive over the last few years,” said Capalad. “With a long-term loan, you’ll probably end up paying off your debt faster, or at least about the same time as doing some sort of debt snowball method.” The debt snowball method involves ordering debts from smallest to largest balances and tackling the smallest debts first.

As far as rates go, the better your credit score and higher your income is, the better chances you’ll secure a good rate. If you have poor credit, however, you should expect to see a higher rate. Personal loan rates can eclipse credit card rates, getting as high as 35.99%.

Capalad does offer another word of warning. If you’re using a personal loan to consolidate debt, you have to be really disciplined to put those credit cards away. When people use the loan to get their cards down to what Capalad calls “that nice $0 balance,” it can be extremely tempting to run up the balances again. That said, if you’re disciplined and committed to using a long-term personal loan to get on stronger financial footing, it can represent a great solution.

Debt consolidation aside, sometimes it simply works out better from a dollar-and-cents perspective. If you find a personal loan with no origination fee and a reasonable APR, it may very well be less expensive than getting a cash advance via a credit card, especially since many financial institutions charge a 1% to 5% cash advance fee.

“Sometimes a personal loan is actually the least expensive option available, but sometimes it’s also the only option available,” added Ballou. “Not everyone has something to collateralize, like equity in their home to unlock a home equity loan.”

When a long-term personal loan doesn’t make sense

If you’re stuck between a financial rock and a hard place, being hit with costly fees or high interest rates is certainly better than filing for bankruptcy or defaulting on your bills. The good news is that doing some light research might reveal a different option that’s a better fit than a personal loan.

Begin by asking yourself what you need this loan for. Is it to see you through a financial emergency that’s unlikely to happen again? Or is it to take a last-minute vacation? That may sound obvious, but it’s a legit question to ask because it’s all about trade-offs here.

Let’s say you take out a five-year $5,000 personal loan at 19.5% APR. If you crunch the numbers using our personal loan calculator, it translates to a $131 monthly payment — you’ll also spend an additional $2,865 on interest. Is that really worth it for a family vacation? Perhaps not.

You might, on the other hand, feel like it’s your best option if you’re swimming in credit debt with higher interest rates and need a debt consolidation loan.

The scenario plays out better if you have a fully-funded emergency savings.

“If you have a steady job and you’re at that three- to six-month level, and the trip is extremely important to you because it’s for, let’s say, your best friend’s wedding, you’re better off dipping into your emergency fund and then paying yourself back — but you have to be extremely committed to topping it back off as soon as possible,” said Capalad.

When your cash reserves are running low and a long-term personal loan isn’t your best option, it’s time to explore the financial alternatives. (We’ll dive deeper into your options below.)

Getting a long-term personal loan

Ready to move forward with a long-term personal loan? Here’s what should be on your radar:

Checking your credit score

Whenever you’re seeking new financing, your credit score is perhaps the most important factor. This number basically sums up how creditworthy you are, which is what lenders care about. The higher your score, the better interest rates and financing options you’ll get. Here’s how FICO, America’s leading credit reporting agency, breaks down this all-important three-digit number. (There are a number of ways to access your credit score for free.)

This number is actually a reflection of what’s on your credit report, which sums up your credit history. Experian, TransUnion and Equifax (the three major credit bureaus) each generate their own report, which you can pull for free once a year at AnnualCreditReport.com. Doing so is vital to maintain a healthy credit score. What’s more, finding and disputing an error on your report may give your score a significant boost.

Where to get a long-term personal loan

Applying for a long-term personal loan isn’t all that different from locking down one with a shorter term. The internet has certainly streamlined the process. LendingTree, which is MagnifyMoney’s parent company, offers a way to compare loans from top lenders like BestEgg, Avant, LendingClub and more. Here, you can plug in a few pieces of information and possibly get quotes in a matter of seconds based on your credit score. It’s a soft credit pull, which won’t hurt your credit, but just know that when you officially apply with a lender, it will count as a hard inquiry.

Just be sure to compare rates as no two lenders are the same. Let’s say, for instance, your credit score sits at 660 and you’re looking to remodel your kitchen for $20,000. Short of a hard credit pull, here are some instant quotes:

APR

6.99%
To
24.99%

Credit Req.

660

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

36 to 84

months

Origination Fee

No origination fee

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

Discover is a financial services firm that offers credit cards, deposit accounts and personal loans. ... Read More

APR

5.99%
To
24.99%

Credit Req.

640

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

24 to 60

months

Origination Fee

0.00% - 5.00%

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

Payoff is a financial services firm that offers personal loans mainly to help consolidate credit card debt.... Read More

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.

As you can see, there’s a pretty wide gap when it comes to interest rates. The good news is that the longer the term, the shorter the monthly payment — but you’ll ultimately pay more in interest over the long haul. For example, let’s pretend you lock down that $20,000 loan with no origination fee and an APR of 16%. Now let’s compare what happens when we tweak the repayment timeline:

Payoff Timeline

Monthly Payment

Total Interest Paid

60 months

$486

$9,182

40 months

$648

$5,935

24 months

$979

$3,502

There are a lot of moving parts here, which is why reading the fine print is vital. Before we jump into that, let’s talk about getting pre-qualified.

Getting pre-qualified for a personal loan

It’s probably a term you’ve heard before, but let’s unpack what it actually means. Pre-qualification utilizes what’s known as soft credit pulls as opposed to hard inquiries. Doing this does not impact your credit, making it much easier to shop around for the best deals. Soft inquiries essentially give lenders a little sneak peek of your credit. Once you pull the trigger on a loan, the bank will then do a deep dive by pulling your full credit report. (FYI, hard credit inquiries typically only shave a few points off your score, depending on your overall credit health, and you’ll bounce back relatively quickly if you keep up with on-time payments.)

Applying for a personal loan

Once you’re ready to formally apply for a long-term personal loan, you’ll need to gather up some documents. According to Ballou, this typically includes:

  • Photo ID
  • Proof of income and employment
  • Bank statements
  • Possibly a copy of a W-2 or tax return as proof of past income

Once the application process is in motion, the next step is approval, but Ballou says you could be denied if the lender sees you as a credit risk. Having bad credit, a short credit history, unreliable income or unsteady employment could all work against you.

Read the fine print

Before making the commitment, thoroughly read through all the terms and fine print. Here are some helpful questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you really need this loan? If it’s a true financial emergency, the answer might be yes. Otherwise, think long and hard before going all in.
  • Can your budget comfortably absorb the monthly payment? Remember, personal loans are locked in; you’re on the hook for that payment every month.
  • Is there an origination fee? Run the numbers and also factor in the APR. How much will your loan actually cost you when all is said and done? Is there a cheaper alternative? (We’ll jump into this in the next section.)
  • Are you okay with the repayment timeline? Think about your long-term financial goals. If, say, you’d love to save for a down payment on a house within the next five years, will this loan impede your ability to do so?
  • Is a prepayment penalty hiding in the contract? This could make it costly to pay off your loan ahead of schedule.

Alternatives to a long-term personal loan

Depending on your situation, a personal loan may very well be your cheapest option. If not, you’re not out of luck. Here are some alternatives worth exploring:

Home equity loans & lines of credit

Home equity loans (HELs) and home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) both use your home as collateral. You’re basically borrowing against the equity you have in your home by way of a secured loan or credit line. To get the best rates, you’ll need a decent credit score (ideally 660 and up) and at least 15% equity in your home. You also don’t want your debt-to-income ratio to exceed the 43% mark. One other crucial point: if you default on your payments, the bank could seize your home, so make sure you’re really comfortable moving forward.

Cash-out mortgage refinancing

A cash-out refinance lets you borrow additional cash to use as you wish. You could also tweak the terms, like extending to a longer-term loan, to lower your monthly payment and give your budget some breathing room. This, of course, will keep your mortgage debt alive and well for a longer period of time, and there may be fees, but in the short term, it may be your least expensive option.

Balance transfer credit cards

Seeking a personal loan to consolidate debt? Utilizing balance transfer offers may be a more strategic way to go. This is when you jump on low- or no-interest promotional APR offers to pay off your existing balances. Then you knock out the new balance before that teaser introductory period ends.

“If you can aggressively pay down the debt, then you can save a lot of money, especially if you have a lot of debt,” said Capalad.

Just be sure to read the fine print. There’s usually an initial fee that could be as high as 4%. And once the promotional period ends, your APR may skyrocket. This option really only makes sense if you can eliminate the balance within that time. Also, most banks won’t let you transfer debt from one card to another within the same bank.

Traditional credit cards

Your financial emergency may cost you less if you finance it with a traditional credit card, especially if the interest rate is reasonable and you’re able to accelerate your payments. While some personal loans will hit you with a prepayment penalty, you’re more than welcome to pay more than the minimum balance on a credit card. Here’s a simple credit card debt calculator to help bring the numbers into focus.

Borrowing from family or friends

It may bruise your pride, but borrowing cash from loved ones just might save you from financial ruin. (According to LendingTree research, 94.5% of people surveyed said they wouldn’t charge interest on a loan to a family member.) If you’re face-to-face with a true emergency, tap into your personal network to see what options may be available. You can work together to determine the terms and even draw up a contract if it gives your benefactor some peace of mind.

The Pros and Cons of Long-Term Personal Loans

Let’s recap, shall we?

Pros:

  • Long-term personal loans translate to on-the-spot cash that’s typically deposited right into your bank account, which you can then use for whatever you want.
  • If you routinely make on-time payments, you’ll end up boosting your credit score in the long term.
  • Using personal loans to consolidate debt could save you big time in interest.
  • They’re good for folks who don’t have something to collateralize, like home equity or a car.

Cons:

  • The monthly payment and payoff timeline are fixed, and there’s no wiggle room. If you miss it, you’re in default, which could do a number on your credit score.
  • Depending on your credit score, you may not be eligible for a reasonable APR. This could cost you.
  • Your loan may come with a prepayment penalty.
  • Making this monthly payment over a long period of time could impact your ability to save for other financial goals.
  • Opting for a long-term loan over a short-term one means you’ll ultimately shell out more in interest payments.

The bottom line

Moving forward with a long-term personal loan really comes down to your individual situation. The big idea here is to choose the least expensive financing option.

Using credit to live beyond your means is one thing, but debt that gets you to a better place and adds value to your life is another. If a long-term personal loan can help see you through a financial emergency relatively unscathed, it might be worth taking on some new debt.

As Ballou aptly put it: “The cost may be worth what it’s giving you.”

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.

Marianne Hayes
Marianne Hayes |

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

TAGS:

Get A Pre-Approved Personal Loan

$

Won’t impact your credit score

Advertiser Disclosure

Personal Loans

American Express Personal Loan Review

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

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

American Express
APR

6.98%
To
18.99%

Credit Req.

Fair to excellent

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

12 to 48

months

Origination Fee

None

APPLY NOW Secured

on American Express’s secure website

American Express personal loan details
 

Fees and penalties

  • Term lengths: 12 to 48 months
  • APR range: 6.98% to 18.99%
  • Loan amounts: $3,500 to $40,000
  • Time to funding: Typically 3 to 5 business days after you sign the loan agreement
  • Credit check: Soft Pull
  • Origination fee: None
  • Prepayment fee: None
  • Late payment fee: $39

American Express product details

Personal loans do not come with the perks often attached to American Express card products, like Membership Rewards, cash back or insurance benefits. However, the only fee associated with personal loans is a late fee — $39 if your payment is late or not made in full, which can result in major savings. To help you avoid late payments, the company offers an autopay feature.

If you’re using a personal loan for debt consolidation, American Express makes the process easy by sending your funds directly to the issuer. Payments can be disbursed to up to four personal credit card accounts held by most major credit card issuers. You’ll find out if your credit card account is eligible during the application process.

Eligibility requirements

  • Minimum credit score: Fair to excellent
  • Minimum credit history: Not specified
  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: Not specified

To be preapproved for an American Express personal loan, you must meet the lender’s minimum eligibility requirements. This includes being:

  • A U.S. citizen or resident of the U.S. or its territories
  • At least 18 years old
  • A basic card member with an eligible consumer American Express card with at least nine months of account history that is in good standing at the time of application submission

Applying for a personal loan from American Express

Only preapproved American Express card members are eligible to apply for a personal loan. During the preapproval process, you’ll be asked to provide basic information, like the amount of money you’d like to borrow, desired repayment period, loan purpose, contact information and income. Keep in mind, however, that some card members may only be preapproved to use their personal loan for credit card debt consolidation.

All personal loan applications must be submitted online. You’ll need an American Express online account and valid email address, and you must agree to receive electronic communications and other online documents. Do note, however, that preapproval is not a guarantee that you’ll be granted a loan — but if your application is approved, you’ll have up to three days to review and accept the terms.

If your personal loan was approved to pay down credit card debt, the funds will be sent directly to the accounts designated on your application. Otherwise, the money will be sent to an eligible bank account on file with American Express. If you don’t have an eligible bank account on file, you have three days from the date you sign your loan agreement to add a personal checking account in your name or your loan agreement will be deemed void and unenforceable.

Pros and cons of an American Express personal loan

Pros:

Cons:

  • Minimal-to-no fees. The sole fee associated with an American Express personal loan is a $39 late fee, assessed only on late payments and those not made in full.
  • Wide range on loan amounts. American Express personal loans are available in increments from $3,500 to $40,000. The amount granted is based on creditworthiness and other factors.
  • Multiple repayment periods. Applicants will have the option to choose among several repayment periods (thereby allowing you to secure a monthly payment that doesn’t put a strain on your budget). Approved borrowers may receive offers ranging from 12 to 48 months.
  • Soft credit pulls. Applying for an American Express personal loan will not impact your credit score. But if you’re approved, loan details will be sent to credit reporting agencies, which could affect your credit score.
  • American Express credit card required. Only preapproved American Express card members are eligible to apply for a personal loan through the company, and you must have had that account for at least nine months.
  • No perks. Personal loans do not come with perks offered on American Express cards, such as Membership Rewards, cash back or insurance benefits.
  • Not for bad-credit borrowers. Only cardholders with fair to excellent credit are encouraged to apply. American Express recommends that applicants with a credit score of 659 or less improve their credit before submitting an application.

Who’s the best fit for an American Express personal loan?

An American Express personal loan can be a great choice for cardholders who don’t want to pay fees. Since the only fee associated with the loan is a $39 late fee — assessed only on late payments and those not made in full — you won’t pay any fees if you satisfy your monthly financial obligation.

Having several repayment periods available can also be a helpful option. This gives you the opportunity to choose a monthly payment that works best with your budget.

Considering the loan amount ranges from $3,500 to $40,000, this product is geared toward borrowers who need a higher loan amount. It’s also a better choice for cardholders with higher credit scores, as loan offers — including APR and maximum borrowing power — are based on creditworthiness and other factors.

Before moving forward with an application, it’s a good idea to check out reviews from other consumers and get a feel for the lender’s general reputation.

American Express consumer reviews

American Express has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. The lender does not yet have reviews on LendingTree, our parent company.

To learn more about American Express, we recommend contacting the lender for a firsthand experience at its customer service and to get answers to any outstanding questions. You may also check the lender’s social media pages to see its activity and how consumers are responding. This may help you make a more informed decision before moving forward.

American Express FAQ

No. According to the site, “your credit score will not be impacted when you apply,” but the loan will be reported to the credit bureaus once you’re approved and agree to the terms.

You won’t be able to take out that loan, but your credit score won’t be impacted either. That’s especially helpful if you intend to look elsewhere for personal loans. Either way, keep in mind that not all borrowers are approved for the highest loan amount.

These loans can be used for personal, household or family purposes. For example, paying for household renovations or a life event, like the birth of a child. However, some applicants may only be approved for credit card consolidation.

If you use your loan to pay down credit card balances directly, you cannot put that money towards an American Express card. However, those who receive their funds directly may choose to use some of their funds to do so. But keep in mind that not all applicants will be approved for that disbursement option.

Most major credit card banks are eligible for direct payments via this loan. You would find out if your credit card is eligible during the application process.

Your payments are fixed for the term of your loan and will depend on how much you borrowed, your interest rate and the length of your term.

No, that’s set by the lender and cannot be changed.

You’ll have to pay a $39 late fee, and American Express may inform the credit bureaus, which would negatively impact your credit score.

You can only apply for a business loan if you have an American Express business card, and those funds can only be used for business purposes.

Alternative personal loan options

LightStream

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.

LightStream is an online lending division of SunTrust Bank. It offers personal loans for between $5,000 and $100,000 with rates as low as 3.99% with autopay; however, note that lender rates vary based on the loan purpose. Still, LightStream doesn’t charge origination fees, plus it offers loans with terms from 24 to 144 months, so it could be a low-cost and flexible option for borrowers.

Marcus by Goldman Sachs®

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.

With no origination or late fees, Marcus by Goldman Sachs may be an affordable option for a personal loan. The lender offers loans for up to $40,000 with rates as low as 5.99%. Further, you can see rates with a soft pull.

LendingClub

APR

6.95%
To
35.89%

Credit Req.

600

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

36 or 60

months

Origination Fee

1.00% - 6.00%

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

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

LendingClub may be a great option for borrowers with less-than-stellar credit. It has a minimum credit score requirement of 600. Its personal loans come with rates as low as 6.95% and as high as 35.89%. You can expect an origination fee between 1.00% - 6.00%.

Devon Delfino contributed to the reporting for this article.

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.

Laura Woods
Laura Woods |

Laura Woods is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Laura here

TAGS:

Get A Pre-Approved Personal Loan

$

Won’t impact your credit score

Advertiser Disclosure

Personal Loans

LightStream Personal Loan Review

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

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

APR

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.

LightStream personal loan details
 

Fees and penalties

  • Terms: LightStream loan terms range from 24 to 144 months.
  • APR range: The APR for this loan is 3.99% to 16.99% APR. The lowest interest rates include a 0.50% rate discount for using autopay.
  • Loan amounts: You can borrow from $5,000 to $100,000.
  • Time to funding: You can get funding the same business day you apply if you’re approved by 2:30 p.m. EST. Otherwise, you have to schedule funding of your loan within 30 days of getting approval.
  • Hard pull/soft pull: Applying for a LightStream loan will trigger a Hard Pull. LightStream pulls your Experian and Equifax credit reports. LightStream does not offer soft pull preapprovals.
  • Origination fee: None.
  • Prepayment fee: None.
  • Late payment fee: None.
  • Other fees: None.

LightStream has no fees across the board and offers highly competitive interest rates. These two variables add up to an affordable loan, if you qualify. According to LightStream, you can borrow money for “practically anything.” Here are some examples of things you can finance with a LightStream loan:

  • Adoption
  • Auto
  • Debt consolidation
  • Dental work
  • Home improvements
  • IVF/fertility treatments
  • Pre-K-12 education
  • Medical bills
  • Recreation
    • Boats
    • RVs
    • Timeshares
  • Tiny homes
  • Weddings

The list of ways you can use a LightStream loan is exhaustive. However, there are a few instances where you can’t use a LightStream loan. You can’t use one to finance a college or post-secondary education or a vehicle registered under a business name. LightStream does not offer financing to businesses either; you are only able to apply for a loan as an individual.

‘The Rate Beat’ program

Here’s an incentive to shop around and compare rates: LightStream will beat competitor rates by 0.10% APR. You must show that you’ve been approved by a lender for a lower rate and meet other eligibility criteria before LightStream will beat the competitor rate.

Here are the terms and conditions for the Rate Beat program:

  • The lower interest rate you find with another lender can’t be from an employee discount or other special that’s not available to all customers.
  • The lower rate can’t be through any rate-subsidized programs.
  • The lower rate you get from a competing lender must be for a loan that has the same amount, loan term loan purpose and payment method (such as auto-pay).
  • The offer expires at 2 p.m. EST on the business day before your loan is funded.

Consider shopping for other loans before going to LightStream so that if you do receive a lower offer, you can try to take advantage of the Rate Beat program.

‘Loan Experience Guarantee’

The next benefit that LightStream offers borrowers is the Loan Experience Guarantee. If you’re not satisfied with the loan process, LightStream will give you $100 for completing a questionnaire within 30 days of receiving your loan.

Eligibility requirements

  • Minimum credit score: LightStream seeks candidates with “good credit.”
  • Minimum credit history: LightStream looks for borrowers who have several years of credit history, a mix of accounts, stable income, few (if any) delinquencies and a proven ability to save money.
  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: Not specified

LightStream is clear about offering loans to borrowers with good credit, although a specific credit score minimum isn’t specified. What constitutes good or excellent credit is subjective: A credit score of 670 or above is generally considered good, while a score of 740 or above is generally considered very good or excellent.

Despite not specifying a minimum credit score or maximum debt-to-income ratio, LightStream does outline some key characteristics of borrowers who tend to qualify for a Lightstream loan.

  • Borrowers with good credit have several years of credit history (excellent borrowers tend to have five years or more of credit history).
  • Borrowers have a credit history that includes many different types of accounts, such as credit cards, installment loans and mortgages.
  • Borrowers show evidence of being able to save through liquid assets, retirement savings, etc.
  • Borrowers have few late payments (excellent borrowers tend to have credit reports with no deliquences at all).

Applying for a personal loan from LightStream

The LightStream application process is straightforward. You apply online which requires a hard pull. There is no preapproval with a soft pull available. LightStream first asks why you want the loan, how much you want to borrow and which loan term length you need. The next step is to tell LightStream your personal information.

You should receive a response quickly if you apply during business hours. After an approval, you can e-sign your loan documents and set up funding. You can get money as soon as the same day if your application is approved and all required steps are completed before 2:30 p.m. EST on a business day.

Pros and cons of a LightStream personal loan

Pros:

Cons:

  • Low rates. LightStream has highly competitive rates to offer borrowers who qualify.
  • ‘Rate Beat’ and other guarantees. LightStream will beat other rates if you can prove that another lender will give you a more affordable loan. LightStreamalso takes pride in the ease of the application process — if you have complaints about it, you can reach out to LightStream and they’ll give you $100 for your trouble. Terms apply.
  • Large and small loans. You can borrow from $5,000 to $100,000.
  • Long loan terms. Loan terms are available from 24 to 144 months.
  • Credit requirements. While LightStream does not specify a minimum credit score for borrowers, it generally looks for people with “good” credit. This typically means a score of at least 670, potentially putting borrowers with lower scores out of the running.
  • There’s a hard pull. There’s no preapproval process to check rates with a soft pull, so you won’t be able to see if your credit is strong enough to qualify without taking the hard hit. Check out our personal loan comparison tool, which includes loans that don’t require a hard pull.

Who’s the best fit for a LightStream personal loan?

People with good credit tend to get the most competitive interest rates on loans, for good reason — in the eyes of lenders, they are less likely to default on a loan, thus making them a lower risk.

In this case, LightStream is clear that it focuses on rewarding borrowers who have good credit with loans that have no fees and low interest rates because they’ve demonstrated an ability to manage debt responsibly. The LightStream loan is one that you should consider putting at the top of your shopping list if you have good credit or better, because of its perks and price.

Besides the cost, another plus is that LightStream lets you borrow high amounts of cash for almost any reason, as long as it’s not for college tuition or a vehicle registered to a business. It also offers long loan terms that allow you to stretch out your payments. Keep in mind, however, that the lowest interest rates are available for loans of $5,000 to $100,000 with loan terms of 24 to 144 months. You can borrow a higher amount for a longer period, but it may cost you more money.

What stands out as a potential downside of this loan is that a hard pull on your credit is necessary to check rates. But don’t let a fear of hard inquiries prevent you from shopping around for the best deals. A hard pull will typically cost you 5 to 10 points on your credit score — a trade-off that might ultimately be worth it when you consider the savings you could gain from qualifying with a low-cost lender like LightStream. We have discussed the impact of credit inquiries in this post — the effect on your credit may be minimal considering the potential benefit.

If you meet the conditions of what’s considered good or excellent credit, you may find that a LightStream loan is one of the better personal loans that you may find for your situation online. Check out other personal loan options here to compare products. This roundup includes many loans that allow you to check rates with a soft pull.

LightStream consumer reviews

One of the best ways to assess an offer is to read about other customers’ experiences with the lender. The Better Business Bureau has given LightStream an A+ rating, and it’s also earned 4.1 out of 5 stars from reviewers on LendingTree, the parent company of MagnifyMoney.

Customers who reviewed LightStream on LendingTree — which owns MagnifyMoney — are, by and large, satisfied with the interest rates, fees and closing costs, customer service and responsiveness. Borrowers praise LightStream for having a “straightforward, simple, delightful loan process,” “great rates and fast response” and “lightning fast closing.” Many customers were also pleased that LightStream funded their loans the same day they were approved.

While there is far more praise than criticism of LightStream on LendingTree, some customers said they were denied for loans even though they had a high credit score and income and they were unable to connect with the company by phone. Overall, though, borrowers seem generally happy with their experience with LightStream.

LightStream FAQ

LightStream does not specify a minimum credit score for borrowers. Instead, the company looks for individuals with at least “good” credit, which typically means the borrower has several years of credit history, multiple types of accounts, a decent history of on-time payments, evidence of an ability to save and a “stable and sufficient income.”

While you can apply for a LightStream loan for educational expenses related to pre-K through grade 12, the company does not offer funding for college or post-secondary education. The company does not offer refinancing for student loans.

LightStream borrowers do not incur any fees from the company.

LightStream says customers will receive a response “shortly” after applying online, if done during business hours.

LightStream loans can be used for a wide variety of purposes, including dental bills, home improvements, adoption expenses, horses and jewelry. The company requires that you use the money from the loan for the purpose you indicated in your application. You are not allowed to use the loan to refinance an existing LightStream loan, pay for college tuition or post-secondary education, buy stocks and bonds or purchase a vehicle that will be registered under a business name.

LightStream does not offer pre-approvals for loans. Potential borrowers must fill out the online application to see if they’re approved.

LightStream uses its “easy, fast and virtually paperless loan process” as a selling point to potential borrowers. If you’re not happy with your experience, the company will offer you $100 for filling out a questionnaire within 30 days of receiving funding for your loan.

LightStream is considered SunTrust Bank’s online lending division. Borrowers do not have to be account holders at SunTrust Bank to qualify for a loan from LightStream.

Alternative personal loan options

SoFi

SoFi
APR

5.74%
To
16.24%

Credit Req.

680

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

24 to 84

months

Origination Fee

No origination fee

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

Advertiser Disclosure

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


Fixed rates from 5.990% APR to 16.240% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 5.75% APR to 14.60% APR (with AutoPay). SoFi rate ranges are current as of March 18, 2019 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 5.75% APR assumes current 1-month LIBOR rate of 2.50% plus 4.28% margin minus 0.25% AutoPay discount. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account.

All rates, terms, and figures are subject to change by the lender without notice. For the most up-to-date information, visit the lender's website directly. To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull.

See Consumer Licenses.

SoFi Personal Loans are not available to residents of MS. Minimum loan requirements might be higher than $5,000 in specific states due to legal requirements. Fixed and variable-rate caps may be lower in some states due to legal requirements and may impact your eligibility to qualify for a SoFi loan.

If you lose your job through no fault of your own, you may apply for Unemployment Protection. SoFi will suspend your monthly SoFi loan payments and provide job placement assistance during your forbearance period. Interest will continue to accrue and will be added to your principal balance at the end of each forbearance period, to the extent permitted by applicable law. Benefits are offered in three month increments, and capped at 12 months, in aggregate, over the life of the loan. To be eligible for this assistance you must provide proof that you have applied for and are eligible for unemployment compensation, and you must actively work with our Career Advisory Group to look for new employment. If the loan is co-signed the unemployment protection applies where both the borrower and cosigner lose their job and meet conditions.

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)

SoFi is another lender that offers no-fee personal loans with competitive, fixed interest rates that you can use for a variety of reasons. You can borrow large amounts with SoFi — $5,000 to $100,000. Perks offered by SoFi include access to financial advisors and unemployment protection for borrowers. You can check rates with a soft pull.

Marcus by Goldman Sachs®

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.

Marcus by Goldman Sachs® is another personal loan that has absolutely no fees. You can borrow up to $40,000, get approval within five minutes and receive your funds in about one to four business days after verifying your bank account. Plus, checking rates doesn’t require a hard inquiry. Interest rates are typically higher for the longer term loans, and borrowers with excellent credit will get the lowest rates.

Upgrade

Upgrade
APR

7.99%
To
35.89%

Credit Req.

620

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

36 or 60

months

Origination Fee

1.50% - 6.00%

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

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

Upgrade is the only lender included in this review that charges an origination fee. This lender may be an option for people with less than stellar credit, as the credit score minimum is just 620. You can borrow up to $50,000 from Upgrade, and check your rate without a hard inquiry. Upgrade can send money to your bank account in as little as one business day after your personal information is verified.

Joni Sweet contributed to the reporting for this article.

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.

Taylor Gordon
Taylor Gordon |

Taylor Gordon is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Taylor here

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