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Best of, Personal Loans

Best Options for Covering the Cost of Adoption

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

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.

adoption

You can’t put a price on the value of your child, but for couples who wish to adopt, the process can be quite costly. If you feel you are ready to start or grow your family through adoption but don’t have the funds to cover all the fees and expenses, you may want to consider an adoption loan.

What is the cost of adoption?

The cost of adoption can range enormously, based on factors such as whether you are adopting domestically or internationally, whether you are going with an agency or choosing a private adoption or whether you are adopting from foster care. The cost of going through an agency can be as much as $40,000, while an independent adoption is not that much less, at $34,000, according to AmericanAdoptions.com. An international adoption can run as high as $45,000, depending on the country from which you are adopting. The average cost of foster care adoption, however, is significantly less, at $2,744.

Whichever method you decide to choose, you may need some financial assistance. That is where an adoption loan can come in.

What is an adoption loan?

An adoption loan is essentially a personal loan you can take out to use for adoption-related costs. There are many personal loans on the market, so you shouldn’t limit your options as long as the loans you are considering are low-interest, have no or low fees and offer flexible repayment terms.

If you search online for the term “adoption loans,” you may find a few offers, but it’s best to search first for personal loans to broaden your search and help you locate the best loan option for you.

Here, to help you get started, are some of the best personal loans to use for adoption.

What to watch out for

Before you choose a loan for adoption costs, there are a few things you need to watch out for. Consider a realistic amount, for one. You may be able to cover some of the costs on your own, but some lenders who offer personal loans for adoption may encourage you to take out more than you need.

When taking out a loan, only you know how much you truly need, so it’s important to research the process thoroughly and formulate a realistic amount of expenses you can’t cover with your savings.

Another thing to watch out for is how some lenders may prey on couples’ vulnerability and eagerness to adopt. Companies who send out messages like “your child’s life is worth any cost” should be examined with caution.

When you take out a personal loan, you should always look at how affordable it will be. Is the interest rate low? Is there an origination fee, or any hidden fees? How short or long are the terms? Is there a prepayment penalty?

Ask yourself all of these questions and make sure you are positive about the answers and comfortable with them before you take out a loan. As with any loan, you’ll ideally want something low interest, with no fees and no prepayment penalties.

Be wary, too, of lenders promising affordable loans for people with bad credit, as this is almost never possible. In order to secure a low interest rate for your loan, you generally need to have good credit.

Affordable adoption loan requirements

LightStreamallows you to borrow anywhere from $5,000 to $100,000 with fixed APRs that range from 3.99% to 16.99% (with autopay). Terms range from 24 to 144 months, and the shorter your term is, the lower your rate may be. No origination fee means your loan costs will be lower. There will be a Hard Pull of your credit report upon applying.

APR

3.99%
To
16.99%

Credit Req.

Not specified

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 without AutoPay may be 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.

America’s Christian Credit Union specializes in adoption loans and lends up to $50,000, which should be more than enough to cover adoption expenses. Annual percentage rates start at 5.99% but can range from 8.90% to 10.90% for most borrowers. Borrowers have up to 84 months to pay back their loan, and the loan is good for domestic and international adoptions. This lender also offers home equity loans, with no closing costs or annual fees, to use for adoption costs. This includes a quarterly adjustable HELOC with a current starting APR of 3.5% and an annual adjustable HELOC with a current starting APR of 4%.

America’s Christian Credit Union
APR

8.90%
To
10.90%

Credit Req.

0

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

84

months

Origination Fee

0.00% - 0.00%

APPLY NOW Secured

on America’s Christian Credit Union’s secure website

SoFi is a popular lender offering a variety of personal loans at competitive rate and terms. Borrowers can receive anywhere from $5,000 to $100,000 with fixed APRs ranging from 5.99% to 17.67% and variable APRs ranging from 6.40% to 12.70% as long as borrowers sign up with autopay. Terms are 24 to 84 months, and there is no origination fee required.

SoFi
APR

5.99%
To
17.67%

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 17.67% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 5.60% APR to 14.700% APR (with AutoPay). SoFi rate ranges are current as of August 7, 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 5.60% APR assumes current 1-month LIBOR rate of 2.27% plus 3.08% 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)

Upstart offers quick and easy approvals for loans up to $50,000 with APRs ranging from 4.73% to 35.99%. Borrowers need at least a minimum credit score of 620 to qualify. Loan terms are 36 or 60 months, and there is no early repayment fee. There is, however, an origination fee of 0.00% - 8.00% to keep in mind.

APR

4.73%
To
35.99%

Credit Req.

620

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

36 or 60

months

Origination Fee

0.00% - 8.00%

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

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

Adoption grants

Before you look into loan options, you should see if you qualify for any grants to help fund the costs of adoption. An adoption grant can help provide you with partial funding throughout the adoption process to ease the financial burden.

There are quite a few adoption grants available, but most have specific criteria. For example, in order to qualify for a grant, you may need to adopt through a licensed agency, or adopt within the country.

National Adoption Foundation. This organization has very few strict requirements, and considers single adults who wish to adopt. The program has no exclusions based on race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation or income, and awards grants ranging from $500 to $2,000 depending on the needs of the family and the circumstances surrounding the adoption.

HelpUsAdopt.org. This organization awards grants to couples, singles and LGBT applicants who are U.S. citizens and wish to adopt. Recipients can use the funds for private, agency or domestic adoption, and award amounts range from $500 to $15,000. The organization awards grants in February, May, August and September.

A Child Waits Foundation. If you are adopting internationally and your annual household income does not exceed $130,000, you may qualify for an adoption grant from this agency, as long as you are a U.S. or Canadian citizen. Applicants can apply for a grant no sooner than three to four months prior to when their family makes their final adoption trip. There is a $20 application fee and grant amounts typically do not exceed $7,000.

Bottom line

If you need funding to help you adopt a child, it’s best to consider all your options and try to obtain a grant along with a low-interest loan to help cover the rest of your financial needs. You can take a look at more personal loan options for adoption all in one chart with our comparison tool.

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.

Chonce Maddox
Chonce Maddox |

Chonce Maddox is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Chonce at [email protected]

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Personal Loans

5 Personal Loans for Fertility Treatments

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

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.

stephanie pregnant_lg

The excitement of starting a family can turn into despair if you face difficulty getting pregnant. Thankfully, treatments including medications and surgery can make parenthood a possibility for couples having trouble conceiving on their own. However, these treatments may not always be covered by medical insurance; whether all or part of an infertility procedure is covered will depend on your insurance plan and where you live (some states have laws mandating coverage).

In vitro fertilization, or IVF, is one procedure in particular that insurance may not cover. A cycle of IVF can cost $12,400 on average, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Because success with IVF may require more than one cycle, the entire process can get quite expensive.

Instead of paying for fertility treatments out of pocket, a low-interest personal loan may be a solution. Here are just some of the many available personal loans to consider.

SoFi – Fixed rates starting at 5.99% APR

SoFi offers personal loans from $5,000 to $100,000 to cover medical costs. Terms are 24 to 84 months. Both fixed- and variable-interest loans are available. A variable-interest loan means your interest will fluctuate based on an index. SoFi does have a variable interest cap for personal loans. Generally, you should stick with a fixed-interest personal loan because your rate will stay the same throughout the entire term.

A variable-interest loan is only worth considering if you can pay it off quickly. In this scenario, you take advantage of very low interest for a short time and then pay off the loan before the interest changes. SoFi has no prepayment penalty, so you can do this without incurring a fee.

SoFi doesn’t charge for origination either. If you lose your job, SoFi has a unique borrower benefit as well. You may be able to pause payments until you find another position.

SoFi
APR

5.99%
To
17.67%

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 17.67% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 5.60% APR to 14.700% APR (with AutoPay). SoFi rate ranges are current as of August 7, 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 5.60% APR assumes current 1-month LIBOR rate of 2.27% plus 3.08% 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)

Earnest – Fixed rates starting at 5.99% APR

Earnest offers personal loans from $5,000 to $75,000. Loans have competitive interest and a streamlined online application process. Terms are 36 to 60 months. There are no application or origination fees. If you pay off the loan early, there are no prepayment penalties either.

Earnest takes a look at your entire financial profile, including your savings habits and earning potential, to qualify you for a loan. Most approved Earnest applicants are employed or have an offer letter, have at least a month’s worth of expenses in savings and enough monthly income to support their regular expenses and loan payments. Earnest will do a Hard Pull of your credit report when you apply.

Earnest
APR

5.99%
To
17.24%

Credit Req.

680

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

36 to 60

months

Origination Fee

No origination fee

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

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

Lending Club – Fixed rates starting at 6.95% APR

Lending Club is a peer-to-peer lender that offers fixed-rate loans, and also promotes fertility loan options. You can borrow $1,000 to $40,000. Loan terms are 36 or 60 months. Once approved for a Lending Club loan, you get a credit rating and loan options from which to choose. After accepting your loan terms, the loan appears in the marketplace where investors select loans to invest in.

Lending Club does charge an origination fee of 1.00% - 6.00%. How much you’ll pay for origination depends on the credit rating Lending Club assigns you. That credit rating is determined using factors including your credit history and credit score. Lending Club has no prepayment penalties.

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

LightStream – Fixed rates starting at 3.99% APR (with auto pay)

You can borrow $5,000 to $100,000 from LightStream for family planning, including fertility treatments and adoption. Loan terms are 24 to 144 months. To qualify for the lowest rates with LightStream, you need to have at least five or more years of positive credit history, no delinquencies, a stable income and money in savings.

The LightStream loan is transparent with fees. There are no fees for origination or early payment of the loan. LightStream also has a “rate beat” program. If you get approved for a personal loan by another lender with a lower interest rate, LightStream will try to beat that rate. The competitor loan must meet certain requirements to qualify for the program. LightStream doesn’t offer preapprovals at this time and will do a Hard Pull on your credit history at application.

APR

3.99%
To
16.99%

Credit Req.

Not specified

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 without AutoPay may be 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.

Upstart – Starting at 4.73% APR

Upstart has personal loans from $1,000 to $50,000 that can cover various life expenses including medical bills. Loans are available at 36 or 60 month terms. Upstart takes into account more than your credit history to decide whether you qualify. Your education and job history will also be considered.

At a minimum, you need a 620 credit score to qualify for this loan. You must also have no more than six inquiries on your report over the past six months. Like Lending Club, Upstart charges an origination fee. You’ll have to pay 0.00% - 8.00% for loan processing. Depending upon your risk profile, interest rates can be as high as 35.99% APR.

APR

4.73%
To
35.99%

Credit Req.

620

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

36 or 60

months

Origination Fee

0.00% - 8.00%

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

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

Other options to pay for IVF

There are options besides personal loans to help you pay for IVF if you can’t afford to pay out of pocket. Here are a few.

  1. Health savings account (HSA). An HSA is a tax-advantaged savings vehicle that allows you to contribute pre-tax dollars to a fund you can tap for out-of-pocket medical expenses. If you have a high-deductible health insurance plan, you should have access to an HSA. If you’ve saved up a good amount in your HSA, these funds can be used to help pay for your IVF treatments. There are limits to how much you can contribute each year; in 2019, the limits are $3,500 for an individual and $7,000 for a family.
  2. Home equity loan. If you own your home and have a decent amount of equity, you might consider taking out a home equity loan, or applying for a home equity line of credit, to pay for your IVF treatments. Keep in mind the risks involved, however. If you cannot repay your home equity loan, you are putting your homeownership in danger. Only consider taking out such a loan if you know you can repay it with no problem.
  3. Credit card. Paying for your IVF treatment with a credit card may not be the best option, as the interest rates can be very high. However, if you are able to obtain a 0% interest card and pay all or most of the charges off before the promotional period ends and your rate rises, using your credit card may be the right choice.

Bottom line

While the loans noted here have competitive interest rates, it’s best to first consider those without an origination fee. Remember, you need to have an excellent credit score and a positive credit history to qualify for the very lowest interest rates with any of these companies.

Upstart and Lending Club could be good fallback options if you have trouble getting approved elsewhere. Both may qualify you with a credit score below 650.

You can also turn to RESOLVE, the national infertility association, for an extensive current list of infertility financing programs. These include CapexMD, EggFund and Prosper Healthcare Lending.

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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Up to $50,000

$

Won’t impact your credit score

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Personal Loans

What Is a Loan Agreement and What Does One Look Like?

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

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iStock

If you’re taking out any kind of loan, you should be familiar with the contract that will dictate the terms of that loan. Your loan agreement will tell you about responsibilities and expectations on both the lender side and the borrower side. Here we will focus mainly on agreements for personal loans.

What is a personal loan agreement?

When taking out any kind of loan, including a personal loan, you’ll have to sign a loan agreement in order for a loan company to disburse the funds to you. This agreement may also be called a promissory note.

The loan agreement is a legal contract that specifies the responsibilities and expectations of both the lender and borrower in the transaction. It’s important to understand the terms and conditions of the loan in order to avoid getting into a precarious financial situation after taking it out.

The importance of these agreements is that they will also be a guide in the case of a breach or violation on either side, said Brian Locker, partner at Fowler St. Clair in Mesa, Ariz. Locker practices civil litigation and regularly represents consumers with claims against lenders and businesses.

“In the event of any conflict between you and the lender during the term of the loan, the resolution will almost certainly be dictated by the terms of that agreement,” Locker said.

For example, there may be steep penalties for missing payments or provisions in an agreement that allow the lender to sue you in court and require you to pay the legal fees in case of default.

These are very serious repercussions, so it’s best to know if you are exposing yourself to these risks before signing your name on the dotted line.

What is a personal loan?

Before signing a loan agreement, you should have full knowledge of the kind of loan you are taking out. One such loan may be a personal loan.

You can get a personal loan from a bank, credit union or online lender. Personal loans can be used for a variety of purposes such as consolidating debt, renovating a home or covering emergency expenses. Some personal loans have stipulations (usually stated in the agreement) on what you can and cannot use the money for.

These types of personal loans are generally unsecured loans. Unlike a home loan or auto loan, these loans are not secured by any type of collateral. These loans are also different from credit cards because you receive a lump sum of borrowed money upfront, and there is a fixed amount of time in which the loan has to be paid off. When dealing with a bank or finance company for a personal loan, you must sign a loan agreement before you receive the money you’re borrowing.

“Personal loan” may also refer to borrowing money from a private party, such as a loan between family members or friends.

How can I get a personal loan?

As mentioned, unsecured personal loans are usually not backed by an asset, meaning the lender may not seize an asset and sell it to recoup the loan amount if you fail to repay it. If you don’t pay back the loan in this case, the lender could lose the money it provided.

To mitigate this risk, personal loan lenders often set strict borrower criteria and qualifications for unsecured loans. Personal loan companies will look closely at your credit score, existing debt obligations and income history during the application process.

Some lenders will allow you to see loan rates you might qualify for by doing a soft pull on your credit report (soft pulls don’t affect your credit). Other lenders may generate a hard inquiry record on your credit report, which could negatively affect your credit score. Make sure you know whether the lender is conducting a soft or hard pull on your credit before you request a rate quote.

Why do you need a loan agreement?

Though the general public can be distrusting of lenders and especially wary of the contracts they’ll sign to borrow money, rest assured that your loan agreement can actually give you rights in the lending process as well.

Rebecca Neale of the Personal Finance Lawyer is a family law attorney whose work often intersects with consumer law issues.

“Just because a loan contract specifies what happens in case of default doesn’t mean that the lender expects you to default,” said Neale. “The purpose is to inform both parties of their responsibilities and liabilities in case of default.”

Loan agreements, in part, make sure banks can lend money affordably. To do so, they must manage the risk of default by giving borrowers clear, consistent terms for repayment.

Loan agreements should also be in place when lending money to friends and family. You may think a formal document isn’t needed for a transaction with loved ones, but the IRS has restrictions on money flowing between individuals. According to the gift tax, individuals are allowed to give up to $15,000 to any one person before tax implications kick in (this means married couples can give up to $30,000).

Your loan agreement for private-party loans will prove to the IRS that the money is not a gift and therefore not subject to the gift tax (which the giver usually pays). Plus, a loan agreement with clear terms and repayment guidelines can help save personal relationships that could otherwise be ruined by money misunderstandings.

These personal loan agreements between private parties are not hard to find. You can do a quick search online for “personal loan agreement templates,” or ask an attorney to draw one up for you. The cost may be well worth it to have a clear understanding of each person’s responsibility in a personal loan situation.

What is contained in a loan agreement?

When it comes to dealing with commercial entities such as banks or financial companies, most lenders have a standard personal loan agreement that serves as a binding contract for borrowers.

Here are the standard sections and items you’ll see in your personal loan agreement:

Principal loan amount

This is how much money you are borrowing. Personal loans typically range from $5,000 to $100,000.

Borrower, cosigner and lender information

This will contain personal identification information for borrowers, such as name and address. The lender’s information will also be in the contract.

Interest amount, calculation method and rate type

There are many combinations of interest types and rates possible for personal loans. Most personal loans are amortizing, which means payments are equally spaced with a simple (not compound) interest rate. This rate is often expressed as an annual percentage rate (APR). But there are other options and terms you should know about when it comes to these loan variations:

  • Compound interest: Interest charged on a total outstanding loan balance, including the principal and previously accrued interest.
  • Simple interest: Interest charged on a principal balance that is not then added to the principal balance.
  • Variable interest rate: An interest rate that changes over time, often based on prevailing market interest rates.
  • Fixed interest rate: An interest rate that does not change over time.
  • APR: The cost of borrowing money over the course of a year, including interest and fees, expressed as an interest rate.
  • Interest rate: The cost of borrowing money, expressed as a percentage of the loan amount.

If you are unsure of how the terms will affect your monthly payment, check the Truth in Lending Disclosure for your loan, which will give you a summary of your loan agreement for review purposes. It’s usually given to you by the lender before you officially accept the loan by signing the agreement. This disclosure is not your loan agreement but is useful for knowing upfront the costs of borrowing money before entering into the loan contract.

Date of loan transaction

This serves as the first date of your loan term.

Loan repayment term length

The term is how long you will take to pay the loan back. Terms for personal loans vary and are often between six and 84 months.

Loan payment method and due date

This section informs you of where to send your payment and the date it is due each month. If you don’t send your payment in accordance with the contract, your payment could be considered late or missed. Furthermore, changing repayment methods could increase your initial APR (e.g., paying with a check versus automatic [ACH] withdrawal.)

Return payment fees

If for some reason your payment is returned, this is the fee you will be charged.

Origination fees

Some lenders charge fees to process a loan application. This can be expressed as a flat fee or a percentage of your loan amount. The origination fee is often deducted from your initial loan disbursement from the lender.

Prepayment fees and penalties

You may be subject to penalties or fees for paying off a loan before the term is over.

Application of payment

This explains how your payments are applied and in what order they are applied to the principal, fees, interest, etc.

Penalties for missed and/or late payments

This section will tell you what exactly constitutes a late or missed payment.

State law notices

Contains special notices and legal provisions for residents of certain states.

What happens if the loan contract is violated?

A loan contract can be violated in a number of ways. On the borrower side, a violation may occur when a lender determines the borrower is in default. Default can happen for a variety of reasons, from missing payments to misusing loan funds.

In this case, the lender can demand funds be repaid in full. In addition, the borrower may have to agree to pay all costs of collecting delinquent payments and reasonable attorneys’ fees.

J.R. Skrabanek is a consumer law attorney and senior counsel at The Snell Law Firm, in Texas. He said that, when consumers violate a loan contract, there may be recourse if they actually show up in court. “In general, courts may be more willing to forgive unsophisticated consumers for mistaken contract violations than large companies,” he said. “However, contracts are usually enforced as written, and you very often have to go to court to enforce your rights.”

On the lender side, it’s rare that loan agreements are violated. However, lenders that engage in predatory lending practices or illegal debt collection practices could be violating state and federal laws that expressly forbid these kinds of activities. Skrabanek said such things may not violate the loan contract but may be punishable under regulations such as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Common legal terms

  • Usury and predatory protections: Laws that protect consumers from illegal and harmful lending practices.
  • Mandatory arbitration: A clause that requires borrowers to agree to an arbitration process to settle disputes over a loan agreement.
  • Breach or default: Failure to fulfill a contract obligation.
  • Contract length and amortization: Defines the loan term and whether or not loan payments are fully or partially amortized over that term.
  • Choice of law: States the jurisdiction under which the provisions of the loan agreement will be governed.
  • Severability clause: States that if some parts of the loan agreement are found to be illegal or otherwise unenforceable, the remaining provisions are still valid and enforceable.
  • Entire agreement clause: States that the loan agreement presented is complete.
  • Default provisions: Defines criteria that constitute a default event for borrowers.
  • Loan security: The collateral (some type of asset) pledged for a loan.

Bottom line

A personal loan agreement exists to protect both you and the lender. Before you take out a loan, make sure you have a full understanding of what this agreement entails, and what all the terms involved mean.

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Aja McClanahan
Aja McClanahan |

Aja McClanahan is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Aja here

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