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Updated on Friday, November 16, 2018
Most people know their credit score is a three-digit number that represents their credit health, but that doesn’t mean they know how their credit score is determined or why it’s so important. Many consumers also fail to realize they have some power over their credit scores, including the ability to improve their score time.
If you’re wondering about the credit score needed for a personal loan, it’s crucial to understand the inner workings of your credit score and how it might impact your ability to qualify for the cash you need.
In this guide, we offer up information on the minimum credit score required for a personal loan, along with additional details on credit scores and where you can get yours for free.
What is a credit score?
While the term “credit score” is used widely to describe the score you’re assigned based on your creditworthiness, there are several different types of credit scores available. The most popular credit score is the FICO Score, which was created by the Fair Isaac Corporation. This score, measured on a scale from 300 to 850, is used by 90% of lenders who are making credit-related decisions each year, according to FICO.
VantageScore is the biggest competitor to FICO and its most current version, V3, uses the same 300-850 range of scores to describe consumer creditworthiness. Other credit scores include TransRisk, Experian’s National Equivalency Score, CreditXpert Credit Score, CE Credit Score, and Insurance Score.
While each type of credit score works differently, they all consider a similar set of information to determine where you stand. The big differences between them are based on how much weight they give each factor they compare.
As an example, the FICO scoring model uses the following criteria to determine your credit score:
- Payment history: 35%
- Debts/amounts owed: 30%
- Age of credit history: 15%
- New credit: 10%
- Credit mix: 10%
With Vantage Score, on the other hand, different factors play a larger role in the score you’re assigned. Look how Vantage Score is determined, and you’ll see what we mean:
|6 factors in your VantageScore|
Age and type of credit
Credit utilization (amounts owed)
If you don’t know your credit score but want to find out what it is right now, you can get your free credit score using My LendingTree. The services help you monitor your credit and find ways to improve it.
Some credit cards, like the Discover it® Cash Back, provide a free FICO® score on your monthly statement as a cardholder perk. You can also get your FICO® score for free with a service called Credit Scorecard. This service is available to you whether you are a Discover customer or not.
How do banks use credit scores?
When you apply for a personal loan, your lender will pull one of your credit scores from at least one of the credit reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion. At that point, they will take a close look at your score to determine your creditworthiness.
“Credit scores are used to determine the risk of doing business with an applicant,” said credit expert John Ulzheimer. “If your score or scores are good enough and you have a sufficient income, then you’re likely to be approved.”
Keep in mind, however, that your credit score is only one factor a lender will consider when deciding whether to approve you for a personal loan.
“Banks also look at your entire credit report, your debt-to-income ratio (DTI), employment history, any items you own that can be used as collateral, and so on,” said Beverly Harzog, credit card expert and consumer finance analyst for U.S. News & World Report.
In summary, you will likely need to have more than a sufficient credit score for a personal loan if you hope to qualify. You will also need to have a proof of income and employment, an acceptable debt-to-income ratio (a DTI below 35 percent is a good goal to shoot for), and a solid credit history that shows you have used credit responsibly in the past.
What credit score is needed for a personal loan?
When it comes to minimum credit score requirements for personal loans, there is no hard and fast rule. According to myFICO.com, a credit score of 670 or above is generally considered “good” and acceptable. This means that an applicant who applies for a personal loan with a score of 670 may qualify, but they may or may not receive the best interest rate or terms.
But that doesn’t mean a consumer with a credit score of 620 can’t get a loan, said Harzog; “it just means that the interest rate will be high.”
That’s because, generally speaking, those with low credit scores usually pay much higher interest rates if they can qualify for a loan. However, the opposite is also true since a high credit score will usually get you a loan with your lowest interest rates and best terms.
How much will your interest rate vary based on your credit score? That depends on your lender, where you live, and other factors. For example, at Wells Fargo, a $5,000 personal loan with a repayment period of sixty months offers the following rates based on a calculator they offer on their website as of November 14, 2018:
- Excellent credit (score of 760 or above): 11.49% to 13.74%
- Good credit (score of 700 to 759): 11.49% to 18.49%
- Fair credit (score of 621 to 699): 18.49% to 24.49%
- Poor credit (score of 620 or below): 19.99% to 24.49%
In terms of transparency, not all lenders offer the type of detail Wells Fargo does with their loan payment calculator. While some lenders list their credit score requirements online, others remain vague or refuse to commit to a minimum credit score cutoff altogether.
For example, Marcus by Goldman Sachs lists that only consumers with “excellent credit” qualify for their personal loans with the lowest rates, but they don’t list a minimum credit score requirement or explain their minimum cutoff for a great credit score. On the other hand, student loan refinance company and personal loan lender Earnest lists directly on their website a minimum credit score requirement of 680.
If you’d like to explore personal loan options, you can use this tool from LendingTree to see offers from up to five different lenders. You’ll input information about yourself and what you want out of a loan. If you qualify, the tool with spit out lender offers you can review.
As you begin comparing lenders for a personal loan, it’s important to keep in mind that credit score requirements, interest rates and transparency about internal processes will vary greatly. Ulzheimer also said that requirements also vary by lender since some “target a higher risk population.”
“For some lenders, a 580 may be good enough,” he said. “It’s not uniform.” (You can see personal loans for bad credit here.)
What can you do if your credit score is too low for a loan?
If you can’t qualify for the personal loan you want, it’s crucial to be aware of some of the risks that come with personal loan alternatives. Payday loans and title loans may make it easy to access cash, but they do so at an exorbitant cost. Interest rates on payday loans can surge up to 780% when you factor in fees, and title loans can lead to you having your car repossessed if you don’t pay them back in full when they’re due.
Consequently, it’s smart to avoid borrowing money unless you absolutely must.
“If you’re in a position where you need to rebuild your credit, it’s not a good idea to take on more debt,” said Harzog. “Instead, you should take some steps to improve your credit score over time, such as paying down debt to decrease your utilization, making sure all your bills are paid early or on time, and refraining from opening or closing accounts while you try to boost your score.
Harzog also noted that you should check your credit report for free with all three credit reporting agencies on AnnualCreditReport.com. If you find a negative note on your report that is inaccurate and take the time to dispute it, this could help your credit score tremendously.
In lieu of taking the time to improve your credit score before you apply for a loan, here are a few additional options to consider:
- Get quotes from bad credit lenders. While lenders who focus on people with bad credit should be an option of last resort, you can consider them. Just remember that you may pay an extremely high interest rate if your credit is poor. With NetCredit Personal Loans, for example, your APR could be as high as 155.00%.
- Get a cosigner. If you’re able to convince a family member or trusted friend with great credit to cosign on your loan, you could have a better chance at qualifying with a lower interest rate.
- Apply for a secured loan. Secured loans require you to put down collateral, but they tend to offer lower rates and may be easier to qualify for. If you have home equity you can borrow against, a car that is paid off, or a retirement account with a healthy balance, for example, you may be able to take out a secured loan.
- Borrow from family and friends. If a lender won’t give you the time of day or you want to avoid high interest rates, you can also try borrowing money from family or friends. Just make sure you have the means to pay your loan back — if you default and blow them off, you risk jeopardizing your relationship.
As low as 2.49%
Minimum 500 FICO®
24 to 60
LendingTree is not a lender. LendingTree is unique in that you may be able to compare up to five personal loan offers within minutes. Everything is done online and you may be pre-qualified by lenders without impacting your credit score. Terms Apply. NMLS #1136.
As of 17-May-19, LendingTree Personal Loan consumers were seeing match rates as low as 2.49% (2.49% APR) on a $20,000 loan amount for a term of three (3) years. Rates and APRs were based on a self-identified credit score of 700 or higher, zero down payment, origination fees of $0 to $100 (depending on loan amount and term selected). Terms Apply. NMLS #1136