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Personal Loans

Small Personal Loans: How to Find One and Qualify

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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Personal loans are the fastest-growing consumer debt in America, according to Experian.

Where a mortgage goes toward buying a home and an auto loan goes toward the purchase of a car, a personal loan can be used in myriad ways. This article will define small personal loans and walk you through a variety of ways to use and get them.

What is a small personal loan?

A small personal loan is defined as anything between $1,000 and $5,000, according to LendingTree, which owns MagnifyMoney. Because small personal loans usually have low interest rates for those with good credit and can be paid back over a relatively short amount of time (two to three years), they allow borrowers quick access to money that can be used at their discretion, unless otherwise specified.

When used wisely and paid back on time, small personal loans can reduce stress, help solve financial problems and build credit. If you’re in need of a few thousand dollars to cover an expense, a small personal loan is worth considering.

“When you have little to no credit history, a small, unsecured loan with a short term that is quickly repaid can help build a positive credit history,” said Tricia Cook, branch manager for First Utah Bank.

Small personal loans are commonly used to help consolidate debt into one manageable payment, but can also be used to pay for medical, dental or veterinary bills, remodels or home repairs, weddings or funeral costs and unexpected expenses, to name a few.

“Usually, small personal loans are applied for in emergency situations, for example, your roof is leaking and you need $5,000 to replace it before winter,” Cook said. “My experience at the bank has shown that small personal loan applications rarely feel like they are planned for and the applicant is desperate for money right now.”

Where to get a small personal loan online

Once you’ve determined you need a small personal loan to cover an expense, you’ll want to start shopping and comparing lenders.

LendingTree’s small personal loan comparison tool can point you in the right direction. Using it, you’ll input basic information about yourself and what you’re looking for in a loan. The tool may then spit out lenders and loan offers for you to consider.

LendingTree
APR

5.99%
To
35.99%

Credit Req.

Minimum 500 FICO

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

24 to 60

months

Origination Fee

Varies

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

LendingTree is our parent company

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

As you begin your search, consider these online lenders:

Upstart

Upstart offers loans with interest rates low as 8.09% and terms of up to five years. Upstart can be a good choice for small personal loans because it can lend as little as $1,000, depending on the state in which you live. Upstart can also be a good choice because it assesses more than credit score and credit history when determining a rate. It looks at the borrower’s education, area of study and work history for a more holistic picture of the borrower and their ability to repay. If you have a strong education and work history, you’ll likely benefit from a loan with Upstart. Upstart also allows you to pay off your loan on your terms without penalizing you.

APR

8.09%
To
35.99%

Credit Req.

620

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

36 & 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

Avant

Avant can be a smart option for those with a low credit score looking for a quick loan. If you qualify, funds can be accessed in as little as one business day. The minimum credit score required for an Avant loan is 580. If your credit score is hindering you from receiving a loan elsewhere, Avant may a good option for you. The minimum loan available is $2,000, with interest rates starting at 9.95% and terms up to 60 months.

APR

9.95%
To
35.99%

Credit Req.

Varies

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

24 to 60

months

Origination Fee

Up to 4.75%

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

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

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

LendingClub

LendingClub can offer small loans starting at $1,000 with interest rates as low as 6.95%. LendingClub offers loans to borrowers whose credit scores vary, but the minimum credit score is 600. If you’re looking for a small loan and have a strong credit history, this may be a smart option for you as you’ll likely get lower interest rates. But if you’re looking to receive your funds almost immediately, LendingClub may not be the best option as it takes about a week to receive your money.

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

Best Egg

Best Egg may be the lender for you if you’re looking for a fast and easy loan application process. Funds are deposited in as little as a day, and Best Egg offers interest rates as low as 5.99% to those who qualify. Best Egg analyzes three years’ worth of credit history and requires a 700 minimum credit score, so it may not be the best option for those with poor credit. Best Egg offers terms for up to five years and will loan as little as $2,000.

APR

Up to 5.99%
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.

Small loans from credit unions

Getting a small loan from a credit union is another option besides shopping for one online. Credit unions are regulated and insured nonprofits. They are often community-focused.

A credit union is a good place to get a small loan because you can become part of the credit union community, build relationships with the members and potentially get lower interests rates on your small loan.

When applying for a loan, credit unions will assess many factors, such as your credit report and ability to pay back the loan. When obtaining a loan from a credit union, come prepared with your Social Security number, proof of income and personal identification.

Check out personal loan offers at credit unions here.

Small loans from banks

Small loans can ease financial stress when used wisely. Working with a bank to get a small personal loan is a smart idea because the federal government heavily regulates banks. These regulations aim to protect the borrower from getting in too much debt.

Before granting you a loan, the bank will look at your financial history to assess how much money they can reasonably lend you. This will help ensure you are not in over your head when you get the money.

“The ability-to-repay rule [under the Truth in Lending Act] ensures that banks have looked at your current income and your current debt and are able to prove that you have the ability to repay the full balance, not just the monthly minimum payments,” Cook said. “A bank cannot lend to you in a way that would make you overextended.”

When shopping for a small loan from a major bank, you may consider local options such as Citibank or Wells Fargo. But you can review the best personal loans here.

Alternatives to a small personal loan

When you need to borrow money and do not wish to obtain a personal loan or cannot get one due to poor credit, there are a variety of other ways to get a loan. Here are four alternatives to a small personal loan from a bank or credit union.

1. Credit card

Using a credit card to make a purchase or pay off an expense is a viable option if you’re able to pay back the amount charged in full (and on time).

“Credit cards can be smart to have when you are smart with your spending and paying your bill to a zero balance each month,” Cook said. “People get into trouble when they use a credit card and buy things they truly can’t afford, even when the payments are split up over a few months.”

Most credit cards offer at least a 21-day grace period and will not charge interest in that time frame. After that period, if the balance is not paid in full, the cardholder will be charged interest on the remaining statement balance. Credit card interest averages 15%, so if you cannot pay it back quickly, a small personal loan is a better option as the interest rate is much lower and the monthly payment is fixed.

– Compare low interest credit cards here

2. Pawnshop loans

Pawnshop loans allow the borrower to take an item — often jewelry or electronics — to a pawnshop to be evaluated as collateral in exchange for quick cash.

“A pawnshop is a good choice if you want to sell something quickly and take the cash,” Cook said. “But if you truly intend to get your merchandise back, you’re in essence paying for that item twice. Ask yourself: ‘How much will I have paid for my belonging when I’m done?’”

The borrower typically has up to 90 days to repay a pawnshop loan — plus fees and interest, which can be upward of 200%. Pawnshop loans do not require a credit check, can be obtained quickly and do not negatively impact a borrower’s credit score if they are not paid back on time. While pawnshops are regulated by 15 federal laws, keep in mind that the interest rates incredibly high and you will likely lose your collateral should you default on the pawnshop loan.

3. Advance on paycheck

A payroll advance is a type of unsecured loan that allows an employer to release the employee’s pay ahead of time. Paycheck advances are usually used to cover an unexpected expense that must be paid immediately. If you can cover an expense with your upcoming paycheck but need it early, asking about an advance on the paycheck is worth considering.

Policies around paycheck advances differ by company, so it’s best to discuss terms with your HR department to see what options are available. But if using your entire advanced paycheck to cover an unexpected expense will disrupt your monthly budget, a small personal loan may still be your best option.

4. Borrowing from friends

Borrowing money from friends or family has its pros and cons. The upside of borrowing from a friend is you can set your own terms, negotiate interest rates (if any) and determine the repayment schedule. Friends or family who act as a lender may be more lenient with borrowing terms compared to a bank or credit union.

But asking someone close to you to borrow money can be awkward and potentially cause a strain on that relationship. Money can be a sensitive subject. When borrowing from a friend, ensure that both parties agree to the loan terms and are comfortable with the situation.

Avoid payday loans

Payday loans are short-term loans with incredibly high interest rates. Interest rates vary by state but can be upwards of 700% in some instances. Unless paid off in full on time, payday loans should be a last resort and avoided in most cases.

“The advice I’d give anyone is to stay away from a payday loan,” Cook said. “There is no one watching out for the borrower’s best interest. For example, you’ll see an ad that quotes their interest rate of 5%, which sounds good compared to the bank at 13%, but they fail to explain what’s in the fine print — that it’s 5% a month, not 5% APR (annual percentage rate).”

When you’re in need of a small personal loan, know that you have many options available to 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.

Sage Evans
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Sage Evans is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Sage here

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Top 5 Personal Loan Myths of 2019

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.

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When it comes to personal loans, many Americans are more likely to turn to credit cards as a way to pay emergency bills, enjoy a dream vacation, or pay for items they can’t afford with cash.

According to Experian, existing personal loan debt was at $273 billion in the second quarter of 2018, while existing credit card debt was at $782 billion in the same period.

But it also shows personal loans with a greater year-to-year change in debt growth than credit cards. Whether personal loans are a viable option for expenses depends, apparently, on who you ask.

Awareness seems to be a key factor. When people are in the dark about financial solutions, they will draw their own conclusions, often leading to false perceptions.

What are some of the myths about personal loans?

5 things people say about personal loans

Myths about personal loans have developed over two centuries, making them hard to debunk.

Fortunately, the internet makes it easier than ever to not just raise awareness about personal loans and to clarify misconceptions, but to find the lowest interest rates and apply for loans.

Personal loans have a difficult and lengthy application process

Before the internet, borrowers had to apply for a personal loan by visiting their bank. During the days of the Morris Plan banks, they often evaluated borrowers based on character and income. This may have meant dressing in your Sunday best and arriving for a meeting with a loan officer with stacks of paperwork, pay stubs and tax returns.

Today, applying for a personal loan is easier than applying for a home equity loan or a mortgage.

You can apply easily online in just a few clicks. Many lenders will ask you to provide your Social Security number, your monthly expenses — including any outstanding debt such as mortgages, car loans, student loans and credit card debt — and your income.

Keep in mind that applying for a personal loan may require a hard credit inquiry and could lower your credit score. If you can, try to pre-qualify for a loan before you apply.

You won’t qualify for a personal loan if you don’t have excellent credit

This common misconception couldn’t be further from the truth. Personal loans are available for borrowers with a FICO Score as low as 500, but you won’t get the best rates with a rock-bottom credit score.

Most lenders look for borrowers with a credit score of 670 or higher. But a score of 800 or more will net you the best terms and interest rates.

Personal loans have lower interest rates than credit cards

Unlike the other myths explored, this one has some truth to it. It all depends on your creditworthiness.

Borrowers with a credit score of 720 or higher get personal loans at an average APR of 7.09%, according to LendingTree data, which is lower than the current 14.73% average APR for credit cards. (Disclosure: MagnifyMoney is owned by LendingTree.)

But if your credit is between 660 and 679, the average APR for a personal loan jumps to 16.72%.

It might be smarter to open a credit card with a 0% introductory APR for balance transfers and pay down as much debt as you can during that introductory period. With on-time payments, your credit score will rise and you can continuing using the same process until your high-interest debt is paid off.

Personal loans have high interest rates

“Personal loans have high interest rates” and “personal loans have lower interest rates than credit cards” might seem to be contradictory misconceptions.

In fact, they show just how much confusion there is about personal loans. Some people perceive the rates to be too high, while others assume a personal loan will offer a lower interest rate than their existing credit card debt.

There is just not enough awareness about personal loans being a good option for many people.

So what’s the truth?

If you have an excellent credit score, you could qualify for a personal loan with single-digit interest rates, which is lower than most credit cards.

Personal loans are also a better option than predatory payday loans, which can have an APR of almost 400%.

But if you own a home, a secured loan such as a home equity loan or home equity line of credit will almost certainly deliver a lower interest rate than an unsecured personal loan.

Personal loans just aren’t right for many borrowers

Many people don’t think of themselves as a good candidate for a personal loan. Maybe they feel their credit isn’t good enough or they don’t make enough money to quality.

Homeowners often consider home equity loans or HELOCs before personal loans. And, of course, the 70 million Americans carrying credit card debt month to month may not have thought about a personal loan.

But you could be a good candidate for a personal loan if you have excellent credit and need cash to consolidate credit card debt, pay medical bills or make a large purchase.

With an easy online application process, personal loans are increasingly becoming a smart choice for many borrowers.

What are your personal loan options?

In spite of the myths surrounding them, personal loans continue to grow in popularity.

In the second quarter of 2018, personal loans showed the greatest year-over-year growth than any other type of loan, according to Experian. Personal loan debt increased by 11.4%.

Borrowers looking for cash to pay off revolving credit cards or remodel their home may want to consider a personal loan. If you’re considering a personal loan, check your credit reports from all three credit bureaus and repair any errors to be sure your credit is in tip-top shape so you can qualify for a lower interest rate.

If your score isn’t where you’d like it to be, take time to pay down existing debt to improve your credit utilization ratio and raise your credit score. Avoid opening or closing accounts before applying for a personal loan since these actions could reduce your score.

As your credit score is increasing, use the MagnifyMoney personal loan marketplace to find a loan with the lowest rates and best terms for your situation. Always remember to do your research, consider all your options and make sure your finances are in order before applying for a personal loan.

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.

Dawn Allcot
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Dawn Allcot is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Dawn here

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Loan Origination Fees: Should I Be Paying Them?

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If you’ve applied for a personal loan or mortgage, chances are you probably came across something called an origination fee. If you’re wondering what it’s for and whether you have to pay it, here’s what you need to know.

Understanding origination fees

An origination fee is a common charge that is added to a personal loan, student loan or mortgage. It is charged by the lender and can also be referred to as an application, processing or underwriting fee. Its purpose is to cover the hard costs of preparing documents, processing and underwriting your loan, and any third party fees that might be incurred along the way, said Ashley Luethje, a York, Neb.-based sales manager at Waterstone Mortgage.

“These fees are typically a percentage of the total amount you’re borrowing,” Luethje said. “Generally, a mortgage origination fee is around one percent, but for consumer and commercial loans, the fee can be greater and is at the discretion of the lender.”

How an origination fee can come into play

If you’re deciding between lenders, one criteria you might want to take into account is the difference in their origination fees. There are some key points to consider, depending on the type of loan you’re applying for.

Personal loan

As personal loans are typically unsecured and not backed by any collateral, you may find the highest origination fees in this category. Because these types of loans carry more risk for lenders, they may charge you anywhere between 1% to 6% of the total amount you are borrowing. Those higher fees also offset the lower amount of interest lenders like banks and credit unions will receive during the life of a personal loan. These loans tend to be extended for a shorter term and in smaller amounts than other kind of loans.

If you’re not getting charged an origination fee with your personal loan, be aware that the lender may make up for it some other way, such as charging higher interest rates, said Jacob Dayan, the Chicago, Ill.-based CEO and co-founder of Community Tax and Finance Pal.

“It’s important to note that having a good credit history will yield you a much lower origination fee,” Dayan said. “Those fees are negotiable for larger loans, but will commonly require you to put up something, such as accepting a higher Annual Percentage Rate (APR) on your loan.”

Mortgage

Mortgage origination fees — also called mortgage points — can vary drastically as they are determined by the lender, said Jason Larkins, a Scarborough, Maine-based branch manager at United Fidelity Funding. These fees are charged to cover the labor involved in the processing, underwriting and funding of a mortgage, as well as third party fees incurred in tasks such as verifying your employment.

Many lenders, such as banks, credit unions and brokerages, charge a flat origination fee. This means the fee is not based on the amount you borrow. Others could charge a 0.5% to 1% origination fee; the VA home loan program sets a cap at 1%. “However, if a borrower is paying a 1% origination fee, they are likely paying too much and can shop for a better deal,” Larkins said.

At the beginning of the mortgage application process, lenders must disclose the exact origination fee being charged in an official Loan Estimate form. Lenders may not increase the stated fee except under special circumstances, such as if you decrease your down payment or change your type of loan. However, you could negotiate it downwards depending on your credit score, and the size and duration of your requested loan.

As long as you meet certain criteria outlined in IRS Publication 530, your mortgage origination fees may also be tax deductible.

Student loans

Origination fees for federal student loans are set by the government and may vary depending on whether you have a direct subsidized, direct unsubsidized or direct plus-type loan. Those fees could range from 1.062% to 4.264%  and are deducted from the loan amount — meaning you get a smaller loan in the end but will still pay back the full amount. For example, if you were to take out a $10,000 loan with a 4% origination fee, you would only receive $9,600 but would have to pay back the entire $10,000.

The only federal student loans that didn’t charge an origination fee were the Perkins Loans for undergraduate and graduate students in financial need, but this program recently ended. While most student loans provided by private lenders such as credit unions and banks might not come with origination fees, they could cost you more in the long run by charging higher interest rates. Private student loans also don’t come with the federal protections that are standard with federal loans.

Keep in mind that loans with lower interest rates but higher fees can cost more than loans with a higher interest rate and no fees. An easy way to calculate whether your lender is giving you a good deal is to remember that 3% to 4% in fees is equivalent to a 1% higher interest rate.

Is my origination fee too high?

Origination fees are not required, so it’s at the lender’s discretion to waive or negotiate the fee, said Kris Alban, the San Diego-based executive vice president of iGrad.

“It’s always smart to ask for a discount, especially if you have a high credit score and it’s a large loan,” Alban said. “When negotiating, the lender may agree to lower or waive the origination fees if you’ll pay a higher interest rate — meaning they will still make a profit, and you can pay the fees over the length of the loan rather than up front.”

To get the best big picture outlook of whether you’re getting a good deal on your loan, make sure you’re not just comparing the origination fees but also factoring in the interest rate. For example:

  • A $10,000 loan at a 4.99% APR for five years with a 3% origination fee will cost you $11,620 over the life of the loan.
  • The same loan at 5.65% APR with a 1.5% origination fee will cost you $11,652 over the life of the loan.

“Pay attention to both the interest rate and APR,” Alban said. “If they are different, the lender is most likely factoring additional fees into the APR; any origination fee over 4% of the total loan amount is excessive.”

The bottom line

Origination fees are charged by lenders to cover the costs of processing your loan, whether you’re looking for a mortgage, personal loan or student loan. Even though lenders are subject to regulations, be cautious of anything that sounds too good to be true and remember that the absence of origination fees can translate into higher interest rates. “Take the time to read the fine print and completely understand the terms of the loan,” Luethje said.

While you should exercise your ability to price origination fees with different lenders to get you the best deal possible, remember there is no one-size-fits-all scenario. “Make the choice that best fits your needs. If an upfront origination fee hinders your ability to receive a loan but a higher interest rate is a better option, then that might be the best scenario for you as a consumer,” Luethje said.

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.

Barbara Balfour
Barbara Balfour |

Barbara Balfour is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Barbara here

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