Personal Loans

3 Best Credit Unions for Personal Loans

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When you need cash for a large expense, a personal loan from a credit union could fit the bill. Credit unions — non-profit organizations that are often member-owned — tend to have lower interest rates than banks on products like personal loans.

Still, it’s important to compare credit union loans to determine which you are eligible for and which have your best terms. Below, we look at three credit union personal loans with some of the best features and terms currently on the market.

Our pick for the 3 best credit unions for personal loans

  1. Navy Federal Credit Union
  2. PenFed Credit Union
  3. Alliant Credit Union
  • APR: 7.49% – 18.00%
  • Terms: 60 months
  • Borrowing limits: $250 to $50,000
  • Origination fee: None on lender website
  • Credit score requirement: Not specified on lender website

Navy Federal Credit Union is on the high end in terms of personal loan APRs on this list. They do, however, offer the lowest borrowing limit and one of the shortest available terms, which may make it a better choice for those who want to borrow a smaller amount over a shorter period. Navy Federal can generally fund an approved personal loan immediately and charges a late fee of $29.

How to join Navy Federal Credit Union

If you don’t know how to get a loan from a credit union, the first thing you’ll want to do is learn about membership eligibility requirements. To join Navy Federal Credit Union, you’ll need to be a current or retired member of the armed forces, a Department of Defense civilian employee, contractor or retiree. Family of current members, including parents, grandparents, siblings, grandchildren and household members are also eligible.

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2. PenFed Credit Union

  • APR: From 6.49%
  • Terms: 60 months
  • Borrowing limits: $500 to $20,000
  • Origination fee: None
  • Credit score requirement: Not specified on lender website

It’s isn’t clear what the maximum APR is for a PenFed personal loan — however, its lowest APR is available for all terms of 60 months. Like other credit unions, PenFed issues the most competitive APRs to borrowers with excellent credit histories, so borrowers with lower credit scores getting a personal loan through a credit union should not expect to secure the lowest APR. The institution’s late fee is on the low side, ranging from $20 to $25, though it is not specified what determines where within the range the fee will ultimately be.

How to join PenFed Credit Union

Membership is open to current and former members of the U.S. military, as well as employees of the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, American Red Cross volunteers and employees and family members of existing PenFed members. You may also join by donating to the National Military Family Association or Voices for America’s Troops, or by belonging to another association or organization. Consult PenFed to learn more about eligibility.

As part of your membership, you’ll need to open a Savings/Share Account and maintain a $5 minimum balance.

3. Alliant Credit Union

  • APR: From 6.24% with autopay
  • Terms: 12 to 60 months
  • Borrowing limits: $1,000 to $50,000
  • Origination fee: None
  • Credit score requirement: Not specified on lender website

Alliant doesn’t publish on their website the maximum APR for their personal loan product; still, it offers same-day funding and no prepayment penalties on credit union loans.

A particularly striking feature is the institution’s optional debt protection plan, which helps to make Alliant a contender as the best credit union for loans. Through this paid plan, a borrower’s loan balance can be canceled upon death. Additionally, as many as 12 payments can be canceled in the event of disability, and as many as three payments can be canceled after involuntary unemployment.

While Alliant personal loans feature the same minimum APR as PenFed, the minimum rises as the term increases — going up to 10.24% for 60 months. If you’re looking for longer-term federal credit union loans, then Alliant may not be the ideal choice. Alliant’s lowest APR also reflects a 0.40% discount for automatic payments, which borrowers will not receive if they opt out.

How to join Alliant

Another plus that makes Alliant an appealing credit union lender is their membership eligibility. Unlike credit unions with eligibility hinging on borrowers living in a certain area or working for a specific employer, Alliant allows anyone to join if they become a member of Foster Care to Success (FC2S), an organization that aids teens in foster care near to aging out of the system. (Alliant will cover the $5 FC2S membership fee.)

Others who may join include: residents of select Illinois communities (mainly in the Chicago metro area); current or former employees of partner businesses; and immediate family members to current Alliant members. Consult Alliant to see if you may be eligible under these criteria.

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Methodology

Institutions had to be in DepositAccounts’ list of 20 largest credit unions by assets to be considered. (DepositAccounts is owned by LendingTree.)

Credit unions were considered by:

  • Lowest minimum APR
  • Lowest maximum APR
  • Lowest origination fee
  • Range of repayment terms
  • Number of states they operate in
  • Widest range of eligibility requirements
 

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