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Earnest Personal Loan Review

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Earnest is an online lender that offers personal loans with competitively low APRs. They serve borrowers in 45 states plus Washington, D.C. But you’ll need a minimum credit score of 650 to qualify, though Earnest takes a broader look at your finances to determine your loan eligibility.

Earnest personal loan highlights

  • Low APRs: Fixed APRs begin at 5.99% and go up to 17.24%.
  • Minimum credit score of 650: Although you can find lenders with a lower requirement, Earnest’s APR range is competitively low for those who qualify.
  • No origination fees: Earnest does not have any origination fees, which helps reduce your cost of borrowing.
  • Long loan approval process: With Earnest, loan approval typically happens within five to 10 business days (with access to funds one to two days after approval), which is a slightly longer time frame than other personal loan providers.
  • Loan purposes must meet eligibility requirements. Earnest will give out personal loans for credit card debt consolidation and refinancing, home improvement projects, weddings/honeymoons, unaccredited educational programs and security deposits for apartment rentals. However, personal loans cannot be used for tuition, business capital or real estate.
  • Unavailable in 5 states: Earnest is not available in Alabama, Delaware, Kentucky, Nevada and Rhode Island.

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Terms Fees and penalties
  • Terms: 36 to 60 months
  • APR: 5.99% to 17.24%
  • Loan amounts: $5,000 to $75,000.
  • Time to funding: 1 to 2 days after approval, which can take 5 to 10 business days.
  • Credit check: Hard Pull to check your rates
  • No origination fee.
  • Prepayment fee: None.
  • Late payment fee: None.
  • Other fees: $8 for returned payments.

Eligibility requirements

  • Minimum credit score: 650
  • Minimum credit history: A limited credit history won’t prevent you from qualifying for a loan.
  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: Qualified borrowers should not be carrying “large amounts of non-student, non-mortgage debt,” according to the lender website.

Earnest has a handful of eligibility requirements in order to be able to take out a personal loan with them. In addition to a minimum credit score of 650, you must have:

  • Proof of consistent income
  • No bankruptcies in the past 3 years
  • A history of on-time payments
  • No open collection accounts

However, Earnest’s loan approval process takes a broader view of an applicant’s financial life, looking at savings patterns, career trajectory, investments, earning potential and employment history in addition to one’s credit score.

In addition, you must be at least 18 years old to apply for a loan, have a consistent source of income and be either a U.S. citizen, a long-term permanent resident alien (10-year green card), or a conditional permanent resident alien (2-year green card) with an acceptance of Form I-751, “Petition to Remove Condition on Residence.”

You must also reside in one of Earnest’s eligible states. They lend everywhere except for Alabama, Delaware, Kentucky, Nevada and Rhode Island.

Applying for a personal loan from Earnest

The first thing you’ll want to do when applying for a personal loan with Earnest is make sure you meet the minimum eligibility requirements outlined above. If you meet these requirements, the next step should be checking your prospective interest rate using their online form.

You’ll be asked to provide the following:

  • Name
  • Email address
  • Mailing address
  • Annual income
  • Social Security number
  • Amount you’d like to borrow

If you’re happy with the prospective personal loan rate, you can proceed with an online application. The personal loan application page will require more information, such as your education history, employment history, financial data, personal data, the intended purpose of the loan and the loan terms you’d like to apply for.

In order to be approved for a personal loan with Earnest, you’ll need to: have enough money saved to cover two months’ worth of expenses, spend less than you earn, and have a history of making payments on time. In addition, you cannot have large amounts of credit card or personal loan debt, and you can’t have a history of being charged late, overdraft or insufficient fund fees.

Pros Cons
  • No fees: For example, you won’t find origination fees, late fees or prepayment penalties.
  • Low APR range of 5.99% to 17.24%: This range is reasonable when compared with other personal loan providers, who can have maximum APRs of 30.00% or higher.
  • Wide lending area: Earnest extends loans to 45 states, plus the District of Columbia.
  • High minimum credit score requirements.
  • Slow access to funds: Personal loan approval could take 5 to 10 business days, with funds provided 1 or 2 business days after approval. Other personal loan providers often offer access to funds as soon as 48 hours after submitting an application.
  • High minimum loan amount of $5,000

Who’s the best fit for an Earnest personal loan?

You’re likely a good fit for an Earnest personal loan if you are young (think 20s and early 30s) and might not have a long financial history but have demonstrated a proven track record of financial responsibility. Because Earnest looks at one’s career trajectory and earning potential during the application process, this lender could be a good option for those who may not have a high income yet but are on the path to being big earners (i.e. medical residents and newly graduated lawyers or finance professionals).

Earnest doesn’t have strict credit history or debt-to-income ratio requirements, but rather they like to see a history of healthy financial habits like making on-time payments, having a few months’ worth of savings and having a credit history devoid of late fees and overdraft fees. This means that even if you don’t have a super high credit score, as long as your score is at least 650 and you have a history of decent personal finance habits, you should be in good shape.

Keep in mind that Earnest personal loans do have usage requirements, meaning they cannot be used for everything. You cannot use Earnest personal loan funds for:

  • Business capital
  • Real estate
  • Tuition

Only those looking to finance debt consolidation, home improvement projects, a wedding or a honeymoon, an unaccredited education program or a security deposit for an apartment rental should pursue an Earnest personal loan.

Alternative personal loan options

Happy Money

  • APR: 5.99% to 24.99%
  • Minimum credit score: 640
  • Terms: 24 and 60 months
  • Origination fee: Is 0.00% - 5.00%

If your credit score isn’t 680 and you want to pay off credit card debt, you might want to consider Happy Money (formerly Payoff). Other than the credit score requirements, Earnest and Happy Money have several similarities: Both have a starting APR of 5.99% and a minimum borrowing amount of $5,000 (the maximum for Happy Money is $40,000). Another reason you might want to select Happy Money over Earnest is because they have a 24-month repayment option, while Earnest terms begin at three years.

However, keep in mind that Happy Money has origination fees of 0.00% - 5.00%, compared with no origination fees with Earnest. In addition, Happy Money’s maximum APR is 24.99%, compared with just 24.99% with Earnest.


  • APR: 5.99% to 29.99%
  • Minimum credit score: 600
  • Terms: 36 or 60 months
  • Origination fee: 1.00% - 5.00%

Peer-to-peer lending platform Peerform is another option worth considering for consumers who don’t meet Earnest’s minimum credit score requirement of 650. However, just because Peerform’s minimum credit score requirement is only 600 doesn’t mean it’s the best option, as loans received through the company can have APRs as high as 29.99%.

One downside to Peerform is that in addition to origination fees, the company charges late fees, check processing fees and unsuccessful payment fees. Personal loans through Peerform come with loan amounts from $4,000 to $25,000; that means this lender could be worth considering if you don’t need to borrow Earnest’s minimum of $5,000.


  • APR: 5.74% to 19.99%
  • Minimum credit score: Not specified
  • Terms: 24 to 144 months
  • Origination fee: No origination fee

Like Earnest, LightStream (a division of SunTrust Bank) has no origination fees and relatively low interest rates, with a minimum APR that is even lower than Earnest’s. If you can qualify for the lowest rate), LightStream could be worth considering.

LightStream offers loans from $5,000 to $100,000 meaning this lender could also be worth pursuing if you’re looking to borrow anywhere between $75,000 and $100,000, as Earnest’s maximum loan amount is $75,000. Another perk when it comes to LightStream is that their loan term range is much wider that Earnest’s.


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