Personal Loans
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LendingTree is compensated by companies on this site and this compensation may impact how and where offers appear on this site (such as the order). LendingTree does not include all lenders, savings products, or loan options available in the marketplace.

Choosing the Best Place To Get a Personal Loan

Updated on:
Content was accurate at the time of publication.

If you’re looking for the best place to get a personal loan, you have options. Personal loans can commonly be found through banks, credit unions and online lenders. Your financial needs and your credit score can help you narrow the field of potential lenders. Ultimately, the best lender for you will be the one that can offer you the most competitive interest rate and loan terms.

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Banks provide a secure and established lending environment, as well as an array of other financial services. If you need quick access to cash, banks offer personal loans with competitive interest rates and flexible repayment terms. As of February 2023, the average interest rate at commercial banks for a 24-month personal loan was 11.48%.

Banks typically have physical branches you can visit if you want a more personal touch for your loan experience. A loan specialist at a bank can walk you through the process and help you find the right product for your needs. Current customers with deposit accounts may get their loan funds more quickly.

However, banks also come with drawbacks. Typically, banks have stricter eligibility criteria, such as a good credit score and solid credit history. Some banks only lend to current customers with deposit accounts, so you may have to open an account before you can access a loan.

When beginning your search for a personal loan, be sure to start with your current bank — it may have exclusive perks for existing customers. Other banks to consider may include Citi Bank, PNC Bank and TD Bank.


  Low average interest rates

  Physical branch locations and in-person customer service

  Better tech experience than credit unions

  May have to visit a branch in person

  Bad credit borrowers may not qualify

  May have to be a current customer to apply

Credit union personal loans offer some of the lowest interest rates because credit unions are nonprofit and member-owned. Annual percentage rates (APRs) — which is how much you’ll pay for the loan including interest and fees — for credit unions are capped at 18% by the National Credit Union Association (NCUA). In contrast, online lenders may have APRs as high as 36%. If you only need to borrow a small amount, credit unions can be a great choice for small personal loans.

Most credit unions, however, require that you become a member before applying for or accepting your personal loan. And in some instances, membership requirements can be strict, such as living within a certain area or having ties to the U.S. military. Since credit unions tend to be smaller institutions, they may offer less access to technology and resources, and they may have more limited customer service hours.

If you’re already a member of a credit union, you may be able to access low rates and few or no fees. Other credit unions to consider include Navy Federal Credit Union, PenFed Credit Union and Alliant Credit Union.


  APRs are capped at 18%

  May visit physical branches for assistance

  Tend to have few to no fees

  Often exclusive to credit union members

  May have to visit a branch to apply

  May have strict membership criteria

Online personal loan lenders provide credit that can be accessed 100% online. There’s no need to visit a branch — a requirement that some banks and credit unions have. This type of lender often has more flexible personal loan requirements. For instance, it may be easier to access a bad credit loan with an online lender than with a bank or credit union.

The downside with those less strict requirements, however, is that online lenders can have much higher APRs than banks and credit unions. If you have bad credit, you could be stuck paying APRs as high as 36% — the maximum APR financial experts consider affordable.

Online lenders aren’t as tried and true as commercial banks or federal credit unions, but there are a lot of great options out there. Lenders like Happy Money and Reach Financial work with borrowers looking for debt consolidation loans, while LightStream and SoFi provide loans for a wide variety of purposes.


  May be more willing to work with bad credit borrowers

  Entire application process can be done online

  Approvals and funding can be fast

  APRs can be as high as 36%

  Doesn’t have branches you can visit

  Many online lenders charge origination fees

Payday loans are a type of installment loan that come with predatory APRs, short repayment terms, small loan amounts and no credit checks. These types of loans are marketed to consumers with bad credit who may not be able to access loans otherwise.

Because of their short terms — usually two to four weeks — and high APRs — up to 400% — payday loans can trap you in a cycle of debt. Many borrowers end up having to take out more payday loans to cover the cost of the original loan.

If you’re weighing a payday loan versus a personal loan, it’s best to avoid the former. But, if you’re struggling to qualify for a personal loan, there are still ways to get around your credit history. For instance, consider applying for a personal loan with a cosigner or offering up collateral to access a secured loan.

If you’re new to credit, the best place to get a first-time personal loan is your current bank or credit union. If you already have a checking or savings account with a financial institution, it may be more willing to approve your application, though you may still need a personal loan cosigner.

Since each lender has different requirements, there is no set standard when it comes to the minimum income required for a personal loan. Lenders also consider your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio — how much money you’re bringing in versus how much debt you have. It’s generally a good idea to keep your DTI below 35%.

If you have a good credit score, you’ll likely qualify for a personal loan. However, lenders don’t just look at your credit score. They may also have criteria around your income, payment history and DTI ratio.

While lenders generally consider a credit score of 600 and above to be less risky, there’s no hard and fast rule when it comes to what credit score you need for a personal loan. Keep in mind that a lender’s best rates are usually reserved for borrowers with good-to-excellent credit. If your credit history has some blemishes, you can expect to pay higher rates.

The best place to get a personal loan depends on your financial needs and borrowing preferences. While both banks and credit unions tend to offer low rates, banks tend to have stricter borrower qualifications but may offer better technology. Credit unions, on the other hand, tend to be smaller and more flexible but you’ll have to qualify for membership.

Yes, taking out a personal loan can improve your credit score as long as you make on-time payments. When you make your monthly loan payments, your lender will report them to the credit bureaus and that information will be added to your credit reports. The data on your credit reports is then used to calculate your credit scores.

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