Getting a loan can be difficult if you have less-than-stellar credit. Most banks and credit unions may reject your application, limiting your options to expensive loan offers. However, some online lenders offer favorable terms to those who don't qualify for most personal loans.
Here are our picks for the best bad credit loan companies, which can offer better approval odds and reasonable terms.
Most bad credit lenders don't offer secured loans, that is, personal loans guaranteed by an asset, such as a savings account or car. OneMain Financial, on the other hand, has both unsecured and secured loans available for high-risk borrowers.
Secured loans are usually easier to qualify for because the collateral guarantees creditors get repaid if you default on the loan. And, if you have poor credit, applying for a secured loan can improve your odds of getting approved and might even get you better rates. You can get approved for a OneMain Financial secured loan by using your car, RV, motorcycle or a boat as a payment guarantee.
Fast funding is another one of OneMain Financial’s benefits. Most loan providers disburse funds the next business day after your application is approved. OneMain, on the other hand, says it can transfer your money the same day if you get approved by noon. (This funding option is available only if you have a bank-issued debit card. If you opt for a bank account transfer, it will take around one or two business days after the loan closing date.)
Many applicants get rejected for a loan because of a short credit history, even if they have an impeccable on-time payment history. That's because most creditors prefer longer track records that let them get a sense of your creditworthiness. Upstart, on the other hand, uses alternative data and artificial intelligence to evaluate people with poor or little credit.
The company's loan approval process relies on an applicant's job and school background in addition to their credit information. This can help people with a short credit report but a solid educational background get an excellent loan offer, for example. However, you could still get rejected if you have a low score plus a history of missed payments or charge-offs on your report.
In 2017, at the behest of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Upstart agreed to analyze how its loan approval process compares to the one used by traditional lenders. According to the results shared with the CFPB, Upstart's tests show that the company approves around 27% more loans than traditional lenders, and their loans’ APRs are about 16% lower.
Lenders typically let you change your payment due date once every twelve months. LendingClub, on the other hand, gives you two options: you can move your due date permanently or make a one-time change to your next payment date.
You can permanently move your future monthly payments up to 15 days before or after the original due date. If you'd just like to make a one-time change for your next bill, you need to contact LendingClub at least three days before it's due. The company might accept pushing back your next billing date, which can help you avoid late payment fees.
LendingClub is also an excellent option for people who want to consolidate their debt. Many lenders offer debt consolidation loans — loans used to pay off multiple outstanding accounts at once. However, once you're approved, you're in charge of paying each lender individually once you receive the funds.
LendingClub, on the other hand, makes the debt consolidation process simpler by paying lenders for you.
Upgrade offers the best loan terms and personal finance tools of the companies.
Many companies catering to high-risk borrowers offer limited repayments periods and loan amounts. Upgrade, however, offers loans ranging from $1,000 up to $50,000, which can be paid over periods of 2 to 7 years. Upgrade also offers secured loans, which aren't common amongst lenders for subprime borrowers.
Another advantage of Upgrade is its mobile app. Most lenders for poor credit offer limited tech perks, and if they do have an app, you can use it only to check your balance and make payments. Upgrade's app lets you manage your loan, check your score and get notification of changes to your credit report. You also get access to a credit score simulator. This tool can help you see how certain financial decisions can impact your scores, like closing a credit card account or applying for an auto loan.
LendingTree is an online lending marketplace that makes it easier to compare rates and fees from different companies without submitting multiple individual applications.
LendingTree has partnerships with top-rated lenders such as Rocket Loans, SoFi, Marcus and all the companies mentioned in this list. It can connect you with providers of personal, auto or home equity loans whether you have fair or excellent credit.
If you create an account, LendingTree also offers several personal finance tools such as a monthly payment calculator and a budget tracker.
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Why it didn’t make the cut: In 2019, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sued Avant for allegedly engaging in unfair loan servicing practices such as withdrawing money from consumers’ accounts and charging their credit cards without authorization.
Why it didn’t make the cut: SeedFi offers credit-building loans which are a great way to improve a poor score or a thin credit file. However, the company only operates in 36 states.
Why it didn’t make the cut: Prosper requires a minimum score of 640 to apply. While this falls in the Fair range of the FICO scoring system, it is much higher when compared to other online lenders on our list.
Why it didn’t make the cut: LendingPoint is one of the few bad credit loan providers that consider alternative data, like your job history, during their approval process. However, it has a higher minimum APR and lower loan amounts than Upstart, our main pick for a creditor that uses alternative data.
Why it didn’t make the cut: Universal Credit has a higher starting APR (8.93%) and origination fees (4.25%) than other loan providers on our list.
Why it didn’t make the cut: Oportun offers personal loans in a limited number of states and reports customer accounts to only two of the three main credit bureaus — TransUnion and Equifax. Having your on-time payments reported to every bureau is a must if you want to improve each of your three credit reports. The company is also under investigation by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) for its collection practices from 2019 to 2021 and the hardship plans it offered during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Why it didn’t make the cut: Applicants with bad credit scores could have a harder time getting approved with PenFed than with other companies in our list.
Loans can be lifesavers, especially when unexpected expenses arise. Qualifying for one is also an excellent opportunity to improve your credit rating if you make timely payments. However, it's important to know how to compare loan offers and lenders.
Read on to find out how to choose the best personal loans for bad credit and how these loans work.
Bad credit loans let individuals with poor or no credit history borrow a set amount of money and repay it, plus interest, in fixed monthly payments over the loan's term, just like other personal loans. These fixed-rate installment loans are aimed at people with credit scores of 669 or less, and usually have higher interest rates.
Most lenders rely on one of two credit scoring models — FICO and the VantageScore — and they both classify credit scores on a scale that goes from poor to excellent. A good score starts at 670 in the FICO model and at 661 in VantageScore; but do note that most lenders use the FICO scoring model to evaluate potential customers. The higher your score is, the more likely you are to get approved for a loan and get lower interest rates.
While many lenders are hesitant to offer loans to people with bad credit, some do offer financing options for high-risk individuals. In some instances, these loans can provide an excellent opportunity to consolidate credit card debt or for emergencies. Paying a loan on time can also help boost scores as it shows creditors you have now improved your debt management skills.
Bad credit loans have more lenientlax requirements when compared to other loans. However, financial institutions still need borrowers to go through an application process to evaluate their eligibility.
Here's an overview of how bad credit loans and the lenders that offer them work:
Personal loans can be either unsecured or secured. Both have a similar application process, their key difference is the need for collateral — an asset, such as a home or a vehicle.
Unsecured personal loans don't require it. To determine if you qualify or not, lenders assess several factors such as your credit history and score, income and employment. It can be difficult for individuals with a poor score to qualify for an unsecured loan unless they find a lender willing to work with high-risk borrowers.
Secured loans, on the other hand, require collateral. It guarantees lenders will be paid, even if you default the loan. These loans are often easier to qualify for and have better rates than unsecured loans do. However, before applying, make sure you can make the monthly payments. Missing payments could result in losing what you put up as collateral and damaging your credit score further.
A payday loan is a type of unsecured, short-term loan usually meant to be paid back before your next payday, hence the name. These loans are often for small amounts, around $500, and have annual percentage rates (APR) of over 200%. By way of comparison, interest rates for personal loans usually cap at 30%.
Some people with low credit turn to payday loans for their convenience. Payday lenders often don't run credit checks, and you can get the funds quickly through a direct bank deposit. However, their staggeringly high interest rates and additional fees can leave some struggling to pay it back or deciding what bills to pay on time. Failing to pay the loan can trigger additional fees, leading you to borrow more and increasing your debt.
Many personal loan lenders forbid borrowers from using their loan proceeds to pay for educational expenses like tuition and books. It is possible, however, to use personal loans to pay for other expenses while you’re in school.
However, when it comes to financing educational expenses, a student loan might still be the best option, especially if you have bad credit. The federal government has lenient credit requirements, and even students with poor or no credit are often able to get loans.
Private student loans, on the other hand, are offered by non-governmental financial institutions such as banks or credit unions. Getting a private student loan with bad credit can be more challenging, but having a co-signer — someone who agrees to pay for the loan if you can't — often helps
A home equity loan is a form of secured loan in which you can borrow money against your home's equity, that is, your home’s current market value minus what you still owe on the mortgage loan. Most lenders allow you to borrow an amount up to 80% to 85% of your home equity.
Each lender has different minimum requirements, but most will generally require a credit score of at least 620, a debt-to-income ratio of 43% or less and at least 15% equity in your home.
It’s important to keep in mind that, with this type of loan, your residence is your collateral. This means that, If you’re unable to keep up with your monthly payments, the lender can foreclose on your home.
Much like home equity loans, HELOCs — or home equity lines of credit — let homeowners borrow money based on their home equity. However, while a home equity loan gives borrowers a lump sum which is paid back in fixed installments, HELOCs are more similar to credit cards.
With a HELOC, your lender sets an amount you’re allowed to borrow, usually up to 85% of the equity you have in your home. You can keep borrowing from that amount and then repay it (with a variable interest rate) until the draw period closes. This draw period is usually between five and 10 years. During these years, you can borrow money as many times as you want up to the allowed amount and you can choose to pay back only the interest or make payments to the principal as well. Once this period is over, a repayment period follows where you must pay all of the borrowed money back.
Like other home equity loans, HELOCs carry a risk of foreclosure. They can also have additional fees and minimum withdrawal requirements, which may force you to borrow more than you actually need.
HELOCs aren't always the best option for subprime borrowers. Some lenders, such as Discover, may accept applicants with credit scores as low as 620, but most prefer scores above 670.
Cash advances are a quick and easy way to get a short-term loan. They are offered by credit card issuers and allow you to borrow against your card's line of credit.
Cash advances don't require a credit check since they are issued directly through your credit card. However, they usually have higher interest rates when compared to your card's standard purchase APR. For example, cards can have a 15 - 20% APR for purchases and around 26% for cash advances. Credit card companies also typically charge an additional cash advance fee ranging between 3% to 5% of the loaned amount.
If it takes you a while to pay the cash advance, it could hike up your monthly bill, possibly making it difficult to pay the loan or your regular credit card balance.
Loans for people with bad credit typically have higher interest rates and fees than other personal loans. However, it's possible to find reasonable offers. Here are a few tips on how to choose the best loan for you:
Compare eligibility requirements: Some lenders list their eligibility requirements on their websites, usually under their loan descriptions or in the FAQ section. Look for details such as minimum credit scores, minimum income and preferred debt-to-income ratio.
If your top picks don't disclose this information, keep in mind most bad credit loan lenders prefer credit scores above 580. Also, most lenders favor customers with a debt-to-income (DTI) ratio below 36%.
To calculate your DTI ratio, divide your total monthly debt (mortgage plus auto loan, for example) by your monthly income. For example, if your monthly debt equals $1,000 and your gross monthly income is $3,000, your DTI ratio is 33% (1,000/3,000=0.333).
Get prequalified: A pre-qualification is a ballpark estimate based on basic financial information, including your income and current total debt. It provides a general idea of how much money a creditor is willing to lend you. While these don't represent an official offer, they’re helpful when comparing loan options.
Getting prequalified lets you check whether you might qualify for a loan with a specific lender while avoiding multiple hard inquiries. Formal loan applications, on the other hand, involve hard inquiries, or hard credit pulls, which are noted on your credit report and can lower your score further.
Pre-qualifications, on the other hand, only involve a soft credit check. These inquiries don't impact your score.
Compare interest rates, terms and fees: Interest rates for bad credit loans can be as high as 36%. However, it's possible to find loans with more affordable rates. Compare offers between several companies before formally applying. Also, compare their origination, prepayment and late payment fees.
Repayment terms for personal loans usually range between 24 to 60 months. Keep in mind that a shorter repayment term means that you'll settle your debt sooner and pay less in interest (although your monthly bill will be higher). A longer repayment term reduces your monthly bill, but you'll spend more on interest in the long run.
Online vs. brick-and-mortar lenders: Most bad credit loans are offered by available through online lenders. These usually have more flexible eligibility requirements and lower interest rates than traditional banks. However, their customer service is only available through online forms, email and phone. Some clients may not be comfortable dealing with online-only customer service. The retail presence of traditional banks and credit unions, on the other hand, can make some feel more comfortable when applying for a loan or dealing with complaints.
Consider a secured loan or a co-signer: If your loan options are limited, applying for a secured loan or using a co-signer can boost your approval odds and help you get a better deal.
With secured loans, the debt is backed by collateral, like a car or house. If you default on your loan, the creditor will seize to settle the remaining balance. When using a co-signer, the person is responsible for paying your loan if you default on it.
Check your credit report and score: Reviewing your credit report and score before shopping around for a loan can help you better understand your approval odds. Checking your credit report can also help you spot inaccurate or outdated financial information that may be impacting your score. Check out our guide on how to read your credit report for tips on how to interpret the information being reported.
You can request a free copy of your report from each of the three main credit reporting agencies through AnnualCreditReport.com. Normally, you are entitled to one free copy per year. However, due to provisions set in place in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, you can access your report weekly until April 20, 2022.
Note that credit scores aren't included in the free report. To get your FICO score (the most widely used metric), you can purchase a report directly from the credit bureaus or through FICO's official website. Some banks or credit card issuers also provide it for free.
Some financial websites and apps offer free credit scores. However, the score they provide is based on the VantageScore scoring system, which isn't a staple amongst creditors and is calculated differently. Some differences between FICO and VantageScore are how much weight the scoring systems put on payment history and credit usage, for example.
Try to increase your score before applying: If getting a loan isn’t urgent, consider trying to improve your score before you apply. If you take the time to repair bad credit before applying for a loan, you could end up saving hundreds, or thousands, in interest costs.
Boosting your creditworthiness can take months. However, it’s certainly possible to improve your credit score if you follow these tips:
Look out for predatory lenders: If you have poor credit, you may be targeted by predatory lenders offering loans without the need for a credit check. These are known as car title and payday loans. These are small loans with exceedingly high APRs (they can reach the triple digits) as well as high late fees and penalties.
Other loan offers you receive may be scams. You can avoid lending scams by verifying if the company is registered in the state it operates. You should also stay away from lenders who demand money upfront and/or unclear or confusing terms and fees.
Annual percentage rate (APR): The yearly rate of interest a borrower pays on a loan. It includes interest rates, closing costs and other associated fees, like origination fees.
Car title loans: Loans that use your vehicle or motorcycle as collateral. These are short-term, but expensive loans, typically with sky-high APRs and plenty of fees.
Co-borrower: Also known as a co-applicant or joint borrower, a co-borrower shares repayment responsibility with the principal applicant and gets access to the funds. Having a co-borrower with a solid credit profile can help you qualify for lower interest rates and larger loan amounts.
Co-signer: Like a co-borrower, a co-signer can help you get a better offer. However, co-signers don't get access to the money. Instead, they act as guarantors, agreeing to pay back the loan if the original borrower stops making payments.
Payday (cash advance) loans: These are short-term, high-interest loans that don’t usually require a credit check. They’re sometimes advertised on radio and television with some variation of the phrase “Get cash fast”. We don’t recommend these loans, as many payday lenders engage in predatory lending practices and interest rates can sometimes go as high as 400% or more.
Hard credit pull: A type of credit inquiry that can temporarily lower your score by a few points. It happens when a financial institution requests your credit report as part of the loan application process.
Soft credit pull: Also called a soft inquiry, this happens when creditors review your credit history to grant a pre-qualification. A soft credit check isn't tied to an official loan application and it doesn't impact your score.
There are several types of mortgages you may qualify for even if you have poor credit. Check out our article on How to Get a Mortgage With Bad Credit for more information.
Having a solid credit score improves your chances of getting lower interest rates. Here are some tips to help you improve a low score and, in turn, your loan approval odds: 7 Steps to Improve Your Credit Score Right Now.
Having a less-than-stellar credit history not only limits your financial options but also your chances of getting approved for an apartment How to Rent an Apartment With Bad Credit.
Credit card debt can lead to a bad credit score, especially if you miss monthly payments or your credit utilization rate is high. Here are 6 Ways to Pay Off Credit Card Debt Fast that could help you bring your debt down.
Several online lenders extend loans to individuals with a poor or bad credit score. Our list of the best bad credit loan companies includes Upgrade, OneMain Financial, Upstart and LendingClub.
Fixing your credit score takes time, but there are steps you can take to start the process. First, make sure to check your credit report throughly to find any inaccurate items, such as accounts that don't belong to you. Focus on reducing your overall debt, paying items in collections and keeping your credit utilization ratio below 30%. It's also best to avoid applying for new loans or credit cards unless absolutely necessary.
Debt consolidation involves taking out one loan to pay off multiple outstanding accounts. For example, you can use a debt consolidation loan to pay off several credit cards. Once those debts are paid, you'll only pay a single monthly bill — the debt consolidation loan. Debt consolidation loans can potentially offer lower interest rates and monthly payments and make it easier to manage your finances.
It's important to check your credit score before applying. Lenders who specialize in high-risk borrowers usually require a minimum FICO score of anywhere between 580 and 699. You should also shop around for the best offer by getting prequalifications from a few lenders, if possible. If you don't need the money for an emergency, try to improve your credit before applying for a loan. This could help you save hundreds or even thousands in interest.
Secured loans require collateral, such as a home or car, to get approved. Some secured loan providers may also accept a savings account or CD account as collateral. These loans are typically easier to obtain and have better annual percentage rates (APR) since the collateral guarantees the lender gets paid in case of a default. An unsecured loan, on the other hand, does not require collateral. The lender uses the borrower's credit history and score to determine their creditworthiness. This makes them a more suitable option for people with a good credit score.
Credit score and odds of approval
The first thing we looked at was whether you’re likely to qualify at all with bad credit. Many lenders have set risk thresholds for other criteria, so you could still be denied based on not having enough free cash flow at the end of the month, among other factors.
We looked for lenders willing to offer loans to borrowers with scores between 580 and 669 in the FICO score range. Do note that most loan lenders aren't willing to work with customers with scores below 580.
We compared interest rates, loan amounts, repayment terms, funding time, disbursement options and additional fees from several banks and online lenders. Our picks offer reasonable terms, no prepayment penalties and better approval odds for individuals with low credit scores who may have difficulty applying for new lines of credit elsewhere.
Credit bureau reporting
Unlike payday lenders, companies on our list report your payments to credit bureaus. Making late payments can harm your credit score further. However, as long as you make your payments on time, you could increase your score, which will make it easier to qualify for loans with more favorable terms in the future.
We considered the number of complaints each company had with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and looked for any history of Federal Trade Commission (FTC) violations. Also, we took into account customer reviews in sources like the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
We favored companies that provide online pre-qualification forms, a streamlined application process, several customer support channels, financial education resources or a mobile app to manage loan payments.