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Jamie Young is a Credible authority on personal finance. Her work has appeared on Time, CBS News, Huffington Post, Business Insider, AOL, MSN, and more.
Matt Carter is a writer, editor and student loan authority for Credible. His work has been featured by CNBC, CNN Money, Consumer Reports, Money, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Yahoo Finance and more.
Updated January 19, 2022
Generally, no — personal loans are still widely available despite the COVID-19 pandemic, which could be especially valuable if you need help making ends meet. You’ll still typically need good credit and verifiable income to get approved for a loan with most lenders, including online lenders, banks, and credit unions. Keep in mind that some lenders might have more stringent requirements to ensure that borrowers can repay their loans, though.
Additionally, some lenders are offering coronavirus hardship loans that might be easier to qualify for if the pandemic has impacted your employment. These small emergency loans might come with low or even 0% interest, depending on the lender.
Read more: COVID-19 & Personal Loans
An unsecured personal loan is money you can borrow from a financial institution like a bank, credit union, or online lender that doesn't require collateral (like your home or car). Once approved for an unsecured loan, you'll make monthly payments to pay it back in full, plus interest. The loan terms and interest rate vary based on the lender and your credit.
The annual percentage rate (APR) is what you’ll pay to borrow money. It includes not only your interest rate but any fees charged by the lender — such as origination fees.
There are two types of APR you’ll likely come across:
- A fixed APR stays the same throughout the life of the loan. This means your monthly payment and payoff date won’t ever change.
- A variable APR can fluctuate according to market trends. While a variable APR often starts out lower than a fixed APR, it could increase in the future — which would also cause your monthly payments to rise.
Each lender has their own set requirements to qualify for a personal loan. But what they typically look for are borrowers who are 18 or older, U.S. citizens or permanent residents with a valid Social Security number, have a steady income, and those who have a good credit history.
How much you can borrow with a personal loan depends largely on your debt-to-income ratio, which is how much of your monthly income goes to paying ongoing obligations like your rent, car payment, or credit card bills. Many lenders also have minimum credit score requirements for credit approval.
The upper limits for personal loans vary by lender but typically fall in the $35,000 to $50,000 range. However, lenders in the Credible marketplace offer personal loans to qualified borrowers up to $200,000.
Using Credible to check your rates doesn’t affect your credit score. Here’s how it works: Credible's prequalification process uses a soft credit inquiry that allows you to see personalized rates without you having to apply for a loan.
There is no obligation to proceed with any of the loan options presented on your dashboard, but if you see a loan offer with one of our partner lenders that you'd like to proceed with, you'll be asked to authorize a hard credit inquiry when you apply for the loan. A hard inquiry can impact your credit score by two to nine points, but typically by no more than five.
Every lender has its own methods of evaluating borrowers and determining rates, so it’s a good idea to compare prequalified rates from more than one lender. Generally, the shorter the loan term, the lower the interest rate offered by most lenders; and the better your credit score and credit report, the better the interest rate you can qualify for. Some lenders even offer an autopay discount if you authorize your monthly loan payments to be directly withdrawn from your bank account.
Qualifying for the lowest rates offered by a lender is dependent on your online application, credit approval and score, loan terms, and other factors. Through Credible, you can easily compare loan offers, loan terms, origination fees, monthly payment amounts and repayment terms.
Read more: Who Are the Best Personal Loan Lenders?
Once you’ve completed the loan application process, most lenders can fund your loan by the next business day (though it can take up to about a week, depending on the lender and your application).
Yes. In fact, personal loans offer many debt consolidation benefits.
For example, they typically offer lower interest rates than credit cards, making it easier to reduce the overall interest you pay if you use a personal loan to consolidate your debt. Many credit cards also carry variable rates, which can cause the amount you pay in interest to fluctuate as rates change. Personal loans, however, typically offer fixed-rate loans which will keep your monthly payment consistent.
Read more: Best Debt Consolidation Loans
You’re typically not limited in how you can use your personal loan funds. Personal loans can be used to pay down high-interest credit card debt, meet unexpected needs like medical bills, take care of a major purchase like a new refrigerator, or fund home improvement projects. However, some lenders only provide loans for specific purposes (and some rates vary based on what you use it for), so you will be asked for the purpose of your loan.