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By Joan PabónHeidi Rivera and Andrea Agostini
Updated: April 27, 2021 2:33 PM ET | Originally published: April 7, 2021
Hand Holding Sack Of Cash
Money; Getty Images

Whether you’re looking to consolidate debt, finance a big purchase, or make home renovations, a personal loan could be the right tool to help you get there.

Get started with our list of the best personal loans of April 2021. Reviews include credit score requirements, available terms, loan amounts, and annual percentage rate.

Our Top Picks for the Best Personal Loans

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Best Personal Loans Reviews

*Advertised APRs and credit scores are valid as of April 2021. For more details, visit each lender’s website.

LightStream: Best Variety of Loan Options


  • Online loan application
  • Autopay discount
  • Better rate guarantee
  • No origination fees
  • No prepayment penalties


  • Qualifying applicants need good or excellent credit
  • No pre-approvals

LightStream, a subsidiary of SunTrust Bank (now Trust), has a wide range of loan options and some of the longest terms available in the market. You can take out a personal loan for home improvements, medical bills, vacation, big purchases, K-12 education, recreational vehicles, family planning, and even purchase horses for those in the equine industry.

Lightstream’s starting APR is 3% lower than the industry average. Borrowers benefit from an additional 0.50% APR discount if they sign up for AutoPay, and a 0.10% discount may apply as well if they get a lower APR offer from a competing lender.

LightStream ranked top in J.D. Power’s 2020 U.S Consumer Lending Satisfaction Study. As a customer satisfaction guarantee, LightStream will pay you $100 if you’re not satisfied with your experience after closing the loan.

Term Lengths 24 to 144 months
Loan amounts $5,000 – $100,000
APR* 2.49% – 19.99%
Minimum credit score required** 700+

Compare Rates with LightStream

Credible: Best Marketplace


  • Free marketplace and comparison service
  • Access to pre-qualification and quotes from multiple lenders
  • Best rate guarantee


  • Not a loan servicer

Credible’s free lending platform lets you compare quotes from multiple lenders in as little as two minutes — without making a dent in your credit score. They feature an excellent network of lenders, like SoFi, Lightstream, PenFed, and others.

Using this marketplace can save you time and money by narrowing your choices by location, loan amount, desired APR, and loan purpose.
If you find and close a better personal loan interest rate with a competing website within eight days of applying at Credible, the company will give you $200.

The company welcomes applicants with both good and poor credit, but applicants with excellent credit histories tend to see more loan offers, more flexible repayment terms, and lower interest rates available.

Term lengths 12 to 84 months
Loan amounts $600 – $100,000
APR* As low as 4.99% with Autopay
Minimum credit score required** not stated

NOTE: Since Credible doesn’t service its loans, the numbers listed above are subject to your location and the lenders’ offers.

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Compare Rates with Credible

SoFi: Best Online Lender


  • Online loan application
  • No origination fee
  • No prepayment penalty
  • No late fee
  • 0.25% AutoPay discount
  • Option to add co-borrower


  • Qualifying applicants need good credit
  • Disbursement of funds can take a few business days

Initially a student loan lender, SoFi now offers personal loans up to $100,000, one of the highest loan amounts we’ve seen from an online lender.

You’d need a good credit score to qualify, but there’s a lot to like about SoFi personal loans. Unlike many other lenders, SoFi considers alternative credit data — like free cash flow, professional history, and financial responsibility history — while still offering competitive interest rates

With pre-approval, you can check your rate before applying without hurting your credit score. The application process is entirely online and can be completed in a matter of minutes.

SoFi also offers unemployment protection if you lose your job, temporarily suspending your monthly payments for up to 12 months and providing you with free tools, like career coaching and financial advice, to help you get back on track.

Term lengths 24 to 84 months
Loan amounts $5,000 – $100,000
APR* 5.99% – 20.25%(with AutoPay)
Minimum credit score required** 680
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Compare Rates with SoFi

Upstart: Best Peer-to-Peer Lender


  • Accepts applicants with fair credit
  • Accepts applicants with short credit history
  • Considers alternative data
  • No prepayment penalty


  • High-interest rates
  • Charges origination fee
  • Charges a late payment fee

Upstart’s peer-to-peer model is simple: instead of getting the money from a traditional financial institution, you get it from investors. Upstart’s alternative loan application model considers your job history, the highest level of education achieved, and area of study to determine eligibility.

Upstart is the only peer-to-peer lender that accepts applicants with a fair credit score (620) and short credit histories. Even unemployed individuals may apply as long as they have an employment offer with a starting date that isn’t more than 60 days away from the date of application.

You can check your rate before applying, and loan funds can be disbursed as early as the next business day after you close on the loan.

Term lengths 36 months and 60 months
Loan amounts $1,000 – $50,000
APR* 8.41% – 35.99%
Minimum credit score required** 620

Compare Rates with Upstart

PenFed: Best Credit Union


  • Nationwide branches
  • Flexible repayment terms
  • No prepayment penalties
  • No origination fees


  • Membership fee

PenFed is our top credit union for personal loans because of its flexible repayment terms, low loan amounts, and the absence of loan origination or prepayment penalties.

They offer a lower APR range than other credit unions, and candidates can apply individually or with a co-borrower. Non-members can apply for a personal loan and only need to join if they choose to accept the loan offer.

Membership was previously limited to the military, certain government agencies, and residents of eligible locations, but as of 2019, PenFed makes it easy for others to join. All you have to do is select “None of the above” in the membership application’s eligibility section and open a savings account with the required $5 membership fee.

Lastly, PenFed members can benefit from its Financial Hardship Center, dedicated to helping borrowers who may be in a tight financial spot.

Term lengths 6 to 60 months
Loan amounts $500 – $20,000
APR* 6.49% – 17.99%
Minimum credit score required** A representative told us that the company does not disclose this at the time

Compare Rates with PenFed

U.S. Bank – Best Bank


  • Competitive APR rate
  • No origination fees
  • No prepayment penalty
  • Online loan application
  • Fast funding


  • Must already have a U.S Bank bank account

U.S. Bank has a starting APR that directly competes with the best personal loan rates in the industry. Its maximum personal loan APR caps out at 16.49%, much lower than those of other big banks like Citi and Wells Fargo, which cap their APRs at around 24%.

U.S. Bank also has an emergency Simple Loan available for minor, short-term expenses with a minimum loan amount that starts at $100 and goes up to $1,000. While the Simple Loan has a $6 monthly fee for every $100 you borrow, it’s an excellent alternative if you need a smaller amount quickly and want to avoid payday loans.

We also liked U.S. Bank’s open-ended loan purpose policy. That means they don’t restrict personal loans by purpose.

Term lengths 12 to 60 months
Loan amounts $1,000 – $50,000
APR* 6.49% – 16.99%
Minimum credit score required** 680

Other Personal Loans We Considered

Marcus by Goldman Sachs Personal Loans

  • Specializes in debt consolidation loans
  • No service fees
  • Customizable due dates
  • One-time deferral bonus for consecutive, on-time payments
  • 0.25% APR AutoPay discount
  • Highly ranked in J.D. Power’s 2020 U.S Consumer Lending Satisfaction Study
  • No cosigners or co-borrowers

Best Egg Personal Loans

  • Fast online approval
  • Minimum credit score of 600 — 700 for best rates
  • Loan amount up to $50,000
  • Funding in as little as one business day
  • Origination fees vary from 0.99% to 5.99%

Prosper Personal Loans

  • Peer-to-peer (P2P) lending model
  • Accepts lower than average credit scores
  • No prepayment fees
  • Pre-approval available
  • Alternative credit data not considered
  • A high number of complaints registered against it with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)

LendingClub Personal Loans

  • Peer-to-peer (P2P) lending model
  • Pre-approval available
  • Loan amounts up to $40,000
  • 3 to 6% origination fee
  • Two-term length options
  • No prepayment fee
  • Option to apply with a cosigner

USAA Personal Loans

  • Limited membership: active duty or retired members of the U.S military, or qualifying family members
  • Variety of personal loan options
  • Fewer CFPB complaints registered against it than other similar lenders
  • No available data on loan terms, amounts, APRs and fees

LendingTree Personal Loans

  • Loan marketplace
  • Reputable lender options: Marcus, LightStream, SoFi, OneMain Financial, and others
  • Online tools: credit and debit analyzers, calculators and FAQ’s
  • Higher number of CFPB complaints than other marketplaces
  • Maximum loan amounts and credit score requirements are not competitive enough

Wells Fargo Personal Loans

  • Lower minimum APR than similar banks
  • Fair credit scores accepted
  • Extensive online tools
  • Over 8,000 physical branches
  • High number of complaints with the CFPB when compared with similar lenders

Avant Personal Loans

  • Lenient underwriting
  • Fair credit scores accepted
  • High loan origination fees
  • Administration fees
  • $25 late fee
  • APR range from 9.95% to 35.99%

Discover Personal Loans

  • No origination fees
  • No prepayment penalty
  • $39 late payment fee
  • $25,000 minimum household income required
  • No cosigner option
  • 3-, 5- and 7-year repayment term options
  • Next-day fund disbursement

COVID-19 and Personal Loans

Some personal loan lenders have designed coronavirus hardship loans for borrowers who’ve been financially impacted by the pandemic. Terms and requirements will vary per lending company, but generally, these loans feature:

  • Lower interest rates than standard personal loans
  • Short loan terms and small loan amounts
  • Payment deferral options
  • Streamlined application
  • Fast funding

To qualify, you will need to prove financial hardship on top of the standard requirements, like good credit and reliable payment history.

Here’s how personal loan lenders have responded to COVID-19

LightStream Payment deferral program.
Apply by phone or request deferral through your online account.
For more information, visit LightStream’s website.
Credible As a marketplace, Credible doesn’t issue its own loans.
Check with your specific lender to find out whether you may qualify for any forbearance or deferment plans.
SoFi Payment deferral for eligible applicants
30-day forbearance with a possible extension for those who continue to experience hardship
To find out more, visit SoFi’s website.
Upstart Alternative payment plan to provide relief for borrowers experiencing financial hardship
Contact Upstart’s support center for more assistance
PenFed Deferment or skip-a-payment program
Applicants will receive support from staff to help them select the option that works best for their situation.
For more information, check out the company’s entire statement here.
US Bank Members experiencing hardship may be eligible for a loan extension or other relief forms, like low interest rates and fees.
Visit one of the bank’s local branches, call their support staff, or request assistance online.

Things to Consider Before Applying for a Personal Loan

Personal Loans Guide

Loan purpose

A loan’s purpose can directly affect its APR. For instance, the APR for loans meant to pay off high-interest credit card debt or medical expenses will most likely be 2% to 3% lower than the APR for a personal loan meant for vacation expenses.

You might even benefit from another loan type entirely. If your purpose is to make home improvements, there are home improvement loans such as home equity loans or HELOCs that can help you cover a home repair.

If your loan purpose is to buy a used car, you’re better off applying for an auto loan. However, most auto lenders won’t finance a car once it reaches a specific mileage or age, so people buying older cars will often turn to personal loans.

Your credit

To improve your eligibility, you must have a credit score of at least 660 – the minimum credit score required by most lenders.

You can request a free credit report from all three credit bureaus — Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax — by visiting Typically, you have the right to one free copy every 12 months, but due to COVID-19, you can request free weekly credit reports from all three bureaus until April 2022.

Credit reports don’t include credit scores. To get a better idea of what your credit score could be, check out the FICO Score Estimator.

Your debt load

The DTI (debt-to-income ratio) is the sum of your monthly debt payments divided by your monthly gross income. This is a deciding factor for lenders, as it determines your ability to repay the loan.

If your DTI is on the high side, consider paying off some debt before you apply. Most lenders allow a maximum DTI of 43% for personal loans, although some may allow DTIs as high as 47%, depending on your annual income and other factors.

Annual percentage rate

The APR includes the interest rate plus other lender fees. This figure represents the loan’s actual cost, which is why you should always compare APRs rather than their interest rates to determine which lender is offering you the best deal. Personal loans have higher APRs than some secured loans.

Loan term

Personal loans usually have shorter repayment terms than other types of loans, often between 12-60 months.

Longer terms directly correlate with a lower monthly payment, but you’ll end up paying more interest over the life of the loan. A shorter term will raise your monthly payment, but you will save on interest over time.

Fees and penalties

Lenders usually charge origination fees and missed or late missed payment fees, along with prepayment penalties.

It’s worth noting that online lenders have lower overhead costs than traditional banks and credit unions and they tend to waive most⁠, if not all, of these charges.

Beware of scams

Scammers often use fraudulent personal loans to charge fees and access sensitive personal information like your Social Security Number.

Signs of a personal loan scam include:

  • Unsolicited loan offer
  • Guaranteed loan approval
  • No credit history check
  • High-pressure sale tactics.
  • Loan payments are in the form of prepaid debit cards, gift cards or checks
  • Not state-registered
  • Unsecured website
  • No physical address

As a general rule of thumb, remember that a legitimate lender will never approach you with an offer without having filed a loan application with them in the first place.

Beware predatory lending

Payday and title loans are a form of predatory lending that targets borrowers who cannot qualify for more secure loans. Outlawed in certain states, they carry alarmingly high APRs that can go up to 400%.

Payday loans Title loans
High-interest rates
Low minimum loan amounts
Must be repaid in full by next paycheck
Loan amount is based on the borrower’s paycheck
No credit checks
High-interest rates
Low minimum loan amounts
Must be paid in full generally by the end of month
Vehicle title serves as collateral
Loan amount calculated based on vehicle value
No credit checks

Failing to settle either of these loans in time traps borrowers in an endless debt cycle, where they have to renew or roll the loan over to a further date, stacking up higher interest rates and fees.

Payday lenders secure their money by demanding a postdated check or direct access to your checking account to withdraw the funds by your next paycheck.

Title loans lenders use your vehicle title as collateral, so they can repossess and resell your car or motorcycle if you don’t pay it back in time.

We do not advise these loans and stress that you consider alternative options. If you are limited by bad credit, credit cards and personal loans are designed specifically for that. If it is a time-sensitive issue, many reputable online lenders guarantee fast funding, with same-day or next business day disbursement.


How to get a personal loan?

To get a personal loan, you must be 18 years or older and a U.S citizen – some lenders accept permanent residents. Lenders will ask for proof of identity, proof of income, proof of stable residence, and credit history. Bad credit will significantly limit your options, so take the time to correct any items in your credit report that may lower your score. Shop around and take advantage of any pre-qualifications to better understand where you stand before submitting a formal application.

What is a personal loan?

Personal loans are a type of unsecured installment debt. They don’t require collateral (like secure debt), feature shorter repayment terms and fixed interest rates. Unlike other types of loans, personal loans can be used for any purpose. Common uses for personal loans are debt consolidation, home improvement projects, medical expenses, and finance big purchases, events, or vacations.

What factors do lenders consider for personal loans?

Most lenders look at traditional credit data – credit score, credit report, statements of assets, debt-to-income ratio, and annual income source. Other lenders consider alternative credit data, which includes your employment and education history, history of utility and rent payments, and information available in public records.

Can you use a personal loan for anything?

Taking out a loan on behalf of someone else or using it for any form of gambling — including investing — is a complete no-go with any type of personal loan. Some lenders restrict loans a bit more than others and prohibit using funds for refinancing existing debt, paying for college, or contributing to retirement plans, among others.

Should I apply for a personal loan or a balance transfer card to consolidate credit card debt?

Personal loans are a safer bet than a balance transfer card when it comes to credit card debt consolidation. Since they’re considered installment debt, personal loans feature lower interest rates than credit cards, with terms lasting up to 60 months. Lenders may even offer loans with no fees.

Balance transfer credit cards have lower interest rates than traditional credit cards, and most offer an introductory 0% APR. However, these offers typically last between 12-18 months, after which your APR will be based on your creditworthiness and market conditions. Transfer fees of up to 5% of the transferred amount may apply as well.

Can I get a personal loan while unemployed?

While it’s not impossible to get a loan while unemployed, it will be difficult without a job offer or another source of income. Some lenders may still extend you a loan offer, but keep in mind that interest rates will likely be high, as you’ll pose a higher risk.

How We Chose the Best Personal Loans

Financial stability

We looked at the 2020 Largest 50 Institutions By Consolidated Banking Assets report by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Also, we took into account the top unsecured personal loan companies from the growing fintech market.

Consumer satisfaction

We referenced J.D. Power’s 2020 U.S Consumer Lending Satisfaction Study to measure consumer satisfaction, favoring companies with the highest ratings. As an additional metric, we considered the number of complaints each had with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).


We wanted lenders that cater to both consumers with excellent credit and those who are just getting started or have less-than-stellar credit scores. We looked at each lender’s minimum credit requirements and noted those which included alternative credit data.

Finally, we checked the lenders’ APRs, selecting those with the lowest starting APRs.

Overall Lending Offer

We ranked the companies based on what they offer for: loan options, APR range, available terms, credit score requirements, fees, and prepayment fees.

We also looked at service or interest rate guarantees, funding times, fund disbursement options, ways to apply, state availability, discounts, and customer support.

Summary of Money’s Best Personal Loans of 2021