The Best Personal Loans of 2021

The Best Personal Loans of 2020

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It doesn’t matter if you are trying to achieve financial freedom by consolidating debt, finance your next vacation, or make necessary home renovations, taking out a personal loan could be the right move to achieve that.

Last year alone, the outstanding personal loan balances in the U.S. reached over $305 billion, as a result, a 12% increase from the year before. With this kind of increase in demand, it is very clear to us that there will be no shortage of options when it comes to this type of loan. However, the hard part is finding the one that can give you the best terms and rates for your needs.

The Money Skim’s Top Picks

LightStream: Best Variety of Loan Options
Credible: Best Marketplace
SoFi: Best Online Lender
Upstart: Best Peer-to-Peer Lender
PenFed: Best Credit Union
U.S. Bank: Best Bank

How we chose our lenders

When we set out to find the best personal loan lenders of 2020, we started by taking a look at some of the country’s largest financial organizations. To do this we had to look at their market share and consolidated banking assets, as well as the top personal loan originators in the fintech business. However, that left us with an original list of 20 companies.

To narrow down the search and results we broke it down by observing customer support, minimum and maximum loan amounts, APR range, personal loan options, available terms, credit requirements, state-availability, and streamlined online applications.

After using these factors we were able to narrow down our list to the top 6 lenders with the most to offer in each category.

SoFi: Best Online Lender

Available terms24 to 84 months
Loan amounts$5,000 – $100,000
APR*6.24% – 20.21%
Minimum credit score required**680

Sofi might require a higher credit score but they also check other things. For example, they check free cash flow, professional history, and your history of financial responsibility. This means that if your credit score is not quite where it needs to be, but everything else is great in these other departments, you may still be able to get approved for the loan.

SoFi offers personal loans for up to $100,000, which is one of the highest loan amounts seen from an online lender. Pre-approval is also available, so you can check your rate before applying, without hurting your credit score. The company doesn’t charge any fees, not even late payment fees. They also offer a 0.25% AutoPay discount and a $500 loan referral bonus.

If you find yourself unemployed SoFi will temporarily suspend your monthly payments for up to 12 months. They do so in three-month increments. The best part is that they will provide you with free tools, like career coaching and financial advisory, to help you get back on track.

Credible: Best Marketplace

Available terms12 to 84 months
Loan amounts$1,000 – $100,000
APR*As low as 4.99%
Minimum credit score required**580
NOTE: Since Credible doesn’t service its own loans, the numbers listed above are subject to your location and the offers from the lenders you may qualify for.

Credible is the company to go to. They will help you save time and money by narrowing down your choices by location, loan amount, desired APR, and purpose. The company accepts applicants with all types of credit profiles. Even those who are still working on building their credit.

Credible will stand out from other comparison websites because of their best rate guarantee. This means that if you find a better rate and close on a personal loan with a competing website within 8 days of applying at Credible, the company will give you $200.

LightStream: Best Variety of Loan Options

Available terms24 to 144 months
Loan amounts$5,000 – $100,000
APR*3.99% – 20.49%
Minimum credit score required**700+

LightStream offers personal loans of all types. Here are a few choices you can choose from:

  • Home improvement
  • Medical bills
  • Debt consolidation
  • Vacation
  • Big purchase loans
  • K-12 education
  • Recreational vehicles
  • Fertility
  • Family planning
  • Even loans to fund the purchase of horses for those in the equine industry.

LightStream’s personal loans also have a starting APR of 3.99%, as a result, this is 3% lower than the industry average. The company also offers some of the longest terms available in the market They will give you the option of repaying your loan in installments up to 144 months. Everything is done online and they also have same-day funding available.

PenFed: Best Credit Union

Available terms6 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

Penfed offers you the solution to apply for a personal loan without being a member. You only have to join if you accept the loan. The company will offer a lower APR range than any other credit union. The great thing is that you can apply individually or with a co-borrower.

PenFed’s personal loans can be used for:

  • debt consolidation
  • medical and dental expenses
  • vacations
  • events
  • home improvement projects
  • pet care

Some other amazing features you will find at PenFed are that they offer flexible terms starting at 6 months, as well as loan amounts as low as $500. They will not charge repayment penalties nor origination fees. If you find yourself in a tight financial spot they do have a Financial Hardship Center to help those in need.

U.S. Bank: Best Bank

Available terms12 to 60 months
Loan amounts$100 – $1,000 / $1,000 – $25,000
APR*2.99% – 16.49%
Minimum credit score required**680

U.S. Bank is our top bank lender for several reasons. First, the company offers the lowest starting APR available right now for personal loans. This is even lower than those of online lenders that traditionally offer the most competitive rates in the industry. Its maximum APR for this type of loan is 16.49%. That is much lower than other big banks like Citi and Wells Fargo, which cap their APRs at 23.99% and 24.49%, respectively.

While most banks offer traditional personal loans for bigger amounts, U.S. Bank does offer smaller loans. This is called the Simple Loan and it is designed for emergencies for smaller expenses. You can get a loan amount ranging between $100 to $1000. The only thing is that you will have to pay a $6 monthly fee for every $100 you borrow. This is a great option for those that want to avoid payday loans.

U.S. Bank unlike most lenders, allows you to spend the loan amount as you see fit and doesn’t limit its personal loans by purpose. You can get your loans as early as the next day and they will not charge any prepayment fees or origination fees.

Upstart: Best Peer-to-Peer Lender

Available terms36 months and 60 months
Loan amounts$5,000 – $30,000
APR*7.00% – 35.99%
Minimum credit score required**620

Something that makes Upstart stand from the other lenders is that you can apply for a loan even if you do not have a job, as long as you have an employment offer with a starting date within 60 days. They offer loans for continuing education, professional development, and of course your traditional personal loans as well.

If you have a short credit history that is not a problem at Upstart. They accept new borrowers. They do charge origination and late payment fees, but they do not charge any prepayment penalties.

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