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Whether you should apply for a personal loan online or in person depends on your borrowing needs and personal preferences.
If you want a fast approval decision and the convenience of applying from home, an online application may make sense. If you favor a face-to-face experience, opt for a traditional brick-and-mortar bank or credit union.
» MORE: Best online lenders
No matter how you apply, the best choice of lender is usually the one that offers the lowest interest rate, so it’s a good idea to compare personal loans from multiple lenders.
Applying for a loan online vs. in person: Pros and cons
Applying in person
Online vs. in-person loan applications: 5 questions to ask
Here are five questions to ask when choosing between an online and in-person loan application.
1. Can you distinguish between reputable lenders and scams?
Loans from online lenders are as safe as loans originated from large banks, provided that the online lender is reputable.
A reputable lender checks your credit, discloses the loan’s costs and verifies your ability to repay before approving your application. The lender should also have a license to do business in your state.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) maintains a list of state bank regulators, which you can use to find out whether the lender you’re considering has a valid license.
» MORE: 5 signs of a personal loan scam
2. Do you value personalized loan service?
One of the obvious differences between in-person and online applications is the face-to-face exchange you can have at a physical bank or credit union.
If you value personal interaction and the security of knowing who is handling your loan, applying in person might be best for you. You may also have the opportunity to negotiate a lower rate or qualify with a lower credit score if you have a preexisting relationship at your financial institution.
» MORE: Best bank loans
3. How fast do you need the money?
If you need a loan quickly, online might be the way to go.
Online lenders typically process loan applications within a few days, and some can fund a loan the same day you apply or the following business day. Banks and credit unions can take up to a week to approve loan applications, particularly if you’re applying in person.
» MORE: Fast personal loans
When you apply for a loan in person, you may be restricted by the bank’s hours of operation, and you may have to schedule an appointment in advance.
4. Are you comfortable submitting information online?
For an online loan application, you must electronically share information like your Social Security number and income. The lender may also require access to your bank account.
Lenders take measures to keep your information safe, but if you don’t feel comfortable sharing sensitive information online, applying for a loan at a physical bank or credit union may be right for you.
5. How do you want to manage the loan during repayment?
If you want to reach out to your lender during repayment, you’ll only be able to contact an online lender via the phone or internet. If you prefer in-person support, an online lender may not be a good fit. Working with an online lender can also be challenging if you don’t have reliable internet access or aren’t technologically savvy.
Many lenders with brick-and-mortar locations maintain an online presence, so it is possible to apply online with a bank or credit union and visit a nearby branch for in-person support.
Where can you get the best loan?
Regardless of whether it’s from an online lender or a bank branch, the best loan is the one with costs, terms and features that match your needs. Compare multiple offers from lenders to ensure you’re getting the best value for your situation.
Many lenders let you pre-qualify to see your potential loan amount, rate and repayment term, which is helpful information to have as you shop around. You can also pre-qualify with multiple lenders on NerdWallet, and doing so won’t affect your credit score.
Should you apply for a personal loan online or in person?
When applying for a loan online makes sense
Consider applying for a loan online if:
You need money fast.
You want to quickly and easily compare multiple offers.
You’re comfortable submitting your information online.
You want the convenience of applying from home at any hour of the day.
When applying for a loan in person makes sense
Consider applying for a loan in person if:
You want face-to-face support through the application process or during repayment.
You don’t need the funds right away.
You can easily get to the bank or credit union’s physical location.
You don’t have reliable internet access.
» MORE: How to apply for a personal loan