BEST OF

Best Bad Credit Loans of September 2021

Bad-credit loans are one option for consumers with low credit scores. Before you get a bad-credit loan, consider cheaper alternatives, like borrowing from a family member or picking up a side gig.

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Bad-credit loans are available for consumers with low credit scores (roughly between 550 and 629 FICO). If that's you, you may qualify for a personal loan from a lender that specifically tailors its product for bad-credit borrowers. These lenders often provide a simple application process and fast funding, but the loans can have interest rates up to 36%.

The online lenders listed here accept borrowers with bad credit or thin credit histories and offer fast funding.

Summary of Best Bad Credit Loans of September 2021

Our pick for

Consolidating debt with bad credit

Upgrade
Check rate

on Upgrade's website

Upgrade

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Upgrade

Est. APR

5.94 - 35.47%

Loan Amount

$1,000 - $50,000

Min. Credit Score

560
Check rate

on Upgrade's website


Min. Credit Score

560

Key facts

Upgrade offers personal loans plus credit-building tools; you'll need strong cash flow to qualify.

Pros

  • Allows secured and joint loans.

  • Offers a wide range of repayment terms.

  • Offers a 0.5% rate discount for setting up autopay.

  • Offers significant rate discount for checking account customers.

  • Offers rate discount with direct payment to creditors on debt consolidation loans.

Cons

  • Charges origination fee.

  • No co-signed loan option.

Qualifications

  • Minimum credit score: 560.

  • Minimum annual income: $35,000; average borrower income is $87,000.

  • Minimum credit history: 3 years.

  • Minimum number of accounts on credit history: 2.

  • Minimum monthly free cash flow: $800.

  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: Varies between 55% and 65% including the loan you’re applying for and mortgage payments. To see your post-loan DTI, calculate your monthly payments on a personal loan, and then add them to your debt-to-income calculation.

  • Average loan amount is $10,000.

  • Average repayment term is 40 months.

Available Term Lengths

2 to 7 years

Fees

  • Origination fee: 2.9% to 8%.

Disclaimer

Personal loans made through Upgrade feature APRs of 5.94%-35.47%. All personal loans have a 2.9% to 8% origination fee, which is deducted from the loan proceeds. Lowest rates require Autopay and paying off a portion of existing debt directly. For example, if you receive a $10,000 loan with a 36-month term and a 17.98% APR (which includes a 14.32% yearly interest rate and a 5% one-time origination fee), you would receive $9,500 in your account and would have a required monthly payment of $343.33. Over the life of the loan, your payments would total $12,359.97. The APR on your loan may be higher or lower and your loan offers may not have multiple term lengths available. Actual rate depends on credit score, credit usage history, loan term, and other factors. Late payments or subsequent charges and fees may increase the cost of your fixed rate loan. There is no fee or penalty for repaying a loan early. Personal loans issued by Upgrade's lending partners. Information on Upgrade's lending partners can be found at https://www.upgrade.com/lending-partners/. Accept your loan offer and your funds will be sent to your bank or designated account within one (1) business day of clearing necessary verifications. Availability of the funds is dependent on how quickly your bank processes the transaction. From the time of approval, funds should be available within four (4) business days. Funds sent directly to pay off your creditors may take up to 2 weeks to clear, depending on the creditor.

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Our pick for

Borrowers with limited credit history

Upstart
Check rate

on Upstart's website

Upstart

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Upstart

Est. APR

6.76 - 35.99%

Loan Amount

$1,000 - $50,000

Min. Credit Score

580
Check rate

on Upstart's website


Min. Credit Score

580

Key facts

Upstart is a good option for those who have short credit histories and promising financial futures.

Pros

  • Accepts borrowers new to credit.

  • Able to fund loans within one business day.

  • Offers direct payment to creditors with some debt consolidation loans.

  • Allows borrowers to choose and change payment date.

Cons

  • Borrowers can choose from only two repayment term options.

  • Charges origination fee.

  • No mobile app to manage the loan.

Qualifications

  • Minimum credit score: 580.

  • Minimum credit history: None, this lending platform accepts borrowers with credit history too limited to produce a FICO score.

  • Minimum gross income: $12,000.

  • Employment: Full-time job, full-time job offer starting in 6 months, a regular part-time job, or another source of regular income.

  • Must have U.S. residential street address where borrower resides (unless military personnel on active duty).

  • Must be at least 18 years old.

  • Valid email account required.

  • Personal bank account with U.S. routing number required.

Available Term Lengths

3 to 5 years

Fees

  • Origination fee: 0% - 8%.

  • Late fee: 5% of past due amount or $15, whichever is greater.

Disclaimer

The full range of available rates varies by state. The average 3-year loan offered across all lenders using the Upstart platform will have an APR of 24.4% and 36 monthly payments of $36 per $1,000 borrowed. There is no down payment and no prepayment penalty. Average APR is calculated based on 3-year rates offered in the last 1 month. Your APR will be determined based on your credit, income, and certain other information provided in your loan application. Not all applicants will be approved.

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Our pick for

Consolidating credit cards with bad credit

Lending Club
Check rate

on LendingClub's website

LendingClub

4.0

NerdWallet rating 
Lending Club

Est. APR

7.04 - 35.89%

Loan Amount

$1,000 - $40,000

Min. Credit Score

600
Check rate

on LendingClub's website


Min. Credit Score

600

Key facts

LendingClub is a pioneer of peer-to-peer lending and a good option if you want to consolidate your debt.

Pros

  • Offers co-signed and joint loan options.

  • Offers direct payment to creditors with debt consolidation loans.

  • Soft credit check with pre-qualification.

Cons

  • Borrowers can only choose from two repayment term options.

  • Rates are high compared to other fair-credit lenders.

  • Charges an origination fee.

Qualifications

  • Minimum credit score of 600. LendingClub uses FICO 8 credit scoring model.

  • Minimum credit history of three years.

  • Debt-to-income ratio of less than 40% for single applications, 35% combined for joint applicants.

Available Term Lengths

3 to 5 years

Fees

  • Origination fee: 1% to 6%.

  • Late fee: Greater of $15 or 5% of payment after 15-day grace period.

Disclaimer

A representative example of loan payment terms is as follows: you receive a loan of $13,411 for a term of 36 months, with an interest rate of 12.16% and a 5.30% origination fee of $711, for an APR of 15.99%. In this example, you will receive $12,700 and will make 36 monthly payments of $446.46. Loan amounts range from $1,000 to $40,000 and loan term lengths are 36 months or 60 months. Some amounts and term lengths may be unavailable in certain states. APR ranges from 7.04% to 35.89% and is determined at the time of application. Origination fee ranges from 3% to 6% of the loan amount. Lowest APR is available to borrowers with excellent credit. Advertised rates and fees are valid as of 7/1/21 and are subject to change without notice. Loans are made by LendingClub Bank, N.A., Member FDIC (“LendingClub Bank”), a wholly-owned subsidiary of LendingClub Corporation, NMLS ID 167439. Loans are subject to credit approval and sufficient investor commitment before they can be funded or issued. Certain information that we subsequently obtain as part of the application process (including but not limited to information in your consumer report, your income, the loan amount that your request, the purpose of your loan, and qualifying debt) will be considered and could affect your ability to obtain a loan from us. Loan closing is contingent on accepting all required agreements and disclosures at Lendingclub.com. “LendingClub” is a trademark of LendingClub Bank.

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Our pick for

Secured and co-signed loans for borrowers with bad credit

OneMain
Check rate

on OneMain Financial's website

OneMain Financial

4.0

NerdWallet rating 
OneMain

Est. APR

18.00 - 35.99%

Loan Amount

$1,500 - $20,000

Min. Credit Score

None
Check rate

on OneMain Financial's website


Min. Credit Score

None

Key facts

OneMain is an option for bad-credit borrowers, but it comes with high starting rates and an origination fee.

Pros

  • Option to choose your payment date.

  • Offers joint and secured loans.

  • Able to fund a loan the same or next business day.

  • Offers direct payment to creditors on debt consolidation loans.

Cons

  • Rates are high compared to other online lenders.

  • Charges origination fee.

  • No rate discount for autopay.

Qualifications

  • Minimum credit score: None.

  • Minimum income: None; average is $45,000.

Available Term Lengths

2 to 5 years

Fees

  • Origination fee: $25 to $400 or 1 - 10%.

Disclaimer

Not all applicants will qualify for larger loan amounts or most favorable loan terms. Loan approval and actual loan terms depend on your ability to meet our credit standards (including a responsible credit history, sufficient income after monthly expenses, and availability of collateral). Larger loan amounts require a first lien on a motor vehicle no more than ten years old, that meets our value requirements, titled in your name with valid insurance. Maximum annual percentage rate (APR) is 35.99%, subject to state restrictions. APRs are generally higher on loans not secured by a vehicle. Depending on the state where you open your loan, the origination fee may be either a flat amount or a percentage of your loan amount. Flat fee amounts vary by state, ranging from $25 to $300. Percentage-based fees vary by state ranging from 1% to 10% of your loan amount subject to certain state limits on the fee amount. Active duty military, their spouse or dependents covered under the Military Lending Act may not pledge any vehicle as collateral for a loan. OneMain loan proceeds cannot be used for postsecondary educational expenses as defined by the CFPB’s Regulation Z, such as college, university or vocational expenses; for any business or commercial purpose; to purchase securities; or for gambling or illegal purposes. Borrowers in these states are subject to these minimum loan sizes: Alabama: $2,100. California: $3,000. Georgia: Unless you are a present customer, $3,100 minimum loan amount. Ohio: $2,000. Virginia: $2,600. Borrowers (other than present customers) in these states are subject to these maximum unsecured loan sizes: North Carolina: $7,500. New York: $20,000. An unsecured loan is a loan which does not require you to provide collateral (such as a motor vehicle) to the lender.

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Our pick for

Small loans for borrowers with bad credit

Oportun
Check rate

on Oportun's website

Oportun

3.0

NerdWallet rating 
Oportun

Est. APR

27.74 - 35.95%

Loan Amount

$300 - $10,000

Min. Credit Score

None
Check rate

on Oportun's website


Min. Credit Score

None

Key facts

Oportun offers small loans at rates that are lower than payday loans, but still high. Fixed payments help you establish credit.

Pros

  • Soft credit check with pre-qualification.

  • Offers co-sign, joint and secured loan options.

  • Accepts borrowers new to credit.

  • Offers small loans starting at $300.

Cons

  • Available in a limited number of states.

  • Borrowers cannot choose or change their payment date.

  • Does not offer direct payment to creditors with debt consolidation loans.

  • Reports payments to two of the three major credit bureaus.

Qualifications

  • Valid identification.

  • Proof of income.

  • Proof of address.

  • Up to four references.

  • Be 18 years or older.

Available Term Lengths

6 to 46 months

Fees

  • Origination fee: $0 - $300.

  • Late fee: Fixed amount or percent, $15 max.

Disclaimer

This is an advertisement for a consumer loan, subject to credit eligibility and state limitations. Loans in AZ, CA, FL, ID, IL, MO, NJ, NM, TX, UT, and WI are originated by Oportun Inc. California loans made pursuant to a California Financing Law license. NV loans originated by Oportun, LLC. In AR, DE, IN, KY, MS, MT, ND, NH, OR, SC, SD, and VA, loans are originated by MetaBank, N.A., member FDIC. Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. See oportun.com for details.

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Our pick for

Credit building tools for borrowers with bad credit

Universal Credit
Check rate

on Universal Credit's website

Universal Credit

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Universal Credit

Est. APR

8.93 - 35.43%

Loan Amount

$1,000 - $50,000

Min. Credit Score

560
Check rate

on Universal Credit's website


Min. Credit Score

560

Key facts

A Universal Credit loan is an option for bad-credit borrowers with high debt-to-income ratios, but rates are high compared to similar lenders.

Pros

  • Offers rate discount with direct payment to creditors on debt consolidation loans.

  • Option to change your payment date.

  • Offers free credit score access.

  • Offers a .5% rate discount for setting up autopay.

Cons

  • Charges origination fee.

  • No co-sign, joint or secured loan option.

Qualifications

  • Minimum credit score: 580.

  • Minimum number of accounts on credit history: 2 accounts.

  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: 75%, including mortgage and the loan you’re applying for.

Available Term Lengths

3 to 5 years

Fees

  • Origination fee: 4.25% to 8%.

  • Late fee: Up to $10.

Disclaimer

Personal loans made through Universal Credit feature APRs of 8.93%-35.93%. All personal loans have a 4.25% to 8% origination fee, which is deducted from the loan proceeds. Lowest rates require Autopay and paying off a portion of existing debt directly. For example, if you receive a $10,000 loan with a 36-month term and a 27.65% APR (which includes a 22.99% yearly interest rate and a 6% one-time origination fee), you would receive $9,400 in your account and would have a required monthly payment of $387.05. Over the life of the loan, your payments would total $13,933.62. The APR on your loan may be higher or lower and your loan offers may not have multiple term lengths available. Actual rate depends on credit score, credit usage history, loan term, and other factors. Late payments or subsequent charges and fees may increase the cost of your fixed rate loan. There is no fee or penalty for repaying a loan early.

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How to get approved for a bad-credit loan

Here are steps you can take to improve your application and potentially qualify for the loan you want.

Check your credit report. Is a credit reporting error keeping your credit score low? You can review your credit report for any incorrectly reported delinquencies or accounts that aren’t yours. Remedying these kinds of issues before you apply can improve your chances of qualifying.

Add a co-signer or co-borrower. Adding someone with better credit may boost your chances of qualifying since the lender will consider both applicants’ credit and income to make a decision. Keep in mind that whoever you add is on the hook for the loan if you fail to make payments.

Add collateral. You may be approved more easily or get a lower rate with a secured loan. Online lenders like OneMain and Oportun let borrowers secure a loan with collateral — typically a vehicle — while credit unions and some banks offer loans secured with savings or CD accounts. If you can’t repay the loan, though, the lender can take the collateral.

How to choose a bad-credit loan

Here are five things to look for when comparing bad-credit loans:

  1. Affordable rates: Look for a lender that caps rates at 36%, which is the maximum that consumer advocates consider to be affordable. There are online lenders that offer no-credit-check loans at rates above 36%, but we recommend you consider these only as a last resort, after you’ve ruled out alternatives. (See our list of alternatives below.)

  2. Credit reporting: Find a lender that reports your payments to at least one of the three major credit bureaus. Ideally, a lender will report to all three, ensuring that on-time payments help you build credit and qualify for lower rates in the future.

  3. Fast funding: If you need money quickly, an online loan may be your best option. Online lenders can often fund a loan the day after you’re approved, if not the same day. Some banks and credit unions may also fund a loan quickly if you’re already a customer.

  4. Easy application: Online applications typically take a few minutes to complete. Pre-qualifying with an online lender can be a simple way to see your rates and loan terms without affecting your credit score.

  5. Perks: Some lenders have features that help you build your credit, like free access to your credit score. A lender may also offer free financial education on their website.

About bad-credit loans: Rates, amounts, terms

Borrowers with bad credit can expect rates at the high end of a lender’s range. Most lenders have a minimum credit score requirement, but some weigh additional factors — like your monthly cash flow or occupation — when deciding how much to lend you and what rate to charge.

Rates

Annual percentage rates on personal loans generally range from 6% to 36%; rates on bad-credit loans can be above 20%. In 2020, bad-credit borrowers who pre-qualified for a personal loan using NerdWallet received APRs between 26.7% and 32.4%. The rate you get on a loan depends on many factors, not just your credit score.

Amounts

Personal loan amounts for consumers with low credit scores typically range from $1,000 to $50,000. Few online lenders offer loan amounts below $1,000, and not everyone qualifies for the largest loans. Borrowers with consistent income and a credit history of regular on-time payments may qualify for higher loan amounts.

Terms

To repay your loan, you typically make monthly payments over a period of two to five years. In some cases, a lender may allow bi-weekly payments. A longer term gives you lower monthly payments, but you’ll pay more interest over the lifetime of the loan.

Bad-credit loan example

A $2,000 loan with a 28.7% APR repaid over 12 months would require monthly payments of $194, according to NerdWallet’s personal loan calculator. You’d pay $328 in total interest on that loan.

Alternatives to bad-credit loans

Personal loans are one option if you need fast cash, but you may have access to cheaper alternatives.

Friend or family loan: Borrowing from a friend or family member takes your credit score out of the equation. You can draw up a contract and agree to repayment terms. Try to discuss how you both can keep the relationship intact once you’ve mixed in money.

Charity or nonprofit: If you’re having a hard time covering everyday expenses like groceries, gas and housing — or if an expensive emergency comes up — a local charity may be able to help. These organizations may provide assistance with food or rent, or offer small, interest-free loans.

Credit-builder loan: If you’re trying to build credit and don’t need money right away, a credit-builder loan is a safe option. These loans are typically offered by credit unions and community banks and require you to have an income that supports monthly payments.

Side gig: There are legitimate ways to make extra cash, no matter how quickly you need it. From babysitting and selling your gently used clothes to becoming an influencer and creating for Etsy, you may be able to find another way to bring in extra money.

Lending circles: You can form a lending circle with a group of people you trust. Everyone contributes some amount of money, which is then pooled and distributed to one circle member every month or so. In some cases, contributions are reported to help build credit. It isn’t the fastest option, but it’s one way friends or family can help each other.

How to choose between bad-credit loan companies

Each lender offers something unique, so if you qualify for a similar rate with multiple companies, compare them to decide which loan you'll get the most out of.

Here's who each bad-credit lender is best for:

Upgrade is best for borrowers who:

  • Have fair or bad credit (689 or lower FICO).

  • Want to secure the loan or add a co-borrower to their application.

  • Are consolidating credit cards and other unsecured debts.

  • Need help building credit.

Upstart is best for borrowers who:

  • Have at least a 580 FICO score and strong earning potential.

  • Value fast funding and the ability to change the payment due date.

  • Don't need to manage their loan from a mobile app.

LendingClub is best for borrowers who:

  • Have fair credit (FICO of 630 to 689).

  • Want help building credit and managing their budget.

  • Want to consolidate other debts.

OneMain is best for borrowers who:

  • Have fair or bad credit (689 or lower FICO score).

  • Can add collateral or a co-borrower to the application, which can help lower your rate.

  • Need the funds fast.

Oportun is best for borrowers who:

  • Have limited or no credit history, but not bad credit.

  • Want to add a co-signer, co-borrower or secure the loan with a vehicle.

  • Live in one of the 12 states where loans are available.

Universal Credit is best for borrowers who:

  • Have bad credit (629 or lower FICO) and a high debt-to-income ratio.

  • Are consolidating other high-interest debts.

  • Don’t want to add a co-signer or secure the loan with a vehicle.

  • Don't mind choosing a three- or five-year repayment term.

Last updated on September 1, 2021

Methodology

NerdWallet’s review process evaluates and rates personal loan products from more than 30 lenders. We collect over 45 data points from each lender, interview company representatives and compare the lender with others that seek the same customer or offer a similar personal loan product. NerdWallet writers and editors conduct a full fact check and update annually, but also make updates throughout the year as necessary.

Our star ratings award points to lenders that offer consumer-friendly features, including: soft credit checks to pre-qualify, competitive interest rates and no fees, transparency of rates and terms, flexible payment options, fast funding times, accessible customer service, reporting of payments to credit bureaus and financial education. We also consider regulatory actions filed by agencies like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. We weigh these factors based on our assessment of which are the most important to consumers and how meaningfully they impact consumers’ experiences. 

This methodology applies only to lenders that cap interest rates at 36%, the maximum rate most financial experts and consumer advocates agree is the acceptable limit for a loan to be affordable. NerdWallet does not receive compensation for our star ratings. Read our editorial guidelines.

To recap our selections...

NerdWallet's Best Bad Credit Loans of September 2021

  • Upgrade: Best for Consolidating debt with bad credit
  • Upstart: Best for Borrowers with limited credit history
  • LendingClub: Best for Consolidating credit cards with bad credit
  • OneMain Financial : Best for Secured and co-signed loans for borrowers with bad credit
  • Oportun: Best for Small loans for borrowers with bad credit
  • Universal Credit: Best for Credit building tools for borrowers with bad credit

Frequently asked questions