BEST OF

Best Small Personal Loans in 2022

A small personal loan can fill an income gap or help you through a financial emergency. Compare small loan options and borrowing alternatives.

Jul 26, 2022

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A small personal loan can help you bridge a gap in income or cover an emergency, such as a car repair. Even if you urgently need cash, it’s useful to compare financing options before getting a loan — you may find a cheaper one.

Learn where to get a small loan, how to compare lenders and which alternatives to explore. These lenders offer small personal loans with starting amounts from $300 to $2,000:

Best Small Personal Loans in 2022

Our pick for

Small loans starting at $300

Oportun
See my rates

on NerdWallet's secure website

Oportun

3.0

NerdWallet rating 
Oportun

Est. APR

27.74-35.95%

Loan amount

$300-$10,000

Min. credit score

None
See my rates

on NerdWallet's secure 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 and limited secured loan options.

  • Accepts borrowers new to credit.

  • Offers small loans starting at $300.

Cons

  • Borrowers cannot change their payment date.

  • Doesn't offer direct payment to creditors with debt consolidation loans.

  • No joint loan option.

  • Loans are expensive compared to other bad-credit options.

  • Reports to only 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.

  • At least $500 in monthly income.

Available Term Lengths

12 to 51 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. Not available in CO, DC, GA, HI, IA, MA, MD, ME, NY, and WV. 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 all other states, 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

Small loans starting at $600

PenFed Credit Union Personal Loan
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on NerdWallet's secure website

PenFed Credit Union Personal Loan

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
PenFed Credit Union Personal Loan

Est. APR

4.99-17.99%

Loan amount

$600-$50,000

Min. credit score

None
See my rates

on NerdWallet's secure website


Min. credit score

None

Key facts

PenFed’s personal loans are ideal for good-credit borrowers looking for a small loan with a low rate.

Pros

  • Soft credit check with pre-qualification.

  • No origination or prepayment fees.

  • Offers joint and secured loan options.

  • Offers mobile app to manage your loan.

Cons

  • No discount for autopay.

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

  • No option to choose or change your payment date.

Qualifications

  • Minimum credit history: Two years.

  • Debt-to-income ratio: Below 55%.

Available Term Lengths

1 to 5 years

Fees

  • Late fee: $29

  • Returned payment fee: $30

  • Membership fee: $5

Disclaimer

Personal Loan rates range from 5.49% to 17.99% APR.Rates and offers current as of May 2022 and are subject to change.* Your actual APR will be determined at the time of disbursement and will be based on your creditworthiness, which includes an evaluation of your credit history and the length of your PenFed membership. Not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history. Other eligibility requirements may apply. Loan Payment Example: A $50,000 personal loan financed at 5.49% APR would amount to 60 monthly payments of approximately $954.83 each.Loan amount determines rate and term. All loans are subject to a minimum monthly payment of $50.Insured by NCUA. To receive any advertised product, you must become a member of PenFed. Equal Housing Lender.

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Our pick for

Small loans starting at $1,000

Lending Club
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on LendingClub's website

LendingClub

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Lending Club

Est. APR

6.34-35.89%

Loan amount

$1,000-$40,000

Min. credit score

600
Get rate

on LendingClub's website


Min. credit score

600

Key facts

LendingClub loans start at $1,000 to borrowers with fair or good credit. The lender doesn't offer some of the features you'll find at other online lenders, but offers to help borrowers manage their credit and budget.

Pros

  • Offers joint loan options.

  • Offers direct payment to creditors with debt consolidation loans.

  • Soft credit check with pre-qualification.

  • Option to change the payment date.

Cons

  • Borrowers can choose from two repayment term options only.

  • Charges an origination fee.

Qualifications

  • Minimum credit score: 600.

  • Maximum DTI: 60%; 40% for joint applicants.

  • Minimum credit history: More than 18 months.

  • Minimum number of accounts on credit report: Two revolving accounts.

  • Monthly income after paying other debts and living expenses should be enough to cover the new personal loan payments.

Available Term Lengths

3 to 5 years

Fees

  • Origination fee: 2% 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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Upgrade
Get rate

on Upgrade's website

Upgrade

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Upgrade

Est. APR

6.95-35.97%

Loan amount

$1,000-$50,000

Min. credit score

560
Get rate

on Upgrade's website


Min. credit score

560

Key facts

Upgrade offers personal loans starting at $1,000 to borrowers with low credit scores. The lender offers credit-building tools and rate discounts that make it a solid option for those looking to build credit.

Pros

  • Secured and joint loans.

  • Multiple rate discounts.

  • Mobile app to manage loan payments.

  • Direct payment to creditors with debt consolidation loans.

  • Long repayment terms on home improvement loans.

Cons

  • Origination fee.

  • No option to choose your payment date.

Qualifications

  • Minimum credit score: 560.

  • Minimum number of accounts on credit history: 1 account.

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

  • Minimum length of credit history: 2 years.

  • Minimum income requirement: None. Lender accepts income from alimony, retirement, child support, Social Security and other sources.

Available Term Lengths

2 to 7 years

Fees

  • Origination fee: 1.85% to 8%.

  • Late Fee: $10.

  • Failed payment fee: $10.

Disclaimer

Personal loans made through Upgrade feature Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) of 6.95%-35.97%. All personal loans have a 1.85% to 8% origination fee, which is deducted from the loan proceeds. Lowest rates require Autopay and paying off a portion of existing debt directly. Loans feature repayment terms of 24 to 84 months. For example, if you receive a $10,000 loan with a 36-month term and a 17.59% APR (which includes a 13.94% 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 $341.48. Over the life of the loan, your payments would total $12,293.46. 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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Upstart
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on Upstart's website

Upstart

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Upstart

Est. APR

5.42-35.99%

Loan amount

$1,000-$50,000

Min. credit score

None
Get rate

on Upstart's website


Min. credit score

None

Key facts

Upstart offers personal loans starting at $1,000 and says it can fund most loans one business day after a borrower signs a loan agreement. This lender uses alternative data to help borrowers with fair credit and those with thin credit histories qualify.

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: None.

  • 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

Your loan amount will be determined based on your credit, income, and certain other information provided in your loan application. Not all applicants will qualify for the full amount. Minimum loan amounts vary by state: GA ($3,100), HI ($2,100), MA ($7,000), NM ($5,100), OH ($6,000).This offer is conditioned on final approval based on our consideration and verification of financial and non-financial information. Rate and loan amount are subject to change based upon information received in your full application. This offer may be accepted only by the person identified in this offer, who is old enough to legally enter into contract for the extension of credit, a US citizen or permanent resident, and a current resident of the US. Duplicate offers are void. Closing your loan is contingent on your meeting our eligibility requirements, our verification of your information, and your agreement to the terms and conditions on the www.upstart.com website.The full range of available rates varies by state. The average 5-year loan offered across all lenders using the Upstart platform will have an APR of 21.4% and 60 monthly payments of $24.62 per $1,000 borrowed. For example, the total cost of a $10,000 loan would be $14,775 including a $582 origination fee. APR is calculated based on 5-year rates offered in the last 1 month. There is no down payment and no prepayment penalty. 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. If you accept your loan by 5pm EST (not including weekends or holidays), you will receive your funds the next business day. Loans used to fund education related expenses are subject to a 3 business day wait period between loan acceptance and funding in accordance with federal law.

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Universal Credit
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on Universal Credit's website

Universal Credit

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Universal Credit

Est. APR

11.69-35.93%

Loan amount

$1,000-$50,000

Min. credit score

560
Get rate

on Universal Credit's website


Min. credit score

560

Key facts

Universal Credit is owned by Upgrade, but focuses its loans more directly on bad-credit borrowers. Its origination fee is a bit higher than Upgrade's, but Universal Credit borrowers get access to many of Upgrade's features.

Pros

  • Offers direct payment to creditors with debt consolidation loans.

  • Fast funding.

  • Offers multiple rate discounts.

  • Offers free credit score access.

Cons

  • Charges origination fee.

  • Borrowers can choose from only two repayment term options.

Qualifications

  • Minimum credit score: 560.

  • Minimum number of accounts on credit history: 1 account.

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

  • Minimum length of credit history: 2 years.

  • Minimum income requirement: None. Lender accepts income from alimony, retirement, child support, Social Security and other sources.

Available Term Lengths

3 to 5 years

Fees

  • Origination fee: 5.25% to 8%.

  • Late fee: Up to $10.

Disclaimer

Personal loans made through Universal Credit feature Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) of 11.69%-35.93%. All personal loans have a 5.25% to 8% origination fee, which is deducted from the loan proceeds. Lowest rates require Autopay and paying off a portion of existing debt directly. Loans feature repayment terms of 36 to 60 months. For example, if you receive a $10,000 loan with a 36-month term and a 28.47% APR (which includes a 22.99% yearly interest rate and a 7% one-time origination fee), you would receive $9,300 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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SeedFi Borrow & Grow Personal Loan
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on SeedFi's website

SeedFi Borrow & Grow Personal Loan

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
SeedFi Borrow & Grow Personal Loan

Est. APR

7.42-29.99%

Loan amount

$1,200-$7,000

Min. credit score

520
Get rate

on SeedFi's website


Min. credit score

520

Key facts

SeedFi's personal loans allow borrowers to access small loan amounts and build credit.

Pros

  • Soft credit check to pre-qualify.

  • Reports payments to the three major credit bureaus.

  • No origination or prepayment fees.

  • Returns late fees at the end of the loan.

  • Able to fund a loan within 1 - 2 business days.

Cons

  • No co-signed or joint loan option.

  • No option to choose your payment date.

Qualifications

  • Verifiable income.

  • An active bank account.

  • A Social Security number or individual taxpayer identification number.

  • Minimum credit score: 520; borrower average is 600. Those with no credit score can also apply.

  • Annual net income: $10,000; borrower average is $54,000.

  • Debt-to-income ratio: None required; borrower average is 20%.

  • Average monthly free cash flow: No minimum required; borrower average is $2,000.

Available Term Lengths

8 to 44 months

Fees

  • Origination fee: None.

  • Prepayment fee: None.

  • Late fee: $15 added to the savings account.

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Our pick for

Loans starting at $1,500

OneMain
Get 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
Get rate

on OneMain Financial's website


Min. credit score

None

Key facts

OneMain offers loans starting at $1,500 and doesn't have a minimum credit score requirement. This lender 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

Loans starting at $2,000

BestEgg
Get rate

on Best Egg's website

Best Egg

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
BestEgg

Est. APR

7.99-35.99%

Loan amount

$2,000-$50,000

Min. credit score

600
Get rate

on Best Egg's website


Min. credit score

600

Key facts

Best Egg offers personal loans starting at $2,000 to those with fair or good credit. These no-frill loans have reasonable rates and are usually funded within one to three business days after approval.

Pros

  • Offers wide range of loan amounts.

  • Provides secured loan option for homeowners.

  • Offers direct payment to creditors with debt consolidation loans.

Cons

  • Origination fee.

  • No rate discounts.

  • No option to choose initial payment date.

Qualifications

  • Minimum credit score: 600; borrower average is 700.

  • Minimum credit history: 3 years and 3 accounts.

  • Minimum income requirement is $3,500; borrower average is $80,000. Borrower must have enough cash flow to cover current financial obligations.

  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: 40% or 65% including a mortgage; borrower average is 40%.

  • Employment: Must provide proof of income; part-time employees are eligible.

  • Must provide valid U.S. address and Social Security number.

Available Term Lengths

3 to 5 years

Fees

  • Origination fee: 0.99% - 8.99%.

  • Return fee: $15 if payments are not processed.

Disclaimer

Trustpilot TrustScore as of June 2020. Best Egg personal loans, including the Best Egg Secured Loan, are made by Cross River Bank, a New Jersey State Chartered Commercial Bank, Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender or Blue Ridge Bank, a Nationally Chartered Bank, Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender. “Best Egg” is a trademark of Marlette Holdings, Inc., a Delaware corporation. All uses of “Best Egg” refer to “the Best Egg personal loan”, “the Best Egg Secured Loan”, and/or “Best Egg on behalf of Cross River Bank or Blue Ridge Bank, as originator of the Best Egg personal loan,” as applicable. The term, amount, and APR of any loan we offer to you will depend on your credit score, income, debt payment obligations, loan amount, credit history and other factors. Your loan agreement will contain specific terms and conditions. About half of our customers get their money the next day. After successful verification, your money can be deposited in your bank account within 1-3 business days. The timing of available funds upon loan approval may vary depending upon your bank’s policies. Loan amounts range from $2,000– $50,000. Residents of Massachusetts have a minimum loan amount of $6,500 ; New Mexico and Ohio, $5,000; and Georgia, $3,000. For a second Best Egg loan, your total existing Best Egg loan balances cannot exceed $50,000. Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) range from 7.99%–35.99%. The APR is the cost of credit as a yearly rate and reflects both your interest rate and an origination fee of 0.99%–8.99% of your loan amount, which will be deducted from any loan proceeds you receive. The origination fee on a loan term 4-years or longer will be at least 4.99%. Your loan term will impact your APR, which may be higher than our lowest advertised rate.  You need a minimum 700 FICO® score and a minimum individual annual income of $100,000 to qualify for our lowest APR. To help the government fight the funding of terrorism and money laundering activities, Federal law requires all financial institutions to obtain, verify, and record information that identifies each person who opens an account. What this means for you: When you open an account, we will ask for your name, address, date of birth, and other information that will allow us to identify you. We may also ask to see your driver’s license or other identifying documents. Best Egg products are not available if you live in Iowa, Vermont, West Virginia, the District of Columbia, or U.S. Territories.

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What is a small loan?

A small loan is generally a personal loan for less than $2,500. Repayment terms vary widely; reputable lenders give you at least a few months to repay a small loan.

Annual percentage rates — the interest rate plus any fees a lender charges — also vary, ranging from about 6% to 36%, with the lowest rates offered to borrowers with strong credit.

Pros and cons of small personal loans

Pros

  • Fast funding. Many lenders can fund a small personal loan the day you’re approved or the next day.

  • Lump sum. You get the funds from a personal loan all at once after approval. There’s no credit limit or draw period to remember.

  • Fixed payments. Personal loans have fixed interest rates that keep your monthly payment the same for the life of the loan.

  • No collateral. Most personal loans are unsecured, so collateral (like a house or car) isn’t required to borrow. If you don’t repay the loan, the lender can’t take any of your possessions, but your credit score will take a hit.

Cons

  • Approval based on credit and income. Approval depends on your creditworthiness and finances. Borrowers with thin credit histories, low scores or low incomes are usually offered higher rates, and some may not qualify.

  • High rates. Personal loan rates can be high compared to other borrowing options, especially for borrowers with low credit scores and incomes. Still, rates on these loans are lower than on payday loans.

  • Possible origination fees. Some lenders charge an origination fee of 1% to 10% of the loan amount, which the lender takes before sending you the funds. If a lender charges this fee, make sure the final loan amount is enough to cover your expense.

Where to get a small loan

Credit unions

To qualify you for a personal loan and determine your rate, many credit unions look beyond your credit score to information like your standing as a credit union member. Credit union personal loan amounts can start below $1,000.

Some federal credit unions also offer payday alternative loans, typically between $200 and $2,000, to borrowers with low credit scores. Federal credit unions charge maximum APRs of 18% for personal loans and 28% for payday alternative loans.

Online lenders

Loan amounts at online lenders start around $1,000 or $2,000. Many online lenders let you pre-qualify to preview potential small loan offers, including the APR and monthly payment, without affecting your credit score.

Capital Good Fund is one of few online lenders with low rates and loans that can be less than $1,000. These loans are available in only a handful of states, though, and loan amounts vary by state.

Banks

Personal loan starting amounts at banks are usually around $2,000, and banks typically prefer borrowers with good or excellent credit. However, some banks have introduced new small-dollar loans in recent years. Here are a examples:

  • The U.S. Bank Simple Loan is offered in amounts from $100 to $1,000 and is repaid over three months. The loan’s fee is $6 for every $100 borrowed.

  • Bank of America’s Balance Assist provides loans from $100 to $500 and is repaid over three months. The loan carries a flat $5 fee.

  • Truist’s Ready Now loan is offered in amounts from $100 to $1,000 and has a fee of $5 per $100 borrowed. The loan is repaid over six months.

  • Wells Fargo announced it will offer short-term small loans of up to $500 in late 2022. These loans will be repaid in three monthly installments, according to the bank.

Most banks require customers to have a bank account open for a few months before they can apply for a small loan.

How to compare small loans

Here are the most important features to compare when choosing a small loan.

APR: Annual percentage rate is the best apples-to-apples cost comparison for all loan types. The least expensive loan has the lowest APR.

Payments: Review your budget to see how much room you have to repay a loan. A personal loan calculator can help you see what rate and repayment term you’d need to get an affordable monthly payment.

Terms: Some small loans have a repayment term of a few weeks or months, while others can be repaid over a year or more. A long repayment term means you’ll pay more in interest, so find a term that keeps payments low but helps you clear the debt quickly.

Requirements: Some lenders prefer borrowers with strong credit and income, while others accept lower credit scores. Review a lender’s borrowing requirements to determine your likelihood of qualifying.

Funding time: Loan approval and funding can take a couple of days or up to a week, depending on the lender and how smoothly the application process goes. If you need the funds fast, look for a lender that offers fast loans.

How to get a small personal loan

  1. Review your credit and debts. Before applying, check your credit report for opportunities to address any negative marks or unpaid debts. Also, calculate your debt-to-income ratio, which lenders use to see how much of a borrower’s income goes to other debts. Many lenders prefer borrowers with DTIs below 40%.

  2. Pre-qualify. Since pre-qualifying takes a few minutes with most online lenders and doesn’t affect your credit score, it’s a quick way to compare small loans.

  3. Collect necessary documents. A loan application may require information like your Social Security number, W-2s and pay stubs. Gathering this information before you apply can speed up the loan application process.

  4. Submit the application. This part may be done in person with local banks and credit unions, but many lenders have online applications. If you’re approved, expect funding within a day to a week. Applying will temporarily shave a few points off your credit score.

How to qualify for a small loan with bad credit

If you have bad credit (FICO score of 629 or lower), you may still qualify for a small loan from a credit union or reputable online lender, but your rate could be on the high end of the lender’s range.

Here are some ways to improve your chances of qualifying:

  • Add a co-signer whose credit score or income is higher than yours. A co-signer won't have access to loan funds or information about your payments, but they will be on the hook if you fail to repay.

  • Get a joint personal loan with someone whose credit score or income is higher than yours. Co-borrowers share the responsibility for repayment and have equal access to the loan funds and payment information.

  • Choose a lender that offers secured personal loans. Most lenders let you use a bank account or vehicle as collateral.

  • Take more time to build credit before you apply.

How to spot a predatory small loan

A small loan from a predatory lender can damage your finances and trap you in a cycle of debt. Watch for these red flags when shopping for a small personal loan.

High interest rates: Reputable lenders cap APRs at 36%, the highest rate most consumer advocates say an affordable loan can have. Some high-interest lenders can charge triple-digit interest rates or high fees that make the loan difficult to repay.

Extra short repayment terms: Payday loans are so named because you repay them on your next payday — usually in two weeks or less. These loans require a balloon payment (all or most of the loan repaid at once) and may not give you enough time to pull the funds together.

Extra long repayment terms: Installment loans with long repayment terms are appealing because they have low monthly or bi-weekly payments, but some lenders draw out the repayment term for longer than you need in order to make more money on interest. An extra long repayment term, even on a small loan, could have you paying more than 50% of what you borrowed in interest.

No credit checks: A lender that approves you without checking your credit — or without at least reviewing a few months’ worth of bank account transactions — isn't trying to ensure that you can repay the loan. This means the lender either doesn’t care if you can repay or is betting that you can’t, which could lead you to borrow more money to pay off the first loan.

Alternatives to small personal loans

NerdWallet recommends exhausting cheaper alternatives before getting a small loan, even if you need the money for an emergency. Consider these options first:

Last updated on July 26, 2022

Methodology

NerdWallet’s review process evaluates and rates personal loan products from more than 35 financial institutions. 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 more about our ratings methodologies for personal loans and our editorial guidelines.

To recap our selections...

NerdWallet's Best Small Personal Loans in 2022

Frequently asked questions