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Best Small Personal Loans in 2021: Compare Options

For small personal loans, look first to credit unions or online lenders for affordable loans. Compare small loans and learn about alternatives.

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

Here are small personal loans, with loan amounts as low as $300. Plus, learn how to compare lenders and explore alternatives.

Small personal loans:

  • Oportun: Loans starting below $1,000.

  • Upgrade: Loans starting at $1,000.

  • Universal Credit: Loans starting at $1,000.

  • Upstart: Loans starting at $1,000.

  • LendingClub: Loans starting at $1,000.

  • OneMain: Loans starting at $1,500.

  • Best Egg: Loans starting at $2,000.

Summary of Best Small Personal Loans in 2021: Compare Options

Our pick for

Small loans starting below $1,000

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 picks for

Small loans starting at $1,000

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

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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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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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 offers personal loans starting at $1,000 and says it can fund most loans one business day after a borrower signs a loan agreement.

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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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

The pioneer of peer-to-peer lending and an option for good-credit borrowers who want a small loan.

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

Small loans starting at $1,500

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 starting at $2,000

BestEgg
Check rate

on Best Egg's website

Best Egg

4.0

NerdWallet rating 
BestEgg

Est. APR

5.99 - 29.99%

Loan Amount

$2,000 - $50,000

Min. Credit Score

640
Check rate

on Best Egg's website


Min. Credit Score

640

Key facts

Best Egg offers personal loans for borrowers who want a small loan and need cash fast.

Pros

  • Competitive rates among fair-credit lenders.

  • Able to fund loans within one business day.

  • Secured loan option for homeowners.

Cons

  • Charges origination fee.

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

  • Borrowers can choose from only two repayment term options.

Qualifications

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

  • Minimum credit history: 3 years and 3 accounts.

  • Minimum income: No minimum income requirement; borrower average is $80,000. Borrower must have enough cash flow to cover current financial obligations.

  • Minimum 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% - 5.99%.

  • 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 4.99%–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%–5.99% 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.

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What is a small loan?

Small loans generally have amounts of $2,500 or lower. Personal loan amounts skew higher — they often max out at $50,000 or $100,000 — so a small personal loan may be $1,000 or $2,000. There are, however, other unsecured loans that can be as low as $300 or $500.

It's difficult for many lenders to make a profit from a loan that's less than $1,000, which is why they can be hard to find. Lenders listed here all charge APRs below 36% — the highest an affordable loan's APR can be, according to many consumer advocates. But some lenders charge exorbitantly high rates, in some cases knowing that a borrower can't repay the loan (more on predatory lending below).

Vet and compare lenders before you borrow to ensure the loan will help your situation, rather than making things worse.

Where to get a small loan

Credit unions

Credit unions are not-for-profit institutions built to serve their members, and many look beyond your credit score to information like your relationship with the credit union to qualify you and determine your rate.

Many federal credit unions also offer payday alternative loans, typically between $200 and $2,000, to borrowers with low credit scores. By law, federal credit unions can charge maximum annual percentage rates of 18% for personal loans and 28% for payday alternative loans.

Federal credit union personal loan rates, amounts

Banks

Not all major banks offer personal loans, and many that do offer larger loans. But two banks offer small loans of $1,000 or less:

  • Bank of America’s Balance Assist provides loans from $100 to $500. It has a flat fee of $5 to borrow and a three-month repayment term. You must be an existing Bank of America customer to qualify.

  • The U.S. Bank Simple Loan lets bank customers borrow between $100 and $1,000, repaid in three monthly installments. The loan carries a fee of $12 to $15, which translates to an APR of 77% to 81%. It's an expensive option, but still cheaper than payday loans.

Online lenders

Loan amounts at online lenders typically start around $1,000 or $2,000, but some have much higher starting loan amounts.

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 seven states, though, and loan amounts vary by state.

Online lenders typically offer fast funding and online applications. Many also offer pre-qualification, an application process that requires basic information — like your name, employment information, requested loan amount and why you’re borrowing — and lets you see what rate and repayment term you could qualify for.

Small loans for bad credit

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

Here are some ways to improve your chances of qualifying:

  • Review your credit report to find any quick fixes that could bring your score up.

  • Add a co-applicant with better credit or income.

  • Add collateral to the loan, like a car or investment account.

  • Take more time to build credit before you apply.

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.

How to get a small personal loan

If a small loan is the best option, take these steps to apply.

  • Review your credit and debts. Before applying, check your credit report (it’s free at AnnualCreditReport.com) for opportunities to improve your credit. Even if you’re borrowing a small amount, addressing any issues on your report could improve your chance of qualifying. 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 like to see this number below 40%.

  • Pre-qualify. Previewing loan offers can tell you what monthly payments could be on a personal loan. 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.

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

  • Submit the application. This part may be done in person with local banks and credit unions, but many larger 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.

Avoid predatory small loans

Payday lenders typically offer loans with high rates, short terms and late fees. A $500 payday loan due in two weeks with the typical fee of $15 for every $100 dollars you borrow would be an APR of 391%, a rate that's considered unaffordable by consumer finance advocates.

You can spot a predatory lender a few different ways. If a lender doesn’t check your credit, asks for access to your bank account or doesn’t state the loan’s APR before closing, then it likely isn’t engaging in consumer-friendly lending.

Last updated on June 18, 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 Small Personal Loans in 2021: Compare Options

Frequently asked questions