The best personal loan helps you reach a financial goal, whether it’s paying off debt or funding a large expense. The loan with the lowest annual percentage rate is the least expensive — and usually the best choice. But other features, including no fees, soft credit checks and whether lenders directly pay creditors if you’re consolidating debt, set some loans apart.
We spent hours reviewing loans from over 25 personal loan companies to find the best online rates and loan features. We categorized our top picks into four categories:
- Best personal loans for good credit: Laurel Road, LightStream, Marcus and SoFi.
- Best personal loans for bad credit: Avant, OneMain Financial, Upgrade and Upstart.
- Best personal loans for debt consolidation: Discover, Laurel Road, Marcus and Payoff.
- Best personal loans for home improvement: Earnest, LightStream, Marcus and SoFi.
Borrowers with good to excellent credit scores (690 and above) may have their pick of personal loan companies. Those on our list of best lenders have low rates and typically no fees. SoFi offers high loan amounts, up to $100,000, while Marcus has flexible loan terms, letting borrowers choose their monthly payment amounts and loan terms.
|Lender||Typical APR range||Get started|
|Laurel Road||8.01% - 16.30% (with autopay).|
|LightStream||3.99% - 16.99% (with autopay).|
|Marcus||5.99% - 28.99%.|
|SoFi||5.74% - 16.24% (with autopay).|
» MORE: Personal loans for good credit
Borrowers with troubled credit histories are more likely to qualify with lenders that accept bad to fair credit (300-689). The best lenders consider factors beyond your credit score and offer flexibility if you miss a payment or need help building credit.
|Lender||Typical APR range||Get started|
|Avant||9.95% - 35.99%.|
|OneMain Financial||16.05% - 35.99%.|
|Upgrade||7.99% - 35.89%.|
|Upstart||7.69% - 35.99%.|
» MORE: Personal loans for bad credit
Getting a personal loan is one way to consolidate credit card debt, and some lenders augment your payoff efforts by directly paying your creditors with the money you borrow. Our list also includes lenders whose starting rates are lower than typical credit card rates.
|Lender||Typical APR range||Direct payments to creditors||Get started|
|Discover||6.99% - 24.99%.||Yes.|
|Laurel Road||8.01% - 16.30% (with autopay).||Yes.|
|Marcus||5.99% - 28.99%.||Yes.|
|Payoff||5.99% - 24.99%.||No.|
A personal loan is an option for financing home improvements if you don’t have a lot of equity in your home or don’t want to max out your credit cards. We chose lenders with low rates and loan amounts large enough to cover most home improvement projects.
|Lender||Typical APR range||Loan amounts||Get started|
|Earnest||6.99% - 18.24%.||$5,000 - $75,000.|
|LightStream||3.99% - 16.99% (with autopay).||$5,000 - $100,000.|
|Marcus||5.99% - 28.99%.||$3,500 - $40,000.|
|SoFi||5.74% - 16.24% (with autopay).||$5,000 - $100,000.|
When should I get a personal loan?
Taking a personal loan makes sense when it’s the least expensive form of credit, when it’s used toward something that has the potential to improve your financial standing, like debt consolidation or home improvements, and when you can afford the monthly payments without stressing your budget.
On the other hand, a personal loan used for discretionary expenses, like a vacation, can be expensive. NerdWallet recommends using savings for nonessentials, so you can avoid finance charges.
If you’re borrowing for emergency or medical expenses, consider less-expensive alternatives first, such as community assistance or payment plans.
» MORE: Should I get a personal loan?
Personal loans vs. credit cards
Average rates on personal loans can be lower for good-credit borrowers than average rates on credit cards. If you’re committed to a budget, the fixed interest and monthly payments associated with personal loans, which are installment loans, can be more predictable than the revolving credit of credit cards.
In general, personal loans work better for large expenses that you can repay over two to five years, while credit cards are best for smaller expenses that you can pay off each month.
Before you take a personal loan
- You don’t need good credit to get a personal loan, but doing what you can to strengthen your credit before you apply can boost your chances of qualifying and get you a lower interest rate.
- Use our personal loan calculator to see estimated rates and payments based on credit scores.
- Shop around and compare loans. Look at interest rates as well as fees and features. The APR gives an apples-to-apples way to compare total costs between loans.
- If you’re getting a personal loan to consolidate debt, make a plan to pay off your creditors and avoid running up debt again. Building a budget that accounts for debt repayments is a good place to start.
Pre-qualify for a personal loan
Most online lenders will give you an estimated interest rate by performing a soft check of your credit. This won’t affect your credit score, so it pays to take the steps to pre-qualify for a loan with multiple lenders and compare rates and loan features. You can pre-qualify on NerdWallet and see rates from lenders that partner with us.
Learn more about the loans and lenders in each of these categories:
- Personal loans for good credit
- Personal loans for bad credit
- Personal loans for debt consolidation
- Personal loans for home improvement
NerdWallet’s ratings for personal loans award points to lenders that offer consumer-friendly features, including soft credit checks, no fees, transparency of loan rates and terms, flexible payment options, accessible customer service, reporting of payments to credit bureaus and financial education. We also consider the number of complaints filed with agencies like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This methodology applies only to lenders that cap interest rates at 36%, the maximum rate financial experts and consumer advocates agree is the acceptable limit for a loan to be affordable. NerdWallet does not receive compensation of any sort for our reviews. Read our editorial guidelines.