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Where to Find a Small Personal Loan

Online lenders, credit unions and some banks are reputable sources for small personal loans, typically $1,000 to $3,000. Other options include nonprofits and your employer.
Dec. 17, 2018
Loans, Personal Loans
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A small personal loan can be a quick, convenient option to pay an immediate expense, like a medical bill or car repair, if you don’t have emergency savings or other means to cover the expense. The nonprofit Pew Charitable Trusts says affordable small personal loans should have:

  • Monthly payments that are not more than 5% of your monthly income.
  • Fixed monthly payments and no balloon payments.
  • Loan terms between 3 and 12 months.

You’ll find small personal loans at credit unions, online lenders and a few major banks. Shop around to compare your options:

Compare your options for small personal loans

Where to get a small personal loanTypical requirements
Rent or utility assistance funds, charities, nonprofits, religious organizations
  • Live in the service area
  • Meet income eligibility guidelines
Credit unions (Federal or state)
  • Live, work or worship in the area
  • Become a member by depositing $25 in a savings account
  • Have a credit score and credit history
Online lenders
  • Have a credit score and credit history
  • Have a regular source of income
Some major banks
  • Become a bank customer
  • Have a good credit score and credit history
  • Have a regular source of income
Your employer
  • Offers paycheck advance option
  • Item to pawn

Small loans from credit unions

Your local credit union may be the best place to get a small dollar loan. Since credit unions are not-for-profit institutions built to serve their members, you’re more likely to get an affordable small loan here than at other types of financial institutions. Many credit unions look at more than your credit score when they assess you for a loan.

Many credit unions look at more than your credit score when they assess you for a loan.

What to know:

  • You will have to become a member of a credit union to apply for a loan. You can usually become one if you live, work or worship in the area and deposit $25 in a savings account.
  • Many federal credit unions offer payday alternative loans, typically between $200 and $1,000, to borrowers with low credit scores.
  • By law, federal credit unions can charge maximum APRs of 18% for personal loans and 28% for payday alternative loans.
  • State credit unions may have higher rates.

» MORE: How to get a credit union personal loan

Small loans from online lenders

Many online lenders offer loans starting between $1,000 and $3,000. Online lenders determine your interest rate based on traditional factors such as your credit score, credit history and income, but some also consider other factors, such as your line of work and education level.

What to know:

  • Most lenders will let you check rates without affecting your credit, so you can shop around at multiple lenders.
  • At a reputable lender, rates for people with bad credit top out at 36%.
  • Some lenders may charge origination fees between 1% and 5% of the loan amount. Before picking a loan, look at all the fees the lender charges and how flexible the lender is to see what works best for you.

Online lenders that offer small personal loans

LenderMinimum loan sizeGet started
Laurel Road
5.0 NerdWallet rating
4.0 NerdWallet rating
Mariner Finance
2.5 NerdWallet rating
4.0 NerdWallet rating
4.0 NerdWallet rating
OneMain Financial
4.0 NerdWallet rating
4.5 NerdWallet rating
Best Egg
4.0 NerdWallet rating
3.5 NerdWallet rating
4.0 NerdWallet rating
4.5 NerdWallet rating
Click “Check Rate” to pre-qualify and receive a personalized rate from multiple lenders on NerdWallet.

Small loans from banks

Not all major banks offer personal loans. Among the five largest banks in the nation, Bank of America, Capital One and Chase no longer issue such loans; Citibank and Wells Fargo still do, as do some smaller banks.

Citibank loans start at $2,000, and customers with Citibank checking accounts can get rate discounts for making automatic loan payments. Wells Fargo loans start at $3,000. Existing customers can apply online, while new customers have to visit a branch.

Alternatives to small personal loans

You have options other than taking a small loan. NerdWallet recommends exhausting cheaper alternatives first, even if you need the money for an emergency. Take the quiz below to explore your options:

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