Vacation loans work the same way as personal loans: You take out an unsecured loan, receive the funds in your bank account and use the money however you like, for flights and hotels, for example. Then, you pay back the loan in fixed payments that include interest over a period of time, generally two to five years.
Vacation loans, while marketed as easy ways to finance your dream escape, can be an expensive option, especially for consumers with low credit scores who take loans with high interest rates. NerdWallet recommends vacation loans only for emergency travel that can’t be covered with cheaper alternatives, including travel rewards, a 0% interest credit card, or — the cheapest option — your savings.
Whether you need a $1,000 loan or more than $3,500, always shop for a lender that offers low rates and fees to minimize your costs. With most online lenders, you can pre-qualify to see estimated rates, and doing so won’t damage your credit score. Here are seven lenders that offer loans in various amounts.
Best vacation loans starting at $1,000: LendingClub and Upstart
• APR: 6.95% - 35.89%
• Loan amount: $1,000 - $40,000
• Loan terms: 3 or 5 years
• Minimum credit score: 600; borrowers average 699
• Time to funding: Usually 7 days
• Fees: Origination fee of 1% - 6% of loan amount; fees for late payment, unsuccessful payment and personal check use
•APR: 8.89% - 35.99%
•Loan amount: $1,000 - $50,000
•Loan terms: 3 to 5 years
•Minimum credit score: 620
•Time to funding: Next business day
•Fees: Origination fee of 0% - 8% of loan amount. Fees for late payment and unsuccessful payment
Best vacation loans above $2,000: Best Egg, Discover and Rocket Loans
•APR: 5.99% - 29.99%
•Loan amount: $2,000 - $35,000
•Loan terms: 3 or 5 years
•Minimum credit score: 640; average is 700
•Time to funding: As fast as one day
•Fees: Origination fee of 0.99% - 5.99% of loan amount, late fee of $15
• APR: 6.99% - 24.99%
• Loan amount: $2,500 to $35,000
• Loan terms: 3 to 7 years
• Minimum credit score: 660
• Time to funding: Next-day, up to a week
• Fees: No origination fee. Fee for late payment
• APR: 5.98% - 29.99%.
• Loan amount: $2,000 to $45,000.
• Loan terms: 3 or 5 years.
• Minimum credit score: 640.
• Time to funding: Typically 24 hours.
• Fees: Origination fee of 1% - 6% of loan amount; fees for late payment, unsuccessful payment and personal check use.
Best vacation loans above $3,500: Earnest and Marcus
•APR: 6.99% - 18.24%
•Loan amount: $5,000 - $75,000
•Loan terms: 3 to 5 years
•Minimum credit score: None
•Time to funding: Up to a week
•Fees: No origination fees, late fees or prepayment fees
• APR: 5.99% - 28.99%.
• Loan amount: $3,500 - $40,000.
• Loan terms: 3 to 6 years.
• Minimum credit score: 660.
• Time to funding: Usually 2 days.
• Fees: None.
Summary of vacation loans
|Lender||Typical APR range||Loan amounts||Get started|
|Best Egg||5.99% - 29.99%||$2,000 - $35,000|
|Discover||6.99% - 24.99%||$2,500 - $35,000|
|Earnest||6.99% - 18.24%||$5,000 - $75,000|
|Marcus||5.99% - 28.99%||$3,500 - $40,000|
|LendingClub||6.95% - 35.89%||$1,000 - $40,000|
|Rocket Loans||5.98% - 29.99%||$2,000 - $45,000|
|Upstart||8.89% - 35.99%||$1,000 - $50,000|
Pros and cons of vacation loans
Vacation loans can be a convenient solution if you must travel unexpectedly and need cash fast, but consider the pros and cons before you take a loan.
- Lower rates: For well-qualified borrowers, personal loans typically have lower interest rates than credit cards. The average rate for personal loans with two-year terms in 2017 was 10.13%, according to the Federal Reserve, while the average rate on credit card accounts that incurred interest was 14.44%. So if you planned to use a high-interest card and carry a balance, you may pay less with a vacation loan.
- More predictable: Personal loans have fixed monthly payments, which means you can plan for repayments in your budget. This is particularly appealing if you find tracking revolving payments associated with credit cards a hassle. Knowing when you’ll pay off the debt also helps you stay focused.
- Risky debt: Most financial experts discourage use of a loan, or even a credit card, for discretionary vacation spending. If you’re not comfortable managing credit or you have existing debt, a vacation loan can add financial stress. A missed payment means late fees and added interest that can quickly increase the cost of your trip.
- Long terms: Terms on personal loans can stretch to five years — long after you’ve returned from your vacation. You’ll want to carefully consider how long it makes sense to be paying for your travel.
How much would it cost?
Use our personal loan calculator to see estimated rates and payments for a personal loan.
Alternatives to vacation loans
Before you take a loan, consider these alternatives for financing your trip.
Savings: If you have time, start saving. Create a dedicated travel savings account and put away some money each month. Find out how much your trip will cost by comparing prices of flights, hotel rooms and car rentals at travel websites like Expedia and Kayak.
Travel credit cards: If you travel frequently and have good to excellent credit, you may qualify for a travel credit card that offers a sign-up bonus and other perks that could help lower the cost of your trips in the long run.
0% credit card: If you have good credit, you may also qualify for a low-interest or 0% intro APR card that allows you to carry a balance interest-free for up to over a year. It’s an option if you want to avoid paying interest in the short term.
Point-of-sale travel financing: Some lenders such as UpLift and Affirm have partnered with major airlines and travel websites to include financing options for travelers when they book their tickets. These lenders target people with average credit who may not qualify for a travel card.