Personal Loan Rates Calculator

Interest rates on personal loans from mainstream lenders range from less than 6% for good credit up to as high as 36% for bad credit.
Loans, Personal Loans
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The interest rate you can get on an unsecured personal loan will vary based on your location and creditworthiness and on the lender itself. Most lenders will quote you a rate with minimal information, and it won’t affect your credit. Ultimately, your rate depends on more than your credit score.

In most cases, people with excellent credit can get rates starting around 10% APR on unsecured loans — ones that don’t require collateral — from banks, credit unions and online lenders. Borrowers who also have high incomes and little debt might be able to find lower rates from several online lenders, but those consumers can typically also qualify for an even cheaper 0% interest credit card.

Borrowers with good credit are likely to find several options, but they should apply at multiple lenders to find the one that offers the best rate.

Those with average to poor credit might have to look a little harder for an affordable personal loan.

Some online lenders aim for this end of the market, offering rates between 18% and 36% APR. Having a co-signer, a longer credit history and a steady income might help improve your chances of being approved and receiving a rate on the lower end of the spectrum.

» MORE: See your credit score for free with NerdWallet

Although 36% seems high — and is — it’s widely accepted as the practical limit for loans with a good chance of being repaid. Many states cap interest rates at 36%, though loopholes abound. Common exemptions include revolving accounts such as credit cards, many installment loans, reverse mortgages and pawnshops.

A no-credit-check loan? Expect the worst

Borrowers with no credit or bad credit scores may not qualify for a loan even at 36%. Instead, they may be tempted instead by loans that require no credit check, finding easy and quick approval on a payday loan or high-interest installment loan at interest rates many times higher.

For example, one large online lender’s advertised annual percentage rate in California for a nine-month, $2,600 installment loan is 209%. If you don’t allow electronic repayment, the rate is 309% APR.

That’s almost cheap compared with a payday loan. The same lender offers online payday loans to Californians at 459% APR for a two-week loan.

For these lenders, all you need is a checking account, a job and a Social Security number. They don’t check your credit with major credit bureaus, and they don’t report payments either.

Just because a lender will offer you money doesn’t mean you should take them up on it.

If you need a small loan to cover emergency expenses, or just get by, then consider going to your local credit union first. Many credit unions offer affordable loans designed to help you repay them.

Even in the most dire circumstances, we suggest you consider some payday loan alternatives first.

Before you shop for a personal loan

For your best shot at getting a competitive interest rate, do these things:

  1. Compare your options. Is a personal loan cheaper than a low-interest credit card? The best personal loans for good credit start below 5% APR.  But if you have good credit and can pay off the balance in 12 to 18 months, you can probably get a credit card that has 0% interest on purchases for a year or longer.
  2. If you have bad credit, find a co-signer. Having a co-signer with good credit allows you to piggyback on his or her creditworthiness and potentially get better rates.
  3. Consider a secured loan instead. If you have a car, you could use it as collateral in order to get lower rates. A home equity loan or home equity line of credit is often cheaper than a straight-up, unsecured personal loan as well. But using it as collateral means that if you default, you could lose your home.
  4. Pay off as much of your credit card balance as you can before applying. The outstanding balance on your credit card, even if you pay it off at the end of the month and never pay interest, counts against you when a lender runs a credit check. Your debt-to-income ratio will be a factor considered by most lenders.

This post was updated July 20, 2016.