Editorial Review

LendUp Payday Loan Alternative: 2020 Review

LendUp works best for borrowers with bad credit, but its loans carry high rates; consider your alternatives first.

Amrita JayakumarJanuary 3, 2020

At NerdWallet, we strive to help you make financial decisions with confidence. To do this, many or all of the products featured here are from our partners. However, this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

Our Take

The bottom line: Multiple loan options for bad-credit borrowers, but rates can be as high as payday loans.



Min. Credit Score


Est. APR

30.00 - 180.00%

Loan Amount

$100 - $1,000

Pros & Cons


  • No credit check required.

  • Fast funding.

  • Payment flexibility options.


  • High rates.

  • Available in a limited number of states.

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Full Review

To review LendUp, NerdWallet collected more than 30 data points from the lender, interviewed company executives and compared the lender with others that seek the same customer or offer a similar loan product. Loan terms and fees may vary by state.

When to consider: A last resort in a true emergency after you’ve exhausted other options.

LendUp is an online lender that makes small loans — both single-payment and installment loans — to borrowers with low credit scores. The company calls itself a safer alternative to payday loans because it gives borrowers pathways to build credit and get lower rates.

LendUp’s rates are as high as traditional payday loans in some cases, and lower in others. Some borrowers may receive reduced rates and get other features through a rewards system called LendUp Ladder.

In either case, a LendUp loan is an expensive form of credit when you need quick cash. NerdWallet recommends exploring all the alternatives outlined below before taking it.

LendUp loan details

LendUp offers three tiers of loans: single-payment loans, installment loans with rates above 36% and installment loans with rates below 36%. Loans with rates above 36% are classified into silver, gold and platinum, while loans below that rate are called prime loans.


  • Have a checking account that accepts ACH transfers.

  • Live in one of the states where LendUp currently accepts borrowers: California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin.

LendUp doesn’t check your credit score for approval. It only requires that you have a checking account, a valid phone number and address.

The company scans your bank transactions and looks at data from Experian's Clarity Services, a bureau that collects information on consumers with low credit scores, says Anu Shultes, CEO of LendUp.

Consumer-first features:

  • Choose your final payment date.

  • Extend payment time on single-payment loan without late fee, up to your state’s limit.

  • The LendUp Ladder: Rate reduction tied to payments and financial education.

  • Partnerships with free credit counseling resources.

  • Reports some installment loan payments to Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.

Depending on your state laws, you have the option to get platinum installment loan payments reported to the three major credit bureaus, which can help your credit score. If you qualify for a prime loan, payments are automatically reported.

Single-payment loan payments are reported only to alternative credit bureaus that collect data on consumers with low credit scores, so it may not help your score.

LendUp allows borrowers to extend single-payment loan terms without a fee, unlike traditional payday lenders. This feature helps you avoid adding costs to your loan if you need more time to repay. You can extend it to the maximum allowed by your state or, if you need additional time, you can call the company to talk about a hardship plan.

Same-day funding option: LendUp partners with MoneyGram to offer same-day funding of its loans. Customers can visit any MoneyGram location in the U.S. to get their loan proceeds at no additional cost.

LendUp loan example

The average LendUp customer has a credit score of 550, makes $40,000 to $45,000 a year and has a debt-to-income ratio of 58%, according to the company. People typically use the loan for emergency expenses, says Shultes.

Single-payment loans are paid back in full on a certain date, while installment loans are paid back in equal portions over a period of time. Let’s look at cost examples for both:

Single-payment loan: On average, LendUp says, a borrower takes $295 and pays it back in 1 month with a fee that is 19% of the amount borrowed. That works out to:

  • Fee: $56.

  • Single payment due: $351.

  • Annual percentage rate: 231%.

Installment loan: On average, a LendUp borrower takes $386 for 12 months at an APR of 53%, according to the company. That works out to:

  • Monthly payment: $42.

  • Total interest: $120.

  • Total amount due: $506.

The LendUp Ladder and how it works

To earn points and move up the LendUp Ladder, you need to make on-time payments and watch financial education videos.

Depending on your state’s laws, graduating between loan tiers makes you eligible for lower rates, larger loan amounts and the option to have your payment activity reported to the credit bureaus. LendUp says borrowers typically move up the ladder after taking two or three loans.

Even with rate-reduction incentives, NerdWallet does not recommend long-term, high-rate loans or taking loans on a repeat basis. For some borrowers, such loans can become unaffordable, and you may end up paying more in interest than the original amount you borrowed.

In 2016, LendUp paid over $6 million in fines and refunds to federal and state regulators for problems with the credit reporting feature and LendUp Ladder. The company said the issues dated back to its early years as a startup and have since been fixed.

How LendUp compares

OportunOppLoans, Possible Finance and Rise, similar payday alternative lenders, all offer installment loans.

Oportun does not require a bank account or credit score to qualify. It allows borrowers to choose a payment date and reports on-time payments to two of the three major credit bureaus.

OppLoans, Possible Finance and Rise also allow borrowers to build credit by reporting payments to the credit bureaus (OppLoans and Possible Finance report to all three; Rise reports to two.)

LendUp is not a good idea if you:

  • Are trying to build credit: A secured credit card, a credit-builder loan or paying off existing debt are faster and cheaper ways to build credit. See ways to build credit. If you don’t know your credit score, get a free score on NerdWallet.

  • Can get cash elsewhere: NerdWallet recommends exhausting cheaper alternatives first, even in an emergency. Take the quiz below to explore your options:

Before you take a LendUp loan:

  1. Exhaust all other options: If none of the alternatives listed above work for you, see if you can buy time from your creditor, work out a payment plan or face the short-term financial consequences of not paying, such as a late fee.

  2. Compare the cost of taking the loan with the cost of not taking it: Calculate the overall cost of not having funds for your purpose, then weigh that against the typical cost of this loan in your state.

  3. Learn about high-cost loans: Loan options and alternatives can be overwhelming. Knowing the warning signs of predatory lending can help you steer clear of the most harmful products.

If you take a LendUp loan

After considering alternatives and weighing the costs, you may decide that taking a LendUp loan is your best option. In that case, do what you can to carve out room in your budget to pay the loan off as quickly as possible. For most people, this loan is too expensive to be a long-term or repeat solution.

Personal Loans Rating Methodology

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.