How to Apply for a Personal Loan in March 2023
Applying for a personal loan can seem daunting. If you don’t have all the information you need before starting the process, you can end up paying higher interest or getting involved with an untrustworthy lender. That’s why it’s so important to be prepared.
On the other hand, if you know what you’re doing, you can easily get a loan with the best terms for your unique situation. I put together some tips and tricks to help you out.
If you follow the steps below, you’ll increase your chances of qualifying for a loan with a reliable lender while getting the best rates possible.
5 Steps to Get a Personal Loan
1. Check Your Credit Score (And Improve It If You Can!)
The first thing you want to do when applying for a personal loan is to check your credit score. You can check it on a site like Credit Karma, and most major credit card companies and banks will also show you your FICO score for free.
For a personal loan, most lenders will want to see a credit score of 600 or higher, with some requiring scores of 640+. The higher your score is, the better the interest rate you’ll get and the higher the loan amount you’ll be able to qualify for.
Ideally, you’ll want a credit score of 750+ to get the best rates and the best offers. If you have the possibility to raise your credit score before applying for a personal loan, it would probably be worth it.
Here are some quick tips on raising your credit score:
- Reduce your utilization rate: This is the amount of your available credit that you currently owe. So if you can pay down some of your debt, your score will go up dramatically.
- Stay current on payments: A late or missed payment can negatively affect your credit score for years, so it’s important to stay current or get current as quickly as possible.
- Do not open new accounts: A new account will decrease the average age of your accounts. In addition, opening a new account will incur a hard inquiry. Both of these things negatively affect your score.
While these tips provide ways to increase your credit score, keep in mind that it won’t go up overnight. Sure, if you could pay off all your credit balances and bring your utilization rate to zero just like that, your score would quickly jump by the next month. But in most cases, it will take at least a few months of consistent work to raise your credit score substantially.
If you plan to take out a personal loan within the next 2-3 months, you might not be able to raise your credit score much by then. But if your score is at least 600, you should still be able to qualify for the loan you need.
Compare Personal Loan Offers on LendingTree
2. Prequalify Through Multiple Lenders to See Various Offers
Next, you’ll want to see what loans you can prequalify for. To start the prequalification process, you’ll need to share some information (such as your personal info, your income, how much you’re looking to borrow, bank statements, employment status, etc.) with a lender. The lender will then give you some options for loans that you will likely qualify for during the actual application process.
The prequalification process typically only incurs a soft inquiry into your credit, rather than the hard inquiry mentioned above. A soft inquiry does not affect your credit score, so you can go through prequalification with multiple lenders to see all your options. A few of the best lenders for personal loans are LendingTree, Credible, and Upstart.
3. Compare Loan Offers
Once you’ve prequalified through multiple lenders, it’s time to carefully check the offers you’ve received to figure out which one is the best for you. It might seem a bit daunting to have to sift through so many offers, but devoting some time to this step could end up saving you a lot of money in the long run.
The most important things you want to take a closer look at include:
- Rate: Arguably the single most important aspect of any loan, the rate (also known as interest rate or APR) is the interest you’ll have to pay. This is the percentage over the actual amount that you borrowed, annually, until the loan is paid off.
- Terms: The terms of the loan dictate how long you have to pay the loan back and how often you need to make payments. Usually, the payments will be monthly and you’re likely to see terms between 2 to 5 years on most personal loans.
- Loan Type: Loans can be divided into secured loans and unsecured loans. If your loan is secured, that means the lender will expect some sort of collateral from you during the loan process.
4. Select a Lender and Apply for the Loan
Once you’ve evaluated all the different offers, you’ve hopefully found one that you think best fits your situation. After choosing a lender, it’s finally time to actually apply for the loan. If you’re using an online lender, you’ll need to prepare some information as well as scanned versions of some documents to make your personal loan application process go as smoothly as possible.
No matter which lender you go with, you will likely need to provide the following:
- Date of birth
- Address (ID, utility bill, bank letter, etc.)
- Social Security number
- ID verification (Driver’s license, other government-issued ID, etc.)
- Proof of income (W2, 1099, paystubs)
- Bank statements
- Monthly expenses
- Amount you need to borrow
5. Close on Your Loan
After you’ve completed the application process, the lender will handle most of the work, preparing your documents and sending them over to you for the final signatures.
Once you receive all the documents, be sure to check them over to ensure you’re getting the loan you’re expecting, including amount, rate, terms, and type. If all is well, you can sign the documents. Depending on the lender, the funds will then be deposited into your bank account.
Typically, online lenders can get the funds to you faster than brick-and-mortar banks. Sometimes you can even have the money in your account in under 24 hours.
Compare Personal Loan Offers on Credible
The Best Lenders for Personal Loans
Now that you have a solid idea of what’s involved in applying for a personal loan, I’d like to run you through three lenders I personally recommend.
As an online loan marketplace, LendingTree was designed to present you with offers from multiple lenders within minutes. For personal loans, LendingTree works with 14 different lenders that you can compare offers from side by side.
The lenders are displayed in a convenient format, making it easy to determine which loan is the best for you. The application process is all online. Depending on the amount of the loan and the actual lender, you can even get the funds deposited to your account within 48 hours.
Using this platform, you can take out a personal loan for anything from $1,000 to $50,000 with rates starting as low as 5.99% with 24-month terms.
For more details, check out our in-depth LendingTree review.
Compare Personal Loan Offers on LendingTree
Credible is another online loan marketplace. It brings together a network of lenders into one convenient website for you to compare loan offers side by side. The best part about Credible is how quickly you can go through the prequalification process.
With this loan platform, you can find personal loans amounts from $600 to $100,000 with rates ranging from 2.49% to 35.99%. On top of that, Credible offers a Best Rate Guarantee on personal loans. That means that if you find a better rate on a comparable loan through a different lender, Credible will give you $200.
Discover Credible’s pros and cons in our expert review.
Compare Personal Loan Offers on Credible
Upstart is an online lender that looks at more than your credit score. Using artificial intelligence (AI), Upstart considers other variables, including education and employment, to offer personal loans for borrowers with lower credit scores.
Using Upstart, you’ll be able to see offers for personal loans from $1,000 to $50,000, with rates ranging between 5.55% – 35.99%, and terms between 3 and 5 years. Upstart also claims that 99% of applicants receive their money within one business day of accepting their loan terms and closing.
To find out more, read our full Upstart review.
See Personal Loan Offers on Upstart
The Bottom Line
Personal loans can be used for just about any purpose, and applying online can be significantly faster and easier than using a regular bank. With any of the three lenders presented above, you should be able to see multiple loan offers within minutes before you make any final decisions.