woman holding a phone is happy because now she knows how to find the right lender

If you’ve decided you want to get a personal loan, the next step is to look for a lender that fits your needs. Depending on the lender, you might be looking at wildly different acceptance criteria, loan caps, customer service quality, and interest rates. We’ll walk you through how to find the best personal loan for your needs and outline the easiest way to attain these types of loans.

What are your personal loan lender options? 

If you’re interested in a personal loan, your three main options are online lenders, credit unions, and banks. Each option comes with its own set of pros and cons. For example, a credit union may offer lower interest rates, but it’s harder to search and compare rates than with an online lender. And though a credit union may be able to offer you a larger loan amount, you may not have access to certain convenient features that a larger lending institution would be able to offer (like an app). It’s up to you to weigh the pros and cons of each before making a decision.

But, what is a lender?

A lender is an individual, a public or private group, or financial institution that makes funds available to another with the expectation that the funds will be repaid.   

How to find the best personal loan for your needs

Some of the factors that should affect your decision when choosing a lender are interest rates, reputation, terms of the loan, and upfront fees. 

Interest rate

Even though interest rates can vary by institution, they’re typically affected by your credit score and the duration/size of the loan you want to take out. As a whole, personal loans can have lower interest rates than a lot of credit cards, but higher rates than secured loans. You can do some comparison shopping to see which lender is willing to give you the best rate, but you should also take into account other factors (such as reviews). 

Online reputation 

One of the easiest things you can do to find the best personal loan is to Google the lending company you’re considering. Check to see if they have more negative reviews than positive, or if they’ve been reported to the Better Business Bureau. If you see reviews that praise their 24/7 customer service, educational materials, and reasonable rates, add them to the top of your list. Review compilation websites we recommend are Credit Karma,Trustpilot, and the Better Business Bureau. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is another resource that collects consumer reviews and complaints filed against financial services companies. 

Terms of loan

Another factor to consider are the terms of the loan. If a lender isn’t willing to be flexible with repayment terms or allow you to set your own payment date, they may not be a good fit for your needs. This is something you can bring up in the application process prior to any commitments. Keep in mind though that personal loans are installment loans, so payments have to be made on a fixed basis. 

Fees

Upfront fees can oftentimes be the deciding factor when someone is comparison shopping for personal loans. If you’re already in a bind with cash, the last thing you want to see is additional fees all over your agreement. However, keep in mind that it takes money to run a business.

One of the types of fees you might come across is an origination fee. This is used for processing your loan application and disbursing funds, and it can range from 1% to 8% of the loan amount. 

Processing fees may be charged by your lender to cover the cost of processing your monthly payment toward you loan. 

Unlike other lenders, Helix does not charge a prepayment penalty for those who want to pay off their loan early. We encourage our borrowers to make the best financial decisions–which includes cutting down on interest fees with an early payment. 

Late payment fees are pretty typical but can vary drastically by lender. Be sure to do your homework! 

Research repayment terms

Before committing to a lender, you should look into the loan amount and repayment terms associated with your approved loan. Different lenders have different caps on their personal loans, which can range from $1,500 to $100,000. At Helix by Lead Bank, our loan amounts go up to $3,000.

Repayment terms can range anywhere from 12 months to 84 months depending on your lender. As a general rule of thumb, you want to take a shorter term when possible to minimize your interest payments. 

How quickly do you need the funds?

While some lenders can transfer your money to the bank within a day, others can take as long as five to ten business days. If you’re needing the cash to cover an emergency or urgent expense, you’ll want to seek out a lender that can guarantee a quick turnaround. For example, if your loan agreement is signed by 4pm CST with us, you’ll receive your funds via ACH deposit to your account by the following business day. 

Rate discounts

If you’re looking for a lender that will give you the biggest bang for your buck, inquire as to whether they offer rate discounts for those who sign up to have loan payments automatically deducted from their bank account each month. It may not be a huge discount, but it ensures you save a little money and don’t get dinged for a late payment. 

What lenders consider  

Before taking you on as a borrower, lenders have to make sure they can trust you to make your repayments. They use several factors to determine this trustworthiness, including your credit score/reports, income, and debt-to-income ratio. This is done not only to minimize risk on their end, but to make sure the borrower isn’t getting into something they won’t be able to afford. If you’re denied by one lender, it may just be that they have strict requirements. Try out other companies to see if they have lower eligibility requirements. 

How to choose the right personal loan lender for bad credit 

If a lender is geared toward strong-credit borrowers (690 and above), they are going to have higher standards for applicants, offer higher loan amounts, and charge lower interest rates. Others cater to average or below credit applicants with scores ranging from 300 to 689. If you have a low credit score, you can start by researching the different lenders out there (Googling ‘personal loan bad credit’). 

How do I choose a personal loan lender?

A good first step when choosing a personal loan lender is to ask around for referrals–whether that’s a Facebook post shared to your friends or a question you ask your financial advisor. 

Aside from referrals, you can also see if your current bank or lender offers personal loans. Since you already have that relationship of trust with them (and they’re familiar with your financial background), this can often be an ideal choice. 

It can be much easier to comparison shop for loans over the internet vs visiting each location, which is why online personal loans are becoming more and more popular. You’ll want to do your due diligence when it comes to research though. Check out their company website to learn more about the loan you’re applying for and whether they do a hard or soft inquiry when processing applications. If not outlined on their site,  reach out via a contact form to inquire about rates, terms, and fees.  

Location, location, location 

Before applying for a personal loan through lending companies, make sure the lender services your area. Even if they’re online, their lending may still be limited in the States or regions they service. If you prefer being able to interact with your lender in a physical location, a bank or credit union is going to be your best option. Keep in mind though that an online lender with 24/7 customer service may be easier to get ahold of than a bank. 

Apply for a personal loan today 

If you need money rather quickly, and think an online lender would best fit your needs at this time, fill out a personal loan application with Helix by Lead Bank today and see if you are approved.