Credit (or FICO) scores range from 300 to 850. People with credit scores of 579 or less are generally considered to have poor or bad credit, although borrowers with credit scores of 580-669 can also have trouble getting a decent loan.
Some lenders specialize in offering personal loans for poor credit borrowers, but with a catch: interest rates start from around 20% and can go as high as 35.99%. With that said, the closet alternative is payday loans, which should in general be avoided as they carry an average APR of 391%, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts.
Here are the 5 of the best personal loan providers that can offer you a loan if you have bad credit and help you get the financial security you’ve been looking for:
Minimum credit score: None
Loan amount: $1,000 - $40,000
Loan term: 24-84 months
APR range: 3.99% - 35.99%
GuideToLenders is an established loans marketplace that lets users compare loan options from some of the nation’s largest and most trusted lenders. Many of the lenders in its network offer loans for low-credit borrowers. The service is free to use, and it takes only a couple of minutes to fill out a form and compare quotes.
The 2 biggest benefits to using GuideToLenders are that it’s free and you can compare rates without damaging your credit score. There are no limits to how many times someone can request a quote, which is good for low-credit borrowers who wish to compare options periodically to see how changes in their credit score affect their ability to borrow.
Because it’s a marketplace, loan conditions such as fees, penalties, and a co-signer option depend solely on the participating lenders and not on GuideToLenders itself.
Best for: Comparing loan options from some of the nation’s largest lenders
Minimum credit score: None
Loan amount: $1,000 - $50,000
Loan term: 3-180 months
APR range: 3.49% - 35.99%
LendingTree is perhaps the longest-running loans marketplace, and has been working with hundreds of lenders across personal loans, mortgages, and other loan products since 1995. Like GuideToLenders, many of LendingTree’s partnering lenders offer loans for borrowers with poor or fair credit.
It costs nothing to use LendingTree’s service. Just select a loan purpose and enter your contact details, the amount you’d like to borrow, and your estimated credit score to see a list of pre-qualified rates. Your credit score won’t be affected until you make a formal application with one of the partnering lenders. Some LendingTree partners accept co-signers, making it easier for low-credit borrowers to get a loan.
Best for: Comparing loan options from the most extensive network of lenders on the web
Minimum credit score: 580
Loan amount: $1,000 - $100,000
Loan term: 3-144 months
APR range: 1.99% - 35.99%
Monevo is another online marketplace that lets users compare real-time rates from hundreds of lenders in minutes. Monevo started out in the UK in 2009 and landed recently in the United States, where it helps find personal loans for borrowers with fair credit of 580 or higher.
Monevo’s website is clear and easy to use, and most importantly it doesn’t cost a dime. The online application form is broken down into small, simple steps. After completing the form, users are directed to a list where they can easily compare loan offers and select the one that best suits them. Like some of the other companies listed here, it’s worth noting that Monevo connects users with loans but isn’t a direct lender.
Best for: Getting a large loan amount with only a fair credit score
Minimum credit score: None
Loan amount: $2,000 to $25,000
Loan term: 24-48 months
APR range: 15.49% - 35.99%
LendingPoint is a direct lender that has made a business out of accepting borrowers with poor credit. While other lenders use an applicant’s credit score as the main criterion for a loan, LendingPoint looks beyond credit score and into the applicant’s full credit history.
It’s built for customers with credit scores in the 600s, but with no specific minimum credit requirements it also caters to borrowers with poor or fair credit. Like other lenders, LendingPoint runs a hard credit check before approving borrowers, but it also looks at an applicant’s bank statements and other information about their income and credit before making a final decision.
Borrowers must pay an origination fee up to 6% of the total loan amount, but get the choice of whether to deduct the fee from the loan or to add it to their monthly payments.
Best for: Getting a decent rate with poor credit
Minimum credit score: None
Loan amount: Up to $35,000
Loan term: 2-72 months
APR range: 5.99% - 35.99%
5KFunds is another loans marketplace that draws on a network of around 100 large, reliable lenders to connect borrowers to loans. Its network includes several lenders catering to borrowers with bad credit. To find out which lender is best, it takes just a couple of minutes to fill out the online form with your details, including your credit score, in order to get a pre-qualified rate.
As with its rival marketplaces, 5KFunds doesn’t directly underwrite loans and therefore any additional fees or charges depend on the lender itself.
Best for: Comparing lenders without a hard credit check
If you have bad credit and you're looking for a personal loan, we recommend shopping around between lenders and comparing rates, repayment terms, and minimum requirements. Most online lenders offer quotes without running a hard credit check, which is good news if you’re worried about damaging your credit score any further. While you are comparing loan companies, it's important to look at the following, especially is your credit score can be improved:
- Type of lending company
- Credit history and general qualifications
- Additional eligibility qualifications
- Employment requirements
- Interest rates and types
- Loan terms
- Fees and penalties
- Repayment options
Once you have a better idea of the options available, you'll be able to make a much more informed decision about the lender you end up going with.
The best long-term solution for borrowers with bad credit is to take steps to improve their credit score and you can do this if you choose the right loan provider. One way of making sure you do this is to take out a small personal loan or “credit-building loan” and pay it back on time. Once you take a loan, make sure to stay on top of your payments and perhaps even set up a monthly reminder. Paying off all your debts is another way to improve your credit score. By taking these simple steps, your credit score should improve within 3 to 6 months, putting you in a better position to qualify for a personal loan, mortgage, or other loan in the future.
Pros and Cons of Bad Credit Loans
Personal loans for low-credit borrowers offer a number of advantages, including the ability to improve your credit score. If you’re suffering from bad credit, one of the best ways of quickly repairing it is to pay off your debts or take out a new loan and pay it off in time. This shows the big 3 credit bureaus that you’re credit-worthy, which helps improve your credit score the next time a lender assesses you for a loan.
The main drawbacks of bad credit are the difficulty in finding lenders and the higher interest rates. There isn’t a way around the higher rates. If your credit is bad, lenders consider you a higher risk and pass the cost on to you through higher rates. But the good news is that nothing’s permanent, and there are many ways to build up credit before your next loan application.
Alternatives to Bad Credit Loans
In some cases, borrowers with extremely poor credit might find themselves unable to get accepted for a loan or, in the event of being accepted, be offered an annual rate of close to 35-35.99%. Here are some of the alternatives:
Home Equity Loans. Type of loan in which a homeowner borrows against their equity. Because the borrower’s home is put up as collateral, lenders are often willing to overlook a poor credit score.
Credit unions. These are member-owned financial institutions that generally offer good rates and fees to members. Credit unions often restrict membership to certain professions, such as teaching or the military, or charge annual membership fees.
Peer-to-Peer lenders. Also called “social lending” or “crowd lending”, P2P lenders connect borrowers with investors through an internet platform, cutting banks out of the process and helping both sides reduce their expenses.
Payday lenders. As mentioned earlier, payday lenders are like a last port of call for borrowers that have run out of other options, with APRs of generally 300%-400% and higher. However, unless you have a solid plan to repay the money very quickly, you should avoid payday loans and go with another alternative that is much more user friendly.
Here are a couple more things you can do to improve your position if you have bad credit:
Compare lenders. This rule applies to borrowers with good or bad credit, but perhaps more so to those with bad credit. As a recent LendingTree study shows, consumers can save up to 35% by shopping around for personal loans.
Bring a co-signer. This is a friend, relative, or someone you can trust, who promises to pay back your loan amount if you’re unable. Bringing a co-signer with good credit to help you get a loan makes it easier for banks to offer you a good rate.
How is my credit score calculated?
Each of the 3 big credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, gives you a FICO score based on the information they collect about you from creditors. Your FICO score is made up of 5 components: payment history (35%); amounts owed (30%); length of credit history (15%); how many credit accounts you’ve opened recently; and your mix of credit accounts.
If I have bad credit should I expect worse rates?
If you have bad credit you won't get the best rates available as those are only offered to those with good or excellent credit. However, there are a number of lenders, such as those mentioned above, who work with bad-credit borrowers and can even help you improve your credit score if you pay your loan back on time.
Are there any restrictions in place for borrowers with bad credit?
No, there are no restrictions in place if you have bad credit. You may not be offered the best rates and terms, but if you have bed credit you are still entitled to apply for a loan just like everyone else.