If you need to borrow money but your credit is less than stellar, it’s possible you’ll wind up with a bad credit loan. These loans are geared toward individuals with imperfect credit histories who can prove their income and ability to repay the loan. As a result of their bad credit, however, consumers who use bad credit loans typically pay much higher interest rates and loan fees. Bad credit loan customers may also be limited in how much they can borrow as well as the terms of their loan’s repayment.
What To Do If You Think You Have Bad Credit
Step 1 — Get Your Actual FICO Score
The only way to find out if you have bad credit is to take a look at your FICO score, which isn’t difficult since many companies offer online access for free. While your FICO credit score isn’t the only credit score you have, it’s the one used by most lenders that offer personal loans.
According to myFICO.com, the credit score ranges are as follows:
- Exceptional: 800 and up
- Very Good: 740 to 799
- Good: 670 to 739
- Fair: 580 to 669
- Poor: 579 or below
If your credit score falls below 579, there’s a good chance you could only get approved for a bad credit loan. If your credit is just “fair,” on the other hand, there’s still a chance you’ll wind up with a loan for bad credit.
Step 2 — Compare Multiple Offers
Once you have determined your credit score, you’ll want to start comparing offers from different lenders to see what fits your needs. You can use this tool to start that process.
Continue reading to find out how Good Financial Cents breaks down the best loans for bad credit and what you should watch out for.
Best Bad Credit Loans of 2021
If you feel you’re a candidate for a bad credit loan, it still makes sense to compare loan options to find the best deal. Loans for bad credit may come with higher interest rates and more fees, but some are still better than others.
For the purpose of this guide, we compared all the bad credit lenders to see how their loan products stack up. The following loans are the best of the best when it comes to loans for poor credit:
Bad Credit Loan Reviews
Before you apply for a loan with one of the bad credit lenders above, it helps to have a basic understanding of their loan offerings, interest rates, and any other important details they offer. The following individual loan reviews can help you determine which lender offers loans that might work for your situation.
Avant is another lender that often extends personal loans to consumers with low credit scores. With Avant, your interest rate will fall somewhere between 9.95% and 35.99% and you can repay your loan from 24 to 60 months. A loan funding fee of up to 4.75% of your loan amount is required as well, which will push up the cost of borrowing.
Avant claims that they have loaned $4 billion dollars to more than 600,000 consumers so far and that they have a 95% customer satisfaction rate. You can apply for a personal loan through Avant online, and you can even check your rate without a hard inquiry on your credit report.
- Pros: No minimum credit score requirement; you can check your rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report
- Cons: High APRs and loan fees for bad credit
LendingPoint is another bad credit lender that offers personal loans to consumers who are willing to pay whatever APR it takes. Loans from LendingPoint come with APRs between 15.49% and 35.99%, and your loan origination fee can be as high as 6% of your loan amount.
You can repay your loan for anywhere from 24 to 48 months, and loans are offered in amounts up to $25,000. LendingPoint also lets you check your rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report. You do need a minimum credit score of 585 to qualify for one of their loans.
- Pros: Check your rate without a hard inquiry; low minimum credit score requirement
- Cons: Pricey APRs and loan origination fee; loans not available in every state
#3: OneMain Financial
OneMain Financial offers personal loans in amounts between $1,500 and $20,000 (min and max amounts depend on state of residence), and repayment terms from 24 to 60 months*. Interest rates range from 18.00% to 35.99%, and an origination fee may apply as well. Origination fees can either be a flat rate ($25-$400) or a percentage of the loan amount (between 1% to 10%).
*Example Loan: A $10,000 loan with a 20.19% APR that is repayable in 60 monthly installments would have monthly payments of $266 with an estimated origination fee of $150.
You can apply with OneMain Financial online, and if you are approved, fast funding options may be available. You can even check to see if you are prequalified without a hard inquiry on your credit report.
Finally, note that OneMain Financial has 1,500 physical locations in 44 states.
- Pros: Proprietary underwriting without use of traditional credit score; borrow up to $20,000
- Cons: Potential for pricey APR and loan origination fee
Upstart is a unique online lender that makes it easier for borrowers with poor credit to qualify for a loan. This company considers more than your credit score when approving you for a personal loan, meaning they may give more weight to additional factors like your income and how much education you have.
Borrowers who qualify can access between $1,000 and $50,000 in loan funds with a repayment period of 3 or 5 years. Interest rates range from 5.69% to 35.99%, however, depending on creditworthiness and other factors.
Fortunately, loans from Upstart don’t come with any prepayment penalties. You can also check your rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report.
- Pros: No minimum credit score requirement; borrow up to $50,000
- Cons: Potential for pricey APR and loan origination fee
How We Chose the Best Loans for Bad Credit
The lenders above offer loans that can be exorbitantly expensive when you factor in interest rates and fees. Since expensive loans are the norm for consumers with bad credit, however, these still represent the best loan options for people with risky credit profiles.
With that in mind, here are the factors we considered to come up with the loans for this list:
Easy Rate Check
Having the ability to check your loan rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report is beneficial for potential borrowers who aren’t quite ready to fill out a full loan application. We ranked lenders who offer this option higher as a result. With an easy rate check, you can get an idea of your interest rate and loan fees before you apply.
No Prepayment Fees
While loans for bad credit typically come with high-interest rates and more loan fees, we think prepayment penalties cross the line. We looked for bad credit loans that don’t charge prepayment penalties since borrowers should have the option to pay their loans off early.
Ability to Apply Online
Lenders that let you apply for a personal loan online are considerably more convenient, so we gave a better loan score to loan companies that offer this option. Bonus points were applied if you can complete the full loan application online and have your loan funded electronically.
We also looked at individual loan reviews on company loan pages and websites like Trustpilot. While all lenders have their share of poor loan reviews, the lenders that made our list boast considerably more positive user reviews than bad ones. Most of the lenders that made the cut for our ranking have customer approval rates over 90%.
Loans for Bad Credit: What to Watch Out For
Bad credit loans are not ideal since they come with high rates and fees that push up the total cost of borrowing. However, some bad credit loans are also considerably “better” than others based on how they charge fees and the rates they offer. Here’s everything you should watch out for before you apply.
Consider the Impact of High Rates
First, it can be immensely helpful to check your rate with multiple lenders in this space before you apply. There’s a huge difference between paying 25.00% APR and 35.99% APR even though both rates aren’t great, so you’ll want to pay the lowest interest rate that you can.
How much difference can it make? Imagine for a moment you need to borrow $10,000 and repay it over 60 months. Here’s what your monthly payment would look like — and how much interest you would pay overall — if you repaid your loan over 60 months with three different rates:
|Loan APR||Monthly Payment||Total Interest Paid|
Avoid Origination Fees If You Can
Also try to avoid loan origination fees if you can, although this may be difficult if your credit score is on the low end of the scale. Loan origination fees are charged as a percentage of your loan upfront, so you can’t avoid them — even if you pay your loan off early. They also add unnecessary expense to your bad credit loan without any benefit for you, the borrower.
Check for Prepayment Penalties
Also, make sure to check for any prepayment penalties that may apply to your loan, and if you can, opt for a lender that doesn’t charge these fees. It would be nice to have the option to pay your loan off early without a penalty if you wind up having the money you need to do so. If you’re able to pay your loan off ahead of schedule, you could pay a lot less in interest over your loan’s term.
Bad Credit Loans: Should You Improve Your Credit First?
If you’re worried about the impact of a bad credit loan on your finances, it can make sense to spend some time improving your score before you apply. If you’re able to pay all your bills early or on time for several months, for example, you could have a positive impact on your score. That’s because your payment history is the most important factor that makes up your FICO score. According to myFICO.com, this factor alone makes up 35% of your score.
The same is true if you’re able to pay down debt to decrease your credit utilization. This advice is based on the fact that how much you owe in relation to your credit limits is the second most important factor making up your FICO score at 30%.
In the meantime, try to avoid opening and closing too many accounts since either of these moves can also ding your score.
If you were able to move the needle and boost your credit score in the “fair” or “good” range, there’s a very good chance you could qualify for a less expensive personal loan with better rates and terms. Of course, this isn’t always possible if you need to borrow money sooner rather than later.
The Bottom Line
Bad credit loans may come with pricey APRs, but they are often the only option of last resort for borrowers whose credit has taken a hit. If you’re in the market for a loan and know you’ll need to get a loan for bad credit, the best thing you can do is compare loan options to find the best deal.
Keep an eye out for bad credit loans with the lowest interest rate and origination fee you can qualify for.
Also, look for lenders that let you check your rate and get prequalified online and before you fill out a full loan application.
With enough research, you should end up with a bad credit loan that helps your finances instead of making them worse.