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Personal Loans

Best Installment Loans: Compare Online Options

Updated Nov 16, 2023   |   16-min read

Installment loans come in many forms, but the term often refers to personal loans. They’re called installment loans because you repay them in monthly installments. These types of presonal loans have a fixed rate, making them easier to plan for. 

They’re also a less expensive form of borrowing, with recent data from the Federal Reserve showing personal installment loans have an average interest rate of 11.21%—much lower than the average credit card interest rate of 19.07%

A personal loan helps you accomplish multiple financial goals since there’s almost no limit to what you can use them for. We’ve researched the best personal loans for various types of borrowers. 

In this guide:

Best online installment loans

The personal loan you qualify for relies on your credit score and other financial factors. This can make a significant difference in how much you pay to borrow. Generally, the higher your credit score, the less you’ll pay in interest. 

Your credit score falls in one of the following ranges:  

  • Poor: Under 580
  • Fair: 580 – 669 
  • Good: 670 – 739
  • Very Good: 740 – 799
  • Excellent: 800+

Not sure what your credit score is? Pull your score from Experian or FICO for free. You could also pull your credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com, which gives you all three credit bureau reports for free but no scores. 

Knowing where your credit stands before applying for your loan is essential so lenders’ credit requirements don’t catch you off guard. Hard inquiries can drop your credit score a few points, so save them for the lenders that want to work with you.

We’ve gathered the best personal loan options for different credit scores to save you time.

CompanyBest forMinimum credit score
CredibleComparing real offersNo minimum
LightStreamExcellent credit660
SoFiGood credit680
UpgradeFair credit560
UpstartThin credit300
LendingPointPayment flexibility580
AchieveChoosing payment date620
Best EggSecured installment loans600
Happy MoneyCredit card debt640

Best marketplace: Credible

Editorial rating: 5 out of 5

  • Compare actual rates and terms from multiple lenders with one application
  • No costs or impact on your credit

Through its comprehensive online marketplace, Credible connects borrowers with multiple lenders, allowing them to compare different installment loan offers after completing a single application.

Credible’s network of lenders allows it to offer solutions for borrowers of all credit profiles. Funds from these lenders can be used for home improvement, debt consolidation, medical bills, and more.

Details on Credible’s personal loan offerings:

  • Credit score category: All credit ranges
  • Soft credit pull to check rates?: Yes
  • Deposit time: As fast as one business day, depending on the lender
  • Origination fee: Varies by lender, but several have no fee
  • Late fee: Varies by lender, but several have no fee
  • Rates (APR): 5.20%35.99%
  • Repayment terms: 12 – 120 months

Best for excellent credit: LightStream

Editorial rating: 4.8 out of 5

  • Rate Beat program for lowest APR
  • Loan amounts: $5,000 – $100,000
  • Credit score: 660+

LightStream ranks as one of the best personal loan lenders for excellent credit. It offers low rates, no fees, and a Rate Beat program where it will beat any competitor’s rate by 0.10%. LightStream will review your entire financial picture but only approves good to excellent credit profiles. 

This lender’s installment loans are simple to apply for, and you can get funding as soon as the same day. Before applying, check your credit score to ensure you qualify: LightStream is the only lender on our list that doesn’t offer a soft pull to check your rates. 

Considering the opportunity for discounts, the wide range of uses, and the lack of an origination fee or late fees, LightStream makes the cut as the best installment loan for borrowers with excellent credit.

  • Credit score category: Excellent, good
  • Minimum credit score: 660
  • Soft credit pull to check rates? Not available
  • Deposit time: As soon as the same day
  • Origination fee: 0%
  • Late fee: None
  • Rates (APR): 7.99%25.99%
  • Discounts: 0.50% interest rate reduction for autopay
  • Repayment terms: 24 – 144 months

Best for good credit: SoFi

Editorial rating: 5 out of 5

  • Unemployment Protection in case you lose your job
  • Loan amounts: $5,000 – $100,000
  • Credit score: 680+

SoFi is a major lender that offers a wide range of financial services and works well for borrowers with good credit. SoFi stands out because of its lack of required fees, rate discounts, and unemployment protection. 

When you check your rates with SoFi, you’ll get potential rates right away without damaging your credit score. Borrowers with good credit are not required to pay any fees. 

  • Credit score category: Good credit
  • Minimum credit score: Not disclosed
  • Soft credit pull to check rates? Yes
  • Deposit time: As soon as the same day
  • Origination fee: 0% to 6%
  • Late fee: None
  • Rates (APR): 8.99% – 23.43%
  • Discounts: 0.25% for autopay; 0.25% for direct deposit to a SoFi account
  • Repayment terms: 24 – 84 months

Best for fair credit: Upgrade

Editorial rating: 4.9 out of 5

  • Free credit monitoring and educational resources
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 – $50,000
  • Credit score: 560+

Upgrade is a solid option for borrowers with bad or fair credit and those who need smaller loans. You can check rates without affecting your credit score, and eligibility is based more on free cash flow than other lenders.

If you don’t have a terrific credit score, you don’t need to give up fast deposit times or pay prepayment penalties. Fees are minimal, and rates are on par with other lenders, so you won’t compromise much for having dings on your credit report. 

Upgrade’s loan process starts by checking your rates with a soft credit pull. Within a few minutes, you’ll get potential loan offers. Select an offer you like, accept it, and get funds as soon as the next business day. 

  • Credit score category: Fair, bad
  • Minimum credit score: 580
  • Soft credit pull to check rates? Yes
  • Deposit time: As soon as 1 business day
  • Origination fee: 1.85% – 9.99%
  • Late fee: $10
  • Rates (APR): 8.49%35.97%
  • Discounts: Interest rate reduction for active-duty service members
  • Repayment terms: 24 – 84 months

Best for thin credit: Upstart

Editorial rating: 4.8 out of 5

  • Provides resources for financial education, including articles and webinars
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 – $50,000
  • Credit score: 300+

Upstart is an artificial intelligence (AI) lending marketplace that partners with banks to improve borrowing accessibility for people outside usual credit standards. Upstart’s lending model considers education, employment, and other variables when determining eligibility—not just credit score. This model leads to 43.4% more approvals and 43.2% lower rates than traditional lending models.

A borrower with little to no credit—i.e., a thin credit file—might need grace when learning to manage a personal loan. Upstart offers a 10-day grace period on late payments before charging a late fee. It assesses a high origination fee, but this is a solid choice for borrowers without an extensive credit history. 

  • Credit score category: Fair and poor
  • Minimum credit score: 300
  • Soft credit pull to check rates? Yes
  • Deposit time: As fast as one business day
  • Origination fee: 0% – 10%
  • Late fee: $15 or 5% of payment
  • Rates (APR): 6.70% – 35.99%
  • Discounts: None
  • Repayment terms: 36 or 60 months

Best for payment flexibility: LendingPoint

Editorial rating: 4.9 out of 5

  • Proprietary underwriting algorithm considers credit score, income, and other factors to customize loan offers
  • Loan amounts: $2,000 – $36,500
  • Credit score: Not disclosed

Similar to Upstart, LendingPoint is an AI-powered lender that uses more than your credit score to qualify for a personal loan. What makes LendingPoint unique? Your rate won’t rise, but the lender will review your account after six months to consider lowering your rate. 

That’s helpful if you’re starting with a lower credit score because on-time payments to your loan may improve your score over time. Another standout feature of LendingPoint is its payment flexibility. Not many lenders allow you to choose between biweekly or monthly payments. That lets you line up your loan with your budget. 

  • Credit score category: Poor to fair 
  • Minimum credit score: Not disclosed
  • Soft credit pull to check rates? Yes
  • Deposit time: As soon as 1 business day
  • Origination fee: 0% – 8%
  • Late fee: Not disclosed
  • Rates (APR): 7.99%35.99%
  • Discounts: None 
  • Repayment terms: 24 – 72 months

Best for choosing payment date: Achieve

Editorial rating: 4.8 out of 5

  • Choose your payment date
  • Loan amounts: $5,000 – $50,000
  • Credit score: 620

Achieve has been around for over 20 years, helping borrowers find the right financing solutions. What sets it apart is the guided loan process. You’ll have a real loan consultant waiting to help you online or by phone when you’re ready to complete the loan application process. Rate discounts are available for certain customers.

After answering several questions and choosing repayment terms, you’ll select your monthly payment date. Most lenders set it for the day of the month your loan was approved instead of letting you choose. Achieve’s flexibility can help you make on-time payments. 

  • Credit score category: Fair 
  • Minimum credit score: 620
  • Soft credit pull to check rates? Yes
  • Deposit time: 24 – 72 hours
  • Origination fee: 1.99% – 6.99%
  • Late fee: None listed
  • Rates (APR): 7.99%35.99%
  • Discounts: Direct pay, retirement savings, joint loan 
  • Repayment terms: 24 – 60 months

Best for a secured installment loan: Best Egg

Editorial rating: 4.8 out of 5

  • Secured loans allow you to potentially get a lower rate if you use your home’s fixtures as collateral
  • Loan amounts: $2,000 – $35,000
  • Credit score: 600+

Best Egg is one of the few online lenders that offer secured personal loans. Its secured loans have an average discount of 20% compared to its unsecured personal loans. Get fast funding as soon as 24 hours after approval. 

Best Egg’s secured installment loans use your home’s fixtures (such as bathroom vanities, cabinets, and lighting) to back the loan, which makes it less expensive to borrow. 

Compared to a traditional home equity loan, it’s much less involved, with no in-person appointments or lengthy underwriting processes. Filling out the simple online application can get you access to funds within 24 hours of approval. 

  • Credit score category: Fair to good
  • Minimum credit score: 600
  • Soft credit pull to check rates? Yes
  • Deposit time: As little as 24 hours
  • Origination fee: 0.99% – 8.99%
  • Late fee: $15
  • Rates (APR): 5.99%29.99% (secured); 8.99%35.99% (unsecured)
  • Discounts: None
  • Repayment terms: 60 – 72 months

Best for credit card debt: Happy Money

Editorial rating: 4.8 out of 5

  • Member benefits include financial education resources, access to financial coaches, and earning rewards for paying off debt.
  • Loan amounts: $5,000 – $40,000
  • Credit score: 640+

 Happy Money is dedicated to helping borrowers pay off high-interest credit card debt by matching you with one of its lending partners. Its signature Payoff Loan enables you to consolidate multiple credit card payments into one loan to take control of your debt. 

Happy Money is transparent about its rates, terms, and eligibility requirements, so you’ll know exactly what to expect. Its Payoff Loan streamlines the consolidation process by paying the credit card companies if you choose. 

  • Credit score category: Fair to good
  • Minimum credit score: 640
  • Soft credit pull to check rates? Yes
  • Deposit time: 3 – 6 business days
  • Origination fee: 0% – 5%
  • Late fee: None
  • Rates (APR): 10.50%29.99%
  • Discounts: None
  • Repayment terms: 24 – 60 months

How to find the best installment loan

Finding the best installment loan depends on your credit, the amount you need, and your preferred rates and terms. This often involves several factors.

  • Interest rates: Rates affect how much you’ll pay to borrow money.
  • Term length options: This is how long you’ll take to repay the loan. It helps determine your monthly payment. 
  • Fees: Common fees with personal installment loans include origination fees, prepayment penalties, and late fees. If you’re using a personal loan to save money, fees could infringe on your potential savings. 
  • Credit score standards: Many lenders don’t share the exact credit score you need to qualify for a loan, but knowing what credit ranges it typically accepts may help you narrow down your options. 
  • Income requirements: These aren’t always transparent, but they can help narrow down which lenders you have the best chance of getting approved with. 

So how do you shop around for the best installment loan? Follow these steps to find the loan that’s right for you. 

  1. Determine what’s important to you. Do you want to pay off debt faster? Go with a shorter term length.  Want a lower monthly payment? Look for low interest rates and longer terms. Choose which goal you want to target. 
  2. Check your credit score, and look for loans within your credit and income ranges. Use the chart below to find lenders that will work with your credit score.
  3. Narrow down your options. Choose three to five lenders you think would work best.
  4. Prequalify. Most lenders let you check your rate without hurting your credit score. This process only takes a few minutes and tells you whether you’re preapproved and the potential terms and rates you qualify for. Prequalify with multiple lenders since it’s not a hard inquiry.
  5. Compare each lender’s offer. Which one meets your goals the best? 
  6. Apply for the installment loan.
  7. Accept the offer from your desired lender. 
  8. Get funds.

How to apply for an installment loan

You found the installment loan you want after prequalifying online. The amount, term, and rate are what you need. So how do you take out a personal loan? Complete your loan application.

Applying for an installment loan is easy, especially if you’ve already prequalified with that lender. Most of the information you supplied to prequalify for the loan should be prefilled in the loan application. 

These are the next steps to apply for an installment loan: 

  1. Fill out your personal information, or enter your loan offer confirmation number. 
  2. Select the loan purpose. Whether you plan to consolidate debt, improve your home, or  buy a Jet Ski
  3. Select your loan amount. You may need to increase the total amount to cover origination fees.   
  4. Choose your loan term. How fast will you repay the loan, and what can you afford each month? 
  5. Read the loan agreement, and note any fees or charges. 
  6. Sign the loan agreement, and submit your application. 
  7. Wait for a credit decision. The lender does a hard credit check and reviews your application. This takes anywhere from a few hours to a few days. It may request additional documentation, such as proof of income, before making a final decision. 
  8. Accept the loan. You can also reject the offer if you’re unhappy with the terms or change your mind.
  9. Get the funds in your account if you choose to accept the loan.

Am I eligible for an installment loan?

You’re eligible for an installment loan if you meet the lender’s income and credit requirements. These aren’t always disclosed, and each company has unique standards. More lenders today are embracing transparency concerning credit scores and income requirements, which can empower you to make a more informed decision before you apply. 

Most companies consider borrowers’ credit scores and other factors, such as income. Many lenders require “sufficient” income to repay the loan but don’t specify an amount—often because requirements depend on how much you want to borrow. 

AI-powered lenders, including Upgrade and Upstart, make credit scores a smaller part of the equation. They also consider factors such as edu cation and work history to qualify their borrowers.

Another factor is your debt-to-income ratio. This ratio—your monthly debt payments divided by your monthly income—gives lenders an idea of how much of your income is available to repay your new installment loan.

Installment loan uses

You can use a personal installment loan for almost anything. If it isn’t gambling, school tuition, or related to illegal activity—prohibited uses with most lenders—you’re likely in the clear. 

Loan uses runs the gamut, but common uses include:

You can see a comprehensive list of uses by reading our article “What Can a Personal Be Used For?” 

How much do installment loans cost?

Some loans are more expensive than others. Factors including your interest rate, fees, and term length may affect the costs of your installment loan. Where you live can also affect your loan terms. 

Forty-three states plus the District of Columbia have laws capping the rates for installment loans to protect consumers. For example, If you got a $2,000 installment loan with a repayment term of two years in California, your interest rate would be capped at 25% APR. The same loan in Mississippi is capped at 59% APR:

Source: National Consumer Law Center

Still, five states have no limit on installment loan interest:

  • Idaho 
  • Utah 
  • Wisconsin
  • Missouri
  • Delaware

That can leave borrowers open to predatory interest rates that may climb well into the hundreds. 

The company you choose may assess specific fees. 

The most common personal loan fees include the following:

  • Origination fees
  • Application fees
  • Prepayment penalties
  • Late fees

Some installment loans have origination fees between 1% and 10%. Some lenders charge prepayment fees as high as 5%. You may choose to pay optional expenses, such as loan insurance in case you lose your job, get sick, or become disabled, if your lender offers them. 

Read the loan agreement so you’re aware of all fees. 

How do I repay an installment loan?

Repaying an installment loan is easy. Once approved, you’ll get the loan agreement, which provides details such as:

  • Monthly payment amount
  • Payment due date
  • Interest rate
  • Loan maturity date
  • Where to send the payment

You’ll likely pay your installment bill through your lender’s online portal. You can set up automatic payments to ensure all your payments are on time. Many lenders even offer an interest rate discount for setting up autopay, so you can save money. 

Repaying an installment loan follows the payment schedule in your loan agreement. Your payments cover the principal and interest on the loan. 

You can check out a personal loan calculator to find out how much you’d pay for loans with various terms, as in the example below:

Example only
Loan amount$10,000
Interest rate (APR)9%
Repayment term72 months
Monthly payment$180.25
Total interest paid$2,978
Total cost of loan$12,978

Recap of the best installment loans

Below, we’ve recapped our picks for the best installment loans. Be sure to consider the company’s credit score requirements before applying. 

Consider another option if your credit score is lower than the minimum requirement.

CompanyBest forMinimum credit score
CredibleComparing real offersNo minimum
AchieveChoosing payment date620
Best EggSecured installment loans600
Happy MoneyCredit card debt640
LendingPointPayment flexibility580
LightStreamExcellent credit660
SoFiGood credit680
UpgradeFair credit560
UpstartThin credit300

To compare additional options, check out our guides on the best personal loans and the best bad-credit loans.