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Personal Loans

Best Online Installment Loans

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 loans have a fixed rate, keeping your payments consistent from month to month. 

Personal loans are also a less expensive form of borrowing, and there’s almost no limit to how you can use them. With the rise of online lenders, finding an installment loan has never been easier. Keep reading for our top recommendations.  

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. 


Not sure what your credit score is? For free, pull your score from Experian, FICO, and even your credit card statement. You could also check your annual credit reports. Pulling your reports won’t show you your credit scores, but it’s a no-cost way to check in on your credit health.

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
LightStreamExcellent credit660
SoFiGood credit680
UpgradeFair credit560
UpstartThin credit300
CredibleComparing lendersNo minimum
Happy MoneyCredit card debt640

Best for excellent credit – LightStream

Editorial rating: 4.8 out of 5

  • Rate Beat Program for lowest APR
  • Loan amounts up to $100,000
  • Repayment terms up to 144 months

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%.

This lender’s installment loans are simple to apply for, and you can get funding as soon as the same day. If you take out a loan with LightStream and are dissatisfied with your lending experience, the lender will give you a $100 refund.

LightStream will review your entire financial picture but only approves good to excellent credit profiles. 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.

Best for good credit – SoFi

Editorial rating: 5.0 out of 5

  • Unemployment protection in case you lose your job
  • Loan amounts up to $100,000
  • No required fees for qualified borrowers

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

SoFi lets you prequalify with a soft credit check. If you’re approved and accept your loan terms before 7 p.m. Eastern, you could even get your funds the same day you apply. 

Origination fees go up to 6%, but qualifying borrowers might not pay any fees at all. SoFi doesn’t charge late fees either, regardless of your credit score. APRs start at 8.99%, including SoFi’s autopay and direct deposit discounts.

Best for fair credit – Upgrade

Editorial rating: 4.9 out of 5

  • Free credit monitoring and educational resources
  • Loan amounts from $1,000 to $50,000
  • Offers hardship assistance

Upgrade is worth considering if you have bad or fair credit or need a smaller loan. 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. 

In addition to next-day funding, Upgrade also offers rate discounts for borrowers who enroll in autopay, use all or some of their loan for debt consolidation, or use their vehicles as collateral.

Best for thin credit – Upstart

Editorial rating: 4.8 out of 5

  • Provides resources for financial education, including articles and webinars
  • Loan amounts from $1,000 to $50,000
  • Innovative eligibility requirements 

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 leads to 40% more approvals and 43% lower rates than traditional lending models.

Upstart also offers borrowers a bit of breathing room with its 10-day grace period on late payments. It assesses a high origination fee, but this is a solid choice for borrowers without an extensive credit history. 

Best marketplace – Credible

Editorial rating: 5.0 out of 5

  • Funding as fast as one business day
  • Loan amounts up to $200,000

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

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

Funding times, fees, and repayment periods vary by lender. Credible lets you check each lender’s terms before accepting a loan offer, so you won’t be surprised or caught off guard between when you apply and receive your funds.

Best for credit card debt – Happy Money

Editorial rating: 4.8 out of 5

  • Minimum 640 credit score and no delinquencies to apply
  • Loan amounts from $5,000 to $40,000
  • Not available in MA or NV

Happy Money matches borrowers with its lending partners to help them pay off high-interest credit cards. Its signature Payoff Loan enables you to consolidate multiple credit card payments into one loan to take control of your debt. 

You can streamline the debt consolidation process and let Happy Money pay off your creditors directly, though this isn’t required. If you choose to receive your loan proceeds (rathe than creditors), expect funding times up to six business days.

Happy Money is transparent about its rates, terms, and eligibility requirements, too. You’ll know exactly what to expect and whether Happy Money is a fit before applying.

Installment loans with different payment schedules

Based on our research, most legitimate installment loans are paid back at regular monthly intervals. The only lenders we found that offered weekly or biweekly repayment were payday lenders with interest rates as high as 459%—and that’s a road you don’t want to travel.

If you need to pay back your loan on a different schedule, you have these options:

  • Request a new due date. If your pay schedule changes or you have too many bills due around the same time each month, ask your lender if you can move your due date.
  • Divide your monthly payments into smaller amounts. As long as you make your payments in full by the due date, nothing says you can’t divide those payments into weekly or biweekly amounts. For example, if you owe your lender $300 by the 30th of each month, you could pay $150 by the 15th and the remaining balance on the 29th.

By making more frequent smaller payments, you can better align your installment payments with your budget and pay dates. You might also pay down your loan faster and save on interest.

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 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 give you the best approval odds. 

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 our recommendations and reviews 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, as well as the potential terms and rates you qualify for. 
  5. Compare each lender’s offer. Since prequalifying doesn’t result in a hard inquiry, check your rates with multiple lenders. Which loan offer best meets your goals? 

Once you’ve found a suitable loan offer, submit a full application to get your lender’s final approval and receive your 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 your funds transferred to 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. Still, most lenders consider the following:

  • Your credit score
  • Your debt-to-income ratio (DTI)
  • Your income and employment history
  • How much you want to borrow

Lenders also look at your holistic credit profile. You may have a low DTI, for example, but if your credit report shows a recent pattern of late payments, you may not get approved for the loan amount and interest rate you want. 

If you’re worried about your approval odds, consider AI-powered lenders, including Upgrade and Upstart. These lenders make credit scores a smaller part of the equation. They also consider factors such as education and future employment to qualify their borrowers.

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 run the gamut, but common uses include:

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

How much do installment loans cost?

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 and installment loan cost. 

Forty-five 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:

An infographic showing the capped APR and median APR of United States states plus DC of a $500 six-month loan and a $2000 two-year loan.
Source: National Consumer Law Center

Still, five states only impose unconscionability caps:

  1. Alabama
  2. Idaho
  3. South Carolina
  4. Utah
  5. Wisconsin

“Unconscionability” is a legal term that, in this context, refers to shockingly high interest rates that benefit the lender at the borrower’s expense. However, what constitutes a shockingly high rate could vary from state to state.

Two other states have no limit whatsoever on installment loan interest:

  1. Delaware
  2. Missouri

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

In addition to interest rates, the company you choose may assess specific fees. The most common personal loan fees include the following:

  • Origination fees
  • Late fees
  • Returned payment fees
  • Payment processing fees

Some installment loans have origination fees between 1% and 10%, and many lenders charge fees if you pay late or if your payment fails. A few lenders may assess payment processing fees as well, though you can usually avoid these by signing up for autopay.

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. Some lenders, including SoFi, provide these protections at no additional charge.

Read your loan agreement carefully so you’re aware of all fees before accepting the loan. 

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 our 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 for
LightStreamExcellent creditLearn more
SoFiGood creditLearn more
UpgradeFair creditLearn more
UpstartThin creditLearn more
CredibleComparing real offersLearn more
Happy MoneyCredit card debtLearn more

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