Peer-to-peer loans are similar to traditional loans, but instead of borrowing money from a lender, consumers borrow from individual investors. Other than that, peer-to-peer loans are often similar to their traditional counterparts from banks, credit unions, and online lenders.
Knowing how peer-to-peer lending works can help you better understand your borrowing options if you’re considering a personal or small business loan.
In this guide:
- What are peer-to-peer loans?
- Pros and cons
- Where to find peer-to-peer loans
- How to apply
- Is a peer-to-peer personal loan right for me?
What are peer-to-peer loans?
Peer-to-peer (P2P) lending platforms connect individual borrowers with a network of investors, which can be individuals or companies. Depending on the type of loan, your borrowing experience might be different.
P2P personal loans
Peer-to-peer personal loans are similar to personal loans from traditional lenders and are just as safe.
You may not even know you’re working with a P2P lending platform instead of a traditional lender:
- The application process is the same.
- P2P platforms often service the loans after you’re approved.
- You’ll never come in direct contact with your investors.
Sometimes, the eligibility requirements can be less stringent than traditional personal loans. So if you have less-than-stellar credit, you may include P2P platforms as you shop for a loan.
P2P business loans
Peer-to-peer loans for small businesses are often for smaller amounts than traditional business loans. You may need to find individual lenders on your own before you get help from the lending platform.
But you also might be able to get a low or even no interest rate, and credit requirements could be low or nonexistent.
Pros and cons of peer-to-peer personal loans
As with any financial product, getting a P2P loan to consolidate debt, cover emergency expenses, or make a large purchase offers advantages and disadvantages.
Keep the following in mind before you proceed.
May offer lower interest rates
If you have excellent credit, you may qualify for a lower interest rate than a traditional personal lender.
You may get more flexibility
P2P lenders may be more willing to work with bad-credit borrowers, and depending on the platform, you may get a lower loan amount than many traditional lenders allow.
Most P2P lending platforms are online only, making getting a loan convenient and quick.
P2P loans often come with an upfront origination fee, which compensates the lending platform for facilitating the loan process.
You may end up with a higher interest rate
If your credit is fair but not good or excellent, you might qualify for a more favorable interest rate with a traditional lender.
Can damage your credit
As with traditional personal loans, P2P personal loans can damage your credit if you miss a payment.
Where to find peer-to-peer loans
We’ve researched P2P marketplaces to consider.
- Next-day funding
- Customizable monthly payment
- Allows cosigners
Prosper offers flexible loan amounts and repayment terms, with no prepayment penalty if you choose to pay off your loan early. The platform has a minimum credit score of 640, but if you’re unsure about your eligibility, you can prequalify with a soft credit check before you submit an official application.
If you don’t have good approval odds on your own, or the rate quotes are high, you can apply with a cosigner.
If you have good credit, Prosper offers competitive rates that beat many traditional personal loans. However, the lender also charges a high APR if your credit score is on the lower end of its acceptable range.
- Rates (APR): 6.99% – 35.99%
- Loan amounts: $2,000 – $50,000
- Repayment terms: 2 – 5 years
- Fees: Origination fee between 1% and 5%, check payment fee, late fee, insufficient funds fee
- Next-day funding
- Low minimum loan amount
- Available to borrowers with poor or no credit
Upstart has a minimum credit score requirement of 300, which is the lowest credit score possible. And you may get approved without a credit history—the platform also considers your education and employment to make a decision.
Before applying, you can prequalify with a rate quote with no impact on your credit score. But the lender doesn’t allow cosigners, so you’ll have to look elsewhere if you can’t get a favorable rate on your own.
Repayment terms are a bit less flexible than other lenders, and the origination fee is among the highest on the market.
- Rates (APR): 6.70% – 35.99%
- Loan amounts: $1,000 – $50,000
- Repayment terms: 3 or 5 years
- Fees: Origination fee between 0% and 10%; Late payment fee; ACH or check return fee
Small business loans
- Offers 0% APR loans
- Requires borrowers to crowdsource funds
- No minimum credit score
If you’re an entrepreneur, you can get startup cash for your business with Kiva. The nonprofit microlending platform doesn’t offer large loans, but it has no credit, collateral, or cash flow requirements, and its loans don’t charge interest or fees.
That said, when you apply, you must find between five and 35 initial investors from your network of family members and friends, with a minimum investment of $25 each. Once you meet that requirement, Kiva will post your loan on its website for others to add their investment.
It can take at least several weeks to get the funding you need.
- Rates (APR): 0%
- Loan amounts: Up to $15,000
- Repayment terms: Up to 36 months
- Fees: None
How to apply for a peer-to-peer loan
Depending on the type of loan you want, the application process can be similar to a traditional loan.
For personal loans, the application process is similar:
- Apply online through the P2P lending platform, providing basic details about yourself, how much you want to borrow, and the purpose of the loan.
- Provide necessary documentation, such as a copy of your government-issued photo ID and income documents (pay stub, W-2, or bank statement).
- If approved, review the loan agreement and accept the loan.
- Receive the loan funds, less origination charges, and start making payments.
Each lending platform has unique criteria for approval, so review the requirements and get prequalified before you apply to gauge your approval odds and potential terms.
As for business loans, Kiva’s process is quite different from traditional lenders:
- Get prequalified, then fill out an application, providing details about yourself and your business.
- Upon approval, you’ll have 15 days to invite friends and family members to lend to you.
- Once you’ve found enough lenders in your network, your profile is listed on Kiva’s website for up to 30 days.
- Once your loan is funded, you’ll start making monthly payments.
Kiva does not require a minimum credit score to get approved.
Is a peer-to-peer personal loan right for me?
If you’re considering a personal loan, it’s wise to consider all types of lenders, including P2P lending platforms. This is true if you have excellent credit and want to minimize your interest costs or you have bad credit and need a loan without strict credit requirements.
But as with any personal loan, it’s essential to consider the following features before you apply:
- Interest rate quotes
- Origination fees
- Loan amounts
- Repayment terms
- Eligibility criteria
Alternatives to peer-to-peer loans
If you want options beyond P2P loans, keep these alternatives in mind:
- Traditional personal loans: It’s often best to go with the lender or platform that offers you the best terms, regardless of whether it’s a P2P or traditional personal loan. So be sure to include different types of lenders as you shop.
- Credit cards: If you have good credit, you may be able to qualify for a credit card with an introductory 0% APR on purchases, balance transfers, or both. Depending on what you need, this option can save you significant money and offer more flexibility with your monthly payments.
- Loan from a loved one: If your credit is in bad shape or you don’t want the credit impact of a personal loan, consider asking a friend to lend you money—or accepting a loan from your parents or another family member. To avoid damaging your relationship, it’s wise to draw up an official contract for repayment and to pay off the loan on time or early.
Before you proceed, research and compare all your options to determine the best fit for you and your needs.