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Personal Loans

Personal Loans for International Students

Attending college in the United States can be expensive, especially for international students who don’t qualify for federal financial aid. If you’re short on cash, you may consider a personal loan to cover expenses.

Personal loans offer fast funding to use for almost any purpose, such as moving costs, large purchases, and other major expenses. However, it can be challenging to qualify for a personal loan if you don’t have a credit history in the U.S.

If this is the case, you may still be able to get a personal loan by applying with a creditworthy cosigner. Lenders that offer personal loans to international students include Avant, LendingClub, Upgrade, and SoFi. Read on for a closer look at personal loans for international students, including how to qualify and which lenders we recommend. 

Who is considered an international student?

International students are nonimmigrant visitors who come to the U.S. to study. They may hold one of the following three visas: 

  • F1 visa: This is the most common form of international student visa, and it’s designed for academic studies. With an F1 visa, you can also hold a part-time on-campus job. 
  • J1 visa: This visa goes to international students participating in an exchange visitor program. That may include someone working as an au pair, intern, or short-term scholar. You can work with this visa if your exchange program authorizes you. 
  • M1 visa: This visa goes to students attending nonacademic or vocational schools. You can work on this visa for up to six months after you’ve completed your program. 

The type of visa you hold may not affect your personal loan eligibility unless lenders want to see that you have a source of income. If this is the case, M1 visa holders may have a harder time qualifying for a personal loan than F1 or J1 students because they aren’t allowed to work while attending their program. 

Read more: Personal loans for H-1B visa holders

Can you get a personal loan as an international student?

It’s possible to get a personal loan as an international student if you can meet a lender’s requirements for credit, income, and residency. Most lenders want to see that you have the following:

  • Fair or good credit
  • Sufficient income to repay your loan
  • An address in the U.S. 

They may also require a U.S. Social Security number, so you may need to apply for one before you can pursue a personal loan. 

If you can’t meet a lender’s requirements for credit and income on your own, you might be able to qualify by applying with a cosigner. Your cosigner’s credit score must be strong enough to get the loan, and they must be willing to repay it if you can’t. 

Most personal loans are unsecured, meaning they don’t require you to back them with collateral. But some lenders offer secured personal loans, which may have lower credit score requirements. With a secured loan, you risk losing the personal property you put up as collateral if you can’t repay it. 

You can find short-term and long-term loans with repayment ranging from a few months to seven years or longer. A longer repayment term will mean more affordable monthly payments, but you’ll be in debt for longer and pay more interest as a result. 

Personal loans for international students

Here are the top lenders that provide personal loans to non-U.S. citizens attending school in the U.S. None of these lenders requires a cosigner, but adding one to your application may help you qualify if you don’t have much of a credit history in the U.S. 

Click the lender’s name in the table below to find out more about its loan options for international students.

LenderRatesLoan termCosigner required?
Avant9.95%35.99%12 – 60 months No 
LendingClub9.57%35.99%36 – 60 months No
Upgrade8.49%35.99%24 – 84 months No
SoFi8.99% – 25.8112 – 84 months No

Avant

Editorial rating: 4.6 out of 5

  • 580 minimum credit score 
  • Must have Social Security number 
  • Get funds as soon as the next business day

Avant provides unsecured personal loans between $2,000 and $35,000. As an international student, you can qualify on your own as long as you have a Social Security number, a minimum credit score of 580, and meet other requirements. 

Avant charges an administration fee on its loans up to 4.75% of your loan amount. You can choose repayment terms between one and five years and manage your loan through the Avant Credit app. 

  • Cosigner required? No 
  • Soft credit pull to check rates? Yes 
  • Interest rates (APR): 9.95%35.99% 
  • Repayment terms: 12 – 60 months 

LendingClub

Editorial rating: 4.7 out of 5

  • Minimum credit score not disclosed, but most lenders prefer 670+
  • Must have a U.S. address and Social Security number 
  • Lending marketplace  

LendingClub is a marketplace that connects borrowers with investors. It offers personal loans between $1,000 and $40,000 to international students who have a Social Security number, maintain an address in the U.S., and meet other lender requirements. 

However, LendingClub does not allow the use of its personal loans for postsecondary education. That means you can’t use a LendingClub personal loan on college tuition, fees, or other costs related to attending school

But if you need a loan for a noneducational expense, LendingClub may be able to provide financing. LendingClub loans come with terms from three to five years and origination fees ranging from 3% to 8% of the loan amount. 

  • Cosigner required? No
  • Soft credit pull to check rates? Yes 
  • Interest rates (APR): 9.57%35.99%
  • Repayment terms: 36 – 60 months 

Upgrade

Editorial rating: 4.9 out of 5

  • Best for fair credit (620 minimum score recommended)
  • Must have Social Security number and U.S. address
  • Get funds as soon as one business day

Upgrade funds personal loans from $1,000 to $50,000, with interest rates starting at 8.49%. As an international student, you’re not required to apply with a cosigner, but you have the option if it would help you meet income requirements. 

You must have an address in the U.S. and a Social Security number. You also must be at least 18 years old to borrow a personal loan from Upgrade. You can choose repayment terms from two to seven years, and expect to pay an origination fee between 1.85% and 9.99% of your loan amount. 

  • Cosigner required? No 
  • Soft credit pull to check rates? Yes 
  • Interest rates (APR): 8.49%35.99%
  • Repayment terms: 24 – 84 months 

SoFi

Editorial rating: 5.0 out of 5

  • Best for good credit (680 minimum score)
  • Must have a Social Security number and a valid U.S. passport or driver’s license
  • Get funds as soon as the day you’re approved

SoFi offers loans of up to $100,000 for good-credit borrowers. You don’t need to apply with a cosigner as an international student as long as you can meet SoFi’s requirements, which include having a Social Security number and a valid U.S. passport or driver’s license. 

However, you may still need a cosigner if you can’t prove you have sufficient income to repay the loan. SoFi offers fast funding and doesn’t charge origination fees, prepayment penalties, or late fees. 

SoFi also offers an unemployment protection benefit. If you lose your job, the lender will modify your loan payments and help you find a new position.

  • Cosigner required? No
  • Soft credit pull to check rates? Yes 
  • Interest rates (APR): 8.99% – 25.81%
  • Repayment terms: 12 – 84 months 

How to choose a personal loan as an international student

As you compare options for personal loans, here are features to consider so you can choose the right loan: 

  • Interest rates: Look for a loan with a low interest rate to reduce your costs of borrowing. You may also see whether a lender offers opportunities for interest-rate discounts. 
  • Fees: Find out whether the lender charges fees that could make your loan more expensive. For instance, some lenders charge origination fees that equal a certain percentage of your loan amount. 
  • Repayment terms: Review your options for repayment terms, which could span anywhere from one to seven years or longer. Be sure you understand what the loan will cost in total by getting this information from the lender or using a loan calculator.
  • Monthly payments: Estimate your monthly payments on the loan before you borrow to ensure it’s affordable for your budget. 
  • Repayment flexibility: Ask the lender whether they offer flexibility, especially if you run into financial difficulties and need to adjust your loan terms. 
  • Cosigner requirements: Determine whether the lender requires you to apply with a cosigner, and if so, ask what credit score your cosigner needs. 

Our expert’s take

Erin Kinkade

CFP®

In my experience, personal loans and credit cards are less common in other countries than in the U.S. I recommend doing research and weighing the pros and cons of taking out a loan, understanding the obligation you’re taking on. It’s important to repay the loan in a timely manner and communicate with the lender if you can’t make a payment. It’s wise to measure this risk to ensure there’s no issue that might cause you to default on the loan and cause a problem with your visa status.

How to apply for a personal loan as an international student 

The process to apply for a personal loan will vary by lender, but here are the general steps you’ll need to take: 

  • Research lenders. Start by putting together a list of lenders that provide loans for international students with reasonable rates and terms. Be wary of lenders that don’t require a credit check. These might be payday lenders that charge high fees. Find out whether you must meet any special requirements as an international student. It’s also worth checking whether the lender limits how you can use your loan. 
  • Prequalify for personal loans. Some lenders let you sift through offers via prequalification, meaning you can check your rate without affecting your credit score. If available, prequalifying for loan offers can help you find one with a competitive interest rate. 
  • Fill out an application. Once you’ve picked a lender, you can fill out an application, which is often available online. You’ll provide your personal and financial information. If you’re applying with a cosigner, you’ll fill in their details too. 
  • Provide the required documentation. A lender may ask for bank statements, pay stubs, a copy of your student visa, or other documentation. Your cosigner may also need to provide these documents. 
  • Get your loan and start repaying it. If your application is approved, the lender will send the proceeds to your bank account. Read over your loan contract to find out when your first payment is due. 

What you need to know: Our expert weighs in

Erin Kinkade

CFP®

Borrowers—whether international or not—can use personal loans to build their credit by making on-time payments and paying their loan within the agreed terms. Do your research and determine what you need and what you can repay based on your income sources. I recommend taking one loan at a time as it needed. Don’t apply for multiple loans, with exception for shopping for your loan. It may also be wise to choose a repayment term that fits your budget and is in line with the time you plan to spend in the U.S., but this may not be a requirement.

Other financing options for international students

A personal loan can help you cover expenses, but it may not be your most affordable financing option. Options to explore include: 

  • Grants and scholarships: Apply for as many scholarships as you can. These awards offer free money for school that you don’t have to pay back. 
  • Financial aid: International students aren’t eligible for federal financial aid, but they may qualify for aid from their school, their home country, or a private organization in the form of grants, fellowships, or student loans. 
  • International student loans: Student loans for international students are another option. You can find them from various banks and online lenders. Some lenders will require you to apply with a U.S.-based cosigner, but others offer international student loans without a cosigner. Student loans might be a better option than personal loans due to the potential for lower interest rates, longer repayment terms, and a possible grace period that lets you postpone payments while you’re in school. 

FAQ

What minimum credit score is required for an international student to secure a personal loan?

The minimum credit score required for an international student to secure a personal loan varies by lender. Some lenders look for fair credit, which starts at 580 on the FICO range, and others want to see good credit, which starts at 670. Some other lenders don’t have a minimum credit score requirement but look at a variety of factors to determine whether you qualify for a loan. 

What are the typical interest rates for personal loans for international students?

Interest rates on personal loans vary by lender, but as of December 2023, many range from 8% to 36%. According to the National Consumer Law Center, 36% is the maximum rate considered affordable for a personal loan. Be cautious about loans with higher APRs because they may come from payday lenders that charge exorbitant rates and fees. 

Can a personal loan help international students build a credit history in the U.S.?

A personal loan can help international students build a credit history in the U.S. if the lender reports payments to the credit bureaus. Making on-time payments on your loan can improve your credit score over time. Late or missed payments can damage it. 

What happens if an international student can’t repay their loan?

If an international student can’t repay their loan, the lender could report missed payments to the credit bureaus, resulting in damaged credit. If the borrower has a cosigner on the loan, the lender will contact that person to demand repayment. After a certain amount of time, the loan could fall into default and go to collections. 

Before any of this happens, contact your lender about financial hardship options. Some lenders may be willing to change your payment due dates, adjust your monthly bills, or postpone payments until you get back on your feet. 

What expenses can international students use personal loans for?

Depending on the lender, international students may be able to use personal loans for almost any expense. However, some lenders limit how you can use a personal loan. For instance, some lenders don’t want you to put a personal loan toward gambling, investing, business expenses, or higher education. Check with your specific lender to see whether it has rules around what you can use your personal loan for as an international student.

What options exist for international students who speak limited English?

Borrowers who speak limited English might start by visiting a local credit union or bank branch. Face-to-face interaction can help bridge language barriers, and employees might be multilingual. 

Another solid starting place is their university financial aid office. The staff there can provide guidance and might be able to offer university-specific loan options. They might also assist in the student’s native language or refer them to appropriate services.

Finally, several lenders—such as Upstart and Discover—offer online services in multiple languages.