It can be tricky to identify the right personal loan for your needs, especially because there are so many types to explore. It’s important to find the one that’s not only best for you right now but will also fit into your budget when it comes time to pay it back.
We’ve researched the different types of personal loans you should know about so you can find the right one for you.
In this guide:
- Why do lenders offer so many different types of personal loans?
- Secured vs. unsecured personal loans
- Specific types of personal loans
- What are the best types of personal loans?
Why do lenders offer so many different types of personal loans?
While some lenders don’t specify personal loan uses, others tailor their offerings to different needs, such as “home improvement loans,” “wedding loans,” or even “adoption loans.”
These offerings may have different eligibility requirements or limitations. For instance, you might get a lower interest rate for a personal loan for a home remodel compared to one for a wedding.
Because the best personal loan for you will depend on many factors—including your credit score, income, timeline for repayment, and use of the loan funds—knowing the complete personal loan offerings of different lenders allows you to make the most informed decision.
Secured vs. unsecured personal loans
Personal loans can be secured or unsecured. Secured loans require collateral to “secure” your loan. If you don’t make your payments, you lose your collateral. For personal loans, collateral can be a savings account or certificate of deposit (CD).
Most personal loans are unsecured loans, meaning lenders consider your credit score, credit history, and income for approval rather than the value of the collateral you can offer. The higher your credit score, the more your approval odds for an unsecured personal loan increase.
If you have fair credit, you may still qualify, but your interest rate won’t be the best available, or you might not get the full loan amount requested. Interest rates for unsecured personal loans can range from 5% to 36%, with an average of 11.21% for a 24-month personal loan as of November 2022.
If you don’t have great credit, a secured loan can be a way to obtain a personal loan because your loan presents less risk when it’s tied to collateral. You may also see lower interest rates for secured personal loans compared to unsecured ones because there’s more risk for you, the borrower.
Specific types of personal loans
Within the classification of secured and unsecured loans, there are various types of personal loans to consider based on your qualifications and needs. Some of these types have secured and unsecured options while others fall solely in the unsecured category.
|Type of personal loan||Unsecured||Secured|
|Personal line of credit||✔|
|Credit builder||✔||✔ (typical)|
When you take out an installment loan, you make fixed monthly payments over the life of the loan for a set time. Once you’ve completed the payments, the loan ends. How much you borrow and how long you make payments depends on the loan.
Auto loans, mortgages, and student loans are common installment loans. Personal loans can also be installment loans, and they’re often unsecured, meaning you don’t lose any property or money if you don’t make payments.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t risk. If you fall far enough behind on payments, your loans are delinquent and could end up in default, which causes your credit score to tank. It could take years to rebound that score and remove the negative marks from your credit report.
Interest rates on personal installment loans vary—from 7% to 36% based on your credit score, income amount, loan amount, and the purpose of the loan.
- Fixed payments make budgeting easier
- Often unsecured, so collateral is not at risk
- Wide variation in interest rates
- Some offerings may come with origination fees and prepayment penalties
- Borrowers with good or excellent credit (due to the variation in interest rates)
Online loans are offerings from lenders that don’t require you to visit a branch. Instead, you can handle everything online or through a mobile app—from prequalification to completing the application, approval, and setting up banking information to make virtual payments.
Online loans can encompass a variety of offerings from traditional and nontraditional lenders and are typically unsecured, although secured options may be available. You may see different requirements for various loans from the same lender.
All these options make it crucial to do your due diligence when researching online personal loans. Interest rates vary, and predatory lenders are out there.
Whenever possible, leverage an online lender’s prequalification options before submitting a complete application, which triggers a hard credit check and shows up on your credit report.
- Quick approval—some lenders can return approval within the day
- Same-day funding is possible
- Flexible uses
- Bad credit options available
- Rates vary and may be higher than at your personal bank
- Thorough due diligence required
- When you need funds fast
- If you don’t have great credit
Major traditional and community banking institutions offer personal bank loans in person or online.
These types of loans and the associated eligibility requirements can vary based on the bank, and some banks may not have a prequalification option. The benefits of choosing a personal loan through your current bank include familiarity, trust, and possible relationship perks.
Interest rates for personal bank loans vary based on your credit score, income, and other factors. Consider visiting a few different banks to shop around for the best loan.
- Convenience of doing all of your banking in one place
- You may be eligible for rate discounts if you are a current customer
- Flexible uses of the funds
- Easier due diligence than researching online lenders you’re unfamiliar with
- Fewer options for poor credit
- Approval and funding may take longer
- Interest rates may be higher than what you can find online, but not always
- If you’re an established customer at a bank
- You have good credit
Credit union personal loans
Like bank loans, personal loans from credit unions come with interest rates based on your credit score and lending terms.
Credit unions may have different lending terms compared to some banks. For instance, you might need to be a member of the credit union for a set time before borrowing a personal loan.
You also may find that credit unions have lower interest rates and more lenient eligibility requirements compared to banks because credit unions are not for profit.
- Lower interest rates than traditional banks
- More lenient eligibility requirements
- Familiarity of banking with a local institution
- May require you to be a member for a certain amount of time before being eligible for a personal loan
- Current members of credit unions
- Those with fair or bad credit, who may not be eligible for other personal loan options
Personal lines of credit
A personal line of credit is like a credit card in that you can withdraw money up to your limit and make payments on it, including interest, until your balance is paid in full.
Unlike a traditional loan, in which you receive the loan amount upfront and pay it off with a fixed interest rate during a set repayment period, a personal line of credit is a form of revolving credit, meaning you can continue to withdraw even as you’re making payments.
You can make withdrawals during the draw period, which can last from months to years. When the draw period ends, you enter the repayment period and can no longer take funds from the credit line.
Personal lines of credit often carry variable interest rates, meaning your rate can fluctuate with the market index, and they are typically higher than APRs on standard personal loans.
- More flexibility in spending than a traditional personal loan
- Lower interest rates than a credit card
- Unsecured so not tied to collateral
- Higher interest rates than personal loans
- Variable interest rates can make it more difficult to budget for payment
- Can be more difficult to qualify for than a personal loan
- Expenses over a longer period when you’re not sure how much you’ll need, such as home repairs or education expenses
- Access to extra cash in emergencies
Peer-to-peer (P2P) loans
Sometimes loans don’t come from financial institutions. P2P loans are products that come from people, for people. Getting one often involves signing up through an online lending platform and sharing your needs. Then individual investors fund your loan.
Many P2P lenders have fewer eligibility requirements, making them an appealing option for borrowers with fair or bad credit. But keep in mind you might face higher interest rates and more fees with this route. P2P loans are typically unsecured but can be secured.
Most P2P lenders give you the same type of offers that other lenders do. For instance, you can set up autopay and make one monthly payment to the P2P lender that gets disbursed back to all the investors who contributed to your loan (if it’s multiple people).
- An option for borrowers with fair or bad credit
- Convenience of online application, approval, and payment
- Quick approval and funding
- Ability to choose between a variety of offers
- Higher fees
- Higher interest rates
- Borrowers with fair or bad credit
- If you need fast funds
Payday loans are short-term, high-interest loans that require payment in full within a few weeks, or by your next payday. These are small-dollar, unsecured loans that often don’t require a credit check.
Payday loans work by lending you a set amount of money you must pay back quickly, unlike traditional personal loans, which give you months or years to repay your loan. If you can’t repay it, you could end up taking out another loan to pay it off, entering a payday lending cycle.
These loans prey on borrowers who don’t have strong credit and can’t otherwise borrow a personal loan, and they aren’t available in every state. In the states that allow them, you can expect your APR to be upward of 400%.
- No credit check required
- Instant funding
- Sky-high interest rates and fees
- Short repayment period
- Borrowers with bad credit who don’t qualify for other personal loan options and can meet the repayment time frame
Point-of-sale (POS) loans
POS loans, or buy-now, pay-later (BNPL) loans, are unsecured, short-term financing options that are often interest free if you make the required payments. You might see this type of loan when checking out online at your favorite retailer through apps such as Affirm, Afterpay, and Klarna.
If you don’t want to use a debit or credit card for a purchase, you can use BNPL to make four equal payments about every other week to pay your balance. After that, if you don’t make your payments, annual percentage rates (APR) up to 36% may kick in, based on your credit score and eligibility.
- Often no interest if you pay on time in four installments
- No hard credit check, so usage won’t show up on your credit report
- Interest and fees kick in if you don’t make your payments or after four payments
- You should ensure the interest-free payments fit into your budget
- Large one-time purchases
- Low credit scores or those new to credit
Credit builder loans
You might have trouble qualifying for a personal loan if you don’t have good credit or much credit to your name. But credit builder loans may help. Credit builder loans are personal loans for those who need to build or rebuild credit.
Credit builder loans don’t actually lend money. When you take out a loan, repayment begins immediately. The payments are held in a CD to earn interest and reported to the credit bureaus, which increases your credit score. You receive your funds minus interest and fees when payments are complete.
Interest rates for credit builder loans can vary based on your credit score, how much you’re borrowing, your income, and the lender. Rates range anywhere from 5% to 30%, sometimes more. You may also face more and higher fees than other types of personal loans.
Most credit builder loans are secured because your loan funds are the collateral. Some banks offer unsecured credit builder loans, but they often include higher interest rates.
- Allows you to qualify for a personal loan when you may not have otherwise
- Helps build credit
- After a few months of on-time payments, you should see your credit score improve and potentially a release of your collateral
- Missed or late payments will cause your credit score to drop
- Loan funds are your collateral
- Must repay your loan before getting your funds
- Higher interest rates and fees than other personal loan products
- Bad credit
- Credit building
- When you don’t need funds immediately
What are the best types of personal loans?
Given the myriad types of personal loans available, how can you choose the right one? Consider these elements when assessing lenders and selecting the best personal loan for you:
The fewest fees
The less you need to pay on top of your principal loan amount, the more money you keep for yourself. Look out for personal loan fees like an origination fee, late fees, returned payment fees, and prepayment penalties when evaluating lenders and their products.
Several online and traditional lenders may offer personal loans without origination fees. Meanwhile, if you go the route of a payday or P2P loan, you’ll likely incur higher fees in exchange for faster funding and approval.
The lowest interest
Interest is what you pay for the privilege of borrowing a loan. The lower your interest rate, the less you’ll pay in addition to your principal balance when you make payments.
For unsecured personal loans, interest rates don’t often exceed 36%. If you see interest rates higher than that, you should explore other, less expensive options. Comparing interest rate entry points can give you an idea of where to get the lowest possible interest rate with excellent credit.
For instance, if you look at many lenders and the lowest rate you can find is 6%, you might not find anything lower. At that point, you can start to compare other features, including eligibility and fees.
Clear eligibility requirements
When evaluating personal loan offerings, look for lenders with clear, succinct eligibility requirements.
Consider whether the lender offers loans for bad, fair, good, or excellent credit—some lenders specialize in products targeted toward specific types of borrowers. Income and employment requirements will also vary by lender.
Understanding eligibility requirements can help you determine the best personal loan you can get. If you have excellent credit and stable income from a job you’ve held for years, a more traditional personal loan could be the way to secure a low, fixed interest rate.
Meanwhile, those with less-than-stellar credit may seek lenders with more lenient eligibility requirements, even if it means higher interest rates and fees, or these borrowers may explore secured personal loan options.
Prequalification and an easy application process
The application process should also factor in when choosing a personal loan and lender. Prequalification allows you to see whether you’re eligible for a personal loan through a soft check, rather than completing a hard credit check.
The more hard credit checks you have, the lower your credit score drops. A drop in your credit score can hurt your chances of borrowing in the future, so only complete an application if you know you’ll get approved.
When comparing lenders, check to see which ones offer prequalification so you can see whether you’re likely to get a loan from them. Based on your approval odds, you can compare your options and choose the best personal loan for you.
Adequate repayment terms
Many lenders have a variety of repayment terms, ranging from a couple of months to a few years.
The longer your repayment terms, the lower your monthly payments. The shorter your term, the less interest you’ll pay over the life of your loan. Look for terms that best fit your budget and needs.
Seamless customer experience
While in-person banking can be a nice touch, find lenders that offer an easy online and app experience so you can apply, borrow, and make payments without a hitch. See whether the lender has online chat support, email, a phone number, and a branch to visit, if necessary.