Cash 1 Blog

Financial Tips & Guides
How to get a personal loan

Take These Steps To Get A Personal Loan

Updated on September 27, 2022


When applying for a personal loan from a lender, you will typically follow these key steps, which are outlined in more detail below:

Specify the purpose of the loan: Do you have to cover an unexpected expense, medical bills or want to consolidate debt? Whatever the need, understand how much you need as a first step.

Review your finances: With an amount in mind, look at your financial situation. Can your budget support another monthly payment? How is your credit score?

Research and compare lenders: Lender options are limitless. Narrow your choices by starting with your current bank and researching other lender reviews.

Pre-qualify: Most lenders will allow you to pre-qualify without damaging your credit score. Go through the process with at least three lenders to review potential rates, terms, fees, and estimated loan payment amounts.

Apply: Once you've selected a lender, complete a formal application.

Get access to funds: If approved, expect to receive your money within a week. Some lenders may provide same or next-day funding after approval.

Here's the deep dive on how to get a personal loan.

1. What's the Reason for the Loan?

Before taking out a loan, decide precisely how much you need to borrow. It will impact the interest rate you're offered, your monthly payment, and the origination fees the lender charges.

Once zeroed in on your loan amount, run some numbers using a personal loan calculator. Experiment with longer repayment terms to keep your payment lower or shorter if you want to pay the balance off quickly.

2. Check Your Credit Score

It is essential to check your credit score to assess your financial standing. A high credit score can improve your chances of loan approval and lower loan interest rates.

  • Credit scores are typically segmented into distinct categories.
  • A credit score of 720 or higher is classified as excellent credit.
  • A credit score ranging from 690 to 719 is considered to be good.
  • A credit score ranging from 630-689 is classified as fair or average.
  • A credit score between 300 and 629 is generally considered to be poor.

Review your credit report from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion to correct any errors that could impact your credit score. Dispute inaccuracies, such as wrongly reported missed payments, to improve your credit standing.

It is crucial to make timely payments on loan and credit card debts and maintain a low credit utilization rate, as these are the primary factors impacting your credit score.

Review Requirements and Get Your Information Together

3. Review Requirements and Get Your Information Together

When applying for a personal loan, it is vital to carefully research and review the specific requirements established by each lender. Different online lenders may have varying criteria, including a minimum credit score or income requirements. Understanding these requirements can improve your chances of approval for your desired loan amount. Knowing which documents are required for the application can speed up the approval process and make borrowing easier.

Having all required documentation prepared when applying for a personal loan is essential. Lenders commonly request documentation such as proof of identity, income verification, bank statements, and occasionally references. Getting your loan documents ready and organized can make applying easier and help the lender assess your finances faster. Providing clear information will help lenders see you as trustworthy and increase your chances of getting the personal loan you need.

Personal loan qualification requirements

To evaluate eligibility, personal loan lenders use various factors, including credit score, annual income, debt, work history, and education.

Income is a crucial factor lenders consider when determining loan approval. Demonstrating a steady income can increase the likelihood of a positive approval decision. At the same time, some lenders may allow a co-signer to boost your maximum loan amounts.

Your credit score is an essential factor for creditors to determine your creditworthiness. A higher score usually leads to lower loan interest rates. Personal loan providers usually require fair credit, but there are still options for those with poor credit.

Your current debt-to-income ratio is a tool lenders use to evaluate your monthly credit obligations compared to your monthly income. It is an important factor in determining your application's approval amount.

Collateral may be necessary for personal loans, as some lenders offer secured options. Collateral can include assets like a car, jewelry, or valuable art. While secured loans typically have lower interest rates, failure to repay the loan could lead to forfeiting your asset.

Documents to gather for a personal loan application

Documentation is necessary for personal loan approval to verify the information provided on your application. Some lenders may verify this information electronically, while others may request that you provide it.

Lenders typically require proof of identity through birth certificates, certificates of citizenship, driver's licenses, passports, Social Security cards, or state-issued IDs.

Different types of income verification, including pay stubs, bank statements, tax returns, and 1099 forms, are available for submission.

Lenders ask for proof of address like utility bills or lease agreements to confirm where you have lived before.

Lenders commonly provide secure online portals for the submission of required documents.

4. Consider Your Lending Options

A personal loan can be a powerful financial planning tool or a way to get cash quickly to cover an unexpected expense. Before researching personal loan types, consider how to use the loan funds to improve your financial situation.

Short-term vs. long-term

Personal loan terms typically range from one to seven years. Opting for a longer term will lower your monthly payments. However, lenders usually charge higher interest rates for longer terms, resulting in more interest paid over time.

Personal loan lenders often have the lowest rates for shorter terms. Still, it's imperative to consider the higher payments that come with them. Before you take out a short-term loan, check if your budget can handle the increased payments. This is especially important if your income fluctuates because of commissions or being self-employed.

Fast funding vs. future planning

One advantage of personal loans is their ability to be funded quickly, often within one business day. It can be beneficial when faced with unexpected expenses such as car repairs or home air conditioner replacements.

If you want to simplify your expenses and improve your credit score in preparation for buying a house, a personal loan for debt consolidation could be a helpful option.

Consider switching from variable-rate credit cards to fixed-rate ones to improve your credit score, which could help you secure a lower mortgage rate.

Bad credit now vs. better credit later

If you have a low credit score due to maxed-out credit cards, a personal loan for bad credit could be a potential solution to pay off debts and lower your credit utilization ratio. It may boost your credit scores, helping you get a better rate when you refinance later and lower your monthly payments.

Lump sum vs. line of credit

Personal loans provide a lump sum payment up front, with a fixed monthly payment throughout the loan term, which can be a change from the variable payments made on credit cards.

Funds from a personal loan are received all at once, and your monthly payment is the same for the loan term. That may be a shock if you're used to making minimum payments on a credit card.

If you don't need money right away, a personal loan might not be the best choice. It means you have to make a set monthly payment, even if your needs change.

A HELOC can be a better option in this situation. It allows you to borrow money for various projects as needed. You only have to make payments based on the amount you owe on the credit card.

Debt consolidation considerations

Paying off revolving debt, such as credit cards, effectively increases your credit score. Suppose you need the funds to do so. If you owe money on more than one credit card, you might want to think about taking out a personal loan. This way, you can combine all your debts into a single loan. This loan will have a fixed monthly payment.

Choose Your Loan Type

5. Choose Your Loan Type

Considering different types of personal loans can help you make informed financial decisions. Debt consolidation loans are commonly chosen by individuals looking for simplified payment options and lower interest rates. Combining different debts into one loan can help borrowers save money by making a single payment at a lower interest rate. This type of loan can make the debt more manageable for individuals.

Credit card refinancing loans are designed to pay off credit card debt and often offer lower interest rates. By refinancing with a personal loan, borrowers can save money on interest charges over time. It can be a wise financial decision for those looking to manage their finances better.

Home improvement loans are another option for funding renovation projects without a secured home equity loan. These personal loans provide flexibility and convenience for homeowners making property improvements.

6. Find the Best Personal Loan Rates

When looking for a loan, it's important to research and compare lenders to find one that best meets your personal and financial needs. You can determine what you qualify for by exploring multiple options and making an informed decision. Avoid accepting the first offer.

Consider contacting your financial institution to inquire about potential discounts or improved rates, especially if you have been a customer for an extended period.

It is advisable to check for prequalification options in advance.

After selecting some preferred lenders, it is advisable to pre-qualify. Many lenders provide this option, which is crucial as it allows you to see potential loan offers, including an estimated APR.

Lenders usually conduct a soft credit check during prequalification, which does not impact your credit score. Pre-qualify with multiple lenders to compare estimated rates and payment amounts.

When going through the prequalification process, you must submit personal information, including your name, date of birth, proof of income, and loan purpose.

The loan offer with the lowest APR is the most cost-effective option.

Avoid hard inquiries

When you apply for a loan, lenders usually run a credit inquiry, which can temporarily lower it. To protect your credit, only apply for loans from lenders who are likely to approve you. This is especially important if prequalification is not available.

7. Pick a Lender and Apply

Once you've picked the lender with the best offer for your needs, you'll start the application process.

You can do the entire application process online. Alternatively, you may apply at your local bank or credit union branch in person. You'll typically need to provide a source of income and employment information.

Most lenders also require that you state your intended loan purpose during the application process. Remember that the terms of your offer could change depending on the documents you provide. Ask the lender to explain any changes to your interest rate or loan amount after your initial application.

8. Provide Necessary Documentation

Once you've decided which lender has the best offer, you can typically apply via the lender's website. The process can vary slightly depending on which one you choose. Still, in general, you'll need to provide the following information:

  • Date of birth
  • Social Security number
  • Address
  • Contact information
  • Desired loan amount and term
  • Loan purpose
  • Employment and income information
  • Housing status and monthly payment
  • Driver's license or other government-issued photo ID

You may also need to provide income documentation, such as a pay stub, W-2 form, tax returns, or bank statements. The lender will formally review your credit; a hard inquiry will appear on your credit report. It stays on your credit report for two years and could slightly lower your credit score for about a year.

After you submit your application, you can often get a decision within seconds. However, some lenders may take more time to evaluate your financial and credit profiles.

Accept Your Loan Offer and Start Making Payments

9. Accept Your Loan Offer and Start Making Payments

Once the lender reviews and approves your documents, you will finalize your loan by accepting the terms. After signing the loan agreement, funds are typically dispursed within a week. Still, some online lenders may provide funds within one or two business days.

Monitoring payment due dates and considering automating payments for efficiency is essential. Specific online lenders may provide interest rate discounts for utilizing autopay.

Making additional monthly payments, even if they are small, may be beneficial. Unsecured loans usually have lower interest rates than credit cards. Paying off the loan early can lower overall costs.

10. Make Your Payments on Time

Always make your monthly payments on time and try to make extra payments whenever possible. Enroll in automatic payments or set a due date reminder on your calendar to make the process easier. If you do apply for multiple lenders, keep the applications within 45 days of each other. It will ensure that various hard checks are counted as a single inquiry on your credit report, reducing the negative credit impact.

Alternatives to a Personal Loan

Exploring alternative options beyond personal loans is advisable when seeking financing for a considerable expense. Some alternatives to consider include:

A savings secured loan: This loan type allows you to use your savings account balance as collateral for a fixed-rate loan, which may permit you to borrow up to 100% of the amount in your savings account.

Credit card installment plan: These plans allow you to make fixed payments to pay off large transactions. You can choose an installment plan for eligible purchases through their online account.

Family loans: Borrowing money from family members can be a convenient way to obtain funds, but it's essential to consider the potential drawbacks. Late payments or unpaid loans could strain your relationships.

CASH 1 Conclusion

Personal loans are popular for individuals who need a lump sum for a specific purpose. With so many lenders and loan options available, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. Understanding the ins and outs of securing a personal loan can make all the difference in getting the funds you need.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Your Credit Score Go Up After Paying Off a Personal Loan?

Paying off a personal loan could affect your credit score, depending on your credit history details. Having a good payment history on a personal loan, and if it is your only installment loan, paying it off could result in a slight decrease in your credit score.

Having various credit accounts, such as credit cards and loans, shows lenders that you can handle different debts effectively. This can improve your creditworthiness. Lenders may view you as a responsible borrower.

It is important to manage your debts wisely. Paying off the loan could leave you with no other installment loans on your credit report. This might hurt your credit mix and lower your score.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Personal Loan After You Apply?

Getting a personal loan can take a few days. The lender will review and approve your application. You will then need to review and accept the loan terms. Once you sign, you may receive your funds the next day, or it could take several business days, depending on the lender.

What Can Personal Loans Be Used For?

Personal loans can be a flexible option for funding various plans and projects. It's important to consider whether a personal loan is the right choice to meet your financing needs.

Photograph of author Joseph Priebe

Joseph Priebe

Joseph Priebe takes pride in assisting audiences with his articles to help them make sound financial decisions.

With over ten years of experience writing financial content his goal at CASH 1 has always been creating engaging and easy-to-digest information for anyone searching for immediate or long-term monetary solutions.

When Joseph is not writing about personal finance, you can find him photographing the Southwest United States with his 4x5 Graflex Crown Graphic camera. He is based in Phoenix, Arizona.