Getting the best personal loan rates means understanding your credit score and different lenders
Ever been denied a loan because of your credit score? Even if you haven't been denied a loan outright, there's a good chance you're not getting the lowest interest rate because of a bad credit score.
Credit scores and getting a personal loan can seem like a mystery but it's all about knowing which lenders specialize in loans around your specific credit score.
Let's look at four different credit scores, the best loan sites for that score and how to increase each score fast to get better rates.
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Why Your Loan Depends on Your Credit Score
So all of the personal finance and loan advice on the internet is that general ‘how to get a loan’ or how to increase your score but it’s so hard to use the information because it’s not really applicable to your situation.
A lot of the advice isn’t going to be the same or isn’t going to work if you have a very low credit score. Other information won’t be the best if you have a very high score.
To really take advantage of the financial system, to get everything you can out of personal loans and get the lowest rates, you have to look at the facts around your specific credit score and that’s what we’re going to do today.
We’ll cover the best personal loan sites for four different credit scores and some tips for each level that will help you get better rates. We’ll start with the lower credit scores but keep watching because each level is going to offer some great ideas on boosting your FICO to get better rates.
Best Loan Sites for Bad Credit
Let’s start with a 580 FICO score. This is deep into the sub-prime credit so maybe you’ve got a bankruptcy or have missed a few payments. None of the banks are going to lend you money and most credit cards will be charging rates of 28% and more if you can even get approved.
What you want to focus on here is fixing the things on your credit score that you can control, especially the things that are really going to increase your score.
That means getting any errors removed and maybe even getting a few missed payments wiped off by filing a dispute with the credit bureaus. I’ve got a video that walks you through this credit dispute process and includes a template of the letter you want to use when dealing with the credit bureaus.
The credit bureaus don’t like to see credit card debt because it doesn’t have a payoff date and the payments aren’t fixed. That’s why it’s called revolving debt as opposed to non-revolving debt like with mortgages and other loans.
So what you want to do is take out one personal loan to pay off those credit cards. This will replace all those debts with one loan, save you money each month on interest and change your debt to a fixed-payoff non-revolving credit.
This first personal loan site is one I’ve used a few times. I used it when I destroyed my credit years ago after the housing bust and they specialize in bad credit personal loans.
The site is called PersonalLoans.com, it’s not a peer-to-peer lending site but an aggregator where lenders all come together to bid on your loan. You can get personal loans, peer loans and even bank loans on the site so it’s a great way to shop your loan around for the best deal.
Rates on loans at this credit score are still going to be high but usually lower than credit card debt so you’ll save money on interest payments.
Getting a Personal Loan with OK Credit
Now if you have a 650 credit score, that’s still in the sub-prime range but it’s getting better. Banks still probably are not going to give you a loan but you have more options online and with peer lenders.
Working on your credit score here is about working with what you have. One trick that works great is getting the limit increased on your credit cards. Now this sounds crazy but it works because part of your score is what’s called the credit utilization ratio. That’s just a way of saying how much you owe versus how much you can borrow.
Think about it. If you owe $5,000 on a $5,000 limit then you’re maxed out. That looks horrible to a new lender but if you owe that same $5,000 on a $10,000 limit then it doesn’t look as bad. You’re only using half of your available credit.
Getting your credit limit increased isn’t an excuse to go out and shop but it will help you increase your credit score and get better rates.
One personal loans site I like for that 650 credit score range is Upstart. This site is great for college graduates and people that don’t have a credit history or that have a low score because it uses a special lending model that takes other factors into account.
Best Loan Rates for Good Credit Scores
If you have a 700 credit score then congratulations, you’ve made it to the prime-lending category.
Here is where you’ll start qualifying for bank loans and better rates online. You might still have trouble getting an unsecured loan from a traditional bank but you’ll qualify for good rates from the peer-to-peer sites like Lending Club.
With a 700 credit score, just little improvements in your FICO are going to make big differences.
Paying off a couple of smaller debts or credit cards will really help increase your score. So a lot of people know about the debt avalanche method of debt payoff where you pay off your higher rate debt first but there’s another debt payoff strategy here you might consider.
The debt snowball method means ranking your debt by amount owed, with those smaller ones at the top. You still make all the regular payments but you make extra payments to those smaller debts and pay them off faster.
It’s a great way to stay motivated, seeing those debts drop off your list and will help improve your credit score fast.
Lending Club is actually the largest peer lending site in the world and offers some really low rates on personal loans for good credit borrowers. I actually invest in loans on the site and their cutoff for loans is 680 FICO so you’ll just be coming in under the wire.
One note to make here, I recommend different sites for different credit scores but there’s no harm in applying on several sites to see if you can get a lower rate. The loan sites do what’s called a soft check of your credit first and it doesn’t affect your credit score. It’s only after you accept a loan that it goes on your credit.
How to Get a Loan on Good Credit
Finally, here is a 740 credit score. This is well within the prime-lending category and you’re going to start noticing rates are going lower fast. You should be getting interest rates on loans that are just a little above the teaser rates they advertise.
With a higher credit score, there isn’t as much you can do to increase it other than just make monthly payments on your debts. There isn’t much wrong with your score at this point, you just need to build it over time.
A high 740 credit score will qualify you for loans from banks and the stricter loan sites like SoFi. This site offers the widest range of loans available from student loans to mortgages, car loans and personal loans. Because it only accepts very high credit scores, rates are some of the lowest in the business.
That’s your best options for the lowest personal loan rates and a few tricks to increase your FICO. If you can wait a month or two for your loan, you can always increase your credit score a little to get to that next higher level and decrease your rates. Otherwise, each of these personal loan sites is a great choice for getting the money you need.
About the Author
Joseph Hogue is a financial expert and investment analyst. After serving in the Marine Corps, he started his career investing in real estate before becoming an investment analyst for some of the largest private investors. He's appeared on Bloomberg and on CNBC as an investment expert and has published ten books in personal finance. Now he helps investors reach their financial goals and invest in the stock market with some of the same advice he used when working for the rich.