What are the best online loan companies?
Getting a loan online has never been easier.
Whether you’re in the market for an unsecured personal loan to cover a major unanticipated expense, a debt consolidation loan to help pay down high-interest credit card debt, or a student loan refinance loan that makes your education debt a bit more manageable, you can find one without filling out any paper forms or meeting a loan officer face-to-face.
But that doesn’t mean all online loan companies are created equal. A loan of any sort is a big responsibility, so it’s incredibly important to choose the right provider for your needs.
The Best Online Loan Companies
These are the best online loan providers operating right now. All make it easy to secure funding without heading to a branch office or sending forms in the mail.
Each does at least one thing really well, whether it’s sorting through multiple loan options at once or serving customers with less-than-perfect credit. Our top overall pick offers the best value to the widest range of would-be borrowers, in our estimation.
Best Overall: Earnest
Earnest is a loan broker that matches would-be borrowers with online lenders that fit their needs and budget. Loan products available through Earnest include:
- Unsecured personal loans
- Unsecured lines of credit
- Student loan refinancing
- Private undergraduate student loans
- Private graduate and professional student loans
- A Mastercard credit card that earns 3% rewards on eligible purchases
Earnest’s broad-spectrum approach greatly increases your chances of finding a great loan offer — one with favorable rates, terms, and fees. Earnest also offers a ton of educational and support resources for borrowers at every stage of life.
- Borrow up to $100,000 with a personal loan
- Choose from credit lines or installment loans
- Refinance parent and student education loans at competitive rates
- Loans are available with no origination fees for well-qualified borrowers
- Partner lenders may consider noncredit factors in underwriting, such as work history, educational attainment, and savings rate
Best for Debt Consolidation: Payoff
Payoff is the best online lender for people with high-interest credit card debt. That’s because it specializes in debt consolidation loans that combine multiple credit card balances into a single installment loan.
Payoff’s loan is streamlined and relatively easy to get, even if you don’t have perfect credit. Payoff accepts applications from people with FICO scores as low as 600. That’s well into subprime territory.
- Loan amounts up to $40,000, subject to credit approval
- Repayment terms range from 24 to 60 months
- Origination fees can be as high as 5% but may be waived for qualified borrowers
Best for Student Loans: SoFi
SoFi is a diversified financial services provider that does a lot more than lend money. But on the lending front, SoFi is particularly well known for its student loan products — both private student loans for current undergraduate and professional students, and student loan refinancing for eligible graduates and soon-to-be graduates.
SoFi’s student loan offerings are designed for borrowers with good to excellent credit, so you might not qualify if your FICO score is below 700. If you do make the cut, you’ll enjoy benefits like:
- Best-in-category low fixed or variable rates
- 0.25% autopay discount
- No origination fees or hidden loan fees, period
- All-online application process that accepts screenshots instead of PDFs
Looking for something other than a student loan? Additional features of SoFi include:
- Apply for a personal loan as large as $100,000 with a term up to 84 months
- Trade stocks, ETFs, and more with no commissions through SoFi Invest
- Earn up to 1.00% APY on eligible balances with SoFi Bank
- Boost your credit score and get more for your money with SoFi Credit Insights
- Earn up to $15 per successful new member referral
- Defer payments for up to 12 months total over the life of your loan with SoFi’s unemployment insurance product
- Access complimentary career counseling as a SoFi member
Best for Limited Credit: Stilt
Stilt is one of the few online loan companies that’s specifically built for people with limited credit. These folks have difficulty qualifying for personal loans and other credit products from lenders that use traditional credit-based underwriting, putting them at a financial disadvantage.
Stilt caters to two specific groups of people without credit scores: underbanked Americans who haven’t used credit in a while (or ever) and recent immigrants who haven’t had time to build credit. As long as you have a U.S. bank account, you have a fighting chance of qualifying for a Stilt loan thanks to an underwriting process that considers:
- Your educational attainment
- Your savings rate and other financial behaviors
- Your work history and income
- Your debt-to-income ratio (although many other lenders consider this as well)
- Borrow up to $35,000, subject to credit approval
- Loans range from 12-month to 36-month repayment terms
- Enjoy competitive rates and fees
Best for Fair Credit: LendingPoint
LendingPoint is a personal loan provider with options for subprime borrowers. It isn’t quite as friendly to people with limited credit as Stilt is, but that’s a difference in degree rather than kind. Like Stilt, LendingPoint uses noncredit factors to evaluate borrowers without FICO scores and accepts borrowers with fair credit — meaning minimum credit score requirements as low as 580 in certain states.
- Same-day loan approval for qualified applicants
- Borrow up to $36,000, subject to credit approval
- Origination fees from 0% to 6%, depending on your qualifications
- No early prepayment fees
- Late payment fees may be waived under certain conditions
- No hard credit check during the application process
Best for Larger Loans: Upstart
Upstart is a loan broker that offers personal loans and car refinance loans for people across the credit spectrum, including those with FICO scores under 600. Like LendingPoint and Stilt, Upstart considers noncredit factors like work history and educational attainment as well.
But Upstart’s biggest selling point is its borrowing limits. They’re unusually generous for a subprime online lender — up to $50,000 for borrowers who meet the platform’s underwriting standards. Despite its hefty loan amounts, Upstart has attractive rates, with APRs 10% below the average for traditional personal loan providers. Borrowers with good credit enjoy the lowest rates here.
- Origination fees up to 8%, depending on credit qualification
- Take as long as 60 months to repay
- No prepayment penalties
- Next-business-day loan application approval for many borrowers
Best for Fast Funding: Avant
Like LendingPoint, Avant stands out for its fast loan approval process for unsecured personal loans. And it beats out LendingPoint on loan funding speed, which is arguably more important to borrowers who need cash now.
Once you’re approved for an Avant loan, you’ll see the proceeds in your account in as little as 24 hours — one business day — after approval. Plus, there’s no hard credit check when you apply.
- Minimum loan amount of $2,000
- Maximum loan amount of $35,000
- Borrowers with impaired credit can apply for an optional credit builder credit card with a credit line up to $1,000
- Avant may waive late fees under some circumstances
- Loan approval with credit scores as low as 580
- Limited credit history may not impact approval chances
Best for Credit Lines: Upgrade
Upgrade offers unsecured personal loans and lines of credit for borrowers with fair to excellent credit. It’s particularly attractive for people seeking the flexibility of a credit line thanks to multiple credit card options that draw on lines larger than those typically made available to borrowers with modest incomes and lower credit scores.
- The classic Upgrade Card — no-fee draws for borrowers with impared credit
- The Upgrade Cash Rewards Card — earn unlimited 1.5% cash back when you make monthly payments and build your credit
- The Upgrade Bitcoin Rewards Card —earn unlimited 1.5% back on monthly payments in bitcoin, offering exposure to cryptocurrency markets
- The Upgrade Triple Cash Rewards Card — earn unlimited 3% cash back on eligible purchases in the auto, home improvement, and health categories
- Qualify for credit lines as high as $25,000 and as low as $500
- Interest only accrues on draws, not the full line
- Pay no origination fees ever, regardless of your credit score
- Set a payoff schedule that works with your monthly cash flow
Methodology: How We Select the Best Online Loan Companies
We use several important criteria to evaluate online loan companies and choose the best fits for our readers. Each relates in some way to the application process, loan cost, or overall borrower experience.
Available Loan Types
Most of the lenders on this list offer unsecured personal loans, which are plentiful in the online lending space. Where possible, we look for online lenders that offer additional loan products as well, like student loans and car refinance loans. The more choice, the better for borrowers.
Most online lenders consider borrowers’ credit scores when determining whether to accept a loan application. Every lender has different credit scoring standards, but as a general rule, it gets more difficult to find loan offers as your credit score decreases.
While recognizing that lenders do need to control their risk, we prefer online lenders that take a more lenient approach to credit underwriting. That means accepting borrowers with credit scores below the typical cutoff for good credit — around 680 or 700 on the FICO scale. And we’re big fans of the growing group of lenders that consider noncredit factors like work history, educational attainment, and savings rate.
Every lender imposes a maximum loan amount, with the highest offers available only to the most qualified applicants. Still, we look for online lenders that don’t restrict credit-impaired borrowers to the lower end of the borrowing scale. And we’re especially fond of lenders that have unusually wide borrowing ranges regardless of credit score.
Some lenders tout their refusal to impose what they call hidden fees. But most lenders do charge some fees on top of the interest rate: origination fees, late payment fees, and the occasional prepayment fee. All else being equal, we look for online lenders that keep these fees to a minimum or waive them entirely.
Borrowing money usually costs money. That is, online lenders charge interest on the loans they issue — that’s how they make money.
But online loan rates vary widely. Very well-qualified borrowers can look forward to sub-10% APRs on unsecured personal loans and sub-5% APRs on less risky forms of debt, like student loans and car loans. Even less-qualified borrowers can do better than the typical credit card interest rate, which approaches 20%.
All else being equal, we prefer online lenders that do whatever they can to reduce borrowers’ interest rates.
Longer loan terms mean more interest paid over the life of the loan. On the other hand, they mean lower monthly payments — a worthwhile tradeoff for many borrowers.
Because borrowers are a diverse bunch with varied goals, we prefer lenders with wider ranges of loan terms. These preferred lenders offer loans with terms as short as 12 to 24 months and as long as 60 to 84 months.
When speed is of the essence, you need a lender that will approve and fund your loan quickly. On this measure, the best online loan providers offer same- or next-day approval and same- or next-day funding, meaning you could have your funds in hand as soon as one to two business days after you apply.
Online Loan FAQs
You have questions about getting a loan online. We have answers.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Loan Online?
It depends on the lender and type of loan.
If you’re a well-qualified personal loan applicant with a good credit score, stable income, and favorable debt-to-income ratio, the underwriting process could take as little as one to two business days, and funding could come within hours to days after final approval.
Other types of loans may take longer to underwrite — days to several weeks. This is especially true for real estate loans, although few if any of those can be considered truly online-only. Most real estate refinances and virtually all purchase loans need to be closed in person.
How Much Can You Borrow Online?
Again, it depends on the lender. The best online lenders offer personal loan amounts up to or even in excess of $50,000. Student loan refinancing products have even higher principal potential.
On the other hand, if your credit is impaired or your income can’t support a hefty monthly payment, you won’t be able to borrow as much. Many online lenders’ loan minimums range from $1,000 to $10,000, depending on the loan type and borrower’s home state.
What Can You Use an Online Loan For?
You can use an online personal loan or line of credit for pretty much anything you want, as long as it’s legal. Specific reasons to get a personal loan online include:
- Consolidating credit card debt
- Financing home improvement projects and other major purchases, such as buying a car from a private seller
- Covering major medical expenses
- Covering special event costs, such as weddings or honeymoons
- Covering expenses related to a new or adopted baby
- Covering moving expenses
- Starting a business
Other types of online loans are more restrictive. For example, you can only use an auto loan or auto refinance loan to buy a car or refinance an existing car loan. The same principle applies to student loans and student loan refinancing, which must be applied to qualifying educational expenses or education loans.
How Much Do Online Loans Cost?
That depends on numerous factors, including:
- Your credit score and credit history
- Your debt-to-income ratio
- Your employment status
- How much you’re borrowing
- Other aspects of the lender’s underwriting criteria, which may not be public
- How the lender sets interest rates in relation to prevailing benchmark rates
- What, if any, loan fees the lender charges
Always read your loan disclosure carefully before accepting an online loan offer. It should spell out the features, terms, and total cost of your loan in plain English.
How to Choose the Best Online Loan Company
To find an online lender that meets your needs, consider why you’re applying for a loan in the first place and which aspects of that loan — or the borrowing experience in general — are most important to you.
For example, if you’re aiming to consolidate high-interest credit card debt, you’ll want an installment loan with a significantly lower interest rate and a manageable monthly payment.
If you’re borrowing new money to fund a major expense that’s more than your monthly cash flow can handle, you might want a longer-term personal loan with a low monthly payment.
And if you’re borrowing to fund a specific purchase, such as a new car, you’ll want to seek a loan purpose-built for that goal — in this case, a car loan. You’ll want to shop offers from multiple lenders to be sure you’re getting the best deal.
In fact, no matter what type of loan you’re looking for online, don’t accept the first offer you get. Take the time to solicit as many as you can — at least four to six, and ideally more. Then choose the one that works best for you.