05/12/2022

The best hardship personal loans if you need cash but have a low credit score

Personal loans are a common way to pay for large expenses like weddings, funerals and home renovations. In fact, personal loan balances are up 31% from last year, according to a TransUnion report. But they can also be used to float the costs of a major emergency or hardship. This is especially handy since sometimes these events can wind up being a lot more costly than we might expect and a basic emergency fund may not suffice.

This category of personal loans has unofficially become known as hardship personal loans. They’re regular personal loans that you can apply for when you just happen to be facing a hard time. And, there are some lenders out there that even cater to potential borrowers with lower credit scores.

Select rounded up some personal loan lenders you can apply to for funding during a difficult time. We looked at key factors like interest rates, fees, loan amounts and term lengths offered, plus other features including how your funds are distributed, autopay discounts, customer service and how fast you can get your funds. (Read more about our methodology below.)

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Best hardship personal loans for bad credit

FAQs

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Best for people without a credit history

Upstart Personal Loans

  • Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

  • Loan purpose

    Debt consolidation, credit card refinancing, home improvement, wedding, moving or medical

  • Loan amounts

  • Terms

  • Credit needed

    Credit score of 300 on at least one credit report (but will accept applicants whose credit history is so insufficient they don’t have a credit score)

  • Origination fee

    0% to 10% of the target amount

  • Early payoff penalty

  • Late fee

    The greater of 5% of last amount due or $15, whichever is greater

Pros

  • Open to borrowers with fair credit (minimum 300 score)
  • Will accept applicants who have insufficient credit history and don’t have a credit score
  • No early payoff fees
  • 99% of personal loan funds are sent the next business day after completing required paperwork before 5 p.m. Monday through Friday

Cons

  • High late fees
  • Origination fee of 0% to 10% of the target amount (automatically withheld from the loan before it’s delivered to you)
  • $10 fee to request paper copies of loan agreement (no fee for eSigned virtual copies)
  • Must have a Social Security number

Who’s this for? Upstart is ideal for individuals who don’t have a sufficient enough credit history to qualify for most other loans and forms of credit. This lender is also ideal for those who do have a credit score that’s on the lower end.

You can choose a three-year or five-year loan and borrow anywhere from $1,000 to $50,000. Plus, Upstart may be able to disburse your funds quickly. You can get your money as soon as the next business day if you accept the loan before 5 p.m. EST Monday through Friday. 

One other major draw for Upstart is that this lender doesn’t charge any prepayment penalties. In other words, if you choose to pay off your loan early, you won’t be hit with a fee as a consequence.

Best for flexible terms

OneMain Financial Personal Loans

  • Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

  • Loan purpose

    Debt consolidation, major expenses, emergency costs

  • Loan amounts

  • Terms

  • Credit needed

  • Origination fee

    Flat fee starting at $25 to $500 or percentage ranging from 1% to 10% (depends on your state)

  • Early payoff penalty

  • Late fee

    Up to $30 per late payment or up to 15% (depends on your state)

Pros

  • Approves applicants with bad or fair credit
  • No early payoff fees
  • Reasonable loan minimums ($1,500) for smaller needs
  • Can pre-qualify with a soft credit check (no hard inquiry right away)
  • ACH funding within 1-2 business days (sometimes same day with proper paperwork)
  • Option to apply for secured loan (with collateral) for potentially lower rates
  • Borrowers can choose the date the bill is due each month
  • Applicants may apply with a co-applicant or, if married, may apply for a loan separately from spouse

Cons

  • High origination fee
  • High interest rates
  • No autopay APR discount
  • No co-signers

Information about OneMain Financial’s secured loans:

While not required, applicants who don’t qualify for an unsecured personal loan with OneMain Financial may be offered a secured loan. A secured loan lets borrowers who want to use the equity from their car potentially qualify for lower interest that way. Rates, repayment terms and agreements vary by individual and the state in which apply. Learn more by checking for offers on OneMain Financial’s site.

OneMain Financial link provided by Even Financial.

OneMain Financial consumer loans are offered in 44 states (we do not lend in AK, AR, CT, DC, MA, RI, and VT). Loan proceeds cannot be used for postsecondary educational expenses as defined by the CFPB’s Regulation Z such as college, university or vocational expense; for any business or commercial purpose; to purchase securities; or for gambling or illegal purposes.

Example loan: A $6,000 loan with a 24.99% APR that is repayable in 60 monthly installments would have monthly payments of $176.07.

Additional conditions for secured offers: Secured offers require a first lien on a motor vehicle that meets our value requirements, titled in your name with valid insurance. The lender places a lien on the collateral until the loan is paid in full. Active duty military, their spouse or dependents covered by the Military Lending Act may not pledge any vehicle as collateral.

Funding options; availability of funds: Loan proceeds may be disbursed by check or electronically deposited to the borrower’s bank account through the Automated Clearing House (ACH) or debit card (SpeedFunds) networks. ACH funds are available approximately 1 to 2 business days after the loan closing date. Funds through SpeedFunds can be accessed on the loan closing date by using a bank-issued debit card.

Borrowers in these states are subject to these minimum loan sizes: Alabama: $2,100. California: $3,000. Georgia: Unless you are a present customer, $3,100 minimum loan amount. Ohio: $2,000. Virginia: $2,600.

Borrowers (other than present customers) in these states are subject to these maximum unsecured loan sizes: North Carolina: $7,500.

Who’s this for?  OneMain Financial is a good option for people who want different options when it comes to the length of the repayment period. Borrowers can choose between term lengths ranging from 24 to 60 months.

OneMain offers loan amounts ranging from $1,500 to $20,000 (this can vary by state). This lender also doesn’t charge any early payoff penalty fees. However, they do charge origination fees can either be a flat fee ranging from $25 to $500 or a percentage of the loan you’ve taken out, ranging from 1% to 10%, depending on your state. Late fees can cost up to $30 per late payment or 1.5% to 15% of the late amount of your last monthly payment.

And while most personal loans are unsecured, OneMain Financial offers borrowers the option of using collateral in order to receive better loan terms, like a lower interest rate.

Best for quick funding

Avant Personal Loans

  • Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

  • Loan purpose

    Debt consolidation, major expenses, emergency costs, home improvements

  • Loan amounts

  • Terms

  • Credit needed

  • Origination fee

  • Early payoff penalty

  • Late fee

    Up to $25 per late payment after 10-day grace period

Pros

  • Lends to applicants with scores lower than 600
  • No early payoff fees
  • Can pre-qualify with a soft credit check (no hard inquiry)
  • Quick funding (often by the next day)
  • Late payment grace period of 10 days

Cons

  • Origination fee
  • Potentially high interest (caps at 35.99% APR)
  • No autopay APR discount
  • No direct payments to creditors (for debt consolidation)
  • No co-signers

Who’s this for? Avant Personal Loans can be a good option for those who need money in a pinch. If you manage to be approved by 4:30 p.m. CT Monday through Friday, you can receive your funds as early as the next day. Of course, quick funding can also depend on whether or not you have submitted all the necessary information in a timely manner.

This lender also lets you check to see if you prequalify for the loan without harming your credit score. If your credit score isn’t great, you can still get approved since Avant looks at both your credit score and income.

You can borrow as little as $2,000 and as much as $35,000, and loan terms range from 24 to 60 months.

The origination fees range from 0% to 4.75% of the loan amount. Also, keep in mind that this lender charges a late fee of $25 if you don’t make your payment within ten days after the due date.

Best for fast approval

LendingPoint Personal Loans

  • Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

  • Loan purpose

    Debt consolidation, wedding, car repair, home renovations and more

  • Loan amounts

  • Terms

  • Credit needed

  • Origination fee

    Origination or other fees from 0% to 7% may apply depending upon your state of residence

  • Early payoff penalty

  • Late fee

    Currently, LendingPoint does not charge any late fees but reserves the right to assess late fees of up to $30. Fees vary by state.

Pros

  • Fast application with same-day approval
  • Possible next-day funding (after final documents are verified/approved)
  • May approve applicants with minimum 620 credit score
  • Allows soft inquiry to prequalify
  • No early payoff fees

Cons

  • Origination fees from 0% to 6%
  • Not available in Nevada or West Virginia
  • Must have a social security number
  • No joint or co-signed loans

Who’s eligible to apply for a LendingPoint loan:

  1. You must be at least 18 years of age.
  2. You must be able to provide a U.S. federal, state or local government issued photo ID.
  3. You must have a social security number.
  4. You must have a minimum annual income of $40,000 (from employment, retirement or some other source).
  5. You must have a verifiable personal bank account in your name.
  6. You must live in one of the states where LendingPoint does business (excludes Nevada and West Virginia). 

Who’s this for? LendingPoint offers pre-qualification so you can check the terms of your potential loan without impacting your credit score. But the biggest appeal to LendingPoint is that this lender will inform you of the approval decision within seconds of applying. Generally, it will take one business day to receive the funds.

There is, however, a minimum annual income requirement of $35,000 in order to qualify to apply for the loan, and these loans are not available to residents of Nevada or West Virginia. When determining eligibility for a loan, LendingPoint considers credit score, loan term, credit usage, loan amount and other factors.

Loan amounts range from $2,000 to $36,500, and the length of the loan term can be anywhere from 24 to 72 months. The origination fees range from 0% to 7% of your total loan amount.

Personal loan FAQs

What is considered a bad credit score?

Here is how lenders classify “fair” and “poor” credit scores:

FICO Score

  • Very poor: 300 to 579
  • Fair: 580 to 669
  • Good: 670 to 739
  • Very good: 740 to 799
  • Excellent: 800 to 850

VantageScore

  • Very poor: 300 to 499
  • Poor: 500 to 600
  • Fair: 601 to 660
  • Good: 661 to 780
  • Excellent: 781 to 850

Scores lower than 670, and certainly scores lower than 600, will most likely disqualify you for the most affordable personal loans. But if you’re in a pinch, it’s not all-out impossible to get a loan with a credit score in the high 500s or low 600s.

Can I pre-qualify without hurting my credit score?

Yes, it is possible to pre-qualify for a personal loan without hurting your credit score. Do some research before you apply. Read reviews and learn what to consider before agreeing to take on a loan. When you’re ready to apply, follow these steps to make sure you don’t ding your score too much.

  1. Shop around for the best rate. Avoid hard inquiries by knowing your credit score before you submit a formal application so you know what you might qualify for. Many lenders will allow you to submit a prequalification form. Or consider using a lending platform (such as Upstart or LendingTree) to view multiple offers at once.
  2. Decide on the best offer. Choose the loan with the best monthly payment and interest rate for your budget. Be sure to look at how much the loan will cost you over the full length of the term and decide if the cost is worth it.
  3. Submit a formal application. Have your social security number on hand, as well as supporting documents such as bank statements and paystubs.
  4. Wait for final approval. This could take just a few minutes, an hour or up to 10 days. To facilitate speedier approval, apply during normal business hours and submit the required documents right away.
  5. Get your funds. Once your loan is approved, you’ll be asked to input your bank account information so the funds are deposited into your account. You may also be able to request a paper check from your lender, or in the case of a consolidation loan, you may be able to have funds sent right to your creditors.

Do personal loans build credit?

Personal loans are a form of installment credit, which affect both your credit report and your credit score. Having both installment and revolving credit in your profile will strengthen your credit mix.

Having a diverse credit mix is helpful — but it’s not everything. Some say that adding a new installment loan, like a car loan or a mortgage, can boost your score, but there’s no sense in taking on debt (plus interest) unless you actually need it.

While a new installment loan might boost your score by strengthening your credit mix, a personal loan will only improve your credit over time if you can afford to make on-time payments. Late and missed payments show up as negative marks on your credit report.

While taking on an installment loan won’t boost your score a whole lot, using a personal loan to pay off credit card debt could increase in your credit score. Paying off a card will have a big impact on your credit utilization rate, which is a major factor in determining your credit score.

Once your cards are paid off, aim to keep your spending under 10% of your available credit. If you don’t take on more credit card debt and you pay your personal loan on time each month, you’ll see a noticeable improvement to your credit score.

What’s the difference between secured vs. unsecured loans?

A secured loan is a loan backed by collateral. The most common types of secured loans are mortgages and car loans, where the collateral is your home or car. But really, collateral can be any kind of financial asset you own. And if you don’t pay back your loan, the bank can seize your collateral as payment. A repossession stays on your credit report for up to seven years.

An unsecured loan requires no collateral, though you’re still charged interest and sometimes fees. Student loans, personal loans and credit cards are all examples of unsecured loans.

Since there’s no collateral, financial institutions give out unsecured loans based in large part on your credit score, income and history of repaying past debts. For this reason, unsecured loans may have higher interest rates (but not always) than secured loans.

Get matched with personal loan offers.

Bottom line

When facing a financially difficult time, having a low credit score can often limit the options you have available to you, since you may not qualify for certain credit cards or other loans. However, some personal loan lenders that cater to lower credit scores may be able to provide some relief. Just keep in mind that with a lower credit score, you may be subject to higher interest rates.

Our methodology

To determine which hardship personal loans are the best for consumers with bad credit, Select analyzed dozens of U.S. personal loans offered by both online and brick-and-mortar banks, including large credit unions. When possible, we chose loans with no origination or sign-up fees, but we also included options for borrowers with lower credit scores on this list. Some of those options have origination fees.

When narrowing down and ranking the best personal loans, we focused on the following features:

  • Fixed-rate APR: Variable rates can go up and down over the lifetime of your loan. With a fixed rate APR, you lock in an interest rate for the duration of the loan’s term, which means your monthly payment won’t vary, making your budget easier to plan.
  • Flexible minimum and maximum loan amounts/terms: Each lender provides more than one financing option that you can customize based on your monthly budget and how long you need to pay back your loan.
  • No early payoff penalties: The lenders on our list do not charge borrowers for paying off loans early.
  • Streamlined application process: We considered whether lenders offered same-day approval decisions and a fast online application process. 
  • Customer support: Every loan on our list provides customer service available via telephone, email or secure online messaging. We also opted for lenders with an online resource hub or advice center to help you educate yourself about the personal loan process and your finances.
  • Fund disbursement: The loans on our list deliver funds promptly through either electronic wire transfer to your checking account or in the form of a paper check. Some lenders (which we noted) offer the ability to pay your creditors directly.
  • Autopay discounts: We noted the lenders that reward you for enrolling in autopay by lowering your APR by 0.25% to 0.5%.
  • Creditor payment limits and loan sizes: The above lenders provide loans in an array of sizes, from $1,000 to $100,000. Each lender advertises its respective payment limits and loan sizes, and completing a preapproval process can give you an idea of what your interest rate and monthly payment would be for such an amount.

The rates and fee structures advertised for personal loans are subject to fluctuate in accordance with the Fed rate. However, once you accept your loan agreement, a fixed-rate APR will guarantee your interest rate and monthly payment will remain consistent throughout the entire term of the loan. Your APR, monthly payment and loan amount depend on your credit history and creditworthiness. To take out a loan, many lenders will conduct a hard credit inquiry and request a full application, which could require proof of income, identity verification, proof of address and more.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.

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