4 best direct lenders for personal loans

Woman considering options with laptop open.Image: Woman considering options with laptop open.

In a Nutshell

If you need cash to consolidate debt, make home improvements or pay for unexpected expenses, a personal loan might be the solution you’re looking for. We’ve rounded up our top picks for the best personal loans from direct lenders that offer features such as competitive interest rates, direct debt consolidation payments and favorable fee structures.
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When you need to borrow money, a personal loan can help you pay for a variety of expenses, from a medical procedure to a dream vacation.

To help you find the loan that best meets your financial needs, we rounded up our top picks from direct lenders. Like the term implies, these lenders offer loans to people directly, without any middlemen.

Keep reading to see if one of these direct lenders could be right for you.

Best for secured loans: Regions Bank

Why Regions Bank stands out: Many personal loans are unsecured, but Regions Bank also offers a secured loan, which may help you qualify for larger loan amounts at a lower interest rate.

  • Secured by savings — To get a Regions secured personal loan, you’ll have to pledge a Regions savings account, CD or money market account as collateral. Keep in mind that while your account will continue to accrue interest, you won’t be able to withdraw the funds during the life of your loan.
  • Large range of loan amounts — Loans secured by CDs start at $2,000, but loans secured by savings and money market accounts can start at as little as $250 up to the “verified available balance” in your account.
  • Potential discounts — If you borrow at least $5,000, you may qualify for a relationship rate discount for having your loan payments automatically deducted from your Regions checking account.

Read reviews of Regions Bank personal loans to learn more.

Best for extra perks: SoFi

Why SoFi stands out: When you take out a SoFi personal loan, you’ll also get access to a variety of nontraditional perks like financial planning at no additional cost.

  • Loan amounts — SoFi offers loan amounts ranging from $5,000 to $100,000 and repayment terms of two to seven years.
  • Competitive rates — SoFi’s interest rates are competitive, but the lender says its lowest rates are reserved for people with “a responsible financial history.” Your actual rate is determined based on a variety of factors, including credit history, loan term and income.

Read SoFi personal loans reviews to learn more.

Best for small loans: PNC

Why PNC stands out: PNC offers loans ranging from $1,000 to $35,000, depending on where you live. If you only need to borrow a small amount, its loans are worth a look, but you’ll have to check what’s available based on your location. If you need cash for a large project, you may need to look elsewhere. (Terms may differ on Credit Karma.)

  • Tiered interest rates — PNC has competitive rates, and when you sign up for autopay with a PNC checking account, you’ll earn a 0.25% discount. But the bank’s rates vary based on your credit and the loan terms: the lowest rates for unsecured loans are only available to “well-qualified applicants.”
  • Fees — You won’t pay an origination, application or prepayment fee when you take out a loan with PNC.

Read PNC personal loan reviews to learn more.

Best for home improvements: LightStream

Why LightStream stands out: It’s not uncommon for lenders to cap personal loan amounts at $40,000 or less. But LightStream offers unsecured personal loans of up to $100,000, making it possible to get the money you need for big expenses like large-scale home repairs or renovations.

  • Good credit necessary — LightStream loans are designed for people with strong credit. If your credit needs some work, this probably isn’t the lender for you.
  • Low rates — LightStream offers low rates to qualified applicants. And if you get a personal loan through LightStream, you’ll receive a discount for enrolling in autopay. Plus, the lender promises to beat competitor rates under certain conditions.
  • No option for prequalification — LightStream doesn’t offer the ability to apply for prequalification. You must submit a formal loan application to see your rate and other loan terms, which can trigger a hard credit inquiry and in turn pull your credit scores down a bit.

Read LightStream personal loan review to learn more.

What you should know about personal loans from direct lenders

Many financial institutions offer personal loans, including banks, credit unions and online lenders. A personal loan may help you consolidate high-interest debt or pay for a large purchase. But there are factors that affect how much you’ll ultimately have to repay — such as interest rates, loan terms, fees, and when you’ll receive your money. Keep in mind that all of these factors can vary based on the lender.

It’s important to shop around and compare offers before choosing a loan. Some lenders will perform a soft credit inquiry to give you an estimated rate without affecting your credit scores, so you can decide whether it’s worth it to submit a formal application.

But if you’d rather compare loans from multiple lenders in one centralized place, you may want to apply through an online loan marketplace instead.

How we picked these loans

We reviewed personal loans from more than a dozen direct lenders to come up with our top picks. We looked at interest rates, fees, loan amounts and repayment terms. We also considered factors such as the ability to apply for prequalification, direct payments to creditors, funding timeline, application process and other perks.

About the author: Jennifer Brozic is a freelance financial services writer with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree in communication management from Towson University. She’s committed… Read more.