Continental Loans review: Small, costly loans with little transparency

Man standing on train, holding coffee and cell phone and looking up Continental LoansImage: Man standing on train, holding coffee and cell phone and looking up Continental Loans

In a Nutshell

Continental Loans offers small loans, and the company says you don’t need perfect credit to qualify — but you can’t apply online, and Continental only lends in certain states. And beware: In many cases, a hard credit check is required before you can get any idea of potential interest rates.

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Pros Cons
Small loan amounts available Little transparency into costs until you apply
No prepayment penalties or balloon payments You won’t know your APR before you apply
Multiple ways to repay Not available in all states — and the application process can’t be completed online

What you need to know about a Continental personal loan

Continental Loans is a division of Security Finance that offers loans from $256 to $2,000, depending on where you live. Loans through Continental are available only in certain states, and the company markets its loans to people with unexpected emergency expenses like auto repairs or medical bills.

Potential for high interest rates

Continental Loans isn’t transparent about its interest rates. The lender’s website only provides specific rate info for a few states — and those rates are in the high double to triple digits.

Another clue that rates are high: Continental notes that its loans aren’t an option for active-duty military members. This means the terms are not required to comply with the Military Lending Act, which caps consumer loan interest rates for active-duty service members and covered dependents at 36% — the maximum that many consumer advocates consider reasonable for small loans.

To find out what sort of rates you’re dealing with, you’ll have to go through the application process, which involves a hard credit inquiry. This may knock down your credit scores a bit.

No online loans: Phone or in-person application process

To apply for a loan from Continental, you must visit or call a local branch. While you can begin the loan process online, you’ll have to finish it in person or by phone. This can be a big drawback if you want to apply online.

Plus, many lenders allow applicants to complete an online application.

Multiple repayment options

There are different ways you can repay a Continental loan: In person at a local branch, over the phone, by mail, through the online portal or through the mobile app of Continental’s parent company, Security Finance.

There’s no prepayment penalty for paying off your loan early. There’s also no balloon payment that will be due.

A closer look at Continental personal loans   

Here are some more details on Continental loans.

  • No bank account required — You don’t need a bank account to apply. That’s somewhat unusual, as many personal loan lenders require you to have a bank account when you apply.
  • Refinancing fees — If you want to refinance or “renew” your loan, Continental will charge you a fee, though it won’t disclose the amount until after you’ve applied.
  • Late fee — Continental charges a late payment fee that’s 5% of the payment due, with a maximum of $10.
  • Not available in all states — Loans are available in only 15 states.
  • Referral payout — You can earn $35 every time you refer a friend who takes out a qualified loan.
  • Potentially fast funding — If you’re approved for a loan, you may be able to get a check the same day.

Should I get a Continental loan?

It’s best to stay away from a lender like Continental Loans that isn’t upfront about its range of interest rates and makes you submit to a hard credit inquiry to get that info. If you have a credit card to tap into, that may be your best bet for borrowing money with better (and more-transparent) interest rates and costs. Another option may be a payday alternative loan, which some federal credit unions offer to members. These loans cap interest rates at 28% and application fees at $20.

All that said, a Continental loan may be a better option than a title loan, which also commonly charges high interest but puts you at risk of losing your car on top of it. A Continental loan may also may be more appealing if you don’t have a bank account and need just a little money to tide you over — if you can pay it back almost immediately to avoid costly interest payments.

How to apply for a Continental loan

To apply for a Continental loan, you can stop by your local branch and get help from a representative, or you can call a local branch to apply by phone. You can also go online to get started, but will eventually have to call or visit a branch to complete the process, so first check if there’s one nearby.

Continental will ask you for the following information when you apply:

  • Where you live
  • Employment history
  • Income details
  • Monthly expenses
  • Social Security number

Again, note that the company will also perform a hard credit inquiry to check your credit history and payment history.

Not sure if a Continental loan is right for you? Consider these alternatives.

If you have bad credit you may think Continental is the best you can do. But we recommend looking at other lenders that provide greater transparency into their fees and costs. Both lenders below allow you to apply for prequalification. Just note that your final terms may change after you submit your full application, which may result in a hard inquiry, as well.

  • Personify: Personify loans also have high interest rates, but it may be a better option because you can apply for prequalification without a hard credit inquiry to get an idea of the interest rate you might receive. Personify doesn’t lend in every state, though — so make sure to check availability before applying.
  • OneMain Financial: OneMain Financial’s interest rates can be high, too. But this lender notes its range of interest rates on its website, lets you apply for prequalification without a hard credit inquiry, and offers loans with different minimums and maximums — up to $20,000 depending on your state.

About the author: Anna Baluch is a freelance personal finance writer from Cleveland, Ohio. You can find her work on sites like The Balance, Freedom Debt Relief, LendingTree and RateGenius. Anna has an MBA… Read more.