Loans for veterans: Know your options

Man holding his infant son as they look out of the window Man holding his infant son as they look out of the window Image:

In a Nutshell

If you’re a former military service member in need of money, you might be eligible to get a personal loan for veterans. But you should also look at options from other lenders — such as banks, credit unions and online companies — to find the most competitive rates.

Editorial Note: Credit Karma receives compensation from third-party advertisers, but that doesn’t affect our editors' opinions. Our marketing partners don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. It’s accurate to the best of our knowledge when it’s posted.
Advertiser Disclosure

We think it's important for you to understand how we make money. It's pretty simple, actually. The offers for financial products you see on our platform come from companies who pay us. The money we make helps us give you access to free credit scores and reports and helps us create our other great tools and educational materials.

Compensation may factor into how and where products appear on our platform (and in what order). But since we generally make money when you find an offer you like and get, we try to show you offers we think are a good match for you. That's why we provide features like your Approval Odds and savings estimates.

Of course, the offers on our platform don't represent all financial products out there, but our goal is to show you as many great options as we can.

Veterans can face financial hardships, and the transition from active-duty military to civilian life can be tough. If you’re struggling financially, there are personal loans for veterans that could help ease the burden.

Whether you need financial assistance to pay bills or want to consolidate debt, there are veteran-focused loan options available that could fit your circumstances.

But before you sign on the dotted line, make sure you understand the loan terms and try to explore grants and other affordable options first.


What is a personal loan?

A personal loan is a type of installment loan that’s paid out to the borrower in a lump sum and repaid with interest in monthly installments over the life of the loan. This type of loan can be used in a variety of situations, such as …

  • Consolidating your debt
  • Moving expenses or home improvements
  • Covering emergencies

Unlike federal student loans, which must be used for education expenses, personal loans have more flexibility in how funds can be used. This can be good for veterans looking for financial assistance.

Personal loans for veterans

If you want a loan, make sure you’re getting it from a trustworthy source. The good news is there are a number of reputable lenders that work with veterans.

USAA

USAA is a large financial institution that works exclusively with current military members, veterans, eligible family members and cadets and midshipman. USAA ranked as the most reputable bank in the 2018 Bank RepTrack study. Becoming a USAA member is free and gives you access to a variety of financial products and services, such as banking, investment and insurance services and personal loans.

You can apply online to get a USAA personal loan. USAA offers personal loans from $2,500 to more than $20,000, and there are no loan application fees. If approved, you can get funds as soon as the next business day in some cases.

Navy Federal Credit Union

Navy Federal Credit Union, which was founded in 1933, has a long history of serving current and former military members. The credit union offers various financial products, including checking and savings accounts, credit cards and personal loans.

At Navy Federal Credit Union, you can apply for a personal loan of up to $50,000. Interest rates are tiered based on the loan terms.

Your creditworthiness will determine the interest rate on your loan. If you are approved for a loan, you may be able to get it deposited directly into your checking or savings account. As with USAA, you will need to become a member of Navy Federal Credit Union to use its services.

Other lenders

Although USAA and Navy Federal Credit Union cater specifically to military members, you will also want to check other personal loan lenders — like banks, credit unions and online lenders — to survey rates.

Other types of loans and financial assistance for veterans

If you need flexibility in how you can use loan funds — and if you can get approved — a personal loan may be what you need. But if you need help with something specific, like getting housing or finding a job, there could be other options for you.

Veterans Affairs loans

The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs offers several loan programs for eligible veterans if you own, or are hoping to purchase, a home.

  • Purchase loan: This could be a good option if you want help with buying a home. These VA home loans often don’t require down payments and may come with better terms and interest rates than traditional lenders offer. Plus, you won’t need private mortgage insurance.
  • Native American Direct Loan Program: This loan option is for veterans who are Native Americans or have a spouse who is Native American and are looking to build, buy or improve a home on Federal Trust Land.
  • Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan: If you have an existing VA-backed home loan, you may be eligible for this type of product, which can help lower your monthly mortgage payments by getting you a lower interest rate or by moving you from a variable-rate loan to a fixed-rate loan.
  • Cash-out Refinance Loan: If you’re looking to use home equity to pay for schooling, pay off debt or refinance a non-VA-backed loan to a VA loan, this could be a good option for you.
What is a VA loan?

Nonprofit programs

Another option is the National Veterans Foundation, which serves U.S. veterans and their families by providing various services. It can help you …

The Veterans of Foreign Wars has an Unmet Needs program that offers up to $1,500 in grants for families facing financial difficulties. Because it is a grant and not a loan, you don’t have to pay anything back.

If you’re dealing with an emergency or having trouble paying a bill and need some financial assistance, you may be able to get help by applying for a Homecoming Heroes grant with Modest Needs. Modest Needs is a nonprofit organization that works with newly returned veterans who may be facing financial difficulty.

Balance transfer cards

If you’re not sold on a loan, you might consider applying for a balance transfer credit card that has a low APR or a 0% intro APR for new purchases and balance transfers. While not designed for veterans, a balance transfer card could help you consolidate credit card debt or make a big purchase. With this option, you can transfer your existing credit card balances to potentially save money on interest. Just keep in mind that if you go with a card with the 0% intro APR, it will expire after a time. If you don’t pay off the balance in full and by the time the promotion expires, you’ll have to pay interest.

What to watch out for with intro balance transfer offers

Bottom line

If you’re a military service member in need of money, you may want to consider loans for veterans. Make sure to look at loan options specifically for veterans and also from other lenders to compare rates.

If there are grants or other types of financial assistance available, you may want to take advantage of those first before applying for a loan. Beware of scams that target veterans as you compare your options. The key to avoiding scams is to do your research and find a competitive rate with a reputable lender.