What to Know About Personal Loan Eligibility Requirements

Banner image
ByChristopher Boston
fact checked icon
Reviewed byAlvin Yam, CFP
fact checked icon

Updated: February 28, 2024

Advertising & Editorial Disclosure

A personal loan is a flexible financial tool that you can use for various purposes, from consolidating debts to funding major expenses. The criteria for personal loans typically include aspects like your credit score and history, income level and debt-to-income ratio.

These financial factors determine your eligibility and influence the loan's terms and rates. By being aware of them, you can better prepare for the application process and improve your chances of approval.

Eligibility Requirements for Personal Loans

While most lenders share similar requirements for personal loans, their approval standards may differ. For instance, one lender might prioritize credit score more heavily than another. Key eligibility criteria include the following:

  • Your credit score and history
  • Income
  • Debt-to-income ratio (DTI)

Some lenders may consider your ability to provide appropriate collateral. Most will also charge an origination fee to process your application.

Credit Score and History

Credit score and credit history are essential eligibility criteria for personal loans, acting as indicators of your financial responsibility and reliability. Lenders scrutinize these factors to evaluate the risk of lending. Ideally, maintaining a credit score in the good to excellent range enhances your likelihood of qualifying for a personal loan and securing favorable terms.

Your credit score, ranging from 300 to 850, is influenced by your credit history, which documents your track record of managing and repaying debts. The three main credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion, calculate their own versions of credit scores. They consider various elements of your credit history, including:

  • Payment history: This accounts for timely or late payments.
  • Credit utilization: This reflects the amount of credit used versus available credit.
  • Length of credit history: This indicates experience in managing credit.
  • Credit mix: This demonstrates your ability to handle different credit forms.
  • New credit: This shows your recent credit activities, such as new credit applications.

Note that each bureau may have different information on your credit activities, leading to variations in your credit score across these bureaus.

Income

When evaluating loan applications, lenders consider your income level to determine your financial stability and repayment capacity. A steady and sufficient income assures lenders of your ability to manage loan payments alongside your other financial obligations.

However, the minimum income requirement for personal loans varies from lender to lender. Some financial institutions openly disclose their minimum income criteria. Others might not explicitly state these requirements; instead, they evaluate income on a case-by-case basis during the application process.

Although there’s no universal income threshold for qualifying for a personal loan, having a stable and reliable source of income can significantly enhance your chances of approval. Lenders often look for consistency in earnings over the most recent two years.

Debt-to-Income Ratio

Debt-to-income ratio (DTI) is an essential metric for assessing eligibility for personal loans. This is the portion of your monthly income that goes toward paying debts and is a key indicator for lenders to evaluate your financial health. Lenders also consider DTI to gauge how much additional debt you can handle responsibly.

Typically, lenders prefer a DTI ratio of 35% or lower, though some may accept higher ratios. This threshold ensures you are not overextended in your financial commitments and can comfortably manage the additional loan repayments. The calculation of DTI involves dividing your total monthly debt payments by your gross monthly income. This includes all debts such as mortgages, car loans, student loans and minimum credit card payments.

Maintaining a low DTI ratio helps you not just qualify for a personal loan but also obtain more favorable terms. Start by being aware of your DTI ratio before applying for a personal loan and working toward lowering it if necessary. You can achieve this by paying down existing debts or increasing your income.

Collateral

Collateral is a key factor in the eligibility criteria for certain types of personal loans, particularly secured loans. Collateral refers to physical assets that a borrower offers to a lender as security for the loan. Lenders consider collateral as it provides a safety net, reducing the risk associated with lending.

Common types of assets used as collateral include real estate properties, vehicles, savings accounts and investment accounts. The value of the collateral typically needs to match or exceed the loan amount, assuring the lender that it can recover the loan in case of default.

Defaulting on a loan agreement gives the lender the legal right to seize the collateral to recover the outstanding loan amount. This means that if you fail to make timely payments, you risk losing the asset put up as collateral. Offering collateral is a serious commitment that requires careful consideration of one's financial stability and ability to repay the loan.

Origination Fee

While an origination fee is a common component associated with personal loans, it’s not a factor in the qualification process itself. Many lenders charge this fee to cover the administrative expenses of processing a loan application. This fee is not an indicator of loan eligibility but rather a standard cost that borrowers may encounter when securing a loan.

Factoring in the origination fee when considering the overall cost of a loan is helpful for borrowers, as it will impact the total amount they need to repay. This fee is typically calculated as a percentage of the loan amount. The average range varies, often between 1% and 8% of the total loan amount. Note that your fee can depend on your loan amount, the lender's policies and your creditworthiness.

Origination fees are usually deducted from the loan amount before disbursement, meaning you receive the loan amount minus the origination fee. By understanding the implications of these fees, you can accurately assess the actual cost of your loan and plan your finances accordingly.

Necessary Documents for Personal Loans

The process can vary between lenders when applying for a personal loan, but a common requirement is submitting specific documents. These help lenders verify your personal and financial details, ensuring a secure and reliable transaction. Some of the standard documents lenders require include:

  • Loan Application: The foundational document of your loan request, the loan application form, collects details such as your name, social security number, income and employment information. It's the starting point for lenders to understand your financial situation and needs. This document helps lenders determine your initial eligibility and the loan terms that you may receive.

  • Proof of Identity: To prevent fraud and confirm your identity, lenders require documents such as a driver's license, passport or state-issued ID. This step ensures that the loan is not being taken under false pretenses and helps protect the lender and borrower from identity theft. The proof of identity also assists lenders in complying with legal regulations to prevent financial crimes.

  • Proof of Address: Commonly satisfied with a utility bill, lease agreement or bank statement, proof of address confirms your current residence. This document verifies your residency and provides insight into your lifestyle stability and reliability. It also serves a legal purpose, ensuring you receive communication or legal notices related to the loan.

  • Employer and Income Verification: Lenders use documents like pay stubs, tax returns or employers' contact information to verify your income. If you own a business, you may need to provide business tax returns or bank statements demonstrating business income. This information is helpful for lenders as it directly relates to your ability to repay the loan. By assessing your income, lenders can determine the loan amount you qualify for and set realistic repayment terms.

mglogo icon
MONEYGEEK EXPERT TIP

Though not all lenders require specific details about the purpose of the loan, some request this information upfront, so it's a good idea to prepare to provide details about the intended use of the funds. — Alvin Yam, CFP®

How to Apply for a Personal Loan

Navigating the application process for personal loans requires a clear understanding of each step involved. This understanding streamlines the process and enhances your chances of securing a loan that aligns with your financial needs. Below, we break down this journey into manageable steps.

1

Evaluate Your Financial Situation

Begin by assessing your financial health, considering factors like your income, expenses, debt-to-income ratio and credit score. This self-assessment helps determine how much you can afford to borrow and repay. It also helps identify areas you may need to improve, such as improving your credit score or paying down existing debts, to enhance your loan eligibility.

2

Research and Compare Lenders

Explore various lenders to understand their loan offerings, interest rates, fees and terms. This step includes the option to prequalify with different lenders, which allows you to shop around for the most competitive rates and favorable terms without impacting your credit score. Prequalification gives you a clearer idea of what you'll likely qualify for and helps you compare options side-by-side.

3

Gather Necessary Documents

Prepare and organize all required documents, such as proof of identity, income, employment and residence. This preparation is key to a smooth application process. Having all documents at hand can speed up the application review and approval process, reducing delays and potential setbacks.

4

Submit Application

Complete the loan application with accuracy and detail, ensuring all information is up-to-date and correct. A precise and thorough application increases your chances of approval. This step often involves submitting the prepared documents and can be completed online or in person, depending on the lender.

5

Review Loan Offer and Terms

You'll receive a personal loan offer upon approval. Carefully review all terms, including interest rates, repayment schedule, additional fees and penalties. This understanding ensures the loan is affordable and aligns with your financial goals. Read the fine print to avoid any surprises during the repayment period.

6

Receive Funds

Once you accept the offer, the lender will process the disbursement of funds. This final step sees the loan amount deposited into your account, marking the beginning of your repayment journey. Plan for timely repayments to maintain a healthy credit score and avoid late fees or penalties.

By following these steps and making informed decisions, you can secure a loan that meets your immediate financial needs and supports your long-term financial health.

What to Do if You're Denied a Personal Loan

Receiving a denial for a personal loan application can be disappointing, but see it as a stepping stone, not a setback. It's a chance to gain insights and take constructive steps toward your financial goals. Here are some of the things you can do if you find yourself in this situation:

  • Understand the Reasons for Denial: Lenders are obliged to explain why they denied your application. Common reasons include a low credit score, a high debt-to-income ratio or unstable income. By understanding the specific reasons, you can focus on these areas for improvement. Review the denial letter carefully and note the key areas that need attention.

  • Boost Your Financial Profile: Improving your credit score and lowering your debt increases your chances for future loan approvals. You can start by paying bills on time, reducing credit card balances and avoiding new debt. These actions improve your credit score and demonstrate financial responsibility to lenders.

  • Consider a Co-Signer or Co-Applicant: Some lenders allow another person to sign or apply for the loan with you. By adding a co-signer or co-applicant with a stronger credit profile, you can enhance your loan application. This person shares the responsibility for the loan, reducing the risk for the lender. Choose someone reliable and understand that some lenders might not offer this option.

  • Look for Alternative Financing Options: Consider alternatives if a traditional personal loan isn't feasible. Options like credit union loans, which often have more flexible criteria, or peer-to-peer lending platforms can be viable. Secured loans, which are backed by assets like a car or home, might also be an option.

  • Seek Professional Financial Advice: Consulting a financial advisor can provide tailored advice for your specific situation. They can guide you through different options and strategies to improve your financial standing and loan eligibility.

Remember that a loan denial is not the end of your financial journey; it's a valuable learning experience. It's an opportunity to reassess, strengthen your financial standing and explore diverse options.

FAQ About Personal Loan Eligibility Requirements

To help you better understand personal loans, MoneyGeek compiled a list of frequently asked questions. Our answers can provide insights and help streamline your personal loan decision-making process.

Depending on various factors, obtaining a personal loan can range from relatively easy to challenging. Lenders typically assess your credit score, income, debt-to-income ratio and sometimes collateral. They may also consider your employment stability, debt history and the purpose of the loan. A strong financial profile with a good credit score and stable income usually makes it easier to get a personal loan. However, if your credit score is low or your income is unstable, it might be more challenging.

To determine if you qualify, review the lender’s eligibility criteria. You can also consider prequalifying with lenders, which gives you an idea of your eligibility without impacting your credit score.

The time to get a personal loan varies by lender and your circumstances. Typically, it can take anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks. Online lenders often process loans quicker, sometimes within a day or two, while traditional banks may take longer.

For secured personal loans, collateral can include assets like a car, real estate, savings accounts or investment accounts. The collateral must have a value equal to or greater than the loan amount. It's important to note that the lender can seize the collateral if you fail to repay the loan.

Common factors leading to disqualification include a low credit score, a high debt-to-income ratio, insufficient income and sometimes a lack of employment stability. A recent bankruptcy or a history of late payments can also be reasons for denial. Prepare for application by understanding these factors and working on improving them if necessary.

Loading...

About Christopher Boston


Christopher Boston headshot

Christopher (Croix) Boston was the Head of Loans content at MoneyGeek, with over five years of experience researching higher education, mortgage and personal loans.

Boston has a bachelor's degree from the Seattle Pacific University. They pride themselves in using their skills and experience to create quality content that helps people save and spend efficiently.


Shield Insurance

The content on this page is accurate as of the posting/last updated date; however, some of the rates mentioned may have changed. We recommend visiting the lender's website for the most up-to-date information available.

Editorial Disclosure: Opinions, reviews, analyses and recommendations are the author’s alone and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any bank, lender or other entity. Learn more about our editorial policies and expert editorial team.