What is Align?
The first thing you need to know about Align is that it’s not a traditional personal loan, complete with interest rates and a fixed monthly payment. Instead, Align bills its lending product as an Income Share Agreement, or ISA, in which you pledge a certain percentage of your income upfront for the term of the agreement in exchange for the cash.
It’s a unique business model unlike anything else in the personal loan world, and it’s the brainchild of one man: Nathan Popkins, a former investment banker. Sadly, Popkins passed away six years after founding the company in 2011, when it was known as “Cumulus Funding.” Since then, the company’s employees have carried on his vision of granting ISAs to people who seek a different kind of personal loan.
There’s a lot to unpack in how Align’s ISAs work. They may or may not be right for your situation, but we’ll walk you through the details in this review. That way, you’ll be able to tell if they’re worth investigating further.
Align personal loan highlights
- Variable payments: ISAs claim a certain percentage of your income for a set period of time. If you earn more, you’ll pay more. On the other hand, if you lose your job, you won’t owe any payments until you’re earning an income again.
- Contract buyouts: You can “pay off the loan” by paying Align a lump sum to exit the contract. This means you can’t send in extra payments each month to get out of the contract sooner.
- Job loss support: If you lose your job, Align provides services such as resume reviews and job search assistance.
- No origination fees: Align doesn’t charge origination fees.
- APR: N/A. Rather, you’ll pay a set percentage of your income (up to 10.00%)
- Minimum credit requirement: Varies
- Terms: 24 to 60 months
Align Personal Loan Details
Align product details
It’s important to understand the differences between the ISAs that Align offers and a traditional personal loan that any other lender offers. With Align, you pledge to share a certain percentage of your income — up to 10.00% — with Align for a two- to five-year period. If your income goes up, you’ll pay a higher monthly payment to Align. If your income goes down, your payment will also go down accordingly.
Align bills itself as your financial partner because it has a vested stake in making sure you’re able to continue working and making your payments. And because Align doesn’t get paid if you don’t get paid, that’s true to some extent. That’s why the company offers unemployment support if you lose your job. To prove it, you’ll need to provide Align with documents showing you’re currently receiving unemployment benefits, or a termination letter from your employer. If you can do this, Align will provide job search assistance, such as reviewing your resume, helping you search for available positions, etc.
It’s also important to note that it’s tougher to “get out of debt” with Align. With a typical loan, you can get out of debt sooner by making early payments — either on a regular basis, or repaying the remainder of the loan in one fell swoop. That’s not how Align works.
Rather, you’ll be provided with a “buy-out number” that will change over the term of your ISA according to a pre-set schedule (it will disclose these numbers to you before you sign the paperwork so you’ll know what they are). If you want to get out of the contract and stop sharing your income with Align, simply pay that buy-out number to the company in one lump sum, and you’re free to part ways. This means you can’t get out of the contract sooner by making multiple, smaller extra payments. Instead, you’ll need to save them up until you’re able to pay the lump sum all at once.
- Minimum credit score: Varies
- Minimum credit history: Not specified
- Maximum debt-to-income ratio: Not specified
Unfortunately, Align doesn’t provide any more information about what is needed to qualify for an ISA. The company is not transparent about whether residents of certain states are excluded, how much income you need, credit requirements, age requirements or any other factors. If you’re interested in finding out what Align might be able to offer you (if anything), your only choice is to go ahead and get a quote from the company.
Applying for an income share contract from Align
Applying for an ISA with Align isn’t much different from checking your rate with any other lender. You’ll have to log onto the company’s website and enter some basic information about yourself — name, address, Social Security number, etc. — and then submit the application. After that, a customer service agent will contact you to discuss what, if any, ISAs the company can offer you. This process could be completed as soon as the same day you apply.
If you decide you like the company’s offer and sign on the dotted line, Align will deposit the money into your account within one to three business days. If your income changes thereafter, you agree to let Align know so it can change your payment amount until the ISA contract is finished.
Pros and Cons of an Align Personal Loan
Who’s the best fit for an Align loan?
Align certainly isn’t right for everyone. If you think your income might be increasing dramatically over the next two to five years, Align might end up being far more expensive than a traditional personal loan in the long run.
For example, if you earn $50,000/year now and are required to share 10% of your income for the next five years, that means you’ll pay Align a total of $25,000 by the time your contract ends. But if you get a break and are hired on to a new job earning $100,000 right after you’re approved, you’ll now have to repay the company a total of $50,000 — twice as much as you’d originally planned, which makes for one hefty finance charge, especially since the company only gives out ISAs of up to $12,500.
Speaking of finance charges, it’s also impossible to calculate the true finance cost of the loan since it relies on your future income, which no one can predict with 100% accuracy. Thus, it’ll be impossible to compare whether this “loan” is any cheaper or more expensive than your alternative options for getting a personal loan.
Instead, if you’re the type of person who doesn’t care about finance costs as much as making sure you’re able to meet the monthly payments, then an ISA might be right for you. That’s especially true if you work in an unsteady job market, because Align is the only lender who will completely drop your payments down to zero — with no expectation of you having to repay an unpaid amount later — that we’ve seen out there. For some people, this peace of mind is definitely worth the cloudiness surrounding how much it’ll cost you in the end.
Alternative personal loan options
- APR range: 16.05% – 35.99%
- Credit requirements: 0 minimum credit score
- Terms: 24 to 60 months
- Origination fee: Varies
If you need your money on the same day and need a larger amount (up to $30,000), OneMain Financial may be a good lender to check your rates with. OneMain Financial actually requires you to visit a lending office in person to complete the application and potentially get your funds, so this may be limiting for many people. However, unlike Align, OneMain Financial does offer secured loans (i.e., you pledge some sort of collateral such as a car or an RV) which can make it easier to qualify for a loan if you have a poor credit score and aren’t otherwise able to get the cash you need.
- APR range: 5.99% – 29.99%
- Credit requirements: 600 minimum credit score
- Terms: 36 or 60 months
- Origination fee: 1.00% - 5.00%
Peerform is a peer-to-peer lender lending platform, which means that your loan is funded GoFundMe-style from individual investors. It can take up to two weeks to fund a loan, so this isn’t a quick fix if you need cash fast. If you’re looking for a larger loan amount — up to $25,000 — this might be a better option for you than Align.
- APR range: 6.95% – 35.89%
- Credit requirements: 600 minimum credit score
- Terms: 36 or 60 months
- Origination fee: 1.00% - 6.00%
If you need to take out a larger amount — up to $40,000 — and don’t necessarily need that cash fast, LendingClub is one option to consider. LendingClub is another peer-to-peer lending platform, which means that it can take some time to fund your loan. If you get enough investors to chip in for your loan, the company will disburse the money to you. This process usually takes about seven days, according to LendingClub.
Interested in a personal loan?Here are the top personal loan lenders of 2019!
|Lender||APR Range||Loan Amount|
|1 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for SoFi.
2 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for Payoff.
3 Important Disclosures for FreedomPlus.
4 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
5 Important Disclosures for LendingPoint.
6 Important Disclosures for LendingClub.
All loans made by WebBank, Member FDIC. Your actual rate depends upon credit score, loan amount, loan term, and credit usage & history. The APR ranges from 6.95% to 35.89%*. The origination fee ranges from 1% to 6% of the original principal balance and is deducted from your loan proceeds. For example, you could receive a loan of $6,000 with an interest rate of 7.99% and a 5.00% origination fee of $300 for an APR of 11.51%. In this example, you will receive $5,700 and will make 36 monthly payments of $187.99. The total amount repayable will be $6,767.64. Your APR will be determined based on your credit at the time of application. The average origination fee is 5.49% as of Q1 2017. In Georgia, the minimum loan amount is $3,025. In Massachusetts, the minimum loan amount is $6,025 if your APR is greater than 12%. There is no down payment and there is never a prepayment penalty. Closing of your loan is contingent upon your agreement of all the required agreements and disclosures on the www.lendingclub.com website. All loans via LendingClub have a minimum repayment term of 36 months. Borrower must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or be in the United States on a valid long term visa and at least 18 years old. Valid bank account and Social Security number are required. Equal Housing Lender. All loans are subject to credit approval. LendingClub’s physical address is: LendingClub, 71 Stevenson Street, Suite 1000, San Francisco, CA 94105.
†Per reviews collected and authenticated by Bazaarvoice in compliance with the Bazaarvoice Authentication Requirements, supported by anti-fraud technology and human analysis. All reviews can be reviewed at reviews.lendingclub.com
**Based on approximately 60% of borrowers who received offers through LendingClub’s marketing partners between January 1, 2018 to July 20,2018. The time it will take to fund your loan may vary.
7 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
8 Important Disclosures for Avant.
* The actual rate and loan amount that a customer qualifies for may vary based on credit determination and other factors. Funds are generally deposited via ACH for delivery next business day if approved by 4:30pm CT Monday-Friday. Avant branded credit products are issued by WebBank, member FDIC.
** Example: A $5,700 loan with an administration fee of 4.75% and an amount financed of $5,429.25, repayable in 36 monthly installments, would have an APR of 29.95% and monthly payments of $230.33
* Important Disclosures for Upgrade Bank.
Upgrade Bank Disclosures
** Accept your loan offer and your funds will be sent to your bank via ACH within one (1) business day of clearing necessary verifications. Availability of the funds is dependent on how quickly your bank processes this transaction. From the time of approval, funds should be available within four (4) business days.
|5.74% – 16.99%1||$5,000 - $100,000|
|7.54% – 35.99%||$1,000 - $50,000|
|7.99% – 35.89%*||$1,000 - $50,000|
|5.99% – 24.99%2||$5,000 - $35,000|
|5.99% – 29.99%3||$7,500 - $40,000|
|6.79% – 20.89%4||$5,000 - $50,000|
|9.99% – 35.99%5||$2,000 - $25,000|
|6.95% – 35.89%6||$1,000 - $40,000|
|6.99% – 18.24%7||$5,000 - $75,000|
|9.95% – 35.99%8||$2,000 - $35,000|