How Do Personal Loans Affect Your Credit?

credit score factors

Every now and then, you need a little help with your finances. A personal loan is one way to smooth your finances or get extra cash for a purchase. An unsecured personal loan can allow you to accomplish some of your goals without the need for collateral, or to share a specific purpose with the lender.

But whenever you get any loan, it’s important to consider the impact on your finances and on your credit.

Before you apply for a personal loan, consider the credit score factors that are likely to be a part of the equation. Any debt impacts your credit — and that means a personal loan can affect your situation as well.

But that doesn’t mean the effects of a personal loan will be all negative. In fact, when used properly, a personal loan can have a net positive impact on your credit, and that means it can also have an effect on your life and finances beyond just your credit rating.

What happens to your credit when you apply for a personal loan?

According to FICO, the company that provides the most popular formulas for calculating credit scores, there are five main credit score factors that each carry a specified weight:

  • Payment history: 35%
  • Amounts owed: 30%
  • Length of credit history: 15%
  • New credit: 10%
  • Credit mix: 10%

With a personal loan, the main things that affect your credit score fall under the categories “length of credit history” and “new credit.” When you apply for a personal loan, that represents an inquiry that will show up on your credit report and impact your credit score.

It doesn’t mean it will be a huge impact, though. FICO’s website says that for most people, a credit inquiry, like one for a personal loan, will likely only drop a credit score by about five points.

Things change if you are making a lot of credit inquiries in a short period of time, however. The more loans you apply for in a short timeframe, the bigger the impact on your credit history.

Your new credit will also have an impact on your credit history. Part of the calculation of credit history is the average age of your accounts. A new credit account, like your personal loan, brings down the average age of your accounts.

However, the impact shouldn’t be too huge, as long as you don’t have a lot of newer credit dragging on your score.

Once you get your personal loan, it’s important to pay attention to how you manage it, since that’s what will matter most to your credit score going forward.

Don’t let a personal loan bring down your credit score

Simply getting a personal loan isn’t likely to have a long-term negative impact on your credit. You might be surprised to discover that a personal loan can actually help your credit score in the long run.

Of the credit score factors, the most important item is your payment history. FICO counts it at 35% of your score, and most other credit scoring models heavily weight your payment history.

As long as you make your loan payments on time and in full, your score will be impacted positively. The more on-time payments you have, the better your credit score.

With a personal loan, factors that affect credit score most are the payments you make and the mix that your loan adds to your credit profile.

Adding a personal loan to your credit mix can actually give your score a little boost. While credit mix is only 10% of your score, it can still provide a little help. Showing that you can handle an installment loan as well as a revolving credit loan (such as a credit card) can add to your score.

The opposite is true, too. If you miss payments on your personal loan, you will be penalized. When you get any type of credit, it’s vital that you make regular payments in order to prevent damage to your credit score.

A personal loan is most dangerous to your credit when you don’t make payments.

Only borrow what you need

Any time you borrow money, it’s important to limit your loan to what you need to accomplish your goals.

A personal loan can be a way to consolidate your debt to make it easier to pay off, or to help you smooth your cash flow while you restructure your finances. No matter what you use your personal loan for, don’t borrow more than you can handle and avoid paying late.

Your installment loan won’t have the same impact in the credit utilization measure of your credit score, but it can still impact decisions about your finances in the future.

Lenders and others look at your credit file for red flags. If you have a large personal loan, it can affect your ability to get other credit and financial products, even if you have a good credit score. Lenders and others assess risk, and a large personal loan can make you a bigger financial risk.

Personal loans can help your finances, and even provide a boost to your credit, but you need to be careful about how you apply for and use them.

Interested in a personal loan?

Here are the top personal loan lenders of 2017!
LenderRates (APR)Loan Amount 
1 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for SoFi.

2 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Terms and Conditions Apply: SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Finance Lender Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)
  2. Personal Loans: Fixed rates from 5.49% APR to 14.24% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 5.19% APR to 11.32% APR (with AutoPay). SoFi rate ranges are current as of July 1, 2017 and are subject to change without notice. Not all rates and amounts available in all states. Not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, to qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including evaluation of your credit worthiness, years of professional experience, income and other factors. Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at 14.95%. Lowest variable rate of 4.99% APR assumes current 1-month LIBOR rate of 1.22% plus 3.95% margin minus 0.25% autopay discount. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Personal Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of August 1, 2017, the one-month LIBOR rate is 1.23%. Variable interest rates range from 6.02% – 15.97% (6.02% – 15.97% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of your loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms and presence of a co-applicant. Fixed interest rates range from 5.99% – 16.24% (5.99% – 16.24% APR) based on applicable terms and presence of a co-applicant. Lowest rates shown are for eligible applicants, require a 3-year repayment term, and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.
  2. Loyalty Discount: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower has a qualifying account in existence with Citizens Bank at the time the borrower has submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, student loans or other personal loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, Citizens Bank checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI and VT. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) disclosed in the Truth-In-Lending Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan, and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  3. Automatic Payment Benefit: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
7.39% - 29.99%$1,000 - $50,000Visit Upstart
5.19% - 14.24%1$5,000 - $100,000Visit SoFi
8.00% - 25.00%$5,000 - $35,000Visit Payoff
5.99% - 16.24%2$5,000 - $50,000Visit Citizens
5.99% - 35.89%$1,000 - $40,000Visit LendingClub
5.25% - 14.24%$2,000 - $50,000Visit Earnest
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