Applying for a Loan Online vs In Person: Comparing the Differences & Similarities

By Alene Laney · June 12, 2024 · 5 minute read

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Applying for a Loan Online vs In Person: Comparing the Differences & Similarities

As you’re shopping around for the best terms and rates on a personal loan, you may wonder: Is it better to apply for a loan online or in person? While both options can lead you to securing a personal loan, the process and even the fees and rates can differ for an online loan application vs. in-person.

If you need help deciding which option to go with, this guide can help you figure out whether you should look at applying for a loan online vs. in person.

What Is an Online Personal Loan?

An online personal loan is a type of installment loan that you borrow and agree to pay back with interest. Personal loans are usually unsecured loans, which means you don’t have to put up collateral (such as a house) to be able to get the loan. Since unsecured loans pose more risk to lenders, interest rates tend to be higher compared to secured loans.

Personal loans are known for being flexible, and there are several ways to use a personal loan. You can use one to consolidate credit card debt or pay for home renovations, medical expenses, a vacation, a large purchase, or just about any other personal expense.

An online personal loan acts like a regular personal loan with the only difference being that the lender has a presence online. Online loans can come from traditional banks, or they may come from lenders who only operate online.

What Is an In-Person Personal Loan?

Getting an in-person personal loan allows you to obtain a personal loan with the assistance of a bank or credit union employee. They can help you through the process. From collecting documents to submitting your loan application, there’s a lot of attention that an employee can give you when you apply for one of the different types of personal loans.

Applying for a Loan Online vs In-Person

Applying for an online personal loan has never been easier or faster. Technology automates much of the process so you can know what the lender’s decision is fairly quickly — often on the same day.

Beyond the ease with which you can apply for a loan online or in person, there are a number of other factors you’ll want to consider.


Fees and rates can differ from loan to loan. Shopping around for rates and fees is going to help you compare personal loan interest rates and find the lowest personal loan origination fees and APRs out there.

While you might see low rates for online lenders, you may also be able to negotiate a low rate with the bank representative. Sometimes, having an existing relationship with the bank can help you get a lower interest rate, or even help with getting approved for a personal loan.

Approval Process

When you get to the approval process, an online loan application vs. in-person is going to be faster. This is because technology automates much of the process for approval when you apply online. Sometimes, you can receive a decision — or even funding — on the same day.

With an in-person application, you can expect to wait several days or even longer for loan approval and disbursement. Plus, not as many banks and credit unions allow you to prequalify like online lenders often do, which can give you an idea of your odds of approval and your potential rate without impacting your credit score.


If you’re the type that can quickly fill out information online and upload documents with ease, you may just want to apply online. However, if you would prefer some help through the process of applying for a personal loan, you may consider finding a physical location of the bank or credit union instead.


When it comes to security, applying online for a personal loan is as safe as any other online transaction. Yet, that might not make you feel comfortable enough to do it. If you’re not confident in transmitting personal information over the web, you might consider visiting a branch location to apply for a personal loan.

Personalized Support

Support can be seen as more attentive at an in-person branch. You can have your issues heard and the bank employee can explain things like the personal loan principal and the personal loan maturity date so they make sense.

Online support can be hit or miss, depending on the company. This is one area where an in-person experience might make you happier.

Which Is Better: Applying for a Personal Loan Online or In-Person?

If you value personalized attention, you might prefer to apply for a personal loan in person. On the other hand, if you’re tech-savvy and appreciate the speed and savings an online lender can offer, you may prefer to apply for a personal loan online instead.

At the end of the day, you’ll see advantages with each option whether you choose to apply for a loan online or in person. What’s really important is to find a loan with the most competitive terms and the lowest rate.

The Takeaway

Applying online for a personal loan may allow for a faster approval and funding process, plus you can complete the entirety of the application from the comfort of your home. If you’d rather have someone there to walk you through the process, and you have a longstanding relationship with your bank or credit union that you think could favorably impact the terms you receive, then applying in-person might be better. Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference — and where you can get the best offer for a loan.

Think twice before turning to high-interest credit cards. Consider a SoFi personal loan instead. SoFi offers competitive fixed rates and same-day funding. Checking your rate takes just a minute.

SoFi’s Personal Loan was named NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Personal Loan overall.


Is applying for a loan online safer than applying for a loan in person?

Applying for a loan online is considered as safe as applying for a loan in person. If you’re worried about sharing your personal information online, you can go into a credit union or bank branch and apply in person.

Is there a difference in cost when applying for a loan online vs in person?

Whether you’re applying for a loan online or in person, it’s a good idea to shop around for the best rates and terms. Online lenders may have lower overhead costs and be able to pass those savings on to customers. On the other hand, banks where you apply in person may be able to offer rate or fee discounts for existing customers.

Is it quicker to apply for a loan online or in person?

In most situations, it is quicker to apply for a loan online than in person. Processing is generally faster, too.

Photo credit: iStock/fizkes

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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.


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