Breaking news! The president has made an announcement regarding federal student loan forgiveness.
Refi now and save money before rates rise again. Learn more

What Is a Short-Term Loan? The Ultimate Guide

By Ashley Kilroy · March 09, 2022 · 6 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

What Is a Short-Term Loan? The Ultimate Guide

Once you begin looking for financing options, you may find your search leads you to multiple forms, including personal loans. One choice available to prospective borrowers is a short-term loan.

A short-term loan is a personal loan that can help with personal financial needs. But this type of loan may not fit every situation since it typically only provides limited funds. Read on to find out whether a short-term loan may help you meet your financial goals.

What Is a Short-Term Loan?

When you take out a short-term loan, you borrow funds to address immediate financial needs for a limited period. These loans serve a variety of functions, depending on your situation. For example, individuals may take out a short-term loan to keep them afloat until their next paycheck.

Or, someone running their own business who needs to cover small expenses may take out a short-term business loan.

Recommended: What Is a Personal Loan?

How Do Short-Term Loans Work?

Essentially, short-term loans operate on a short time scale. The approval process and repayment schedule occur quickly, usually within a year.

Average personal loan interest rates range from 5.99% to 36% APR, depending on the applicant’s creditworthiness. Short-term loans tend to be near the higher end of this scale, in addition to fees and penalties that may be charged by a lender.

However, lenders such as banks or credit unions offer varying personal loan terms and rates. So, it’s important to research and shop around before you apply for one.

What Can You Use a Short-Term Loan for?

Short-term loans can be used for many purposes when you need quick access to money and your cash flow is low. You can use the funds from a short-term loan to cover unexpected costs such as medical bills or for everyday expenses until you reach your next paycheck.

Businesses might use short-term loans in the form of merchant cash advances so they can replenish inventory or purchase new equipment even when short on cash. In this scenario, the business receives a lump sum of cash from a lender and repays it with a percentage of credit or debit card sales until the advance is paid in full.

Recommended: What Are Personal Loans Used For? And How to Apply

Example of a Short-Term Loan

A bank overdraft can be considered a short-term loan the bank provides when your account balance isn’t sufficient to pay for a purchase you’ve made. In this scenario, your account lacks funds to make a payment, but the bank lends you that money. In return, you pay a fee.

How Long Is a Short-Term Loan?

Every loan varies based on the lender and applicant. Often, short-term loans mature within a year or less. However, it is possible to find one that extends up to two years. Any loan term longer than that qualifies as either a medium-term or long-term personal loan.

Characteristics of Short-Term Loans

Short-term loans have unique features, such as:

•   Smaller borrowing amounts compared to other loans.

•   Typically offered as unsecured loans.

•   High annual percentage rates (APRs).

•   Short repayment periods.

•   Sometimes weekly payments are required.

Benefits of a Short-Term Loan

Short-term loans come with certain disadvantages, mostly due to their high interest rates. But they can be helpful if you find yourself in a tight spot. Some benefits include:

High Approval Rates

Since short-term loans only provide limited funds, the lending requirements may be easier to meet. Because of that, more applicants have a chance of approval. Even though you may not need a stellar credit score, you may still have some trouble if you have a low credit score. Your lender may ask for proof of a steady income, among other criteria.

Online Application

Short-term loans are also easy to access. Lenders often offer online applications, so there’s no need to visit a brick-and-mortar office. Applications are typically easy to fill out, taking only minutes to complete.

Quick Access to Funds

The short-term loan processing time is typically fast. As a result, you will probably receive approval and loan proceeds faster than you would for a long-term loan. So they might be a good option if you have an unexpected expense you need to pay as soon as possible.

Lower Accrued Interest

While short-term loans can come with high interest, they generally have a short time frame. Because of that, there are fewer total interest payments. As long as you pay on time, you could save money on built-up interest with a short-term loan.

Credit Score

As mentioned above, you don’t typically have to have an excellent credit score to get approved for a short-term loan. Applicants with average credit scores may also be able to usually qualify for a short-term personal loan.

Unsecured Personal Loan

When it comes to the difference between a secured vs. unsecured loan, a secured loan means more risk on the borrower’s part. That’s because a secured loan requires collateral, such as your car or your home. But most lenders don’t require collateral for a short-term personal loan because it doesn’t carry enough risk.

Recommended: Using Collateral on a Personal Loan

Disadvantages of a Short-Term Personal Loan

While short-term loans are easier to qualify for, they may not be the right choice for everyone. Here are some drawbacks to be aware of:

Lower Limit

For borrowers who need a significant amount of money, a short-term personal loan may not be the right choice. The borrowing limits for these types of loans tend to be small, sometimes just a few hundred dollars, to make it easier to pay off in a short amount of time.

May Lead To Cycle of Debt

Because of the high-interest rate and steep fees attached to short-term loans, they really aren’t long-term solutions. They might be an option in an emergency but can lead to a cycle of debt if relied on too often.

Types of Short-Term Loans

There are a few variations on the short-term loan available to you. The type of personal loan you apply for will generally depend on the amount of cash you want and how quickly you need it. Here are some worth considering:

Payday Loans

A payday loan is a short-term loan that some people use to tide themselves over financially until their next paycheck. The funds are meant to be repaid at the time of the borrower’s next payday — thus, the name. However, payday loan issues arise if the borrower can’t repay the loan in the short time frame required.

Installment Loans

Installment loans give borrowers a way to access a lump sum of money that’s repaid in monthly installments over a set time frame. A fixed-rate loan with steady monthly payments makes budgeting during the repayment period more convenient.

Lines of Credit

A line of credit is similar to a credit card. You receive a credit limit and can tap into the line of credit as needed. Funds can be taken out in installments of the amount needed at the time they’re needed. But you can’t surpass your limit, which the lender bases on your creditworthiness.

Recommended: Personal Loan vs Personal Line of Credit

Merchant Cash Advance

Merchant cash advances are used by businesses that make mainly debit or credit card sales. As a means to secure cash, the business will borrow a lump sum, which is advanced against the business’s daily sales. The lender is then repaid through a certain percentage of the business’s daily sales.

Invoice Financing

Similar to merchant cash advances, invoice financing is a type of short-term loan that can help business owners meet financial needs. The business submits unpaid invoices, i.e., accounts receivable, to a lender as collateral. The lender charges a fee for the financing and can collect on the invoices if the borrower defaults.

Short-Term Loan vs Long-Term Loan

It’s always important to explore your options. Short-term loans probably aren’t the right option if you need a large amount of funds in a lump sum or will need to periodically draw small amounts from a set amount of credit. In these situations, a long-term loan might be a better solution.

Long-term personal loans can sometimes have high-interest rates depending on the applicant’s credit score and other factors used by the lender. They may not require collateral, which makes them seem risky to lenders.

Here’s a breakdown of how these two loans stack up against each other:

Short-Term Loans

Long-Term Loans

Loan AmountTypically, a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, but can be up to $100,000Depending on the lender, amounts can be a few thousand dollars to $200,000 or more
Loan TermA couple of weeks to 18 monthsUp to 25 years
InterestHigh interest ratesCompetitive interest rates
EligibilityMay qualify with bad creditStringent qualifications such as good credit

Typical Requirements to Get a Short-Term Loan

Requirements to be approved for a short-term loan vary by lender, but all lenders will evaluate your creditworthiness in some way. Generally, a higher credit score will likely secure you better terms and interest rates. You also need to be able to show your lender a range of personal and financial information such as proof of identity, verification of employer and income, and proof of current address.

Can I Get a Short-Term Loan With Bad Credit?

While short-term loans don’t typically require excellent credit, the higher an applicant’s credit score, the better their chances of approval. A lender may also offer more favorable interest rates and terms to a borrower with a higher score. Since short-term loans are often for relatively small amounts of money, requirements tend to be laxer.

Personal Loan Options From SoFi

SoFi offers personal loan options to fit a variety of financial situations and needs. With competitive interest rates and a range of terms, there may be a SoFi Personal Loan that works for you. SoFi does not charge fees on personal loans, so you only repay the loan principal and interest.

The Takeaway

Short-term personal loans vary based on your financial situation and the lender you use. Some lending institutions use high-interest rates and hidden fees that can add to the overall cost of a short-term personal loan. That doesn’t make a personal loan bad, but it’s important to be aware of what you’re agreeing to when you borrow money.

SoFi may have a personal loan that will work for your unique financial situation and needs. Checking your rate takes 60 seconds and won’t affect your credit score.*

Research your personal loan options today

Photo credit: iStock/kitzcorner


*Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.
SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), and by SoFi Lending Corp. NMLS #1121636 , a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law (License # 6054612) and by other states. For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.

SOPL1121035

All your finances.
All in one app.

SoFi QR code, Download now, scan this with your phone’s camera

All your finances.
All in one app.

App Store rating

SoFi iOS App, Download on the App Store
SoFi Android App, Get it on Google Play

TLS 1.2 Encrypted
Equal Housing Lender