Is a Credit Card Needed to Rent a Car?

Guide to Renting a Car With or Without a Credit Card

Renting a car with a credit card is easier than renting a car without a credit card, but both methods are possible at many major car rental agencies. Car rental companies typically put customers through more hoops to rent a car without a credit card.

In this guide, we’ll cover how to rent a car without a credit card — but also explore the potential perks of paying for a rental car with a credit card, when possible.

Is It Possible to Rent a Car Without a Credit Card?

So do you need a credit card to rent a car? Technically, no, you do not have to have a credit card to rent a car. It’s possible to rent a car with a debit card at some major rental agencies. Some agencies even accept prepaid gift cards, cash, or money orders as a form of payment at the end of the rental.

Each rental agency has its own stipulations about paying by debit card. Some franchises may not follow corporate policy, so it’s always a good idea to call the specific rental agency location to ask about payment options before arriving at your destination.

Common requirements for customers paying for a rental without a credit card include:

•   Security deposit: Many agencies will put a hold on your debit card for the cost of the rental, plus an additional amount. You will not be able to use the money being held for the duration of your trip, which can make funding your vacation more challenging.

•   Credit check: If you are paying with a debit card (or cash), some rental car agencies may perform a credit check. This could result in a hard inquiry on your credit report, which might temporarily lower your score.

•   Identification: Renting a car without a credit card might mean that the rental agency needs to see multiple valid forms of ID.

•   Age: While 25 is often the magic number to rent a car, it is possible to rent a car as a younger driver. Many agencies charge “young driver fees” to do so. However, if you are renting a car with a debit card, agencies may not allow drivers under the age of 25.

•   Proof of return travel: If renting from an airport with a debit card, many agencies want to see a ticketed return travel itinerary as an extra assurance that you will return with the car.

•   Logos: Some rental car agencies require debit or prepaid cards to carry the logo of a major credit card company, like Mastercard, Visa, or Discover.

The following rental car agencies allow you to rent a car without a credit card at participating franchises if you meet their specific requirements (though note this is not an exhaustive list):

•   Alamo

•   Avis

•   Budget

•   Dollar

•   Enterprise

•   Hertz

•   National

•   Sixt

•   Thrifty

•   Turo

Recommended: Buying a Car with a Credit Card

Why Rental Car Agencies Typically Require a Credit Card to Rent a Car

Why do you need a credit card to rent a car at some agencies, and why do others impose a number of requirements for debit card payments? Here are the reasons rental car agencies require a credit card or other information.

Proof of Reliability

Having a credit card inherently demonstrates to a rental car agency that a creditor trusts you enough to borrow their money. Because rental car agencies can ascertain your creditworthiness from a credit card in your name, they don’t need to run a credit check before loaning you a $25,000 piece of machinery.

Ability to Collect Repair Fees

If you return the car damaged, the rental car agency will need to pay for these repairs. Car insurance (whether through your own policy, credit card travel insurance, or the agency’s policy) may cover most of the charges, but you still might owe a deductible. Without proper insurance, there is a risk that the repair costs will exceed your security deposit.

Though you can rent a car without a credit card, if you pay with a debit card, the rental agency runs the risk of your checking account not having enough funds to cover the cost. There is a better chance the agency can charge your credit card without hitting your credit limit.

Ability to Collect Tickets and Fees

Similarly, if you go through any electronic toll booths or receive a ticket without being pulled over (e.g., through a traffic camera), the rental car agency can charge your credit card to pay the outstanding balance. Again, they face less risk of maxing out a credit card than overdrawing a checking account, which is why some agencies prefer customers renting a car with a credit card.

Benefits of Using a Credit Card for a Car Rental

Here are just a few potential perks of swiping your credit card for a car rental:

•   It’s easier. As discussed above, renting a car without a credit card can complicate the process.

•   You might have insurance. Some travel credit cards offer car insurance when you use them to pay for a rental car. Research your card’s policy carefully to understand what coverage it provides and how to use it. For example, many credit cards with travel insurance require that you decline the rental agency’s insurance; some only offer secondary insurance, meaning you need to file claims through your own auto insurance first.

•   You might get discounts. Some credit cards offer special discounts at select car rental agencies. Check your card’s policy to understand where and how to get discounted rates.

•   You could earn rewards. As mentioned above, you might qualify for cash back rewards when you opt to cover your rental car with a credit card payment. Other cards may pay out rewards as miles or points. Travel credit cards might even offer extra points for travel-related expenses, like rental cars.

Typical Rental Car Credit Card Interest Charges

When you rent a car, the agency typically puts a hold on your credit card for a set amount, often the value of the rental car agreement; this is commonly called a security deposit. During the rental period, these funds will count toward your credit limit.

When you return the car, the agency will charge you the amount of the rental, plus any fees incurred during the rental (damages, extra days, late drop-off, etc.). If the initial hold was more than the final cost of the rental, the agency will put that amount back on your card.

Because you pay interest on money borrowed with a credit card, it’s possible you might incur interest on the held security deposit. However, paying off a credit card in full every month is a smart strategy for avoiding interest charges given how credit cards work.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due?

The Takeaway

Renting a car with a credit card makes the process much easier and can have benefits for the renter as well. However, it is possible to rent a car without a credit card. Just be prepared to take additional steps to get behind the wheel.

Whether you’re looking to build credit, apply for a new credit card, or save money with the cards you have, it’s important to understand the options so you can use your credit card responsibly.

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Wherever you’re going, get there with SoFi Travel.

FAQ

Do I need a credit card for rental car insurance?

You do not need a credit card to purchase rental car insurance. While using a credit card makes it easier to secure a rental, most agencies allow you to pay upon your return with a credit card, debit card, or even cash, a gift card, or a money order. That includes the cost of insurance provided by the rental agency.

However, many car insurance providers cover rental cars in their policies, especially in the United States. Check with your agent to see if you’re covered. Additionally, some credit cards offer rental car insurance when you use them to pay for the rental. Your credit card benefits administrator can explain how, if, and when coverage applies.

Is it easier to rent a car with a credit card or debit card?

Renting a car with a credit card is easier than renting a car with a debit card. Many agencies will let you rent with a debit card; they just have additional requirements for you to meet before renting.

What form of payments are accepted for renting a car?

While rental agencies generally prefer credit cards for payment, some agencies allow you to book and rent a car with a debit card. Upon return, you may be able to pay for the car with a prepaid gift card, cash, or money order.

Can I use someone else’s credit card to rent a car?

If you use someone else’s credit card to rent a car, that person must be present to pick up the rental and be the main driver. If you intend to drive the rental, you will likely have to pay a fee for an additional driver, as you can’t be listed as the primary driver when using someone else’s credit card.


Photo credit: iStock/skynesher

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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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How Much Does a Root Canal Cost?

Root Canal Cost: How Much and How To Pay for It

Having to get a root canal is already painful enough — but then comes the prospect of paying for it.

While the specific cost of a root canal will vary depending on your geographical location, the location of the tooth, your dentist, and other factors, it can easily cost as much as $1,600 or even more out of pocket if you don’t have insurance — and several hundred even if you do.

Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to finance dental work that make it possible to afford the care your teeth require. Here’s what you need to know.

What Is a Root Canal Treatment?

A root canal is a dental treatment that can remove infection and bacteria from the pulp beneath the hard exterior of the tooth. It’s a pretty common procedure — millions of them are performed each year.

While root canals are often characterized as unpleasant, modern dentistry means this medical intervention can take place relatively painlessly while preserving the natural tooth for both chewing and complementing a smile. All of which is to say, if you’re in need of a root canal, you’re not alone.

Reasons for a Root Canal

There are many different reasons your dentist might prescribe a root canal, including:

•   Tooth decay

•   Large cavities

•   Chips in tooth enamel

•   Periodontal disease

•   Dental trauma

In any of these situations, bacteria might infect the pulp of the tooth and, if left untreated, the infection can spread to the surrounding structures such as gums, other teeth, or even the jawbone. In extreme cases, dental infections can contribute to heart attack or stroke, along with causing a lot of pain.

Taking good care of your teeth can help prevent these causes, but sometimes, accidents or predisposition to decay can play into the equation. In any case, if your dentist prescribes a root canal, it’s probably worth heeding their advice.

How Much Does a Root Canal Cost on Average?

While, again, the cost of a root canal procedure varies greatly depending on factors we’ll dive into in more depth below, the average cost hovers around $1,600 without insurance. With insurance, your bill might be considerably lower: between $200-$1,000 out of pocket, depending on your coverage and the extent of the procedure.

Recommended: Guide to Dental Loans

How Much Is a Root Canal and a Crown?

In many cases, you may also require a crown along with a root canal, which can help protect the tooth for future chewing and use. A crown can add a substantial amount to the overall bill: as much as $1,000 if you’re paying out of pocket.

Factors That Impact the Cost of a Root Canal

Here are some of the specific factors at play that can pull the cost of your root canal up or down.

Insurance Coverage

Obviously, the cost of a root canal — or any dental or medical procedure — is likely to be higher if you don’t have insurance coverage or if your provider is out of your insurance company’s network. Because root canals are usually medically necessary, as opposed to just cosmetic, it’s likely your insurer will cover the procedure itself.

Tooth Location

The location of the infected tooth in your mouth can also have an impact on the total cost of the root canal. That’s because certain teeth are more difficult for dentists to work on than others.

For instance, molars, which are set more deeply in the mouth, are harder to reach and thus command higher costs for dental procedures. Bicuspids, or premolars, cost slightly less, while front teeth needing root canals are likely to cost the least.

Geographical Location

Like most other goods and services, the cost of a root canal can vary largely depending on the local economy — or the prices set by the dental professional you choose.

Type of Dentist

While most general dentists can perform a simple root canal, some teeth with more complicated infections might require an endodontist, who specializes in dental pulp specifically (the part that is treated during the procedure).

Root canal treatment cost by a specialist may be more expensive than treatment by your general dental professional, as can the use of high-tech equipment such as an ultrasonic needle or water laser.

Root Canal Complications

Although they’re very common and generally safe, like most other medical procedures, root canals do come with some risk.

For example, the root canal can fail due to a breakdown of materials or the provider’s failure to remove all of the bacteria during the procedure. In addition, sometimes the tooth becomes slightly discolored after the procedure due to bleeding on the inside of the tooth.

Ways to Pay For a Root Canal

Although root canals can be expensive, there are many ways to pay for this vitally important procedure without chewing through your savings.

Dental Insurance

Carrying dental insurance is a great way to lower the cost of procedures such as root canal — though keep in mind you’ll be responsible for monthly premiums as well as a potential copay or coinsurance costs.

Health Savings Account

A health savings account is a tax-incentivized account that can help you save and pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses more affordable. However, you must have a high deductible health plan to contribute to one.

Personal Loan

Personal loans are a type of financial product that allows you to borrow money for almost any purpose, including dental or medical care. Because they’re unsecured, meaning no collateral is required, they tend to have higher interest rates than auto loans or mortgages — but the rates can be lower than those offered by credit cards.

As with most financial products, your specific rates and terms will vary depending on your credit score and other financial aspects. While rates may be higher, there are still personal loans for low-credit borrowers — and taking one out may still make more financial sense than decimating your emergency fund or putting the procedure on credit.

Credit Card

Although they usually have fairly high interest rates, credit cards are another option for paying for necessary medical interventions in a pinch. If you can qualify for a credit card with a 0% promotional interest rate, you’ll have some time to pay the balance without interest if you can pay it off before the promotional period ends.

Recommended: Can Medical Bills Affect Your Credit Report?

Other Dental Procedures a Personal Loan Can Cover

Along with root canals, personal loans can be used to cover other common dental procedures, as well, including:

•   Periodontal surgery

•   Dentures

•   Tooth bonding

•   Wisdom tooth removal

•   Dental fillings

The Takeaway

Having a root canal can be an important medical intervention for your health and the survival of your affected tooth. And although the procedure is expensive, there are ways to pay for it that won’t add financial pain to your dental pain.

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.

FAQ

How much is a root canal and a crown?

A root canal procedure averages $1,600, and the restorative crown can add another $1,000 the total cost. Costs can vary depending on what part of the country the procedure is performed in and which tooth is being treated.

Why is a root canal so expensive?

Root canals are performed by licensed medical professionals who use specialized equipment. More complex situations may need to be treated by an endodontist, a dental specialist who has completed additional years of training beyond dental school.

What does a root canal cost without insurance?

The full, out-of-pocket cost of a root canal may range from $800 to $1,800, depending on a variety of factors.


Photo credit: iStock/AndreyPopov

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

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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What Is the Principal Amount of a Loan?

What Is the Principal Amount of a Loan?

A personal loan can be a helpful financial tool when someone needs to borrow money to pay for things like home repairs, a wedding, or medical expenses, for example. The principal amount of a loan refers to how much money is borrowed and has to be paid back, aside from interest.

Keep reading for more insight into what the principal of a loan is and how it affects repayment.

Loan Principal Meaning

What is the principal of a loan? When someone takes out a loan, they are borrowing an amount of money, which is called “principal.” The principal on a loan represents the amount of money they borrowed and agreed to pay back. The interest on the loan is what they’ll pay in exchange for borrowing that money.

Does a Personal Loan Have a Principal Amount?

Yes, a personal loan does come with a principal amount. Whenever a borrower makes a personal loan payment, the loan’s principal decreases incrementally until it is fully paid off.

Recommended: What Is a Personal Loan?

Loan Principal vs Loan Interest

The loan principal is different from interest. The principal represents the amount of money that was borrowed and must be paid back. The lender will charge interest in exchange for lending the borrower money. Payments made by the borrower are applied to both the principal and interest.

Along with the interest rate, a lender may also disclose the annual percentage rate (APR) charged on the loan, which includes any fees the lender might charge, such as an origination fee, and the interest. As the borrower makes more payments and makes progress paying off their loan principal amount, less of their payments will go towards interest and more will apply to the principal balance. This principal is referred to as amortization.

Loan Principal and Taxes

Personal loans aren’t considered to be a form of income so the amount borrowed is not subject to taxes like investment earnings or wages are. The borrower won’t be required to report a personal loan on their income tax return, no matter who lent the money to them (bank, credit card, peer-to-peer lender, etc.).

Recommended: What Are the Common Uses for Personal Loans?

Loan Principal Repayment Penalties

As tempting as it can be to pay off a loan as quickly as possible to save money on interest payments, some lenders charge borrowers a prepayment penalty if they pay their personal loan off early. Not all charge a prepayment penalty. When shopping for a personal loan, it’s important to inquire about extra fees like this to have a true idea of what borrowing that money may cost.

The borrower’s personal loan agreement will state if they will need to pay a prepayment penalty for paying off their loan early. If a borrower finds that they are subject to a prepayment penalty, it can help to calculate if paying that fee would cost less than continuing to pay interest for the personal loan’s originally planned term.

How Can You Pay Down the Loan Principal Faster?

It’s understandable why some borrowers may want to pay down their loan principal faster than originally planned as it can save the borrower money on interest and lighten their monthly budget. Here are a few ways borrowers can pay down their loan principal faster.

Interest Payments

When a borrower pays down the principal on a loan, they reduce how much interest they need to pay. That means that each month as they make a new payment, they reduce their principal and the interest they’ll owe in the future. As previously noted, paying down the principal faster can help the borrower pay less interest.

Personal loan lenders allow borrowers to make extra payments or to make a larger monthly payment than planned. When doing this, it’s important that borrowers confirm that their extra payments are going towards the principal balance and not the interest. That way, their extra payments work towards paying down the principal and lowering the amount of interest they owe.

Shorten Loan Term

Refinancing a loan and choosing a shorter loan time can also make it easier to pay down a personal loan faster. Not to mention, if the borrower has a better credit score than when they applied for the original personal loan, they may be able to qualify for a lower interest rate, which can make it easier to pay down their debt faster. Having a shorter loan term typically increases the monthly payment amount but can result in paying less interest over the life of the loan and paying off the debt faster.

Cheaper Payments

Refinancing to a new loan with a lower interest rate may reduce monthly loan payments, depending on the term of the new loan. With lower monthly scheduled payments, they may opt to pay extra toward the principal and possibly pay the loan in full before the end of the term.

Other Important Information on the Personal Loan Agreement

A personal loan agreement includes a lot of helpful information about the loan, such as the principal amount and how long the borrower has to pay their debt. The more information the borrower has about the loan, the more strategically they can plan to pay it off. Here’s a closer look at the information typically included in a personal loan agreement.

Loan Amount

An important thing to note on a personal loan agreement is the total amount the borrower is responsible for repaying.

Loan Maturity Date

A personal loan’s maturity date is the day the final loan payment is due.

Loan Interest Rates

The loan’s interest rate and APR should be listed on the personal loan agreement.

Monthly Loan Payments

The monthly loan payment amount will be listed on the personal loan agreement. Knowing how much they need to pay each month can make it easier for the borrower to budget accordingly.

The Takeaway

Understanding how a personal loan works can make it easier to pay one-off. To recap: What is the principal amount of a loan? The principal on a loan is the amount the consumer borrowed and needs to pay back.

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.

FAQ

What is the principal balance of a loan?

The principal balance of a loan is the amount originally borrowed that the borrower agrees to pay back.

Does the principal of the loan change?

The original loan principal does not change. The principal amount included in each monthly payment will change as the amortization period progresses. On an amortized loan, less principal than interest is paid in each monthly payment at the beginning of the loan and incrementally increases over the life of the loan.

How does loan principal work?

The loan principal represents the amount borrowed. Usually, this is done in monthly payments until the loan principal is fully repaid.


Photo credit: iStock/cagkansayin

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

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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6 Strategies for Becoming Debt-Free

Many people aspire to live a “debt-free” life. And for good reason: Getting out of debt means that your take-home pay is completely your own (since you won’t be sharing any of it with creditors). Having more money to work with can help you achieve your goals, whether it’s building an emergency fund, sending your kids to college, or being able to retire some day. Knocking down debt can also improve your day-to-day life by relieving stress and boosting your mental health.

The question is, how do you get there? If you’re currently living under a mountain of student loans, credit card debt, medical debt, and/or other types of debt, it can be hard to see a way out or, frankly, even a ray of sunlight. But don’t give up. We’ve got six ideas that can help you whittle down your debt and get on the road to financial independence and freedom.

Key Points

•   Living debt-free enhances financial stability and mental health by freeing up income and reducing stress.

•   A realistic budget is crucial for managing expenses and allocating funds towards debt repayment.

•   Extra income should be directed towards paying off debts, accelerating financial freedom.

•   Debt repayment strategies like the snowball or avalanche methods help focus efforts and clear debts efficiently.

•   Consolidating debts can simplify payments and potentially reduce interest rates, aiding quicker debt resolution.

What Does It Mean to Live a Debt-Free Life?

Living “debt-free” can mean different things to different people. In the purest sense, being debt-free means having absolutely zero debt — including no credit card debt, no car or student loans, and no mortgage.

However, some people subscribe to a looser definition of “debt-free,” where you’re free of so-called “bad debt,” such as high-interest credit cards and payday loans, but recognize that some debt is “good.”

A low-interest mortgage or student loan, for example, can be considered good debt, since it can help you increase your net worth or generate future income. This looser definition may work to your advantage because it allows you to achieve milestone goals like owning a home without high-interest debt burdening your monthly finances.

💡 Quick Tip: Want to save more, spend smarter? Let your bank manage the basics. It’s surprisingly easy, and secure, when you open an online bank account.

Benefits of Living Debt-Free

However you define debt-free living, knocking down your debt comes with a wide range of benefits — some expected and some, perhaps, surprising.

•   More money to spend: Interest charges eat away at your income, giving you less money for other things. Once you pay off your debts (particularly those with high interest rates), you’ll have a lot more money in your pocket.

•   Financial stability: By freeing up cash, you’ll have money available to build your emergency fund (your best defense against running up costly debt in the future). You’ll also be able to put money towards other goals and investments.

•   Less stress and anxiety: Dealing with debt isn’t just a financial challenge — it also impacts mental health. In a recent Forbes Advisor survey, 54% of adults said they often or always feel stressed by their debt circumstances; another 32% said they sometimes feel stressed because of their debt.

•   A happier marriage: In the Forbes survey, 60% of respondents said financial stress has led to disagreements in their relationships. Money fights are a common cause of divorce.

•   Increased self-esteem: Eliminating debt isn’t easy — it takes hard work, discipline, and determination. Reaching your debt payoff goals can give you a huge sense of accomplishment that leads to greater self-confidence.

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6 Ways to Climb Out of Debt

Having a lot of debt can feel overwhelming. The key to gaining control over the situation is to approach it one step at a time. Here are six strategies that can help.

1. Creating a Workable Budget

A smart debt-payoff plan begins with a realistic budget. Having a basic budget will help you live within your means (so you don’t get into more debt) and free up extra cash to put towards your debts each month.

The first step in creating a budget is understanding your monthly expenses. This includes everything from rent or mortgage payments, utility bills, groceries, and transportation costs to smaller expenses like subscriptions, leisure activities, and dining out. By assessing your expenses over the last several months, you may be surprised by how much you are spending in certain categories. You may also immediately find some places to cut back, such as canceling membership to a gym you rarely use and/or giving up streaming services you rarely watch.

If the idea of tracking every penny has been a barrier to budgeting, or if you’ve tried and failed in the past, try keeping things simple. The 50/30/20 rule is a simplified budgeting strategy that’s gained traction because it limits the number of spending categories you need to establish and track.

With this approach, you divide your take-home pay (what’s left after paying taxes) into three buckets:

•   50% goes to needs, including minimum debt payments

•   30% goes to wants

•   20% goes to savings and debt payments beyond the minimum

Keep in mind that these percentages are just a guideline, and can be tweaked to fit your situation. The key to becoming debt-free is to make a budget that’s strict but still doable.

2. Making More Money

Yes, this is easier said than done. But before rolling your eyes and moving on, consider the possibilities. Is it time for a pay raise? If a bump is overdue, it might be time to have a talk with the boss.

Consider any potential ways to make extra income from home. Do you always have nights or weekends off? Maybe a friend does catering, landscaping, house painting, or some other work and could use an extra hand from time to time.

If you have a marketable skill, like website design or creating social media content, you may be able to pick up freelance work. If you’re crafty, you might look into selling your wares online or at craft fairs and flea markets. If you love animals, you might want to offer dog walking or cat sitting services.

If you could earn an extra $500 per month, in 12 months, you’d be able to pay off an additional $6,000 of debt.
Even selling things you no longer need can bring in a nice lump sum of cash that you can use to knock down debt.

3. Applying Extra Money Towards Debt

If you get an unexpected windfall (such as a bonus at work, cash gift, tax refund, or inheritance), instead of living it up while the money lasts, consider using it to pay down some debt.

You might not think a few hundred dollars will make much of a dent, but every dollar you pay over the minimum can help reduce the interest you owe on a credit card or loan.

To get some idea of how paying even a little extra toward a bill can help, consider playing around with the numbers using a credit card interest calculator. It can be scary to see how much money you’ll pay in interest if you continue to pay only the monthly minimum, but it can also motivate you to divert as much extra money as you can toward getting that debt paid off once and for all.

4. Focusing on One Debt at a Time

Seeing progress can be inspiring. Think about how good you feel when you lose a little weight from changing your diet or gain some muscle from working out. Even small wins can be motivating.

How does that apply to downsizing your debt?

Two of the commonly recommended approaches to debt repayment are the snowball and avalanche methods. These strategies focus on making extra payments towards one balance at a time instead of trying to put a little extra money toward all your balances at once.

The Snowball Debt Payoff Method

The snowball method directs any excess free cash you might have to the debt with the smallest outstanding balance. Here’s how it works:

•   List all of your outstanding debts based on how much you owe, from the smallest balance to the largest. (Disregard interest rates.)

•   Pay as much as possible toward the debt with the smallest balance, while making the minimum payment on all other debts.

•   After you pay off the smallest debt, turn your attention to the next-lowest balance. Keep going until you are debt-free.

The Avalanche Debt Payoff Method

The avalanche method focuses on paying off debts based on interest rate. It can take longer to get a win with this approach but, ultimately, it will save you more money than the snowball method. How it works:

•   List your debts in order of interest rate, from highest to lowest. (Disregard balance amounts.)

•   Pay as much as you can each month towards the debt with the highest interest rate, making the minimum payments on all other debts.

•   Once you’ve paid off the highest-interest debt, focus on the debt with the next-highest rate, and so on, until you’re debt free.

Though the methods are different, both plans provide focus, and as each balance disappears, momentum grows.

A newer approach, the fireball method, may be a better fit for modern-day debt, which could include a large amount of low-interest student loan debt.

The Fireball Debt Payoff Method

The fireball method takes a hybrid approach to the traditional snowball and avalanche strategies. It’s called “fireball” because it can help blaze through bad debt faster by making it a priority. How it works:

•   Categorize all debts as either “good” or “bad.” “Good” debt generally refers to things that can increase your net worth, such as student loans or mortgages. (Interest rates under 6% could be considered good debt.)

•   List “bad” debts from smallest to largest based on each bill’s outstanding balance.

•   Funnel any extra cash each month toward the smallest balance on the “bad” debt list, while making the minimum monthly payment on all other debts. Once that balance is paid in full, move on to the next-smallest balance on that list. Keep blazing until all “bad” debt is repaid.

•   Pay off “good” debt on the normal schedule while investing for the future. Apply everything you were paying toward “bad” debt to investing in a financial goal.

The fireball approach can help you save money because it gets rid of your more expensive debt first, but it also provides motivation by giving you wins early in the process. These combined elements could provide an extra boost to your efforts.

💡 Quick Tip: Want a simple way to save more each month? Grow your personal savings by opening an online savings account. SoFi offers high-interest savings accounts with no account fees. Open your savings account today!

5. Consolidating Debts

If your credit is strong, a debt consolidation loan could potentially help you repay your debts at a lower interest rate, saving you money over time. It also simplifies repayment by merging multiple payments into one. With this approach, you take out a personal loan and use it to pay off multiple high-interest debts. The key is to find a lender that is willing to give you a lower annual percentage rate (APR) than what you’re currently paying. Keep in mind that the shorter your loan term, the lower your APR may be.

Another way to consolidate credit card debt is to move it to a balance transfer credit card. This can be a smart move if you can qualify for a 0% intro credit card. This way, you can avoid paying interest for the first several months and all the money you pay towards the card goes to knocking down debt. Keep in mind, though, that you may have to pay a fee when utilizing a balance transfer credit card. And, once the 0% intro period is over, you’ll have to start paying interest on the remaining balance.

6. Negotiating With Your Creditors

If your debt has become too much to handle and you’re delinquent on payments, you may want to reach out to your creditors, explain your financial situation, and see if they may be able to work with you. They might be willing to set you up on a payment plan, reduce your monthly payments, or settle your debt for less than what’s owed.

If you go this route, be sure to take notes on your conversation with the customer service rep (including the name of the person you spoke with, when you called, and what they said) and get the proposed repayment or debt settlement plan in writing before you make any payments.

Also keep in mind that debt settlement can negatively impact your credit, so this option is generally considered a last resort.

Recommended: Debt Settlement vs Credit Counseling: What’s the Difference?

The Takeaway

When it comes to debt, the deeper the hole you’re in, the longer it may take to climb out. But having the right plan in place before can help stick to a budget and methodically reduce your debt in a way that keeps you motivated and saves you money.

Becoming entirely (or nearly) debt-free comes with a substantial payoff: The money you were once spending on debt repayment each month can now go towards savings — and an opportunity to earn, rather than pay, interest.

Interested in opening an online bank account? When you sign up for a SoFi Checking and Savings account with direct deposit, you’ll get a competitive annual percentage yield (APY), pay zero account fees, and enjoy an array of rewards, such as access to the Allpoint Network of 55,000+ fee-free ATMs globally. Qualifying accounts can even access their paycheck up to two days early.


Better banking is here with SoFi, NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Checking Account Overall.* Enjoy up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.


SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a recurring deposit of regular income to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government benefit payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, or are non-recurring in nature (e.g., IRS tax refunds), do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

As an alternative to direct deposit, SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.


SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
The SoFi Bank Debit Mastercard® is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A., pursuant to license by Mastercard International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.


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.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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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Where to Get a Personal Loan

Where to Get a Personal Loan?

You can get a personal loan from many banks, online lenders, and credit unions. A type of unsecured loan, personal loans can be used to pay for just about any large expense.

You might use it to pay off credit card debt, an unexpected medical bill, or the cost of home renovations. Some people use these loans to fund a wedding or big vacation. Given the many ways these versatile loans can be spent, it’s no surprise that personal loans are a popular choice. Currently, 23.5 million Americans have unsecured personal loans, totaling about $245 billion.

If you’re thinking of getting a personal loan, read on to learn more about where you can get one and the pros and cons of each option.

Where Can You Get a Personal Loan?

In terms of where to get a personal loan, these loans are generally available through three main markets: banks, credit unions, and online lenders. (There are other types of personal loans available through physical storefronts and online, such as payday loans and pawnshop loans, but it’s wise to avoid these options. You’ll learn why in a minute.)

Banks

National and regional banks often offer personal loans, which you can typically apply for online or in person. A bank may be the first choice for consumers who are already account holders at that institution, especially since the loan amount can usually be deposited quickly and directly into their checking account.

Credit Unions

Credit unions are another popular option for where to source a personal loan — though generally, these loans are only available to those who are already credit union members.

Each credit union has its own eligibility requirements to open an account or otherwise do business with it, which may be based on where you live or what industry you work in. However, if you do have access to a credit union, you may find lower interest rates and more favorable terms there than at other financial institutions.

Recommended: Is It Hard to Get a Personal Loan?

Online Lenders

Online lenders have proliferated over the years. These days, a personal loan can be easy to find from one of these sources with just a few clicks.

Online lenders may offer instant or near-instant loan decisions. They also don’t require you to be a member of or an account-holder at any specific financial institution. That said, it may take longer to receive your check or transfer than it would if you were borrowing from a bank or credit union where you already hold an account.

Of course, you will want to carefully review the personal loan interest rates and fees you are offered.


💡 Quick Tip: Some personal loan lenders can release your funds as quickly as the same day your loan is approved.

Where Can You Get a Personal Loan With Bad Credit?

You can get a personal loan with bad credit from a few lenders, such as online ones and payday lenders, but it’s important to proceed with caution.

First, a little important background intel:

•   A personal loan with no collateral, also known as an unsecured personal loan, can be tough to qualify for if your credit history is less than perfect.

•   Since there’s no collateral, like a house or a car, for the lender to take if you fail to repay the loan, unsecured personal loans often come with steeper qualification requirements than other types of loans.

•   They may also have higher interest rates, especially for those whose credit could use some improvement. There are some lenders out there who specifically market their products to folks with lower credit scores — but beware. Sometimes these loans come with predatorily high interest rates and other drawbacks.

Online Private Lenders

The convenience and ubiquity of the online personal loan market is a mixed blessing. Sure, it’s easy to find a loan when you need one, but it’s also easy to fall into a bad deal.

Some online lenders specialize in offering loans for poor or no credit, but be sure to read all the fine print before you hit “submit” on your application. The loans may come with soaring interest rates, high origination fees, or hidden costs. Do your homework and vet the business you are borrowing from to make sure it’s legitimate. You may want to check with the Better Business Bureau to search for any complaints on file and for reliable, verified reviews.

Payday Lenders

Payday loans have been around for a long time, but that doesn’t mean they’re a good option.

Designed to be repaid quickly (i.e., at the borrower’s next payday), these short-term cash loans may be for small amounts, but often come with astronomical interest rates. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, it’s not uncommon for these quick-turnaround loans to have APRs as high as 400%!

In almost every instance, when comparing payday loans vs. personal loans, payday loans are worth avoiding. Other forms of unsecured loans will likely come with lower interest rates and more favorable repayment terms. Fortunately, it is possible to find loans from reliable lenders — even with imperfect credit.

Banks and Credit Unions

You can get a personal loan with bad credit from a few lenders, such as online ones and payday lenders, but it’s important to proceed with caution.

First, a little important background intel:

•   A personal loan with no collateral, also known as an unsecured personal loan, can be tough to qualify for if your credit history is less than perfect.

•   Since there’s no collateral like a house or a car, for the lender to take if you fail to repay the loan, unsecured personal loans often come with steeper qualification requirements than other types of loans.

•   They may also have higher interest rates, especially for those whose credit could use some improvement. There are some lenders out there who specifically market their products to folks with lower credit scores—but beware. Sometimes these loans come with predatorily high interest rates and other drawbacks.

Another place where you can go to get a personal loan of this sort is a bank or credit union. Each financial institution sets their own qualification requirements for their unsecured personal loans, so it’s worth shopping around to find the best fit for your financial needs. Additionally, they may have other products that could work for you, like secured credit cards or share-secured loans.


💡 Quick Tip: Just as there are no free lunches, there are no guaranteed loans. So beware lenders who advertise them. If they are legitimate, they need to know your creditworthiness before offering you a loan.

What Are Some Pros and Cons of Different Types of Lenders?

Now that you’ve learned about the main options for personal loan shopping, you can figure out which kind of lender is right for you. Each alternative comes with its own pros and cons. Here are some things to consider while you’re browsing.

Personal Loans From Banks

Pros of Personal Loans From Banks

Cons of Personal Loans From Banks

You may get a discounted rate if you’re already a member. You may need to be an existing customer or have good credit to qualify.
Funds may show up more quickly if you have an existing account there. You may have to go to the physical bank to apply.

Personal Loans From Credit Unions

Pros of Personal Loans From Credit Unions

Cons of Personal Loans From Credit Unions

Loans may come with lower interest rates and fees than other financial institutions. You’ll need to meet whatever eligibility requirements are necessary to be a credit union member in the first place.
Qualification requirements may be minimal. You may have to go to the physical credit union to apply.

Personal Loans From Online Lenders

Pros of Personal Loans From Online Lenders

Cons of Personal Loans From Online Lenders

Online lenders make it convenient and easy to apply for a personal loan from the comfort of your home. It can be difficult to know for sure if you’re borrowing from a reliable, legitimate source.
A wide variety of lenders can be shopped for and compared easily through an online search. Some online lenders may charge high interest rates and other fees.

Choosing a Personal Loan Lender

No matter where you choose to apply for a personal loan, the best way to determine whether it’s the right loan for you is to look at the fine print. The lender matters less than the loan, and knowing what you’re agreeing to ahead of time is key to avoiding an unpleasant financial surprise.

Here are the most important factors to look for when shopping around for a personal loan:

•   Fees, such as origination fees, early repayment penalties, and late fees, can increase the total amount you’ll spend on your loan in no time. Ideally, you’ll want to look for a lender that charges few fees — or none at all.

•   Interest rates can vary widely with unsecured personal loans, from as low as 4% to as high as 30% or more. While your specific options will vary based on your credit history and other financial information, it’s good to shop around for the lowest possible interest rate.

•   Loan amount caps may be relatively small (e.g., $1,000) or very large ($100,000 or more). Whatever your financial need, you want to ensure your lender will offer enough for you to cover whatever expense you’re paying for.

Recommended: Personal Loan Calculator

The Takeaway

There are many personal loan lenders to choose from, including banks, credit unions, and online lenders. Whether you need money to pay for an unexpected expense, such as a car repair, or you’re planning the ultimate 40th birthday party, it’s wise to shop around and compare interest rates, fees, and speed of funding.

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.

FAQ

Where is the best place to get a personal loan?

In terms of where to get a personal loan, there isn’t one “best” place. When comparing banks, credit unions, and online lenders, look at interest rates, fees, customer reviews, and how quickly the loan would fund to determine the option that suits you best.

Where is the best place to get a small personal loan?

Where to go to get a personal loan depends on a variety of factors. Would you be more comfortable working with a large lender or a small, community-based lender for your small loan? Do you already have an account at a financial institution that also makes personal loans? It might also depend on how much you want to borrow because different lenders have different borrowing ranges.

Where is the easiest place to get a personal loan?

If you’re looking for where you can go for a personal loan, it might be best to start at a financial institution where you already have an account. In that case, your financial information will be on record, making the process faster and easier. Although online lenders may promise super-fast funding, be sure to research options carefully and make sure the business is legitimate and interest rates are affordable.


Photo credit: iStock/solidcolours

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


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.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

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