Guide to Personal Loan Agreements

Guide to Personal Loan Agreements

Getting a personal loan? It’s not as simple as walking into a bank and asking for a check — there’s some paperwork involved.

Your personal loan agreement is the document that contains everything you need to know about the deal you’re making with your lender, including your rights and responsibilities as well as theirs. It’s a fairly long and complex form, but breaking it down can make it easier to understand.

Here, take a closer look at personal loan agreements.

What Is a Private Personal Loan Agreement?

A personal loan agreement, as mentioned above, is a document that details exactly what is being agreed to on both sides of a personal loan — lender and borrower. At the very least, it will state how much money is being loaned and the terms and conditions of the borrower’s repayment responsibilities.

But what about a personal loan that is not with a traditional lender? Private lenders can be individuals or organizations that make loans to individuals, sometimes without the qualification requirements of traditional lending institutions. A private personal loan agreement, specifically, is drafted as part of a private personal loan — one made between a private lender and a borrower.

Any personal loan agreement is a legally binding document, so it’s important to understand it in full before you apply your signature.


💡 Quick Tip: Before choosing a personal loan, ask about the lender’s fees: origination, prepayment, late fees, etc. One question can save you many dollars.

Why Is a Loan Agreement Needed?

A personal loan agreement is essentially a protective document. It protects both the lender and the borrower by laying out, in clear terms, exactly what is being agreed to. If either party fails to uphold the agreement, action can be taken — such as the lender seizing any assets offered as collateral or sending the account to collections — both of which, obviously, would be bad for the borrower.

But the document works both ways. Lenders, too, are subject to lender liability and can be taken to court if they fail to uphold their end of the loan agreement. Although these cases are far less common than borrower default, the loan agreement is a document that can be used for the borrower’s protection as well.

How to Write a Personal Loan Agreement

Here are the usual steps to writing a personal loan agreement.

Decide Whether to DIY It or Hire a Lawyer

Depending on the specifics of your loan and situation, you could write up a simple agreement by hand or draft it on your computer and then print it out for signing. Or you might download a template from a reputable site, which can be a popular option. These are often free or are sometimes available for a small fee.

However, if the loan is complicated or you don’t want to handle the agreement yourself, you could look into hiring a lawyer to draw up the paperwork. Either way, a personal loan agreement will be a legally binding arrangement. Hiring a lawyer will likely be a costlier proposition.

Gather the Necessary Personal Details

You will need the legal names and addresses of both parties. This ensures the lender can’t ask you for anything beyond the borrowed principal (plus interest, which will also be listed).

Agree to and Spell Out the Loan Terms

The loan agreement should list the payments that will be expected each month and the expected date of the conclusion of the loan term.

The interest rate for the personal loan should also be on the personal loan agreement, likely expressed as an APR, which shows what percentage of the loan principal you’ll end up paying back in the course of one year including interest and any additional fees that may be packaged into the loan.

The interest rate will vary based on your credit score and other financial factors. If you have decent credit, you’ll likely be able to qualify for a personal loan. But generally speaking, the higher your score, the lower your rate.

Recommended: APR vs. Interest Rate

List Payment and Legal Details

A personal loan agreement should also include the following:

•   The loan agreement may list which types of payment are acceptable, such as check, bank transfer, or credit card.

•   The personal loan contract should also list specific repayment conditions, including when payment is due and whether or not additional principal can be applied without penalty.

•   A complete personal loan agreement should include details on how any disputes will be handled between the parties involved.

•   Some personal loan documents may include the option to change your loan’s term (the period over which the loan is repaid).

•   Personal loan contracts in the United States should stipulate which state’s laws will be used to govern and interpret the agreement if the borrower lives in a different state than the lender is headquartered.

•   Severability is a clause that states that even if one part of a contract is found to be unenforceable or otherwise rendered null and void, the remainder of the agreement will still hold.

•   Penalties associated with the personal loan, such as any late fees that may be assessed, at what point the loan will go into arrears or default, or other scenarios, should be listed in the contract as well.

Sign the Document

Finally, the contract for loaning money must be signed by the borrower and the lender in order to be made legally binding.


💡 Quick Tip: Swap high-interest debt for a lower-interest loan, and save money on your monthly payments. Find out why credit card consolidation loans are so popular.

Does a Personal Loan Agreement Need to Be Notarized?

Personal loans are a type of contract, and contracts do not need to be notarized to be legally binding. All it needs is your signature. Be sure to read all the fine print in detail before you uncap that pen.

Recommended: Comparing Personal Loans vs Business Loans

Other Personal Loan Documents

Along with the signed personal loan agreement, other typical personal loan requirements include the following:

Proof of Identity

Your driver’s license or some equivalent form of photo ID will likely be necessary in order to verify your identity.

Income Verification

Lenders will consider your income when qualifying you for a loan — after all, they have good reason to be interested in whether or not you’ll be able to repay the debt. Along with asking you to list your annual income, verifying documents such as tax returns may also be required.

Proof of Address

In order to prove your residence, and therefore eligibility for any type of personal loan, you may need to provide utility statements, bank statements, or other official documents.

Getting a Personal Loan

Taking out a personal loan is a big financial responsibility, but it can also be a smart money move if you need to handle large, unexpected expenses at the last minute, or to consolidate existing debt. For someone who has bad credit, a small personal loan responsibly managed can be one way to bolster their credit score.

Just remember that all loans come at a price — interest charged — and considering the total amount you’ll pay back to the lender over time is important in order to have a full understanding of the cost of the loan.

For example, if you take out a $10,000 personal loan at a 7% interest rate to be repaid over a term of five years, you’ll pay back a total of $11,880.72, or an additional $1,880.72 in interest. That’s not including any origination fees, late fees, or prepayment penalties a lender might charge.

The Takeaway

If you’re considering a personal loan, reading the loan agreement in depth is a good way to understand for sure what you’re agreeing to. That loan agreement will contain many details about funds borrowed and how they will be repaid.

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

Does a personal loan agreement need to be notarized?

No, a personal loan agreement does not need to be notarized to be legally binding — it simply needs to be signed by each party to the agreement.

What is a private personal loan agreement?

A private personal loan agreement is the binding legal contract between a borrower and a private lender for a personal loan.

Why do you need a loan agreement?

The personal loan agreement serves to outline the specific terms of the loan and protect both parties in case either fails to uphold the agreement.


Photo credit: iStock/Chaay_Tee

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.


Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

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.

This article is not intended to be legal advice. Please consult an attorney for advice.

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What Is the Difference Between APR and Interest Rate on a Personal Loan?

What Is the Difference Between APR and Interest Rate on a Personal Loan?

When researching personal loans, you may see the terms APR (Annual Percentage Rate) and interest rate used interchangeably. However, they are not the same thing. The interest rate refers to the cost of borrowing money, expressed as a percentage of the principal amount, but it doesn’t include any other fees or charges.

APR, on the other hand, includes not only the interest rate but also other fees and charges you may incur when borrowing money. This makes the APR a more important number to look at that interest rate.

Read on for a closer look at APR vs interest rate, what it means when these two numbers are different, and what it means when they are the same.

What Is Interest?

Interest is the cost you pay for the privilege of taking out a loan — the money you’ll owe along with the principal, or the amount of money you’re borrowing.

Interest is expressed in a rate: a percentage that indicates what proportion of the principal you’ll pay on top of the principal itself. Interest may be simple — charged only against the principal balance — or compound — charged against both the principal balance and accrued interest itself. Typically, personal loan rates are an expression of simple interest.


💡 Quick Tip: Before choosing a personal loan, ask about the lender’s fees: origination, prepayment, late fees, etc. SoFi personal loans come with no-fee options, and no surprises.

Loan APR vs Interest Rate

So what’s the difference between an APR vs. an interest rate?

APR stands for Annual Percentage Rate and specifically designates how much you’ll spend, as a proportion of the principal, over the course of one year. Furthermore, the APR includes any additional charges on top of interest, such as origination or processing fees, which a straight interest rate does not.

In other words, APR is a specific type of interest rate expression — one that’s more inclusive of additional costs.

Interest Rate

APR

Expression of how much will be paid back to the lender in addition to repaying the principal balance Expression of how much will be paid back to the lender in addition to repaying the principal balance
Includes interest only Expresses cost of the loan over one year including any additional costs, such as origination fees

Why Is My Personal Loan APR Different Than the Interest Rate?

If your personal loan’s APR differs from its interest rate, that indicates that there are additional fees, such as origination fees, included in the total amount you’re being charged. If there were no fees, the APR and interest rate would be identical.

How Important Is APR vs Interest Rate?

A loan’s APR is generally more important than its interest rate because APR reflects the true cost of the loan — it accounts for interest as well as any fees tacked on by the lender. Looking at APR also allows you to compare two loan offers apples to apples. One loan may have a lower interest rate than another loan but if the lender tacks on high fees, then it may not actually be the better deal.

APR vs Interest Rate on Revolving Credit Accounts

Personal loans aren’t the only financial product that involve APR and interest rate. Revolving credit accounts — including credit cards — also have interest rates expressed as APR. However, with credit cards, these two rates are one and the same: APR is just the interest rate, and the terms can be used interchangeably.

Credit card issuers may charge other fees, e.g., cash advance fees, late fees, or balance transfer fees as applicable to individual usage. But it’s impossible to predict the type or amount of fees that might be charged to any one card holder.

Although these two expressions are the same, it’s important to understand that the interest rate on credit cards and other revolving credit accounts is usually compound interest, which is precisely why it can be so easy to spiral into credit card debt. When interest is charged on the interest you’ve already accrued, the total goes up quickly.

A single credit card account can have multiple APRs, depending on how the credit is used.

•   Purchase APR: the standard APR for general purchases.

•   Cash advance APR: the rate charged for cash advances made to the card holder.

•   Balance transfer APR: may begin as a low or zero promotional rate, but increase after the introductory period ends.

•   Penalty APR: may be charged if a payment is late by a predetermined number of days.



💡 Quick Tip: With average interest rates lower than credit cards, a personal loan for credit card debt can substantially decrease your monthly bills.

What Is a Good Interest Rate for a Personal Loan?

The interest rate on your personal loan — or any financial product — will vary based on a wide variety of factors, including your personal financial history (such as your credit score and income) as well as which lender you choose, how big the loan is, and whether or not it’s secured with collateral.

The average personal loan rate is currently about 12% APR. However, the rate you receive could be higher or lower, depending on your financial situation and the lender you choose.

Getting a Good APR on a Personal Loan

To get the best rate on your personal loan, there are some financial factors you can influence over time. Here are some action items to consider.

Improving Your Credit

It’s been said before, but it’s true: the higher your credit score, generally the better your chances are of achieving favorable loan terms and lower interest rates — not to mention qualifying for the loan at all. While there are loans out there for borrowers with bad credit and fair credit, improving your credit profile can make borrowing money more affordable.

Paying Down Your Debts

One way you may be able to improve your credit is to pay down your debts. And along with the opportunity to bolster your credit, paying down debt can also improve your chances of being approved for a loan because your debt-to-income ratio is one factor lenders look at when qualifying you for a loan. What’s more, paying down debt can make keeping up with your monthly loan payments a lot easier, since you’ll have more leeway in your budget.

Be Careful When Applying for Credit

Applying for too much credit at once can be a red flag for lenders and ding your credit score, so if you’re getting ready to apply for a personal loan, auto loan, or mortgage, try to limit how many times you’re having your credit score pulled. Typically, prequalifying for a loan involves a soft credit pull, which won’t impact your credit.

While credit scoring models do allow for rate shopping, it’s still a good idea to compare multiple lenders over a limited amount of time — a 14-day period is recommended — to find the lender that works best for your financial needs. If done in a short window of time, multiple hard credit pulls for the same type of loan will count as just one.

Recommended: Soft vs Hard Credit Inquiry

The Takeaway

Personal loans and other financial lending products come at a cost: interest. That’s the amount you’ll pay on top of repaying the principal balance itself. Interest is expressed in a percentage rate, most commonly APR, which includes both the interest and any other fees that can increase the cost of the 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.

FAQ

Why is my personal loan APR different than the interest rate?

If the annual percentage rate (APR) on your personal loan is different from the interest rate, it means the lender is charging additional fees, such as origination fees or others.

How important is APR vs interest rate?

The annual percentage rate (APR) is generally the more important figure to look at, since it includes additional costs incurred in getting the loan, such as fees. The APR will give you a more holistic picture of the price of the loan product.

What is a good APR and interest rate for a personal loan?

Personal loan interest rates vary widely but currently average around 12% APR. Depending on your personal financial history, the type and amount of the loan you’re borrowing, and your lender, the rate you receive could be higher or lower.


Photo credit: iStock/Charday Penn

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.


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

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.

Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

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 Are the Differences Between a Loan Officer and a Loan Processor?

What Are the Differences Between a Loan Officer and a Loan Processor?

When someone applies for a personal loan, there are a lot of moving parts and key players involved. While each lending institution will have their own unique process in place, loan applicants can expect to come across a loan officer, loan processor, or an underwriter.

There’s a decent amount of overlap in these roles, so to get some more clarity on who does what, let’s take a look at a loan officer vs. loan processor vs. underwriter.

What Is a Personal Loan Officer?

A loan officer evaluates loan applications and determines whether or not to recommend them for approval. A personal loan officer is a specific type of loan officer that focuses on personal loans. Personal loan officers are generally employed by credit unions, banks, and financial institutions.

Generally, a personal loan officer takes on the following job responsibilities:

•   Contact potential borrowers to see if they need a loan.

•   Work with loan applicants to gather information required for the application.

•   Walk applicants through the different loan types available to them and their unique terms.

•   Collect, verify, and review an applicant’s financial information (e.g., credit score, income, and other factors).

•   Review any loan agreements to confirm they are in compliance with all state and federal regulations.

•   Approve loan applications or pass them onto management for a final decision.

A major part of a personal loan officer’s responsibilities happen during the underwriting process. This process is used to determine if an applicant qualifies for the loan they are applying for. Once a loan officer collects and verifies all of the necessary personal and financial information about an applicant and any corresponding documents, the loan officer will assess the applicant’s need for a loan and their ability to repay it on time.

A loan applicant working with a loan officer can turn to them about any questions they have about what a personal loan is or about the application process. A personal loan is a type of consumer loan and consumer loan officers may use a fully automated underwriting process using software or they may complete it themselves (which is more often the case with smaller banks and credit unions).


💡 Quick Tip: Some lenders can release funds as quickly as the same day your loan is approved. SoFi personal loans offer same-day funding for qualified borrowers.

What Is a Personal Loan Processor?

A personal loan processor, also known as a loan interviewer or loan clerk, is responsible for interviewing applicants and other necessary parties to obtain and verify the financial and personal information required to finish the personal loan application. Once the applicant is approved for the loan, the personal loan officer will prepare any documents required for the appraisal and the closing of the personal loan.

Recommended: Where to Get a Personal Loan?

What Does a Personal Loan Processor Do?

The personal loan processor serves as a liaison between the financial institution issuing the loan and the applicant to make sure that qualified applicants can secure a loan in a timely manner. The loan processor will also help applicants decide which loan product is the best fit for their financial needs and goals. For example, if an applicant is experiencing financial hardship, the loan processor can help them set up debt payment plans.

Review Your Application

A loan processor receives, collects, distributes, and evaluates applicant information required to complete the loan application. They can approve or deny an applicant.

Verify Your Information

Personal loan officers are tasked with interviewing applicants and other necessary parties in order to verify any financial and personal information that must be evaluated during the application process.

Request Documents

As a part of the verification process, they will also request and collect any necessary documents from the applicant. They are also responsible for preparing any documents required for the appraisal and closing process.

Third Party Reports

In addition to collecting documentation from the applicant, the personal loan processor will work with third parties to obtain any necessary documents and reports, such as the applicant’s credit report.

Is a Personal Loan Processor the Same as an Underwriter?

While there is some overlap between what a personal loan processor and an underwriter do, these are two different roles. A loan underwriter focuses on evaluating how creditworthy an applicant is by collecting and evaluating an applicant’s financial information. Typically, they then use loan underwriting software to make an approval or denial recommendation.

A loan processor also reviews how eligible an applicant is for a loan by collecting and verifying important information and documents, but they don’t use underwriting software to make a decision. The loan processor has the ability to approve or deny an applicant.

Loan Processor

Underwriter

Collects and verifies applicant information Collects and verifies applicant information
Makes approval decision Uses underwriting software to determine eligibility
Prepares documents for appraisal and closing

Is a Loan Officer or Loan Processor Responsible for Your Personal Loan Approval?

When it comes to loan processor vs. loan officer, both loan officers and loan processors have the ability to reject or deny a loan application or, at the very least, make a recommendation for whether or not an applicant should receive a loan.


💡 Quick Tip: With lower fixed interest rates on loans of $5K to $100K, a SoFi personal loan for credit card debt can substantially decrease your monthly bills.

When Does a Personal Loan Processor or Officer Get Involved?

When someone applies for a personal loan, they’ll connect with a personal loan processor or officer when they submit their initial application. Either one can start the process of collecting personal and financial information and supporting documentation from the applicant.

What Happens During Personal Loan Processing?

During the personal loan processing stage, the applicant will work with the personal loan processor to provide them with any personal information, financial information, or documentation that the personal loan processor needs to finish their application.

Recommended: How Much of a Personal Loan Can I Get?

Getting Approved for a Personal Loan

Getting approved for a personal loan requires going through the underwriting process which assesses how qualified a loan applicant is. Some firms use underwriting software to make a decision whereas others make the decision without the aid of software.

The Takeaway

When comparing a loan officer vs. loan processor, it’s clear that both loan processors and loan officers play an important role in the personal loan application process. Their roles often overlap and where they work determines the exact role they take on.

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

Is a personal loan processor the same as an underwriter?

No, a personal loan processor is not the same as an underwriter, although they share similar responsibilities. A loan underwriter determines whether or not an applicant is creditworthy. A loan processor collects and verifies any personal and financial information required to complete loan applications.

What does a personal loan processor do?

A personal loan processor works with personal loan applicants to gather the information and documents needed to complete their applications. A personal loan processor also prepares appraisal and closing documents.

When does a personal loan processor or officer get involved?

A personal loan processor or officer gets involved once a consumer starts the application process. They can help guide the applicant through that process.


Photo credit: iStock/Delmaine Donson

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.


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

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.

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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Using a Co-Borrower on a Joint Personal Loan

If your credit is not quite up to a lender’s preferred level to get favorable interest rates and terms on your own, you may be considering a joint personal loan. Using a co-borrower may be one option to help you qualify for a personal loan.

A co-borrower is an additional borrower on a loan who is obligated to repay the loan alongside the primary borrower and shares the responsibility of paying it back. And a co-borrower — if they have great credit and income, among other factors — may have the added benefit of helping to make the original borrower seem less of a risk to a lender.

Here are key things to know about using a co-borrower on a personal loan.

What Are Joint Personal Loans?

Joint personal loans are loans that take into account multiple borrowers’ creditworthiness in the approval process. There are typically two borrowers on this type of loan — a primary and a secondary borrower — to establish joint personal loan eligibility.

Being a co-borrower on a loan comes with different rights and responsibilities than being a cosigner on a loan.

•   Co-borrowers, along with the primary borrower, have equal ownership of loan funds or what is purchased with the loan funds and are equally responsible for repayment of the loan over the life of the loan.

•   Cosigners have no ownership of the loan funds or what they’re used to purchase, and they are responsible for repayment only if the primary borrower fails to make payments.



💡 Quick Tip: Before choosing a personal loan, ask about the lender’s fees: origination, prepayment, late fees, etc. SoFi personal loans come with no-fee options, and no surprises.

How To Use Joint Personal Loans

If you don’t feel confident about qualifying for a loan, or have concerns about a potentially higher interest rate due to your overall creditworthiness or other reasons, finding a reliable co-borrower might help improve your chances of approval, along with the interest rate and terms you’re offered.

Couples can use a joint personal loan for a wide variety of purposes, including consolidating high-interest debts, paying for a large expense or event (like a wedding), or funding a remodeling project.

Why Do People Use Joint Personal Loans?

One common reason why someone might consider a joint personal loan is that they cannot qualify for a loan on their own, or they would like to qualify for a lower interest rate or more favorable loan terms than they could on their own.

Some reasons people may seek a co-borrower are:

•   They don’t have a long credit history.

•   They’ve just entered the workforce.

•   They’re in the process of rebuilding their credit.

•   They would like to qualify for a larger loan than they could on their own.

How Much Can You Save With Joint Personal Loans?

Having two borrowers on one personal loan may help you to qualify for a more favorable interest rate than if just one person’s income and credit are considered. Different lenders will have different qualification requirements, though, so it’s a good idea to compare lenders.

Using a joint personal loan for debt consolidation can be one way to lower the amount of interest paid on outstanding debt. Again, how much savings is accomplished depends on multiple factors, such as the borrower’s creditworthiness, how long it takes to pay down the debt, and others.

What Credit Score Is Required for a Joint Personal Loan?

There is no definite answer to this question, but, in general, applicants with higher credit scores qualify for loans with lower average personal loan interest rates. And, vice versa, applicants with lower credit scores generally qualify for loans with higher interest rates.

Lenders tend to be risk averse and prefer to lend money to people who they believe will repay it in full and on time. An applicant’s credit report — a summary of how responsible they are with credit that has been extended to them in the past — and credit score are tools lenders use to assess risk.

Before applying for a joint personal loan, it’s a good idea to review your credit report. If there are errors or discrepancies, you can file a dispute with the credit reporting agency. If you have poor credit or a limited credit history, you might consider taking some time to improve your credit profile before applying for a loan. Lenders will look at both applicants’ credit reports during the joint personal loan approval process, so it’s worth it for your credit to be in good shape.

Recommended: What Credit Score Do You Need for a Personal Loan?

Individual vs Joint Loan Applications

The basic process of applying for a loan is the same no matter the number of applicants. Lenders will typically request the same information on either an individual or a joint loan application: proof of identity and address and verification of employment and income, in addition to any lender-specific information. For an individual loan application, there is just one person’s information to verify. Joint loan applications require information for each applicant.

Individual

Joint

Only one applicant’s creditworthiness is considered in the approval process. Creditworthiness of both applicants is considered in the approval process.
One income is considered in the approval process. Combined incomes of all applicants are considered in the approval process.
Only one applicant signs the loan application. The loan application is specifically for more than one applicant, and both must sign it.
One borrower is responsible for repaying the loan. All borrowers are responsible for repaying the loan.

Cosigned Loan vs Joint Personal Loan: The Differences

Both cosigned and joint loans include an additional borrower. However, a co-borrower taking out a joint loan has different rights and responsibilities than a cosigner.

The Disadvantages of Choosing a Cosigned Loan

The disadvantages of a cosigned loan lie mostly with the cosigner, not the primary borrower. The cosigner does not have any ownership rights to the loan funds or anything purchased with the loan funds. They are, however, responsible for repayment of the loan if the primary borrower fails to make payments.

The cosigner’s credit can be negatively affected if the primary borrower defaults on the loan, and their future borrowing power could be affected if a lender decides extending more credit would be too risky.

The Disadvantages of Choosing a Joint Personal Loan

Since joint personal loans take into account both applicants’ credit, and ownership and repayment responsibility is equal for both borrowers, the disadvantages of this type of arrangement are less lopsided than for a cosigned loan. People who already share financial responsibilities — married couples or parents and children, for example — may consider joint personal loans, so there is typically some familiarity present.

Even so, it’s important to have confidence in a co-borrower’s ability to repay the loan because each borrower is equally responsible for repayment over the entire life of the loan. Co-borrowers also have equal ownership rights to the loan funds or what the loan funds purchased, so trust is a big factor in choosing a co-borrower.

Recommended: How Much of a Personal Loan Can I Get?

Cosigned Loan vs Joint Personal Loan: The Advantages

Arguably, the primary borrower on either a cosigned loan or a joint personal loan has a bigger advantage than the cosigner or co-borrower. Depending on one’s perspective, however, all parties involved can reap benefits from these partnerships.

The Advantages of Choosing a Cosigned Loan

The advantage lies almost exclusively with the primary borrower on a cosigned loan. If they default, the cosigner is responsible for repaying the loan, although the primary borrower’s credit will likely be negatively affected. Ownership of the loan funds or what they purchased is solely the primary borrower’s.

A personal loan cosigner’s main advantage may be in the form of a benevolent feeling. This is not to discount a cosigner’s contribution, since compassion is important to humanity.

The Advantages of Choosing a Joint Personal Loan

The main advantage of a joint loan is that there is equal ownership of the loan funds or the property purchased with those funds. Choosing a joint loan means you are able to present a higher total income than you could alone, signaling to lenders that it’s more likely someone will be able to make the monthly loan payments.

Because joint loans give both co-borrowers equal rights, they are well-suited for people who already have joint finances or own assets together.


💡 Quick Tip: Generally, the larger the personal loan, the bigger the risk for the lender — and the higher the interest rate. So one way to lower your interest rate is to try downsizing your loan amount.

What’s the Better Loan Option?

If you’re seeking a loan with a spouse or relative, and one of you has the strong credit history needed to get a low interest rate and terms you’d prefer, then a joint loan as co-borrowers may be right for you.

However, if you’d rather have a loan in your name with a little added security, then having a cosigner may make more sense.

No matter which situation you find yourself in, it’s important to weigh all of the options and do the necessary research that will allow you to arrive at the best joint personal loan option for you. After all, taking out a loan and repaying it responsibly has the power to put someone on a path to a more secure financial future, but it can also come with risks if each party hasn’t thoroughly vetted the other.

Recommended: Exploring the Pros & Cons of Personal Loans

Where Do You Find a Joint Personal Loan?

It’s not uncommon for lenders to offer joint personal loans, but some research is necessary to find a lender who will work with your unique financial situation.

Looking at lenders of joint personal loans online is a good first step. Prequalifying to check joint personal loan eligibility is a fairly quick and easy process.

If you’re already an established customer at a local bank or credit union, you may also want to look at loan options there.

The Takeaway

Though co-borrowers may bring with them peace of mind, they also require a great deal of forethought — especially regarding who to ask. And regardless of whether or not someone opts for a co-borrower, it’s still important for the primary borrower to get their own credit in the best shape possible.

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

Can you apply for joint personal loans?

As long as the lender allows co-borrowers, you can apply for a joint personal loan.

What is the maximum amount of people for a joint personal loan?

Typically, a joint personal loan has two co-borrowers, but the maximum number of co-borrowers is up to the individual lender.

Do joint personal loans get approved faster?

It’s likely to take more time for a joint personal loan to be approved than an individual loan because the lender will check the credit of each applicant.


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.


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

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.

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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Family Loans: A Complete Guide to Borrowing and Lending Money to Family

Borrowing money from family members — or lending it to them — can be a risky business. And although all debt is risky, family loans carry different kinds of dangers.

Although family lenders don’t have to worry about pulling (or affecting) anyone’s credit score, private loans may put a strain on otherwise strong relationships. Depending on the size of the loan, there may also be tax implications to consider.

That said, there are ways to thoughtfully issue and receive family loans. Here are our best tips for stacking the odds in your favor.

What Are Family Loans?

Family loans are those that are given and received within a family group, instead of a typical lending situation like a bank or credit union, or even a payday lender.

Someone who may not be able to qualify for a traditional loan might be inclined to ask a family member for a loan.
Sometimes a family loan might work in the interest of both parties. For instance, the borrower might receive a more favorable interest rate than they might have from a bank, and the lender might receive a higher interest rate than they would find in a savings account.

Reasons someone might ask a family member for a loan are similar to reasons they might consider a personal loan: They might need cash for emergency medical expenses, unexpected home repairs, or expenses for adoption or fertility treatments.


💡 Quick Tip: Some lenders can release funds as quickly as the same day your loan is approved. SoFi personal loans offer same-day funding for qualified borrowers.

How Do Family Loans Work?

At their most basic, family loans work similarly to traditional loans: One person asks for a loan, and another person approves the request. While that is an oversimplification, the concept is the same. There is generally less paperwork involved in a family loan, with no application or credit check necessary, although a formal contract detailing each party’s rights and responsibilities is recommended.

Terms for the Lender to Include in a Family Loan

•   Amount loaned

•   Interest rate, if interest is charged

•   Payment amount (often, monthly)

•   Penalties for non-payment

Terms for the Borrower to Include in a Family Loan

•   Amortization schedule, with principal and interest amounts clearly stated

•   Ability to pay the loan off early without penalty

•   Periods of payment suspension in cases of hardship

Risks and Benefits of Family Loans

No matter which end of the dynamic you might find yourself on, there are both risks and benefits to family loans. But while both the borrower and lender risk putting a strain on the family relationship involved, the lender is likely to carry the greater financial risk — after all, it can be pretty hard to recoup your losses when you have no official financial authority.

Risks of Family Loans

One of the biggest risks of loans between family members is the potential for conflict within the relationship. People tend to have strong emotions tied to money. Some risks lie with the borrower or lender alone, though.

Risks for the Borrower:

•   There is risk to the relationship if the loan repayment plan falls through.

•   Although avoiding a credit check — and possible negative credit consequences — is a plus, family loans also fail to help borrowers build their credit history since they’re not reported to credit bureaus.

Risks for the Lender:

•   There is risk to the relationship if the loan repayment plan falls through — which puts the lender into a particularly tricky situation if they really need the cash back for their own financial situation.

•   It’s easy for family lenders to lose their money outright if the borrower constantly defers to an IOU.

•   Since family lenders don’t have any financial authority or backing, it can be difficult to recoup losses or enforce any substantial consequences for borrowers who go into default.

•   If the loan is interest-free and for an amount in excess of the IRS gift tax exclusion , it may trigger the need to file a gift tax return (and potentially pay taxes on the gift).

Benefits of Family Loans

Despite their risks, family loans do have some attractive qualities.

Benefits for the Borrower:

•   Family loans present a potentially low-cost alternative to traditional credit options. Family lenders usually don’t assess fees and may not charge interest.

•   Family loans can carry much easier approval standards than their official counterparts. At a financial institution, borrowers are subject to a credit check, employment history, income verification, and more. A family member is not likely to run those checks.

•   Family loans often carry more flexible repayment standards than traditional loans do, and family lenders may be more lenient if the borrower faces extenuating circumstances that make it difficult to make payments.

•   Failure to pay private family loans in a timely manner — or at all — won’t impact the borrower’s credit score the way such behavior would with a traditional loan.

Benefits for the Lender:

•   It can feel rewarding to help out a family member in need, particularly if they’re putting the money toward a major life goal like homeownership.

•   If the lender chooses to charge interest on the loan, they can earn interest as the loan is repaid.

Tax Implications of Family Loans

It can be surprising to learn that loaning money to a family member could be a big enough deal to land on the IRS’s radar.

Fortunately, most family loans fall outside of the purview of the IRS. It’s only when they’re above IRS-defined amounts and interest-free that lenders have to report them on their tax return.

If a family lender offers an interest-free loan to a family borrower, the IRS still sees the transaction as a loan — and assumes that the interest that should have been charged counts as a gift to the recipient. (The government publishes minimum interest rates on a monthly basis.)

That’s no big deal if the loan is for, say, $300. But if the unpaid interest — or unpaid loan balance — tops the annual gift-giving exclusion, which is $17,000 ($34,000 for married couples) for 2023 and $18,000 ($36,000 for married couples) for 2024, the lender might be responsible for filing a gift tax return and potentially paying taxes on the gift.

The IRS might also count the should-be interest toward the lender’s gross income, even if no interest is charged or received. Again, this isn’t a big deal on loans of just a few hundred dollars, but with a large enough loan, it could impact the lender’s finances.

Making a Family Loan Legitimate for Tax Purposes

The main thing that makes a family loan legitimate to the IRS is a family loan agreement that specifies repayment terms. If an agreement is not in place, the agency may consider it a gift instead of a loan.

The federal government sets minimum interest rates (as noted above) that lenders can charge on a private loan, which a family loan is. If less than the minimum interest rate is charged, the IRS may assess taxes on any unpaid interest that is deemed payable.

Keeping records of payments made will also show the IRS that the lender was keeping track of the debt and that there is an expectation of repayment.

Recommended: How to Gift a Stock

Tips to Successfully Borrow From or Lend Money to Family

If you’re considering lending money to, or borrowing money from, a family member, adding some structure to your loan can help minimize the risks while still allowing everyone involved to reap the benefits.

Planning Your Family Loan Out

All too often, a family loan takes place in a single, impromptu transaction: The borrower asks for some money, and the lender gives it.

A better bet is to make a concrete plan together that specifies all the loan’s terms, such as repayment installments and timing. Lenders might want to consider charging interest, especially on large loans, due to the tax implications outlined above. Even a low family loan interest rate can motivate a borrower to get serious about repayment.

Recommended: What Happens If You Default on a Personal Loan?

Making a Family Loan Official

Clear communication and boundary-setting skills make pulling off a family loan a positive experience for all involved — and oftentimes, the best way to achieve those goals is to write things down.

Plus, drafting a formal money-lending contract makes your loan official in the eyes of the IRS, which can help keep loans from being classified as gifts for tax purposes.

Terms to include in your family loan agreement include:

•   The amount loaned.

•   The loan’s repayment terms, such as frequency and amount, as well as a due date for when the loan must be repaid in full.

•   The loan’s interest rate and fees, if any (for instance, the lender may decide to charge late fees if the loan repayment terms are not honored).

•   Clauses concerning what happens if the loan is repaid early (is there a prepayment penalty?) and what happens if the borrower goes into default for any reason.

Family Loans vs Gifts

If a family lender has the financial ability and willingness to make a monetary gift instead of a loan, they can do so without tax implications for amounts up to $17,000 for 2023 and $18,000 for 2024.

There are various reasons why someone might choose to give a gift instead of making a loan, or vice versa.

Family Loan

Gift

Interest rates can be advantageous to both parties. There is no expectation of repayment for a gift.
Written agreement legitimizes the loan for tax purposes. No paperwork necessary.
Family loans have potential to cause conflict. Giving a gift is generally construed as a positive thing.
The IRS determines minimum acceptable interest rates and loan amounts subject to those rates. Gifts under a certain value are excluded from the IRS gift tax in most cases.

Alternatives to Family Loans

If all of these caveats and warnings are making family loans sound like a less-than prudent idea, there are alternatives to consider before asking family members for a loan. (And yes, if a family member asks you to borrow money, you’re allowed to say no and steer them in a different direction.)

Obviously, the most ideal financial strategy for making a big purchase is to save your money so you don’t have to go into debt at all. Although this isn’t always possible or realistic, it might be worth taking a second look at your budget, working on a promotion, or starting up a side hustle to generate cash.

Unsecured personal loans are available from certain banks and financial institutions and make it possible to fund a wide variety of expenses upfront. Of course, these may come with higher interest rates and more stringent qualification requirements than family loans do.

You might also consider asking a family member to cosign on a loan with you instead of loaning you the money. They would be responsible for making the loan payments if you, the primary borrower, don’t, but they wouldn’t be immediately taking money out of their own bank account to help you.

If you need to borrow money for business purposes, a small business loan may be an option to think about. The Small Business Administration is an excellent resource for business loans. The agency works with lenders to help small business owners find funding for a wide range of amounts and terms, with competitive interest rates.


💡 Quick Tip: Generally, the larger the personal loan, the bigger the risk for the lender — and the higher the interest rate. So one way to lower your interest rate is to try downsizing your loan amount.

The Takeaway

While borrowing money from, or lending money to, a family member can be tempting, it can have long-lasting impacts on interpersonal relationships as well as the lender’s finances. Drafting a structured family loan agreement can help, but you may also want to explore a traditional personal loan from a bank, credit union, or online lender.

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 a loan from a family member called?

A loan from a family member is often referred to as a family loan, an intra-family loan, or a friends and family loan.

Can family loans help your credit?

Since a family member is not likely to formally check your credit report or provide payment information to the credit bureaus, a family loan probably won’t help (or hurt) your credit.

Are family loans considered debt?

Yes, a loan from a family member is considered debt, but will likely not be reflected on your credit report. For tax purposes, a family loan is considered debt if it meets certain guidelines.


Photo credit: iStock/Ridofranz

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.


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

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.

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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External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

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