What Is a Signature Loan? Compared to Personal Loans and Revolving Credit

By Janet Schaaf · March 26, 2024 · 10 minute read

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What Is a Signature Loan? Compared to Personal Loans and Revolving Credit

A signature loan is a type of loan that lenders can make without requiring any collateral. They’ll typically approve the loan based upon a person’s financials and credit scores — plus their signature on loan papers. This is also called an unsecured personal loan, a signature personal loan, good faith loan, or character loan.

Read on to learn more about signature loans, how they compare to other types of personal loans, and their pros and cons.

What Are Signature Loans?

Signature loans are unsecured personal loans. Unlike secured personal loans, a signature loan doesn’t require you to pledge collateral — an asset of value like a house or a bank account — that the lender can seize should you fail to repay the loan. Signature loans are approved based solely on the creditworthiness of the applicant.

Because the loan is unsecured, signature loans often come with higher interest rates than secured loans like car loans and mortgages. However, the interest rates are typically lower than credit cards.

You can use a signature loan for virtually any purpose, such as consolidating high-interest debts, a major purchase, or a medical emergency.

💡 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 Signature Loans Work?

A signature loan works in the same way as an unsecured personal loan. These loans are offered by many banks, credit unions, and online lenders. When you apply for a signature loan, the lender will consider a number of factors, such as your credit history, income, and credit score, to determine whether you qualify for the loan and what the rate and terms will be.

If you’re approved for a signature loan, the lender will issue you a lump sum of cash, which you will then repay (plus interest) in monthly installments over a set term, often 24 to 60 months.

A Quick Look at Secured Loans

A secured loan requires you to pledge collateral to secure the debt. For a car loan, it’s typically the vehicle that is being purchased with the loan proceeds. For a mortgage loan, it’s typically the house being financed or refinanced. If the borrower defaults on a secured loan, the lender seizes the collateral to recoup their losses.

Some personal loans are secured, while others are unsecured. Secured personal loans could have a savings account put up as collateral, as just one example. This strategy could be risky for the borrower, though, because it may tie up money meant to be used for living expenses or set aside for emergency circumstances.

A Quick Look at Unsecured Loans

A lender does not require any collateral on a signature personal loan, which is an unsecured personal loan. So should you default on the loan, you won’t lose an asset of value (though your credit will likely take a hit). However, an unsecured loan may be harder to qualify for and have a higher interest rate than a secured loan, due to the increased risk to the lender.

Common Reasons to Get a Personal Loan

Personal loans are versatile, with the borrower typically able to use the funds for any personal, family, or household purposes. Some common personal loan uses are:

•   Credit card debt consolidation Interest rates on credit cards can be high — the average annual percentage rate (APR) is now 24.66%. So you might use a lower-interest personal loan to combine credit card balances into one loan.

•   Home improvement projects Depending upon the size of the remodeling project, costs can range from hundreds of dollars to thousands — even tens of thousands. A personal loan can give the borrower the opportunity to conveniently pay for home repairs and upgrades.

•   Medical bills Unexpected medical expenses can quickly add up, putting a real dent in someone’s budget. Paying for them with a personal loan can often make more sense than using a high-interest credit card for that purpose.

•   Weddings From engagement rings to ceremonies and receptions, weddings can get expensive — and that doesn’t even include the honeymoon. Couples may decide to look into signature personal loans as a way to cover their expenses.

•   Moving expenses From moving supplies to renting a truck or hiring movers, the dollars can rack up, with a personal loan being one way to pay for the expenses.

Pros and Cons of Signature Loans

If you need loan funds fast, you don’t have collateral to pledge, or don’t want to tie up assets as collateral, a signature loan might be the right choice for you. Here are some of the pros and cons of signature loans:

Pros of Signature Loans

•   Funds disbursement is typically quick

•   There is no collateral requirement

•   Generally a wide range of loan amounts available

Cons of Signature Loans

•   Lenders may see unsecured signature loans as riskier than collateralized personal loans, so interest rates may be higher than secured loans.

•   Some lenders’ minimum loan amounts may be higher than some people need.

•   Short-term signature loans can be payday loans, which typically have extremely high interest rates and fees.

Pros of Signature Loans

Cons of Signature Loans

Typically, funds are disbursed quickly, sometimes within a few days. Payday loans may be disguised as typical signature loans.
A wide range of loan amounts is typically available. Some lenders may not be the best fit for applicants seeking small loan amounts.
There is no collateral requirement. Lenders may charge higher interest rates on unsecured signature loans than secured loans if they perceive them as risker.

Signature Loans vs Personal Loans

A signature loan is a type of personal loan, specifically an unsecured personal loan. Each is approved based on the applicant’s creditworthiness, without collateral being a consideration. A secured personal loan, however, is not the same thing as a signature loan, since collateral is required to back up this type of loan.

As with other types of personal loans, online signature loan lenders are widely available, making it easy to compare lenders. Once approved for a signature loan, funds may be disbursed quickly, sometimes in just a few days. There are few restrictions on the use of the signature loan funds.

Signature Loans vs Revolving Credit

Signature loans are typically installment loans, with a lump sum loan amount repaid in equal installments over a set amount of time. Revolving credit, like a credit card or line of credit, works differently.

With revolving credit, you have access to a credit limit. You can then borrow money when you want to (up to your limit), pay it back over time, and borrow again as needed. You only pay interest on the amount you actually borrow, not the full credit limit.

Signature Loans

Revolving Credit

Funds disbursed as a lump sum Credit limit that can be accessed as needed
Payments are equal over a set amount of time Payments may vary each billing period
If more funds are needed, a new loan must be applied for Funds can be used over and over again
Has a payment end date Loan is revolving

What Are Signature Loans Commonly Used For?

There are few restrictions on the use of signature loan funds. One common use of a signature loan is to consolidate other, high-interest debt with the goal of either getting a lower interest rate or having a fixed payment end date.

Signature loan funds are also commonly used to pay for wedding expenses, medical expenses, or home renovation or repairs.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Signature Loans Online

Signature personal loans are widely available online and can be good choices for people who don’t mind not having a physical bank branch to drive to for transactions.

Advantages of signature loans online include:

•   Competitive rates Online lenders can often offer competitive rates because they don’t have the expenses involved in maintaining physical branches.

•   Convenience It can often be quick and easy to apply online (no driving, no appointments needed), and online lenders often offer streamlined processes which may result in quicker approval times.

•   Different criteria Some online lenders might focus more significantly on a borrower’s cash flow and employment history, perhaps allowing for a bit more wiggle room on credit scores than a traditional bank would be willing to give.

•   Additional benefits Online lenders may also offer more perks to their customers than a traditional bank offers.

There are, however, disadvantages to working with an online lender vs. a bank you have an established relationship with. Some to consider:

•   No history As an established customer of a traditional bank, you may qualify for a reduced interest rate, depending on your creditworthiness.

•   Potential scams Not all online “lenders” are legit so you’ll want to be wary of unsolicited offers, and only enter financial information on official, secure websites. It’s also a good idea to research the lender’s reputation before giving them your personal information.

•   No face-to-face interaction Unlike working with a brick-and-mortar financial institution, you likely won’t have the chance to meet with an online lender in person. If this is something you value and desire in a lender, the online loan option may not be for you.

•   Potential spam If you contact a number of online lenders directly to compare rates, you can end up on their email contact list, even if you don’t choose to work with them.

💡 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.

Application and Approval Processes

Similar to an unsecured personal loan, a signature loan’s application and approval process is generally simple and straightforward.

Things to Look Out for When Getting a Signature Loan

It’s a good idea to review your credit report before shopping around for a loan. A free annual credit report can be requested from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. If there are errors or inaccuracies on your credit report, you can try to correct them before any lenders start the loan qualification process.

Credit reports don’t include a person’s credit score . However, you may be able to access that information through your bank, credit card issuer, or a reliable website at no charge.

When you’re satisfied that your credit report is accurate, you may want to compare lenders and consider getting prequalified. Many lenders will do a soft credit check at that point, which will not affect your credit score. You’ll be able to compare interest rates and terms from multiple lenders to find the one that works best for your unique financial situation.

Getting prequalified can give you a good sense of how much might be available to borrow, what the interest rate would likely be, and how that translates into a monthly payment.

Before applying, it’s important to know how much you need to borrow. You generally want to choose an amount that would cover the expenses at hand while trying to avoid borrowing more than necessary. Interest will be charged on the amount borrowed, not only the amount used.

When comparing prequalification quotes from different lenders, it’s a good idea to find out if there are any hidden fees, such as origination fees, late fees, or prepayment fees.

Typical Signature Loan Requirements

Each lender has unique application and approval requirements but may commonly ask for the applicant’s name, proof of address, photo ID, and proof of employment and income. After the application has been submitted, a lender will conduct a hard credit check to review the applicant’s credit report.

Besides checking credit scores, lenders like to see steady employment and enough income to meet expenses, including this new loan. Sometimes, having a cosigner or co-borrower might improve the chances of loan approval or help to secure a more favorable interest rate.

Getting a Personal Loan With SoFi

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.


Are signature loans easy to get?

You typically need a good credit score to get a signature loan, since lenders want to be confident that you will repay the money.

Signature loans are unsecured, meaning you don’t have to pledge an asset of value (like a home or bank account) that the lender can seize should you fail to repay the loan. This raises risk for the lender. As a result, signature loans can sometimes be harder to get than secured loans like car loans.

Do you need a down payment for a signature loan?

No down payment is necessary for a signature loan.

What is the maximum that can be borrowed with a signature loan?

Lending limits will vary by lender, but you can often get as much as $100,000 in funding with a signature loan.

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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.

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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