What do you need to get a personal loan?

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Ask a Lender
December 13, 2016 | Updated September 25, 2017

Key Points

Personal loan considerations

  • A strong credit score
  • Identification documents such as a driver’s license or W-2
  • Some personal loans may require collateral

Personal loans are used for a variety of purposes, from consolidating credit card debt  to making home improvements. Personal loans typically are unsecured, fixed-rate installment loans. They’re usually taken out for amounts that range from $3,000 to $50,000.

If you’ve never taken out a personal loan before, you may be wondering what you need before you can apply for one. Although the requirements vary depending on the lender, you still can get a rough idea of the kinds of documentation you may need to provide.

Credit score

If you’re applying for an unsecured personal loan, one of the factors that can make or break your application is your credit.

The best way to figure out the overall state of your credit is to look up your credit score. You can look up your score a number of ways, including from a credit card or other loan statement, a nonprofit counselor, or for free from a credit reporting agency, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

Some websites advertise a “free credit score” and may be funded through advertising. Other websites require you to sign up for a credit monitoring service with a monthly subscription fee in order to qualify for the free credit score. Such services are often advertised as free trials, but if you fail to cancel the service within a specified period of time — sometimes as short as one week — you could have to pay a monthly fee.

You also can buy your score directly from one of the credit reporting agencies. You can buy your FICO credit score at www.myfico.com. If you decide to purchase a credit score, you are not required to purchase credit protection, identity theft monitoring, or other services that may be offered, the CFPB states.

Some credit score companies provide an “educational” credit score, which is different from the score a lender would use. The CFPB published a report on the difference between educational scores and those used by lenders. For most people, the two scores will be fairly similar, but for some people, they can be quite different. The CFPB’s report found a meaningful difference for one out of four people.

You can get and review your credit reports, which are used to determine your credit score, at no cost by going to www.annualcreditreport.com. Federal law allows you to get a free copy of your credit reports every 12 months from each of the three major credit reporting companies: TransUnion, Equifax and Experian.


As with any loan, you need a variety of documents in order to apply for a personal loan, although the exact requirements will vary with each lender.

Required documents can include:

  • Identification documents, such as a passport or driver’s license.
  • Address verification documents, such as utility bills.
  • Employment and income information, which will show lenders you can repay the loan. This can include W-2 forms, pay stubs or bank statements.
  • Personal information, such as your email, phone number, address, social security number, employer information, or mother’s maiden name.
  • Bank account information and routing numbers, which may be used to deposit money into your account.


Most personal loans are unsecured, meaning they don’t require you to put up an asset in order to receive the borrowed funds. Some personal loans, however, do require you to put up collateral. The benefit of a secured personal loan is that the interest rate will likely be lower, because there is less risk to the lender.

Of course, less risk for the lender means more risk for the borrower. The lender will place a lien on the collateral in the event that you stop making payments on the loan.

Still, most secured loans are used for specific purposes, such as home or automobile loans. Although unsecured personal loans carry higher interest rates, they may be the best option for borrowers seeking flexibility in how they can spend the loan’s proceeds.

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