Debt can be overwhelming, even when you’re paying as much toward your bills as you can every month.
It can help to refinance or consolidate your debt into something more manageable using a company such as Upstart. Or, if you have a big purchase that you’ve got your eyes on or need help with education-related expenses, Upstart offers personal loans, even with a fair credit score.
But, how good is Upstart, and how do its personal loan terms compare with those of other companies on the market? We’ve spent the time researching and even borrowing money from Upstart to find out.
In our Upstart loans review, we’ll explain the Upstart process and how it rates in helping borrowers with debt consolidation and education funding.
Accepts borrowers with new or limited credit
Get loan funds in as little as 2 business days
Change payment dates easily
What Is Upstart?
Upstart is a California-based lending company that partners with banks and credit unions to provide loans to those who need them. What makes Upstart stand out is its reputation as a financial technology (fintech) company, using artificially intelligent algorithms and nontraditional variables to determine if a borrower is creditworthy.
Rather than relying on your credit score via the credit bureaus — which Upstart does take a look at — the company also considers factors such as your education and employment to predict whether a loan is right for you. This makes Upstart an appealing option for those with little credit history, but you’ll pay higher APRs and an origination fee.
During our research and review process, we took a moment to speak to CEO and co-founder Dave Girouard about Upstart’s AI technology. This is what he had to say about the system and how it enables more individuals to obtain needed loans:
“Many more Americans are creditworthy than they appear to be based on credit scores, which were innovative 30 years ago but are now frozen in time. Upstart applies AI technology to lending. The result is a more accurate assessment of risk. By assessing more than 1,000 variables for each applicant, Upstart’s system finds many more ways beyond the credit score to prove that an individual is creditworthy, leading to better credit outcomes for each applicant and comparing them across millions of actual loans.”
If you’re concerned about Upstart’s trustworthiness, the company has been around for about a decade now and has been helping individuals with their money since the very beginning.
How Do I Qualify for an Upstart Loan?
Qualifying for an Upstart loan is a bit different than with most other companies as your approval is based upon an unknown artificially intelligent algorithm. (Let’s just hope you’ve said “please” and “thanks” to your Alexa and Roomba lately.) So, we can’t simply say that having a certain credit score or past credit history will automatically make you eligible for a personal loan.
We do know that Upstart personal loans require a credit score of 300 or above and that it, and its partners, do not impose a minimum education requirement to be eligible for a personal loan. So while Upstart does take education into consideration, it won’t exclude you from a loan if you, for example, haven’t been to college.
Additionally, Upstart requires that you are a U.S. citizen, age 18 or older (19 or older in Alabama and Nebraska) and living in the U.S. The only exception to this rule is given to military personnel who are on active duty and not currently living in the country.
Lastly, you must have a valid email account, a source of regular income and a personal banking account at a U.S. financial institution, along with a verifiable name, date of birth and Social Security number. If you have all of the above, you are eligible to apply for a personal loan amount up to $50,000.
We believe these terms are quite reasonable, and appreciate that Upstart is attempting to provide financial assistance to those who might not have the best credit score or lack credit history. We believe Upstart is the future forward for accessibility in personal loans.
The Upstart Process and Terms
So, you’re eligible to apply for an Upstart personal loan, now what?
Grabbing Your Upstart Rate
You can begin by heading over to the Upstart website and checking your rate; this process is a soft credit check and will not affect your credit score. If you review your rates and wish to move forward with a personal loan, a hard credit inquiry will be made. Hard credit inquiries remain on your account for typically two years and may affect credit scores.
Personal loans through Upstart carry an interest rate of 6.5% to 35.99%. While that top end number is high, when you check your rates you’ll have a better idea of the loan amount and exactly what APR they can offer you based on your credit score history and financial health.
The company notes that the average five-year loan will have an APR of 26.57% and 60 monthly payments of $27.29 per $1,000 borrowed. These APRs aren’t great, but they are common in the personal loan industry for companies catering to individuals with little credit history or no credit score.
Getting Money and Repaying Money
We should also mention that Upstart is a bit limited in selecting repayment terms for personal loans. With Upstart, the only two options are over either three or five years. This isn’t necessarily terrible, but it is limited when compared to other loan companies that provide you with half a dozen options typically.
Once you’ve been approved and you’ve accepted your personal loan’s terms, Upstart is speedy getting money to you or your creditors. If the funds are headed directly for your bank account, you can expect to find fresh green in your account in only two business days. Alternatively, Upstart can send the loan amount directly to your creditors.
Upstart sometimes charges something known as an origination fee, which is not uncommon with personal loans. The origination fee from Upstart can range from 0% to 10% of your total loan.
Don’t forget that the money from Upstart is borrowed, so you’ll need to begin your repayment shortly. Upstart is quite flexible, and you can change your monthly payment date an unlimited number of times to better suit your life. When it’s time to pay (and make sure to do so for excellent credit history), you can do so via the online system, phone or an old-fashioned mailed check.
Who Is Upstart Best or Worst for?
Upstart is not a great option for those who can go with more traditional personal loans. The company was founded with a focus on getting money to those with a fair credit score or no credit history. Upstart tends to charge a high APR (plus an origination fee) on its loan amounts, so those with excellent credit may want to look elsewhere.
That said, if you don’t have the best credit score or are lacking history, Upstart is a great option — just watch out for those high interest rates. Additionally, Upstart is a good option for those who need funds fast since money can reach your bank account in only a few business days after you’ve been approved.
Upstart isn’t the only option in personal loans, so we’ve compiled a few different lenders and their offerings.
Other Personal Loan Platforms
Minimum Credit Score
9.95% to 35.99%
$1,000 to $50,000
$1,000 to $40,000
$2,000 to $35,000
$1,000 to $50,000
3 or 5 years
3 or 5 years
2 to 5 years
3 or 5 years
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Yes, Upstart has been in business for a decade and has been providing financial assistance to individuals since its inception. The company is now public with $849 million in revenue in 2021 and a solid A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. If you need personal loans, and have fair credit or little credit history, we recommend Upstart as an option.
No, we’ve even tested Upstart by taking out a loan and paying it back. Upstart is a legitimate company offering loans to those with new or low credit history. Upstart is not a fake or fraudulent company, and we are happy to recommend it for personal loans.
Upstart notes that 70% of applicant submissions are completely automatic, so they are approved instantly. In some situations, Upstart may request additional information before your loan proceeds and is approved.
Yes! You can prepay your Upstart personal loan in whole or partially at any time via the Upstart website. Upstart does not have any penalties for paying off your loan early, so feel free to do so if it is the best decision for your financial situation.
Michael Archambault is a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder specializing in technology.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.