Where to Find Personal Loans for First Responders
Police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel (EMTs) are community heroes and the first to show up in a crisis.
As a “thank you” for protecting the community, some banks and credit unions offer special loans to these individuals as a way to give back.
Some people are familiar with home loans for first responders offered through some banks and credit unions.
The same goes for personal loans that may have lower interest rates, fee waivers, or different repayment terms for the benefit of first responders.
Find out where to find personal loans for first responders and what factors need to be considered before applying.
Where to Find Personal Loans for First Responders?
Personal loans are useful in a variety of situations.
They’re often used to consolidate debt, continue education, make home improvements, and other purposes.
If you’re a first responder looking to apply for a personal loan, here are a few ideas on where to find financing.
1. Credit unions
Credit unions offer checking and savings accounts, and various loan solutions including mortgages. But they’re not banks.
Credit unions are member-owned financial institutions that share profits with its members. They’re visible throughout many communities.
But what’s unique about credit unions is that you have to meet specific requirements to become a member and open an account or apply for a loan.
Sometimes, you have to work with a specific company, live within a certain community, or have a certain occupation.
Many credit unions welcome first responders and offer loans to these individuals.
Credit unions might advertise these special loans as “personal loans for first responders.”
Some credit unions only extend these special loans to police officers, firefighters, and EMT workers. But others might extend these loans to those who work in the medical field or those in the military, too
These loans tend to have special loan terms.
For example, a first responder might be eligible to receive a loan with 0% APR for a specific length of time or a low interest rate loan. Some credit unions even offer first responders loans with no origination fee.
Also, if a first responder is eligible to open an account with a credit union, the invitation might also extend to their immediate family members.
But even if a credit union doesn't offer special first responder loans, you can still apply for a loan through the financial institution — if you’re eligible for membership.
When shopping for a personal loan, credit unions usually have lower fees and better rates compared to some banks.
Credit unions have less of a physical presence -- meaning they tend to have fewer branch locations and less sophisticated online technology.
Big banks and community banks are another option if you’re a first responder looking for a personal loan.
These banks may not advertise loans specifically to first responders, but they might give first responders a discount on their interest rate.
If you’re looking for a personal loan, start with your current bank.
This includes banks where you have a checking account, mortgage loan, credit card, savings account, or line of credit.
If the bank doesn’t offer a first responder discount, it might reward your loyalty by offering a favorable rate.
But even if your bank offers a great rate, compare rates with other banks, too. You should get a free rate quote from at least two or three financial institutions.
3. Online lenders
Some people prefer working with a brick and mortar financial institution. They like the ability to see and talk with a local banker.
Sometimes, though, online-only lenders offer better rates and lower fees. These online lenders have fewer overhead costs, so they’re able to pass their savings to customers.
But again, make sure you compare different personal loan options and get multiple rate quotes.
Not only should you compare rates, you should also compare loan fees to make sure you’re getting the best deal.
What Documentation Do You Need for a Personal Loan?
Before getting approved for a personal loan, the credit union, bank, or online lender will need information about your income and employment.
Proof of income
The first thing they’ll do is verify your income. Lenders need to know whether you’re in a position to pay back a loan.
Your income also helps the financial institution determine how much you can borrow.
It’s important to gather paperwork before applying for a loan. Having your documentation ready can speed the process. The information required for getting a personal loan is similar to the information needed for a mortgage loan.
To get started, you’ll need at least two government-issued IDs. Many people will show a drivers license and a Social Security card. But you can also provide other forms of ID, such as a state ID, passport, or birth certificate.
For income verification, the bank may ask for your bank statements, tax returns, and your most recent paycheck stub.
Typically, submitting the application also means that you authorize a credit check.
If you’re using a credit union and applying for a special first responder loan, you also need proof of employment or volunteer affiliation.
How Does Credit Affect Getting a Personal Loan?
Even with enough income to afford a personal loan, your credit history is a big determining factor in the approval decision.
Basically, the higher your credit score, the easier it is to get approved.
Minimum credit score requirements vary from lender to lender. The minimum score for a personal loan might be 620 at one financial institution, and 600 at another.
You don’t necessarily need perfect credit.
But a higher score also helps you get a better interest rate. If the lender approves you with fair or bad credit, a higher rate means you’ll pay more over the life of the loan.
Getting the best rate involves improving your credit and understanding the factors that make up your score:
1. Payment history
Your payment history makes up 35 percent of your credit score.
To improve your score and increase your odds of an approval, always pay your bills on time.
This includes other loans, credit cards, and even utility bills. Late payments and derogative information on your credit report (judgments and collections) will lower your score.
2. Amount owed
The amount you owe also makes up a huge chunk of your credit score, about 30 percent.
Keeping your credit card debt low or paying off balances in full each month is an excellent way to build a better score.
Ideally, credit card balances should not exceed 30 percent of your available credit
3. Length of credit history
The length of your credit history makes up 15 percent of your credit score. So the longer your credit history, the higher your score.
This percentage takes into account the age of your oldest and newest accounts, and how long it’s been since you’ve used your accounts.
4. Credit mix
The types of credit you have makes up 10 percent of your credit score. Basically, you shouldn’t only have one type of credit.
Having a mixture demonstrates an ability to manage different types of credit. This can benefit your credit score.
You don’t need one of each type of credit. But it helps to mix it up. Get one or two credit cards and perhaps an installment loan.
5. New credit
Credit scores also factor in new credit accounts, and this makes up 10 percent of your credit score.
If you apply for a lot of new accounts within a short span of time, this can lower your credit score.
This type of behavior is associated with greater credit risk. Each new credit application can reduce your credit score by as much as two to five points.
So, only apply for credit when necessary, and spread out your credit applications.
Unsecured vs. Secured Personal Loans
When applying for a personal loan, inquire as to whether the loan is secured or unsecured.
Unsecured loans don’t require collateral.
These are convenient, but they typically involve higher interest rates and you’ll need a higher credit score to qualify. This is due to the higher risk for lenders.
Secured loans are easier to get.
The problem, though, is that you must pledge personal property as collateral. This protects the lender in the event of default. If you don’t repay the loan, the lender can take your collateral as repayment.
The different types of collateral for a personal loan include:
- title to a paid-off car or other vehicle
- savings account
- real estate
- other valuable property
First responders do an excellent job in the community, and many lenders recognize their hard work and dedication.
Getting a personal loan can be tricky, but some financial institutions are making it easier for first responders to get the cash they need.
Use the money for many purposes -- from debt consolidation to home improvement projects.
Get multiple rate quotes from different financial institutions. And compare fees to ensure a good deal.