At some point in your life, you’re likely to be in a situation where you need a bit of extra cash.
Or, you just want to consolidate your high-interest debt.
Personal loans are designed for these purposes.
Unlike mortgages or auto loans, which are designed for very specific purposes, you can use personal loans for nearly any reason.
If you live in Georgia and want to apply for a personal loan, you've got plenty of options. We reviewed the personal loans offered by the top 20 banks in Georgia to find the best picks for you.
But, do remember to compare them to online personal loan lenders, which may provide better rates and terms.
The Biggest Lenders in Georgia
The largest lenders in Georgia are:
- SunTrust Bank
- Wells Fargo
- Synovus Bank
- United Community Bank
- Ameris Bank
- PNC Bank
- Fidelity Bank
- South State Bank
- Renasant Bank
This list includes both local and national banks.
Local Georgia Lenders
If you want to work with a lender that is local to Georgia, we recommend that you choose one of these options:
- Fifth Third Bank
- SunTrust LightStream
- PNC Bank
Fifth Third Bank
Fifth Third Bank offers personal loans ranging from $2,000 to $25,000. You must have an existing Fifth Third checking or savings account to apply.
Fifth Third’s loans have terms that range from 12 to 60 months, giving you plenty of flexibility to choose the size of your monthly payment. You can also customize your first payment due date, giving yourself up to 45 days to make your first payment.
LightStream is the lending division of SunTrust Bank.
It offers loans of $5,000 to $100,000 with terms ranging from 24 months to 144 months. Terms greater than 84 months require a minimum loan of $25,000.
This makes LightStream a great choice if you need a long time to pay off your loan.
The bank’s unsecured loans can range in size from $1,000 to $35,000 and have terms of 6 to 60 months.
The banks’ secured personal loans can range from $2,000 to $100,000 and have terms of 6 to 60 months. Secured loans are also easier to qualify for but require that you offer collateral.
Can Online Lenders Be a Good Alternative?
It might seem like visiting a local branch is the easiest way to apply for a loan, but that strategy will ignore an entire category of lenders.
The fact is:
Online lenders can be a good choice for many people because many charge lower interest rates and fewer fees.
Online lenders are able to charge these lower fees and rates because they tend to cost less to run than brick and mortar institutions.
Another great reason to use an online lender is that some specialize in using non-traditional factors to determine whether to offer you a loan.
If you have bad credit, this can help you qualify for a loan or save a lot of money on interest.
Factors to Consider When Comparing Loans
Once you’ve settled on a list of banks that you want to work with, you should take some time to compare the different loans that they offer.
The first step that you should take is determining whether you have a chance of getting a loan from a particular lender.
Some lenders focus on customers with excellent credit while others are more flexible, so try to get a sense for your credit score and the types of lenders you’re considering.
Once you’ve built a list of lenders who are likely to approve you, compare these factors.
Many lenders will add fees to their loans, increasing their total cost.
Common Personal Loan Fees
|Type of fee||Typical cost|
|Application fee||$25 to $50|
|Origination fee||1% to 6% of the loan amount|
|Prepayment penalty||2% to 5% of the loan amount|
|Late payment fee||$25 to $50 or 3% to 5% of monthly payment|
|Returned check fee||$20 to $50|
|Payment protection insurance||1% of the loan amount|
One of the most common personal loan fees is the origination fee. This fee is added to your loan’s starting balance, increasing the amount that you owe without increasing the amount that is deposited to your checking account.
Usually, the origination fee is a percentage of the amount that you borrow.
For example, if you get a $10,000 with a 2% origination fee, the fee will be $200.
Most loans also charge fees for late payment, so make sure that you always pay your bills on time.
A less common fee that you should be aware of is the early repayment fee, which is charged if you pay off the loan ahead of schedule. This fee helps compensate the bank for lost interest income.
The term of a loan is the period of time that you will take to pay it off if you follow the minimum payment schedule.
Shorter terms result in higher monthly payments but leave less time for interest to accrue. This saves you money in the long-run.
Longer terms have the opposite result: lower monthly payments but a higher total cost.
The amounts you can borrow
Different lenders are willing to lend different amounts of money.
Some won’t be willing to lend more than $20,000 while others are fine lending $100,000 or more. Similarly, most lenders have minimum loan sizes, though the minimums vary.
Make sure that any lender that you work with is willing to offer a loan of the appropriate size.
When funds are disbursed
Sometimes, you need money and you need it now. Different lenders take different amounts of time to disburse the money after you’re approved for a loan. If you need cash quickly, look for a lender who offers quick approval and disbursement.
Check if your current bank offers a relationship discount.
Many times, you can get an interest rate discount by signing up for automatic payments from a linked checking account.
What Do You Need to Apply for a Personal Loan?
When you apply for a personal loan, you have to provide some identifying information that the lender can use to check your credit and make a lending decision.
Expect to provide some or all of the following information:
- Date of birth
- Proof of identity, such as a driver’s license
- Social Security number
- Annual income
- Proof of income, such as bank statements or paystubs.
- Employment verification
Though providing this much information might sound daunting, the more info you provide, the better.
The more information that you provide, the smoother the application process will be.
The last thing you want is to leave lenders with questions about your finances or identity, which can lead to a declined loan application.
How to Improve Your Chances of Being Approved for a Personal Loan
If you’re planning on applying for a personal loan, you should take the time to make sure that you have the best possible chance of getting the loan.
Possibly the most important factor in whether a lender approves your application is your credit score.
Having a good credit score makes it much easier to borrow money.
The best way to improve your credit score is to make timely payments on all of your bills, but this process can take a long time. In the short term, there are some tricks that you can use to improve your chances of getting a loan.
Credit utilization ratio
One short-term way to boost your credit is to reduce your credit utilization ratio.
This is the ratio of the amount of credit that you are using, divided by the total credit available to you. For example, if you have a credit card with a $1,000 limit and have a balance of $100, your credit utilization ratio is 10%.
If you can pay down your credit card balances, and avoid using your card in the month or two leading up to your application, it can give your credit score a small boost.
Your debt-to-income ratio, while not part of your credit score, also plays a large role in your ability to qualify for loans.
This ratio is calculated by dividing your total debt by your annual income. The lower the ratio, the better.
There are two ways to reduce this ratio. One is to pay down your existing debts. This is the best method for improving your chances of getting a loan as this will also improve your credit score.
The other option is to increase your income, which can be more difficult. If you do decide to go this route, make sure that any new income you receive is documented. If you take a side job that pays under the table, lenders won’t include that income in their decision.