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Personal loans come in a range of shapes and sizes. But the amount you can borrow depends on several factors, from the type of lender to your credit score.
The smallest personal loan you can get may be $100 or less, but tiny loans like this often come with high fees. If you don't have enough in your savings account to cover an unexpected expense, a small personal loan may work for you, but there could be better options.
What's the Least You Can Borrow With a Personal Loan?
Each lender offers its own range of personal loan amounts, and those amounts can vary widely. You can find personal loans from $100 to $100,000, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, though the typical amount borrowed is around $8,000. According to Experian research, the average balance consumers owed on personal loans in 2020 was $16,458 (which could constitute more than one loan).
These amounts are in the thousands, not the hundreds, because personal loans are often used for large, one-time purchases and repaid in fixed installments over the course of several years. Common uses for personal loans include debt consolidation, medical expenses, home renovation, child adoption or a wedding.
Finding unsecured personal loans for less than $1,000 from popular lenders may be difficult. You may be able to find personal loans for a few hundred dollars at credit unions or community banks, or with secured personal loans, but these options are less common. Most personal loans are unsecured, meaning no collateral is required; the application is assessed on the applicant's creditworthiness and financial health.
Some alternative lenders, particularly payday lenders, do offer very small loans of under $1,000, but these are not considered typical personal loans. Instead, they are very short-term loans with high fees. Because payday loans often result in a cycle of debt, it's usually best to consider other options.
Pros and Cons of a Small Personal Loan
Before you pursue a small personal loan, make sure you're aware of the upsides and downsides.
- Potentially competitive interest rate: Interest rates on personal loans are typically lower than on credit cards, which can save you money over the life of the loan.
- Less risk of overextending yourself: Because you're taking on a smaller amount of debt than if you took out a large loan, you may be able to pay it off faster.
- Fewer choices: Given that not many traditional lenders offer small personal loans, you may not have as many options. This makes it harder to comparison shop for the best rates and fees.
- Faster repayment schedule: Some smaller loans have short terms that require quick repayment. Larger loans, on the other hand, are usually repaid over several years.
- Can be expensive: Loans are usually intended for financing large purchases when you don't have enough savings to buy outright. There are costs to taking out loans, from interest fees to origination fees, and if you make any late payments, your credit score can suffer. If you only need a small amount, there may be safer and less expensive ways to access funds.
Alternatives to a Personal Loan
When you need to borrow a small amount of money, personal loans are far from the only option. Others include:
- 0% intro APR credit card: If your credit is in good shape and you can pay off the expense within the introductory no-interest period, consider a credit card with a 0% intro annual percentage rate. The 0% intro APR periods vary, usually anywhere from nine to 21 months. As long as you can pay off your balance before that period ends, you'll get to borrow that money without paying interest.
- Payday alternative loan: Some federal credit unions offer these small emergency loans as a safer, less expensive alternative to payday loans.
- Family member or friend: This may be a last resort, but for borrowing small amounts, it may be easiest to turn to a trusted loved one. If you're worried about it creating tension in the relationship, consider writing up a promissory note to outline the repayment terms and make it feel more official.
- Financial relief options: Some employers, religious organizations and local nonprofits offer short-term financial relief to those in their community; find out if there are any financial assistance or relief options available to you.
Compare Your Options
If a personal loan seems like your best option, make sure your credit is in the best shape possible to qualify for a low interest rate and good terms. You can check your credit score and report for free with Experian. You can also save yourself some time when researching possible lenders by using Experian CreditMatch™ to compare personal loans personalized to your credit profile.