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Upstart Review: Great for Students but Right for You?

Upstart offers a unique opportunity for peer loans to students and graduates

I still remember trying to get a loan as a recent college graduate. It was before the surge in peer to peer lending but I tried just about everywhere. The answer was the same, if you don’t have a credit history then you don’t have a high enough credit score and…no loan. A new peer lending site, Upstart, wants to change this and may be the opportunity you need for your loan.

The Upstart review process for your loan starts like it does on any other personal loan site with your credit score and other income information. Upstart is different in that it can also look at your academic history and other factors to fund your loan.

It’s a unique way of lending and the company is living up to its name as an upstart in the universe of online loans. Use this Upstart review to see if the site is right for your peer loan needs.

Upstart Review: What Makes Upstart Different?

Founded by a group of former Google employees, Upstart uses technology for a new opportunity in peer lending. The loan software created by the company has the ability to change its requirements and scoring depending on the borrower’s situation. Specifically, if the borrower is just graduating or a recent grad then the peer lender will factor academic history in making the loan.

This opens up a whole new opportunity for graduating students trying to get started. Most have no credit score or bad credit simply because they don’t have a long credit history. On their credit score and income alone, there’s no way they would be able to get a personal loan and certainly not at a rate they can afford.

Upstart is taking a chance on younger borrowers and its paying off for the new peer-to-peer lender. Loan originations have jumped just over the last two years and more investors are signing up every day.

Click to check your rate on a loan from Upstart. Won’t affect your credit score.

upstart review peer loans

Upstart is a true peer lending platform in that the company doesn’t make the loans itself. Upstart handles the documentation and sets interest rates but then allows investors to invest directly in each loan, much like is done on Lending Club or Prosper. This is different from the model used by Avant Credit where the company may fund loans on the site.

It can take a little longer to get a peer loan because you have to wait for investors to fund the loan rather than the website to originate. The upside is that rates tend to be a little lower on p2p lending sites because investors compete for loans.

Upstart Personal Loans Rates and Requirements

For borrowers with an established credit score, Upstart does require a 640 FICO for lending but doesn’t require a minimum income. If you are a graduating student or recently graduated, Upstart’s lending model kicks in and you might be able to get a loan without the FICO credit score requirement.

Younger borrowers hoping to get a loan on their academic record rather than their FICO score will need to submit proof of SAT scores and a college transcript. If you are applying for an Upstart personal loan just on your credit score and income, you may need to submit tax returns and pay stubs for verification.

Interest rates range from 4.66% to as high as 30% depending on your credit score and other factors. The lower range on rates is quite a bit lower than almost any other personal loan site so it pays to apply and compare your Upstart rate with other sites. Loans are available for $1,000 up to $50,000 and for three- to five-years.

Upstart can fund a loan in as little as the next day but most peer loans take between three to five days for document verification and funding.

  • Rates between 4.66% to 30%
  • Loans between $1,000 to $50k
  • Terms of 3- to 5-years with monthly payments
  • Origination fee of 1% to 6% depending on borrower grade
  • No prepayment fees
  • Late fee of $15 or 5% of loan, whichever is greater

Because of Upstarts unique loan model for graduates, most of its loans go to those with a college degree. The average income of borrowers tends to be a little higher than other peer lending sites but I would bet there are more Upstart borrowers that make little or nothing based on the fact that the site loans to recent graduates.

upstart personal loans review

If you do have bad credit or just a credit score below 640, it might be difficult getting an Upstart loan unless you’re just out of school. If you are a bad credit borrower and not a recent college graduate, you’ll need to improve your credit score with these steps or try getting a loan from another peer loan website.

What I like about Upstart for a Personal Loans

Upstart’s unique loan model really sets it apart from other peer loan and personal loan sites. If you were a recent graduate with no credit before Upstart, you were pretty much out of luck when it came to loans. It’s why many people have to rely on the Bank of Mom and Dad for so long into their working lives.

upstart review peer to peer loansUpstart has built a name for itself in the market for loans to students and graduates. It’s not a huge market compared to other personal loan segments like bad credit borrowers or other groups but Upstart does it well.

Another benefit of restricting its loans to college graduates and those with fairly high credit scores is that Upstart is able to keep rates low compared to other personal loan sites. Most people won’t get the lowest rate of 4.66% but overall rates on Upstart are still well below other peer lenders. Some of that comes from the site’s lending standards but it’s also a factor of peer lending investors competing for loans.

What I Don’t like about Upstart Compared to Other Personal Loan Sites

The credit score requirement of 640 FICO shuts out a lot of borrowers, almost a third of the people in the United States have credit scores below 649 FICO. The problem is that 640 is the arbitrary cutoff for prime loans and many lenders don’t want to make sub-prime loans after the financial crisis.

For recent college graduates or younger borrowers, Upstart is a great option since the lender will look past your credit score and extend a loan based on your academic history. You’ll need to provide test scores and your transcript but it’s a way to get the money you need instead of being locked out.

Other borrowers with poor credit scores aren’t so lucky. If you aren’t a recent graduate, check out our list of peer lending online loan sites for other options including many that will lend to bad credit borrowers.

The additional documents required for an Upstart personal loan look like they might be a pain as well but it’s the only way the site can determine credit risk without going exclusively on the FICO score. It might take longer to get an Upstart loan if you need to collect a lot of the docs but it’s not too much to ask considering it’s an unsecured loan.

Upstart Review: Summary of Upstart Student Personal Loans

Benefits of an Upstart Personal Loan:

  • Opportunity for students and recent grads
  • Lower starting rates compared to other peer lenders

Drawbacks of an Upstart Personal Loan:

  • Credit score requirement of 640 or higher
  • Increased requirement for document verification

Apply for up to $50,000 on Upstart and check your rate

For students or recent grads, Upstart is a clear winner in the universe of personal loans and peer lending. There’s been little choice for these borrowers in the past so the unique Upstart lending model is an unequaled opportunity. For other borrowers, especially those with poor credit, there isn’t as much to put Upstart at the top of the list for your personal loan. You can check your rate without hurting your credit score so it pays to apply and compare against other lending sites but the peer-to-peer lender is really focused to a specific group of borrowers.

Joseph Hogue, CFAAbout Joseph Hogue

An investment analyst by profession, I run two blogs (Crowd101 and PeerFinance101) in personal finance, peer lending and crowdfunding. I've been on both sides of the table as a lender and a borrower and am excited to be a part of the peer movement. With the power of the internet, people are helping other people manage debt and raise money in ways never before possible.

A veteran and Iowa-native, I now live in Colombia with my wife and son. Like so many people, I was once trapped into the money myth and what it means to be successful. After taking control of my finances and learning how to make money in a job I love, I found a level of financial freedom that just has to be shared.

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