How Long Does It Take to Get a Loan?

Innovations in the loan application and approval process have made it easier and faster than ever to get a decision on your loan, sometimes even within minutes. A fast approval can be helpful if you need funds fast. But don’t speed through the loan details. Research and compare lenders before you apply to make sure you get the best loan deal possible.

What Is the Personal Loan Approval Process?

The personal loan approval process starts once you fill out an application. This gives the lender enough information to check your creditworthiness. You may apply online or in person, and some lenders offer applications by phone as well.

If you’d rather apply in person, you can visit a bank or a credit union.

When you meet with a lender, “You can be more or less prompted through the process,” says Mike Schenk, deputy chief advocacy officer and chief economist for the Credit Union National Association. “A lot of people don’t like to read the details on forms (themselves). To have someone help you understand that process and what the forms mean, it can be helpful in some cases.”

[Read: Best Small Business Loans.]

When you start the application, make sure you meet the basic requirements. For example, Discover requires that applicants be older than 18, be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, and have a household income of more than $25,000, says Matt Lattman, vice president of personal loans at Discover.

“Like other lenders, we have additional credit and/or income requirements to approve you for a loan,” Lattman says.

Most personal loans are for two to five years, for amounts ranging from $1,000 to $100,000. To determine whether you meet the lender’s specific credit and income requirements for the type of personal loan you’re pursuing, you’ll likely need to provide:

Basic identification information. Your name, address and Social Security number allow the lender to look up your credit report and verify your identity. You might be asked for your driver’s license information as well.

Proof of employment. A lender could ask for your employer’s contact information to confirm that you work there, if needed. You might also need to supply copies of pay stubs to verify the income level you put on the application.

Additionally, your credit history is a major factor in the underwriting of your loan. For example, if you have a debt that went to collections or if you went bankrupt recently, it will be tougher to qualify.

Your credit scores from FICO and VantageScore are largely based on credit reports from the three major reporting bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. A good FICO credit score starts at 670, but you have a chance to get approved with a score of 600 or above, depending on the lender and type of loan.

How Long Does the Loan Approval Process Alone Take?

Once the lender reviews your personal information and credit history, you could get a decision quickly. But that doesn’t mean you’ll get funds on the same day you applied.

“The loan approval process can vary greatly based on the type of lender you choose and how much information you provide on your application, but generally you can be approved for a loan at a community bank within a day and, in some cases, within minutes or hours of submitting a completed application,” says Kathryn G. Underwood, president and CEO of Ledyard National Bank in Hanover, New Hampshire, and bank education chairman of the Independent Community Bankers of America.

[Read: Best FHA Loans.]

Similarly, online lenders typically offer fast approval, with funds sent as early as the next business day, says Lattman.

Here is a look at the processes other lenders follow:

American Express: Only cardholders can apply for personal loans, and they can receive a decision in minutes. You can expect funds to be deposited within three to five business days.

Discover: Once your application is approved and you’ve accepted the terms of the loan, you can get funds as early as the next business day.

LendingClub: The loan application, approval and funding process could take as few as four days but averages around seven days.

Prosper: The full personal loan process, from application to funding the loan, usually takes within five business days.

U.S. Bank: You can typically get a loan decision within a minute online and funds within one business day of loan closing.

Upstart: Many loans are approved instantly, and your funds can be transferred the next business day.

Once you fill out an application, most lenders offer a way to check the status of your loan online.

However, the amount of time it takes to get a loan varies by lender type.

Banks and credit unions: Expect to receive your funds in one to five business days when applying for a loan at either a bank or a credit union.

Online lenders: Online banks tend to be the fastest when providing personal loan funds, with some issuing money within the same business day as application.

How Can You Get a Personal Loan Quicker?

— Choose a lender with a fast approval and funds disbursement process.

— Make sure you’re doing your part. Incomplete or conflicting information on your application could delay or prevent your approval for a personal loan. “Inadequate documentation, discrepancies between the application and credit report, or loans requiring further review are common reasons why a loan decision could be delayed by several days or even weeks,” Underwood says. But usually, you shouldn’t expect the delay to take more than a couple of business days, Lattman says.

— If you know you might have special circumstances that could disqualify you from getting a loan — such as no full-time job, a low credit score or a high debt-to-income ratio — you could set up a meeting with the lender to state your case. A DTI that’s higher than 43% could be a major problem for lenders, who use this number to measure your ability to manage your loan payments.

— If it’s a close call whether you’ll be approved for a loan, you should provide documents — such as several months of pay stubs that show a steady income — to address the lender’s potential concerns. “It shows the lender that you’re serious, you’ve thought it through and are the type of person who is more than likely to be attentive to that debt obligation,” Schenk says.

[Read: Best Personal Loans.]

More from U.S. News

Everything You Need to Know About Payday Loans

The Difference Between Hard and Soft Inquiries

Your Guide to the Big 3 Credit Bureaus

How Long Does It Take to Get a Loan? originally appeared on

Update 02/22/23:

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up