Personal loans can be a strategic way for you to consolidate your debt or pay off big purchases over time. However, it takes a little research to apply, be qualified for and select a loan that is best suited for your needs and offers you favorable terms.

While you can always apply directly with a bank or credit union, Upstart offers a way to check multiple lenders at once. Unlike other lenders on CNBC Select’s list of best debt consolidation loans, Upstart is a peer-to-peer online lending platform that acts as an intermediary between you and its lending partners.

With flexible credit score requirements, Upstart may be more friendly to credit newcomers and people with lower-than-average credit scores.

CNBC Select reviewed Upstart’s personal loans looking at APR, perks, fees, loan amounts and term lengths. (Read more about our methodology below.)

Upstart marketplace Review

Upstart Personal Loans

  • Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

  • Loan purpose

    Debt consolidation, credit card refinancing, home improvement, wedding, moving or medical

  • Loan amounts

  • Terms

  • Credit needed

    FICO or Vantage score of 580 (but will accept applicants whose credit history is so insufficient they don’t have a credit score)

  • Origination fee

    0% to 8% of the target amount

  • Early payoff penalty

  • Late fee

    The greater of 5% of monthly past due amount or $15

APR

APRs for Upstart loans range from 8.27% to 35.99% and are determined based on factors including your credit, income, work experience and education history. (Neither Upstart nor its bank partners have a minimum educational requirement in order to be eligible for a loan, however.) Interest rate is only one factor in total APR, which is the cost of the loan over a year; other fees are outlined below.

Perks

Nearly all personal loan funds are sent the next business day after you complete all required paperwork before 5 p.m. (Monday through Friday). Education-related expenses and credit card refinancing loans, however, have a three-day waiting period.

Loan applicants need a FICO or Vantage score of at least 580, but Upstart does accepts applicants who don’t have credit scores.

Fees

The origination fee for this loan is 0% to 8% of the loan you are approved for. One drawback of this loan is that this fee is automatically withheld from the loan before it is delivered to you.

Upstart charges a late fee that is either 5% of the amount that is past due or $15, whichever is greater.

If you request paper copies of your loan agreement you pay a $10 fee, but virtual copies are free.

There are no early payoff penalties with Upstart loans.

Loan amount

Loan amounts range from $1,000 to $50,000, but not all applicates will qualify for the full amount. How much you qualify for will be determined based on your credit, income and other information on your loan application.

Exceptions for the minimum loan amount are state-dependent: Massachusetts starts at $7,000, Ohio at $6,000, New Mexico at $5,100 and Georgia at $3,100.

Term lengths

Term lengths can either be three or five years.

Bottom line

A major drawback of Upstart personal loans are the high fees and APR, but if you have fair or average credit Upstart may offer higher approval odds compared to other traditional lenders.

If you are trying to improve your credit, consider other options before taking out a personal loan and think about what goes into your credit score.

If you have good to excellent credit and are looking to pay smaller fees, LightStream Personal Loans could offer you better terms and could be a better fit for you.

Our methodology

To determine which personal loans are the best for consolidating debt, CNBC Select analyzed dozens of U.S. personal loans offered by both online and brick-and-mortar banks, including large credit unions. When possible we chose loans with no origination or sign-up fees, but we also included options for borrowers with lower credit scores on this list. Some of those options have origination fees.

When narrowing down and ranking the best personal loans, we focused on the following features:

  • Fixed-rate APR: Variable rates can go up and down over the lifetime of your loan. With a fixed rate APR, you lock in an interest rate for the duration of the loan’s term, which means your monthly payment won’t vary, making your budget easier to plan.
  • Flexible minimum and maximum loan amounts/terms: Each lender provides more than one financing option that you can customize based on your monthly budget and how long you need to pay back your loan.
  • No early payoff penalties: The lenders on our list do not charge borrowers for paying off loans early.
  • Streamlined application process: We considered whether lenders offered same-day approval decisions and a fast online application process. 
  • Customer support: Every loan on our list provides customer service available via telephone, email or secure online messaging. We also opted for lenders with an online resource hub or advice center to help you educate yourself about the personal loan process and your finances.
  • Fund disbursement: The loans on our list deliver funds promptly through either electronic wire transfer to your checking account or in the form of a paper check. Some lenders (which we noted) offer the ability to pay your creditors directly.
  • Autopay discounts: We noted the lenders that reward you for enrolling in autopay by lowering your APR by 0.25% to 0.5%.
  • Creditor payment limits and loan sizes: The above lenders provide loans in an array of sizes, from $1,000 to $100,000. Each lender advertises its respective payment limits and loan sizes, and completing a preapproval process can give you an idea of what your interest rate and monthly payment would be for such an amount.

Note that the rates and fee structures advertised for personal loans are subject to fluctuate in accordance with the Fed rate. However, once you accept your loan agreement, a fixed-rate APR will guarantee your interest rate and monthly payment will remain consistent throughout the entire term of the loan. Your APR, monthly payment and loan amount depend on your credit history and creditworthiness. To take out a loan, lenders will conduct a hard credit inquiry and request a full application, which could require proof of income, identity verification, proof of address and more.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the CNBC Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.