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If you’re thinking about consolidating debt or looking for a loan to cover some unexpected expense or major purchase, maybe you’ve researched personal loans.

When you apply for a loan, a lender will assess your ability to pay it back in full. Whether or not your personal loan application is approved may be determined by several factors. For example, a history of practicing responsible financial habits, like paying bills on time, may be rewarded during the application process.

Taking these five steps before you apply for a personal loan online may help you get your funds more quickly.

Decide the purpose of your loan

Will you use your loan to consolidate and pay down higher-interest debt? Or pay for a home improvement project, get help with unexpected expenses, or finance that dream vacation you’ve been wanting to take? How you plan to use your loan will help determine how much you need to borrow to accomplish your goals.

Do the math

Estimate the total expenses you need to cover before you take out the loan. If you plan to use your loan for consolidating debt, make a list of the debts you want to combine. Determine how much you can comfortably afford to pay each month on a personal loan. You should also think about how long you want or need to pay off the loan.

Assess your eligibility

A Discover® personal loan, for example requires you to be 18 or older and a U.S. citizen, have an individual or household income of $25,000 or more, and meet other credit and income qualifications. Eligibility requirements can vary by lender, so be sure to understand what each lender you research may require.

Check your credit score

It’s important to know your credit score because it will impact the amount of money you can borrow as well as the rates you receive. Discover customers can check their credit score online or through our app. Other sources for finding your credit score include a credit card statement, talking to a credit counselor, using a credit score service, or paying a credit reporting company directly.

Gather documents needed to apply online

Organizing all of the required documents beforehand will help simplify the process and reduce stress during the application. Start with the basics, including proof of address, date of birth, and Social Security number. Then use this checklist for other information you may need to have on hand:

  • Household income information. You may need to have pay stubs or bank statements to help verify your income with the lender.
  • Bank account number and routing number. For direct deposit into your checking or savings account.
  • Balances and account numbers for creditors. To use for debt consolidation if you want the lender to pay debts directly.
  • Your contact information. So you can be reached quickly to answer any questions.
  • Personal identification. Some lenders may require your state-issued driver’s license or identification card, so have that ready and easily accessible.
  • Tax information. Some lenders require this as well. To be on the safe side, have a paper and digital copy of your 1040 form that you submitted for your previous year’s tax return.
  • Employment history. Just in case, you may want to have contact information for your employer on hand as well as your places of employment from the past five years or so.

If you apply for a personal loan online, the application process is usually more efficient than working with a local bank or credit union. A lender like Discover also has loan specialists available to call if you have any questions or prefer to apply by phone.

Consider comparing lenders

Look at online customer reviews about the lenders you research. You should feel assured that you’re working with reputable people and institutions when you borrow money. Search the Better Business Bureau for accredited lenders. The more assurances you can get, the better.

Also, make sure you understand the terms of the loan you’re planning to get. Knowing the nuts and bolts of borrowing will help you find a loan and lender that work best for you. The online loan process is an efficient one that could move quickly once you’ve supplied the details. If your loan application is approved, take a close look at the terms of the loan before accepting.

That’s it! At Discover Personal Loans, we’re happy to help guide you through the loan application to make it as easy as possible. Give us a call at 1-866-248-1255 to talk to a loan specialist who can help you through each step, or get an online loan application started today.

You can even preview your rate before you apply without harming your credit score. Check Your Rate