Personal loan requirements: Know before you apply

From weddings to home repairs, you can use a personal loan to finance almost any type of purchase. A personal loan is usually a fixed-rate, unsecured installment loan. Unsecured means it’s not backed by collateral (like a house or car), and fixed-rate means that the interest rate stays the same over the life of the loan. Some lenders can place restrictions on using the personal loan proceeds for certain expenses, such as post-secondary education and business purposes

To qualify for a personal loan, you need to meet a few requirements. These can vary by lender, but they usually involve your credit score, credit history, debt-to-income ratio, age and income. You may also need to submit certain documents. Let’s look at these requirements and the personal loan application process.

Credit score and credit history

Lenders consider your credit score and credit history when deciding whether to approve you for a personal loan. Your creditworthiness can also impact the loan terms.

Credit score and credit history requirements can vary from lender to lender. But generally, a higher credit score and positive credit history mean they’re more likely to approve you.

Your credit score and history can signal to lenders that you’re a reliable borrower. Lenders want to know that you can repay a loan and make on-time monthly payments. A history of on-time debt payments – such as for credit cards and student loans – can demonstrate that you’re a responsible borrower.

If approved, the interest rate you receive can also depend on your creditworthiness. A higher credit score can mean you’re more likely to get a lower interest rate.

Debt-to-income ratio

Lenders will look at your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) when you apply for a personal loan. Your DTI is the percentage of your gross monthly income that goes toward debt payments. Lenders use this number to evaluate your ability to comfortably afford new loan payments and decide whether you can take on more debt. As with credit score and credit history, lenders use an applicant’s DTI to assess the likelihood they’ll repay the loan.

As with creditworthiness, DTI requirements can differ by lender. Your DTI can also impact your interest rate.


Personal loans typically have a minimum age requirement.


Lenders want to know if you have a stable cash flow and enough money to cover monthly payments. For this reason, they may have minimum income requirements. When applying for a loan, you may need to attach proof of employment or income, such as a W-2 or paystubs. For individuals with non-traditional income sources, such as freelancers or self-employed individuals, providing additional documentation like tax returns or bank statements may be necessary to demonstrate their financial ability.

Documents to gather

Lenders may request you attach certain documents to your personal loan application to verify information, such as your income and identity. These documents may include:

  • Proof of identity: Lenders need to confirm you are who you say you are on the application and that you meet the age requirement. Acceptable proof of identification documents can include your passport, driver’s license, military ID or state ID.
  • Proof of address: You can usually use a proof of identity document as proof of address if it shows your current address. Proof of address can also include a utility bill or a lease agreement.
  • Proof of income and employment status: This depends on your employment status – whether you’re employed, self-employed or a freelancer. However, it typically involves providing recent pay stubs, your W-2, tax returns, bank statements or your employer’s contact information.
  • Proof of income and employment status: This depends on your employment status – whether you’re employed, self-employed or a freelancer. However, it typically involves providing recent pay stubs, your W-2, tax returns, bank statements or your employer’s contact information.

Applying for a personal loan

Before starting your application, research and compare individual lenders’ requirements so you can find the best fit for you and your current finances.

Once you’ve chosen a lender, the next step is filling out the application. You can usually complete the application online or in person. Make sure you’ve filled it out completely and accurately. Ensure you have all the necessary documentation ready.

Once you submit your application, you’ll typically hear back from the lender relatively quickly and, if approved, receive your funds soon after that. Citi customers with a Citi deposit account can receive their funds via direct deposit the same day. Applicants with non-Citi accounts can receive funds within two business days.

Improving your chances of being approved for a personal loan

There are a few things you can do to improve your chances of being approved:

Review your credit report for mistakes. Errors may lower your credit score and hurt your ability to get a loan.

Improve your credit score and credit history by doing things like paying off debt and always making debt payments on time and in full.

Increase your income – lenders like to see that you have a reliable cash flow.

Consider how much you want to borrow – you’re more likely to be approved for a smaller loan. Make sure that, whatever the amount, you know you can make payments in full and on time.

Citi offers personal loans to both existing Citi customers and new Citi customers that meet specific eligibility criteria, including an established credit and income history along with additional factors determined by Citi. If you think you could benefit from a Citi Personal Loan, apply online today.

Disclosure: This article is for educational purposes. It is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and is not a substitute for professional advice. It does not indicate the availability of any Citi product or service. For advice about your specific circumstances, you should consult a qualified professional.

Additional Resources

  • Start your personal loan application now!

  • Learn how FICO® Scores are determined, why they matter and more.

  • Review financial terms & definitions to help you better understand credit & finances.