USAA Personal Loans Review 2021: Good for Military Members, Veterans, and Their Families

An image to accompany a review of USAA personal loans Getty Images/Illustration by NextAdvisor
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USAA was established in 1922 as a cooperative for Army officers to insure each other’s vehicles. Today, USAA is a fully integrated financial services company aimed at serving military members, veterans, and their families. It’s important to note that, in order to use any of the services offered by USAA — including personal loans — you need to be a member of USAA.

Membership in USAA is open to current and former military members, their spouses, and their children. It’s possible for children of members (even if they’re not military) to join USAA. You can find detailed eligibility criteria and membership benefits on USAA’s website

USAA offers personal loans, but they are somewhat limited in nature, with loan amounts between $2,500 and $20,000. It’s possible to get money quickly, however, usually within 24 hours after being approved. Additionally, there are a variety of terms to choose from, from one year to seven years. USAA also offers a 0.25% rate discount if you enroll in AutoPay. However, it’s difficult to get a rate quote unless you’re a member, and it’s hard to find information about the loans without having access to the membership area.

What to Know Before Getting a Personal Loan

When you use a personal loan, you can get access to an upfront sum of money quickly. However, it’s important to create a repayment plan before moving forward. Research your options and look at different lenders to see which offers the best personal loan rate for your situation.

As you comparison shop for a personal loan, realize that lenders advertise their best rates, and the quote you receive might be higher than what’s advertised. Your personal loan rate is set by various factors, including your credit score and income, as well as your desired loan term and loan amount. If you aren’t happy with your rate and terms, you might be able to refinance your loan down the road, but that’s not a guaranteed option.

Some lenders will pre-qualify you for a loan or let you check your rate using a soft credit inquiry. A soft inquiry won’t impact your credit score, while a hard credit inquiry can slightly lower your credit score. Most lenders move forward with a hard credit inquiry once you submit an official application. Additionally, your interest rate can potentially change from the preliminary quote once your official application is turned in. Don’t forget to check for other fees and prepayment penalties before you move forward.

Once your loan is funded, consider setting up automatic payments to ensure that you don’t miss payments. By making on-time payments, you can avoid late fees and extra interest charges, as well as keep your credit score in good shape.

Finally, understand the difference between a secured and unsecured loan. A secured loan requires a valuable asset, such as a home or car, to use as collateral. If you default, the lender can claim your property and sell it to recoup their losses. On the other hand, an unsecured loan doesn’t require collateral. As a result of this increased risk to the lender, the rates on an unsecured loan can be higher than on a secured loan. However, with a secured loan, you risk losing a valuable asset if you can’t make payments. 

Alternatives to Personal Loans

There are many different reasons to get a personal loan, including debt consolidation, covering emergency expenses, or financing a large purchase. But depending on your situation and goals, other methods of financing may be a better fit. Here are some other options to explore before settling on a personal loan:

  • Home equity loan, home equity line of credit (HELOC), or cash-out refinance: You can tap into your home equity to cover large expenses or consolidate debt. These options could potentially give you a lower interest rate than a personal loan, saving you money in the long run. However, there are risks associated with using home equity financing, including the fact that you could lose your house if you can’t make payments. 
  • Balance transfer credit card: By transferring your existing debts onto a balance transfer card with a 0% APR introductory period, it’s possible to get rid of debt faster and save on interest. However, if you don’t pay off the debt before the end of the introductory period, you could end up stuck with a higher interest rate. 
  • Personal savings: If you’re not in an emergency situation, saving up over a period of weeks or months for a planned expense may be better than borrowing money. You could also start building an emergency fund of three to six months’ worth of expenses so that you don’t have to go into debt when unexpected costs come up.
  • Non-profit credit counseling: In some cases, getting into more debt might create additional problems. Working with a non-profit credit counseling program can help you address underlying issues. You won’t be given money directly, but credit counseling can potentially offer tools, strategies, and education to help you fix mistakes and move forward. 

Pros and Cons of USAA Personal Loans 

Pros

  • Next day funding in some cases

  • No origination fees for members

  • Loan term of up to seven years

  • 0.25% AutoPay discount available

Cons

  • Must be a USAA member to get a loan

  • Not a lot of information available on the website

  • Relatively low loan amounts available

USAA Compared to Other Lenders

USAALightStreamSoFi
Current APRUp to 18% APR2.49% to 19.99% (with 0.50% AutoPay discount)4.99% to 19.63% (with AutoPay discount)
Loan Term Range1 to 7 years1 to 12 years2 to 7 years
Loan Amount$2,500 to $20,000$5,000 to $100,000$5,000 to $100,000
Credit Score NeededNot specified660680
Prepayment PenaltyNoneNoneNone
Origination FeeNoneNoneNone
Unsecured or Secured DebtUnsecuredUnsecuredUnsecured

The above rates and loan information are accurate as of October 6, 2021. The NextAdvisor editorial team updates this information regularly, though it is possible APRs and other information have changed since the page was last updated. Some of the lowest advertised rates might be for secured loans, which require collateral such as your home, car, or other asset. Also, some loan offerings may be specific to where you live.

How to Qualify for a USAA Loan

In order to get a personal loan through USAA, you need to first be a member. Membership requirements are related to military service. Active service members and veterans can join USAA, as can their spouses and children. It’s also possible for other eligible family members to gain membership. You can find more detailed membership information on USAA’s website.

Other than that, you need to be the age of majority in your state. The USAA website doesn’t list minimum credit score and income requirements, and it’s difficult to get information about the loan or get a rate quote unless you log in as a member. A USAA representative couldn’t provide us with more detailed qualification requirements, either. 

If you are a member, though, it can be fairly simple to fill in your information, get a rate quote, and complete the application.

Who Should Get a USAA Loan

You must be a member to get a USAA loan. If you don’t meet the membership requirements, you’ll have to look elsewhere. 

If you are a USAA member, and if you need a relatively small amount, a USAA loan can potentially be a good choice. However, it’s difficult to find out whether you actually meet the criteria unless you log in as a member and turn in your application. In general, though, the better your credit score and income, the more likely you are to qualify for any type of personal loan.

For members who need access to fast cash, a USAA loan can be a good choice. The fast qualifying decision and streamlined online form can make it easy to find out if you can get the loan. Additionally, you can get funds as early as the next business day, making it a good choice if you need the money quickly. However, if you’re looking for an amount larger than $20,000, a USAA loan won’t be able to fully meet your needs. 

How to Apply for a USAA Loan

1. Join USAA, if you’re eligible

Because USAA is a members-only institution, you need to be a member to take advantage of the personal loans. Check the eligibility requirements to determine if you meet the membership criteria. If you do meet the requirements, join USAA.

2. Decide on your desired loan amount and loan term

Next, decide whether a personal loan is truly the best option for your goals and figure out the loan amount and loan term you want. With a longer loan term, you might have a lower monthly payment, but you’ll end up paying more interest in total. Additionally, USAA requires different minimum loan amounts depending on your loan term. For example, if you want a five-year loan, you need to borrow at least $10,000. Longer loan terms require larger loan values. 

3. Compare interest rates online

Get rate quotes from different lenders. Find out what USAA will offer you, but also check other lenders. Try to get quotes from lenders that only require a soft credit inquiry, rather than a hard inquiry. This can give you an idea of what you might qualify for without impacting your credit score.

4. Fill out and submit your application

If you think USAA is the best fit for you, fill out and submit a formal application. At this point, USAA will run a hard credit inquiry on your credit report, and your credit score could see a slight dip as a result. You’ll need to provide any necessary documentation USAA asks for, which may include a government-issued ID, proof of income, and bank account information. 

5. Wait for approval, signing, and funding

You could potentially find out if you’re approved within a few minutes. Once you’re approved for a loan and submit the necessary paperwork, you can receive your funds as early as the next business day. Make sure you have a plan to repay your loan so that you don’t rack up excessive interest charges or damage your credit score. 

USAA Personal Loan FAQs

Is USAA good for personal loans?

USAA offers the potential for next-day funding and loans up to $20,000, but its personal loans, like all its financial products, are limited to USAA members. If you’re already a member of USAA, and you don’t need more than $20,000, it can be a good choice.

What credit score do you need for a USAA loan?

USAA doesn’t specify a minimum credit score on its website. However, you’re more likely to be approved for a personal loan if you have a higher credit score.

Can I get a USAA personal loan with bad credit?

While USAA doesn’t disclose a minimum credit score on its website, it’ll likely be more difficult to get a USAA loan with bad credit than with good credit. If you have bad credit, it’s worth checking out lenders that specifically cater to borrowers with poor or fair credit.

Does a USAA loan hurt your credit?

You might see a small dip in your credit score when you apply for any personal loan, due to the lender running a hard credit check. However, this impact will likely be relatively small. If you miss payments or pay late, you could see a bigger impact on your credit score.