Personal loans can help you achieve many different financial and personal goals. Let’s take a closer look at what you need to apply for a personal loan and why you might want one!

Personal loans are the most flexible of all loan types. You can use them for almost anything you want. The most common use is debt consolidation, but personal loans are commonly used for major purchases, pay off credit card debt, home renovation, and even vacations or weddings[1]. That versatility means there’s a good chance that at some point you’ll want to know what you need to apply for a personal loan.

Personal loans are usually unsecured. Some may require you to put up collateral, which means that if you default on your payments, the lender can legally take possession of the collateral and sell it to recoup their losses.

Because personal loans are usually unsecured, they are a risk for lenders. That’s why lenders require applicants to submit documents and other personal information.

Process of Applying for a Personal Loan

Lenders may accept personal loan applications either in person or online through a secure web form. In most cases, you’ll need to fill out an application form and provide copies, electronic versions, or sometimes photographs of other required documentation. 

Sometimes lenders will also permit you to apply over the telephone. You’ll still need to provide the required documents and information to follow up with the telephone application and finalize your loan request. 

Lenders have a vested interest in confirming your identity and your creditworthiness. That’s why their documentation and information requirements are sometimes extensive. Knowing what to expect in an application will help you simplify the process and ensure you have what you need to get the application properly filed and raise your chances of successfully obtaining the loan. 

In addition to the following documentation, you’ll need to meet your lender’s credit score requirements. That’s especially true if you want to obtain an unsecured personal loan with competitive terms. If you’re seeking a loan for debt consolidation, you could struggle to find a loan with a lower interest rate than your existing loans to make the consolidation effective. 

What Documents Will a Personal Lender Require?

What you need to apply for a personal loan will vary from lender to lender. Most lenders will require the following basic documentation to establish your identity, credit history, employment, and income.

Application Form

Most personal loan application forms ask for basic biographical information: name, address, telephone number, workplace and work number, date of birth, and most of all your Social Security number. You may also be asked to state or select the amount of the loan you’re looking for and the purpose for which you intend to use the loan funds. 

Additionally, the application form may ask for financial information such as your gross or take-home monthly income and other sources of income you’d like the lender to consider in establishing your total income. The more income you can show, of course, the more assurance your lender will have that you can afford to carry the debt and pay it back as scheduled.

Living Expenses

Generally, your lender will also ask you to itemize your monthly expenses. These may include both fixed and estimated variable expenses. Examples of fixed expenses include rent or mortgage payments, car payments, and student loan payments. Variable expenses are those that can change from month to month and include items such as food, utility payments, and transportation costs.

Income and Work Verification

Even if the application form asks for basic financial information you’ll also need to verify and provide the name of your employer, the amount of your income, and the frequency with which you get paid. Your income and employment information helps prove to the lender that you have sufficient anticipated and regular income to pay back the loan as well as all your living expenses. 

Applicants generally provide this information in their loan application packages through any of a number of document types. You can provide copies of your pay stubs from your employer, or tax transcripts or returns that show your annual income, employer name, and employer contact information. 

If you’re self-employed (for instance, a freelancer or gig worker) you’re not out of luck, although you may have to get a bit more creative in some instances. Ordinarily, self-employed applicants can rely on documents such as business or personal bank statements, 1099 forms, or tax transcripts or returns to provide the same type of information. 

Official Proof of Identification

Finally, you’ll need to establish your identity. Most lenders require one or two different forms of official ID, which can be met in a number of ways: 

  • State-issued photo ID or driver’s license
  • Social Security card
  • Passport
  • Military ID
  • Birth certificate

This requirement is to help prevent identity theft, fraud, and other finance-related crimes. Additionally, lenders require formal proof of identity in order to ensure the applicant is at least 18 years of age and legally capable of entering into enforceable contracts. 

Proof of Residency

In addition to the above requirements, you may also be asked to provide documentation that establishes where you live. Some of the above forms of identification such as a state-issued ID or driver’s license may serve this purpose. In addition, your lender may accept one or more of the following:

  • Utility bill
  • Lease
  • Mortgage statement
  • Bank statement
  • Voter registration card
  • Proof of insurance for vehicle or home

Some lenders use proof of residency to help establish that you have a secure living environment, which tends to reinforce your creditworthiness. 

👉 Tip: If you’ve recently changed addresses, make sure you file a formal change of address form with the U.S. Post Office. You can do this online or in person at the nearest post office. 

What If You Need a Cosigner? 

In some cases, you might need to apply with a cosigner—that is, another adult person with good credit who agrees to be liable for your loan if you fail to make the required payments for any reason. A lender may require a cosigner if an applicant’s credit rating is below the lender’s minimum accepted score. 

A lender may also ask you to apply with a cosigner if your credit history is limited. In other words, if you’ve only been establishing credit for a year or two, or if you’ve missed some payments that were reported to the credit reporting agencies, then you may be asked to apply with a cosigner. In that event, the lender will usually require the same documentation from you both, so your cosigner will also need to sign the application form, provide proof of income and employment, and establish residency. 

Providing Collateral

Cosigners can be hard to come by, especially for applicants with a low credit score or a thin credit file. Because cosigners are equally liable for paying off the loan, you may find it difficult to convince even close relatives to help you in this way. 

As an alternative to providing a cosigner, you might ask your lender if they’d be willing to convert an unsecured personal loan to one that’s secured by collateral. Many lenders will accept personal property with significant value to serve as your collateral. You’ll have to identify that property—such as non-costume jewelry or a car that’s not already subject to a loan—to the lender, and they may require proof of ownership. 

Collateral for a secured loan provides the lender with an assurance that if the borrower defaults on the loan, they’ll still be able to recoup their funds by seizing the collateral, selling it, and depositing the proceeds. 


Personal loans are common: you can apply at a bank or credit union or from a wide range of online lenders. In most cases, the application requirements will be similar.

If you decide that you want one of these highly versatile loans, knowing what you need to apply for a personal loan will make the process fast and easy!

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