- Financing is available to qualified entrepreneurs
- Borrower qualifications are lower than through banks
- Rates tend to be inexpensive
- No prepayment penalties
- The application process is fast and easy
- Funds are disbursed quickly
- Financing isn’t available in some states
- Low borrowing amounts
Upstart is an online lender that offers consumer loans to qualified borrowers.
Founded in 2012, Upstart began as a truly bonkers idea where students agreed to part with a certain percentage of their income for the next ten years in exchange for capital and mentorship from investors. One fellow, for example, gave up 3.32% of his earnings for ten years in exchange for a $25K loan. While I’m sure there’s an alternate universe where this model works perfectly, the (hilarious) fact that the co-founder had to assure people that the program was not indentured servitude meant that something had to change.
In 2014, a change did happen: Upstart discontinued its income share agreements and began offering fixed-term P2P loans. The latter is by no means new territory — Prosper and Lending Club, two of the biggest names in P2P lending, have been at it since the mid-2000s. The difference is, Upstart has preserved the same target audience — young adults.
As a result, while credit scores are a consideration, those with little or no credit history are still eligible to receive capital. The underwriting process takes various characteristics into account, such as your “education, credentials, work experience” and the aforementioned credit (if you have it). It’s worth noting that while it was required in the past, Upstart no longer requires applicants to have a college degree. In other words, the company will work with what you’ve got. If you don’t have a credit score or a college education, it’s not the end of the line.
All this is not to say that Upstart will accept anybody. It just means that Upstart has different criteria about who it accepts and what rates those customers get. Instead of largely judging a potential borrower by their trustworthiness, which is reflected by a credit score, Upstart takes all the information you provide and compares it to other historical borrowers with the same characteristics.
Technically, Upstart offers consumer loans, but its primary focus is credit card refinancing. It’s also known for providing loans so that people can attend coding boot camps. More tailored to the purposes of this website, these loans can also be used for business purposes. However, I see very little difference between a loan used for businesses as opposed to a loan used for anything else.
But let’s cut to the chase! You’re probably here because you want to know if Upstart offers decent rates. The answer is yes, but not uniquely so. The APRs, which currently max out at 35.99%, fall right in line with the typical rates offered by competitors.
Because these loans are tied to your personal ability to repay, and not your business’s, Upstart is a very startup-friendly company. So if you’re confident enough that your startup will be able to sustain repayments, go right ahead.
Upstart is an easy-to-get loan with excellent customer service, very competitive rates, and an impeccable online reputation. Read on for the details!
Table of Contents
Upstart offers personal loans that can be used for businesses, among other purposes.
These are the requirements to get an Upstart loan:
Time in business:
Personal credit score:
Because its primary audience is consumers (not businesses), Upstart doesn’t require any time in business or a set amount of revenue.
To qualify for an Upstart loan, you must meet these requirements:
- Be a US citizen (not living in West Virginia or Iowa)
- Be at least 18 years old (19 in Alabama and Nebraska)
- Have an email account
- Have a name, date of birth, and social security number
- Have a regular source of income
- Have a bank account
- Have a credit score of 620 or above (however, Upstart might accept applicants with insufficient credit history to produce a score)
Currently, Upstart does not offer loans in West Virginia or Iowa.
Rates & Fees
Here are the stats posted on Upstart’s website:
3 OR 5 years
Note that in certain states (Massachusetts, New Mexico, and Georgia), the minimum borrowing amount will be higher than $1,000. In addition, Upstart may charge a fee for the following situations:
- Late Payment: The larger of 5% of unpaid amount or $15
- Insufficient Funds Fee: $15
- Paper Copies Request Fee: $10
Your interest rate is determined by a number of factors that Upstart considers to evaluate how risky a bet you are. The riskier you are perceived to be, the higher your interest rate.
One factor that will affect your interest rate is your term length. Three-year loans have smaller APRs because lending somebody money for three years is less risky than five. The downside is that three-year loan terms will have higher monthly repayments.
Keep in mind that Upstart usually requires an origination fee. This fee comes right out of the principal, so if you need a specific amount of money, make sure that you ask for enough to cover the cost of the origination fee. While some customers are annoyed by this fee, an origination fee is standard in the industry.
Upstart does not charge any other fees, such as prepayment penalties, aside from the origination fee and potential late fees.
*Checking your rate will not affect your credit score
Upstart’s application process works much like that of any other online lender. You’ll begin by filling out an online form via Upstart’s website. The form will ask you for information, such as:
- How much you’d like to borrow
- Approximate credit score
- Highest level of education
- Your primary source of income
- Personal information (name, date of birth, etc.)
- Residential information
- Financial information
After you’ve completed the form, you’ll get a preliminary approval or denial. If you are approved, you’ll get an estimated rate, which details your interest rate, origination fee, and other important details about your potential loan. Use this information to decide if you want to continue the process.
Before you get an official rate, you will have to provide more substantial information, and a real human (the underwriter) will have to look through your application. During this step, you’ll be asked to provide a bunch of documents to verify all the information you provided earlier. For example, Upstart might ask you to submit transcripts, test scores, pay stubs, tax forms, and other official documentation. At this step, you’ll have to talk to an Upstart representative to verify some information. Upstart will also do a soft pull on your credit.
When you’ve submitted all that, an underwriter will go over your application and (assuming you’re accepted) make you a real loan offer. If you accept that offer, your loan will be funded.
The time from application to funding is generally less than a week. You can get an estimated quote within minutes, the underwriter typically takes 24 to 48 hours to make a decision, and funds can be transferred in one business day.
*Checking your rate will not affect your credit score
Sales & Advertising Transparency
Upstart isn’t trying to trick anybody. Almost all the relevant terms, rates, and fees are clearly stated on the front page of the website in a useful and easy-to-understand manner. You shouldn’t come across too many surprises during the application and funding process.
Customer Service & Technical Support
Upstart offers an FAQ, though it isn’t terribly comprehensive. If you can’t find an answer to your question in the FAQs, Upstart is available by email or phone. Although some customers have reported difficulty getting in touch with the staff, most customers report satisfaction with the promptness and level of support offered by the customer service representatives.
Negative Reviews & Complaints
This company has a stellar online reputation. That’s not to say it’s completely devoid of negative reviews (we’ll get to those in a moment), but a 4.9 of 10 on Trustpilot (based on over 6,000 reviews) isn’t easy to maintain. The company also has a very good record on Credit Karma and only a few complaints on the Better Business Bureau, where it maintains an A+ rating.
Regardless, here are the most common complaints I came across regarding Upstart loans:
- Rejections: The majority of negative reviews are from customers who were rejected for a loan for one reason or another. Unfortunately, Upstart may find reasons to reject you, even if you met the minimum qualifications or got a preapproval letter in the mail.
- Origination Fee: A few reviewers claim they were not aware of the origination fee before accepting a loan. However, I saw the fee disclosed multiple times across the website. The origination fee is taken directly out of the principal, so if you need a certain amount, ask for a slightly higher amount when applying to cover the extra cost.
- Customer Service: Some customers have complained that they’ve had trouble getting in touch with customer service.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
Customers have a lot of good things to say about Upstart. Most commonly, they praise the:
- Customer service
- Smooth application process
- Lenient underwriting
- Quick time to funding
Upstart’s flexible repayment schedules also set it apart from its competitors. Like with many P2P lenders, once your due date has been set, it’s not possible to change it. However, Upstart solves this problem in a simple and convenient way: Customers can set up monthly recurring payments at any time before their real due date. You can even set up bi-weekly repayments if that works better for your finances.
Because this lender is willing to evaluate non-traditional sources of creditworthiness (such as your schooling history), Upstart is an excellent resource for many people who do not fit the traditional model of a loan borrower. If you don’t have an established credit history for whatever reason, you may still qualify for affordable rates from this lender.
Although there are a few complaints circulating about Upstart, it’s evident that most borrowers have a very good experience. Furthermore, those complaints are common in the loan industry at large; you risk being turned down for a loan or paying extra fees from any of Upstart’s competitors as well.
Once again, it would behoove anybody who is getting a business loan from Upstart to make a few comparisons before settling on a lender. Most lenders will be able to give you an estimated rate without affecting your credit. Curious about your other options? Check out our full list of startup business loan reviews.