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Fifth Third Bank Personal Loan: 2020 Review

| Money Rates Columnist.
min read

fifth-third-bankIf you want a personal loan from a large bank, Fifth Third Bank may be right for you. (Keep in mind that three of the country's largest lenders - Bank of America, Chase and Capital One - don't offer personal loans.) This Fifth Third Bank personal loan review contains the fast facts, pros and cons, and in-depth evaluation so you can confidently choose the best personal loan for your needs.

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Why Should I Apply With Fifth Third Bank?

Should you get your personal loan (aka signature loan) from Fifth Third Bank? Here are some pros and cons to help you decide whether to read more:

  1. Available only to existing customers with an eligible Fifth Third Bank checking or savings account in good order
  2. Presence in 10 states* (1,124 branches)
  3. Makes it onto the J.D. Power 2019 Personal Loan Satisfaction Study but comes second from last with a sub-par score
  4. Annual percentage rates (APRs) vary by state. They range from 6.99% to 19.24% as of this writing
  5. No origination or prepayment fees
  6. Often makes lending decisions near-instantly, allowing borrowers to access funds within one business day

*Fifth Third Bank has branches in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia. You may be able to borrow elsewhere, but only if you already have an eligible account with the bank.

How Does Fifth Third Bank Work?

Founded in Cincinnati in 1858, Fifth Third Bank's parent is among the Top-20 largest bank holding companies in America. So it's very much a traditional bank.

That makes it very different from those personal loan companies that are peer-to-peer (P2P) lenders. Those have websites that mainly introduce personal borrowers to personal investors. So those aren't lending their own money, while Fifth Third Bank is.

In practical terms, going with Fifth Third lets you avoid the origination fees that P2P lenders often charge. And it may see you get your funds faster. However, you may pay a higher APR than if you compare personal loans from other banks and P2P lenders. And, unlike with many P2P lenders, you can't prequalify for your loan.

What Kind of Loans Does Fifth Third Bank Offer?

Here are the basics you need to know when deciding whether First Third Bank might meet your needs. Remember, you need to be an existing customer to apply.

  • Minimum $2,000 loan amount rising to $25,000
  • Minimum APR of 6.99%, rising to 19.24% as of this writing - Assumes Auto BillPayer® is used
  • Loan terms of 12, 24, 36, 48 or 60 months
  • Minimum credit score is not published - one third-party source suggests it could be as high as 680
  • Maximum DTI** - it's not published. But the bank seems conservative and is likely to prefer your debt burden to be fairly light
  • No prepayment fee - so you can pay down your loan early without penalty
  • The bank doesn't specify a policy on co-signers - but presumably any it does allow would need to have an eligible existing account
  • No prequalifying - the website has a signature loan monthly payment calculator but it doesn't even ask for your credit score. You have to apply rather than get an upfront quote. And such applications give your credit score a small hit
  • Fixed interest rates
  • Lender fees are modest in that there are no origination or prepayment fees. But they charge unspecified late fees after a 10-day grace period

**DTI stands for debt-to-income ratio. It's the percentage of your monthly gross (before tax) income you spend for housing (rent or mortgage) and accounts like credit card minimums and auto loans. Regular living expenses like food and utilities don't count.

How Do I Apply With Fifth Third Bank?

You want to know how to apply? Well, not online. Even if you're an existing Fifth Third Bank customer, you have to call a number or visit a branch. The website gives you an opportunity to schedule a 30-minute telephone call or a 60-minute meeting at a bank location.

If you're planning to visit a branch, be sure to ask for a list of documents the bank might require. As an existing customer, that list might be shorter than if you were a stranger. But the bank warns "applicants could be required to submit additional information." If you have that documentation with you, you might be able to short circuit delays and get a near-instant decision.

And if you've bounced a check or had an account that's delinquent recently, expect the bank to ask why. You might want to get your story straight in your head before the question's posed.

How Soon Can I Get My Money With Fifth Third Bank?

So how long does it take to get your money? Hardly any time at all. Once you have a lending decision, the money can be quickly transferred into your Fifth Third Bank checking or savings account. You might be able to access your funds within one business day.

And why shouldn't you? The banks only making an internal transfer.

Bear in mind that retail banking is a seasonal business. And you may have to wait longer for a telephone or in-person appointment at some times of year than at others. So, if possible, avoid applying during the holiday season and other busy periods.

Fifth Third Bank BBB Rating

First Third Bank is an accredited business with the Better Business Bureau since 1928. It currently has an A+ BBB rating, which is the best possible.

However, the bank's customer reviews on the BBB website are less enthusiastic. On average, they award it the minimum one star out of a possible five.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Fifth Third Bank

During 2019, federal regulator the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau received 1,874 customer complaints concerning First Third Bank's personal loans (described as "installment loans" on the CFPB's website). That seems a high number, even for such a big lender.

Hundreds complained in each of the following CFPB categories (in descending order of complaints):

  1. Charged fees or interest you didn't expect
  2. Problem when making payments
  3. Struggling to pay your loan
  4. Getting the loan
  5. Problem with the payoff process at the end of the loan

Those seem like worryingly big numbers across a broad range of perceived failures.

Related: What Is an Annual Percentage Rate (APR) for a Personal Loan?

MoneyRates Editorial Fifth Third Bank Rating

Star rating -- 2.5 stars

That's one of the lowest star ratings we've assigned in this series of personal loan reviews. First Third Bank's customer service just doesn't seem capable of satisfying many consumers' needs. And its personal loans aren't special enough to justify taking a chance on your becoming a victim of that patchy service.

Given that only its existing customers are eligible for these loans, that may not be an issue. If you're one of those, you'll know the bank and are better positioned to make a judgment than any reviewer who isn't. Perhaps you're loyal enough to apply for one.

Just don't assume the bank's loyalty to you is similarly strong. There's little special about its personal loan offering and you may get a better deal elsewhere.

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What Are the Alternatives to Fifth Third Bank?

So what other lenders might you consider? Well, it's probably best to start by requesting quotes from several that let you prequalify. Because that means your credit score shouldn't be hurt until you choose one and make a formal application. All the following (except LightStream) let you prequalify. So feel free to apply to any that sound comfortable working with borrowers like you:

LendingClub

With a minimum credit score of only 600, LendingClub may be your choice if your credit's compromised. And, if even 600's too high a hurdle, you can bring a co-signer on board to boost your application's appeal. If you're consolidating debts, you can ask the company to pay your creditors directly.

Payoff

Another strong contender for debt consolidation, especially card balances, but you'll need fair credit. Pros include no late fees and good interest rates. And Payoff offers online help to get you to your debt-reduction going sooner.

Best Egg

Need money in a hurry? Best Egg may be the one for you. It sometimes gets funds to borrowers within a single business day. Again, your credit should be fair or better to stand much chance of your loan being approved.

Upgrade

You need fair credit with Upgrade, too. But you can have a co-signer who might get you over that line. You can choose to have the company pay your creditors directly. And this lender has a hardship program in case things get financially rough before the loan ends.

Prosper

Prosper is one of the biggest P2P lenders. So it must be doing plenty right. It allows co-signers and offers an easy application process.

SoFi

A change of gear. SoFi can be excellent for those with excellent credit and healthy finances. If you have those, you stand to be offered a huge loan (up to $100,000) at an extraordinarily low APR -- and with zero fees. You can even get unemployment protection.

LightStream

This lender's more like SoFi than the others. So it's especially good for the most creditworthy borrowers. No fees, uberlow interest rates and loans as high as $100,000. You can even have a co-signer help you get the best possible deal. Just remember, you can't prequalify with this company.

How to Find Your Best Personal Loan

Here's how to get the personal loan that's best for you:

  1. Get quotes from multiple lenders who seem comfortable dealing with borrowers like you. Each tends to specialize in people with similar financial profiles. So compare personal loans from ones that signal you're in their wheelhouses
  2. Lenders often use ranges of credit scores to categorize borrowers. So even lifting your score by a point or two could move you into a better category that earns you a better deal. If you've time, work on improving your creditworthiness
  3. It can be severely irritating to still be making monthly payments on something you've already thrown away, sold or forgotten about. So borrow over the short term for things that bring you short-term satisfaction or happiness. Reserve long-term loans only for benefits that bring long-term pleasure

It's easy to shop for an compare personal loan offers online. And with so many allowing you to prequalify, there's no reason to pay any more for your loan than necessary.

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