It may be too much to say Payoff makes borrowing money to get out of debt fun, but the company definitely tries to illuminate the process for financial novices and convince each client they’re not just another number. If you’re faced with high-interest credit card balances, Payoff is worth a closer look.
Payoff: The Basics
Payoff is a debt consolidation lender for consumers with high-interest credit card debt. Here’s a quick look at its loans’ structure and terms, current as of mid-2021 and spelled out in detail on its Rates and Fees page. They’re subject to change at any time.
- Principals range from $5,000 to $40,000 in most states.
- Loan terms are 24 months, 36 months, 48 months, or 60 months (two to five years).
- Rates in most states range from about 6% APR to about 25% APR, depending on borrower creditworthiness, loan term, and other factors.
- Origination fees range from 0% to 5%, depending on loan term and borrower creditworthiness.
- Ongoing fees are basically nonexistent. Payoff has no fees for application, early or extra payments, late payments, returned checks, check processing, or ongoing maintenance (monthly or annual).
Payoff is transparent about its qualification requirements. Eligible borrowers must have:
- A FICO score of 640 or better
- A low debt-to-income ratio, although Payoff doesn’t impose an absolute maximum
- Several years of credit history, although Payoff doesn’t specify a minimum length
- A sufficient number of open and satisfactory trade lines, such as credit cards and home equity lines of credit
- No current delinquencies and no delinquencies greater than 90 days within the past 12 months
Payoff’s qualification requirements are subject to change. In fact, they appear to be loosening somewhat over time. In 2015, Payoff’s minimum required FICO score was 700, while in late 2016, the minimum allowable FICO score was 660. Payoff once limited prospective borrowers to no more than one current installment loan, but that stipulation appears to be gone as well.
Payoff is based in Orange County, California, between Los Angeles and San Diego. It’s cleared to make loans in some (but not all) states. Payoff loans are available in about 45 states.
How Payoff Works
Interested in a Payoff loan? Here’s what you need to know about getting and managing one. Keep in mind that even if you live in a state not served by Payoff, you can still take advantage of nonloan resources.
Qualification and Approval
If you live in a state served by Payoff, you can apply for a loan at any time. To initiate your application and receive preliminary approval, you need to provide some basic personal information and consent to a soft credit pull.
Once you have your approval in hand, you can choose to continue with the origination process or hold off and shop around with other providers. If your application is denied, you may need to wait a while to apply again.
Documents and Verification
If you choose to continue, Payoff asks for additional information that proves your identity and income. You also need to provide a full picture of your cash flow.
Relevant documents include:
- Photo ID, such as a driver’s license or state identification card
- Your two most recent pay stubs or a Form 1040 if you’re self-employed
- Bank account and credit card statements
- A statement from your primary bank account (including your mortgage payment if you own your home)
- A scan or photo of a voided check (credit union customers only)
You can upload these documents using Payoff’s secure document upload feature. In lieu of a bank statement, you can consent to link your bank account directly to Payoff’s secure computer system. This lets Payoff see your recent statements and activity, but it doesn’t allow it to modify your account information.
Origination and Payment
Once you’ve uploaded or sent in all relevant documents, Payoff takes three to seven days to review everything. If your loan receives final approval, Payoff conducts a hard credit pull, which can negatively impact your credit score. Following final approval, your loan should originate within two to five business days.
Going forward, you make a single loan payment per month instead of multiple payments on your existing credit card debts. You can put additional funds toward your loan at any time or prepay the entire principal at no additional cost.
Payoff’s loans are originated by five lending partners: Alliant, First Tech Federal Credit Union, Technology Credit Union, Teachers Federal Credit Union, and First Electronic Bank.
Note that Payoff only allows customers to consolidate debts held on their personal credit reports. If you manage your finances jointly with a spouse, you can’t consolidate jointly held debts.
- “In order to better serve you and offer you content and opportunities of financial products and services that may interest you, Payoff may collect additional information from third parties. For example, Payoff may collect information about you from social networking sites to better individualize your experience.” (emphasis added)
- “We may also share information with our affiliates, for their everyday business purposes and for marketing, about your transactions and experiences. However, aside from sharing information necessary for our everyday business purposes, we will not share any information with non-affiliates without your explicit prior consent.” (emphasis added)
Additionally, only residents of California and Vermont are fully protected by the stipulation that Payoff “will not sell, share, transfer, or otherwise disclose your nonpublic personal information to or with any non-affiliated third parties without your explicit prior consent.” Residents of other states are protected only insofar as local statutes permit.
I haven’t used Payoff long enough to get a sense of how frequently its customers receive marketing materials from the company’s affiliates. Still, for customers who value their privacy, any outreach is probably too much. The good news is that Payoff allows customers to opt out of third-party marketing.
Payoff applicants and borrowers have these useful features at their disposal:
Monthly FICO Score Updates
Payoff provides updates about your FICO score for free each month at no cost. Your update includes basic information about how your score is calculated and at-a-glance changes from the previous month.
Job Loss and Career Support
Payoff is committed to supporting borrowers who have lost their jobs or otherwise have fallen on hard times. Support is situation-specific but generally involves more flexible payment plans, consultations with Payoff’s recruitment team, and help with interviews and resume preparation.
In-House Customer Support Team
Payoff touts its in-house customer support team, the Member Experience Team staffed with Member Experience Advocates. The team is reachable by phone, email, and live chat during business hours (Pacific Standard Time).
You’ll occasionally receive personalized correspondence from the Member Experience Team. For instance, when you’re first approved for a loan, someone on the team will send you a handwritten note welcoming you into the fold.
Your Payoff Dashboard is the nerve center of your Payoff account. In addition to loan information, it includes a detailed overview of your Financial Wellness Guide, along with personalized recommendations and tips (often in the form of Payoff Life articles) pertaining to your situation.
Payoff has a number of notable advantages for applicants and borrowers, including few fees, low interest rates, a refreshingly transparent approach, and a convenient application.
1. Few Fees
Beyond the origination fee, Payoff’s fees are basically nonexistent: no annual fee, prepayment fees, late fee, check processing fee, or returned check fee. This really sets Payoff apart from traditional debt consolidation loans, whose small but persistent fees convey the impression that their issuers are more interested in nickel-and-diming their customers than solving their financial problems.
2. Relatively Low Interest Rates
Payoff’s interest rates aren’t world-beating, but they’re also not excessive. Roughly 6% APR to roughly 25% APR is better than marketplace lenders such as Prosper and Lending Club, for example. Both of those companies’ high-end rates approach or exceed 30% APR.
3. Transparency Is Clearly Prized
Payoff clearly values transparency. Its website lays out its loans’ rates, terms, and qualification requirements in a can’t-miss fashion, and the application and verification processes are designed to be as suspense-free as possible. Some competing online lenders, such as Avant, are less clear about exactly what it takes to qualify and receive loans or lines of credit.
4. Convenient Application
Payoff’s application process is quick and convenient. From start to finish, it takes no more than 30 minutes, as long as you’re not required to provide additional information to verify your income or identity. The bank account link is particularly helpful, as Payoff can glean most of the financial information it needs by analyzing your primary account.
5. Lots of Ongoing, Personalized Support and Resources
Payoff is nothing if not personalized. Even after you complete your financial wellness assessments and originate your loan, you have access to a robust menu of personalized, high-touch support, including Member Experience Advocates in Payoff’s office (as opposed to call center employees working remotely), personalized financial recommendations based off the information you’ve provided Payoff, and assistance in the event of job loss or other financial hardship.
These resources go well beyond what many other lenders offer. Taken together, they’re extremely helpful for borrowers who need extra guidance or encouragement as they work to pay down their debts.
Payoff isn’t perfect. Key disadvantages include relatively strict qualification criteria, potentially high origination fees, high minimums, and restrictions on loan use.
1. Strict Qualification Criteria
Payoff has fairly strict qualification criteria. You need a FICO score of 640 or higher — much higher if you want a favorable APR — a relatively low debt-to-income ratio, and several years of credit history. You also have to have ample income, although Payoff doesn’t specify its minimum income cutoff.
2. Origination Fees Range Up to 5%
Payoff’s origination fee ranges up to 5% on 60-month loans. That’s $1,000 on a $20,000 loan — not a small chunk of change. By contrast, many credit cards charge 3% for balance transfers, and the best balance transfer cards waive balance transfer fees altogether for new account holders.
3. Not Suitable for Small Debt Loads
Payoff’s minimum loan size is $5,000. If you’re struggling with small but persistent credit card balances, this cutoff might be too high. In this case, balance transfer credit cards are likely a better fit.
4. Suitable for Credit Card Debt Only
Payoff’s debt consolidation loans are intended for use with credit card balances only. Under very limited circumstances, Payoff may be able to help with certain types of installment loans, but these arrangements are usually made on a case-by-case basis, and first-time borrowers should not expect them.
Other types of debt are best addressed by specialized lenders — for instance, SoFi for student loan debt.
5. Third-Party Marketing Is Opt-Out
As software companies go, Payoff isn’t particularly invasive. However, it does collect personal and financial information from a variety of sources, including external applications such as social media, and reserves the right to share that information liberally with affiliates.
If you’re not a fan of this practice, you need to affirmatively opt out — an extra step that your busy schedule may or may not be able to accommodate.
Like many startups, Payoff is constantly tweaking and improving its services. The company has some exciting new products in the mix, including an automated savings tool that may rival existing apps such as Digit.
As a financial company, Payoff faces additional hurdles. Every state’s financial regulations are a bit different, and Payoff’s resources are finite, especially given that it directs much of its firepower to improving the customer experience. (Those psychologists, neuroscientists, and Member Experience Advocates don’t come cheap).
It also can’t be everywhere at once. If you live in a state not served by Payoff, the best you can do right now is wait for that to change.