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If you have bad credit or no credit, the thought of a lender looking at your credit is probably a little unnerving; sometimes terrifying is the word. But not all lenders require you to have stellar credit to get a loan. And a few won’t even check your credit reports or scores.

Here are five loans that don’t require great credit.

Retirement Account Loans

When you borrow against the funds in your 401(k) or another qualified retirement plan, you are essentially borrowing from yourself. Not only is good credit not required, your credit report will not even be reviewed for one of these loans. This is a true “no credit check loan.” As long as your plan allows for these loans, you can typically borrow against up to half of your retirement funds. You may be charged a small nominal fee. Interest is charged, however you are paying it to yourself. Note that loans against IRA accounts are not permitted.

Reverse Mortgage

If your credit is shot but you have equity in your home and are 62 years or older, you may be able to use a reverse mortgage in lieu of a traditional “forward” mortgage. Funds can be used for any purpose, including debt consolidation or to retire your current mortgage balance.

“There are no credit requirements,” says Russell Silver with US Mortgage Corp. “Where forward mortgages all require a credit check and a certain credit score, the reverse mortgage does not require any credit score.”

Your credit reports will be reviewed as part of the application process, but that’s mainly to determine if there are any liens or judgments against the property that must be satisfied.

“You can be in foreclosure, you can just have had a bankruptcy, or you can have credit scores in the 400s,” Silver says. He added that he is working with a client who is almost three years behind on their mortgage payments (with a traditional mortgage), and may be able to use a reverse to pay off that loan and save the home. “This is someone whose credit is a disaster and they may be able to use a reverse mortgage,” he observes.

Student Loans

It can be easy to borrow for a college education, even if you are just out of high school and haven’t established credit yet. “Federal Stafford and Perkins loans do not require a credit check,” notes Mark Kantrowitz from FinAid.org, adding that while PLUS loans do take credit into consideration, credit reports are supposed to mainly be used to screen for very negative credit problems. He explains:

PLUS loan (both Parent PLUS and Grad PLUS versions) require the borrower to not have an adverse credit history, which is defined as a current delinquency of 90 or more days or a five-year lookback for derogatory events (bankruptcy discharge, foreclosure, repossession, tax lien, wage garnishment, default determination). PLUS loan denial rates have doubled recently because of a change the US Department of Education made in October 2011 to add five-year lookbacks for accounts in collections or charged-off with a non-zero balance. It technically is not legal for the Department to have made this change, since adverse credit history is defined in regulations and the implementation change was not done through a new negotiated rulemaking and also did not conform to the master calendar provisions. I’ve been advising students and parents who are denied a PLUS loan to appeal on the basis of extenuating circumstances, as I’ve heard that the approval rate for appeals has increased.  Even though this change occurred in 2011, it is not being noticed until now because most PLUS loan applicants got approved for the full year in September 2011, before the change.

Considering other types of student loans? Kantrowitz says that all private student loans made by commercial lenders require credit checks while some of the state loan programs do not require a credit check, or may take a more lenient view when evaluating credit.

Car Loans

Lenders are loosening the purse strings on auto financing, including loans to buyers with less than perfect credit. In the first three quarters of 2012, vehicle loans to buyers with subprime scores increased by 13.6% on new vehicles and 5.5% on used vehicles, according to Experian Automotive State of the Automotive Finance Report. Still, subprime vehicle loans are just a sliver of the market and you may find it difficult to finance a car if your credit history is poor or non-existent.

If you can’t get a loan but really need a vehicle, you may wind up at a “Buy Here, Pay Here” auto dealer. “It will likely be a high mileage car with no warranty, but at least you can get a car if you’re desperate,” says Steve Ely, CEO of Credit Cards

Apply for a credit card and it is inevitable that the card issuer will request your credit scores. Most card issuers are looking for customers with good or excellent credit, though a few dip down into the “fair” credit category. (You can search for credit card offers by credit score range at Credit.com.)

If your credit isn’t strong, or if you haven’t established credit, you may want to consider a secured card. Issuers may check your credit — mainly to make sure you are who you say you are — but most of the time these cards are available to individuals with past credit problems, or those with little to no credit history. Even better, if you manage one of these cards responsibly and the lender reports your payments to the credit reporting agencies (most do), you may find they help your credit over time.

Have you had trouble getting credit due to your credit history? Share your story in the comments below.

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  • http://none Mercedes Peraza

    Manay years ago I took a Plus loan for my daughter college (at the financial aid person insistance. I began paying, then the loan was sold and re sold several times on many of those I made thousand of dollars in repayments. Finally it went back to the Dept. of Education loan processors. For the last four years I agreed in automatic payment taken from my Social Security check (which is done every month).Every year when there is an increase in living expenses to Social Security they keep the increase to go towards the debt. I addition in every tax season if I am entitled to a refund the Dept. of Education takes in full. Considering the fact that there’s payment on the debt all of a sudden they refered my account to a Credit Recovery agency that are haunting me with phone call every day beginning at 8:00AM including saturdays.
    Please tell is there something I can do to get rid of this persecution and stop the Dept. of Education from taking every penny I earn?

    • http://www.credit.com Gerri Detweiler

      It sounds like a real mess and I am so sorry you are going through this. I assume you have already talked to your daughter to see if there is a way she can help you out on payments? If not, then you are going to have two options that I am aware of:

      One is to complain to everyone you possibly can in the hopes that you can find someone at some agency who can help. You can try the Department of Education Ombudsman, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and your Senators and Representative in Washington.

      The other option is to talk with a consumer law attorney. This collection agency may be breaking the law, and if so, you may be entitled to damages and attorneys fees. A consumer law attorney who is experienced in student loan issues may also be able to help you figure out what other options you have for avoiding offset of your Social Security funds.

      By the way., the government can generally take up to 15% of your Social Security to offset federal student loans. And they can’t take any part of a benefit below $750. Still for many older Americans on a limited income, that’s still too much. You’ll learn more in this article: My Social Security Income Is Being Zapped for Student Loans!

  • Francine Vassari

    My husband and I have been trying to pay off our credit cards without claiming bankruptcy again and we are doing a good job but now we owe the IRS $28,000. If we could get a debt consolidation loan for the balance of what we owe our creditors, it would be great. We have made settlements with them, We are both retired, so we are on a fixed income and we do not own a house nor do we have any savings. We live from check to check. Dio you have any tips. Thank you.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Francine – It’s really hard to say based on the info you’ve told us here. Do you know what your credit scores are?

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