Upstart is a peer-to-peer lending institution that offers online personal loans for many reasons, but primarily for things that help you improve your life. This can include getting out of debt, starting a business, paying off student loans or buying a car. You can also use it for continuing education activities, including athletic training.

Peer-to-peer loans rely on private investors to fund the loan. In turn, the investors profit from the interest you pay. Although the money is coming from individuals, you are not answering to a random person. Your loan is managed through Upstart, which also determines your eligibility and sets your payments.

The online loan application involves a few fast questions, including personal information, academic credentials, work experience, and a description of your plans for the loan. You may need to submit paystubs, tax returns or proof of other income, such as investments. Some peer-to-peer personal lending institutions then submit your loan to its investors for approval and funding. However, Upstart does not do that. The company verifies your information and assesses your qualifications. If you qualify, you can get the loan.

We have reviewed this service several times and have had good experiences in the past, but when we tested it this time, Upstart's phone customer service fell short. We had a difficult time getting connected to a representative and when we did, the rep gave us rushed answers. In one call, we had the impression we were talking to an outsourced call center. They were quick to reply to email, however. Your experience may vary.

If you have questions, the FAQs are thorough and cover all aspects of the Upstart loan process. The website also includes detailed information on fees and terms, plus you get numbers specific to your loan when you apply. It also has a section for investors, if you're interested in how the other side of the lending coin works.

Upstart is a little different from other online personal loan providers. Because it is peer-to-peer, it considers things about you other lenders may not, such as education level and why you want the loan. However, unlike some peer-to-peer lenders, it does not need to submit your loan to its investors and wait for it to be funded. If you qualify, you should be able to get your funds quickly.