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If you need relief from your high-interest loans or credit card debt, you may be considering a personal loan. Offered by many banks and credit unions, personal loans let you consolidate or refinance your debt into a lower-interest loan with one fixed monthly payment.

While they do have some disadvantages – personal loans often have higher interest rates than the typical auto loan or mortgage – they are a viable option for consumers who need to pay down high-interest debts.

If you’ve decided to pursue a personal loan, you should try to increase your chances of approval. Here are five tips to get approved for a personal loan for debt consolidation.

1. Decide on a loan type

There are two main types of personal loans: secured and unsecured.

Secured loans require you to put up collateral, such as your home or car, which can be possessed by the lender if you don’t pay. These loans have looser credit requirements, and you may have lower interest rates and greater borrowing power. However, you’re putting your own property on the line.

Unsecured loans require no collateral, but rely upon your creditworthiness and ability to repay. You will need better credit to get approved, and you may end up with a higher interest rate than a secured loan.

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2. Know how much you need to borrow

Before you apply for a personal loan, know how much you need to borrow. Tally up the existing debts that you wish to consolidate or refinance. You may not need this information immediately, but it will help you determine your requirements and avoid asking for an artificially high amount.

3. Know your credit

Before you apply for a personal loan, you should know the state of your credit. This means you should check both your credit report and your credit score.

Once a year, you can check your credit report with all three credit bureaus for free at AnnualCreditReport.com. Closely examine your report for negative or inaccurate information that could hurt your chances of approval. If you do find errors, you should dispute them and have them removed from your credit report.

It’s also a good idea to check your credit score before you apply. You can get two of your credit scores for free, updated monthly, at Credit.com. Before you apply, you should do everything you can to improve your credit score.

If you’re in dire need of debt relief, you may not have time to wait for your credit to improve. Even so, it will help to know the state of your credit as it stands.

4. Find the right lender

Not all financial institutions are created equal. Shop around at several lenders, including banks and credit unions. You may need to choose your lender based on the bank that’s most likely to approve your loan application, but you shouldn’t jump at the first offer. Review the fine print, interest rates, and terms of all the loans you’re considering.

5. Create a checklist

Once you are ready to move forward with your application, create a checklist of all the documentation you will need. You may need to work with creditors, your employer, and others to gather everything, so give yourself enough time. Incomplete applications can result in an immediate rejection, so it’s important to make sure you have your ducks in a row.

Remember, debt consolidation only makes sense in certain scenarios. Depending on the interest rates you can get and the length of the loan, you could end up paying more for a personal loan in the long run, even if the monthly payments are lower. Make sure you understand the total cost of a personal loan compared to the total cost of your current debts. For more information, check out our article on deciding if a personal loan for debt consolidation is right for you.

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com. Credit.com is a USA TODAY content partner offering personal finance news and commentary. Its content is produced independently of USA TODAY.

Brian Acton is a freelance writer and contributor at Credit.com. Several years ago, as he worked to pay down debt and purchase a home, Brian became interested in personal finance and credit. He has been covering these topics ever since. Brian has a BA in History from Salisbury University and an MBA from UMUC. He lives in Maryland with his wife and two dogs. More by Brian Acton