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Think twice before heading to the airport with that huge wad of cash | Crime-and-courts



When he heads to airports now, Samuel Haile thinks of that day at Buffalo’s airport a few years ago. The government took $12,000 from his carry-on and wouldn’t give it back.

Haile was not charged with a crime, but he had to prove his cash was not a windfall from a drug sale or wasn’t about to be spent on illegal drugs.

“I was angry,” Haile said. “But there was really nothing I could do.”

Dozens of passengers have suffered such a loss in recent years in Buffalo. With an X-ray machine, a screener spots a dense mass in a piece of luggage. If it’s an unusually large sum of cash, the government takes it on the suspicion that it’s drug money. 

At Buffalo Niagara International and every other airport in the country, the Transportation Security Administration screens bags and people in the name of airline safety, not because police have probable cause to think a crime is underway.

Still, those searches enrich law enforcement.

TSA officer inspects baggage at Buffalo Niagara International Airport

A Transportation Security Administration officer inspects a traveler’s bag at a checkpoint at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport in Cheektowaga.

In Buffalo, according to internal reports obtained by The Buffalo News, airport police and federal agents seized more than $860,000 over four years – more than $17,000 a month, on average – without charging the traveler with a crime. In fact, the dozens of travelers relieved of their money were sent on their way.

In this age of credit cards and debit cards, most people need not carry large sums. Yet some people do, and no law prohibits flying within the United States with any amount of cash. Those travelers explained they were off to buy cars, legally gamble or relocate to new homes. But to agents and officers at the airport, many stories did not pass muster. The bills were dropped into evidence bags.

TSA screeners can only seize objects that might imperil an airliner, and cash does not pose such a threat. Yet the screeners set the wheels in motion. The documents obtained by The News through the Freedom of Information Law show that after spotting amounts as small as $6,000, screeners turned to supervisors, who turned to Niagara Frontier Transit Authority police. The police called in their federal partners in a joint task force, usually the DEA or the FBI.

Typically, someone asked if the traveler minded being driven over to the police station on Aero Drive for a few questions. Inside, a video camera was clicked on, and the traveler was asked to elaborate about occupation and income. Any hesitation or inconsistency was noted.

A drug-sniffing dog was led in. Most paper currency in the United States has come into contact with drugs, research has shown. The dog, in cases reviewed by The News, consistently confirmed the scent of narcotics. That gave the officials the final measure of probable cause needed to keep the cash. In a few weeks, the traveler received mailed instructions on how to appeal for the money’s return.

Because the NFTA police worked with federal agencies, the money was seized under the federal asset-forfeiture system. Under this route, the police agency is eligible to keep up to 80%, depending on how much work was involved. That’s a larger share than it would keep under New York’s law. Further, with the federal system, the police need not make an arrest.

NFTA Police Chief George Gast

NFTA Police Chief George Gast.

George Gast is chief of the NFTA police, a former FBI agent who occasionally worked undercover and supervised agents targeting organized crime and the drug trade. He says the money seized from travelers has gone to buy weapons, vehicles, Narcan and to finance many other law enforcement purposes.

Not all the travelers who are spotted with large sums of money have it taken, Gast says, “not by a long shot.”

“Am I confident we always get it right? Nobody’s 100%,” he said when asked if he believes his officers and federal agents are always correct in assuming a traveler had illegal motives when they seized money.

“But just because money is seized, doesn’t mean it is forfeited,” he said. “Whenever the money is seized, the person that money comes from has an opportunity to appeal that seizure.”

When the travelers went to court to get their money back, Richard D. Kaufman was often the government official working against them. Before he retired in June, Kaufman was an assistant U.S. attorney and an expert in the forfeiture law. He would gather facts in an attempt to show the money was gained illegally or the traveler intended to use it for illegal purposes.

When asked why many travelers who go to court to get their money back end up compromising and letting the government keep a portion, Kaufman acknowledged the expense of fighting back.

Travelers see the futility of paying a lawyer, say, $20,000 to recover $10,000, he said. Lawyers, Kaufman said, will advise clients to “cut your losses.”

Buffalo Niagara International Airport

Travelers walk to the Transportation Security Administration checkpoint at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport

The law

Haile, of Rochester, and countless travelers across the country became poorer because of Title 21, U.S. Code, section 881 (a)(6). It lets federal authorities take “all moneys, negotiable instruments, securities, or other things of value furnished or intended to be furnished by any person in exchange for a controlled substance or listed chemical …”

Sometimes, the authorities in Buffalo had good reason to be suspicious about money they saw. In January 2017, for example, the police and agents kept $9,928 found in luggage along with a marijuana grinder, gummi bears made of marijuana and instructions on how to grow marijuana. The traveler admitted he had grown marijuana in the past, records say.

Months later, NFTA police and the DEA took $64,000 from three people who said they were traveling to Houston for a birthday party. The officers and agents felt they were given vague answers as to how they came by the cash. Three days later, the NFTA police learned from officers in Houston that one of the travelers had just been arrested with a kilo of cocaine.

The News found two other cases where travelers who had their cash taken were later charged in large-scale drug investigations.

Haile and many others were different.

“I was a party promoter, and I dealt with a lot of cash,” he told The News.

An interrogation

In June 2016, Haile went to the Buffalo airport for a flight to Houston to visit friends. He and the friends were to drive to New Orleans for a festival, and Haile was eventually to fly to California to visit other friends. He explained to the officials that he carried the $12,000 because he had bad credit and his bank withdrawals were limited.

He told them he earned the money in three ways: He owned three taxis. He had started a small home improvement store. He owned “Train to Go Entertainment,” a party promotion business.

The money included 515 $20 bills.

The prosecutors found $20 bills suspicious. “Small denominations are more commonly used than other denominations in street-level drug trafficking,” they said in court papers.

Small denominations are used to pay taxi drivers, too, Haile countered, and to get into special parties and events, he said. As his case headed to court, Haile filed papers that included a flyer from an event he promoted: A ticket cost $20.

His father, a registered nurse in Rochester, wrote a letter to the federal judge. “I assure you that money was not collected by selling drugs,” he said. “I will never allow my son to be a drug dealer.”

But prosecutors also cited a minor conviction in his son’s past, attempted drug possession. The case had been disposed of with a conditional discharge three years earlier.

Inside the NFTA police station on Aero Drive, Haile watched as his money was placed in a cardboard box and one of the NFTA’s drug-sniffing dogs was brought in.

Richard D. Kaufman, a retired assistant U.S. attorney in Buffalo, explains civil forfeiture law and the government’s position.

Research led by a scientist at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth found a decade ago that up to 90% of U.S. paper currency contains traces of cocaine. Researchers have also found traces of heroin in as much of 70% of bills and lesser percentages of codeine, amphetamines and methamphetamines.

Kaufman, the now retired federal prosecutor, acknowledges those findings but relies on a court-tested study in Miami that showed dogs are not hitting on traces of contamination but on the scent of drugs, and the scent can dissipate in 48 to 72 hours unless the bills have been wrapped in say, cellophane, or materials that trap odors. To him, the Miami study proves a dog’s hit confirms the currency has been in recent contact with drugs.

Researchers have also found, however, that handlers can affect a dog’s findings. At the University of California at Davis in 2011, 18 police handlers were asked to lead their dogs through controlled searches for drugs, and they were told some hiding places were marked by a piece of red paper. Handlers weren’t told that no search area contained drugs. In the vast majority of searches, the dogs hit on a drug scent when they shouldn’t have. To the researchers, it indicated that a handler’s expectations can sway the outcome.

Gast said the dog is the final investigative technique used to establish the money is connected to the drug trade.

That was indeed true in Haile’s case. He watched as an NFTA dog scratched the box containing his money.

“The suspect was then advised that his currency was being seized,” the NFTA’s report says.

John Roneker

Law enforcement officers seized $36,000 from John Roneker, of Buffalo, at Buffalo Niagara International Airport in 2015, although he was not charged with a crime. He said he planned to use the money to buy a car in Oregon. 

Sharon Cantillon

$36,000 seized

Kaufman said authorities suspect that some travelers are taking large sums of money to three states where recreational marijuana is legal – California, Washington and Oregon – to buy large quantities and drive it back.

John E. Roneker, of Buffalo, was traveling to Oregon in February 2015 when he had $36,000 seized. But Roneker was flying a few months before the state completed its system legalizing marijuana.

Roneker said he didn’t try to conceal the money. He had read online advice telling him to notify the TSA screener that he was carrying a large amount of currency, so he did.

Roneker said he travels to car auctions or private sales to buy cars to resell. Sellers balk at personal checks, he said, and he has found that even cashier’s checks are looked at warily when presented by an out-of-towner. Cash makes sellers more comfortable and, he said, helps him bargain.

“Having cash gives you leverage,” he said.

Roneker showed the screener a business certificate for his company, Nickel City Wholesale Auto of Buffalo, and paperwork for the car, or cars, he had his eye on.

He was soon driven to NFTA police headquarters.

A DEA task force agent began making calls. People at the businesses in the Portland area that Roneker had dealings with didn’t back up every detail he had offered to the TSA or the police. For example, Gilbert Enterprises Auto Auction, near Grimsby, Ore., had no auctions scheduled for the day Roneker said he would be there. And it didn’t have a 1967 Barracuda, one of the cars Roneker said he intended to buy.

Roneker later responded in court papers that he never said he was going to a Gilbert auction and never said Gilbert had the Barracuda.

The DEA agent found Roneker had a criminal record and pulled out a marijuana-related arrest from 1989, when Roneker was 17 years old. In 1991, he was charged with resisting arrest and pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, a violation. In January 2000 he was charged with assault but, the DEA found, the charge was dismissed a month later. In July 2014, he paid a $100 fine after admitting to a violation for possessing a personal amount of marijuana.

The vast majority of Roneker’s cash was in $20 bills – “characteristic of currency received by drug distributors from their customers,” the authorities wrote in court papers.

At police headquarters, an NFTA officer brought in Deuce, a dog “capable of detecting the odors of marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines and their derivatives,” court papers said. When Deuce was done, the police told Roneker he could fly to Oregon but his money could not.

“They put me through hell for no reason,” Roneker said. “You were assumed guilty and you had to prove you were innocent.”


Travelers go through the TSA security checkpoint at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

Mark Mulville

The authorities found no criminal record to use against Daniel A. Sherer. Regardless, they took his $49,900. Most of it, $45,000, was held in two document-sized envelopes in his carry-on bag in 2015. The rest was in a fishing boot in his checked bag.

Sherer told police the $45,000 came from an insurance settlement after fire destroyed his fishing boat 10 years earlier, in Dana Point, Calif. At the time, Sherer explained, he was dealing with alcoholism and gambling issues, so he gave the settlement money to a friend for safekeeping. A decade later, Sherer and the friend had a falling out, and he flew to Buffalo to retrieve the money. The friend, a Cheektowaga resident, met him at a Dunkin Donuts near the airport and handed it over, Sherer explained to authorities.

The NFTA police and an FBI agent figured the money was drug proceeds because some of the bills had been printed after 2004 or 2005, when Sherer asked the friend to hold the money. Most of the bills were twenties, “significant in that law enforcement believes that the $20 bills are often an indicator of drug traffickers,” the authorities said in court papers. Further, a specially trained dog had found that “controlled substances had recently been in contact with the currency.”

Cash is the defendant

Travelers who have their cash taken can file a “petition,” asking the federal agency involved in taking the money to return it. Travelers also can take their case to federal court.

They are asking that their money be pardoned because in the eyes of the federal government, the cash is the defendant. For example, Sherer’s one case was titled “United States of America v. $49,900 in United States currency.” The lawyers call the money “the defendant currency.”

Money lacks the same rights as a person. To convict a person of a crime, prosecutors must prove their case “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the highest legal standard. To forfeit money or property, prosecutors can win with a “preponderance of the evidence,” the lowest standard. They need to show only that it’s more likely than not that the cash was obtained illegally or will be spent for illegal purposes.

It’s also more likely than not the government will keep the seized money no matter how the traveler fights back. In March 2017, the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General reported that over 10 years, the DEA returned money 8% of the time. Part of the reason might lie in the fact that not everyone tries to get the money back. Claims or petitions were filed in just 20% of the DEA’s total seizures. Of those 20%, cash was returned in roughly four out of 10 cases.

“It’s very difficult to get the money once the seizure happens,” said Paul Avelar, a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice, a nonprofit law firm devoted to, among other things, helping people recover their money. “You have to prove your own innocence. And if you can’t prove your own innocence, you lose your money.”

In its research, the Institute for Justice has found that “civil forfeiture,” which allows the government to take property without proving a crime, has become far more common than criminal forfeiture. In one of its reports on the topic, called “Policing for Profit,” the institute says “civil forfeiture laws pose some of the greatest threats to property rights in the nation today.”

The NFTA police, for example, got to keep around $1.2 million that was seized from 2012-2016 without having to make an arrest, both at the airport and in work in and around Buffalo, according to Justice Department statistics analyzed by the Institute for Justice. By contrast, the NFTA’s share of money from criminal forfeiture – after a conviction – amounted to about $23,000 over those years.

August Terrence Rolin

August Terrence Rolin and his daughter Rebecca Brown filed a class-action lawsuit in January, months after the Drug Enforcement Agency seized $82,373 from Brown at the Pittsburgh airport. Brown says she was attempting to fly with her father’s life savings to Boston, where she planned to open a bank account for him. 

Retirement money seized

In January, the institute filed a class-action lawsuit against the TSA and the DEA on behalf of August Terrence Rolin of Pittsburgh and his daughter, Rebecca Brown of Boston. Brown had $82,373 seized from her at the Pittsburgh airport in August of last year. Neither was charged with a crime.

The lawsuit lays out this account: Rolin, a retired railroad engineer, felt more comfortable keeping his cash in his home. But as he moved from his house to an apartment, he asked his daughter, to whom he had given power of attorney, to place his cash in a checking account for him. The request came near the tail end of his daughter’s visit. She figured she would open the account when she returned to Boston, and from there she would pay most of her father’s bills. She took the cash with her.

Rebecca Brown checked online and found it’s legal to carry any sum of money on a domestic flight, according to the Institute for Justice. But when the money showed up on an X-ray, the Pennsylvania State Police and then a DEA agent questioned her. The DEA agent took the $82,373. Then in early March, seven months after the money was taken and after a blizzard of publicity, the DEA relented. Brown and her father got the money back. The Institute for Justice is still pursing the class-action case.

Giving up

Not every traveler enlists a lawyer, or lawyers, to recover their money.

“I could not afford the lawyer,” said Maxie S. Cohen of Rochester, who had an attorney file court papers for him but later surrendered most of the $70,100 taken at the Buffalo airport in November 2018.

Cohen was flying with his friend Susan Fisher to Los Angeles. Fisher, who had been carrying the money in her suitcase, refused to answer the officers’ questions that day. But Cohen told The News she was thinking of relocating to California and investing in a restaurant there. In court papers, prosecutors never disputed Cohen’s explanation that the money had come from lottery winnings, and he had paid tax on it.

But years earlier he had sent $8,000 in cash to California for a Jaguar and didn’t contest that seizure after a police dog alerted handlers to the scent of drugs inside the package, the government said in court papers. (Cohen told The News he was acting as an intermediary for a friend, and it was up to the friend to recover the money.)

Because an NFTA dog in 2018 identified traces of narcotics on the currency seized at Buffalo’s airport, the government said a preponderance of the evidence showed the money was to be spent buying drugs.

Months later, Cohen agreed the government could keep $42,060. He got back $28,040.

Similarly, Haile agreed to give up a portion of his $12,000 – a little over $5,000. The rest was for him, but he didn’t see it again. The balance went to pay overdue state and federal income taxes. He said he also gave up on his trip to Houston, New Orleans and California. With his money seized, he could no longer afford to go.

Daniel Sherer, who had almost $50,000 seized, got back $20,000. The government kept the rest.

As for Buffalo’s Roneker, he was given back $20,000 of the $36,430 seized at the airport but had to use his share to pay late city and county taxes, a water bill and to pay off a judgment against him held by the Riverside Federal Credit Union.

Roneker’s financial situation was already under stress. He had lost a house in Niagara County before moving to Buffalo. Not long after the government kept more than $16,000, he filed for bankruptcy.

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Who Voted For Me? – WSVN 7News | Miami News, Weather, Sports



(WSVN) – He walked into a Broward precinct during early voting to cast his ballot and then was told, “You already voted today.” Of course, he had not and was not happy his right to vote was being taken from him, which is why he put in  a call to Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

The right to vote is what separates a democracy from a dictatorship.

Matthew Bryant: “I’ve never missed an election. It’s fundamental to what it means to be an American.”

And last week, Matthew and his wife got in line for early voting, ready to cast their ballots in person.

Matthew Bryant: “My wife and I both felt that voting in person was the best way to ensure that our vote was truly actually counted.”

But when Matthew’s turn came at the Broward precinct, they scanned his driver’s license and told him, “You already voted.”

Matthew Bryant: “‘This can’t be right. I know I didn’t vote yet. What are you talking about?’”

A supervisor came over to confirm that the records showed Matthew had indeed cast his ballot that morning.

Matthew Bryant: “They verified then that Matthew Bryant at 6800 address had, in fact, voted already.”

Matthew was stunned, since state law requires the voter to have a valid ID.

Matthew Bryant: “Apparently, the person that morning must not have had a photo ID. My first question to them is who took away my right to vote?”

A vote Matthew was excited to cast for his candidate.

Matthew Bryant: “I voted for Trump.”

But now Matthew fears he lost his right to cast that ballot.

Matthew Bryant: “Certainly I am personally offended. This is my right. I’m an American citizen, I paid my taxes, you know. I’m a productive member of our society. I need to have a say.”

And if you cannot vote, you don’t have a say, so legally, Howard, what should Matthew do to get that other ballot tossed and his counted?

Howard Finkelstein: “First, Matthew should request what’s called a provisional ballot, which is a regular ballot he fills out that is sealed and put in a special envelope. Then the canvassing board can quickly determine if a crook cast an illegal ballot in Matthew’s name or it was a clerical error that can be easily fixed. Either way, Matthew’s vote will then count.”

Some confusion on evictions. The feds have blocked them if you fill out an affidavit saying you couldn’t pay because of COVID. A lot of viewers are getting served with eviction lawsuits and don’t know what to do with that affidavit.

Howard Finkelstein: “When you get served with the lawsuit, give that affidavit to your landlord. The eviction papers your landlord serves you with will tell you where to respond. Do that quickly and include your affidavit for the judge to read. They will either grant the eviction or allow you to stay in the rental until at least the end of the year.”

A fellow says a customer came into the job and used what turned out to be a bad credit card. His boss is now making him pay back the money that was stolen. Does he have to?

Howard Finkelstein: “Generally speaking, an employer cannot require you to pay back the money that came from a fraudulent credit card. Of course, if you refuse, they can fire you, so you have to decide whether to repay or not.”

Matthew Bryant: “There was another person with the same last name and the exact same date of birth at a different precinct.”

There was nothing criminal in Matthew’s case; it was a clerical error. A poll worker clicked on the wrong name at the polls. Broward corrected it, accepted Matthew’s vote and made him happy.

Matthew Bryant: “The system is trustworthy for in-person voting. Looks like it, yeah. My confidence in voting, in in-person voting, has been restored.”

When you vote in person and there’s a problem, you know right away. If you cast a mail-in ballot, you can go online to see if your vote has been counted, and if not, contact them to see what can be done to correct it.

And if you have a problem, a question you want us to answer, cast your lot with us. We would love to help you out.

Reporter: Patrick Fraser at
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

Important South Florida election sites:

Broward County

Miami Dade County

Monroe County

Palm Beach County


Florida Election Information

Copyright 2020 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Swimming Pool Loans: Finance with a Personal Loan



Our goal here at Credible Operations, Inc., NMLS Number 1681276, referred to as “Credible” below, is to give you the tools and confidence you need to improve your finances. Although we do promote products from our partner lenders, all opinions are our own.

The average cost of installing a pool in the U.S. is about $35,000, according to HomeGuide. If you’d like to get a pool but don’t have the cash, a personal loan could help you cover the cost.

Here’s what you should know about swimming pool loans:

Personal loans for swimming pools

A personal loan can be used for a wide variety of reasons — including swimming pool installation. Here are Credible’s partner lenders that offer personal loans for swimming pools:


Avant offers personal loans for up to $35,000, as well as fast loan funding. If you have fair credit and would like to finance a pool installation, Avant could be a good choice.

  • Rates: 9.95% – 35.99% APR
  • Loan terms (years): 2, 3, 4, 5*
  • Loan amount: $2,000 to $35,000**
  • Fees: Origination fee
  • Discounts: Autopay
  • Eligibility: Available in all states except CO, CT, HI, IA, LA, NV, NY, SC, VT, and WV
  • Min. income: $24,000
  • Customer service: Phone, email
  • Soft credit check: Yes
  • Min. credit score: 580
  • Time to get funds: As soon as the next business day (if approved by 4:30 p.m. CT on a weekday)
  • Loan uses: Debt consolidation, emergency expense, life event, home improvement, and other purposes

Avant personal loans review

*If approved, the actual loan terms that a customer qualifies for may vary based on credit determination, state law, and other factors. Minimum loan amounts vary by state.

**Example: A $5,700 loan with an administration fee of 4.75% and an amount financed of $5,429.25, repayable in 36 monthly installments, would have an APR of 29.95% and monthly payments of $230.33.


Axos personal loans range from $5,000 to $35,000 and can be used for home improvement and more. Keep in mind that you’ll likely need very good credit to qualify for an Axos loan.

  • Rates: 9.95% – 35.99% APR
  • Loan terms (years): 2, 3, 4, 5*
  • Loan amount: $2,000 to $35,000**
  • Fees: Origination fee
  • Discounts: Autopay
  • Eligibility: Available in all states except CO, CT, HI, IA, LA, NV, NY, SC, VT, and WV
  • Min. income: $24,000
  • Customer service: Phone, email
  • Soft credit check: Yes
  • Min. credit score: 580
  • Time to get funds: As soon as the next business day (if approved by 4:30 p.m. CT on a weekday)
  • Loan uses: Debt consolidation, emergency expense, life event, home improvement, and other purposes

Avant personal loans review

*If approved, the actual loan terms that a customer qualifies for may vary based on credit determination, state law, and other factors. Minimum loan amounts vary by state.

**Example: A $5,700 loan with an administration fee of 4.75% and an amount financed of $5,429.25, repayable in 36 monthly installments, would have an APR of 29.95% and monthly payments of $230.33.

Best Egg

Best Egg offers personal loans up to $35,000, with highly competitive fixed interest rates. Just remember that you’ll need good credit to qualify for the lower end of these rates.

  • Rates: 5.99% – 29.99% APR
  • Loan terms (years): 3, 5
  • Loan amount: $5,000 – $35,000
  • Fees: Origination fee
  • Discounts: None
  • Eligibility: Available in all states except DC, IA, VT, and WV
  • Min. income: None
  • Customer service: Phone
  • Soft credit check: Yes
  • Min. credit score: 640
  • Time to get funds: As soon as 1 – 3 business days after successful verification
  • Loan uses: Credit card refinancing, debt consolidation, home improvement, and other purposes

Best Egg personal loans review


If you have good to excellent credit and are looking for a longer repayment term, a personal loan from Discover might be a good option. Discover offers loans ranging from $2,500 to $35,000, with terms from three to seven years.

  • Rates: 6.99% – 24.99% APR
  • Loan terms (years): 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
  • Loan amount: $2,500 – $35,000
  • Fees: None as long as you pay on time
  • Discounts: None
  • Eligibility: Available in all 50 states
  • Customer service: Phone
  • Soft credit check: Yes
  • Min. credit score: 660
  • Time to get funds: Funds can be sent as soon as the next business day after acceptance
  • Loan uses: Auto repair, credit card refinancing, debt consolidation, home remodel or repair, major purchase, medical expenses, taxes, vacation, and wedding

Discover personal loans review


You don’t need excellent credit to get a loan from LendingPoint. If you’re looking for bad credit personal loans, LendingPoint might be a good option.

  • Rates: 15.49% – 35.99% APR
  • Loan terms (years): 2, 3, 4
  • Loan amount: $2,000 to $25,000
  • Fees: Origination fee
  • Discounts: Autopay
  • Eligibility: Available in all states except CO, CT, HI, MA, MD, NV, NY, VT, WV, and WY
  • Min. income: $35,000
  • Customer service: Phone, email
  • Soft credit check: Yes
  • Min. credit score: 585
  • Time to get funds: As soon as the next business day
  • Loan uses: Home improvement, consolidate debt, credit card refinancing, relocate, make a large purchase, and other purposes

LendingPoint personal loans review


A division of SunTrust Bank, LightStream offers loans up to $100,000, plus repayment terms ranging from two to 12 years for home improvement. This gives you more time to pay off your pool compared to other personal loan lenders.

  • Rates: 3.99% – 19.99% APR
  • Loan terms (years): 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 (up to 12 years for home improvement loans)
  • Loan amount: $5,000 to $100,000
  • Fees: None
  • Discounts: Autopay
  • Eligibility: Available in all states except RI and VT
  • Min. income: Does not disclose
  • Customer service: Phone, email
  • Soft credit check: No
  • Min. credit score: 660
  • Time to get funds: As soon as the same business day
  • Loan uses: Credit card refinancing, debt consolidation, home improvement, and other purposes

LightStream personal loans review

LightStream disclosure


Marcus personal loans come with absolutely no fees — no origination fees, prepayment penalties, or even late fees. And if you make your payments on time and in full for a year, you have the option of skipping a payment with no interest accruing.

  • Rates: 6.99% – 19.99% APR1
  • Loan terms (years): 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
  • Loan amount: $3,500 to $40,0002
  • Fees: None
  • Discounts: None
  • Eligibility: Available in all states except MD
  • Min. income: $30,000
  • Customer service: Phone
  • Soft credit check: Yes
  • Min. credit score: 680
  • Time to get funds: Many Marcus customers receive funds in as little as five days
  • Loan uses: Credit card refinancing, debt consolidation, home improvement, and other purposes

Marcus personal loans review

1Rate reduction available for AutoPay.

2You may be required to have some of your funds sent directly to pay off outstanding unsecured debt.

3After making 12 or more consecutive monthly payments, you can defer one payment as long as you have made all your prior payments in full and on time. Marcus will waive any interest incurred during the deferral and extend your loan by one month (you will pay interest during this extra month). Your payments resume as usual after your deferral. Advance notice is required. See loan agreement for details.


If you only need to borrow a small amount, PenFed could be a good choice. With PenFed, you could get anywhere from a $600 up to $20,000 personal loan with loan terms from one to five years.

  • Rates: 6.49% – 17.99% APR
  • Loan terms (years): 3, 4, 5
  • Loan amount: $600 to $20,000 (depending on loan term)
  • Fees: None
  • Discounts: None
  • Eligibility: Does not disclose
  • Min. income: Does not disclose
  • Customer service: Phone, email
  • Soft credit check: No
  • Min. credit score: 650
  • Time to get funds: 2 to 4 business days after verification
  • Loan uses: Debt consolidation, home improvement, transportation, medical, dental, life events

PenFed personal loans review


Prosper is a lending marketplace where loans are funded by individual investors. Prosper loans come with three- or five-year terms and are available for up to $40,000.

  • Rates: 6.95% – 35.99% APR
  • Loan terms (years): 3, 5
  • Loan amount: $2,000 to $40,000
  • Fees: Origination fee
  • Discounts: None
  • Eligibility: Available in all states except IA, ND, WV
  • Min. income: None
  • Customer service: Phone, email
  • Soft credit check: Yes
  • Min. credit score: 640
  • Time to get funds: On average, within 5 days of accepting your offer
  • Loan uses: Debt consolidation, home improvement, vehicles, small business, new baby expenses, and other purposes

Prosper personal loans review


SoFi offers $5,000 up to $100,000 personal loans that come with no origination fees, closing costs, or prepayment penalties. SoFi also offers unemployment protection, free financial planning sessions, and career coaching.

  • Rates: 5.99% – 18.83% APR
  • Loan terms (years): 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
  • Loan amount: $5,000 to $100,000
  • Fees: None
  • Discounts: Autopay
  • Eligibility: Available in all states except MS
  • Min. income: Does not disclose
  • Customer service: Phone, email
  • Soft credit check: Yes
  • Min. credit score: Does not disclose
  • Time to get funds: 3 business days
  • Loan uses: Solely for personal, family, or household uses

SoFi personal loans review


An Upgrade personal loan could be a good choice if you’re building credit or looking for fast loan approval. Upgrade offers loans up to $35,000.

  • Rates: 7.99% – 35.97% APR
  • Loan terms (years): 3, 5
  • Loan amount: $1,000 to $35,000 ($3,005 minimum in GA; $6,005 minimum in MA)
  • Fees: Origination fee
  • Discounts: Autopay
  • Eligibility: Available in all states except DC, IA, WV
  • Min. income: Does not disclose
  • Customer service: Email
  • Soft credit check: Yes
  • Min. credit score: 580
  • Time to get funds: Within a day of clearing necessary verifications
  • Loan uses: Debt consolidation, credit card refinancing, home improvement, and other purposes

Upgrade personal loans review


With Upstart, you could get a $1,000 up to a $50,000 personal loan. In addition to your credit, Upstart looks at over 1,000 non-traditional credit indicators to help get you approved for a personal loan — which means those with less-than-stellar credit might still qualify for a loan.

  • Rates: 8.13% – 35.99% APR4
  • Loan terms (years): 3 to 5 years4
  • Loan amount: $1,000 to $50,0005
  • Fees: Origination fee
  • Discounts: None
  • Eligibility: Available in all states except IA and WV
  • Min. income: $12,000
  • Customer service: Phone, email
  • Soft credit check: Yes
  • Min. credit score: 600

    (in most states)
  • Time to get funds: As soon as 1 – 3 business days6
  • Loan uses: Payoff credit cards, consolidate debt, take a course or bootcamp, relocate, make a large purchase, and other purposes

Upstart personal loans review

4The full range of available rates varies by state. The average 3-year loan offered across all lenders using the Upstart platform will have an APR of 15% and 36 monthly payments of $33 per $1,000 borrowed. There is no down payment and no prepayment penalty. Average APR is calculated based on 3-year rates offered in the last 1 month. Your APR will be determined based on your credit, income, and certain other information provided in your loan application. Not all applicants will be approved.

5This offer is conditioned on final approval based on our consideration and verification of financial and non-financial information. Rate and loan amount are subject to change based upon information received in your full application. This offer may be accepted only by the person identified in this offer, who is old enough to legally enter into contract for the extension of credit, a US citizen or permanent resident, and a current resident of the US. Duplicate offers received are void. Closing your loan is contingent on your meeting our eligibility requirements, our verification of your information, and your agreement to the terms and conditions on the website.

6If you accept your loan by 5pm EST (not including weekends or holidays), loan funds will be sent to your designated bank account on the next business day, provided that such funds are not being used to directly pay off credit cards. Loans used to fund education related expenses are subject to a 3 business day wait period between loan acceptance and funding in accordance with federal law.

See: What You Can Use a Personal Loan For

How to calculate the total cost of your swimming pool loan

How much you’ll need to borrow to cover your swimming pool will depend on the type of pool you choose.

Here are some common price points to consider before estimating the overall cost of a swimming pool loan:

  • Above-ground swimming pool: $1,500 to $16,000 on average
  • In-ground swimming pool: $3,000 to $100,000
Tip: The total cost of your loan will also be driven by the interest rate and any fees charged by the lender.

Having a good credit score could also help you qualify for a lower interest rate, so it’s a good idea to make sure your credit is as good as it can be before applying.

Before you borrow, estimate how much you’ll pay for a swimming pool loan using our personal loan calculator below:

Enter your loan information to calculate how much you could pay

Total Payment

Total Interest

Monthly Payment

With a
loan, you will pay
monthly and a total of
in interest over the life of your loan. You will pay a total of
over the life of the

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HELOCs vs. personal loans for pools

In some cases, a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) might be a good choice to pay for pool installation. Here are some pros and cons of both HELOCs and personal loans to help you decide:

  HELOCs Personal loans
  • Often have lower interest rates
  • Can use credit line multiple times
  • Quick application
  • Typically unsecured (doesn’t require collateral)
  • Few or no fees (depending on the lender)
  • If you stop payments, you could lose your collateral (i.e., your home)
  • Can come with upfront costs
  • Typically higher interest rates
  • Generally need very good credit to qualify
Best for
  • Borrowers with a good amount of equity in their home
  • Borrowers with good credit who qualify for lower rates

Learn More: How to Decide Between a Personal Loan and a Personal Line of Credit

Things you should know before building a pool

On top of paying for a pool, there are a few points to keep in mind before you take the plunge. Here’s what to consider first:

Pools won’t necessarily boost your home value

Unlike a bathroom addition or kitchen remodel, adding a new pool won’t necessarily add value to your home. If you move, you’ll be leaving it behind and likely won’t recoup the full cost — if any.

Also keep in mind that if you sell your home, buyers might not be thrilled with the added costs and safety risks that come with a home swimming pool.

The typical pool builder will recoup about $20,000 to $32,000 in value compared to an average $50,000 expense, according to HGTV.

In addition to paying for the pool, there may be additional monthly costs

Pool costs don’t stop after building and filling it up for the first time. There are a handful of common, ongoing costs related to owning a pool. The cost is around $3,000 to $5,000 per year, according to HomeAdvisor. These costs include:

  • Heating-related electricity costs
  • Pool chemicals
  • Cleaning services
  • Ongoing maintenance
  • Winterizing
  • Filling and adding water
  • Additional home insurance costs

Learn More: Where to Get a $10,000 Personal Loan

Some pool dealers may offer their own financing — but you should compare your options

Some pool-building companies offer their own financing. However, it’s a good idea to compare this with other loan options you might qualify for since you might get a much lower interest rate with another lender.

If the pool dealer offers a better deal, it might be a good choice. Just remember that you’re under no obligation to finance through your pool company, especially if you can get better terms elsewhere.

If you decide to take out a personal loan to pay for your swimming pool, be sure to consider as many lenders as possible to find the right loan for you. Credible makes this easy — you can compare your rates from multiple lenders in two minutes.

Ready to find your swimming pool loan?
Credible makes it easy to find the right personal loan for you.

  • Free to use, no hidden fees
  • One simple form, easy to fill out and your info is protected
  • More options, pick the loan option that best fits your personal needs
  • Here for you. Our team is here to help you reach your financial goals

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Keep Reading: Where to Get a Personal Loan

About the author

Eric Rosenberg

Eric Rosenberg

Eric Rosenberg is a Credible expert on personal finance. His work has been featured at Business Insider, Investopedia, The Balance, The Huffington Post, MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, and more.

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Bad Credit

The case of the ugly-credit customer



Thea Dudley

Dear Thea,

I recently had a customer apply for credit, and their commercial credit report was UGLY. They owe everyone, and they’re past due 90+ days. They have a few big orders pending with us and I feel they have been shut off everywhere else, which is why they are pushing so hard to get our orders shipped. I called the president of the company and told him we were opening his account COD so the orders pending would need to be paid prior to shipping them out. He blew up. He said he didn’t care about the information on the DNB report and it did not relate to them. Then he screamed at me, asking if we were going to send the materials. I am not interested in acquiring another slow paying account, so I need your thoughts.

Signed, Miffed in Michigan

Dear Miffed,

Control freaks, abusers of credit, and manipulators of people don’t ever question themselves. They never ask themselves if the problem is actually them, and they always say the problem is someone else. Such is the life of the slow-paying/no-paying account.

Yes, Mr. Crappy Credit Report, it is completely everyone else’s fault that your credit payment history looks like a piece of Swiss cheese: full of holes and slightly smelly. In fact, the Secret Society of Credit Managers got together last week and selected your company as THE ONE we were going to target for the month to make your professional life a nightmare. It has nothing to do with your inability to pay your invoices in a timely fashion. You, as always, are an innocent my dear customer.

Let’s be real here: customers with negative or poor credit history ALWAYS know they have bad credit, but they always posture like it is brand new information, heard for the very first time. What? My credit is bad? No, who is reporting me that way? I want names, numbers, I dispute it. This is total BS! The list of objections goes on and on. One thing they do know, it is wrong, and you need to give them credit RIGHT NOW or they will take their business elsewhere (oh, the horror.)

Blowhards and bullies shout over the top of you and push their agenda because that’s what worked for them in the past. Their theory is “if you say it loud enough and angry enough with enough threats and forcefulness, it becomes true and others back down.”

Well, I like to throw caution to the wind and pet that kitty backwards. If you are going to come at me bro, don’t come empty-handed. You’re not the first guy to lose his stuffing at me. So, your credit report is junk. Ok, no problem. I will email you a copy and you can address it directly with the commercial credit bureau I pulled it from. Once you two have kissed and made up, I will pull a new one and if it is good, then welcome to the family!

In absence of that, let’s take a look at the trade references you listed on your credit application. I will personally call each and every one of them. Once I have made contact and have the information back, we can reevaluate. Just so we are on the same page, trade references are who you currently purchase like materials from. I do not want anyone you hire (so no sub-contractors, no contractors, no homeowners), no big box, no gas and sip, no personal testimonials.

How about some financials? I will take those. Show me what you have under the hood. Since this is a family publication, I cannot print what some of the reactions to those requests have been but most of you have pretty good imaginations and can fill in those blanks.

If someone truly believes their credit report is inaccurate, they have a normal conversation about it, in a normal tone. In this case the old adage, “the louder they are, the harder they fall” applies, so take heed.

With more than 30 years of credit management experience in the LBM industry, Thea Dudley consults with companies on a wide range of credit and financial management issues. Contact Thea at


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