Deciding to refinance your student loans is a big financial decision. Knowing which bank to choose can be pretty challenging in a landscape where the small differences can mean big things down the road. Here’s some helpful information about some of the biggest names in student loan refinancing.
We looked at 11 of the top names in student loan refinancing and got down the the small differences that set them apart. Our analysts tracked each company based on a comprehensive set of criteria including interest and loan terms in order to help you make an informed student loan choice.
Loan Rates & Financial Terms
Each lender has a similar structure with how they handle interest rates and fee structures. They’ll all require a minimum loan amount from $1,000 to $10,000 and most of the top lenders offer a discount for automatic payments. While the differences in interest rates may not seem like much, those amounts can add up to a lot of money over time. Check out our Student Loan Calculator to see for yourself. That’s why it’s so important to shop carefully to find the best loan that you can qualify for with your circumstances.
|Top Picks||Variable Rates||Fixed Rates||Terms||Soft Credit Check||Min. Lending Amount||Max. Lending Amount||Auto-Pay Interest Rate Reduction||Average Savings|
|SoFI||2.79%-6.72%||3.35%-6.74%||5,7,10,15,20||yes||$5K||No Max||yes 0.25%||$316/month|
|Laurel road||3.76%-6.42%||4.20%-7.20%||5,7,10,15,20||yes||$5K||No Max||yes 0.25%||20200|
|Common Bond||2.79%-6.72%||3.35%-6.74%||5,7,10,15,20||yes||$5K||$500K||yes 0.25%||24200|
|Lend Key||2.66%-6.20%||3.25%-7.26%||5,7,10,15,20||yes||$7.5K||$125 Undergrad/$175K grad||yes 0.25%||15270|
|Citizens Bank||2.78%*8.63%||3.74%-8.24%||5,10,15,20||yes||$10K||$90K Undergrad/$350 grad||yes 0.25%||$132/month|
|Earnest||2.81%-6.46%||3.35%-6.46%||5 to 20||yes||$5K||No Max||yes 0.25%||21810|
|College Ave Student Loans||4.13%+||4.65%+||5, 7, 10, 12, and 15 year loans||yes||$5K||$150K Undergrad/250K Medical Grad||yes 0.25%|
|EDvestinU||3.97%+||4.34%+||15, 20||yes||7500||$200K||yes 0.25%|
|iHelp||3.75%+||4.75%+||44119||yes||1000||$10K-$150K Undergrad/ up to $250K Graduate||No||18668|
Benefits & Eligibility
Not all lenders treat all situations the same. Some use a credit score to determine approval while others are comprehensive based on your debt to income ratio as well. While they will all take federal and private student loans, some will only refinance you for certain types of programs and degrees. What you find when you compare all of the details is that while some lenders may be easier to qualify and provide a transparent and hassle free refinancing process, you pay for convenience and access.
|Top Picks||Unemployment Protection||Interest-Only Payment Option||Discharge Due to Death||Transfer PLUS Parents to Graduate||Prepayment Penalty||Refi Parent PLUS Loans||State Residency||Previously Defaulted Loans Eligible|
|SoFI||yes – up to 12 months||No||Yes||Yes||None||Yes||Any except residents of NV (OH, TN some restrictions)||No|
|Laurel road||yes – up to 12 months||No||Yes||Yes||None||Yes||Any||No|
|Common Bond||yes – up to 12 months||No||Yes||Yes||None||Yes||Any except LA, ME, RI, or NV||Yes|
|Lend Key||yes – up to 12 months||yes – up to 4 years||Yes||No||None||No||Any except ME, ND, NV, RI, WV||No|
|Citizens Bank||yes – up to 12 months||No||Yes||No||None||Yes||Any||Yes|
|Earnest||yes – up to 12 months||No||Yes||No||None||Yes||Any except AL, DE, KY, MS, NV, RI||Yes|
|College Ave Student Loans||No||Yes – for first 2 years||No||None||Yes||Any||If in collection, no. If still with original lender, Yes.|
|EDvestinU||No||Yes||None||Yes||AL, KY, MS, NV, SD,|
|iHelp||No||Yes||Yes – unless there is a cosigner||None||Yes||Any||No|
|Mefa||No||No||Yes – unless there is a cosigner||None||Yes||Any||No|
|Risla||Yes (and permenant disability)||None||Any|
Finding the Best Rate for Your Situation
Default on a previous loan? Didn’t finish school? You may still be eligible for some great refinancing products. Most banks wont require a cosigner but check to make sure that you don’t get a better rate by using all of your available resources. Saving money over the long term is the goal of a successful refinancing and every penny and percentage point matters.
|Top Picks||Eligible Degrees||Eligible Loans||Min. Credit Score||Min. Annual Income||No Cosignor Required||Ability to apply with a Cosigner||Cosigner Release Offered (Existing Loans)||Cosigner Release Offered (Refinanced Loans)|
|SoFI||Undergrad & Graduate||Private & Federal||Good or Excellent score needed||No Min||Yes – if approved||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Laurel road||Undergrad & Graduate||Private & Federal||680||No Min||Yes – if approved||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Common Bond||Undergrad & Graduate||Private & Federal||660||No Min||Yes – if approved||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Lend Key||Undergrad & Graduate||Private & Federal||680||$24K||Yes – if approved||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Citizens Bank||Undergrad & Graduate||Private & Federal||680||$24K||Yes – if approved||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Earnest||Undergrad & Graduate||Private & Federal||660||No Min||Yes – if approved||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|College Ave Student Loans||BA or Higher||Private & Federal||comprehensive||$75K (Household)||Yes – if approved||Yes||Yes||yes – if approved after 24 months of consecutive, on-time payments|
|EDvestinU||no degree required||Private & Federal||750||$30K (borrower or cosigner) for $100 K or less, $50K for $100K or more||Yes – if approved||Yes||Yes||yes – if approved after 24 months of consecutive, on-time payments|
|iHelp||no degree required||Private & Federal||comprehensive||$24K (household)||Yes – if approved||Yes||Yes||yes – if approved after 24 months of consecutive, on-time payments|
|Mefa||no degree required||Private & Federal||comprehensive||$24K||Yes – if approved||Yes||Yes||No|
|Risla||comprehensive||$40K||Yes – if approved||Yes||Yes||yes – if approved after 24 months of consecutive, on-time payments|
|Top Picks||Borrower Can Apply While Still Enrolled in School||Borrower Must Currently be Employed||Minimum GPA Required||Avg. Time to Apply||Apply on Mobile Device||Interest is Tax Deductible||Personal Reference Required||Year Established|
|SoFI||Yes||Yes- Or signed job offer||No Min||Less than 10 mins||Yes||Yes||No||2011|
|Laurel road||Yes||Yes- Or signed job offer||No Min||Less than 10 mins||Yes||Yes||No||2006|
|Common Bond||Yes||Yes- Or signed job offer||No Min||Less than 10 mins||Yes||Yes||No||2011|
|Lend Key||No||Yes||No Min||Less than 10 mins||Yes||Yes||No||2007|
|Citizens Bank||No||Yes||No Min||Less than 10 mins||Yes||Yes||No||1828/2014 (for refi student loans)|
|Earnest||Yes||Yes- Or signed job offer||No Min||Less than 10 mins||Yes||Yes||No||2013|
|College Ave Student Loans||No||No||No Min||Less than 10 mins||No||Yes||No||2013|
|EDvestinU||Yes||No||No Min||Less than 10 mins||Yes||Yes||Yes||1962|
|iHelp||Yes||yes – min 2 years||No Min||Less than 10 mins||No||Yes||2 for borrower – 1 for cosigner||2009|
|Mefa||Yes||NO||No Min||Less than 10 mins||Yes||No.||1982|
|Risla||Yes||NO||No Min||Less than 10 mins||Yes|
SoFi offers some of the lowest interest in the market, if you’re approved, you will likely have a hard time finding a lower interest rate anywhere else. However, they have strict credit criteria and target borrowers with good jobs, good income and good credit history. SoFi is unique among lenders because it offers unemployment insurance at no additional cost. If you lose your job through no personal fault (you cannot quit), SoFi will suspend your monthly payments until you find a new job for up to 12 months. The interest accrued during this period, would be added to your loan, but this gives borrowers a sense of power when faced with unexpected life challenges. SoFi also offers an entrpreneur program to help graduates who dream of owning their own business. Under this program, loans can be deferred for 6 months so you can focus on growing your business. SoFI provides access to networking events, mentors and investors to help you on your professional journey. (SoFi Review)
Laurel Road is the product of a bank, rather than a student loan company. Since banks face greater scrutiny in their lending practices, borrowers face a much lower likelihood of dishonest activity when applying for a loan. Laurel Road does not offer the lowest advertised rates, but when borrowers apply with several lenders to find the best rate options, Laurel Road often offers the best rate. Laurel Road also has a number of unique services if you are medical professional. This includes a residency and fellowship repayment option that allows you to pay just $100 per month until you become an attending physician. Finally, Laurel Road offers a $150 bonus to new customers. Borrowers should still focus on finding the right lender for them, but the new customer bonus is a nice perk for going through the steps to refinance. (Laurel Road Review)
For borrowers who are looking for a lending company that makes a difference, CommonBond might be the lender for you. They are committed to Social Good, for every fully funded degree through CommonBond, they fund the education of a student in need abroad for a year through Pencils of Promise. CommonBond also helps eligible graduates find new jobs and hires them for short-term consulting projects. CommonBond provides it’s borrowers with access to the CommonBond community by connecting them to events in their cities, networking opportunities, and lifestyle perks. CommonBond also offers Unemployment Protection, called CommonBridge, the program allows borrowers to temporarily postpone payments if they run into financial difficulties. They’ve got your back, while you get your finances back in order. Borrowers can also choose between fixed interest rates, variable interest rates, or a hybrid rate that is a 10-year loan with 5 years of a fixed rates followed by 5 years of variable rates. (CommonBond Review)
LendKey offers borrowers innovative technology to match them with community banks and credit unions to provide transparent, accessible and low-cost borrowing options. Through their lenders, borrowers will be able to refinance their student loans, both federal and private, including graduate loans, into one convenient loan helping to you simplify your finances. LendKey also offers the longest period of Unemployment protection (18 months) while in-between jobs. Many of their lenders also offer various repayment options, including interest-only payments for the first four years. LEndKey also promises that borrowers will be serviced by their fully trained customer care team from the moment you start your application until your final payment. (LendKey Review)
Citizens Bank is a full-service retail bank that operates primarily in the northeastern United States, but offers student loan refinancing to residents across the U.S. through Citizens One, the bank’s lending division that operates nationally. As with any lender, the lowest rates are available to borrowers with good credit; others will receive a rate based on their credit profile. Unlike some lenders, Citizens offers refinancing to some borrowers who have not completed their bachelor’s degree. While you may not refinance while attending school, those who have stopped attending school and do not plan to complete their degrees are eligible to apply for refinancing through Citizens after making twelve full, on-time payments. Perhaps one of the biggest draws of refinancing with Citizens is for borrowers hoping to consolidate their finances. Since Citizens offers everything from credit cards to mortgages, it has the ability be your bank for life. (Citizens Bank Review)
Unlike most lenders, which require borrowers to choose a set term for repaying their loans (typically somewhere between five and 20 years in five-year increments), Earnest borrowers can choose their exact loan term — and exact monthly loan payment. Earnest offers borrowers Precision Pricing, a sliding scale that allows them to choose the dollar amount they’d like to pay each month. Borrowers who opt for Earnest student loan refinance options can call and speak with an Earnest employee, rather than someone at a third-party servicer, to resolve any questions or issues that may arise. Most lenders pass their clients to a third-party after thirty days, but Earnest pledges not to do so. This ensures that borrowers will always have direct access to the source of information about their loan, which can often result in faster resolution times. (Earnest Review)
Ease and flexibility are hallmarks of College Ave. Student loans are all College Ave does. Its student loan product comes with great interest rates, and a variety of terms and repayment options, so you can find the right fit for you. Perhaps the nicest perk is the fact you are able to choose how long you’ll take to pay off your loan. They also offer borrowers a number of different and flexible repayment options. College Ave borrowers can choose between interest only payments, flat payment, and full principal and interest payments, or defer their payments if they need more time to get the money together. College Ave’s qualification requirements are quite high compared with some lenders, and not all creditworthy borrowers meet them on their own. Applying with a co-signer is a good way to ensure you’re able to get the best rate if you don’t qualify on your own. It’s worth noting, however, that your co-borrower will be responsible for the loan balance if, for whatever reason, you are unable to repay it. (College Ave Review)
EDvestinU is a great option for community-minded borrowers because it is a nonprofit loan program offered by the New Hampshire Higher Education Loan Corporation. Any proceeds made by EDvestinU goes directly back into New Hampshire public high schools in the form of scholarships and education access programs. Another benefit of refinancing through EDvestinU is that they accept refinancing applications from any U.S. Citizen or permanent resident who has used student loans to pay for a Title IV, degree-granting institution, regardless of whether or not they have graduated. If your financial profile has changed significantly since you’ve started school, it might be worth applying to refinance before graduating. For those students who choose to refinance while in school, keep in mind that there is no grace period for EDvestinU loans, so even EDvestinU encourages borrowers to wait to apply for refinancing until the end of their grace period.
What sets iHelp apart from other lenders is that they partner with thousands of community banks nationwide. Bringing your dollars back to your local community. So, when you refinance your loans, the community banks are providing the funds, but iHelp is the organization who will service your loan — and the party you’ll interface with should any questions or concerns arise. With this unique model, borrowers can take out loans from local banks, but benefit from loan servicing by a national organization known for personalized service. iHelp may not be the best option for borrowers with excellent credit, as their rates are not the most competitive in the market. As with some other lenders, iHelp offers the option of cosigner release at any time after two years of consistent payments. The borrower will need to meet certain credit requirements before cosigner release will be granted, including a minimum income and credit score, and a maximum debt-to-income ratio.
Unlike some refinancing lenders who focus on the benefit of saving money over the life of the loan, MEFA (Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority) emphasizes that their borrowers see lower monthly payments when they refinance. Unlike most lenders, MEFA has no maximum loan balance. MEFA’s eligibility requirements for student loan refinancing do not include having completed a degree, so borrowers who have put school on hold and are repaying their loans may be able to refinance into lower rates with MEFA — or at the very least, into a longer loan term and therefore lower monthly payments. Like most lenders, MEFA allows borrowers to apply with a cosigner, which can help the applicant qualify for a loan or even secure a lower interest rate. Unlike many lenders, however, MEFA does not offer cosigner release, which is typically an option after a number of on-time payments have been made. This means that MEFA cosigners will be legally tied to the loan until it is fully repaid. (MEFA Review)
RISLA (Rhode Island Student Loan Authority) is a non-profit state organization that offers not only student loans and student loan refinancing, but also resources such as college planning services, an internship finder, and a scholarship search. RISLA also offers the option of income-based repayment to borrowers who demonstrate financial hardship, which is unique among refinancing lenders. Qualifying borrowers must pay no more than 15 percent of their monthly discretionary income towards loan payments, and any loan balance remaining after 25 years of repayment will be forgiven. Keep in mind that switching to IBR will increase the amount of interest you pay, so it’s a great safety net in case of unexpected financial burdens. Lastly, RISLA will refinance loans from any U.S. college, even for borrowers without a degree.