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8 Best Student Loan Refinance Companies – Reviews & Comparison

If, like many, you graduated college with some student loan debt, you may be concerned about paying it off as quickly as possible. If you can manage your monthly payment and have excellent credit, refinancing your student loans may be a viable way to do it.

Student loan refinancing is the process of exchanging your old student loan for a new one with different terms. The benefits of refinancing can be significant; graduates, as well as parent borrowers, can often lower their monthly payment, find a better interest rate, or combine several loans into one single monthly payment, which is known as loan consolidation. A lowered interest rate, in particular, can potentially save you thousands over the life of a loan.

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Refinancing, however, can also have its drawbacks. Many borrowers may not have good enough credit to qualify, potentially through no fault of their own. Student loan debt can affect your credit score, specifically by impacting your debt-to-income ratio. Ironically, the very thing graduates are seeking to fix may itself be a roadblock to the potential solution.

Further, although you can refinance both private and federal student loans, before you consider refinancing your federal loans, you should understand what you could potentially be giving up. If you refinance a federal loan with a private lender, you’ll lose access to all of the repayment options available through the U.S. Department of Education. These include loan consolidation, income-driven repayment plans, loan forgiveness programs, and the potential for generous deferment and forbearance terms should you face economic hardship or decide to return to school.

As a general rule of thumb, you shouldn’t refinance federal loans unless you can afford your monthly payment on the standard 10-year plan, making you unlikely to benefit from the above-mentioned federal programs, anyway. In this case, refinancing can help you pay back less over the long run by lowering the interest rates your federal loans currently offer.

If you decide that refinancing is for you, it’s time to decide which lender to go with.


Best Student Loan Refinance Companies

Of the best-known and highest-ranking student loan refinance lenders, these eight get high marks for their low interest rates, flexible terms, excellent customer service, extra perks, and borrower review.

Bear in mind that rates and terms are subject to change, so check the lenders’ websites for the latest information. Also note that if you are approved for a loan, the interest rate you receive will depend on your credit profile, application, and the loan term you select.

1. Social Finance (SoFi)

SoFi is one of the largest and most well-known student loan refinance lenders. It’s also one of the first to allow borrowers to refinance their federal and private student loans into a single new loan, enabling them to make only one monthly payment.

SoFi’s advantages include a quick, online pre-approval application and the ability to choose your own repayment plan. Its interest rates are competitive and generally the lowest among refinance lenders; however, its credit and income requirements are relatively strict, and many borrowers may have difficulty getting approved for refinancing with SoFi.

Benefits

  • Offers a 0.25% interest rate deduction for enrolling in automatic payments.
  • Borrowers can make biweekly or greater-than-the-minimum payments through autopay.
  • Offers up to 12 months of loan deferment for borrowers who return to school, are deployed, or undergo disability rehabilitation.
  • Parent borrowers can refinance a Parent PLUS loan and transfer it to their child.
  • Unique perks include exclusive career coaching, local networking events, and no-fee investing.
  • SoFi is one of only three lenders listed here with a special perk for medical students, who can refinance their student loans during their medical residency.

Drawbacks

  • Notoriously one of the toughest places to qualify for refinancing. The No. 1 criteria SoFi considers when underwriting loans is cash flow, meaning high income with few debts. SoFi doesn’t disclose a minimum required credit score, but approved borrowers generally have scores above 700.
  • Though SoFi does offer a forbearance program of 12 months over the life of the loan, other lenders have more generous programs.
  • If you use a co-signer to qualify for refinancing, they’ll be tied to the loan until it’s paid off; SoFi has no co-signer release.

Terms & Conditions

  • Available Loan Terms: 5, 7, 10, 15, or 20 years
  • Fixed APR: 3.89% – 8.074%
  • Variable APR: 2.5% – 7.115%
  • Balance Limits: $5,000 minimum; no maximum
  • Minimum Required Income: No minimum, but borrowers who qualify generally have a high income and few to no debts
  • Minimum Required Credit Score: “Excellent”; the typical credit score of approved borrowers is 700 or above
  • Eligible Loans/Degrees: Undergraduate, graduate, and Parent PLUS
  • Graduation Requirement: Associate degree or higher
  • Co-Signer Release: None

Find out how you can apply for refinancing with SoFi.


2. CommonBond

Like SoFi, CommonBond offers somewhat broader refinancing options than some other lenders. They are the highest-rated lender that allows borrowers to refinance their parents’ PLUS loans with their own. They also offer borrowing services that allow students to consolidate their undergraduate loans and then go on to graduate school.

One unique feature of CommonBond is that for every loan they fund, they support the education of a child in need through their Social Promise program.

Benefits

  • Offers a 0.25% interest rate reduction for enrolling in automatic payments.
  • Offers military and academic forbearance for up to 24 months – much longer than the average.
  • Unique unemployment protection program provides hardship forbearance for up to 24 months, as well as helping eligible graduates find new jobs.
  • Offers a unique hybrid loan, which is a 10-year loan that starts with the best available fixed APR for the first five years and then switches over to a variable APR for the next five years.

Drawbacks

  • Like SoFi, CommonBond has fairly stringent requirements, and many borrowers won’t qualify. Borrowers must have fairly high credit scores and median incomes in the low six figures.
  • Borrowers with lower credit scores might be approved but could end up with a higher interest rate than on their current federal or private student loans.

Terms & Conditions

  • Available Loan Terms: 5, 7, 10, 15, or 20 years
  • Fixed APR: 3.67% – 7.25%
  • Variable APR: 2.55% – 7.42%
  • Balance Limits: $5,000 minimum; $500,000 maximum
  • Minimum Required Income: No set minimum, but low six figures is preferable
  • Minimum Required Credit Score: 660
  • Eligible Loans/Degrees: Undergraduate, graduate, and Parent PLUS
  • Graduation Requirement: Bachelor’s degree or higher
  • Co-Signer Release: After 36 consecutive, on-time monthly payments

Find out how you can apply for refinancing with CommonBond.


3. Earnest

Earnest stands out for the flexible refinancing options it offers borrowers, as well as its unique approach to underwriting. Instead of relying solely on a borrower’s income and credit score, it looks at their complete financial picture, including how well they can afford their expenses, how regularly they save, and whether they have a retirement account.

Earnest then allows qualified borrowers to choose their monthly payment and build their interest rate and terms around that. Like many other lenders, Earnest refinances both federal and private student loans and allows the refinancing and transfer of Parent PLUS loans.

Benefits

  • Offers a 0.25% interest rate reduction for enrolling in automatic payments.
  • Offers better protections than most student loan refinance lenders, allowing borrowers to defer loans during graduate school, while serving in the Peace Corps, during active military service, during periods of economic hardship, and during unpaid parental leave for up to 12 months.
  • Allows borrowers to skip one payment per year after they have made on-time payments for six months.
  • Borrowers can schedule additional payments when they have extra money.
  • Scores highly on consumer review sites, such as Trustpilot, for its excellent customer service.
  • Has the lowest qualifying credit score among all student loan refinance lenders.

Drawbacks

  • Although borrowers may skip one payment per year, as with deferment or forbearance, interest continues to accrue on the loan, meaning payments will be higher the next month and the length of the loan term will increase.
  • Does not accept co-signers, which means borrowers with limited credit histories or those who don’t meet Earnest’s other expanded criteria may not get approved.
  • Not available in all 50 states. Excluded states include Alabama, Delaware, Kentucky, Nevada, and Rhode Island.
  • If you have an excellent credit score – above 700 – you may find better rates with other lenders.

Terms & Conditions

  • Available Loan Terms: 5 – 20 years
  • Fixed APR: 3.89% – 7.89%
  • Variable APR: 2.54% – 7.27%
  • Balance Limits: $5,000 minimum; no maximum
  • Minimum Required Income: No set minimum, but applicants must either have consistent employment or a written job offer for employment starting within six months.
  • Minimum Required Credit Score: 650
  • Eligible Loans/Degrees: Undergraduate, graduate, and Parent PLUS
  • Graduation Requirement: Must be within six months of graduation if not already graduated
  • Co-Signer Release: N/A

Find out how you can apply for refinancing with Earnest.


4. Citizens Bank/Citizens One

Citizens Bank’s national lending division, Citizens One, is consistently ranked the highest by borrowers and reviewers among brick-and-mortar banks that offer student loan refinancing. It serves a diverse range of borrowers, including those who didn’t graduate or who aren’t U.S. citizens. Further, it doesn’t require a degree from a particular type of school; many other top refinance lenders require schools to be accredited by certain institutions.

You need only have made 12 months of consecutive, on-time payments toward your student loans before applying with Citizens. You can also score rate discounts for signing up for automatic payments or having an account with the bank. As with many other lenders listed here, Citizens refinances both federal and private loans as well as Parent PLUS loans, but they do not allow the transfer of Parent PLUS loans to the student.

Benefits

  • Offers up to a 0.50% rate reduction for enrolling in automatic payments and for being a Citizens Bank member.
  • Offers academic and military deferment or economic hardship forbearance for up to 12 months.
  • The only lender on this list that doesn’t require students to have graduated – or be close to graduation – in order to refinance their loans.

Drawbacks

  • Borrowers must have strong credit to qualify as well as consistent and verifiable income.

Terms & Conditions

  • Available Loan Terms: 5, 10, 15, or 20 years
  • Fixed APR: 3.89% – 9.99%
  • Variable APR: 3.00% – 9.74%
  • Balance Limits: $10,000 – $90,000 for undergraduate loans; up to $225,000 for graduate loans; up to $300,000 for law school loans; and up to $350,000 for medical school loans
  • Minimum Required Income: None disclosed
  • Minimum Required Credit Score: 680
  • Eligible Loans/Degrees: Undergraduate, graduate, and Parent PLUS (transfer to the student not available)
  • Graduation Requirement: None
  • Co-Signer Release: After 36 consecutive, on-time monthly payments

Find out how you can apply for refinancing with Citizens Bank.


5. Splash Financial

Splash Financial entered the student loan arena by focusing exclusively on medical school loan refinancing. They’ve since expanded their offerings to anyone with a bachelor’s degree or higher, but they continue to offer special perks to medical professionals, including the ability to make $1 per month payments during residency for medical school loans refinanced through Splash Financial.

It also stands out for being one of the few lenders that allow married couples to refinance their loans together into one single loan with one monthly payment.

Benefits

  • Offers features that help borrowers repay loans faster, including shorter loan terms and the ability to make biweekly or greater-than-the-minimum payments through autopay.
  • During medical school, residency, and for 90 days following residency, medical school borrowers can make $1-per-month payments.
  • Allows married couples to refinance their loans into one single loan.

Drawbacks

  • Offers no deferments, forbearance, or death or disability loan forgiveness.
  • In many cases, medical school borrowers may save more money by refinancing their loans with Splash Financial than using an income-driven repayment plan such as IBR (income-based repayment). However, refinancing federal loans will mean losing access to federal repayment programs, the potential for loan forgiveness, and deferment and forbearance options.
  • Loans are originated by Pentagon Federal Credit Union (PenFed), and you’ll need to become a member to qualify. To join, you’ll need to be a current or former member of the armed forces or join one of their partner organizations.
  • Requirements are strict. Solo applicants must have a minimum credit score of 700 and a minimum annual income of $42,000.

Terms & Conditions

  • Available Loan Terms: 5 – 15 years
  • Fixed APR: 3.75% – 7.03%
  • Variable APR: 3.11% – 7.85%
  • Balance Limits: $7,500 minimum; $350,000 maximum
  • Minimum Required Income: $42,000
  • Minimum Required Credit Score: 700 for an individual; 670 with co-signer
  • Eligible Loans/Degrees: Undergraduate, graduate, and Parent PLUS
  • Graduation Requirement: Bachelor’s degree or higher
  • Co-Signer Release: After 12 consecutive, on-time monthly payments

Find out how you can apply for refinancing with Splash Financial.


6. Education Loan Finance (ELFI)

ELFI scores highly with borrowers for their excellent customer service. One reason for this is that ELFI matches borrowers with a dedicated, highly trained personal loan advisor for the length of the refinancing process. Borrowers can call, text, or email their advisors to ask questions throughout the process. ELFI refinances federal and private student loans as well as Parent PLUS loans.

Benefits

  • Offers up to 12 months’ forbearance for economic hardship and deferment for military deployment.
  • Consistently ranked high on consumer review sites for excellent customer service.
  • Offer a referral bonus of $400 for any person who completes the sign-up process.

Drawbacks

  • Does not offer academic deferment; borrowers can’t postpone payments if they return to school.
  • Although ELFI refinances Parent PLUS loans, these loans cannot be transferred to the student.
  • Approval requirements may be strict for some borrowers. ELFI requires a minimum credit score of 680, a minimum annual income of $36,000, and at least three years of credit history, which may be tough for some recent graduates.

 Terms & Conditions

  • Available Loan Terms: 5, 7, 10, 15, or 20 years
  • Fixed APR: 3.39% – 6.69%
  • Variable APR: 2.8% – 6.01%
  • Balance Limits: $15,000 minimum; no maximum
  • Minimum Required Income: $36,000
  • Minimum Required Credit Score: 680
  • Eligible Loans/Degrees: Undergraduate, graduate, and Parent PLUS
  • Graduation Requirement: Bachelor’s degree or higher
  • Co-Signer Release: After 48 consecutive, on-time monthly payments

Find out how you can apply for refinancing with ELFI.


7. Laurel Road

Like Splash Financial, Laurel Road caters to health professionals by allowing doctors and dentists to refinance their loans as soon as they’re matched with a residency or fellowship. In fact, as of April 2019, Laurel Road is the only lender that lets borrowers refinance dental school loans during residency, even if they take on additional loans for their residencies.

Further, members of the American Dental Association (ADA) get a 0.25% interest rate discount for refinancing through Laurel Road. Both of these factors make Laurel Road an ideal refinance lender for dental students in particular, although they service all types of student loans, including federal and private student loans and Parent PLUS loans.

Benefits

  • Offers a 0.25% interest rate reduction for enrolling in automatic payments.
  • Offers economic hardship forbearance and military deferment for up to 12 months over the life of the loan.
  • ADA members can get a 0.25% interest rate reduction.
  • Offers a medical residency refinancing option, allowing medical residents to pay $100 per month toward their loans while in residency.

Drawbacks

  • Although Laurel Road offers a special repayment amount for medical students during residency, if their $100 payments don’t cover their loan’s interest – which is quite likely given the high amounts of debt many medical students must take on – the additional interest will be added to the loan at the end of their residency.
  • While Laurel Road doesn’t disclose its specific underwriting criteria, you must have a great job – many of their approved borrowers either work in the medical profession or make six figures – and a great credit score to be approved for refinancing. Further, you must be employed in a “professional capacity,” which may mean that entrepreneurs and the self-employed are unable to qualify.

Terms & Conditions

  • Available Loan Terms: 5, 7, 10, 15, or 20 years
  • Fixed APR: 3.5% – 7.02%
  • Variable APR: 2.5% – 6.65%
  • Balance Limits: $5,000 minimum; no maximum
  • Minimum Required Income: None disclosed
  • Minimum Required Credit Score: 660
  • Eligible Loans/Degrees: Undergraduate, graduate, and Parent PLUS
  • Graduation Requirement: Bachelor’s degree or higher, although some select associate degrees are accepted
  • Co-Signer Release: After 36 consecutive, on-time monthly payments

Find out how you can apply for refinancing with Laurel Road.


8. LendKey

Technically, LendKey isn’t a lender. Rather, it offers borrowers the ability to submit a single application to their exclusive network of credit unions and community banks to match them with the best possible interest rates for refinancing their student loans. LendKey streamlines the application process by unifying and managing applications while offering customer support to applicants and servicing all loans.

LendKey vets its partners with a focus on nonprofit lenders, such as credit unions. Because of this, borrowers can often find student loan products with highly competitive rates as well as ones that may be a better fit for their specific refinancing needs. The below benefits and drawbacks apply to all refinance loans made through LendKey, but its partner banks may have their own additional terms.

Benefits

  • Offers borrowers the option of interest-only payments for the first four years.
  • Offers a 0.25% rate reduction for enrolling in automatic payments.
  • Offers economic hardship forbearance for up to 18 months.
  • Its co-signer release term of 12 months of consecutive, on-time payments is one of the shortest among student loan refinance lenders.
  • Borrowers may receive better terms or more lenient repayment options because their loans originate from small banks and credit unions.

Drawbacks

  • Requires verifiable and steady income as well as a high credit score, so not all borrowers will qualify. Borrowers with high income and few debts qualify for the best rates.
  • You may need to join the credit union you want to refinance your loan. That could be problematic depending on the requirements for membership, which may include living in a certain geographic area or working for certain companies.
  • Because LendKey is merely the loan servicer, terms and qualifications can vary depending on the lender. If you decide to refinance with LendKey, make sure you read the fine print and understand exactly what you’re agreeing to.
  • Loans aren’t available in all 50 states. Excluded states include Maine, Nevada, North Dakota, Rhode Island, and West Virginia.

Terms & Conditions

  • Available Loan Terms: 5, 7, 10, 15, or 20 years
  • Fixed APR: 3.64% – 8.92%
  • Variable APR: 2.82% – 8.91%
  • Balance Limits: $5,000 – $175,000 for undergraduate loans; up to $250,000 for graduate loans
  • Minimum Required Income: $24,000 for individuals; $12,000 with a co-signer
  • Minimum Required Credit Score: 680
  • Eligible Loans/Degrees: Undergraduate, graduate, and Parent PLUS
  • Graduation Requirement: Associate degree or higher
  • Co-Signer Release: After 12 consecutive, on-time monthly payments

Find out how you can apply for refinancing with LendKey.


Finding the Best Lender for You

When evaluating lenders, you should consider generalized factors, such as customer service, overall interest rates, and possibly even the lender’s mission or philosophy. But ultimately, which student loan refinance lender is best for you will depend on your situation.

For example, if you don’t have a credit score of at least 650 – the minimum required by any of the above lenders – and a history of consistent income, you’ll likely need a co-signer to qualify. In that case, you’ll want to exclude Earnest from your list as it doesn’t allow co-signers. You’ll also want to consider lenders with comparably short co-signer release terms, such as Splash Financial and LendKey.

If you attended college and have the debt to show for it but no degree, you’ll want to check out Citizens Bank as it’s the only lender listed here that doesn’t require borrowers to have graduated. If you did graduate and have excellent credit and a high income, check out SoFi, CommonBond, or Earnest, all of which offer highly competitive rates to qualified buyers.

Finally, if you’re attempting to refinance medical school debt, check out Splash Financial, Laurel Road, or SoFi for their perks designed for medical students.

Everyone has unique needs and situations, so the “right” lender for you will depend on yours. Just keep in mind that the whole reason for refinancing your loans is to get a better interest rate, so that should be your primary focus. Also, keep these tips in mind.

Review Loan Terms

Lenders offer different loan structures to choose from. First and foremost, always do your homework and make sure you read all the fine print before signing with a new lender. Pay special attention to the following loan terms.

Repayment Term

A longer repayment term means a lower monthly payment, but it also means you’ll be paying off the loan for a longer period, as well as paying back more money over the long run due to accrued interest. On the other hand, a shorter loan repayment term means a higher monthly payment. If you opt to go that route, make sure the amount is manageable for you; you don’t want to risk defaulting, which could come with its own host of problems, including damaging your credit report and putting you at risk of being sued by the lender.

Variable vs. Fixed Interest Rates

All the lenders listed here offer a choice to refinance with a variable or fixed interest rate. There are potential pros and cons to either, so be sure to carefully consider which is best for you.

Generally, variable rate loans start lower but fluctuate with the market, meaning they have the potential to exceed the offered fixed rate. On the other hand, fixed rates remain the same over the life of the loan, but the rates start high, which may mean you pay back more than you would have at the variable rate.

In the end, it all comes down to deciding what you’re most comfortable with. What would make you feel less anxious and worried about your loan – for example, having a lower monthly payment, paying it off sooner, or having deferment and forbearance options in the event of an emergency? Your answer to this question informs which type of loan and lender you should choose.

Compare Multiple Lenders

Shop around and get quotes from multiple lenders to ensure you’re getting the best possible rates. Each lender has their own underwriting criteria, so your approval odds will vary from one lender to another, as will the offered interest rates and loan terms.

One convenient way to compare offers from multiple lenders is to use an online platform like Credible. Credible’s vetted lending partners include many of the student loan refinance companies listed here, and you only need to submit one application to receive offers from a variety of lenders. You can then compare rates and terms to find the loan offer that best suits your needs.

Even better, Credible boasts a “best rate guarantee.” If you find a lower offer elsewhere, they’ll give you $200. Also, as a Money Crashers reader, if you refinance your loans through Credible, you’ll receive a bonus of up to $750.

A Few Things to Keep in Mind While Comparing Lenders

As you gather quotes from lenders, make sure anyone you seek a rate quote from uses a soft credit check, which won’t impact your credit score. Credible uses a soft check, as do all the lenders listed here.

However, other student loan refinancers may use a hard check, which will appear on your credit report. If you decide to go with a different lender, make sure you know what kind of credit check they use. If a hard check is required, be sure to do all your rate shopping within a one-month time frame. It will have less impact on your credit score because credit reporting agencies will assume you’re getting credit checks for a specific purpose. When your credit checks are spread out over a longer period, it looks as though you’re continually seeking credit and looking to take on more and more debt.

>Also, keep in mind that all of the above lenders require a credit score above 650. Most generally only approve borrowers with credit scores above 700, despite their advertised criteria. If you don’t currently meet those criteria, you’ll need a co-signer to qualify. If you’d rather not use a co-signer, work on improving your credit score before applying.


Final Word

Student loan refinancing isn’t for everyone. If you’re considering refinancing federal loans, in particular, keep in mind that refinancing these loans with a private lender means you’ll lose access to all the repayment options available through the U.S. Department of Education. On the other hand, if you’re able to afford your monthly student loan payments on the standard 10-year repayment plan, and you don’t plan to take advantage of – or wouldn’t benefit from – any of the available repayment programs from the federal government, it might be worthwhile for you to refinance your federal student loans.

If you have private student loan debt, an excellent credit score, and a good income, refinancing can be one of the best options for saving money on these loans since they don’t have access to the various federal government programs, anyway.

Regardless, before making any decisions about your student loans, make sure you do the math. Ultimately, the best solution for you is the one that will save you the most money while also allowing you to manage your day-to-day expenses.

Are you considering refinancing your student loans? Which repayment options/lenders do you think will work best for you?

Sarah Graves
Sarah Graves, Ph.D. is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance, parenting, education, and creative entrepreneurship. She's also a college instructor of English and humanities. When not busy writing or teaching her students the proper use of a semicolon, you can find her hanging out with her awesome husband and adorable son watching way too many superhero movies.

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