Citizens Bank Student Loans Review: Are They a Good Value?

Citizens Bank Student Loans Review: Are They a Good Value?

Citizens Bank is a great option for student and parent borrowers in need of private student loans. The company is unique in student lending, as it is the only lender to offer loan approval for more than one year.

Good for

  • Low starting APRs.
  • Multi-year approval for U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
  • Several repayment and refinancing options.

Bad for

  • Coverage up to 100% of school-certified expenses.
  • Borrowers without a co-signer.
  • Not the most competitive refinancing option.

Editor's Rating

4.0/5.0

Citizens Bank student loans are a strong addition or alternative to federal student loans, as they have relatively low starting rates and multiple repayment options. However, Citizens Bank has set limits on how much financing it can provide you, which can be an issue for students or parents seeking over $100,000. Some of this lender's competitors, like Sallie Mae or Discover, can cover up to 100% of school expenses, making them a better offer for those borrowers who need the extra cash.

Citizens Bank Student Loans Review

Citizens Bank student loans are fantastic for credit-worthy borrowers who are in need of extra financing to cover their education costs. Citizens Bank stands out for its low starting APRs and is the only lender to offer multi-year loan approval, available to U.S. citizens and permanent residents. Multi-year loan approval allows borrowers to reserve financing throughout the duration of their schooling. If accepted, borrowers will save time, as they won't have to reapply for a loan and won't be subjected to a hard credit inquiry each year. Citizens Bank still does an annual review of both you and your co-signer, if applicable, which includes a soft credit check.

If you've tapped out all available funding resources from the federal government, Citizens Bank is a solid backup for additional financing with helpful discounts available. The lender offers up to $150,000 combined with federal financial aid and provides up to 0.50% off for borrowers that have qualifying Citizens Bank accounts and sign up for automatic payments. It's important to note that Citizens Bank accounts are not available in all states. However, you can still qualify for the automatic payment discount, and although the account may not be available, the bank lends to borrowers in all Title IV schools throughout the United States.

Citizens Bank Student Loan Refinancing Review

In terms of refinancing, Citizens Bank is best for borrowers that either have a co-signer or have built up enough credit history to qualify for a loan with reasonable rates. If you're looking for the lowest rates and still have a lot of debt, Citizens Bank won't be the most ideal option. Lenders like Earnest and Laurel Road offer lower rate ranges with no maximum on how much you can borrow. Citizens Bank only allows undergraduate to refinance up to $90,000, while graduate students may refinance up to $350,000.

Whether you need a short or long loan term, Citizens Bank allows you flexibility when paying off your loan by offering five- to 20-year repayment terms. Unlike lenders such as SoFi and CommonBond, you don't need to hold a degree from a federally accredited institution in order to qualify for a refinance loan. But you cannot currently be attending school and you must have made at least 12 full on-time payments on all the loans you want to refinance prior to applying.

Citizens Bank Student Loans Rates, Terms and Fees

Citizens Bank offers borrowers some of the lowest starting APRs relative to other private student lenders, with three loan terms and no prepayment penalty. Unlike Sallie Mae and Discover, Citizens Bank doesn't offer to cover up to 100% of school expenses, but the loan amount range will most likely be enough to meet your costs. If you plan to further your education and get a graduate, law, business or health care degree, Citizens Bank also offers financing up to $350,000.

Undergraduate Student Loan Features

Loan typePrivate student loan
Loan amount range$1,000 - $100,000 ($150,000 max combined with federal financial aid)
APR range
  • 5.25% - 12.09% Fixed rate
  • 4.26% - 12.13% Variable rate
Fees
  • Late fee: 5% of payment amount
  • Prepayment penalty: none
  • Application fee: none
Loan terms
  • 5, 10 or 15 years
Discounts0.25% loyalty discount

Student and parent borrowers who took out student loans from the federal government and other private loan institutions can qualify for Citizens Bank's Education Refinance Loan with at least $10,000 in student loan debt. The lender provides longer loan terms for refinancing than its regular student loan, but you must have a maximum loan amount of $90,000 for bachelor's degrees and below. If you go on to get a graduate or professional degree, you can qualify for up to $350,000 in refinancing, depending on your education level.

Private Undergraduate Refinance Loan Features

Loan typeRefinance/Consolidation
Loan amount range$10,000 - $90,000
APR range
  • 3.75% - 8.69% Fixed rate
  • 2.79% - 8.39% Variable rate
Fees
  • Late fee: 5% of payment amount
  • Prepayment penalty: none
  • Application fee: none
Loan terms5, 10, 15, or 20 years
Discounts
  • 0.25% loyalty discount

Loan Repayment Plans

For borrowers that prefer to have multiple repayment options, Citizens Bank offers three different plans: in-school, deferred and interest-only repayment. Many lenders only offer in-school and deferred repayment, which only allow students to pay the principal and interest all at once.

In-School Repayment Option:

Borrowers that want to save the most money should consider in-school repayment, in which you start making full principal and interest payments while going through school as soon as your loan is disbursed. Although this is the cheapest option, it tends to be the most difficult, as you would need enough funds to pay off the loan while attending school.

Interest-Only Repayment Option:

If you are unable to afford student loan payments on both your principal and interest but are able to put some money toward paying off the loan, starting to repay interest until six months after school is a helpful option that is not offered by many lenders. Borrowers that defer payments until after school will have to pay the interest that accrued while in school plus the loan amount and the additional interest as they pay off the loan. Those that choose interest-only repayments will leave school with zero to little interest, meaning smaller monthly payments upon graduation.

Deferred-Repayment Option:

Another common repayment option is to automatically defer paying back your loan until after graduating, leaving school or dropping below half-time status. Citizens Bank allows borrowers a six-month grace period before payments are due, giving borrowers time to find a job and get funds to pay back the loan. This is the most expensive option for borrowers due to the interest that accrues, which is applied to the total loan balance while attending school.

Deferment and Forbearance

Student loan borrowers are offered industry-standard deferment options and forbearance in certain situations. Citizens Bank allows undergraduate and graduate borrowers a grace period of six months after leaving school. However, if you enroll in a graduate or professional program, you can defer payments for up to eight years while still enrolled in school. Interest will still accrue during these periods. Parent borrowers do not qualify for deferred-repayment and must choose between immediate or interest-only repayments while the student is in school.

Permitted DefermentsLimit
Grace period upon leaving school6 months
In school or entering graduate schoolUp to 8 years

If you meet the eligibility requirements for forbearance, Citizens Bank offers up to 12 months in total, allowing you to postpone payments in two-month increments. You could be eligible for forbearance for reasons such as financial hardship or public service. If you have special circumstances, you should contact Citizens Bank as it may provide other options.

Who Can Qualify for Citizens Bank Student Loans?

Citizens Bank student loans are available to undergraduate, graduate and parent borrowers with good to excellent credit scores. Unfortunately, the lender does not specify an ideal credit score for its loans but mentions that if you don't have sufficient credit history, you should apply with a co-signer. Citizens Bank also lends to international students, but you will need a U.S. citizen or permanent resident co-signer to qualify for a student loan from Citizens Bank.

Credit scoreNot specified (average borrower credit score of 762 for all retail loans)
Co-signerYes, release permitted after 36 on-time payments
Accepted citizenship status
  • U.S. citizen
  • Permanent resident alien
  • Non-U.S. citizen with U.S. citizen/permanent resident alien co-signer
Part-time studentsAt least half-time
Eligible schoolsAll four-year, Title IV public and private institutions.

How Does Citizens Bank Compare to Other Student Lenders?

Discover and Wells Fargo are both strong competitors of Citizens Bank, as they offer multiple options for borrowers facing financial difficulties post-graduation. However, Citizens Bank has lower starting APRs, more repayment plans and lends to all four-year Title IV institutions, while these lenders only lend to borrowers from schools with an existing lender relationship.

Citizens BankDiscoverWells Fargo
Loan types offered
  • Private student loan
  • Student loan refinance
  • Private student loan
  • Student loan refinance
  • Private student loan
  • Student loan refinance
APR range
  • 5.25% - 12.09% Fixed
  • 4.26% - 12.13% Variable
  • 5.99% - 12.99% Fixed
  • 3.99% - 11.99% Variable
  • 5.94% - 11.26% Fixed
  • 4.81% - 10.72% Variable
Loan amount$1,000 - $100,000 ($150,000 max combined with federal financial aid)$1,000 up to 100% school-certified expenses ($120,000 max with other financial aid)$1,000 to $120,000 (All loans included)
In-school repayment optionsImmediate, interest-only or deferredIn-School or DeferredImmediate or Deferred
Part-time studentsAt least half-timeAt least half-timeYes
Co-signerYes, release permitted after 36 on-time paymentsYes, release not permittedYes, release permitted after 36 on-time payments
Discounts
  • 0.25% loyalty discount
  • 0.25% rate discount with autopay
  • 1% cash reward
  • 0.25% rate discount with autopay
  • 0.25%–0.50% relationship discount

Citizens Bank vs. Discover

If you think that you may have trouble paying back your loans after leaving school, Discover is a good option for borrowers who need a longer-than-average grace period. The lender also offers early repayment assistance, payment extensions and reduced payments for borrowers facing financial difficulties. Citizens Bank only gives borrowers a six-month grace period upon graduating, leaving school or falling below half-time status and 12-month forbearance. On the other hand, if you have excellent credit and income, Citizens Bank will be a better option, as it has lower starting APRs and allows you to choose between in-school, deferred and interest-only repayment plans.

Citizens Bank vs. Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo only makes sense for student loan borrowers who have an existing Wells Fargo account that qualifies for loan discounts or those who may need financial assistance post-graduation. The bank offers relationship rate discounts of up to 0.75% for qualifying Wells Fargo accounts and an additional 0.25% off if you opt for auto-pay. This allows you to potentially save 1% on your student loan, which is twice the discount amount that Citizens Bank offers. Additionally, if you predict that you'll need repayment assistance, Wells Fargo offers two-month and six-month payment relief, temporary payment or rate reductions, and loan modification. Citizen Bank has standard deferment and forbearance policies, making it not the most ideal option if you think you'll need additional assistance.

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