Refinancing your student loans can be a huge money saver, as many companies will offer lower interest rates or monthly payments to help make your budget more breathable, depending on your credit score. To help you find private lenders to refinance your student loans, we've identified the best student loan refinancing banks and online lenders available for different types of borrowers.
In-Depth Reviews of the Best Student Loan Refinance Lenders
Refinancing your student loans is a big decision, especially for those with federal student loans. By refinancing your student loans with a private lender, you will no longer have access to the federal protections and repayment plans the government offers. However, if you can qualify for lower rates from a private lender, you will save a lot of money on your loans in the long run.
If you're unsure of what refinancing rates you'll qualify for, we recommend checking out your options, as most refinancing lenders will give you a rate estimate with only a soft pull on your credit history. We went through various lenders, searching through their terms and rates, to find the best refinancing companies for different types of borrowers. You can find our top choices below to help you identify the lender that best fits your needs.
CommonBond offers some of the best student loan refinancing rates, with low starting and maximum rates. On top of this, the lender provides multiple student loan repayments plans, with five loan term options for borrowers to choose from. You can even choose from a hybrid plan that has a fixed rate for a portion of the repayment term and variable for the remainder.
To qualify, you will need a credit score of 660 or higher, at least a four-year degree from a Title IV school and a job with steady income. Commonbond has a network of over 2,000 Title IV accredited universities and graduate programs but refinancing is not available to borrowers in Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada or Vermont.
SoFi stands out by offering unique employment benefits, competitive rates and great options for medical students entering residency. It not only allows you to refinance your loan but, if you need it, the lender also works to help you advance your career or find new employment in the event that you lose your job.
The main drawback to refinancing with SoFi is that the company doesn't allow you to release your co-signer. So, if you use a co-signer, they will be on the hook if you can't pay off your loan. But using a co-signer has benefits as it can help you get a lower refinancing rate, depending on the co-signer's credit score. Also, medical residency refinancing is not available to borrowers in Mississippi, Montana or D.C.
Earnest is great for borrowers looking for repayment flexibility, as it allows you to set your own monthly payment and loan terms up to 20 years. Unlike other lenders, Earnest considers your savings, education and earning potential for your refinancing rate, in addition to your credit history. This means that even if you don't have the best credit history, your other financial information may help get you a better refinancing rate.
To be eligible for refinancing with Earnest, you will need a minimum credit score of 650 and you must be able to qualify on your own as the lender doesn't allow co-signers. Borrowers should be aware that Earnest is owned by Navient. However, Earnest is run as a separate company and doesn't seem to be affected by the issues with Navient.
Citizens Bank ranked as our pick for the best bank to refinance college loans due to its relatively competitive rates and that it allows borrowers who didn't graduate to refinance their loans. If you have an associate's degree or no degree, you must have made at least 12 qualifying payments after leaving school to qualify. In comparison, most lenders require borrowers to have a degree to be eligible for refinancing.
Compared to online lenders, Citizens Bank is not the best for borrowers with excellent credit history and those that still have a lot of debt. The lender only refinances up to $90,000 for undergraduates and $350,000 for graduates, while Discover and SoFi cover up to 100% of expenses, and compared to the other lenders on our list, the bank has some of the highest rates.
Laurel Road is a good refinancing option for parents as it allows them to transfer Parent PLUS loans to their children, making the parent no longer be responsible for paying the loan. It can also lower the interest rate, as Parent PLUS Loans have higher interest rates than other student loans. In addition to parents, medical and dental residency students will benefit from using Laurel Road as it allows you to defer full repayment until six months after the program ends.
The lender is only available to borrowers with a bachelor's degree or higher but will lend to some borrowers with associate's degrees so you should still check your eligibility. Laurel Road is accessible to student loan borrowers in all 50 states and has competitive rates for student, parents and medical students.
Should You Refinance Your Student Loans?
Refinancing your loans is a good option if you have a good to excellent credit history and financial situation, allowing you to qualify for lower rates. However, if you have federal loans and you plan to refinance to a private lender, you should consider all the federal benefits you lose out on before refinancing, including student loan forgiveness and the variety of repayment plans.
On the other hand, if you want to refinance your private loans, it can only help you to find a better rate from another lender as most offer the same benefits. To lower your monthly bill, you should refinance your student debt if:
- Your salary increases: When your salary increases, your debt-to-income ratio improves, which could help you qualify for lower rates as you are less likely to miss out on payments.
- You've paid off some debt: Also, as you pay off your debt, your debt-to-income ratio gets better, which will also help you qualify for lower rates as there is less stress on your means.
- Your credit score improves: Improvement in your credit score signals that you're less risky, meaning that you're eligible for lower rates since you are more likely to pay your bills on time.
- Have a new co-signer: If your spouse or parent is willing to co-sign and help shoulder the risk, a lender is more likely to give you a lower rate, as there is a second person to pay the debt, if the first fails to.
- Interest rates have dropped nationally: If interest rates have dropped significantly and you have a fixed rate, you should consider refinancing to take advantage of the lower rates available.
Even if none of these reasons apply, you can still submit your information to see what rates lenders will offer you. Refinancing private loans to get a better interest rate is almost always a good idea but it may not be the best idea with federal loans. You will lose some of the more generous hardship and forgiveness benefits, especially if you're on an income repayment plan, which most private lenders don't offer. Also, teachers, nurses, law enforcement and Peace Corps members will lose the option of have their loans forgiven after 10 years of service.
How to Refinance Student Loans
The best way to refinance your student loans is to submit your information to several banks and online lenders, and see what APR and repayment flexibility they'll offer you. We recommend comparing offers from at least three different lenders if you're looking to lower your student loan bills, since they tend to evaluate students differently. Be sure to get rates from any lender that offers a soft credit check, as it won't affect your credit score.
Here's the information you'll need to see these offers:
- Name and address
- Annual Income
- School and degree obtained
- Loan amount
It's important to note that if you're consolidating your loans while refinancing, lenders will also want to know the different lenders and the amounts you've borrowed from each.
Most refinancing companies don't require a Social Security number, because they're able to use a combination of your name and address to locate you and conduct a soft inquiry into your credit history. Once they determine your creditworthiness, they will display an offer with the variable and fixed interest rates you will likely qualify for.
Lenders calculate and emphasize variables from your personal information and credit history differently, so you will have a range of interest rates from each lender. For example, if one lender had terrible experiences with other students from your college, they may not be willing to offer you a low interest rate while other lenders will just look at your specific financials. This is why we recommend getting rates from various lenders to increase the possibility of obtaining low rates.
After receiving refinancing rates from all the lenders you were eligible for, you should look through the ones that offered the lowest rates and compare each by looking at their website and the other benefits they offer, reading reviews and researching their loan servicer to get a better idea of the company as a whole.