3 Best Banks for Student Loans 2018 | finder.com

3 best banks for student loans

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Pay for college with one of these trusted financial institutions.

When federal student loans can’t cover all of your school costs, you might consider a private student loan. And if you got a raw deal when you took on your student debt, you might look into refinancing.

To students new to borrowing and professionals looking to save on student debt, going with a lender with a strong reputation can feel like a safe choice. We take a look at top banks that offer private student loans to help you decide if a bank loan is right for you.

3 best banks for student loans

Citizens Bank logo
Best for parent loans
  • Starting APR: 4.07%-11.81%
  • BBB Score: C-
  • Multi-year applications
  • Up to 0.5% in rate discounts
Discover logo
Best for students with good grades
  • Starting APR: 4.12%–11.87%
  • BBB Score: A+
  • Bar exam and residency loans
  • Multiple repayment plans
Suntrust logo
Best for graduate and MBA programs
  • Starting APR: 3.876%–12.874%
  • BBB Score: A+
  • International students OK
  • Reward for graduating

Citizens Bank

Citizens Bank may be a regional bank, but it offers both private student loans and refinancing to anyone in the US. The application is relatively easy and can be done entirely online. On top of this, you only need to apply once to get qualified for funding for your entire degree.

If you already have a Citizens Bank account, you’ll want to look at this option closely. While it offers a 0.25% rate discount to all borrowers who sign up for autopay, you can get an additional 0.25% off your interest rate if payments come from a Citizens Bank account.

Private student loans

Citizens Bank offers private student loans for undergraduates, graduates as well as parent student loans. Its graduate loans can cover costs that federal loans won’t, like paying for a bar exam course or relocating for a medical residency.

You’re limited to a total of $90,000 for undergraduate student loans and $295,000 for graduate students, however. Not all schools are eligible, so you’ll need to check that yours is on the list before you apply.

  • Starting APR: 4.07%
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 to $295,000
  • Loan terms: Up to 15 year(s)
  • Eligibility: You must be the age of majority in your state, enrolled at least half-time in an eligible school, have good credit or a cosigner with good credit, be a US citizen or permanent resident
  • Cosigner: Yes
  • Repayment options: In-school deferment or interest-only repayments

Read our full review of Citizens Bank private student loans

Student loan refinancing

Citizens Bank offers refinancing for both students and parent loans. You don’t need to have a degree to qualify and have the option of applying with a cosigner to get a better deal. Citizens Bank even lets you apply to take your cosigner off your loan after making 36 on-time repayments in a row.

The lowest rates go to borrowers with a graduate or professional degree with a shorter loan term.

  • Starting APR: 2.63% with autopay and loyalty discount
  • Loan amount: At least $10,000
  • Loan terms: 5, 10, 15 and 20 years
  • Eligibility: At least $10,000 in student loans and US citizen or permanent resident
  • Cosigner: Yes
  • Repayment options: Fixed or variable repayments


Discover is the only lender out there that actually offers rewards for good grades — many just require you to maintain a C-average to stay eligible. With Discover, you can get a 1% cash reward if you maintain a 3.0 GPA during the time your loan covered.

Both Discover’s student loans and refinancing come with unusually flexible repayment options, like its early repayment assistance program that lets you hold off on repayments during the first three months of your loan term. It also offers in-school deferment and forbearance if you get laid off or have other unexpected financial problems.

Private student loans

Discover offers a wide variety of private student loans, including loans for undergraduates, graduate students, health professionals, MBA students, law school, bar exam costs and medical residency relocation. Rates and how much you can borrow varies by degree, though you can generally have up to 100% of your educational expenses covered.

It shouldn’t take much longer than 15 minutes to complete Discover’s private student loan application.

  • Variable rate APR:
  • Loan amount: to
  • Loan terms: Up to
  • Eligibility: Enrolled at least half-time in an eligible school, seeking a degree, satisfactory academic progress, US citizen or permanent resident or international student, at least 16 years old
  • Cosigner: Yes
  • Repayment options: In-school deferment or minimum payments of $25. Discover also offers a number of payment assistance, deferment and forbearance options.

Student loan refinancing

Discover’s student loan refinancing might work best for professionals with a credit history: You can apply with a cosigner to get better rates but you’ll need to meet all eligibility requirements on your own to qualify. You also can’t refinance loans that aren’t attached to a degree program, so look elsewhere if you have student debt involved in paying off residency or bar exams.

Still, its repayment options are much more flexible than what you’d get with other providers and could be reason enough to go with this lender.

  • Starting APR: 4.12%–11.87% with autopay
  • Loan amount: $5,000 to $150,000
  • Loan terms: Up to
  • Eligibility: US citizen or permanent resident, US address, 18 or older, good credit standing, no more than $150,000 in student debt, verifiable income, be the primary borrower on all loans up for consolidation
  • Cosigner: Yes
  • Repayment options: Fixed or variable repayments with payment assistance, deferment and forbearance options.

Read our full review of Discover student loan refinancing


SunTrust offers a catch-all student loan that borrowers can use to pay for school or refinance an existing student loan. You can even refinance student loans before you graduate, thanks to its in-school refinance option — though federal loans aren’t eligible. It’s also one of the few lenders that works with international students as long as they apply with a cosigner who’s a US citizen or permanent resident.

Like Citizens Bank, SunTrust rewards loyalty. While anyone can get a 0.25% discount for signing up for automatic payments, you’ll knock off an additional 0.25% if you pay from a SunTrust account. After you graduate, SunTrust will reduce your loan principle by 1% if you send in a copy of your degree or final transcript.

Custom choice loans

  • Starting APR: 3.501%
  • Loan amount: $1,001 to $150,000
  • Loan terms: 7, 10 or 15 years
  • Eligibility: Enrolled at least half-time at a Title IV school, US Citizen or permanent resident, at least 17 years old, live anywhere but Iowa or Wisconsin, strong credit.
  • Cosigner: Yes
  • Repayment options: Immediate full repayments, interest-only repayments, partial repayments or full deferment while in school and during the six-month grace period after leaving school.

More student loan options to consider

Rates last updated August 20th, 2018
Name Product Min. Credit Score Max. Loan Amount APR Product Description
Credible Private Student Loans
Good to excellent credit
Varies by lender
3.69% (As low as ) (variable)
Get prequalified rates from private lenders offering student loans with no origination or prepayment fees.
EDvestinU Private Student Loans
4.016%–10.010% (with Autopay) (fixed)
Straightforward student loans for undergraduate and graduate students.
LendingTree Student Loans
Good to excellent credit
Varies by lender
3% (As low as) (fixed)
Compare multiple student loans and student loan refinancing options in one place.
CommonBond Student Loans
3.20-7.25% (fixed)
Finance your higher education or refinance existing student loans through a lender with a strong social mission and terms that fit your budget.

Compare up to 4 providers

Rates last updated August 20th, 2018
Name Product Min. Credit Score Max. Loan Amount APR Product Description
Credible Student Loan Refinancing
Good to excellent credit
2.57%(As low as ) (variable)
Get prequalified offers from top student loan refinancing providers in one place.
SoFi Student Loan Refinancing Variable Rate (with Autopay)
full balance of your qualified education loans
2.480%–7.524% (variable)
A leader in student loan refinancing, SoFi can help you refinance your loans and pay them off sooner.
LendKey Student Loan Refinancing (with AutoPay)
2.47% (As low as) (variable)
Find competitive rates and unmatched loan benefits from LendKey’s network of not-for-profit lenders.
Education Loan Finance Student Loan Refinancing
Good to excellent credit
3.09%–6.69% (fixed)
Lower your student debt costs with manageable payments, affordable rates and flexible terms.
EDvestinU Consolidation & Refinancing Program
3.85%–7.45% (variable)
Earnest Student Loan Refinancing Variable Rate (w/ autopay)
no maximum
2.57%–5.87% (variable)
Get a tailored interest rate and repayment plan with no hidden fees.
LendingTree Student Loans
Good to excellent credit
Varies by lender
3% (As low as) (fixed)
Compare multiple student loans and student loan refinancing options in one place.
Purefy Student Loan Refinancing
2.00%–7.98% (variable)
Refinance all types of student loans — including federal and parent PLUS loans.

Compare up to 4 providers

How could getting a student loan from a bank benefit me?

Banks might have stricter credit requirements than other lenders, but if you apply with a qualified cosigner, you could end up with some of the most competitive rates out there. That’s because banks are typically more established than some online lenders and simply can afford to offer lower rates.

Being established has an additional benefit: There’s less of a chance that it’ll get shut down or stop its student loans program. Online lenders that are relatively new to the scene can stop programs that just aren’t working for them — or could stop giving out loans altogether if they aren’t making enough money.

Banks can value loyalty in a way that other lenders don’t. If you already have an account with a bank, your loan application process could be quicker since it already has information on your personal finances. You also could be eligible for loyalty discounts like the additional interest rate reduction that Citizens Bank and SunTrust Bank offer.

5 mistakes to avoid when getting a student loan from a bank

  1. Applying without a cosigner. Even if you can qualify on your own, applying with a cosigner that has a stronger credit history can help you get much lower rates. Look for a bank that offers cosigner release so you can take them off your loan once you’re able to match their credit requirements on your own.
  2. Not reading over your application. Banks reject loan applications over inconsistencies and mistakes more often than you think. Don’t let a typo get in the way of paying for school, and give your application a once-over before you hit submit.
  3. Not knowing your credit score. Since some banks require both the borrower and cosigner to meet certain credit requirements, knowing your credit score can help you figure out which bank you’re eligible for. You can check your credit score online for free or request a copy of your credit report from one of the top three credit bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax and Experian.
  4. Ignoring the turnaround time. Private student loans typically take at least a month to process. If your school has a deadline for financial aid outside of federal aid, make sure you apply well in advance so that your loans can get there in time.
  5. Letting your grades drop. While Discover is the only bank that rewards good grades, some require you to maintain satisfactory academic standing to be eligible — usually maintaining a 2.0 GPA.

Bottom line

It can be more difficult to qualify for banks loans, but they offer some of the most competitive interest rates around. Private student loans and refinancing are no exception. For students and borrowers who aren’t used to dealing with lending, it can be comforting to keep all of your finances in one place. Plus you could get a discount.

Interested in learning about more options? Ready to compare lenders? You might want to check out our student loans guide.

Frequently asked questions

Anna Serio

Anna Serio is a staff writer untangling everything you need to know about personal loans, including student, car and business loans. She spent five years living in Beirut, where she was a news editor for The Daily Star and hung out with a lot of cats. She loves to eat, travel and save money.

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