How this online connection service and direct lender stack up.
Refinancing private student loans can help you save on interest and get out of debt faster. But who wants to spend a lot of time on an application? Online lenders like LendKey and SoFi can cut down on the red tape you’d get at a bank. Which one is better for you?
|Widest lending limits||
An overview of LendKey and SoFi
These two online lenders offer fast refinancing with highly competitive rates. But there are some key differences between the two.
Founded in 2009, LendKey is an online connection service that helps you refinance your student debt through local credit unions and banks. It handles your application from start to finish, though you’ll repay your loan directly to your lender.
This allows you to take advantage of the perks of community lenders — such as more favorable rates — without having to fill out multiple prequalification forms. Currently, it works with over 300 local financial institutions across the country.
SoFi is a California-based online lender that directly funds its loans. Like LendKey, you only interact with SoFi when you apply for your loan. Student loan servicer Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority (MOHELA) handles repayments.
It’s a selective lender that offers competitive rates. But it also provides borrowers with a wide range of perks, including career advice, entrepreneur programs and even unemployment protection.
Am I eligible for a loan with LendKey and SoFi?
To be eligible for student loan refinancing through LendKey, you must:
- Have an associate degree or higher from a Title IV eligible school.
- Have a source of regular income — or a cosigner who does.
- Be a US citizen or permanent resident.
- Be over 18 years old.
To be eligible for student loan refinancing through SoFi, you must:
- Have a loan balance of at least $5,000.
- Have an associate degree or higher from a Title IV accredited school.
- Have a source of regular income or a job starting in the next 90 days.
- Have a valid bank account.
- Be a US citizen, permanent resident or J-1, H-1B, E-2, O-1 or TN visa holder.
- Be over 18 years old.
By virtue of working with hundreds of different partners, LendKey is able to offer more flexible eligibility requirements than SoFi.
Which offers lower interest rates?
LendKey’s partners offer fixed and variable APRs:
- Fixed rates: Starting at 3.49% with autopay
- Variable rates: 2.81% with autopay
SoFi also offers fixed and variable APRs:
- Fixed rates: 3.89% to 8.07% with autopay
- Variable rates: 2.49% to 7.1%with autopay
LendKey and SoFi’s absolute lowest rates are so close it barely makes a difference — and both are lower than the current rates on private student loans.
Which comes with fewer fees?
It depends on the lender you go with. Generally, you won’t have to pay application, origination or prepayment penalties. However, there’s a chance you might have to pay a membership fee if you borrow from a credit union. You’ll also likely have to pay late fees or insufficient funds fees.
Like LendKey, SoFi doesn’t charge any application, origination or prepayment penalties. It charges a late fee after a 16-day grace period of $5 or 4% of the amount due, whichever is less.
While neither company charges origination fees or prepayment penalties, you may be on the hook for a membership fee if you borrow through one of LendKey’s partner credit unions.
Devin refinances his private student debt.
Devin finished law school with $150,000 in student loans from private lenders alone. With rates around 15% on some of his loans, he knew he could get a better deal if he refinanced with a family member as a cosigner.
Busy with his first job, he didn’t have a lot of time to spend on the application. After narrowing his options down to LendKey and SoFi, he prequalified with both and this is what he found:
|How much he can borrow||$150,000||$150,000|
|Ease of applying||Simple online application, though he’d have to join a credit union.||Simple online application.|
After reviewing his options, David chose to refinance with SoFi. The application process was slightly simpler — he didn’t want to become a member of a credit union. Plus, he wanted to take advantage of the career coaching and networking that SoFi offered through its membership program.
Which has a better reputation?
LendKey doesn’t have many customer reviews online as of December 2018, but the few out there are negative. It’s accredited with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and earns an A+ rating based on factors like transparency and time in business. However, it scores an average of 1 out of 5 stars based on five BBB customer reviews, and it doesn’t have any reviews to speak of on its Trustpilot page.
SoFi does much better when it comes to customer reviews on Trustpilot. It has a TrustScore of 9 out of 10 based on feedback from nearly 2,000 customers — with 85% rating the company as “Excellent.” However, it doesn’t fare as well on the BBB, only earning an A- rating and 2 out of 5 stars based on 160 reviews. And it’s also not accredited with the bureau.
SoFi has far more positive reviews than LendKey, though neither have the strongest online reputation out there.
How much can I borrow with each lender?
You can borrow between $7,500 and $300,000 through LendKey’s partner lenders.
SoFi’s investor-funded loans range up to $5,000.
Not only does SoFi offer loans $2,500 lower than LendKey’s partners, it also has no limit to how much debt you can refinance — which could be particularly useful for medical students with a high debt load.
Which lender can get me money faster?
Typically, it only takes a few minutes to fill out the LendKey form, compare lenders and submit your application. And it can get you your funds in .
While the SoFi application only takes a few minutes, typically it takes four to nine days for SoFi to process your application. If you’re self-employed, it can take as long as 10 to 20 days.
LendKey’s turnaround time is roughly half of SoFi’s, making it the clear winner. But both are pretty fast — it’s common for student loan refinancing to take as long as a month with other providers.
See how other top student loan providers compare
|SoFi vs. Laurel Road|
|SoFi vs. CommonBond vs. Earnest|
|SoFi vs. CommonBond|
SoFi might be ideal if you have a strong start to your career and a large debt load. But LendKey could be a better option if you’re not sure what you’re looking for and want to compare multiple options.
Both are relatively fast and have highly competitive rates. You can see how they stack up to other lenders by reading our guide to student loan refinancing.