When you’ve got good financial habits, why not borrow from a lender that rewards them?
Refinancing your student loans or borrowing a personal loan is a big step. If you have a strong credit history and decent score, you might find a competitive deal with Earnest. But you’ll have to undergo a hard credit check upon applying. And the underwriting process is rigorous — even if you have good financial habits.
What types of loans does Earnest offer?
Earnest has options for people looking to borrow a personal loan or refinance a student loan.
Student loan refinancing
Earnest allows you to refinance both student loans and Parent PLUS Loans of $5,000 or more, depending on your eligibility. You’ll pay back your loan over the course of 5 to 20 years, with payments due monthly.
Variable APRs start at 2.57%, while fixed APRs start at 3.89% — both include Earnest’s 0.25% autopay discount.
You can take out a personal loan between $5,000 and $75,000 with Earnest. Terms last anywhere from 3 to 5 years.
Best of all, your APR will be quite competitive: Earnest offers rates between 6.99% to 12.99%, beating out many other online lenders and even some banks. However, this means the process is more intensive than just a simple credit check. In order to qualify, you’ll need to have a strong history of financial responsibility — usually in the form of a credit score above 680 and a history of on-time payments.
You can use your loan funds for just about anything, including debt consolidation, home improvement and even as a security deposit for a rental property.
Where is Earnest available?Earnest serves borrowers of quite a few states. In fact, there are only five states where it doesn’t lend:
- Rhode Island
Why should I consider borrowing with Earnest?
- Limited fees and low rates. Earnest doesn’t charge an origination fee or prepayment penalties for its loans. And its rates are some of the lowest out there compared to the competition.
- Rate discount. Like many lenders, Earnest gives you a 0.25% rate discount when you sign up for automatic payments.
- Tailored to your needs. Earnest uses data-driven underwriting to tailor each loan to your specific needs. And there are even special programs — like forbearance and deferment for student loan refinancing — that can help if you face financial hardship.
- Easy mobile account management. Earnest’s streamlined online dashboard and mobile app for iPhone makes it easy to manage repayments and keep track of your loan balance.
Where does Earnest fall short?
- Only for well-qualified borrowers. To keep rates low, Earnest has a rigorous underwriting process that makes its loans difficult to qualify for.
- No preapproval process for personal loans. You won’t be able to check what rates you might qualify for before applying — which entails a hard credit pull and will temporarily lower your credit score.
- Not available everywhere. You currently can’t borrow from Earnest if you live in Alabama, Delaware, Kentucky, Nevada or Rhode Island.
Compare Earnest to other top online lenders
How much will it cost me to borrow with Earnest?
Rates through Earnest are highly customized to the individual borrower. This means that Earnest will likely build your repayment plan around your specific needs and budget. And with limited fees, you won’t have to worry about your APR being much higher than the interest rate you’re quoted.
While you won’t pay origination or repayment fees, Earnest does charge up to $8 for returned payments.
What do borrowers say about Earnest?
As of January 2019, Earnest receives high marks from review websites. It’s been accredited with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) since September 2018 and garners an A+ rating. While it only an earns an average of 2 out of 5 stars, this is based on just 21 customer reviews. Most borrowers were upset that Earnest was acquired by Navient, while others complained that they had to provide banking information on the application, which is common with online lenders.
Earnest fares much better on Trustpilot. Out of over 550 reviews, 86% of customers rate the company as “Excellent.” Like with its BBB reviews, many borrowers complained about the switch to Navient and said customer service suffered because of it. Others talked about how easy it was to apply and praised Earnest for the fast approval process.
Before you complete an application, it might be wise to call customer service and ask a few basic questions just to see what kind of response you get. This can help gauge how they treat potential borrowers — and how they’ll treat you if you decide to take out a loan.
Are Earnest loans safe?
For the most part, yes, though no online lender can guarantee your information stays 100% secure. Earnest does its part by protecting your personal and financial details with 256-bit Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption. No one at Earnest has access to your usernames or passwords for linked accounts, either.
The overall layout of the website is straightforward and easy to navigate. Earnest also has a clear, extensive privacy and security page that explains its policies. And it’s easy to contact: You can submit a question by filling out an email form or calling 888-601-2801 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT.
How to apply for a loan with Earnest
If you’re applying to refinance your student loan, you can visit the review page and click Go to Site to start the application process. For personal loans, you can visit Earnest’s website directly and click 2 Min: Get My Rate to begin.
From there, complete the application by providing Earnest with details about your bank account, employment and other personal information. Earnest will then evaluate your application, and if approved, will notify you that your offer is ready to review.
To apply for a loan through Earnest, you’ll have to meet a few basic eligibility criteria. The specifics depend on whether you’re refinancing a student loan or borrowing a personal loan. And remember: Earnest doesn’t accept borrowers who live in Alabama, Delaware, Kentucky, Nevada or Rhode Island.
I got a loan from Earnest. Now what?
What happens next depends on the type of loan you’ve applied for.
Student loan refinancing
After Earnest approves your student debt refinancing loan, there’s a transition period when you pay off your old lender that Earnest calls the 10-day payoff. As soon as you’re approved, it’s your job to calculate exactly how much you will owe your former lender so that Earnest can write a check to close the loan. The payoff amount is your current balance plus any interest on the principal that will accumulate over the next 10 days.
Once your old loans are closed, it’s time to start repaying Earnest. Set up autopay to get a 0.25% discount on your interest rate and have one less payment to worry about remembering. You can adjust your repayment date easily on your Earnest dashboard and have the option of skipping one payment every 12 months after you have six months of consistent repayments.
Repaying a personal loan is a little more straightforward. You can get the same discount on interest if you set up autopay, though you don’t have the option of skipping repayments. Earnest recommends that you try making half of your monthly repayment every two weeks and make extra repayments whenever you can in order to save on interest.
If you run into any trouble with making repayments or have any other questions, contact customer service as soon as possible. Its team can be reached by calling 888-601-2801 on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT or by filling out a form on its website.
My application was denied. What can I do?
Getting denied isn’t the end of the world, especially with a lender with a relatively quick turnaround time. You can find out why Earnest rejected your application by visiting your online account. If something looks wrong, don’t hesitate to reach out to customer service. You might also want to check your credit report for errors, correct any you find and contact customer service to have your application reconsidered.
If the loan isn’t urgent, consider taking steps to strengthen your application, like working to pay off your other debts or getting another source of income. Don’t have time for that? Consider looking at lenders that allow cosigners.
Earnest could be a good choice if you’re financially stable with a fair amount of savings and a spotless credit report. The low rates and protections for customers can be quite appealing, but it can be hard to be approved if you have any negative marks or don’t have an extensive credit history.
To increase your chances of getting the best possible rate and terms, compare several lenders before applying.