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Best student loan refinancing options

See if you could save big by refinancing or if you’re better off staying with your current loan.

If you want to take on your student debt and you don’t qualify for any debt relief, refinancing could help. You may be able to combine your various loans together into one manageable monthly payment and possibly get a lower interest rate, saving you money long term.

Best overall: Earnest

Earnest Student Loan Refinancing

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Earnest has some of the best perks with its student loan refinancing, including the option to skip one payment each year to make up later. It offers biweekly or monthly payments, and prequalification with a soft credit check. If you haven't graduated, the credit score requirement is 700 — graduates must have a 650 credit score. All other requirements are clearly listed with an easy-to-read eligibility guide. Earnest also offers 16 plans to choose from — that's 11 more than SoFi and Citizen. Typical with student loan refinancing, you must refinance at least $5,000 ($10,000 in CA).
Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 5.24% APR to 9.99% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 6.14% APR to 9.99% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Earnest variable interest rate student loan refinance loans are based on a publicly available index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The variable rate is based on the rate published on the 25th day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month, rounded to the nearest hundredth of a percent. The rate will not increase more than once per month. The maximum rate for your loan is 8.95% if your loan term is 10 years or less. For loan terms of more than 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95%. Please note, we are not able to offer variable rate loans in AK, IL, MN, NH, OH, TN, and TX. Our lowest rates are only available for our most credit qualified borrowers and contain our .25% auto pay discount from a checking or savings account.

Best online lender: SoFi

SoFi Student Loan Refinancing Variable Rate (with Autopay)

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SoFi offers multiple lending options and banking products, including student loan refinancing. It's known for its member perks like free financial advice, and often caters to younger borrowers just starting out their careers. Like many other providers, SoFi student loan refinancing requires you to refinance at least $5,000. If you set up autopay, you can get a 0.25% APR discount.
Notice: SoFi’s Refinance Loan is a private student loan. Understand that when you refinance federal loans, you forfeit all flexible federal repayment options that are or may become available to federal student loan borrowers. If you expect to incur financial hardship that would affect your ability to repay, you should consider federal consolidation loan options.

*NOTICE: If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Fixed rates range from 5.24% APR to 9.99% APR with 0.25% autopay discount. Variable rates range from 6.24% APR to 9.99% APR with a 0.25% autopay discount. Unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law, Variable Interest rates on 5-, 7-, and 10-year terms are capped at 13.95% APR; 15- and 20-year terms are capped at 13.95% APR. SoFi rate ranges are current as of 02/06/24 and are subject to change at any time. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on the term you select, evaluation of your creditworthiness, income, presence of a co-signer and a variety of other
factors. Lowest rates reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. For the SoFi variable-rate product, the variable interest rate for a given month is derived by adding a margin to the 30-day average SOFR index, published two business days preceding such calendar month, rounded up to the nearest one hundredth of one percent (0.01% or 0.0001). APRs for variable-rate loans may increase after origination if the SOFR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. This benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit lowers your interest rate but does not change the amount of your monthly payment. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance. Autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi. You may pay more interest over the life of the loan if you refinance with an extended term.

Best for low fixed and variable rates: LendKey

LendKey Student Loan Refinancing (with AutoPay)

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LendKey has one of the lowest starting fixed rate APRs, and can be as low as 4.54% with an autopay discount. Its variable rates start on the lower end as well. There are also no origination fees or prepayment penalties, and prequalification is offered with a soft credit check. Loan terms range between five to 20 years, and you must borrow at least $5,000. To be eligible for LendKey's student loan refinancing, you must have graduated with at least an associate degree.

Best for no fees and low fixed rates: Advantage Education Loan

Advantage Education Loan Refinance Loan

Advantage Education Loan offer fixed rates only, but it's the lowest fixed rate we could find at 4.49%. There's also the 0.25% APR discount available with autopay, making the lowest possible rate at 4.24% APR. Advantage has no origination fees, application fees, late fees or non-sufficient funds fees, and there are no prepayment penalties. However, there are no variable rates and no prequalification offered. You must fully apply with a hard credit pull to see the rates you qualify for. Loan terms range from 10-, 15- and 20-year terms, and a cosigner release is available after 12 months — the shortest we've seen. But there's no clear credit score requirement listed.

Best for low maximum rates: Laurel Road

Laurel Road Student Loan Refinancing

Laurel Road offers some of the lowest rates in the market. Most lenders maximum rates reach upwards of 8% to 9%, but Laurel maxes out at 5.90% for fixed and 6.65% for variable. There is the standard 0.25% autopay discount, making the lowest fixed 4.24% APR and lowest variable 4.49% APR. But to get the autopay discount, you must open a Laurel Road checking account — and the discount only lasts for three months. The entire application is completed online, with a soft credit check prequalfication offered. Laurel states that they refinance student loans for “working professionals” with four-year undergraduate or graduate degrees. Associate degrees in certain professions are acceptable.

Best if you’re in a medical residency: ISL Education Lending

Iowa Student Loans

Featuring no origination fees, prepayment penalties or late fees, ISL Education Lending can be a low cost refinancing option. It offers fixed rates from 3.85% to 7.91% APR, or 4.44% to 8.98% APR, and you could get a 0.25% discount for autopay. However, there are no variable plans offered. If you're in medical residency, you could enjoy lower rates starting at 4.18% APR to 8.36% APR (or 4.43% to 8.11% APR with autopay discount). Like most other refinancing lenders, ISL offers prequalification with a soft credit check to see what rates you may qualify for and you must borrow at least $5,000 ($10,000 for CA).

How we chose the best student loan refinancing lenders

We compared dozens of lenders before narrowing down to our best six picks. The most important factors came down to interest rates offered for fixed and variable rates, loan terms, number of repayment options, existence of various fees, ease of application, lender reputation and state availability.

Most student loan refinancing lenders allow for cosingers, so we also considered the option of cosigner release and when that option is available. We also listed each lender’s advertised interest rate without any discounts applied for transparency.

How does student loan refinancing work?

With student loan refinancing, you take out a new loan to repay your loan servicers — hopefully with lower rates or more favorable terms. The new loan is used to pay off your student loans, and you work to repay the new loan.

Most student loan refinancing lenders will send funds directly to your loan service provider for you, then issue you the new loan.

Keep in mind that student loan refinancing doesn’t reduce the amount of debt you have, but it can reduce the amount you pay in the end.

Should I refinance my student loans?

Consider refinancing if:

  • You have good credit. Good credit means you’re eligible for lower interest rates and fees. If you don’t know your credit score, it’s worth finding out.
  • Your income is more than the amount you owe. Your debt-to-income ratio is often a factor lenders consider when calculating interest rates and fees. A low debt-to-income ratio means you have a higher chance of getting a good deal through refinancing.
  • You’re paying high interest rates. The likelihood of finding a better deal through refinancing is higher if your interest rates are steep to begin with.
  • You have a graduate degree. It’s not always necessary, but some lenders like to see you’ve put your student loans to go above and beyond with higher education.

You may want to hold off if:

  • You have bad credit. You may be better off sticking with the rates you have if your credit score is less than fair. Though you may be able to refinance with bad credit if you have a cosigner.
  • You’re unemployed. It’s harder to find a better deal if you can’t prove to lenders that you have the income to pay off your loans.
  • You owe more than you make. A high debt-to-income ratio could result in higher rates and fees, meaning you might have trouble finding a better deal.
  • You’re new to the workforce. Savvy recent grads might want to jump on the refinance train as soon as they get their degrees. But they probably won’t get the best rates — lenders prefer people who’ve been working for a while.

What about the student debt forgiveness?

On August 24, 2022, it was announced that student loan holders may be able to get $10,000 in student debt forgiven, or as much as $20,000 forgiven if they were Pell Grant recipients. Individuals who earn less than $125,000 per year or households that earn less than $250,000 per year may be eligible for the debt relief, according to StudentAid.gov.

If you do refinance your federal student debt, or have already, you aren’t eligible for the most recent debt forgiveness initiative and possibly future ones. Additionally, refinancing can mean losing out on other federal student loan benefits, including repayment protections like deferment and forbearance.

Before you go through with refinancing your student loans, weigh your options.

Requirements of student loan refinancing

Requirements for student loan refinancing vary, but here are some general guidelines to expect:

  • Be a US citizen or permanent resident, or noncitizen with proof of residency card
  • Minimum loan amount must be at least $5,000 (higher in AZ, CA, CT, and MA)
  • School must be Title-IV accredited
  • Low debt-to-income ratio, preferably below 40%
  • Fair credit score, above 650
  • No previous bankruptcies
  • No accounts in collections or charge-offs
  • Have at least an associate degree

Again, these requirements vary, and there are some lenders that will refinance your student loans if you didn’t graduate, such as Earnest.

How to apply for student loan refinancing

You and your cosigner can usually apply online by filling out a simple application that often doesn’t take more than a few minutes.

The most time-consuming part is getting your documents together and waiting for your lender to reach out to your servicer. It can take as long as a month or two to refinance your student loans, though some lenders advertise a one- to two-week turnaround time.

Should I get a cosigner when refinancing my student loans?

You might need a cosigner to refinance your student loans if you have bad credit or you don’t have a strong work history. Most of the student refinancing lenders we’ve researched do accept cosigners.

However, the process for applying with a cosigner varies by lender. Some consider your cosigner’s information alone when determining your eligibility and rates. Others look at a combination of the two. Some only consider your cosigner’s credit to help you lower your rates but still require you to meet basic eligibility requirements on your own.

What is a cosigner release?

Cosigner release allows you to take your cosigner’s name off your loan. To qualify, you typically need to make 12 to 24 months of on-time payments and be able to meet the lender’s credit requirements on your own. Some lenders let you keep your current rates and terms, while others might adjust them to reflect your solo creditworthiness.

Refinancing Parent PLUS Loans

Parent PLUS Loans come with higher interest rates than federal loans and are one of the few cases where refinancing can help lower your overall loan cost. They’re also in the parent’s name rather than the student’s.

Parents generally have two options for refinancing Parent PLUS Loans: Refinancing in your name or refinancing in your child’s name. Refinancing in your child’s name allows you to get better rates, but more importantly, it lets you transfer the debt so you can qualify for other types of credit.

Not all lenders are willing to refinance Parent PLUS Loans, so look for one that specifically mentions it does before you start your application.

Alternatives to student loan refinancing

Refinancing isn’t the only way to save on your student loans or make your repayments more affordable. If it’s not the right time or you have federal loans, you might want to look into some of your other choices.

  1. Switch to a new repayment plan. Federal loans come with a wide range of repayment plans, including several based on your annual income. Some private student loan providers might also be flexible if your financial situation has significantly changed.
  2. Apply for deferment or forbearance. If you’re temporarily unable to afford your current student loan repayments, deferment or forbearance could be the answer. It allows you to put your repayments on hold or make interest-only repayments until you can support yourself again.
  3. Go back to school. If you’re considering a graduate degree or didn’t finish your undergrad program, having a higher level of education can lead to higher salaries and more competitive refinancing options. Plus, while you’re in school, you can often put your repayments on hold again.

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