10 Student Loan Refinance Programs to Consider

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The authors of HOW TO GAMBLE IF YOU MUST were professional statisticians who knew that if you gamble in Vegas, you’re probably going to lose. Their purpose in writing the book was to minimize your losses. Student debt is like that—we want to minimize the pain and loss.

No one wants to take out a student loan. And no one with a student loan wants to go through the hassle of refinancing it. But in life we do what we have to do to get by. If you’ve got student debt and need to refinance it, this article will explain what you need to do and where are the best places to get refinanced.

NOTE: TheBestSchools.org earns no commissions or other income from the refinance companies listed below. In fact, we don’t even include links to them—we figure that if you’re interested enough in any of these companies, you’ll track them down on the web.

If you have student loans and a social media page (or two, or three), you’ve probably seen an advertisement making claims just like Refinance your student loans in three EASY STEPS! SAVE THOUSANDS A YEAR! And it sounds good, right? Who doesn’t like saving money? Why not sign up right away to refinance your loans (whatever that means)?

Well, not so fast. Like anything involving your credit profile and thousands upon thousands of dollars, refinancing student loans should be approached with careful consideration. You need to do your homework and understand what is best for your situation, what you are getting into with a refi deal, and who is offering what on the market. Refinancing loans can be a great option for some people, but it’s not for everyone, and some lenders are better than others, depending on your individual situation. What is more, some lenders exhibit predatory practices, and should be avoided at all costs.

Student loans and student loan refinancing are big business, with a general estimate pointing to the current national student loan debt being more than $1.4 TRILLION. That’s a lot of money, and as you might guess, there are a lot of lenders out there offering student loan refi deals, hoping to make money on this massive debt by securing your business. Some are great, honorable, trustworthy institutions that will make your life easier and help you save money while paying back your loans; but as with any line of business, there are other lenders out there who are just trying to make a buck at your expense.

If you search for a refi deal on your own, the task can be overwhelming, and you might be left asking: who are all of these lenders, and why are they so eager to help me?

That is why we’ve created this article. We’ve done the homework for you, sorted the good from the better from the best, and ranked them accordingly, and we’ve left the bad ones totally off the map. Below is everything you need to know in order to start shopping for a student loan refi deal with the 10 best lenders on the market, should you decide it is right for you and your money.

For more information, skip down to these topics:

Ranking and Criteria

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Below we have ranked and profiled each of our top 10 lenders, giving you every bit of information we can about them to help you make an informed choice about refinancing your student loans. We have chosen them because they are trustworthy and do not perform predatory lending practices, and have ranked them in order of which ones offer the best combinations of good deals, benefits, and flexibility for borrowers like yourself.

A note on fees: You will notice that under the benefits listed for every lender, it says that they do not charge application, origination, or prepayment fees. This is one mark of a quality lending institution; we would suggest you not consider refinancing or consolidating a loan with a lender who charges these sorts of fees, as they generally indicate predatory practices.

The Best Student Loan Refinance Deals

1. CommonBond

common-bond

CommonBond sits at the top of our list because it simply offers the most options, the most benefits, the best terms, and the most protection for you as a borrower. CommonBond accepts a wide range of loan amounts, and offers low, competitive interest rates.

As an individual, CommonBond provides you with the benefit of forbearance in case of financial hardship, and even allows you to defer your payments if you choose to return to school. CommonBond also provides a networking program for its members, which could help you get your career where you need it to be (and to pay back your loans quicker).

What is more, you can feel good about your choice to borrow with CommonBond because of their social programs and commitment to bettering the global community through funding education in underprivileged parts of the world.

CommonBond also offers a unique Hybrid Loan option, in addition to the typical fixed and variable rates, which begins as a fixed rate loan, and switches to a variable rate after five years. This is not the best option for everyone, as it can be risky, but it could also help save you some money.

More Information

Located:
• New York, NY

Services:
• Refinance and consolidate federal and private student loans.

Min./Max loan amount:
• Does not cite a minimum loan amount.
• Maximum: up to $500,000.

Rates:
• Fixed rates from 3.5% to 7.74% APR
• Variable rates from 2.23% to 6.03% APR.
• The Commonbond Hybrid Loan has rates from 3.82% to 6.26% APR.

Repayment terms:
• 5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 year repayment terms.

Eligibility:
• Must have graduated with at least a bachelor’s degree from one of over 2,000 Title IV universities.
• Must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien.
• Must meet other CommonBond underwriting requirements.
• Depending on income and credit score, you may need a cosigner.

Customer Service:
• CommonBond can be contacted through email, via their website, or through an 800 number.

Application process:
• Applications can be completed online and require supporting documentation including proof of employment, proof of residence, and a recent loan statement.

Benefits:
• Competitive, low rates.
• High loan max.
• Offers forbearance in case of economic hardship, allowing you to pause payments if you lose your job, for example.
• Grace period deferment if your loans are currently in their grace period, and academic deferment if you return to school.
• CommonBond is a socially active institution; see the CommonBond Social Promise.
• Hybrid loan option, if that suits your needs.
• CommonBond does not charge any application, origination, or prepayment fees.
• Handles ParentPLUS loans.

Cons:
• Hybrid loans can be risky; just because it is an option does not mean it is a good one.

Extras:
• The CommonBond Social Promise, through which CommonBond promises that for every degree fully funded through them, they will pay a full year of tuition for a student in need, in partnership with Pencils of Promise. Lately, this has meant funding students in Ghana.
• CommonBond members get access to the CommonBond Community, which provides numerous networking opportunities.
• CommonBond has a referral program. If you refer a friend who in turn refinances their own loans through CommonBond, or who takes out an MBA loan, both you and your friend will receive $200. You do not have to be a CommonBond member to take advantage of this.
• CommonBond offers a 0.25% interest rate discount if you use their autopay option.

2. College Ave.

college-ave

College Ave. is another lender that offers plenty of options when it comes to your repayment plan, as well as benefits. For starters, as long as you have an undergraduate degree, you can be enrolled in graduate school currently and still get a deal with College Ave., which allows you to potentially slow the accrual of interest on your student loans while they are still in the grace period, and for you to get a handle on it before you have to start repayment.

When you do start your payments, College Ave. allows you to pay back only the interest for the first two years, allowing you to save money while you get set up and on your feet, before you really dig into it. A unique quality about College Ave. is that you can set your own repayment term period to be anywhere between five and 15 years, which allows you to get the monthly payment amounts dialed in just where you want them.

Also, College Ave. advertises a very quick, easy application process, which should help streamline your refi shopping quest. However, to be approved, they require that your total household income be $75,000, or you will need a cosigner to get the loan.

More Information

Located:
• Milwaukee, WI

Services:
• Refinance and consolidate federal and private student loans, including ParentPLUS loans.

Min./Max loan amount:
• Minimum of $5,000 for undergraduate and graduate degrees; minimum of $10,000 for professional degrees such as medical and pharmacy
• Maximum of $150,000 for undergraduate and graduate degrees; maximum of $250,000 for professional degrees such as medical and pharmacy

Rates:
• Fixed rates from 4.15% to 6.75% APR
• Variable rates from 2.63% to 5.88% APR

Repayment Terms:
• College Ave. offers customizable repayment term options between five and 15 years.

Eligibility:
• Must be a U.S. Citizen or permanent resident alien.
• Must have graduated from an eligible Title IV accredited undergraduate or graduate program.
• Must have a combined total household income of $75,000, or a cosigner will be required.
• Must meet other College Ave. underwriting requirements.

Customer Service:
• College Ave. can be contacted through email, via their website, or through an 800 number, 9am to 6pm, Monday through Friday, Eastern time.

Application process:
• You can apply for a refi quickly through the College Ave. website.
• Unlike other lending institutions, College Ave. does not require documentation for identification or loan verification, making their process extra quick and easy. They advertise the application process as only taking three minutes.

Benefits:
• Numerous repayment term options allow for you to dial in your monthly payments exactly where you want them.
• Offers the option of making interest-only payments for the first two years of repayment.
• Full principle and interest payments can be made immediately.
• You can be a currently enrolled graduate student with an undergraduate degree, with loans not yet in repayment and still get a deal.
• College Ave. does not charge any application, origination, or prepayment fees.
• Handles ParentPlus loans.

Cons:
• Requires a cosigner if combined total household income does not meet at least $75,000. If you are freshly graduated, you may not be making this amount yet.

Extras:
• College Ave. has a referral program. If you refer a friend who in turn refinances their own loans through College Ave., you will receive $250, and your friend will receive $100. You do not have to be a College Ave. member to take advantage of this.
• College Ave. also offers a 0.25% discount for paying through their autopay option.

3. Citizens Bank

Citizens Bank

Citizens Bank offers low, competitive rates, a good selection of repayment term periods, and 24/7 customer service (unlike other lenders, who cannot be reached on weekends).

Citizens Banks also has over 1200 branches nationwide, meaning one might be near you; if so, this can be a major perk as it would allow you to work one-on-one with a real person handling your refi.

Citizens Bank recognizes a large list of eligible schools for refinancing and approves borrowers with incomes as low as $24,000, as well as borrowers who did not complete a degree but are currently in repayment, which makes this a readily available option for many. If you have a cosigner, Citizens Bank also allows you to release them from the loan, after meeting certain payment qualifications, which is a big plus.

The only downside here is that federal loans on an income-based repayment plan are not eligible for refinancing through Citizens Bank.

More Information

Located:
• Providence, RI, and nationally

Services:
• Refinance and consolidate federal and private student loans.

Min./Max loan amount:
• Minimum of $10,000.
• Maximum of $90,000 for Bachelor’s degrees and below; $225,000 for graduate and doctoral degrees, including MBAs; $300,000 for professional degrees such as dental, medical, and law.

Rates:
• Fixed rates from 3.74% to 7.99% APR
• Variable rates from 2.10% to 7.89% APR

Repayment Terms:
• Citizens Bank offers 5, 10, 15, and 20 year repayment terms.

Eligibility:
• Loans must be in repayment, and you cannot currently be enrolled in school.
• You do NOT need to have completed a degree, but if you have not earned a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, you will need to have made at least 12 full on-time payments in order to be eligible.
• For those with a verified Bachelor’s degree, you will need to have made three full on-time payments, and for those with a verified graduate degree there is no minimum and they may apply during their grace period.
• Federal loans on an income-driven repayment plan are NOT eligible.
• Minimum annual income of $24,000 and reasonably strong credit history.
• Co-signer not required, but suggested.
• You must be a U.S. Citizen or permanent resident alien, with a valid Social Security number.
• Must meet other Citizens Bank underwriting requirements.

Customer Service:
• They can be contacted through email, or an 800 number, 24/7. They can also be contacted at one of over 1200 branches.

Application process:
• You can apply with Citizens Bank online and for free through their website.
• The application process requires your social security number, gross monthly income, current employer and their information, and the current lender of your student loans.
• Permanent residents and resident aliens may need further proof of identification.

Benefits:
• Even former students who did not graduate can refinance their loans.
• Co-signer release program.
• High maximum loan limit.
• Competitive rates
• Large list of eligible schools.
• Citizens Bank does not charge any application, origination, or prepayment penalty fees.
• 24/7 customer service.
• Lots of branches, which may be found in your area.

Cons:
• Federal loans on an income-driven repayment plan are NOT eligible.

Extras:
• You can receive up to a 0.5% interest rate discount if you have a Citizens Bank account and make your payments with the autopay option.

4. LendKey

LendKey

LendKey is unique because rather than loaning you money itself, it connects you with community banks and credit unions who will in turn loan you the money for the refi. This provides you the security and reputation of dealing with a national institution, while also giving you the benefits and customer service of a local institution, of which you will become a member, including access to other services offered by the community bank or credit union lender. This can be especially beneficial if that institution is actually local to you.

Like the others at the top of our list, LendKey has numerous repayment term period options, and low rates. Those with an income of $24,000 can be eligible for a loan, and Lendkey offers cosigner release.

One downside, however, is that LendKey offers a low maximum loan amount for graduate degrees, so depending on what you studied and where you studied it, this may not be the lender for you.

More Information

Located:
• Cincinnati, OH, and New York, NY

Services:
• Refinance and consolidate federal and private student loans.

Min./Max loan amount:
• Minimum of $7,500
• Maximum of $125,000 for undergraduate degrees and $175,000 for graduate degrees.

Rates:
• Fixed rates start at 3.25% APR.
• Variable rates start at 2.14% APR.

Repayment Terms:
• 5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 year repayment terms.

Eligibility:
• Must meet LendKey underwriting requirements, including $24,000 gross annual income and a reasonably strong credit score.

Customer Service:
• LendKey can be contacted through email, via their website, and through an 800 number from 9am to 8pm, Monday through Friday.
• Keep in mind, because of the way LendKey works, you may become a member of a community bank or credit union that they employ to disburse your loan. Because of this, you may also reap the benefit of better, and more direct, customer service through these smaller institutions.

Application process:
• You can apply with LendKey online, providing necessary documentation for verifying personal info.

Benefits:
• Rather than directly loaning money to you, LendKey compares offers from many different community banks and credit unions, which means you could possibly get a better deal and lower rates, as well as better customer service, and access to the other services offered by the particular institution that disburses your loan.
• LendKey does not charge any application, origination, or prepayment fees.
• Cosigner release option.

Cons:
• Low maximum for graduate degree loans.

Extras:
• LendKey has a referral program. They offer you $50 for every referral who is approved for a refi loan (regardless of whether or not they take the loan), and $200 more for every referral that actually refinances with them. You do not have to be a LendKey member to take advantage of this.
• LendKey offers a 0.25% interest rate discount if you use their autopay option.

5. Earnest

Earnest

One of Earnest’s big selling points is customization. They let you customize your repayment term period anywhere from five year to 20 years, down to the week and day of final repayment, and tweak your repayment rate so that you can even pay on a bi-weekly basis. If you want or need precise control to stay on top of things, these qualities make Earnest an attractive lender.

Earnest also offers numerous benefits when it comes to repayment and your protection, such as deferment for up to three years, the option to miss a payment every once in a while, and the option to switch between fixed and variable rates.

Besides this, Earnest is unique because it handles its own loans, which means that when you have a question about your loans, you will be dealing with Earnest, and Earnest employees directly.

Earnest promotes that it uses a wide range of data points, drawn from studies to determine your eligibility, and just what you can handle, in regards to repayment.

Because of the rigorous process they use to determine eligibility, however, the application process takes longer, and there are more chances that you will be turned down. Also, Earnest does not provide service to 13 states. Finally, the application process requires syncing information from your online banking accounts, which can make some people uneasy about the security of their private information.

More Information

Located:
• San Francisco, CA

Services:
• Refinance and consolidate federal and private student loans.

Min./Max loan amount:
• Minimum of $5,000.
• No maximum amount listed.

Rates:
• Fixed rates from 3.5% to 7.45% APR.
• Variable rates from 2.2% to 5.8% APR.

Repayment Terms:
• Repayment terms can be customized between five and 20 years.

Eligibility: Earnest uses many different data points to determine your eligibility, but the basics are:
• Must be at least 18, and a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien.
• Debt must be from an eligible Title IV accredited school.
• You must have a degree, or be in your last semester to completing the degree.
• You must be employed or have a written job offer.
• You must be a resident in an eligible state.
• Must meet other Earnest underwriting requirements.

Customer Service:
• Earnest can be contacted through email, via their website, or through an 800 number, Monday through Friday, from 8am to 5pm, Pacific Time.

Application process:
• You can apply with Earnest online, though keep in mind that their application and approval process takes longer than other lenders because what they use to determine eligibility is more extensive.

Benefits:
• Low, competitive rates.
• Earnest handles their own loans, not third-party servicers.
• Borrowers have the option of deferment for up to three years in case of financial hardship.
• You can apply for a refi if you are in your final semester of school.
• Offers option to switch between fixed and variable interest rates, once every six months after six months of on-time payments.
• Earnest allows you to skip one payment a year after you have made on-time payments for six months, provided that you make up the missing payment cost later.
• Ensures you can repay your loan by considering many different factors of eligibility.
• Offers the option of bi-weekly payments, which helps keep interest from accruing.
• Earnest does not charge any application, origination, or prepayment fees.

Cons:
• The rigorous process Earnest uses to determine your eligibility means there are more chances that you will be turned down, and also means the application process takes longer and is more extensive than other institutions.
• Not available in 13 states.
• Syncs financial account information, a type of data-sharing, which is something that not everyone is comfortable with.

Extras:
• Earnest offers a 0.25% interest rate discount if you use their autopay option.

6. SoFi

Sofi

SoFi prides itself on strong customer service; beyond answering phone calls and emails promptly, this means members-only benefits designed to encourage your financial growth and wellbeing.

SoFi has a handful of locations around the country in major cities, and holds networking events at popular locations in those cities. SoFi also offers a Career Strategy program and Entrepreneurship program, which offers you personalized financial and advisory benefits. If you are pursuing a business career, or interested in entrepreneurship, this makes SoFi an attractive option, in addition to their low rates and multiple repayment term periods.

However, SoFi offers a low maximum loan amount, and typically caters to clients with high incomes and strong credit scores, so while it is a good option for those who are eligible, not all will be.

More Information

Located:
• New York, NY and nationally

Services:
• Refinance and consolidate federal and private student loans, including ParentPLUS loans.

Min./Max loan amount:
• Minimum of $5,000.
• Maximum of $100,000.

Rates:
• Fixed rates from 3.5% to 7.74% APR.
• Variable rates from 2.24% to 6.04% APR.

Repayment Terms:
• 5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 year repayment terms.

Eligibility:
• Must have completed undergraduate or graduate degree program at a Title IV accredited university.
• Must be a U.S. Citizen or permanent resident alien.
• Must be employed, or have an offer to begin employment within 90 days, and have sufficient income.
• Must meet other SoFi underwriting requirements.

Customer Service:
• SoFi prides itself on good customer service, and offers several beneficial programs to its members, such as its Career Strategy program, its Entrepreneurship program, and events.
• SoFi can be contacted through email, via its website, by an 800 number, or at one of its handful of national locations, if you live in or near a city where they are located.

Application process:
• You can apply with Sofi online. You will need documentation to verify things like proof of income, employment, and loan.

Benefits:
• Low, competitive rates.
• Offers the option of deferment in case of unemployment or economic hardship, as well as if you return to school, undergo disability rehabilitation, or serve active military duty.
• Career Support program and Entrepreneurship program for SoFi members.
• Known for good customer service.
• SoFi does not charge any application, origination, or prepayment fees.
• Handles ParentPLUS loans.

Cons:
• Though they don’t cite a minimum income or credit score, SoFi typically approves borrowers with credit scores above 700 and high incomes, in the six figure range.
• Low maximum loan amount.
• Not available in Nevada.

Extras:
• SoFi has a referral program. They offer $100 for every person you refer who refinances with them, or who takes out a personal loan. You do not have to be a SoFi member to take advantage of this. Does not apply in Michigan.
• SoFi offers a 0.25% interest rate discount if you use their autopay option.

7. Laurel Road (formerly Darien Rowayton Bank)

Laurel Road logo

Laurel Road rebranded in 2018 from its previous name, Darien Rowayton Bank (DRB). Though somewhat smaller and less flashy than some of the lenders on this list, it is nonetheless a solid option to consider.

They accept a low minimum loan amount of $5,000, but do not have a maximum loan amount (granted, they do claim that if you have loans over $300,000, they will refinance it as two new loans), and they offer competitive rates and a variety of repayment term periods.

A great benefit of Laurel Road is that they afford you some financial protection in case of hardship, allowing you to postpone payments for three months at a time, for up to a total of 12 months. Also, they allow you to begin refinancing your loan while you are in the last semester of your degree program, provided you have a job offer, allowing you to get ahead of your debt.

It is worth noting, however, that Laurel Road does not offer cosigner release, which can be a downside if you need a cosigner, and you will need a checking account with them in order to refinance your loans.

More Information

Located:
• Darien, CT

Services:
• Refinance and consolidate federal and private student loans, including ParentPLUS loans.

Min./Max loan amount:
• Minimum of $5,000
• Maximum: They don’t have a maximum!

Rates:
• Fixed rates from 4.45% to 7.2% APR.
• Variable rates from 3.84% to 6.49% APR.

Repayment Terms:
• 5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 year repayment terms.

Eligibility:
• Must have a Bachelor’s or graduate degree.
• Must be employed.
• Need a strong credit score and substantial income; may need a cosigner if your gross income is less than $50,000 and you do not have a signed job offer indicating a higher amount to be earned.
• Must be U.S. Citizen or permanent resident alien.
• Must meet other Laurel Road underwriting requirements.
• Loans must be in repayment or grace period, but you can refinance while in you are in your last semester of school, if you have a job offer.

Customer Service:
• Laurel Road can be contacted through email, via their website, or through an 800 number.

Application process:
• Applications can be completed on line and require documentation that verifies identity, employment, graduation, and a recent loan statement.

Benefits:
• In case of financial hardship, Laurel Road allows borrowers to postpone payments in three-month increments, for up to 12 months total.
• When it comes to your loan balance, Laurel Road doesn’t have a maximum amount, which can be quite attractive if you have a large loan balance on your hands.
• Can refinance while in last semester of school, if you have a job offer.
• Laurel Road does not charge any application, origination, or prepayment fees.
• Handles ParentPLUS loans.

Cons:
• No cosigner release option.
• You will need a Laurel Road checking account if you want to take advantage of their autopay option discount.
• Rates start somewhat higher than other lenders.

Extras:
• Laurel Road offers a 0.25% interest rate discount if you use their autopay option.
• Laurel Road has a referral program. If you refer a friend who in turn refinances or consolidates their own loans through Laurel Road, you will receive $200. You do not have to be a Laurel Road member to take advantage of this.

8. Purefy (formerly CordiaGrad)

Purefy

Purefy has competitive rates and a high loan max, which makes it comparable to other lenders on this list. There are a few things that set it apart, though. For one, Purefy is the only lender that will refinance students loans for a married couple together. Are you and your spouse post-grads with six-figure debts each? Purefy let’s you refinance your loans as a single bundle, and handle it with a single monthly payment. This is a big perk for married couples.

Another unique aspect of Purefy is that you can call your loan advisor direct at their office, meaning you can speak directly to the person who knows your loan and case, rather than a nameless clerk who you don’t know. Purefy is also a socially active institution, which gives seminars on sound financial practices, and whose employees participate in regular volunteer work.

Purefy offers some unique repayment term periods, which are shorter than terms offered by other institutions, being 5, 8, and 12 year terms; this can be both a pro, and a con, depending on who you are and what you need.

Also, they have a high loan minimum of $20,000, and stricter eligibility requirements than other lenders, so they are not a ready option for all borrowers, but they have some unique perks that make them worth considering.

More Information

Located:
• Washington DC, and Richmond, VA

Services:
• Refinance and consolidate federal and private student loans, including ParentPLUS loans.

Min./Max loan amount:
• Minimum of $20,000.
• Maximum of $350,000.

Rates:
• Fixed rates from 3.95% to 6.75% APR.
• Variable rates from 3% to 5.2% APR.

Repayment Terms:
• 5, 8, and 12 year repayment terms.

Eligibility:
• Must be a U.S. Citizen at least 23 years old and have two years of work history.
• Must have a credit score of at least 700 and make $42,000 annually. If you make $25,000 annually and/or a credit score of 670 to 699, you will need a cosigner.
• Must meet other Purefy underwriting requirements.

Customer Service:
• One of Purefy’s big selling points is its customer service. You can contact Purefy through email, via its website, but you can also use an online chat option, or call them direct at their offices (rather than using an 800 number) and speak with your loan advisor.

Application process:
• You can apply online with Purefy, and will need documents verifying income, identity, graduation from an eligible institution, two years of employment, and loan statements.

Benefits:
• Married couples can refinance their loans together, meaning into one bundle with one payment.
• Unique, shorter loan terms than other institutions.
• While they do not advertise a forbearance option, Purefy claims that it will work with borrowers on a case-by-case basis in the instance of economic hardship.
• Cosigner releaser option.
• Customer service with actual humans who work at Purefy.
• Purefy is a socially active lending institution.
• Purefy does not charge any application, origination, or prepayment fees.
• Handles ParentPLUS loans.

Cons:
• Approval requirements are stricter than other lenders.
• High minimum loan balance means Purefy is not a ready option for all.
• Rates start somewhat higher than other lenders.
• Fewer repayment term options than other lenders.

Extras:
• Purefy has a referral program. They offer you $200 for every person you refer who refinances with them. You do not have to be a Purefy member to take advantage of this.
• Purefy offers a rate discount of 0.5% if you open a checking account with them and use the autopay option.

9. Rhode Island Student Loan Authority (RISLA)

RISLA

As the name might suggest, RISLA once only serviced students in Rhode Island, but now operates nationally.

RISLA is known for its transparency in its practices, and they will give you interest rates up front, without requiring approval. They also only offer fixed rate plans, and while this might seem limiting, again, this has to do with transparency and honesty; they want to be upfront and clear with you about what your repayment plan will look like, and variable rates plans do not allow for this kind of straightforwardness, as they can be risky and uncertain.

Another major thing that makes RISLA stick out is that they offer an income-based repayment plan, which allows for flexibility when faced with career uncertainty and economic hardship, whether you are a recent grad, or have been out of school for a while.

However, RISLA has some limitations to consider, such as rates that are generally higher than other lenders, a low maximum loan amount, and a limited selection of repayment terms. RISLA can be good for some situations, but very qualified lenders might find better deals elsewhere.

More Information

Located:
• Warwick, RI

Services:
• Refinance and consolidate federal and private student loans, including ParentPLUS loans.

Min./Max loan amount:
• Minimum of $7,500.
• Maximum of $150,000.

Rates:
• RISLA only offers fixed rates from 4.24% to 7.24% APR.

Repayment Terms:
• 5, 10, and 15 year repayment terms.

Eligibility:
• You will need a strong credit score, and a total household income of $40,000 a year.
• Loans must be in repayment status.
• A cosigner may be required.
• Must meet other RISLA underwriting criteria.

Customer Service:
• You can contact RISLA through email, via their website, or through an 800 number, or through their local number.

Application process:
• You can apply with RISLA online. You will need documentation verifying things like proof of identity, proof of income, and proof of savings.

Benefits:
• Only offers fixed rate plans.
• Its income-based repayment plans allows for flexibility, especially when faced with financial hardship.
• Known for its transparency; interest rates are given up front, not after approval.
• RISLA does not charge any application, origination, or prepayment fees.
• Cosigner release option.
• Handles ParentPLUS loans.

Cons:
• Rates are generally higher than other lenders.
• Fewer repayment term options than other lenders.
• Low maximum loan amount.
• If you are a particularly qualified candidate, you can probably get a better deal elsewhere.

Extras:
• RISLA offers a 0.25% interest rate discount if you use their autopay option.
• Though RISLA does not offer a rewards program for refi loans, it does offer several other rewards programs, which might be useful if you are in certain situations and considering taking out more loans.

10. iHelp

iHelp

iHelp generally has lighter eligibility requirements than other lenders, and is a good option for those with lower incomes, or who are worried about the potential of financial hardship in the future.

iHelp offers the benefits of 24 months of forbearance, 24 months of interest-only payments, and most notably a graduated payment plan, which sets them apart from other lenders.

Like LendKey, iHelp operates by connecting you to community banks and credit unions who will actually disburse your loan; because of this, you may enjoy the benefits of membership at those smaller institutions, such as more personal customer service, and services that are available to their members. iHelp is itself known for strong customer service.

However, if you are a very qualified candidate, you can likely find a better deal elsewhere, as iHelp has higher rates than other lenders, and fewer repayment term options.

More Information

Located:
• Aberdeen, SD

Services:
• Refinance and consolidate federal and private student loans, including ParentPLUS loans.

Min./Max loan amount:
• Minimum of $10,000.
• Maximum of $150,000 for undergraduate degrees, and $250,000 for graduate degrees.

Rates:
• Fixed rates from 4.65% to 8.84% APR
• Variable rates from 3.34% to 9.17% APR

Repayment Terms:
• 10, 15, and 20 year repayment terms.

Eligibility:
• Must be a U.S. Citizen or permanent resident alien and have graduated from an approved school.
• Must have two years of positive credit history and be creditworthy
• Must have a minimum annual income of $24,000 for the last 2 years.
• Must not exceed debt to income threshold of 45%.
• Must meet other iHelp underwriting requirements.
• You may need a cosigner.

Customer Service:
• iHelp can be contacted through email, via its website, or through an 800 number. One of iHelp’s main selling points is strong customer service.
• Keep in mind, because of the way iHelp operates, you may become a member of a community bank or credit union that iHelp employs to disburse your loan, and so you may receive member benefits.

Application process:
• You can apply with iHelp online by answering a few questions and providing necessary documentation to verify personal information.

Benefits:
• Generally lighter eligibility requirements than other lenders.
• iHelp offers up to 24 months of forbearance for economic hardship.
• Also offers 24 months of interest-only payments, and a graduated payment plan.
• Connects borrowers with community banks, which can offer members benefits.
• Cosigner release option.
• Handles ParentPLUS loans.
• iHelp does not charge any application, origination, or prepayment fees.

Cons:
• Generally higher interest rates than other lenders.
• Longer term lengths than other lenders, and less options.
• Their community bank focus will not do you much good if you don’t live in the same community as one of those banks.
• Not a good choice if you are a very qualified candidate, as you could likely get a better deal elsewhere.

What is Student Loan Refinancing?

Loan Refinancing, simply, is when a borrower (you) works with a private lender to pay off their existing loans with a new loan, which in turn offers a new interest rate, new repayment terms, and, hopefully, saves the borrower money. It can be a very good option, but there is a lot to consider in relation to it, so let’s look into this further.

Another option for managing your loans is loan consolidation. You might have heard the terms loan refinancing and loan consolidation used together before, and thought they are the same thing; admittedly, the confusion is only made worse by some lenders using the terms in a seemingly interchangeable way. They are not, in fact, the same thing, but they are closely related.

An important difference between the two is their source, meaning who is offering the service. There are two types of lenders: the federal system, and private lenders, such as banks, or even some of the lenders we have included on this list. When most people take out student loans, they do so through the federal system, though some go through private lenders. It is very important to know where your loans are coming from, because this will determine certain benefits and limitations.

The federal loan system offers loan consolidation, but not loan refinancing. This means that, if you have taken out multiple federal loans, you can consolidate them into a single loan, which makes repayment easier. Treated as a single loan, the previous interest rates of your loans will be averaged together to determine the new interest rate.

It should be understood, however, that this does not mean your payments or interest rate will change significantly. You will pay the same amount, but as a single payment, and your loan as a whole will accrue the same interest; this option does not really allow you to save money, only to simplify the repayment process.

Loan refinancing, on the other hand, does allow you to change the amount you pay, the amount of interest you accrue, and the length of time over which you are expected to pay back the loan.

Loan refinancing is only offered by private lenders, which comes with positives and negatives, but generally presents to you a lot more options than the federal system. When you apply with a lender, they will consider how much you owe, what your current repayment terms, rates, and monthly payments are, as well as other criteria such as income, employment status, and credit score, and they will make you an offer, with options to customize. Essentially, they will replace your existing loan or loans with a single loan of their own.

For example, if you have several federal loans out, they will pay back the loans for you, and then you will begin paying back the lender for their loan, which, because it is a new loan, comes with new terms. Does this sound like consolidation? Well, yes, it does, but consolidation involves keeping your existing loans, and your terms do not change; a refi, on the other hand, involves replacing your loans with a new loan and terms, which, ideally, works out better for you. Some private lenders, however, use the term consolidation loan when referring to loan refinancing.

So What Can a Refi Change for Me?

Okay, so, through a refi, you actually can save quite a bit of money annually, as well as over the course of your loan repayment, which is pretty sweet, as long as you get connected with the right lender. What’s useful about a refi is that, since it comes from a private lender, they are able to offer you a slew of different options and benefits than the federal system, with resetting your rates being chief among them; this also applies to borrowers who took student loans from private institutions to begin with.

Let’s say your interest is accruing at 7% APR (annual percentage rate) on a fixed rate federal loan. On one hand, this is nice, because it’s a fixed rate, meaning it will never change, and it won’t suddenly start accruing more interest at some point in its life span. But 7% is high, and if it is a fixed rate, then it’s not going to get any lower, either. A refi could offer you the chance to cut that interest rate in half, so that after refinancing, you would only be accruing 3.5%. Sounds good, right? And if this 3.5% is a fixed rate too, you wouldn’t have to worry about it increasing.

Private lenders also offer something that the federal system doesn’t: variable rates, which are interest rates that change, based on the current status of the Federal Reserve. Variable rates can offer you even more savings in interest, but it is important to understand that variable rates can also jump suddenly, and wind up costing you more than you intended. Variable rates can be money saving options if you plan on paying your loans back soon and the rates are currently low, but they can also be risky to pursue, and as a rule of thumb, it is good practice to assume that the rates will rise.

A refi also offers the chance to shorten or lengthen the number of years over which you are expected to repay your loans, often allowing you to set the repayment terms from five to 20 years. Lenders also offer various benefits (different among each lender) that allow you to better manage your payments, such as interest-only payments, graduated payment plans, and forbearance in case of financial hardship. This flexibility, combined with reset interest rates and monthly payments, can enable you to pay less for your loans, and pay them off faster, or, if need be, pay them off at a slower, but easier pace.

Is Refinancing Best for Your Situation?

There are lots of benefits to refinancing your loans, but it is not necessarily right for everyone.

You need to seriously consider the terms of your current loans first, especially if they are federal loans. Though they may not have the best interest rates, federal loans come with significant benefits, all of which are lost if you choose to refinance through a private lender, and unfortunately, at this time, there is no federal option for refinancing.

The federal system offers income-based and pay-as-you-earn repayment plans, which can be very helpful if you are a recent graduate and don’t have much money, have a low-paying job, or don’t yet have a job at all. Not many private lenders offer this, and even then it comes with limitations. The federal system sometimes allows you to change your repayment terms, depending on your situation, and offers forbearance and deferment in case of financial hardship, which, again, not many private lenders offer.

You need to remember that when you enter into a loan refinancing deal, you may be receiving better terms, but you also may be receiving stricter terms. With a refi, while your interest rate may go down, your repayment term period may shorten and your monthly payments may increase, and you may not have options to adjust the payments if you find yourself in a tough spot financially later on.

If you carry a high-debt load and don’t necessarily have the highest salary, or potential for one, you may be better off sticking with the federal system than refinancing your loans. Also, if you fit certain career criteria, such as you are a federal employee, or work for specific non-profit employers, you may be eligible for loan forgiveness on your federal loans after a set period of time and regular payments. Having to pay only some of your total loan debt is always better than having to pay all of your total loan debt, but if you refinance, you lose this benefit of having federal loans.

Finally, if you are able to pay off your loans without issue, but are really just concerned about reducing your total interest, a ready-made option for doing this is to simply pay more than your monthly payment plan requires, which pays down the principle loan, and in turn lowers the total amount of interest that can accrue.

All of the above considerations aside, refinancing can be a great option for certain candidates. If you have a steady job and income, if you have a strong credit score, if you are confident that you can repay your loans within a newly defined repayment term period, and if you are interested in saving money, you might want to consider refinancing your loans.

Refinancing could be more attractive to you depending on what type of loans you have; if you have loans with high interest rates, this might make more sense for you than if you have loans with interest rates that are already low. Also, if you currently have private loans, refinancing could offer you not only better terms, but possibly more benefits and flexibility, if you refinance with a better lender.

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