It can be super confusing to know what the best option is to refinance or consolidate your student loan debt. There are so many different lenders and banks - along with just as many programs - that it can be overwhelming.
Before we begin, it's important to understand the key differences in student loan refinancing and student loan consolidation.
Student Loan Refinancing - Getting a new private student loan to replace your existing loan and/or loans.
Student Loan Consolidation - Combining multiple Federal loans into one loan.
With all the student loan refinancing companies we're going to discuss, you can refinance and/or consolidate. You can also do some of your loans or all your loans.
It can be confusing to figure out what you should do, but in general, you shouldn't refinance Federal student loans unless you can afford paying your loans on the standard 10 year plan. But, if you can afford, refinancing can make a lot of sense financially.
It sounds like it could be confusing, but it doesn’t have to be. You can sign up for these programs for free at StudentLoans.gov. If you want help, we recommend Ameritech Financial, a company I’ve personally vetted. They can help you navigate the student loan terrain and help you systematically apply for the programs offered by the Department of Education.
If you’re not sure about doing it yourself, then Ameritech can help you find the repayment solution that’s right for you, and potentially restructure your loans so that you can qualify for programs you may not otherwise have qualified for. You can call them at 1-866-863-3870 or check out their website here.
If you already know that refinancing makes sense, and you're looking for the best places, we recommend Credible. Check out Credible and compare your options in 2 minutes with no credit check. Try Credible here. As a bonus, College Investor readers get a $200 bonus if they complete a refinance!
The Requirements To Refinance Student Loans
The requirements to refinance student loans are a bit different than when you took out your loans. For Federal loans, you simply had to fill out the FAFSA. With some graduate school loans (such as medical school loans), you might have had to have a credit check beyond the FAFSA.
However, with private student loan refinancing, the requirements are more like getting a car loan or mortgage.
Lenders will typically look at:
If you don't meet all of these requirements, you might need to get a cosigner for your loan. Read this full guide on how to get a student loan with no cosigner.
Credible does offer loans with no cosigner for qualifying candidates.
Things To Consider When Refinancing
When you're looking at the best banks and places to refinance student loans, there are quite a few considerations. Every bank or student loan lender has it's unique perk or angle, and you have to take that into consideration when weighing your options.
However, in general, the big things to consider when refinancing your student loans include:
While there is no "right" or "wrong" loan type when it comes to your individual situation, we believe that most borrowers would benefit from a student loan refinance loan that is only 5-7 years. Borrowers should look for loans that have no origination fees, and if a cosigner is required, there should be an easy cosigner release process.
However, every person has different needs and a different situation. Think about your loan needs accordingly.
1. Citizens Bank
Citizens Bank is one of the few banks on this list. We like them because they offer a lot of great loan options, backed by the stability of a bank.
Citizens Bank offers a variety of loan terms, including 5, 10, 15, 20 year repayment term options - as well as both fixed and variable rate loans.
Citizens Bank also has no application, origination, or disbursement fees, and they offer several loyalty programs where you can get an interest rate discount.
Furthermore, the do have a co-signer release program where a co-signer may be released from loan responsibility after making 36 consecutive, on-time principal and interest payments.
There is, however, a $10,000 minimum loan amount. This might not work for a borrower with a low loan balance.
2. College Ave
College Ave offers some unique student loan products and viable refinancing option. The company is a solid lender to who just recently started offering both fixed rate and variable rate student loans.
College Ave Refinance isn’t simply a consolidation company. When consolidating, you take several existing loans and combine them into one for lower monthly payments and, in some cases, lower interest rates. However, with College Ave, you can refinance a single loan to get better terms or lower rates. You can even refinance a loan as low as $5,000 and as much as $250,000.
They also allow some interesting repayment options, such as an interest-only payment, a deferred payment, and a fixed rate payment.
CommonBond is one of the first student loan refinancing companies. They offer both fixed and variable rate loans.
CommonBond also offers a unique unemployment protection program where loan payments are paused and it helps eligible graduates find new jobs - ever hiring them for short-term consulting projects.
CommonBond also take a unique giving approaching to it's lending - funding Pencils of Promise with every loan it refinances.
CommonBond is also a no-fee lender.
Whether you’re trying to refinance existing student loans at low interest rates, or you need a few thousand dollars in cash for the upcoming semester, Connext Private Student loans could offer the loans you want at favorable interest rates.
The Connext loan minimum is $2000 for in-school borrowers and $10,000 for refinancers. The maximum loan amounts are $100,000 for undergraduate borrowers, $150,000 for graduate students, $200,000 for MBA/law students and $250,000 for Medical School/Pharmacy borrowers.
Connext doesn’t have specific credit minimums posted, but they do require borrowers to be creditworthy (or have a creditworthy cosigner).
Earnest is on this list because it's one of the most flexible student loan refinancing companies - they offer the ability to pick any monthly payment and term between 5 to 20 years – saving you more than standard rates and terms.
They also give you the ability to change your loan – you can refinance your loan for free, change payment dates, even skip a payment once a year and make it up later.
Earnest has no set income requirements for borrowers. They are also fee-free, and offer unemployment protection to pause your monthly payments if you lose your job.
EDvestinU, a New Hampshire higher education lender, is a non-profit lender, which provides low-cost variable rate loans available to students both in and out of state, plus a provision for qualifying international students in the US.
The best rates are reserved for New Hampshire residents studying either in or out of state, and any US students choosing to study at an institution in New Hampshire. National loans are available to any US students who don’t fall into either of those categories while international loans can be applied for by any international student with a creditworthy cosigner who is either a US citizen or a permanent resident.
The minimum amount available to borrow is $1000 per year, with the maximum loan amount being determined by the institution of study as students are eligible to borrow up the maximum attendance costs, less any financial aid offered. There is also an aggregate maximum of $200,000.
iHelp offers student loan refinancing loans beginning at $25,000 and can range to $100,000 for undergrads with graduates being able to tap in to as much as $150,000.
To be eligible for the pre-qualification process, you, or a co-signer, must have at least three years’ worth of a viable credit history and must have a monthly income of at least $1,500.
In addition to the three years of a credit history, the potential borrower must also have a debt to income ratio of less than 45%. Borrowers with cosigners can have the cosigner removed from the loan after making payments on time for 24 straight months.
The Rhode Island Student Loan Authority, or RISLA, offers a variety of services to support both Rhode Island (RI) residents and out-of-state students attending eligible RI schools.
RISLA offers loans between $7,500 and $250,000, depending on the degree earned by the loan holder. You can apply to refinance with RISLA regardless of what state you reside or the state your college was located in.
RISLA has neither prepayment fees nor origination (upfront) fees. That low loan amount is one of the lowest we've seen - which is one of the reasons they make our list.
Rates are based upon your credit. Discounts are given for auto-pay, to borrowers who work and also to borrowers who went to school or live in Rhode Island.
SoFi is another of the original student loan refinancing lenders - and probably the most well known. They offer a wide variety of fixed rate and variable rate loans, with 5, 7, 10, 15, 20 year repayment terms. SoFi even offers mortgages.
SoFi loans have no origination fees or prepayment penalties. SoFi also offers unemployment protection for borrowers, and even has a career support program.
To get the best rates, you have to have excellent credit or you'll have to have a cosigner for your loan. SoFi does have a cosigner release program.
10. Splash Financial
Splash Financial is a relative newcomer on this list, but they are doing great things with medical school student loan refinancing.
Splash Financial offers student loans with no original fees, and unique repayment plans. For example, they are offering $1 per month repayment options for doctors going through training.
However, they only offer loans between $25,001 and $346,000. That high minimum could be a challenge for some borrowers who would benefit from refinancing. But the high maximum is helpful for doctors.
Student loan refinancing isn't for everyone. However, if you're able to afford your loans on the standard 10-year repayment plan, and don't plan to take advantage of any student loan forgiveness program, then you should strongly consider student loan refinancing.
These are the top student loan refinancing companies, and you'll strongly benefit from comparing your options amongst these lenders.
To make it easy, we recommend using Credible. Check out Credible and compare your options in 2 minutes with no credit check. Try Credible here. As a bonus, College Investor readers get a $200 bonus if they complete a refinance!
If you love one of these companies - let us know and help other readers out!