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:
- 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.
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Note: The refinancing offers that appear on this site are from companies from which The College Investor receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). The College Investor does not include all student loan companies or all student loan offers available in the marketplace.
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.
Here are a few of the highlights:
- 5-, 10-, 15- and 20- year repayment term options
- Fixed and variable rate loans options.
- No application, origination, or disbursement fees
- Interest rate discounts available through loyalty programs
Furthermore, Citizens Bank has a release program where a co-signer may be removed from loan responsibility after making 36 consecutive, on-time principal and interest payments.
Lastly, there is a $10,000 minimum loan amount so this might not work for a borrower with a low loan balance.
Get up to a $750 gift card bonus when you refinance at Citizens through Credible.
2. College Ave
College Ave offers some unique student loan products and viable consolidation options.
The company is a solid lender to who just recently started offering both fixed rate and variable rate student loans.
They also allow some interesting repayment options, such as an interest-only payment, a deferred payment, and a fixed rate payment.
With College Ave, you can refinance a single loan to get better terms or lower rates. You can refinance a loan as low as $5,000 and as much as $250,000.
Get up to a $750 gift card bonus when you refinance at College Ave through Credible.
CommonBond is one of the first student loan refinancing companies. They are a no-fee lender that offers 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 - even hiring them for short-term consulting projects.
CommonBond also takes a unique giving approaching to its lending - funding Pencils of Promise with every loan it refinances.
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.
Whether you’re trying to refinance existing student loans at low interest rates, or you're a parent looking to refinance a Parent PLUS Loan into your child's name, ELFI (or Education Loan Finance) is one of the best lenders out there.
The ELFI loan minimum is $15,000 for refinancers, with the maximum being your outstanding loan balance. This can be a huge win for borrowers with high student loan debt, especially doctors.
ELFI doesn’t have specific credit minimums posted, but they do require borrowers to be creditworthy (or have a creditworthy cosigner).
ELFI is also offering an awesome bonus to our readers:
- Refinance $50,000 to $99,999 - Get a $300 Bonus!
- Refinance $100,000 to $149,999 - Get a $575 Bonus!
- Refinance over $150,000 - Get a $775 Bonus!
Get up to a $775 bonus when you refinance with ELFI.
6. Laurel Road
Laurel Road, formally DRB Student Loans, is an established student loan lender with a new name. Laurel Road is best suited for medical and dental graduates, however they have loan options for any borrower.
What we like about them is that they are one of the few lenders that will refinance more than $300,000 in student loans. They will break it up into a second loan, but they at least will offer the service.
If you consider Laurel Road, apply through our site for a $200 bonus!
Get up to a $200 bonus when you refinance through Laurel Road.
LendKey is a student loan refinancing lender that pools money from community banks and credit unions to offer well-priced student loans to borrowers.
LendKey offers loans between $5,000 and $300,000, depending on the degree earned by the loan holder. For example, the lowest amount is for undergraduate degrees, which caps at $125,000.
LendKey bases its rates upon your credit and discounts are given for auto-pay. They also have no origination or prepayment fees.
One thing to note, LendKey does not allow refinancing for borrowers who didn't graduate.
If you're considering LendKey, you can get a $300 bonus for refinancing loans under $150,000, and a $750 bonus if you refinance loans over $150,000! You must apply through out site to get your bonus >>
Get up to a $750 bonus when you refinance through LendKey.
PenFed is one of the newest additions to this list of the best places to consolidate student loans. The reason? The have some of the lowest student loan consolidation rates we've seen, and they keep getting lower and lower.
PenFed is also on the Credible platform, so you can easily see how PenFed compares to the other top lenders out there.
PenFed offers loans up to $150,000, but you typically have to show strong earnings or have a cosigner that meets their requirements.
PenFed is also the only lender we've seen that does allow for spousal student loan consolidation - which is a unique option some may want to consider.
Get up to a $750 gift card bonus when you refinance through PenFed at Credible.
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.
SoFi is now on the Credible platform, so you can easily compare SoFi to other top lenders (and get a bonus of up to a $750 gift card).
Get up to a $750 gift card bonus when you refinance through SoFi at Credible.
10. Splash Financial
Splash Financial is a relative newcomer on this list, but they are doing great things with student loan refinancing.
Splash Financial offers student loans with no original fees, and unique repayment plans. For example, they are one of the few lenders that allow spouses to refinance together.
They offer loans between $5,000 and no maximum. They also have some of the lowest rates for qualified borrowers.
The great thing about Splash Financial is that they offer one of the best bonuses currently available! Splash is currently offering College Investor readers a $500 bonus if you refinance at least $50,000.
Get up to a $500 bonus when you refinance through Splash.
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.
What Credit Score Do I Need To Refinance Student Loans?
There is no specific credit score that is required to refinance student loans - but most lenders want to see 600 or higher. However, the better your credit score, the better rate and terms you can qualify for.
To get the lowest advertised rates, most lenders will want to see a credit score about 750 or even 775.
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:
Is It A Good Idea To Refinance A Student Loan?
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.
More Student Loan Refinancing FAQs
What is student loan refinancing?
Student loan refinancing is the process of taking out a new private student loan to replace your existing Federal or private student loans.
How can I refinance my student loans?
You can refinance your loans by applying and being approved at a bank or student loan refinancing company. You typically have to have a good credit score, good debt to income ratio, and have graduated college.
When does it make sense to refinance?
It makes sense to refinance your student loans if you expect to pay them off in less than 7 years, don’t utilize any loan forgiveness or income-driven repayment plan, and can save money on interest or by shortening your loan term.
How can I lower my student loan interest rate?
By refinancing your student loan, you can potentially lower your interest rate if you qualify. The lowest interest rates are typically on variable rate loans, with shorter durations.
What credit score do you need to refinance your student loans?
While every lender varies, you’ll likely need a 660 or higher to even potentially qualify. However, to qualify for the best rates and terms, you’ll likely need a 780 or higher.
What’s the difference between student loan consolidation and refinancing?
Student loan consolidation is a free government service that allows you to combine all of your Federal loans into a single new loan. Student loan consolidation is only for Federal loans, and does’t change anything on the underlying loans – your new loan will have the same weighted interest rate and payment.
Student loan refinancing will be a new private loan that replaces your Federal and/or private loans. It can be a lower interest rate or different repayment term.
What are the risks of student loan refinancing?
The biggest risk of refinancing (especially Federal loans) is that you lose access to any programs you may have been eligible for on your original loans. This could mean losing student loan forgiveness, income-driven repayment plans, and deferment and hardship options.
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. Also, make sure that you're always paying attention to our list of the best student loan refinancing bonus offers.
To make it easy, we recommend using Credible. Try Credible and compare your options in 2 minutes with no credit check. As a bonus, College Investor readers get a $750 gift card bonus if they complete a refinance!
If you're not quite sure where to start or what to do, consider hiring a CFA to help you with your student loans. We recommend The Student Loan Planner to help you put together a solid financial plan for your student loan debt. Check out The Student Loan Planner here.
If you love one of these companies - let us know and help other readers out!
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him here.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.