American student loan debt is getting higher and higher each year. Finishing college and embarking upon the work world can be a very exciting time. But, if you start out your “adult” life with a ton of student loans, that can really hinder the experience.
I have put together a list of my five favorite student loan refinance companies to help alleviate this pain point. Knowing all you can about each company, and how they structure their student loan refinancing products, is imperative before you make any decision.
Take a look at some of the best rates below:
Overview of the best student loan refinance companies
|Company||Best for||APR||Loan limits|
|Fiona||Loan shopping||Varies||$1,000 – $100,000|
|Credible||Multiple benefits||starting at 3.34% APR (with autopay)* and 1.04% Var. APR (with autopay)*||$5,000+|
|SoFi||Low rates and added benefits||1.81% – 5.98%||$5,000+|
|Upstart||Debt consolidation and younger borrowers||5.67% – 35.99%||$1,000 – $5,000|
|LightStream||Quick financing||3.99% – 16.79%||$5,000 – $100,000|
|LendingTree||Multiple lenders||2.87% – 7.49%||Varies|
|Earnest||Flexibility||1.99% – 5.64% (includes 0.25% autopay discount) variable and 2.98% – 5.79% (includes 0.25% autopay discount) fixed||$5,000+|
|LendKey||Simplicity via smaller banks||1.92%||$5,000 – $300,000|
|PenFed||Parents and cosigner||Varies||$7,500 – $300,000|
|CommonBond||Longer forbearance||2.56% – 6.87%||$5,000 – $500,000|
Fiona makes finding the right loan as easy as possible. They’re a loan aggregator, so you can shop multiple loans at once via Fiona’s simple one-page application. Simply tell Fiona your estimated credit score, your zip code, and the amount you need to refinance. From there, Fiona pulls up a long list of reputable lenders and outlines the terms, APR, and your monthly payment.
Fiona is completely free to use, but you may need to pay fees depending on the lender you choose – but those are specific to the lender, not Fiona.
With loan amounts ranging from $1,000 all the way to $100,000, you’ll likely be able to find a loan to cover the rest of your student loan payoff. Your specific APR will depend on how much you need to pay off and your own personal credit score. What’s nice, however, is Fiona lets you toggle between a fixed and variable rate, so you can see how each type of rate will affect your monthly payments.
If you ever find yourself in need of help along the way, Fiona offers a robust resource library that can help you understand the refi process and student loans in general.
They will take your information and shop it around to their partner lenders to find you the best deal.
Credible doesn’t have a minimum credit score to apply, but the majority of their lenders usually require a credit score of 650 or above.
The APR will vary depending upon the lender chosen for you – starting at 3.34% APR (with autopay)* and 1.04% Var. APR (with autopay)*. The option is amazing!
You also won’t pay fees to Credible when you refinance your student loan, but the lender you go with may have fees, so it’s best to check the fine print.
Your loan terms will vary depending upon the loan servicer, as well. In general, you will probably be able to choose between five, seven, 10, or 15 years. But the average borrower has a 10-year loan term through Credible. Their loan servicers start at $5,000 and go up to whatever your current loan balance is.
Since SoFi became the first student loan refinancing company to refinance federal and private loans together, they have been at the forefront of new products.
While they don’t specify a specific credit score needed to qualify, the average credit score of borrowers is 700 and above.
In addition, their current variable APR is 1.81% – 5.98% and fixed is 3.46% – 5.98%. If you elect into autopay, then they will automatically deduct .25% from the APR. They have no origination fees. They do charge a $5 late fee, however. You can choose your loan term of five, seven, 10, 15, or 20 years.
Their loans start at $5,000 and go up to whatever your current loan balance is.
Upstart is a personal loan provider that will give you a loan to help refinance your student loans. Since they don’t actually specialize in student loan refinancing, they may have much higher interest rates than you are currently paying. For younger borrowers, without a long credit history, this can be a big bonus.
Upstart’s minimum credit score to apply for a loan is 620, and their current APR range is pretty wide, coming in at 5.67% – 35.99%.
They do have origination fees that range from 0% – 8% and will charge you a late fee of $5 or 5%. LendingTree’s current loan terms run three to five years. Which is good if you want to pay off your student loans in a shorter amount of time, and have the capital to do it.
LightStream is similar to Upstart in that they don’t specialize in student loan refinancing. However, their rates are based upon the purpose of the personal loan. So, if you are using the personal loan to refinance your student loans, they have a tendency to loan higher amounts with lower interest rates for that specific purpose.
They will also disburse funds the same day you are approved, so that is a huge bonus.
The minimum APR required to qualify for a LightStream loan is 660. LightStream’s current APR range is pretty wide, however not nearly as vast as Upstart’s APR. LightStream comes in at 3.99% – 16.79%, and is dependent upon your planned use for the loan, along with a few other factors.
Most of their loans come with a loan term of two to seven years, but can go up to 12 years, depending upon the purpose of the loan. LightStream is willing to loan anywhere from $5,000 – $100,000. So, if you don’t need to borrow at least $5,000, looking elsewhere might be beneficial.
LendingTree is similar to Credible in that they will connect you with multiple lenders once you input your information into their system.
They even offer educational resources, like articles about how to get a Stafford Loan and fixed vs. variable rate student loans. If you are having trouble understanding the different types of student loans available, this can be a big help.
Yet again, similar to Credible, they don’t have a minimum credit score to apply. But most of their lenders prefer credit scores of 660 or above for a higher chance of loan approval.
LendingTree’s current rates range from lender to lender. While that range can be anywhere from 1.81% – 7.49%, the average is closer to 3%. And, while LendingTree itself doesn’t charge you any fees, each individual lender has their own loan criteria, so you will have to dig into each personal offer you are entertaining for their fees.
Earnest is well known for their vast flexibility when it comes to payments. They will refinance both federal and private student loans into one bulk loan instead, with only one payment. And they give you the control to determine your monthly payment, which can change as your financial situation changes. This is the kind of flexibility that can truly affect how much quicker you might be able to get out of student loan debt, so I love this!
The minimum APR required to qualify for their loans is 650. The APR offered by Earnest can be pretty competitive, at 1.99% – 5.64% (includes 0.25% autopay discount) for variable rate loans. If you prefer a fixed rate loan, the rates are 2.98% – 5.79% (includes 0.25% autopay discount), which is still pretty darn good. Your individual rate will be based upon your credit score, income, and credit report.
Earnest does not charge any origination, prepayment, early payment, or extra payment fees for any of their student loan refinances.
LendKey is a great option for anyone looking to simplify their student loans by using smaller banks, instead of larger ones. They offer some of the longest forbearance periods (between 12 – 18 months) and they don’t have to run a hard pull on your credit to see if you qualify.
The minimum APR required to qualify for their loans is 660, and the current APR options for their student loan refinances are 1.92% for variable loans or 2.95% for fixed loans. And just like Earnest, their rates go up from there and will be determined by your credit score, credit report, and income.
LendKey also does not charge any origination, prepayment, early payment, or extra payment fees for any of their student loan refinances. Depending upon the lender, however, there may be late fees ranging between $5 – $15.
LendKey is similar to quite a few of the other options in that you can choose between 5 – 20 years for your student loan refinance.
PenFed is a great resource for its members since they fund their student loan refinances in-house. They have a variety of options, but are most well known for working with parent and/or cosigner student loans. Meaning if your parents took out a student loan for you, they have the ability to refinance and put the loan in your name instead.
PenFed is also great for married couples looking to refinance both of their student loans into one loan for more simplicity.
The minimum APR required to qualify for their loans is 670, and the APR options with PenFed can vary widely based upon your credit score, credit report, and income. The best way to get an idea as to where you might be is to use their “Find My Rate” tool on the refinance page to get started.
PenFed is another institution that does not charge any origination, prepayment, early payment, or extra payment fees for any of their student loan refinances. However, they do charge a late fee of 20% of your interest after a payment is five days late. The maximum they are allowed to charge is $25 though.
With PenFed you must have received at least an undergraduate degree in order to qualify for any of their student loan refinances. If you have, then their loan limits will range between $7,500 – $300,000, depending upon your degree and the amount of student loans.
CommonBond is a newer company in the student loan refinance space. However, they have some of the longest forbearance periods on the market of up to 24 months. This is awesome for those of us needing a little bit longer of a grace period. The fact that they also offer the ability to refinance parent PLUS loans is something else that makes them a great competitor in this market.
With CommonBond the rates vary slightly between their variable and fixed loans. For the variable loans the APR ranges between 2.56% – 6.87%. For the fixed loans the APR range is between 2.59% – 6.74%.
CommonBond does not charge any origination, prepayment, early payment or extra payment fees for any of their student loan refinances. But, they do charge a late fee after a payment is 15 days late. This fee is the lesser of 5% of the monthly payment or $10.
CommonBond is comparable to most of the other lenders in offering student loan refinance terms of between 5 – 20 years.
How I came up with this list
This list was derived from my need to give many different options to those in completely different situations. Whether you have a lower credit score, are a younger borrower, or need less money, there are options for you to refinance your student loans.
And for those of you who aren’t sure where you fall exactly, Credible and LendingTree are great resources to begin with. They will help you tap into multiple different lenders to get an idea of the range of products you might qualify for before you dive any deeper.