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Student Loans

Credit Unions to Refinance Student Loans

In addition to checking and savings accounts, some credit unions offer student loan refinancing to eligible borrowers. Refinancing student loans through a credit union could potentially save money if you’re able to lock in lower rates or avoid certain loan fees. 

Credit unions don’t operate primarily for profits; instead, they aim to serve the needs of their members first. They tend to have lower overhead costs, allowing them to charge lower rates for loans, including student loan refinancing. 

Is a credit union student loan refinance right for you? Comparing the best credit union refinancing options can help you decide. 

4 credit unions to refinance student loans

Our team looked into several credit unions that refinance student loans to find the ones that offered unique features and benefits to borrowers. Here’s our list. 

Credit unionAvailabilityRates (APR)Terms
CredibleVaries by lender4.75%14.52%Varies by lender
Navy Federal Credit UnionActive duty, retired military, veterans, Department of Defense civilians, and family members in all 50 statesStart at 4.85%5, 10, or 15 years
PenFed Credit UnionMembers in all 50 statesStart at 7.74%5, 8, 10, or 15 years
LendKeyVaries by lenderStart at 8.11%5 – 20 years

Credible

  • Compare multiple offers
  • User-friendly platform
  • No impact on your credit score

Credible is not a credit union; it’s a marketplace for comparison shopping for financial products. It was included in this list because it frequently partners with credit unions, so borrowers can compare credit union and non-credit union loan offers in one location. 

As of January 5th, 2024, the only options for credit unions in its network come through LendKey, which connects borrowers with local banks and credit unions.

  • Services for military members and their families
  • No application or origination fees

Navy Federal Credit Union is an excellent option for those affiliated with the military. It offers a standard refinance student loan and parent refinance student loan. 

While its terms are competitive, its member-focused approach is the area in which it truly stands out. It offers a career assistance program to support borrowers during their careers.

PenFed Credit Union

  • Open membership with a focus on community and education
  • Competitive refinancing options for student loans
  • Personalized member services and support

PenFed Credit Union offers a community-focused approach to banking, including student loan refinancing. It provides competitive rates and dedicated member support, making it a strong choice for borrowers seeking a more personalized refinancing experience. 

Cosigners can be added, which could lower the interest rate on the loan.

LendKey

  • Partners with community credit unions and banks
  • Checking your rate won’t impact your credit

LendKey operates by connecting borrowers with various credit unions for student loan refinancing. This approach allows for a range of options and tailored solutions backed by the efficiency of a technology-driven platform. 

LendKey is ideal for those seeking the community feel of a credit union combined with the convenience of an online service.

Ask the expert

Eric Kirste

CFP®

You usually have to be a credit union member to qualify for a loan. Some credit unions may allow you to obtain membership while you are applying for a loan. This typically requires opening up a checking and savings account.

Pros and cons of student loan refinance with credit unions 

Opting for a credit union student loan refinance has some upsides, but there are a few drawbacks to consider as well. Looking at both sides can help you decide if choosing a credit union over a traditional bank or online lender makes sense. 

Pros

  • Lower rates

    You may qualify for lower student loan refinance rates than you would elsewhere.

  • Open to more borrowers

    A credit union may be more willing to work with you if you have bad or no credit. 

  • Larger refinance amounts 

    You might be able to refinance a larger amount of student loan debt. 

  • More lenient cosigner release

    If you need a cosigner to get approved, a credit union may be more lenient about releasing them from the loan down the line.  

  • Member perks

    Some credit unions offer special perks to members, such as discounts for partner businesses, discounted loan rates, or cash rewards when you open a new account. 

Cons

  • Membership required

    You’ll first need to meet the membership requirements to join a credit union to apply for a refinance loan

  • Cosigner may be required 

    Some credit unions may require you to have a cosigner if you don’t meet minimum credit score requirements. 

  • Slower funding speed

    Funding speed after approval may be slower at a credit union than it is at a bank or online refinance lender. 

Banks, by comparison, don’t require you to meet membership requirements to apply for a loan. You may not even need to have an account at the bank. Online lenders, meanwhile, can offer competitive student loan refinance rates with fast funding approval and funding. 

Not everyone will qualify for a loan—regardless if its a credit union or a bank.

Eric Kirste

CFP®

How to find the best credit union to refinance student loans 

You may look at national and local options when comparing credit unions for student loan refinancing. National credit unions may have broader criteria for membership, making it easier to join and apply for student loan refinancing. You might prefer a local credit union, however, if you’d like to be able to visit a nearby branch. 

Finding local or regional credit unions that offer student loan refinancing may be as simple as doing a short online search. You can try searching for ‘credit union near me’ or ‘credit union student loan refinance near me,’ then spend some time researching the different options that come up. 

Here are some helpful items to consider when comparing student loan refinancing at credit unions:

  • Minimum and maximum loan amounts available
  • Interest rates and whether rates are fixed or variable
  • Loan fees, if applicable
  • Available refinancing terms
  • Credit union membership requirements
  • Loan management (i.e., online banking, mobile banking, branches, etc.)
  • Membership perks or benefits
  • Customer service

The criteria for joining can vary from one credit union to another. Most often, you’ll need to live, work, attend school, or worship in a particular geographic area or belong to a partner organization. Some credit unions also base membership on military affiliation. 

How to refinance student loans with a credit union 

Refinancing student loans with a credit union is similar to refinancing with a bank or online lender. If you’ve never refinanced student loans before, here’s a look at how it typically works. 

  1. Choose a lender. If you haven’t compared credit union refinancing options yet, doing that first is a good idea. You can use the credit union student loan refinance picks we selected earlier as a starting point for checking rates and getting prequalified.  
  2. Organize your documents. Getting some paperwork together beforehand can save time when you’re ready to apply for student loan refinancing. You’ll need the most recent statements for each loan you want to refinance, along with bank statements, pay stubs, and a photo ID.
  3. Open your credit union account. You’ll typically need to open a savings account with a credit union before you can apply for loans. The minimum deposit is usually around $5 and you’ll need a photo ID and Social Security number or other tax identification number for the paperwork. You’ll also need to share your address, phone number, and date of birth. 
  4. Complete the application. Once you’ve joined the credit union, you must fill out the lender’s application for student loan refinancing. Whether you do this online or in person depends on which credit union you work with. If you’re applying online, the lender should walk you through how to upload any documents you’re required to provide.
  5. Provide your cosigner’s information if that applies. If you’re applying for student loan refinancing with a cosigner, they’ll need to share some details with the credit union as well. That includes their name, date of birth, and Social Security number, which is required for the credit check.  
  6. Apply and wait for a decision. If you’ve completed the application and double-checked everything is correct, you can submit it to the lender. How quickly you get a decision can depend on the credit union, but one to seven business days is fairly common.
  7. Sign the loan agreement. The final step is signing off on the loan paperwork. Remember that you’ll need to keep up with the payments to the old loan until the credit union has paid it off. Otherwise, you risk getting hit with late fees and dinging your credit score if the old loan goes unpaid. 

Learn more about how to refinance student loans to decide if it’s right for you.