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Student Loans

The Ultimate Guide to Earnest Student Loans

Updated Oct 20, 2023   |   27-min read

We’ve designated Earnest student loans: Best rate match guarantee, best for skipping a payment, and best for no fees

  • Multiple loan types are available, including undergraduate, graduate, and specialty school loans
  • Customizable rrepayment options and a generous nine-month grace period
  • Get a 0.25% autopay discount and the option to skip one payment annually
  • Multiple deferment and forbearance options in case of financial hardship or military service

Founded in 2013, Earnest positions itself as a modern finance company committed to aligning its services with clients’ ambitions. With a mission to empower people with the financial capital they need to live better lives, Earnest strives to provide an unprecedented level of service and expertise.

Earnest offers private student loans and student loan refinancing to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are enrolled at or have graduated from a Title IV accredited university or graduate program. The company offers competitive rates and repayment options to make education more accessible and manageable.

In this review:

How does Earnest work?

Earnest offers a variety of private student loans to prospective students, current students, and their families. It provides loans for undergraduate and graduate programs, half-time students, specialty loans for MBA, medical, and law programs, and refinancing options. 

The loan amount you can borrow from Earnest is determined by your (or your cosigner’s) creditworthiness, your cost of attendance, and other financial factors. Earnest disburses funds to the school in most cases.

The application process with Earnest is straightforward. It begins with a two-minute eligibility check that doesn’t affect your credit score. If you’re eligible, you proceed with the full application, where you chooseyour preferred loan terms. 

As for refinancing, Earnest consolidates all eligible student loans into a single loan with a potentially lower interest rate. You can refinance federal and private student loans with Earnest.

Why Earnest is the best for skipping a payment, best rate match guarantee, and best for no fees

Earnest’s undergraduate student loans, graduate student loans, and parent student loans all earn three of our top designations:

  • Best for skipping a payment
  • Best rate match guarantee
  • Best for no fees

Earnest stands out in the private student loan market for its unique features designed to provide flexibility and savings for borrowers. It’s the only student loan lender we’ve rated that offers a rate match guarantee

If another lender offers you a better rate, Earnest promises to match it and even goes a step further by offering a $100 Amazon gift card once your rate match is finalized. This program ensures borrowers get the best possible rate, enhancing affordability.

Another feature that distinguishes Earnest is its option to skip a payment. Once per year, borrowers may skip one month’s payment as long as their account is in good standing. Theskipped payment is dded to the end of the loan term, providing a breather for borrowers facing temporary financial tightness.

Earnest is our highest-rated lender—scoring 4.7 out of five—that charges no fees. This includes no application, origination, or late fees, a major win for borrowers aiming to keep their overall cost of borrowing down.

Earnest’s terms and fees

Compared to others in the industry, Earnest’s rates, terms, and fees for its student loan products stand out due to its customer-centric approach. 

Earnest offers a broad range of fixed and variable rates, extended grace periods, and various in-school repayment plans to suit different borrower needs. The absence of fees adds an extra layer of attraction.

Here is a detailed breakdown of Earnest’s terms, and fees that apply across its undergraduate, graduate, half-time, and parent private student loans:

Overview of Earnest’s terms and fees 

Rate discounts0.25% autopay
Loan amounts$1,000 – 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance
Repayment terms5, 7, 10, 12, or 15 years
Grace period9 months (not available if making full principal and interest payments while in school)
Repayment assistanceDeferment for unemployment or economic hardship (up to 3 years) and full-time military service (during active duty and the first 13 months after)

Up to 1 year of forbearance in certain cases, including owing 20% or more of your gross monthly income in student loans, a medical or dental residency program or internship, being a member of the National Guard and being activated by your state’s governor, participating in a teaching service that qualifies for teacher loan forgiveness
Cosigner releaseNone
Unique featuresRate match guarantee with a $100 bonus

Option to skip 1 payment each year

Can adjust your term down to the day to get your ideal monthly payment

What are the eligibility requirements?

The eligibility criteria for Earnest’s student loans ensure a broad reach to potential borrowers. A cosigner isn’t required, but having one can make a significant difference in your approval odds and in lowering your interest rate. 

Cosigned student loans often come with lower interest rates thanks to the cosigner’s typically longer credit history. Earnest advises the likelihood of approval increases fivefold when a cosigner is involved, and more than 90% of its student borrowers have a cosigner on their loans.

Here is a detailed look at Earnest’s eligibility requirements for undergraduate, graduate, half-time, and parent loans:

Overview of Earnest’s eligibility requirements

CitizenshipBorrower or cosigner must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
State of residenceAll states are accepted except Nevada. Earnest loans to borrowers in the District of Columbia.
Minimum ageMust be the age of majority: 18 in all states except Alabama (19), Mississippi (21), and Nebraska (19)
Enrolled schoolMust be attending or enrolled to attend an eligible 4-year Title IV institution
Minimum credit scoreCosigners need a minimum credit score of 650 
Minimum incomeCosigners should have a minimum yearly income of $35,000 (in USD)
Bankruptcy historyNo history of bankruptcy

International students can also apply, provided they have a creditworthy cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and meets all the eligibility requirements.

Follow the links below to read product-specific information about Earnest’s student loans:

Earnest’s undergraduate student loan

Rates and terms

Here are the rates and terms specific to Earnest’s undergraduate loan:

Fixed rates (APR)4.68%16.15%
Variable rates* (APR)5.64%16.45%
In-school repayment plansDeferred (no payments while in school)

Interest only

$25 flat

Full principal and interest payments

*Variable rates are not available in Alaska, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas.

What are the eligibility requirements?

To qualify for Earnest’s undergraduate student loan, in addition to the general eligibility requirements we laid out in the table above, students must be enrolled full-time in an eligible institution.

How does repayment work?

Earnest distinguishes itself in the student loan industry with its repayment options. Many lenders offer only a few standard repayment plans, but Earnest goes beyond this with options to suit different financial situations. 

This gives borrowers more control over their financial journey and can make a significant difference in managing the overall cost of the loan.

Among the available in-school repayment options are: 

  • Deferred (no payments while in school)
  • Interest only
  • $25 flat
  • Full principal and interest payments

The borrower chooses their repayment term when they accept the loan terms. The choices are:

  • Five years
  • Seven years
  • 10 years 
  • 12 years 
  • 15 years

Here’s what a $10,000 loan at 6% APR might look like based on which repayment term a borrower chooses. As you can see, a longer term can mean a higher monthly payment but paying less in interest.

Repayment term (years)Monthly payment Total interest paid

Please note: The figures in the table are approximations. Exact amounts may vary based on the specifics of the loan agreement and the timing of payments.

Earnest also provides more assistance programs than many other lenders. It offers deferment for unemployment or economic hardship for up to three years and full-time military service. 

It also allows up to one year of forbearance under specific circumstances, including income, residency programs, National Guard service, and teaching. Such broad support underlines Earnest’s commitment to helping its borrowers navigate financial challenges.

Earnest’s graduate student loans

Rates and terms

Earnest caters to the needs of graduate students by offering a general graduate loan along with specific MBA, medical school, and law school loans. Each loan caters to these distinct academic paths’ unique financial needs and challenges.

Here’s a snapshot of the rates and terms for each of these loans:

Loan typeFixed rates (APR)Variable rates (APR)Repayment terms
General graduateStarting at 4.45%Starting at 5.66%5 years

7 years

10 years 

12 years 

15 years
MBA graduateStarting at 4.45%Starting at 5.66%Same as general graduate
Medical schoolStarting at 4.45%Starting at 5.66%Same as general graduate
Law schoolStarting at 4.45%Starting at 5.66%Same as general graduate

*Variable rates are not available in Alaska, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas.

Rates are competitive, and Earnest provides several in-school repayment options.

What are the eligibility requirements?

Earnest requires its graduate loan borrowers to meet the criteria laid out above, with one exception: It doesn’t require graduate students to be enrolled full-time.

How does repayment work?

Earnest allows borrowers to select from a range of terms and in-school repayment plans and offers unique assistance programs.

Borrowers can choose from deferred, interest-only, $25 flat, or full principal and interest payments while in school. This gives students the ability to manage their financial obligations while focusing on their studies. These in-school repayment options are available across Earnest’s general, MBA, and medical school graduate loans.

Here’s what the in-school repayment options might look like on a $10,000 graduate school loan at 6% APR where the borrower chose a 10-year repayment term. Paying full principal and interest while in school often results in paying less in total interest, but not all graduate students can do so.

In-school repayment planMonthly payment
Interest only$50
$25 flat$25
Full principal and interest$111.02

Earnest offers several assistance programs. Borrowers facing financial hardships, unemployment, or active military duty can benefit from deferment options, and there’s also the possibility of forbearance under specific circumstances. These programs offer additional support that can help to ease financial stress during challenging times.

When you accept the loan, you can choose a repayment term between five and 15 years. Your repayment term and plan can affect the overall cost of the loan. A shorter term with higher payments can save on interest costs in the long run, while a longer term with lower payments might be more manageable for those with tighter monthly budgets.

Earnest’s half-time student loans

Rates and terms

Among lenders offering half-time student loans, Earnest helps part-time students manage their loans easily and efficiently. 

Lenders such as College Ave, Sallie Mae, and Ascent offer loans to half-time students too. Earnest distinguishes itself with unique features such as the option to skip a payment and its rate-match guarantee. 

This makes it a solid choice for those studying on a less-than-full-time basis. The following table provides an overview of Earnest’s rates and terms for half-time student loans:

Fixed rates (APR)Starting at 4.43%
Variable rates (APR)Starting at 5.39%
In-school repayment plansDeferred, interest only, $25 flat, full principal and interest 

*Variable rates are not available in Alaska, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas.

What are the eligibility requirements?

Earnest’s half-time loans aren’t available to graduate students. However, graduate students attending college part-time are eligible for the graduate student loan. Only undergraduate students attending school part-time or half-time can take out this loan.

In addition, applicants must meet the eligibility requirements we laid out above.

How does repayment work?

Earnest offers borrowers four in-school repayment plans: Deferred, interest only, $25 flat, and full principal-and-interest payments. 

When you accept the loan, you choose the in-school repayment plan that best suits your financial situation as well as your repayment term. Choices are: 

  • Five years
  • Seven years
  • 10 years 
  • 12 years 
  • 15 years

A longer repayment term can mean lower monthly payments but a higher overall cost. Suppose you borrowed $5,000 from Earnest at 6.5% APR. Here’s what repayment might look like depending on which term you chose:

Repayment termMonthly paymentTotal cost of loan
5 years$98.33$5,900.01
7 years$74.73$6,271.80
10 years$56.91$6,829.68
12 years  $49.84$7,181.56
15 years$43.43$7,817.38

Earnest outperforms many of its competitors with its borrower-friendly policies. The option to skip a payment once a year is a unique benefit that can provide a respite to borrowers facing financial constraints. 

The absence of fees makes Earnest a cost-effective option for half-time students.

Earnest’s borrower-friendly repayment terms can help keep the overall cost of the loan in check while accommodating the changing financial circumstances of part-time students.

Earnest’s parent student loan

Rates and terms

Earnest holds its own with competitive rates and repayment terms in the realm of student loans aimed at parents, guardians, or sponsors. 

Only the parent is responsible for repaying it. Earnest’s other loans offer four in-school repayment terms. But since parents or guardians are responsible for paying the loan rather than the student, no deferred or fixed in-school repayment plans are available.

Fixed rates (APR)Starting at 4.43%
Variable rates (APR)Starting at 5.39%
In-school repayment termsInterest only 

Full principal and interest

*Variable rates are not available in Alaska, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas.

What are the eligibility requirements?

The parent loans share many eligibility requirements outlined in our overview table for Earnest’s student loans but have several unique differences. The student must be pursuing a degree at a Title IV-qualified not-for-profit four-year institution and one of the following:

  • A full-time freshman, sophomore, or junior 
  • A senior enrolled at least a half-time 
  • A graduate student (no full-time enrollment requirement)

How does repayment work?

Parent loan borrowers select their Earnest repayment plan when they accept the loan. They can opt to make interest-only or full principal and interest payments while their child is in school.

Repayment terms on Earnest parent loans are as follows:

  • Five years
  • Seven years
  • 10 years
  • 12 years
  • 15 years

The choice of repayment term will affect the overall cost of the loan, with longer terms often meaning you’ll pay more interest over time.

Imagine you take out a $20,000 loan at 5.5% APR and choose a 10-year repayment term. Here’s what payments might look like depending on which repayment term you choose:

Repayment planMonthly in-school paymentWhen repayment ends
Interest only$91.67After 10 years (120 payments) 

Term begins after the student leaves school and the nine-month grace period ends.
Full principal and interest$215.10After 10 years (120 payments)

Term begins immediately (grace period doesn’t apply if the parent chooses this plan)

For the interest-only plan, the parent would only pay the interest accruing on the loan while the student is in school. Once the student leaves school and repayment begins, the payment includes principal and interest.

For the full principal and interest plan, the parent pays the same amount each month (during and after the student’s schooling). If the parent chose this option and made on-time payments as scheduled, they would pay off the loan faster than the interest-only plan. 

The 10-year term for the interest-only plan wouldn’t begin until the student leaves school and the parent begins making full principal and interest payments.

How can Earnest improve its private student loans?

Earnest provides a wide array of beneficial features for student loans, but it leaves several areas for improvement:

  • Cosigner release: Earnest doesn’t offer a cosigner release option, which removes a cosigner from the loan obligation after a certain period of on-time payments. If this feature is important to you or your cosigner, consider lenders such as Sallie Mae and Ascent, which offer cosigner release after 12 months of on-time payments, or SoFi, which offers this feature after 24 months.
  • Geographical availability: Earnest student loans are not available in Nevada. If you live in this state, lenders such as College Ave, Sallie Mae, and Ascent can be viable alternatives. They offer their services in all 50 states.
  • Minimum income and credit score requirements: Earnest has a set of income and credit score requirements for borrowers or cosigners. If you can’t secure a qualified cosigner or qualify on their own, consider lenders that offer no-cosigner or bad-credit student loans.

For more about SoFi, check out our resource comparing Earnest and SoFi student loans.

How have Earnest private student loans evolved over the years?

Over the years, Earnest has strived to refine its student loan offerings, ensuring it stays relevant and beneficial for its users. Here’s how it has evolved.

Earnest’s first student loan-related offerings were refinancing.

  • In 2019, it expanded to offer undergraduate and graduate student loans. 
  • It began loaning parent student loans in 2021.

How do Earnest private student loans compare to other lenders?

We compared Earnest to three competing student loan companies so you can assess based on factors that are important to you:

EarnestCollege AveAscent (cosigned credit-based loan)Sallie Mae
Our rating (out of 5 stars)4.7 stars4.8 stars4.7 stars4.7 stars
Best forBest rate match guarantee

Best for skipping a payment

Best for no fees
Best overallBest for eligibilityBest for cosigners
Rates (APR)4.68%16.15% (fixed)

5.64%16.45% (variable)
4.44% – 15.99% (fixed)

5.29% – 15.99% (variable)
4.48%15.38% (fixed)

5.94%15.83% (variable)
4.50% – 14.83% (fixed)

5.87% – 16.20% (variable)
Loan amount$1,000 – 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance$1,000 – 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance$2,001 – $200,000$1,000 – 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance
Repayment terms5, 8, 10, or 15 years5, 8, 10, or 15 years5, 7, 10, 12, or 15 years10 – 15 years
Grace period9 months6 months9 months6 months
View ratesView ratesView ratesView rates

Comparison of undergraduate student loans.

Earnest stands out for its rate match guarantee and for allowing borrowers to skip a payment each year. Earnest and Ascent offer nine-month grace periods.

College Ave scores the highest in our rating and is our top-rated student loan overall. It offers similar loan amounts, rates, and repayment terms to Earnest, but its grace period is only six months.

Ascent offers the most varied range of repayment terms and eligibility, and Sallie Mae stands out for its short cosigner release. For more, see how Earnest compares to Discover.

The choice depends on the needs and circumstances of the student or parent borrower.

Earnest’s refinance student loan

Why it’s the best for skipping a payment

Earnest is the only lender that allows borrowers to skip one payment once per year without penalty. This is a terrific feature for those who want peace of mind if an unexpected expense arises and student loan payment funds are needed.

Earnest understands that unexpected financial hardships can occur, so it offers options to put your loans into forbearance, allowing you to pause payments when needed. 

Rates, terms, and fees

Earnest stands out in the student loan refinancing industry regarding rates, terms, and fees. It offers competitive fixed and variable rates, diverse loan amounts, and extensive repayment terms. 

In addition, its zero fees policy and unique repayment assistance features allows Earnest to deliver exceptional value for borrowers.

Here’s a detailed look at what Earnest’s refinance student loan offers:

Fixed rates (APR)Starting at 4.96%
Variable rates (APR)Starting at 5.32%
Rate discounts0.25% autopay
Loan amounts$5,000 – 105% of the total eligible student loan amount listed on your credit report (residents of California must request to refinance $10,000 or more, and residents of New Mexico must request to refinance $10,001.00 or more)
Repayment terms5 – 20 years
Repayment assistanceDeferment for unemployment or economic hardship (up to 3 years) and full-time military service (during active duty and the first 13 months after)

Up to 1 year of forbearance in certain cases
Cosigner releaseNone
Unique featuresOption to sign up for biweekly automatic payments

Rate match guarantee with a $100 bonus

Option to skip 1 payment each year

Can adjust your term down to the day to get your ideal monthly payment

*Variable rates are not available in Alaska, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas.

What are the eligibility requirements?

Earnest doesn’t require cosigners for its student loan refinance. But a cosigner could help you get a lower rate if your credit score is fair or poor. 

Let’s take a quick look at the main eligibility requirements for refinancing student loans with Earnest:

CitizenshipU.S. citizen or holder of a 10-year (nonconditional) Permanent Resident Card
State of residenceDistrict of Columbia and 49 states (all but Nevada)
Graduation statusDegree is complete or will be at the end of the current semester, or all the following are true:
Degree is incomplete, last attending date is more than 6 years ago, credit score is 700 or above, and the school attended was not a for-profit school
Minimum credit score650
Minimum incomeNot stated, but Earnest requires applicants to have a job and a steady income
Other requirementsNo history of bankruptcy, all student loan accounts should be in good standing, and you should be current on rent or mortgage payments

How does repayment work?

Navigating the repayment process of student loans can be complex. But Earnest’s flexible repayment options stand out in the industry. Unlike many lenders, Earnest provides a level of customization that allows you to match your repayment terms with your financial capability.

For its refinanced student loans, Earnest offers terms ranging from five to 20 years. This range allows you to choose a term that aligns with your budget and long-term financial goals when you accept the loan. 

The ability to adjust your term down to the day ensures you can customize a monthly payment when you choose your initial loan terms. But remember, the length of the repayment term affects the overall cost of the loan. A longer term might result in lower monthly payments, but it could increase the total amount of interest paid over the life of the loan.

Imagine you have eight years of payments remaining on a student loan you took out at 7% APR with a 10-year term. Your remaining balance is $25,000. Here’s how payments might differ if you can refinance at 5% APR:

Repayment termMonthly paymentTotal repayment
Current loan: 8 years @ 7% APR$316$30,336
Refinance: 5 years @ 5% APR$472$28,320
Refinance: 10 years @ 5% APR$265$31,800
Refinance: 15 years @ 5% APR$198$35,640
Refinance: 20 years @ 5% APR$165$39,600

Earnest’s repayment assistance programs surpass many others in the industry, with options for deferment during unemployment or economic hardship and forbearance in certain cases. 

Earnest also allows you to skip one payment each year, which can help in challenging times.

How has Earnest student loan refinance evolved over the years?

Earnest has been a part of the student loan refinance landscape since 2016. It first offered two distinct refinance products to cater to different borrower needs: a general refinance and a Parent PLUS loan refinance. This distinction allowed for customization and specificity.

Source: Internet Archive

However, when Earnest branched out to offer private student loans in 2019, it revamped its approach to refinance. It consolidated its refinance options under one comprehensive banner: “student loan refinance.” 

This simplification reflected the company’s evolving understanding of its customer base and the desire to streamline its offerings for easier navigation.

Is Earnest a reputable lender?

When considering a lender, it’s crucial to evaluate customer reviews and ratings. These insights can illuminate the company’s customer service quality, loan management experience, and overall credibility. 

Google, Trustpilot, and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) are reliable sources for these reviews. Trustpilot aggregates global user-submitted reviews, and the BBB provides a platform for consumer complaints and business responses in North America.

Here’s how Earnest fares in customer reviews:

SourceCustomer ratingNumber of reviews
BBB1.56 out of 518 reviews
Trustpilot4.7 out of 55,862 reviews
Google2.9 out of 522 reviews

Ratings collected on July 6, 2023.

The BBB rating is low. However, keep in mind the BBB primarily focuses on consumer complaints and how businesses resolve them, which can skew the rating. The number of reviews is low compared to the thousands of reviews on Trustpilot.

Trustpilot reviewers commend Earnest for its ease of application and fund disbursement, excellent customer service, and clear communication. These positive remarks, combined with a high rating of 4.7 out of five, suggest a large number of satisfied customers.

BBB reviewers have voiced dissatisfaction with Earnest’s customer service, citing difficulties in getting requests granted. However, Earnest is BBB-accredited with an A+ rating, the highest achievable score, reflecting its commitment to resolving consumer complaints.

Does Earnest have a customer service team?

Earnest provides dedicated customer service to its borrowers, handling all aspects of loan servicing in-house, including repayment management and communication. 

When you need help, you’ll deal with Earnest’s own team, rather than being passed to a third-party loan servicer.

Affectionately referred to as the “Client Happiness” team, Earnest’s customer service department is committed to answering all your questions and assisting you during office hours. The team can help with various inquiries, from general to account-specific.

Here’s how you can reach Earnest’s customer service:

  • Email: [email protected]
  • Phone: Call 888-601-2801 between 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. Pacific time, Monday to Friday.
  • Chat: Click the chat icon in the bottom right corner to access Earnest’s virtual assistant anytime. If it can’t assist you, a team member will chat with you during regular office hours.
  • Mailing address: For written correspondence (not payments), you can write to: P.O. Box 9250, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18773-9250.

How to apply for an Earnest student loan

Applying for a student loan with Earnest can be a smooth, user-friendly experience compared to several other lenders. With a clear, streamlined online application process, you can submit all your information and documents from your device. Plus, you will likely hear back within 24 hours of submitting your application.

Here’s how to apply for a student loan with Earnest:

  1. Prepare: Ensure you’ve completed the two-minute eligibility check and created an account on Earnest’s platform. Gather necessary documents, such as W-2s, employment papers, bank statements, and proof of U.S. citizenship. Remember, most applicants apply with a cosigner, which can boost approval chances and secure lower interest rates.

Source: Earnest

  1. Apply: Submit your secure application from your computer, tablet, or smartphone. This step should take about 15 minutes. If you’re cosigning, Earnest will notify the student when your portion is complete.
  2. Select: Once approved, choose your repayment plan and loan term. Options include fixed, deferred, interest-only, and full payment plans. After making your selection, sign your application.
  3. Certification: At this stage, Earnest liaises with your school to confirm your enrollment and certify the loan, verifying the loan amount matches the school’s records. You should get confirmation within 14 days that the lender is sending funds to your school.

What if I’m denied a student loan from Earnest?

If you’re denied a student loan from Earnest, you have options. 

First, consider reapplying with a cosigner if you applied alone. A cosigner can increase your approval chances and even lower your interest rate.

Earnest doesn’t state whether it provides reasons for loan denial. However, per the Fair Credit Reporting Act, lenders must provide reasons for denying an application based on information in your credit report.

In case you can’t or prefer not to apply with a cosigner, consider the following alternatives:

  • No-cosigner student loans: These loans are designed for students who do not have a suitable cosigner. Keep in mind the terms might not be as favorable as those with a cosigner.
  • Bad-credit student loans: If your credit score is the issue, these loans can be a viable option. They’re designed for borrowers with less-than-perfect credit.

Consider your personal circumstances, and consult with a financial advisor to make the best choice for your education financing.

How we rated Earnest student loans

We compared Citizens Bank to 17 student loan lenders offering undergraduate, graduate, parent, and refinancing student loans. Its editorial rating for each student loan reflects how it compares to similar products.

We considered more than 26 factors, including rates, repayment terms, fees, unique benefits, and more. In the end, these were our picks for Earnest:

  • Undergraduate student loan: No designation
  • Graduate student loan: No designation
  • Parent student loan: No designation
  • Refinance student loan: Best overall

Earnest FAQ

Does Earnest offer private or federal student loans? 

Earnest offers private student loans. Unlike federal student loans, which are funded by the government, private entities fund Earnest’s loans. 

Does applying with Earnest hurt my credit? 

Applying for a loan with Earnest involves a hard credit check, which could affect your credit score. However, Earnest offers a rate check that involves a soft credit inquiry, allowing you to see your potential interest rates without hurting your credit score.

Does Earnest require a cosigner? 

Earnest doesn’t require a cosigner, but a cosigner can increase your chances of loan approval and even provide more favorable loan terms. Students who apply for an Earnest loan with a cosigner increase their approval chances by five times.

Does Earnest allow cosigners to be released? 

Earnest doesn’t offer a cosigner release option for its private student loans. If you or your cosigner are seeking this, consider Sallie Mae, Ascent, or SoFi

What can Earnest student loans be used for? 

Funds from Earnest student loans must be used for qualified education expenses. These include tuition, room and board, books, and other education-related expenses. In most cases, the lender sends the funds to the school to verify their appropriate use.

How long does it take to receive funds from Earnest? 

Once you sign your application, Earnest works with your school to send your funds immediately. You can expect a confirmation that the money is being sent to your school within 14 days of signing your loan agreement.

Is Earnest responsible for paying off my current student loans?

If you are refinancing with Earnest, you are ultimately responsible for paying off your current student loans. Earnest facilitates the process by paying off your old loans with your new loan—then you repay Earnest according to your new loan terms.

Can Earnest student loans be forgiven? 

Private student loans, including those from Earnest, do not qualify for federal loan forgiveness programs. However, Earnest may discharge your loan in certain situations, such as permanent disability. It’s best to check with Earnest for any specific scenarios.

Recap of our Earnest student loans review

Student loanBest forOur rating
Undergraduate student loanBest for no fees4.7View rates
Graduate student loanBest for no fees4.7View rates
Half-time student loanBest for no feesNot ratedView rates
Parent student loanBest for no fees4.8View rates
Student loan refinanceBest skip a payment benefit4.8View rates