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Student Loans

The Ultimate Guide to Earnest Student Loans

Private Student LoansView Rates
  • Loans for undergraduates, graduates, parents, and more
  • Choose an in-school repayment plan or defer payments
  • No fees, including late payment or origination fees
  • 9-month grace period is longer than other lenders
  • Skip one payment per year without penalty
  • Check your eligibility in two minutes without impacting your credit score
  • Doesn’t allow for cosigners to be released
  • Must be enrolled at least half-time
  • Not available in Nevada
Rates (APR)4.11%16.20%
Loan amounts$1,000 – 100% of certified costs
Repayment terms5, 7, 10, 12, or 15 years
Refinance Student LoansView Rates
  • Consolidate federal and private student loans
  • Choose between biweekly and monthly payments
  • Adjust your payment date if needed
  • Make extra or early payments with no fees
  • Skip one payment per year without penalty
  • Cosigners must reside in the same state as the borrower
  • Not available in Nevada
Rates (APR)5.19% – 9.74%
Loan amounts$5,000 – $500,000
Repayment terms5 – 20 years
Min. credit score665

Founded in 2013, Earnest is 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.

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 can proceed with the full application, where you can choose your 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, graduate, and parent student loans all earn three 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 offers 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 if their account is in good standing. The skipped payment is added 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

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, and parent student loans:

Rate discounts0.25% autopay
Loan amounts$1,000 – 100% of certified costs
Repayment terms5, 7, 10, 12, or 15 years
Grace period9 months
Cosigner releaseNone

Here are the interest rates for each of its private student loans:

Loan TypeRates (APR)

What are the eligibility requirements?

A cosigner isn’t required, but having one can significantly affect your approval odds and lower your interest rate. Earnest notes that the likelihood of approval increases fivefold when a cosigner is involved, and more than 90% of its student borrowers have a cosigner.

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

CitizenshipU.S. citizen or permanent resident
State of residenceAll states except Nevada
Minimum ageMust be the age of majority
Enrolled schoolEligible 4-year Title IV institution
Minimum credit score650 
Minimum income$35,000 per year
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.

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 termMonthly payment Total interest paid
5 years$193.33$1,599.80
7 years$149.05$2,496.40
10 years$111.02$3,322.40
12 years$98.17$4,180.40
15 years$84.07$5,132.60

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.

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. Lenders such as College Ave, Sallie Mae, and Ascent can be viable alternatives.
  • 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 independently, consider lenders that offer no-cosigner or bad-credit student loans.

Check out our resource comparing Earnest and SoFi student loans if you’re considering an alternative.

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 two competing student loan companies so you can assess based on factors that are important to you:

EarnestCollege AveSallie Mae
Rates (APR)4.11%16.20%4.07% – 16.69%4.50% – 16.70%
Min. loan amount$1,000$1,000$1,000
Max. loan amount100% of costs100% of costs100% of costs
Repayment terms5, 8, 10, or 15 years5, 8, 10, or 15 years10 – 15 years
Grace period9 months6 months6 months
View ratesView ratesView rates

Comparison of undergraduate student loans.

Earnest’s refinance student loan

Best refinance lender for skipping a payment

  • Refinance $5,000 to $500,000
  • 5 – 20 year terms
  • Choose biweekly or monthly payments

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 for its rates, terms, and fees. It offers competitive fixed and variable rates, diverse loan amounts, and extensive repayment terms. 

In addition, its zero-fee policy and unique repayment assistance features allow Earnest to deliver exceptional value for borrowers.

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

Fixed rates (APR)5.19% – 9.74%
Variable rates (APR)5.99% – 9.74%
Rate discounts0.25% autopay
Loan amounts$5,000 – $500,000
Repayment terms5 – 20 years
Cosigner releaseNone

*Variable rates are unavailable in Alaska, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas.

What are the eligibility requirements?

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

CitizenshipU.S. citizen or permanent resident
State of residenceAll except for Nevada
Graduation statusEnrolled less than half-time or have graduated
Minimum credit score665
Minimum incomeNot disclosed

How does repayment work?

Repayment terms range from five to 20 years, allowing you to choose a term that aligns with your budget and long-term financial goals when you accept 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 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.

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, evaluating customer reviews and ratings is crucial. 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 were collected on July 6, 2023.

The BBB rating is low. However, remember that 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 many satisfied customers.

BBB reviewers have voiced dissatisfaction with Earnest’s customer service, citing difficulties in granting requests. 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 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. 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 circumstances, and consult with a financial advisor to make the best choice for your education financing.

How we rated Earnest student loans

We compared Earnest 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.

Earnest FAQ

Does Earnest offer private or federal student loans? 

Earnest offers private student 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 seek 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. The lender usually sends the funds to the school to verify their appropriate use before excess funds are sent to the primary borrower.

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
Parent student loanBest for no fees4.8View rates
Student loan refinanceBest skip a payment benefit4.8View rates