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Student Loans

Earnest vs. Discover: Student Loan Comparison

Updated Jun 22, 2023   |   10-min read

One of the benefits of taking out private student loans or refinancing through a private lender is the ability to shop around. With a little legwork, you can be confident that you’ve found the best option for your circumstances.

In this comparison, we’ll look at the student loan and student loan refinancing options offered by Discover and Earnest. We’ll examine the interest rates, terms, eligibility requirements, and other factors to help you decide which company is best for you.

Click one of the options below to compare the two companies by that product.

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Rates (APR) 4.43%16.20% 4.49% – 16.24%
Rates (APR) Rates (APR)
4.43%16.20% 4.49% – 16.24%
Loan amounts $1,000 – 100% of certified costs $1,000 – 100% of certified costs
Loan amounts Loan amounts
$1,000 – 100% of certified costs $1,000 – 100% of certified costs
Repayment terms 5, 7, 10, 12, or 15 years 15 years
Repayment terms Repayment terms
5, 7, 10, 12, or 15 years 15 years

Earnest has lower interest rates for both variable and fixed-rate loans, which means borrowers could have lower monthly payments than they would with Discover. It’s hard to compare eligibility requirements between lenders because Discover does not share its income or credit score requirements. 

Both Earnest and Discover offer a 0.25% interest rate discount if you sign up for automatic payments. Earnest offers a longer grace period than Discover at nine months compared to six months. However, Discover provides a cash bonus for students who receive good grades.

Is a private student loan from Earnest or Discover more accessible?

Before you apply for a student loan, it’s important to know if you’re eligible. Student lenders have various criteria that you must meet, with a good credit score and steady income being the two most common criteria.

Because most undergraduate students don’t have a long credit history or a steady income, they often need to have a cosigner on the loan. When you add a cosigner, the lender will review their credit and income information to determine eligibility.

Here are the criteria that it takes to be eligible for a student loan through Earnest and Discover:

Eligibility CriteriaEarnestDiscover
Credit score650 or above and credit history of three years or longerNot disclosed
Income$35,000 per yearNot disclosed
CosignerIf the student doesn’t meet credit or income requirementsIf the student doesn’t meet credit or income requirements
CitizenshipUS citizen or permanent resident, or have a cosigner who is eitherUS citizen or permanent resident, or have a cosigner who is either
AttendanceFull-time student at a Title IV institutionAt least part-time at a bachelor’s or associate’s degree program

Earnest student loans are available for students in all states except Nevada.

Discover has slightly easier requirements because you only need to be a part-time student to be eligible for student loans. Earnest, on the other hand, requires that you be a full-time student. Because Discover doesn’t list their credit score or income requirements, it’s hard to compare them against Earnest. 

Scenarios in which Earnest or Discover is better than the other for private student loans

When choosing between Earnest and Discover, it’s important to consider your personal situation. Read below for some insight into when you should choose Earnest and when you should choose Discover.

If you want a little more time before repayment begins: Earnest

Earnest offers a nine-month grace period after graduation, while Discover only offers a six-month grace period. Those extra three months could help you find a job, get settled, and build up an emergency fund before your loan payment kicks in.

If you want more flexible repayment options: Earnest

Borrowers who want more flexibility should choose Earnest, which lets you skip one payment each year with no extra fees. This is an unusual benefit that most lenders don’t provide. If they do offer it, they’ll usually charge a fee.

When you skip a payment with Earnest, you can use the funds to pay off other debt, save for a short-term goal, or go on vacation. 

If you want better borrower protections: Earnest

Earnest offers a longer deferment program after graduation. Students with Earnest loans can defer their payments up to nine months after graduation, while Discover only lets students defer their loans for up to six months after graduation. 

Even borrowers with federal student loans can only defer their loans for up to six months after graduation. However, the nine-month program only applies for students who do not make payments while they’re in school. If you choose to make interest or principal payments while you’re enrolled, you will not qualify for the nine-month deferment program.

If you have a high GPA: Discover

Students who have a 3.0 GPA or higher may receive a one-time cash reward equalling 1% of their loan amount. This will apply for each individual Discover loan. For example, if the loan amount is $10,000, then you may receive a $100 cash bonus. Freshmen who earn a 3.0 GPA may also qualify for an extra 1% bonus.

After graduating, borrowers may also qualify for a 2% bonus from Discover. The bonus is based on the total loan principal balance and will not include any accrued interest. The bonus can either be applied to the student loan balance or deposited in your bank account, where you may use it for any purpose.

Which company is our choice between Earnest and Discover for private student loans?

While Discover offers a cash reward for good students, Earnest has lower interest rates, more repayment options, and a longer grace period, making it our choice between these two companies. Repayment terms are important when considering a student loan lender and Earnest offers more flexibility with the potential for lower overall costs.

Earnest vs. Discover student loan refinancing: Everything you need to know

Earnest offers lower interest rates than Discover, as well as a variety of extra features. Earnest lets borrowers who refinance skip one payment a year, and they can choose from making monthly or biweekly payments. Biweekly payments may be preferable for borrowers who want to line up their payments with their paychecks.

Earnest also allows borrowers to change their due date, so they pick a time that fits their pay schedule. This can make it easier to avoid late payments and fees. 

While Discover has higher interest rates, they do have some unique benefits. Discover offers several deferment programs for borrowers, including programs for military service members, those in a medical residency program or those working in a public service field. Deferment programs last between three and five years in total. 

Is a refinance student loan from Earnest or Discover more accessible?

Because Discover does not show what their credit score and income requirements are, it’s hard to compare them to Earnest. Earnest has a 680 minimum credit score for student loan refinancing.

If you’re worried that your income or credit score is too low, you can add a cosigner to the refinance. 

Eligibility CriteriaEarnestDiscover
Credit score680 or aboveNot disclosed
IncomeNot disclosedNot disclosed
CosignerMust be a US citizen or permanent resident that meets the credit and income requirementsMust be a US citizen or permanent resident
CitizenshipMust be a US citizen or permanent residentMust be a US citizen or permanent resident or have a cosigner that is either
AttendanceCan refinance while in school as long as you’ll graduate at the end of the current semesterNot disclosed

Scenarios in which Earnest or Discover is better than the other for student loan refinancing

When you’re choosing between Earnest and Discover for student loan refinancing, it’s important to understand how your personal situation may impact which lender is best for you. Read below to see which lender is the better option in certain situations:

If you have a high loan balance: Earnest

Earnest has a higher loan balance maximum than Discover, at $500,000 compared to $150,000. If you have hundreds of thousands in student loans, you’ll likely find it easier to refinance with Earnest than Discover. This can be a huge boost for borrowers with medical school, law school, and other graduate degrees.

If you want more repayment options: Earnest

Earnest offers more varied repayment options than Discover. Borrowers can choose from a monthly or biweekly repayment schedule so you can line it up with your paycheck.

Having more repayment options can make it easier for borrowers to pick a plan that works for their budget.

If you want flexible payments: Earnest

Earnest lets borrowers skip one payment a year without any fees. You don’t have to apply for deferment to be eligible for this program, and there are no extra fees. Discover does not offer any kind of benefit like this.

Which company is our choice between Earnest and Discover for student loan refinancing?

Earnest has lower interest rates and higher loan balance limits, so refinancing is available for more borrowers. They also let you view your interest rate without a full credit check. 

Earnest has high customer service ratings, which can make the refinancing process smoother for borrowers. They also offer more flexible repayment options, including the ability to skip a payment once a year.

Does Earnest or Discover have better reviews and ratings?

When you’re choosing a lender, it’s important to look beyond the interest rates, borrower protections, and other features. Customer service is one of the most important aspects of a lender. Read through customer reviews and use that information to determine which lender you should choose.

LenderTrustpilotLendEDU (Private Loan)
Earnest4.7 out of 54.3 out of 5
Discover2 out of 54.3 out of 5

On Trustpilot, Earnest customers gave the company a 4.7 out of 5 rating with more than 5,000 reviews. These ratings are for both private student loans and student loan refinancing. Many of the recent reviews say that the process to apply was extremely easy and fast. One reviewer wrote, “I was amazed at the convenience of processing 85K in debt.”

Customers also praised Earnest for having competitive interest rates. One borrower wrote that they were able to qualify for a 3.88% interest rate, even though they refinanced last year to a 7% interest rate.

Another borrower wrote, “I have never had a process go so smoothly and quickly. It was totally painless and reduced my monthly payment by $200 per month.”

Discover has a 2 out 5 rating on Trustpilot with about 135 reviews, but they do not have a separate profile on Trustpilot for its student loan or student loan refinancing department. The reviews on Trustpilot are also for Discover’s banking, credit card, and personal loan divisions. 

One of the few reviews that does mention student loans says that a borrower tried to refinance their Discover loans and found that Earnest offered them a lower interest rate.