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Student Loans

Earnest vs. Discover: Student Loan Comparison

As of January 31, 2024, Discover is no longer accepting new student loan applications.

Student loans are a major decision. The terms, conditions, and monthly payment impact your life—and finances—for years. That’s why it’s essential to compare student loan offers from the top lenders to secure the best deal. 

Earnest and Discover are reputable student loan providers, but there are some notable differences. Earnest is an online-only lender specializing in student loans with options catering to undergraduates, graduates, medical residents, law students, and parents. Discover is a traditional bank offering savings accounts, credit cards, mortgages, and student loans. 

Here’s everything you need to know about both lenders, including interest rates, terms, eligibility requirements. 

Earnest vs. Discover private student loans: Everything you need to know

View Rates

View Rates

Rates (APR) 4.42%15.90% (fixed)

5.62%16.20% (variable)
5.24% – 15.99% (fixed)

6.49% – 17.37% (variable)
Rates (APR) Rates (APR)
4.42%15.90% (fixed)

5.62%16.20% (variable)
5.24% – 15.99% (fixed)

6.49% – 17.37% (variable)
Loan amounts $1,000 – 100% of certified attendance costs $1,000 – 100% of certified attendance costs (excluding bar study and medical residency loans)
Loan amounts Loan amounts
$1,000 – 100% of certified attendance costs $1,000 – 100% of certified attendance costs (excluding bar study and medical residency loans)
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 its variable- and fixed-rate loans, which means borrowers could have lower monthly payments than they would with Discover. But you might be able to offset the higher rate with Discover’s cash rewards for good grades. Rewards range from $50 to $500 depending on how much you borrow. 

When it comes to eligibility requirements, it’s difficult to compare the lenders since Discover does not share its income or credit score requirements. But the good news is that both lenders offer a 0.25% interest rate discount if you sign up for automatic payments. Earnest offers a slightly longer grace period after graduation — nine months compared to six months with Discover. 

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

You must meet the eligibility criteria to apply for a student loan. Requirements vary from one lender to the next, but you typically need a solid credit score and reliable income. 

If you don’t meet that criteria, consider asking a cosigner to apply with you. 

When you add a cosigner, the lender will review their credit and income information to determine eligibility.

Here are the eligibility criteria for Earnest and Discover if you apply without a cosigner.

Eligibility CriteriaEarnestDiscover
Minimum credit score✅ 650 or above and at least three years of credit history❓Not specified, but you must pass a credit check
Minimum income✅ $35,000 per year❓Not specified
Must have a cosigner if you do not meet requirements✅ Yes✅ Yes
Loans available in every state❌ Not available in Nevada✅ All U.S. states, including the District of Columbia
Must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident✅ Yes✅ Yes
Must attend at least half-time at an eligible school✅ Yes✅ Yes

Discover vs. Earnest: When one might be better than the other for private student loans

Your personal situation, including your grades and finances, might impact whether Earnest or Discover is a better fit. Here’s when you might want to choose Earnest instead of Discover and vice versa.   

ScenarioBest lender
If you want a more time before repayment beginsEarnest
If you want more flexible repayment optionsEarnest
If you have a high GPADiscover
If you want to guarantee the lowest rateEarnest

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

Earnest offers a nine-month grace period after graduation, while Discover only offers six months. 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 might prioritize Earnest, which lets you skip one payment each year with no extra fees. This is an unusual benefit most lenders don’t provide. 

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

If you have a high GPA: Discover

Students with a 3.0 GPA or higher may earn a one-time cash reward that equals 1% of their loan amount for each individual Discover loan. For example, if the loan amount is $10,000, you’ll earn 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 does not include accrued interest. You can apply the bonus to your student loan balance or have Discover deposit it in your bank account, where you may use it for any purpose.

If you want to guarantee the lowest rate: Earnest

Earnest offers a rate match guarantee. Once you qualify for a lower private student loan rate with a different lender, show the offer to Earnest. The company will match the rate and give you a $100 Amazon gift card once it’s complete. 

Earnest vs. Discover: Our choice for private student loans

Earnest is our pick between these two lenders. Even though Discover offers a cash reward for good students, Earnest has lower interest rates, more repayment options, and a longer grace period. 

Repayment terms are a top consideration when deciding 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

View Rates

View Rates

Rates (APR) Starts at 5.19% (fixed)

Starts at 5.99% (variable)
5.99% – 9.99% (fixed)

7.49% – 11.49% (variable)
Rates (APR) Rates (APR)
Starts at 5.19% (fixed)

Starts at 5.99% (variable)
5.99% – 9.99% (fixed)

7.49% – 11.49% (variable)
Loan amounts $5,000 – $500,000 $5,000 –  $150,000
Loan amounts Loan amounts
$5,000 – $500,000 $5,000 –  $150,000
Cosigner release Not available Not available
Cosigner release Cosigner release
Not available Not available
Repayment terms 5 – 20 years 10 or 20 years
Repayment terms Repayment terms
5 – 20 years 10 or 20 years

Earnest offers lower interest rates than Discover, as well as a variety of extra features. 

Borrowers who refinance with Earnest can skip one payment a year, and can choose monthly or biweekly payments. Earnest also allows borrowers to change their due date, which can make it easier to avoid late payments and fees. 

Discover has higher interest rates, but unique benefits include 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?

Discover doesn’t disclose its credit score and income requirements, making it difficult to compare eligibility requirements. Earnest clearly states that borrowers must have a 650 minimum credit score for student loan refinancing.

Both lenders allow you to add a cosigner to the refinance if you’re worried your income or credit score is too low.

Eligibility criteriaEarnestDiscover
Minimum credit score✅ 650 ❓Not specified
Cosigner must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with adequate credit and income✅  Yes✅  Yes
Must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident✅ Yes✅  Yes
Can refinance while you’re in school✅ Yes, but only during your final semester✅  Yes

Earnest vs. College Ave: When one might be better than the other for student loan refinancing

As you choose between Earnest and Discover for student loan refinancing, consider how your personal situation may affect which lender is best for you. Here’s which lender is a better fit in certain scenarios. 

ScenarioBest lender
If you have a high loan balanceEarnest
If you want more repayment optionsEarnest
If you want flexible paymentsEarnest
If you want to refinance while in schoolDiscover

If you have a high loan balance: Earnest

With a $500,000 maximum, Earnest has a higher loan balance maximum than Discover, which only offers up to $150,000. If you have hundreds of thousands in student loans, you’ll likely find it easier to refinance with Earnest. 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 repayment options than Discover. Borrowers can choose from a monthly or biweekly repayment schedule so you can line it up with your paycheck. More repayment options can make it easier for borrowers to pick a plan that works for their budget and lifestyle.

If you want flexible payments: Earnest

Earnest lets borrowers skip one payment a year without fees. You don’t need to apply for deferment to be eligible for this program, and Earnest doesn’t charge extra for the service. Discover does not offer a similar benefit.

If you want to refinance while in school: Discover

Even though both lenders allow you to refinance while you’re still in school, Discover offers more flexibility. With Earnest, you cannot refinance until you are in your final semester before graduation. You don’t need to wait that long with Discover since you can refinance earlier in your education. 

Earnest vs. Discover: Our choice for student loan refinancing

Earnest is our pick for student loan refinancing. The company has lower interest rates and higher loan balance limits, so refinancing is available for more borrowers. It also lets you view your interest rate without a full credit check. 

Similarly, Earnest has high customer service ratings, which can make the refinancing process smoother for borrowers. It also offers more flexible repayment options, like 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. Here’s how the lenders compare according to customer reviews. 

SourceEarnest customer ratingDiscover customer rating
Trustpilot4.7 out of 5 (6,281 reviews)1.9 out of 5 (239 reviews)
Google2.9 out of 5 (22 reviews)1.0 out of 5 (1 review)
Better Business Bureau1.67 out of 5 (15 reviews)1.18 out of 5 (348 reviews)

Collected on January 20, 2024.

Based on customer reviews, Earnest is the top pick. The lender earns an impressive 4.7 out of 5 rating with more than 6,000 reviews on TrustPilot, which signifies high satisfaction. The ratings are for private student loans, personal loans and student loan refinancing. 

Customer ratings for Earnest are much lower on the Better Business Bureau and Google. But the ratings are still higher than Discover’s ratings. 

Discover earns a 1.9 out 5 rating on Trustpilot with over 200 reviews, significantly lower than Earnest’s ratings. It’s important to note that the reviews are for all divisions within the company, and the low rating might not adequately reflect customers’ experiences with student loans. 

Although interestingly enough, one of the Discover reviews mentions that the borrower was able to secure a lower rate with Earnest.