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Student Loans

LendKey Student Loans: Know Your Borrowing Options

LendKey offers private student loans and refinancing options on its digital platform.

  • Partners with more than 300 credit unions and community banks, prioritizing customer service.
  • Aims to provide low-rate loans online, passing savings along to borrowers.
  • Soft credit check for prequalification based on borrower-provided information.
  • Rewards program offers $200 bonus for successful referrals.

LendKey was founded in 2009 to enable community financial institutions to provide fair and transparent access to low-cost lending options, including private student loans and refinancing. 

A digital lending-as-a-service platform, LendKey connects borrowers with credit unions and community banks, upholding its core values of choice, transparency, and innovation. 

It caters to undergraduate and graduate students attending degree-granting institutions. Eligibility for loans from LendKey depends on various factors, including the borrower’s credit history and income and the institution they attend.

How does LendKey work?

LendKey is a digital platform that enables credit unions and community banks to provide student loans and refinancing options. It partners with more than 300 lenders who share the goal of helping borrowers. This unique partnership allows it to offer low-rate loans online and pass the savings to borrowers.

You can apply through LendKey with a simple online submission. You can customize your loan amount, starting at $2,000, according to your needs. LendKey disburses funds to your school. Refinancing options are available to consolidate your student loans or qualify for better terms or a lower interest rate on a single loan.

LendKey’s private student loan

Rates, terms, and fees

LendKey’s student loans offer options for undergraduate and graduate students. 

Its starting rates and benefits—such as rate discounts for autopay—are standard among competitors.

Overview of LendKey’s undergraduate and graduate student loans

Fixed rates (APR)Starting at 4.89%
Variable rates (APR)Starting at 6.03%
Rate discounts0.25% autopay
Loan amounts$2,000 – 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance
(LendKey’s maximum aggregate loan amounts are $120,000 for undergraduates and $160,000 for graduate students)
In-school repayment plans$25 flat monthly (called “proactive payment”)

Interest-only payment
Repayment terms5, 10, or 15 years
Grace period6 months (must continue to make in-school payments during this time)
Repayment assistanceBorrowers may request to make interest-only payments (minimum $50) on the loan for the first 2 years after the grace period ends
Cosigner releaseYes, after 24 consecutive, full on-time principal and interest payments
FeesSome LendKey lenders charge late fees and insufficient funds fees
Unique featuresChoose your lender from several credit unions and community banks

LendKey partners with NextJob to offer career counseling and job placement services to borrowers

Financial literacy tools for borrowers

Referral program ($200 bonus for referring friends or family members to LendKey)

What are the eligibility requirements?

LendKey doesn’t require cosigners on its student loans, but it recommends them, especially for applicants who may not meet credit requirements on their own. 

LendKey advises that 93% of student loan borrowers had a cosigner for the 2021 – 2022 school year.

Many of LendKey’s eligibility requirements are standard for the student loan industry, but it doesn’t lend to borrowers in the following five states:

  • Maine
  • Nevada
  • North Dakota
  • Rhode Island
  • West Virginia
CitizenshipU.S. citizen or permanent resident
State of residenceU.S. states and territories except: Maine, Nevada, North Dakota, Rhode Island, and West Virginia
Minimum ageAge of majority in your home state (18 in most states)
Enrolled schoolLendKey’s list of approved schools isn’t public, but you’ll enter your school when you apply to confirm it’s eligible
Enrollment statusMust be enrolled at least half-time in a degree-seeking program
Minimum credit scoreNot disclosed, but LendKey advises applicants must “meet established credit requirements (or apply with a creditworthy cosigner)”
Minimum income$24,000 (student or cosigner must meet this minimum)
GPAMinimum 2.0 GPA and must meet the school’s satisfactory academic progress (SAP) requirements
OtherMust be or become a credit union member during the online application process

How does repayment work?

LendKey’s repayment terms range from five to 15 years. Borrowers choose their term length when they accept the loan—five, 10, or 15 years—based on their expected financial capacity.

Longer repayment terms may mean lower monthly payments, but they can lead to higher overall costs due to the accrued interest.

You can see how this might work in the table below demonstrating payments on a $10,000 student loan at 6% APR:

Repayment term (years)Monthly payment after grace periodTotal interest paid

LendKey offers two in-school repayment plans:

  1. A $25 flat monthly payment known as a “proactive payment”
  2. An interest-only payment—as a means for borrowers to start reducing their loan debt while in school. Monthly interest-only payments would be $50 on the above-mentioned $10,000 loan at 6% APR.

Upon graduation, a grace period of six months allows borrowers to secure stable income before commencing full loan repayments. For those facing financial hardship, LendKey provides repayment assistance, allowing borrowers to make minimum interest-only payments for the first two years after the grace period.

LendKey also facilitates a cosigner release after 24 consecutive on-time principal and interest payments. This feature allows the primary borrower to take full responsibility for the loan, relieving the cosigner of any associated risks.

LendKey lenders may charge late fees and insufficient fund fees, so be aware of your payment schedule to avoid these additional costs.

How can LendKey improve its private student loans?

LendKey could improve its student loans and increase competitiveness in several ways:

  • Allow students to defer payments during school and grace period: LendKey requires in-school and grace period payments—as a flat $25 monthly fee or as interest-only payments. This might be a burden for students with limited income. Other lenders, including College Ave, Sallie Mae, and Ascent, offer the option to defer payments while in school.
  • Increase its minimum loan amount: LendKey has a minimum loan amount of $2,000. Lenders such as College Ave, Earnest, and Sallie Mae offer loans as low as $1,000 if you need a smaller loan.
  • Expand repayment term options: LendKey offers three repayment terms: five, 10, or 15 years. Other lenders provide more flexibility. For example, Earnest and College Ave offer four terms, and Ascent provides as many as five terms for specific degrees.
  • Improve state availability: LendKey’s loans aren’t available in every state. It could consider expanding to all 50 states to serve more students, similar to College Ave, Sallie Mae, and SoFi.

How do LendKey private student loans compare to other lenders?

LendKey’s student loans rate behind student loan companies College Ave, Earnest, and Sallie Mae. With a rating of 3.2 stars, LendKey hasn’t earned a specific best-for designation.

LendKeyCollege AveEarnestSallie Mae
Our rating (out of 5)4.2 stars5 stars4.7 stars4.8 stars
Best forNo designationBest overallBest rate match guaranteeBest for cosigners
Rates (APR)Starting at 4.89% (fixed)

Starting at 6.03%(variable)
4.44% – 15.99% (fixed)

5.29% – 15.99% (variable)
4.68%16.15% (fixed)

5.64%16.45% (variable)
4.50% – 14.83%(fixed)

5.87% – 16.20% (variable)
Loan amount$2,000 – 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance $1,000 – 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance$1,000 – 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance$1,000 – 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance
Repayment terms5, 10, or 15 years5, 8, 10, or 15 years5, 8, 10, or 15 years10 – 15 years
Grace period6 months6 months9 months6 months
View ratesView ratesView ratesView rates

Comparison of undergraduate student loans.

LendKey offers five-, 10-, or 15-year repayment options, a range less extensive than its competitors. College Ave and Earnest provide similar terms, and Sallie Mae’s terms are between 10 and 15 years. 

All lenders, apart from Earnest, offer a standard six-month grace period, with Earnest providing a longer nine-month window. This can be appealing for borrowers who need more time to settle into repayment after they leave school.

LendKey’s refinance student loan

LendKey is a solid choice for refinancing student loans, particularly if you value the close-knit service you can get from smaller financial institutions. 

This uniqueness stems from LendKey’s model of partnering with community banks and credit unions to provide loans. Such partnerships help to support local institutions and can lead to more personalized service.

The benefits extend beyond service. LendKey offers competitive rates and repayment terms. It allows you to check your rates with a soft credit pull, ensuring your credit score remains unaffected while you explore loan options.

Another attractive feature is LendKey’s cosigner release policy. If you apply with a cosigner, LendKey will release them after 24 months of on-time payments. This policy can add to LendKey’s appeal for those seeking to refinance their student loans with a cosigner.

Rates, terms, and fees

LendKey’s refinance student loans offer a competitive package in line with industry standards. Its rates and terms cater to various financial situations, and its unique partnership with community banks and credit unions provides options often overlooked in the larger market. 

Be aware, though, that fees and repayment assistance may vary depending on the lender.

LendKey student loan refinance overview

Fixed rates (APR)As low as 5.24%
Variable rates (APR)As low as 5.27%
Rate discounts0.25% autopay
Loan amounts$5,000 – $300,000 (Minimum for residents of Arizona is $10,001; $15,001 for Connecticut residents, and $6,000 for Massachusetts residents)
Repayment terms5, 7, 10, 15, or 20 years
Repayment assistanceIt depends on the lender (LendKey advises some partners may offer deferment or forbearance options)
Cosigner releaseYes, after 24 consecutive, full on-time principal and interest payments
FeesSome LendKey lenders charge late fees and insufficient fund fees
Unique featuresChoose your lender from several credit unions and community banks

LendKey partners with NextJob to offer career counseling and job placement services to borrowers

Financial literacy tools for borrowers

Referral program ($200 bonus for referring friends or family members to LendKey)

What are the eligibility requirements?

Refinancing your student loans with LendKey is contingent on certain eligibility criteria. For instance, you must hold an associate, undergraduate, graduate, or doctorate degree from a Title IV-eligible school. 

LendKey accepts U.S. citizens or permanent residents but does not operate in all states. It does not disclose the minimum credit score or income required for refinancing. However, your financial situation will likely affect the approval process. 

LendKey accepts cosigners on its refinance loans, which can improve the chances of approval and secure a lower interest rate.

CitizenshipU.S. citizen or permanent resident
State of residenceU.S. states and territories except: Maine, Nevada, North Dakota, Rhode Island, and West Virginia
Graduation statusMust have completed an associate, undergraduate, graduate, or doctorate degree from a Title IV-eligible school
Minimum credit scoreNot disclosed
Minimum incomeNot disclosed

How does repayment work?

LendKey’s repayment options are competitive. It offers repayment terms of five, seven, 10, 15, or 20 years, allowing borrowers to select a term that best suits their financial circumstances. 

These varied terms balance monthly payments and total loan cost, allowing the borrower to decide what’s optimal.

Here’s an example of how terms might differ for a borrower who chooses to refinance a $20,000 student loan balance at a 6% fixed APR. As you can see, a longer repayment term can mean lower monthly payments but a higher total repayment cost:

Loan term (years)Monthly paymentTotal repayment

This table assumes the loan payments are made in full and on time each month. The actual rates and repayment amounts may vary depending on your lender.

In addition to term flexibility, certain LendKey partners provide assistance options, such as deferment or forbearance. These can provide relief from payments in case of financial hardship, but interest often continues to accrue during these periods.

LendKey incentivizes on-time payments by offering cosigner release after 24 consecutive, full on-time principal and interest payments. Not all lenders offer this perk, but it might appeal to you and your cosigner as a way to relieve their obligation earlier.

How can LendKey improve its refinance student loans?

LendKey offers a compelling option for borrowers seeking to refinance their student loans, but it could improve in two areas to cater to a broader array of borrowers.

First, LendKey’s services are not available in all states. Borrowers in Maine, Nevada, North Dakota, Rhode Island, or West Virginia can’t refinance with LendKey. Citizens Bank offers a solid alternative, providing refinance loans in all 50 states.

Second, the maximum loan amount LendKey offers might not be sufficient for all borrowers. With a cap of $300,000, borrowers with significant student debt might find this limit restrictive. If you fall into this category, consider Earnest. It offers a higher maximum loan limit, providing refinance loans up to $500,000.

Is LendKey a reputable lender?

Considering a company’s customer ratings when shopping for student loans can be valuable because it provides insight into the experiences of other borrowers, offering a real-world perspective on the lender’s service quality, responsiveness, and ease of use.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is a private nonprofit organization that accumulates and provides free business reviews. BBB-accredited businesses meet the BBB’s high standards of honesty and transparency. 

LendKey is a BBB-accredited business with an A+ rating, the highest possible. It has a lower customer rating but only one review.

Trustpilot is another platform for customer reviews. It has a strong verification process to ensure the authenticity of reviews. LendKey has an excellent rating on Trustpilot, based on more than 400 reviews at the time of writing.

SourceCustomer ratingNumber of reviews
Better Business Bureau (BBB)1 out of 51
Trustpilot4.6 out of 5 415
Google3.2 out of 59

Ratings collected on July 14, 2023

Reviewers’ experiences with LendKey vary. The single customer review on BBB is negative, citing slow processing and lack of transparency. However, LendKey has responded to all 21 complaints made through the BBB over the past three years, showing its commitment to resolving customer issues. 

On Trustpilot, LendKey shines with an “excellent” rating. Many reviewers commend its simple, transparent student loan refinancing and customer service. Google reviews offer a mixed image but without specific details about student loans.

LendKey has several complaints but also significant positive feedback, especially from Trustpilot. BBB accreditation and an A+ rating further solidify its reputation as a reputable lender.

Does LendKey have a customer service team?

LendKey’s customer service team can assist with any queries or issues you may have. LendKey manages its loans internally, meaning the same team that helps set up your loan will guide you through the repayment process.

Here are the ways to get in touch with LendKey:

  • Phone: Dial 888-549-9050. The team is available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern.
  • Fax: You can send a fax to 800-583-1416.
  • Email: Contact [email protected].

LendKey makes it easy for borrowers to communicate their concerns and get prompt assistance.

How to apply for a LendKey student loan

LendKey’s application process for a student loan is straightforward and organized. Like other lenders, it involves a review of your application and credit report and may require supporting documentation. 

LendKey aims to provide conditional approval after a quick initial review.

Here are the steps to apply for a student loan from LendKey:

  • Click the “refinance student loans” or “private student loans” button on LendKey’s homepage.

Source: LendKey

  • Determine your needs: Know your school, the academic period you’re applying for, and the required loan amount.
  • Gather your information: Prepare your Social Security number and, if applicable, your cosigner’s contact information.
  • Get your rate online: Submit your application through the LendKey website.

Source: LendKey

Source: LendKey

  • Await review: LendKey will review your application and credit report.
  • Get your preapproved rate, and submit your complete application: To move forward after seeing your interest rate, apply and authorize a hard credit check.
  • Provide additional documentation: If requested, submit supporting documents, such as proof of income or identification.
  • Wait for school certification: Your school needs to certify your loan, which may add time to your application process.

The process often takes less than 30 days, but LendKey recommends applying at least one month before the funds are due. This timeline can ensure all steps, including school certification, are completed on time.

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

If LendKey denies your application for a student loan from LendKey, you can take several steps. LendKey, like other lenders, must provide an adverse action notice that explains the reasons for the denial. This notice can offer insight into areas to work on, such as credit score or income.

You can consider reapplying for the loan with a cosigner to increase your chances of approval. It’s also worth investigating alternative resources and lenders.

For example:

These resources suit different circumstances and individual needs, so consider your situation when looking into these options.

LendKey FAQ

Does LendKey offer private or federal student loans? 

LendKey only offers private student loans. It’s a digital platform that partners with credit unions and community banks to provide private student loans and student loan refinancing options.

Does applying with LendKey hurt my credit? 

Applying for a loan with LendKey initiates a hard credit inquiry, which may lower your credit score by a few points. However, the effect is temporary, and responsible repayment of your loan could help build your credit over time.

Does LendKey require a cosigner? 

LendKey doesn’t require a cosigner, but a cosigner could increase your chances of loan approval and help you secure a lower interest rate, especially if you have a limited credit history or lower credit score.

Does LendKey allow cosigners to be released? 

Yes, LendKey offers a cosigner release option. Borrowers can request to release their cosigner from the loan obligation after making 24 consecutive, on-time full monthly principal and interest payments and meeting specific credit requirements.

What can LendKey student loans be used for? 

You can use LendKey student loans to cover the total cost of attendance at a degree-granting institution, which includes tuition, room and board, books, and other education-related expenses. You can’t use a LendKey student loan for noneducational expenses.

How long does it take to receive funds from LendKey? 

In most cases, it takes less than 30 days for LendKey to process and certify a loan. However, the exact timing may vary depending on the school and the individual application.

Is LendKey responsible for paying off my current student loans? 

When you refinance with LendKey, it pays off your student loans and issues a new loan for the total amount. You are then responsible for making payments to LendKey or its loan servicer.

Can LendKey student loans be forgiven? 

Private student loans from LendKey are not eligible for federal loan forgiveness programs, such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness. However, in case of a borrower’s death or permanent disability, LendKey may discharge the loan.

How we rated LendKey student loans

We designed LendEDU’s editorial rating system to help consumers identify companies that offer the best financial products. Our experts spend hours researching these companies each year to ensure our ratings are fresh and accurate.

Our most recent evaluation compared LendKey to several lenders across several factors, including rates, repayment terms, customer reviews, and benefits. We weighted, scored, and combined each factor to produce a final editorial rating. This rating is expressed on a scale from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest possible score. We round all ratings to the nearest tenth decimal place.

Student loanOur rating
Private student loan4.2 out of 5View rates
Refinance student loan4.2 out of 5View rates