Best Private Student Loans for 2020

Mike Brown
Updated: July 1, 2020

Many or all of the companies featured provide compensation to LendEDU. These commissions are how we maintain our free service for consumers. Compensation, along with hours of in-depth editorial research, determines where & how companies appear on our site.

Private student loans can be used to pay for college after you’ve exhausted all of your scholarship, grant, and federal student loan options.

If you already filled out the FAFSA to see what other aid you qualify for, the next step is to compare multiple private loans to find the lowest interest rate.

To help you do this, we researched and analyzed lenders to find the best private student loans available today. Having a good credit score or creditworthy cosigner can increase your chances of being approved and qualifying for the lowest rates.

Compare Private Student Loan Interest Rates

Lender Fixed APR Variable APR Repayment Terms APR Range
College Ave Student Loans

0.00%-0.00%

Fixed APR

0.00%-0.00%

Variable APR

5, 8, 10, or 15

Repayment Terms

0.00%-0.00%

APR Range

What we like

  • New private undergrad, graduate, and parent loans available
  • Full, interest-only, flat, and deferred payment choices when in school
  • Zero application fees, origination fees, or prepayment fees
  • 0.25% interest reduction for automatic payments while in school

Additional Information

See our College Ave Student Loans Review and Important Disclosures

Servicer UAS
Loan Minimum $1,000
Loan Maximum School-Certified Expenses
Loan Types Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parent
Fees No origination or prepayment fees
Earnest

0.00%-0.00%

Fixed APR

0.00%-0.00%

Variable APR

5, 8, 10, or 15

Repayment Terms

0.00%-0.00%

APR Range

What we like

  • Full, interest-only, and flat payments available while in school or full deferral until after graduation
  • 0.25% Auto Pay discount
  • 9 month grace period after leaving school before payments are required
  • Skip one payment per year without penalty
  • Defer payments if you go back to school, join the military, or are in a residency or fellowship

Additional Information

See our Earnest Student Loans Review and Important Disclosures

Servicer Earnest
Loan Minimum $1,000
Loan Maximum School-Certified Expenses
Loan Types Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parent
Fees No origination or prepayment fees
Ascent

0.00%-0.00%

Fixed APR

0.000.00%

Variable APR

5, 8, 10, or 15

Repayment Terms

0.00-0.00

APR Range

What we like

  • 1% cash back graduation reward
  • Affordable fixed or variable rates
  • No application fees
  • Automatic debit discount
  • Considers eligibility criteria other than credit score and income

Additional Information

See our Ascent Student Loans Review and Important Disclosures

Servicer Ascent
Loan Minimum $1,000
Loan Maximum School-Certified Expenses
Loan Types Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parent
Fees No origination or prepayment fees
LendKey Student Loans

0.00%-0.00%

Fixed APR

0.00%-0.00%

Variable APR

5, 10, or 15

Repayment Terms

0.00%-0.00%

Estimated APR

What we like

  • Choose from Multiple Lenders – access to multiple lenders through a single platform
  • No origination fees or application fees
  • Interest rate discount when they enroll in automatic payments
  • Cosigner release available

Additional Information

See our LendKey Student Loans Review

Loan Minimum $1,000
Loan Maximum $160,000
Loan Types Undergraduate and Graduate
Fees No origination, application, or prepayment fees
Citizens Bank Student Loans

0.00%-0.00%

Fixed APR

0.00%-0.00%

Variable APR

5, 10, or 15

Repayment Terms

0.00%-0.00%

Estimated APR

What we like

  • Cosigner release available after 36 consecutive on-time principal and interest payments
  • 0.50% discount on rates for autopay and for opening a student checking account with Citizens Bank
  • No application or origination fees

Additional Information

See our Citizens Bank Student Loans Review

Servicer Firstmark Services
Loan Minimum $1,000
Loan Maximum $150,000
Loan Types Undergraduate, Graduate, Professional, and Parent Loans
Fees No origination or prepayment fees

Best Private Student Loans

With so many private student loan lenders out there, it can be difficult to decide which is the best for you. To help solve this problem, we researched and analyzed lenders to find the best options for specific situations.

The following companies are LendEDU partners who have been extensively vetted by our Editorial Team. Our partners update us of any product changes, so we can be sure to keep the information on this page accurate for our readers. Note that these lenders don’t represent all of the options available to you.

Click a lender’s name to jump down to that section:


College Ave

Best for: Best Overall, Best for Checking Rates Before Applying

College Ave Student Loans

Editorial Rating (5.0 / 5.0)

  • Loan types include undergrad, graduate, parent, and career training
  • In-school repayment options include full, interest-only, flat, and full deferment
  • 0.25% interest reduction for making automatic payments
Variable Rates

0.00%-0.00%

Fixed Rates

0.00%-0.00%

Repayment Terms

5, 10, 15,

Fees

None

College Ave comes in at the top of our list of the best private student loan companies. With loan options for all levels of schooling, competitive rates, a lot of flexibility in repayment, and an easy application process that includes a soft credit check for a rate quote, College Ave is a great option for almost any student.

Borrowers can apply to have their grace period extended by an extra six months and there are extensive deferment and forbearance options for those who need to delay making payments. College Ave also allows borrowers to release their cosigners after just 24 months of on-time payments.

>> CHECK RATES AT COLLEGE AVE


Earnest

Best for: Flexible Repayment

Earnest Student Loans

Editorial Rating (4.8 / 5.0)

  • Loan types include undergrad and graduate
  • In-school repayment options include full, interest-only, flat, and full deferment
  • 0.25% interest reduction for making automatic payments
  • Option to skip one payment a year
Variable Rates

0.00-0.00

Fixed Rates

0.00-0.00

Repayment Terms

5, 10, 15

Fees

None

Earnest makes our list as the second-best private student loan company and the best for flexible repayment. The lender offers a nine-month grace period (three months longer than most other companies), many deferment and forbearance options, and allows borrowers to skip one payment a year. Earnest also allows borrowers to set up automatic biweekly payments and automatic payments larger than the minimum payment.

>> CHECK RATES AT EARNEST


Citizens Bank

Best for: Large Bank

Citizens Bank Student Loans

Editorial Rating (4.4 / 5.0)

  • Loan types include undergrad, graduate, and parent
  • In-school repayment options include full, interest-only, and full deferment
  • Up to 0.50% in interest rate reductions
  • Multi-year approval available
Variable Rates

0.00%-0.00%

Fixed Rates

0.00%-0.00%

Repayment Terms

5, 10, 15

Fees

None

If you are interested in taking out a private student loan from a large bank with physical locations and a long track record of lending, Citizens Bank is one of the best options. The bank offers some of the lowest rates in the market and offers up to 0.50% in interest rate discounts (0.25% for automatic payments and 0.25% for opening a Citizens Bank Student Checking Account). Another great benefit of Citizens Bank is that it offers multi-year approval, allowing students to take out additional student loans in later years without having to go through the full application process.

>>CHECK RATES AT CITIZENS BANK


Ascent

Best for: Students Without a Cosigner

Ascent Student Loans

Editorial Rating (4.5 / 5.0)

  • Loan types include undergrad and graduate
  • In-school repayment options include full, interest-only, flat, and full deferment
  • 0.25% – 2.00% interest rate reduction for making automatic payments depending on loan type
  • No cosigner loans available for juniors, seniors, and graduate students
Variable Rates

0.00%-0.00%

Fixed Rates

0.00-0.00

Repayment Terms

5, 10, 15

Fees

None

Ascent is a great option for juniors, seniors, and graduate students without a cosigner. If you are a freshman or sophomore and need a student loan without a cosigner, check out FundingU. While most lenders require that students have a cosigner to be approved, Ascent’s non-cosigned loan factors in other criteria to help determine your eligibility. Because of this, however, rates are typically higher than loans you would receive with a cosigner. Ascent also offers a competitive cosigned loan option for students who do have one.

>> CHECK RATES AT ASCENT


How We Chose the Best Private Student Loan Companies

LendEDU has rated and reviewed private student loan lenders since 2014. In order to find the best student loans for this article, we analyzed over 20 data points for our partner lenders.

Here are some of the most important data points we considered:

  • Interest rates: The rate on your loan has the largest impact on the total cost of it over time. Typically, the lower the rate you are offered, the better the loan is.
  • Term lengths: Your term length is the amount of time you have to repay your loan and affects your monthly payments. The best lenders offer a wide range of repayment term options so you can choose one that fits into your budget.
  • In-school repayment options: Most lenders allow you to make partial or full payments during school or defer your payment until after graduation. Making payments while in school—even if you are just paying the interest—will help reduce the total cost of your loan.
  • Discounts available: The most common discount offered is for making automatic payments. Some lenders offer additional discounts, as well, that can help reduce the cost of your loan.
  • Loan amounts: Each lender has different limits on how much you can borrow.
  • Cosigner release: If you use a cosigner on your loan, you may be able to release them from their shared responsibility after a certain number of on-time payments.
  • Deferment options: If you decide to go back to school, enter the military, or are in a medical residency or fellowship, your lender may allow you to defer payments during this time so you don’t have to make payments. Just be aware that interest will likely accrue during these times which will increase the cost of your loan.
  • Forbearance options: Forbearance allows you to delay making payments if you face financial hardship. Like deferment, interest will usually still accumulate during this time, but your loan won’t enter default and your credit score won’t be affected.
  • Initial soft credit pull availability: Some lenders allow you to check your eligibility and receive rate quotes with a soft credit check. This won’t affect your credit score like a hard credit check does and allows you to see if you are happy with your likely rate before going through the full application process.
  • Customer support options: We also considered the availability of customer support from lenders, including phone, email, live chat, and in-person.
  • Extra benefits and rewards: Almost every lender offers unique perks to borrowers such as rewards for graduating, flexibility in repayment, and career coaching.
  • BBB rating: We checked each lender’s credibility with the Better Business Bureau to make sure they were reputable companies with no or minimum complaints.
  • Trustpilot: We also read through customer reviews on Trustpilot to make sure other borrowers had a good experience.

Private Student Loan FAQs

Here are some of the most common questions we receive when it comes to private student loans. Click a question to jump down to it or keep scrolling to read them all.


What can a private student loan be used for?

In most cases, students can use private student loans for any costs associated with college. These may include tuition, room and board, books, computers, and even living expenses like food.

Typically, lenders will send your student loan money directly to your college. First, the money will be used for remaining mandatory expenses like tuition. Then, your college will give you any leftover money for you to use how you see fit.


When should I apply for a private student loan?

There is no set time in which you can apply for private student loans. If an unexpected expense comes up in the middle of the semester and you need some extra money to help pay for it, you can apply for a new loan.

It can, however, take anywhere from a week to up to two months for colleges to receive your loan funds. If you need the money for a mandatory expense like tuition, make sure that you leave enough time to get through the process.


What are the eligibility requirements? Do I need a cosigner?

Each lender has its own eligibility requirements, but most lenders will examine an applicant’s credit history, debt, income, college or university, field of study, and residency status.

Generally, you will need to be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, have a credit score of 700 or higher, and meet some income threshold to be eligible for a private student loan without a cosigner.

A LendEDU study found that the average approved private student loan applicant had a credit score of 737 and annual income of just under $73,000. In addition, only 8.66% of applicants without a cosigner were approved for a loan.

If you aren’t able to qualify for a private student loan on your own, adding a creditworthy cosigner can help. The same study found that when students applied with a cosigner, the approval rate jumped to 40.51% from 8.66% without a cosigner.

If you don’t have a cosigner and don’t meet the eligibility requirements on your own, you should consider looking into student loans for those without a cosigner or student loans for those with bad credit.


How does the application process work?

Applying for private student loans is usually easy and can almost always be done online. There are also many mobile-friendly applications that allow you to apply directly from your phone.

Here are the general steps of applying for a private student loan:

  1. Fill out some basic personal and educational information and have your cosigner fill out similar information (if applicable). In most cases, the lender will use this information to run a soft credit check to see if you meet the initial eligibility requirements.
  2. Next, you will likely have to upload documents so the lender can verify that you are eligible and what your interest rate will be. This process usually takes a few hours up to a few days. If the lender runs a hard credit check as part of the application process, this is when it will happen.
  3. Once you receive your loan options, you will have to decide which to accept, if any. The offers will most likely have varying interest rates based on loan term lengths.
  4. Once you receive your loan options, you will have to decide which to accept, if any. The offers will most likely have varying interest rates based on loan term lengths.
  5. After choosing the loan that best fits your needs, the last step is to sign the promissory note. This is a legally binding contract that requires you to pay back the student loan over time with interest.
  6. Shortly after you sign the promissory note, your student loan funds will be sent to your school for disbursement.

Other Helpful Student Loan Resources