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Student Loans Student Loan Repayment

Refinance Student Loans: The Best Private Student Loan Lenders

Updated May 11, 2023   |   15 mins read

Student loan refinance is a space that is constantly evolving, with political factors playing a role and macroeconomic influences coming into play. If you need to refinance private student loans, our best overall lender is Earnest.

The 5 Best Student Loan Refinance Companies

  • Best Overall: Earnest
  • Best for Transferring Parent PLUS Loans to Child: ELFI
  • Best for Working With a Community Bank or Credit Union: LendKey
  • Best for Large Bank: Citizens Bank
  • Best for Those in a Residency or Fellowship: Splash

Refinancing your student loans can save you money and simplify repayment. We researched multiple partner lenders to find the best student loan refinance companies for borrowers. Having a good credit score or creditworthy cosigner can help you qualify for the lowest rates. You can also consolidate federal and private student loans together during the process.

Note: The CARES Act has set rates on all federal student loans to 0% through June 30, 2023.

Best Places to Refinance Student Loans

Each student loan refinance lender has unique eligibility criteria, so your approval odds may be higher at one lender than another. Having a good credit score or creditworthy cosigner can help you qualify for the lowest rates.

The following companies are our partners that have been vetted extensively by our Editorial Team. Note that these lenders don’t represent all of the options available to you.

Best overall: Earnest

Best Overall

  • Choose your loan term
  • Remove your cosigner
  • Check your rate without impacting your credit

Earnest offers loans with competitive rates, high maximum loan amounts, and repayment flexibility for borrowers—making it our #1 best place to refinance student loans.

There are 16 choices for repayment terms, so you can find an option that fits your budget. In addition, Earnest serves a wide range of borrowers by refinancing loans anywhere from $5,000 to $500,000. If you need to refinance more than $500,000, ELFI is an excellent option with no maximum limit.

Another great benefit of Earnest is that you can pause payments by putting loans into forbearance in times of hardship. You can also skip one payment annually, make automatic biweekly payments, and even change your repayment date.

  • Variable rates (APR): 4.99% – 8.94%
  • Fixed rates (APR): 4.96% – 8.99%
  • Loan amounts: $5,000 – $500,000
  • Loan terms: 5 – 20 years
  • Minimum credit score: 680
  • Minimum income: $35,000
  • Autopay discount: 0.25%
  • Other discounts: N/A

Best for transferring parent PLUS loans: ELFI

Best for transferring parent PLUS loans

  • Transfer Parent PLUS loans to a child
  • Get assigned to a Student Loan Advisor
  • Check your rate without impacting your credit

ELFI makes our list as the second-best student loan refinance lender and the best lender for transferring Parent PLUS Loans to a child. Children who want to assume responsibility for loans their parents took out on their behalf can use a loan from ELFI to do so.

While refinancing federal Parent PLUS Loans into a private loan means giving up important borrower protections, ELFI offers competitive rates and a variety of loan terms that may make it worthwhile.

ELFI also offers low rates, a fast application process, and great customer reviews. Note that if you refinance with a cosigner, you cannot release them after a certain number of on-time payments. You also must refinance at least $10,000 to be eligible, which is higher than most competitors.

  • Variable rates (APR): 4.78% – 8.49%
  • Fixed rates (APR): 5.08% – 8.04%
  • Loan amounts: $10,000+
  • Loan terms: 5, 7, 10, 15, or 20 years
  • Minimum credit score: 680
  • Minimum income: $35,000
  • Autopay discount: Reflected in offered rate
  • Other discounts: N/A

Best for community banks and credit unions: LendKey

Best for community banks and credit unions

  • See offers from community banks and credit unions
  • No origination fees

LendKey matches borrowers with community banks and credit unions that refinance student loans. If you prefer working with a smaller financial institution, then LendKey may be the best place to refinance your student loans.

LendKey offers competitive rates, a variety of repayment terms, and longer forbearance periods than many competitors. You can check your rates with a soft-credit pull and, if you apply with a cosigner, you can release them after 12 months of on-time payments.

  • Variable rates (APR): 4.38% – 7.98%
  • Fixed rates (APR): 4.49% – 10.68%
  • Loan amounts: $5,000 – $300,000
  • Loan terms: 5 – 20 years
  • Minimum credit score: 660
  • Minimum income: $24,000
  • Autopay discount: 0.25%
  • Other discounts: N/A

Best large bank: Citizens Bank

Best large bank

  • Existing Citizens Bank members can receive a 0.25% rate discount
  • Check your rate without impacting your credit

Citizens Bank makes our list of the best places to refinance student loans, as the best large bank. If you prefer an institution with a long track record of lending, physical branches, and a variety of other financial products, Citizens Bank is a great option.

The bank offers low rates, cosigner release after 36 months of payments, and discounts of up to 0.50%. You can check your rates with a soft credit pull and transfer Parent PLUS Loans to the child when refinancing. Finally, Citizens Bank only requires that you have an Associates degree to refinance.

  • Variable rates (APR): 5.09% – 11.67%
  • Fixed rates (APR): 5.39% – 11.88%
  • Loan amounts: $10,000 – $500,000
  • Loan terms: 5, 7, 10, 15, or 20 years
  • Minimum credit score: Not disclosed
  • Minimum income: Not disclosed
  • Autopay discount: 0.25%
  • Other discounts: 0.25% for having a Citizens Bank bank account

Best for residency or fellowship: Splash Financial

Best for residency or fellowship

  • Compare offers from multiple lenders
  • Check your rate without impacting your credit

If you are in a medical residency or fellowship, refinancing with Splash gives you some unique benefits. You only have to pay $100 a month during your training and for six months after you finish. This can help keep your student loan payments manageable until you have secured a full-time job.

Splash also refinances the student loans of borrowers who aren’t in the medical field. Rates are competitive and you can choose from a variety of repayment terms, making this a great lender to refinance any kind of loans with.

The following information is for Splash’s medical refinance student loan.

  • Variable rates (APR): 5.90%+
  • Fixed rates (APR): 5.99%+
  • Loan amounts: $5,000+
  • Loan terms: 5, 7, 8, 10, 12, 15, 20, or 25 years
  • Minimum credit score: 650
  • Minimum income: N/A
  • Autopay discount: 0.25%
  • Other discounts: N/A

How to Choose the Best Student Loan Refinance Company

With so many student loan refinance companies available, it can be challenging to choose one.

Typically, the best lender is whichever offers you the lowest interest rate. This is the main reason why most borrowers refinance, and the lower your rate, the more you will save.

Note that just because one lender advertises the lowest rates, doesn’t mean you will receive the best offer there. This is why it’s important to shop around and compare rates from multiple lenders before making your decision.

Aside from interest rates, there are also some other important things to consider when choosing a student loan consolidation company, including the following:

  • Soft Credit Pull Availability: Most lenders let you check your interest rates through a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. When shopping around, be sure that lenders offer this (as opposed to a hard credit pull) before applying so your score won’t be impacted just for checking rates.
  • Interest Rate Discounts: Most lenders offer at least a 0.25% interest rate discount for making automatic payments. While this may not seem like a lot, it can make a big difference over the life of your loan. Aside from an autopay discount, some lenders offer additional discounts for things like having a bank account with them as well.
  • Available Repayment Terms: Your repayment term determines how long you have to make payments for. Shorter terms equal higher monthly payments but more savings. Longer terms, on the other hand, equal lower monthly payments but less savings. Be sure to choose a lender that offers a repayment term that results in monthly payments that fit your budget.
  • Deferment & Forbearance Options: Some lenders allow you to temporarily stop making payments on your loans if you go back to school, are deployed in the military, enter into a medical residency, or are facing financial hardship. This can help you avoid defaulting on your loans if you can’t afford your payments. Just be aware that interest may still accrue during this time which would increase the total cost of your loan.
  • Fees: Most lenders don’t charge any fees during the entire refinancing process, but it’s always smart to double check before applying. Make sure the lenders you are considering don’t charge application fees, origination fees, or prepayment penalties.
  • If Cosigners Are Allowed: If you don’t have a great credit score or high income, a creditworthy cosigner may help you become eligible for a refinance loan that you wouldn’t have otherwise been eligible for. They can also help you qualify for lower interest rates. If you are planning to apply with a cosigner, check to see if the lender offers cosigner release. This allows you to remove the cosigner from their shared responsibility of the loan after a certain amount of on-time monthly payments.
  • Transferring Parent PLUS Loans to a Child: If your parent or guardian took out a Parent PLUS Loan to help pay for your education, you may be able to transfer the loan into your own name through refinancing. If you are interested in this, make sure the lender you apply with offers this feature. Be aware that refinancing federal student loans with a private lender will remove certain benefits such as having access to income-driven repayment plans and being eligible for student loan forgiveness.
  • Other Benefits Offered: Aside from those already mentioned, there are many other benefits that refinance companies offer. Check out lenders’ websites and chat with their representatives to see what else they offer that could help you out.

[Compare Student Loan Refinance Lenders]

How to Get the Best Student Loan Refinance Rates

Your primary goal when shopping around for a student loan refinance lender is to get the lowest rate. The lower your rate, the more you save.

It’s important to compare lenders’ advertised interest rates (like you can above), but there are also some things you can do to ensure you get the lowest rate possible.

  • Work on improving your credit score: Your credit score is the most important factor in your student loan refinance rate.
  • Take advantage of all discounts: As mentioned above, many lenders offer discounts for things like setting up autopay or having a bank account with them. Check which discounts are available and, if possible, take advantage of them.
  • Choose a shorter repayment term: Almost all refinance lenders offer a variety of loan terms. Shorter repayment options typically come with lower rates. Just be sure you can afford the higher monthly payment that comes with a shorter term before refinancing to one.
  • Add a creditworthy cosigner: If you are having trouble qualifying for a student loan refinance rate that is lower than you are currently paying, adding a cosigner with a good credit score can help significantly.
  • Possibly choose a variable rate: Choosing a loan with variable interest can help knock a few percentage points off your rate. The risk, however, is that interest rates may go up and you could end up paying more than the fixed rate you were offered. If you are planning on paying off your loan quickly, choosing a variable interest rate may especially make sense.

[Compare Student Loan Refinance Lenders]

Frequently Asked Student Loan Refinance Questions

We know student loan refinancing can seem complicated. That’s why we decided to answer some of the most commonly asked questions to help borrowers better understand the process.

When should I refinance my student loans?

Student loan refinancing is a way for borrowers to reduce the cost of their loans and possibly even reduce their monthly payments. When refinancing, you can also pay off your loans faster, consolidate your loans, remove a cosigner from your loans, and switch servicers.

You should only refinance if you are eligible for a lower rate than what you are currently paying and if you don’t think you will depend on federal benefits—like income-driven repayment plans and student loan forgiveness—in the future.

You can learn more in our guide to deciding if you should refinance your student loans.

What are the eligibility requirements to refinance a student loan?

Lenders consider many things when deciding if you are a good candidate for student loan refinancing. Here are what companies typically consider:

  • Eligible Loans: Most lenders refinance federal and private student loans for undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees. There may be additional criteria around eligible degrees and schools.
  • Credit History: Most lenders will perform a credit check and look for a credit score of at least 660.
  • Repayment History: You will need to have a solid repayment history on your current student loans.
  • Consistent Income: Lenders like to see that you have consistent enough income to afford your monthly payments.
  • Debt-to-Income Ratio: Some lenders may look at your debt-to-income ratio to gauge if you can afford your new loan’s monthly paymentst. Ideally, your debt-to-income ratio should be 40% or less.
  • U.S. Citizenship: Most lenders require that you are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, or have a cosigner that is.
  • State Requirements: Some banks and lenders may only accept applicants from certain states.

If you don’t meet some of the criteria above, you may want to consider applying with a creditworthy cosigner. A cosigner can help you become eligible and give you access to lower student loan refinance rates.

Cosigning does come with some risks. Cosigners share equal responsibility for repayment and their credit will be affected if the borrower misses payments. If the primary borrower does not make payments, the cosigner will be responsible. However, many lenders do offer cosigner release after making a certain number of consecutive on-time payments.

>> Read More: Can you refinance student loans

What will refinancing cost me?

It is free to refinance student loans. None of the places that refinance student loans on this page charge prepayment, application, or origination fees.

Can you refinance student loans multiple times?

Yes, you can refinance student loans multiple times, and it’s a popular strategy, especially for borrowers with large loan balances. Before doing so, carefully consider whether it makes financial sense to refinance the loan an additional time. You should only do this if you are eligible for a lower interest rate or want to consolidate another loan with your already refinanced loan.

Can parents transfer Parent PLUS Loans to their children through refinancing?

Yes, parents may be able to transfer their Parent PLUS Loan to their children through refinancing. Some of the companies listed above offer this option or you can check out our guide to the best lenders to refinance Parent PLUS Loans with.

Should I choose a variable or fixed interest rate?

There is no correct answer for whether to choose a variable or fixed interest rate. Variable rates typically start out lower but will fluctuate with the market. This means they may end up increasing to more than the fixed rate you are offered. Fixed rates, on the other hand, remain the same throughout the life of the loan.

A general rule of thumb is that if we’re experiencing a rising interest-rate market, a fixed-rate loan may be a better choice. If we’re in a falling interest-rate market, a variable-rate loan may make more sense. However, this may be a conversation to have with a financial planner or CPA.

Should I refinance my federal student loans or consolidate them with the government?

The short answer is: it depends.

When you consolidate your federal loans with the government through a Direct Consolidation Loan, you will not receive a lower interest rate. Instead, you receive a new loan with an interest rate that is a weighted average of the loans you consolidated, meaning you won’t save money. The benefit of federal student loan consolidation is that you will retain the benefits that come with those loans such as access to income-driven repayment plans and student loan forgiveness.

If you are hoping to low your interest rate to save money on repayment, refinancing with a private lender is the only option. You can still consolidate both federal and private loans, but any federal loans you refinance will lose federal benefits.

Student Loan Refinancing Resources