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Student Loans

Student Loan Refinance Bonuses

If you’re struggling to make your payments or just want to save some money, refinancing your student loans can help. Swapping your debt for a lower interest rate and/or a longer term length can help you save a lot of money over time or shrink your payments. 

There are many factors to consider in making the right decision, however. Many student loan companies offer shiny referral bonuses if you send them new customers who successfully refinance their loans with them. But are they actually worth factoring into the equation?

Refinancing referral bonuses are certainly worth considering, but don’t let it prevent you from seeing the larger picture. It’s still worth running the numbers to see if it makes financial sense or if you’re just chasing wild geese. We’ll help you learn to tell the difference in this article.

Best student loan refinance bonuses

The lenders in the table below are our top-rated student loan refinance companies that offer bonuses. Except for Credible, the bonuses are for referrals, so you must first have a refinance loan with the lender. 

Credible will pay a bonus as a gift card if a lender not in its network offers you a lower rate for similar terms—and you close on a loan with the other lender.

LenderReason for bonusBonus amount
SoFiReferral$1,000 medical professionals

$300 for all other referrals
View rates
ELFIReferral$400View rates
EarnestReferral$200View rates
CredibleRate guarantee$200View rates

SoFi – Best online lender

Editorial rating: 4.9 out of 5

  • Referral bonus: Up to $1,000 for medical professionals; $300 for general referrals
  • Maximum referral cap: $10,000 per calendar year
  • APR range: 4.74% – 9.19%

SoFi is a top choice for online lenders, particularly medical professionals. Its referral program is super competitive, offering up to a $1,000 bonus for doctors and dentists while providing a $300 bonus for standard referrals. The person you refer also gets a $300 bonus.

This generosity is capped at a significant $10,000 annually, making it an attractive option for those with a wide network. The APR rates can help you balance competitive interest rates with lucrative referral bonuses​.

ELFI (Education Loan Finance) – Best personalized support

Editorial rating: 4.8 out of 5

  • Referral bonus: $400 for you and $100 credit for the person you refer toward their loan balance
  • Referral limit: Unlimited referrals
  • APR range: 5.28% – 8.99%

We’re big fans of ELFI’s personalized support, evident in its referral program. You earn a $400 bonus for each referral, and the person you refer gets a $100 credit on their loan balance. 

There’s no cap on the number of people you can refer, making it an excellent choice for those with extensive networks. The APRs are competitive, ensuring borrowers get value for their money.

Earnest – Best skip-a-payment benefit

Editorial rating: 4.8 out of 5

  • Referral bonus: $200 for you and the person you refer
  • Referral limit: No cap on referrals
  • APR range: 5.19% – 9.74%

Earnest offers a standout skip-a-payment benefit in its student loan refinance program. Its referral program is also noteworthy, offering a $200 bonus for you and the person you refer. 

There’s no limit on the number of people you can refer, making it a solid choice for those with a large circle. The competitive APR range can help you balance affordability and reward.

Credible – Best marketplace

Editorial rating: 4.8 out of 5

  • Bonus: $200 for better rate guarantee
  • APR range: 4.75% – 14.52%

Credible is renowned for its marketplace approach, offering a $200 bonus if you close with a better rate than your prequalification offer. This feature incentivizes borrowers to seek the best available rates. The APR range is broad, catering to diverse financial profiles.

These companies provide unique benefits through their referral programs, catering to different needs and preferences. Whether you’re a medical professional looking for a higher bonus, someone with a large network, or simply seeking the best rate, there’s an option for you.

Is refinancing student loans for a bonus worth it?

Whether a bonus is worth it or not isn’t always an easy yes-or-no answer. You’ll need to weigh several factors when evaluating it for yourself.

Are you refinancing federal student loans?

If you have federal student loans, it’s generally best not to refinance them unless you’ve given it a lot of careful thought. Federal student loans are eligible for loan consolidation, a process that doesn’t save money per se but lets you streamline your federal student loan repayment. 

Private student loans, however, don’t come with the abundant set of protections and benefits that federal student loans offer. That’s why most experts consider them fair game for refinancing at a lower rate and/or a different term length; you have potential savings to gain and not much to lose.

How well-positioned are you to refinance your student loans?

Getting the best deal on a student loan refinance—or indeed, even being approved at all—depends on your creditworthiness as a borrower. Most private student loan lenders consider your credit score and income as strong factors in setting your rates. 

If you have a good or excellent credit score and a consistently high income, you’re more likely to qualify for better rates overall that can make refinancing worthwhile, whether you get a student loan refinance bonus or not. 

Would refinancing help you save money or lower your payments?

It’s always important to use a student loan refinance calculator to see how much you’d save, both in terms of your monthly payment and the total amount of interest you’ll pay over your new loan’s lifetime. 

Refinancing for a lower rate or a longer term can help you save money—but not always. Here’s an example of refinancing a $50,000 student loan that you’ve already been paying for two years since graduating:

Original student loanShorter termLonger term
APR8.00%5.00%5.00%
Term length (years)81015
Monthly payment$707$530$395
Total interest paid$17,856$13,639$21,171
Interest savingsSave $4,217 Pay $3,315 more

In this case, refinancing for a lower rate only really helps you save money in the long run up until a certain point. Extending your repayment by two years will help you save over $4,000, but extending it for seven years means you’ll actually pay over $3,000 more.

Is the bonus worth it?

It’s generally best to choose a new student loan servicer based on who can help you reach your goals the best, whether you’re looking to save money on interest or get a lower payment. The bonus should only be a secondary consideration.

Most student loan refinancing bonuses generally only offer a few hundred dollars. That may not be enough to tip the scales, especially considering the overall interest costs. 

If a lender offers you a $400 student loan refinance bonus, but it’ll cost you $4,000 more in the long term when you factor interest into the mix, then you’re actually spending $3,600, not getting ahead by $400. 

But it may be worth it if you’d save $200 off your monthly payment and that’s all you’re concerned about. 

Ask the expert

Andrew Steger

CFP®

When deciding among loan servicers with different referral programs, it’s important to read the fine print. Not all referral bonuses are paid out the same way.  For example, some will deposit the bonus directly to your checking account and you are free to use it as you see fit. Some will provide the bonus as a principal balance reduction, and you do not have the option to use it any other way.  Be careful about bonuses with other restrictions, such as requiring you to open a checking or savings account with the servicer.   

What would you give up to refinance? And what else would you get?

Private student loan lenders don’t offer as many benefits and assistance programs as you’ll get with federal student loans, but that doesn’t mean they’re all unhelpful. Some student loan refinance companies offer more support programs than others. 

SoFi, for example, offers unemployment assistance options that you won’t find with most other private student loan refinance lenders. It even offers helpful extras like access to one-on-one advice from a real financial advisor.  

It’s important to consider these factors as well when refinancing your student loans. What does your lender currently offer that you’d be giving up? And what would your potential new lender give you that’s new?

Student loan refinance bonuses FAQ

Are refinance bonuses available for federal and private student loans?

Yes, refinance bonuses are available for federal and private student loans. However, the availability can vary from one lender to another. These bonuses intend to attract borrowers to refinance their federal or private loans.

Can I refinance my loan multiple times to receive multiple bonuses?

It’s possible to refinance your loan multiple times, but it may not always be a wise financial decision. Every time you refinance, your long-term income and credit history must undergo a rigorous review, which could affect your credit score.

What are the tax implications of a refinance bonus?

The tax implications of a refinance bonus can vary based on your financial situation. Usually, a refinance bonus is considered as income, so it may be taxable according to your local tax laws. 

For accurate, personalized information, consult a tax professional or a certified public accountant who understands the specific tax regulations applicable to your case.

What if I find a better rate after refinancing?

If you find a better rate after you’ve refinanced, it’s possible to refinance a loan more than once. However, it’s crucial to consider the overall financial implications. Review all the charges associated with refinancing, including origination fees and any prepayment penalties. 

If the potential savings outweigh the costs, refinancing again may be a viable option. Make sure you thoroughly compare rates and terms before deciding to refinance. Remember, the lender’s goal is to turn a profit—your goal is to secure the most beneficial terms.