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Earnest Review

Reviews 6,464
Earnest
Earnest
Excellent
Reviews 6,464
Sarah Badani
May. 23, 2024
7 min read
Sarah Badani
Earnest Summary
Earnest is a well-known lender that helps people out with private students loans and student loan refinancing. Within its lending program, this popular financing option offers private student loans with competitive terms. Earnest private loans provide a 9-month grace period for repayments, no fees, and plenty of repayment options. Check out what else Earnest has to offer.

Pros

  • 9-month grace period
  • No fees structure
  • Skip a payment every year

Cons

  • Full deferment not available in all states
  • Minimum loan amount in some states
  • Only 4-year Title IV institution enrollees are eligible

Earnest at a glance

8.8
Editorial score

Online experience

Has learning resources, access to rates, mobile app
10.0

Customer services and support

Multiple ways of reaching lender but limited hours
6.0

Repayment flexibility

Offers flexible repayment plans & the option for special repayment programs
10.0

Eligibility

Doesn't cover bad credit, low income borrowers
8.0

Variety of Loan Types

Offers all loan types
10.0

Overview

Offering an array of financial assistance including credit card consolidation (through personal loans powered by Fiona), student refinancing, and private student loans, Earnest is a good place to turn if you need a little help with funding the various stages of life. Earnest has a great reputation, and that's a great way to kick off a lender-borrower relationship. A quick glance around the internet will yield positive results with glowing reviews from real users and an excellent 4.7-star rating from Trustpilot.

Suitable For?

Earnest benefits students who have exhausted their federal loan options and are looking for more financial assistance, and offers a co-signer option as well.

In addition, Earnest offers international private student loans. These are available for graduate students at select schools and do not need a cosigner to get approved.

Loan Features

Earnest is favored for its flexible private student loans and student refinancing programs. You can get up to 100% of your cost of attendance covered by the loan and there’s an auto-pay discount. Here are some of the main features that Earnest boasts over the competition:

  • No fees structure

Earnest makes it simpler for students on a budget by cutting out some of the most common fees involved in student loans. You’ll pay zero fees for origination, disbursement, and even late payments. Plus, you won’t pay any prepayment penalties for repaying your debt off early.

  • Skip a payment annually

Once a year, Earnest lets borrowers skip a monthly payment, assuming you’re in good standing with your regular payments. This is incredibly generous and not something you’ll find with other lenders.

  • Client Happiness team

This is Earnest’s customer service (which we’ll cover below), but how could you not love a brand that calls its customer support Client Happiness team?

The Application Process

Earnest offers a fast online application process and a pre-application checklist. Here’s how it works:

  • You can quickly check your eligibility before you even get started. All you need is your school of attendance and an approximate credit score ranking. This is quite simple compared to what some lenders require you to fill out.
  • To continue the process, you can fill out the easy online application form. This includes info on your finances and any information about your co-signer if you’re using one.
  • Next, you’ll receive approval along with loan offers. If you like what you see, you can choose your repayment terms, and complete the application process.
  • Then, recieve your money! Once your school verifies your given information, you’ll be transferred the loan money shortly thereafter.

Eligibility Requirements

Earnest has pretty straightforward eligibility requirements. Here are the some of the eligibility criteria you’ll need to meet to get approved for a private student loan from this lender (for the full list please visit https://www.earnest.com/eligibility):

  • You must be either a legal US citizen, or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, or are a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient, or are an Asylee
  • You must be attending or enrolled to attend full time at one of the participating Title IV institutions.
  • You must be currently living in Washington DC or one of the states where Earnest is permitted to distribute funds.
  • You must be of legal age within the state of residence.

Earnest is available in all states except Nevada. Earnest also does not offer variable rates in the following states:

Arkansas, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas.

Loan Rates

Earnest interest rates are set based on your credit history, loan amount, and other factors. But Earnest is known for having low rates on all its financial aid products, so you can expect to get reasonable private student loan annual percentage rates (APRs) as well. Signing up with a co-signer may entitle you to a lower interest rate, so bear that in mind when applying. If you sign up for autopay, you also get an automatic 0.25% discount. If you opt to apply for autopay, you can expect rates as low as 5.62% - 16.85%.

Rates current as of Sunday, June 23rd 2024. For current rates, please visit earnest.com. These are Earnest's lowest starting rates and contain their .25% Auto Pay discount from a checking or savings account. Some borrowers may see higher rates based on their credit.

Repayment Terms

Earnest offers students 4 different repayment plans for its private student loans product:

  • Total deferment: This repayment plan allows you to push off all payments of your private student loan until after you’ve completed your schooling or until the end of your grace period. This option is not recommended since it means you’ll end up paying the most.
  • Fixed payments: This option allows you to make a fixed monthly payment of $25 toward your loan while you are still in school. This will reduce the overall amount of your loan that needs to be repaid once you get out of school.
  • Interest-only payments: Interest-only repayment plans let you pay off just the accruing interest each month. This is another great way of staying ahead of your student loan, so you aren’t left with massive debt when your schooling is completed.
  • Full repayment: Finally, Earnest offers students full principal and interest payments. This is a great option if you can afford it because it will reduce the overall cost of your loan (since you’ll be paying off the loan faster, thereby accruing less interest over time).

As mentioned previously, you can also skip one payment annually.

How Safe is It?

All data shared and stored on the Earnest website is secured. Some security measures in place include firewalls, multi-factor authentication, and private subnets. Plus, Earnest never sells any information.

Customer Service

Earnest has customer service that it calls the Client Happiness team. You can reach out to this friendly and helpful support staff via email or phone during normal business hours: Monday through Friday 8am to 5pm PT.

Summary

Earnest is a user-friendly, feature-rich option for private student loans. With a 9-month grace period, international private student loans, flexible repayment terms, and even a annual payment skip, you can get the most out of the student loans. Plus, Earnest has some of the friendliest customer service around, covers up to 100% of your cost of attendance, and allows for co-signers. Needless to say, Earnest private student loans come highly recommended.

Disclaimers

Interest Rate Disclosure

Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 4.54% APR to 16.74% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 5.87% APR to 17.10% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount).

Earnest variable interest rate student loan origination loans are based on a publicly available index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The variable rate is based on the rate published on the 25th day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month, rounded to the nearest hundredth of a percent.

The rate will not increase more than once per month. Although the rate will vary after you are approved, it will never exceed 36% (the maximum allowable for this loan). Please note, Earnest Private Student Loans are not available in Nevada. Our lowest rates are only available for our most credit qualified borrowers and contain our .25% auto pay discount from a checking or savings account. It is important to note that the 0.25% Auto Pay discount is not available while loan payments are deferred.

Before applying for private student loans, it’s best to maximize your other sources of financial aid first.  It’s recommended to use a 3-step approach to assembling the funds you need: 1) Look for funds you don’t have to pay back, like scholarships, grant, and work-study opportunities.  2) Next, fill out a FAFSA(R) form to apply for federal student loans.  Federal Direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans, excluding PLUS Loan for Parents and PLUS Loan for Graduate and Professional Students which require a credit check and a credit worthy endorser if the parent or graduate or professional student has adverse credit, do not require a credit check or cosigner, and offer various protections if your struggling with your payments.  3) Finally, consider a private student loan to cover any difference between your total cost of attendance and the amount not covered in steps 1 and 2.  For more information, visit the Department of Education website at https://studentaid.ed.gov.

Please note that you may lose benefits associated with your underlying federal loans, such as federal Income-driven Repayment Plans (an example of which is the SAVE plan), Economic Hardship Deferment, Public Service Loan Forgiveness, or other deferment and forbearance options, if you refinance into a private loan. If you file for bankruptcy, you may still be required to pay back this loan.

Nine-month grace period is not available for borrowers who choose our Principal and Interest Repayment plan while in school.

Earnest clients may skip a payment through a one, one-month forbearance during a 12 month period. Your first request to skip a pay can be made once you’ve made at least 6 months of consecutive on-time full principal and interest payments, and your loan is in good standing. The interest accrued during the skipped month will result in an increase in your remaining minimum payment. The final payoff date on your loan will be extended by the length of the skipped payment periods. Any unpaid accrued interest may capitalize (added to the principal balance) at the end of the forbearance period by adding unpaid accrued interest to the outstanding principal as permitted by law and the terms of the loan agreement.

You can take advantage of the Auto Pay interest rate reduction by setting up and maintaining active and automatic ACH withdrawal of your loan payment from a checking or savings account. The interest rate reduction for Auto Pay will be available only while your loan is enrolled in Auto Pay. Interest rate incentives for utilizing Auto Pay may not be combined with certain private student loan repayment programs that also offer an interest rate reduction. For multi-party loans, only one party may enroll in Auto Pay. FOR SLO ONLY - It is important to note that the 0.25% Auto Pay discount is not available while loan payments are deferred.

SLO:

Earnest’s Loan Cost Examples: These examples provide estimates based on principal and Interest payments beginning immediately upon loan disbursement. Variable interest rate: A $10,000 loan with a 15-year term (180 monthly payments of $150.02) and a 16.45% interest rate would result in a total estimated payment amount of $27,003.60.  For a variable loan, after your starting rate is set, your rate will then vary with the market. Fixed interest rate: A $10,000 loan with a 15-year term (180 monthly payments of $147.92) and a 16.15% interest rate would result in a total estimated payment amount of 26,625.60.

These examples provide estimates based on interest only payments while in school.  Variable interest rate: A $10,000 loan with a 15-year term (180 monthly payments of $150.02) and a 16.45% interest rate would result in a total estimated payment amount of $34,817.16.  For a variable loan, after your starting rate is set, your rate will then vary with the market. Fixed interest rate: A $10,000 loan with a 15-year term (180 monthly payments of $147.92) and a 16.15% interest rate would result in a total estimated payment amount of $34,296.66. Your actual repayment terms may vary.  Other repayment options are available.

These examples provide estimates based on fixed $25 payments while in school.  Variable interest rate: A $10,000 loan with a 15-year term (180 monthly payments of $245.86) and a 16.45% interest rate would result in a total estimated payment amount of $45,679.80.  For a variable loan, after your starting rate is set, your rate will then vary with the market. Fixed interest rate: A $10,000 loan with a 15-year term (180 monthly payments of $240.31) and a 16.15% interest rate would result in a total estimated payment amount of $44,680.80.  Your actual repayment terms may vary.  Other repayment options are available.

These examples provide estimates based on deferred payments.  Variable interest rate: A $10,000 loan with a 15-year term (180 monthly payments of $267.24) and a 16.45% interest rate would result in a total estimated payment amount of $48,103.20.  For a variable loan, after your starting rate is set, your rate will then vary with the market. Fixed interest rate: A $10,000 loan with a 15-year term (180 monthly payments of $261.39) and a 16.15% interest rate would result in a total estimated payment amount of $47,050.20.  Your actual repayment terms may vary.  Other repayment options are available.  It is important to note that the 0.25% Auto Pay discount is not available while loan payments are deferred.

Sarah Badani
Written by
Sarah Badani
Sarah Badani has extensive research and review experience in the finance industry. With a degree in psychology and education, she brings a level of depth and understanding to her writing along with her own flavor to spice up each topic in a unique and inviting way. She writes for BestMoney and enjoys helping readers make sense of the options on the market.‎
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