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Last updatedJanuary 2021

Best Student Loan Refinance Companies January 2021

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You don't need a finance degree to repay your loans! Find a loan refinance plan, compare rates and apply now.
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 What is Student Loan Refinancing? 

A student loan refinance involves replacing one or more student loans with a new loan with better terms from a private lender. Both private and federal student loans can be refinanced. The purpose of refinancing is to get a lower interest rate and thereby reduce the monthly payments and lifetime costs. Many private lenders, including banks, online lenders, and credit unions offer student loan refinance loans. People with federal loans can also consolidate—rather than refinance—their debts. This involves combining multiple federal loans into a single loan with one simple monthly payment. The table below shows a sample of rates for student loan refinances compared to rates for first-time private and federal student loans. The Refinance column shows the lowest rates advertised by each lender. The First-Time Column shows fixed rates for federal government loans and lowest rates from private lenders.

Refinanced Student LoansFirst-Time Student Loans
 1.93% (with autopay)* Variable / 
 2.70% (with autopay)* Fixed (Credible)
1.24% Variable / 3.75% fixed (Credible)
1.99% Variable /
2.98% Fixed (Earnest)
6.6% (Federal Stafford Unsubsidized)
2.25% (with autopay) Variable /
2.99% (with autopay) Fixed (SoFi)
5% (Federal Perkins Loan)
1.89% Variable /
2.63% Fixed (Splash Financial)
4.236% (Federal (PLUS Loan)
2.58% Variable /
2.59% Fixed (CommonBond)
1.44% Variable / 5.45% Fixed (CommonBond)
1.92% w/ autopay Variable /
2.95% w/ autopay Fixed (LendKey)
5.05% (Federal Stafford Subsidized Loan)

Should I Refinance my Student Loan?

As the above table shows, it is often worth refinancing a student loan. If you’ve graduated from college and have built a good credit score, then you can achieve a much lower interest rate by refinancing—and potentially save thousands of dollars in the long run. 

Things to take into consideration before refinancing:

  • Interest rate. Some lenders offer lower rates than others. Before you refinance, make sure your chosen lender can actually save you money.
  • Credit score. Holders of student debt can refinance at a significantly reduced rate, so long as they have a solid credit score along with steady income and employment. If your credit score is poor, you may find it more difficult to achieve a reduced rate.
  • Term duration. If you refinance at a lower rate but with a longer loan, then your monthly payments decrease, but you may end up paying more overall due to accruing interest.
  • Remaining debt. If you’re fresh out of college and tens of thousands of dollars in debt, then a refi could make sense. But if you’ve paid off most of your loan and only have a small amount of debt to pay off, it might not be worth refinancing. True, you could save a small amount. But on the other hand, applying for any type of loan or refi can affect your credit score—which could prove damaging if you’re also in the market for a mortgage or other loan.

The Pros and Cons of Student Loan Refinancing

ProsCons
Potential for major savings over life of loanWith longer term, potential to pay more over life of loan
Reduced monthly paymentsApplying for refinance can affect credit score
One single payment makes life easierBy refinancing federal loan, you waive rights to cancellation or forgiveness programs
More flexible repayment terms
Option of dropping previous co-signer from loan

Student Loan Refinancing Requirements

Eligibility can vary slightly between lenders, but the following are standard requirements for most refinance loans: 

  • U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Aged 18 years or older.
  • Reside in a state where your chosen lender is authorized to lend.
  • Have employment, sufficient income from other sources, or have an offer of employment starting within the next 3 months.
  • Have graduated with an undergraduate degree or higher from a Title IV school that’s eligible to process federal student loans.

Lenders also look at the following:

  • Credit. This involves a hard credit inquiry which temporarily affects your credit score. Your credit history is the most important factor in determining your interest rate.
  • Income. Your lender will ask to see your pay slips or proof of other sources of income, in order to assess whether you have sufficient monthly cash flow to meet your monthly payments.
  • Savings. In addition to income, your level of savings will also help the lender assess your ability to make monthly payments.
  • Debt amount. The amount of remaining debt will help the lender determine the rate and term duration of your loan.

How to Refinance a Student Loan

A student loan refinance application is similar to other loan or refinance applications. It involves the following steps:

  • Checking your credit. The major credit agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) are legally obligated to share your credit history with you once every 12 months upon request, free of charge. As a general rule, credit of 700 or more is considered good, and 620-700 is average.
  • Comparing lenders. You can use loan marketplaces to see loan options from multiple lenders or get a quote from a direct lender.
  • Applying for your refinance. You’ll be asked to provide documentation, including: driver’s license or state ID, Social Security number, pay slips, and employment information.

Refinancing Student Loans with a Co-signer

BenefitsRisks
Greater chance of approvalCo-signer takes on liability for debts
Reduced interest rate if co-signer has good creditDamage to co-signer’s credit score in event of missed payments
Flexibility to release co-signer at pre-determined date in futurePotential damage to relationship with co-signer over financial matters

A co-signer can be a:

  • Parent
  • Guardian
  • Spouse
  • Close friend
  • Relative
  • Anyone else who is in a strong financial position and is willing to share the liability for your debts. 
In many cases, recent graduates don’t have the credit history or income to be approved for a student loan refi unless they bring a co-signer. By bringing a co-signer with good credit and income, the lender is more likely to approve the refinance and to offer a low interest rate. Bringing on a co-signer involves more paperwork than applying alone. The lender will ask for documentation from both the primary borrower and their co-signer. A credit inquiry will be performed for both people.It might not be easy to find a co-signer. After all, not everyone would be open to sharing your financial liability. However, if a parent, relative, or close friend agrees to co-sign your refi, you may be able to sweeten the deal by agreeing to release them in the future. For example, student loans can last anywhere from 5 years to more than 20 years. If you’re taking out a 20-year loan but envision having stronger credit in 5 years, you could state in your loan agreement that the co-signer can be released after 5 years. When you reach the 5-year mark, you’ll need to show the lender that you have strong credit and sufficient income to maintain the loan on your own.

Alternatives to Refinancing

If you have private student loans or private and federal loans, refinancing could be the best way to save money. But if you only have federal loans, you may want to consider debt consolidation or any of the federal government’s loan forgiveness or cancellation programs.

If you’re unable to meet the minimum payments, these are just some of the programs for being forgiven all or a portion of your loan amount: 

  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness. For employees of federal, state, or local government organizations, and certain non-profits.
  • Teacher Loan Forgiveness.  For people who have taught full-time in a low-income school or education service agency for a minimum 5 consecutive years.
  • Perkins Loan Cancellation. For teachers serving low-income schools or children with disabilities. Also available to teachers of math, science, foreign languages, or other fields classified as having a shortage of qualified teachers. 
  • Special Circumstances. Student debt may also be canceled in the event of disability, death, bankruptcy, school closure, withdrawal from school, or if the school falsely certified the student’s eligibility for the loan. 

Summary

A student loan involves a great deal of risk and reward. For most students, the risk comes from taking out tens of thousands of dollars in loans when they are at their most vulnerable—young, not-yet employed, and with no credit history. On the flipside, the reward comes by graduating and finding a job in their chosen profession. In reality, many graduates find themselves unable to pay off all their student debt. Fortunately, there are ways to cancel or at least reduce your debt payments. Many students qualify for loan forgiveness or cancellation programs, but even those who don’t qualify for federal assistance can apply for a student loan refinance and save potentially thousands of dollars as a result.

Disclaimers

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.

College Ave Refi Education loans are not currently available to residents of Maine.

(1)The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as the borrower or cosigner, if applicable, enrolls in auto-pay and authorizes our loan servicer to automatically deduct your monthly payments from a valid bank account via Automated Clearing House (“ACH”). The rate reduction applies for as long as the monthly payment amount is successfully deducted from the designated bank account and is suspended during periods of forbearance and certain deferments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.

Information advertised valid as of 04/01/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.

Commonbond: Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown.  If you choose to complete an application, we will conduct a hard credit pull, which may affect your credit score. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 0.15% effective Oct 1, 2020 and may increase after consummation.

*SoFi Limited Offer Terms and Conditions: 

Terms and conditions apply. Limited time offer, for applications started before 1/1/2021 and funded before 1/16/2021. Not available to residents of Ohio and cannot be combined with any other offer, bonus or discount. To receive the $350 holiday bonus offer, you must: (1) click the link in the promotion; (2) start your loan application before 1/1/21; (3) fund your loan before 1/16/21; (4) have and provide a valid US bank account to receive the bonus; Once conditions are met, you will receive your $350 welcome bonus via automated clearing house (ACH) into your checking account within 30 calendar days. Bonuses that are not redeemed within 180 calendar days of the date they were made available to the recipient may be subject to forfeit. Bonus amounts of $600 or greater in a single calendar year may be reported to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as miscellaneous income to the recipient on Form 1099-MISC in the year received as required by applicable law. Recipient is responsible for any applicable federal, state or local taxes associated with receiving the bonus offer; consult your tax advisor to determine applicable tax consequences. SoFi reserves the right to change or terminate the offer at any time with or without notice.