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The Best Student Loan Refinance Lenders of 2020

Top10.com StaffByTop10.com StaffNov. 26, 2019

Student loans often come with promise for the future, government-backed loan programs, and really high interest rates. Once you’re working and paying your loan repayment bills every month, it can pay to refinance for different terms, lower rates, or to consolidate multiple loans into one monthly payment. Save money by paying for fewer years or lowering your rates dramatically. Do you have a cosigner you’d like to release from your loan? You can do that too. Check out this list of some of the best companies in the business and find out which companies offer the features that can best meet your student debt relief needs.

38 people say

Ease of use

Brand satisfaction

Value for money

Service quality

38 reviews
68 people say

Ease of use

Brand satisfaction

Value for money

Service quality

68 reviews
30 people say

Ease of use

Brand satisfaction

Value for money

Service quality

30 reviews
30 people say

Ease of use

Brand satisfaction

Value for money

Service quality

30 reviews
10 people say

Ease of use

Brand satisfaction

Value for money

Service quality

10 reviews
10 people say

Ease of use

Brand satisfaction

Value for money

Service quality

10 reviews
10 people say

Ease of use

Brand satisfaction

Value for money

Service quality

10 reviews
0 people say

Ease of use

Brand satisfaction

Value for money

Service quality

Write Review
10 people say

Ease of use

Brand satisfaction

Value for money

Service quality

10 reviews
30 people say

Ease of use

Brand satisfaction

Value for money

Service quality

30 reviews
Students looking to compare options
Long term refinance loans
Fast applications
Lower rates and monthly payments
Helping others when you refinance
Recent graduates seeking lower rates
Advanced degree holders, medical professionals
Grads looking for flexibility
Borrowers with multiple student loans
Comparing multiple offers
4.25% (with autopay)*
4.25% (with autopay)
4.25% (with autopay)
3.39%
3.21%
3.50%
3.48%
4.64%
4.50%
3.39%
2.39% (with autopay)*
3.50% (with autopay)
3.50% (with autopay)
1.90%
2.14%
1.99%
2.27%
3.64%
2.39%
2.01%
None
660+
650+
660+
660+
660+
660+
680+
680+
600+
5 to 20 years
5 to 20 years
5 to 20 years
5 to 20 years variable, 5 to 15 years fixed
5 to 20 years, hybrid loans for 10 years
5 to 20 years
5 to 20 years
5 to 20 years
5 to 20 years
3 to 20 years
Up to 100% of outstanding debt
$5,000+
$5,000+
Up to $300,000
Up to $500,000
$5,000+
No maximum
$5,000 to $300,000
$15,000+
$1,000 to $1,000,000
None
No application, origination or prepayment fees
No prepayment or origination fees
No application, origination or prepayment fees
No origination fees
No application fees or prepayment penalties
No application, origination or prepayment fees
No application or prepayment fees
No application, origination or prepayment fees
None
Federal, private, parent PLUS
Federal, private, parent PLUS, medical
Federal, private, parent PLUS
Federal, private, parent PLUS
Federal, private, past consolidated
Federal, private, past consolidated
Student loan, medical and fellow refinancing
Private, federal, parent loans
Federal, private, parent PLUS
Private and federal loans

A Closer Look at the Top Student Loan Refinancing Companies

  • 1

    Credible

    38 people say

    Ease of use

    Brand satisfaction

    Value for money

    Service quality

    38 reviews
    Competitive personal offers from many lenders
    Credible
    • Best forStudents looking to compare options
    • Fixed rate APR4.25% (with autopay)*
    • Variable rate APR2.39% (with autopay)*

    Credible is a successful loan marketplace offering student loan refinancing, as well as private student loans, personal loans, mortgages, and credit cards. It has one easy form that you’ll fill out per loan type you’re looking for, and your information is totally private. Once the application form is filled out, you’ll get personalized rates, not estimated ranges, from up to 10 lenders in 2 minutes. If you need any assistance choosing, the client success team is available to give you further help. 

    You can refinance federal, private and ParentPLUS loans to lower your interest rate, reduce your monthly payment, shorten your loan term, or release a cosigner from your original loans. Credible has been featured in Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, and NBC Nightly News and has a 9.5 out of 10 rating (5 stars) on Trustpilot. Credible is so confident that it’s the best choice, that it offers a $200 Best Rate Guarantee, paying you if you find lower rates elsewhere. You’ll get your final offer in as little as one business day and can pay off your undergrad or graduate school loans in terms ranging from 5 to 20 years.

    Pros
    • Incredibly low rates
    • Marketplace of lenders competing for your loan
    Cons
    • Difficult to find loan rates and terms on the site
    • Not a direct lender
    Read Credible Review
  • 2

    SoFi

    68 people say

    Ease of use

    Brand satisfaction

    Value for money

    Service quality

    68 reviews
    Fast, easy, and all online
    SoFi
    • Best forLong term refinance loans
    • Fixed rate APR4.25% (with autopay)
    • Variable rate APR3.50% (with autopay)

    SoFi is the leading student loan refinancing provider, having financed over $18 billion for over 300,000 members, with high satisfaction ratings. It’s pretty simple; you get pre-qualified online, and SoFi lets you know if you’ve qualified before you even submit the final application. You can then select the rate and term you want, and choose between saving on your monthly payment or saving on your total interest paid. Upload screenshots of your financial information and sign the paperwork electronically, so your old loan can be paid off and you can be issued a new loan. You can refinance unsubsidized direct loans, graduate PLUS loans, and/or private student loans. It works best for students who have graduated from a Title IV accredited university or graduate program, are employed, have significant income from somewhere other than an employer, or hold a job offer with a start date within 90 days, a responsible financial history, and a strong monthly cash flow. It has an Excellent rating on Trustpilot—maybe because you can even tweet the customer support team, they’re so easy to reach.

    Pros
    • Unemployment protection
    • Cosigning available for refinance loans
    Cons
    • Shortest loan term is 5 years
    • Consolidation forfeits government benefits
    Read SoFi Review
  • 3

    Earnest

    30 people say

    Ease of use

    Brand satisfaction

    Value for money

    Service quality

    30 reviews
    Pick a payment that fits your budget
    Earnest
    • Best forFast applications
    • Fixed rate APR4.25% (with autopay)
    • Variable rate APR3.50% (with autopay)

    Refinancing with Earnest means that you can consolidate your existing federal and private education loans into a single, lower interest loan with no origination fee. You can choose between fixed and variable rates, and use your improved credit since you took out your original student loans to qualify for lower rates. If you sign up for autopay, Earnest offers a further rate discount of 0.25%. 

    Your financial standing is evaluated by more than just your credit score, and you’ll get a fast estimated rate quote, with the final rates shown after your entire application has been approved. The application gathers other indicators of your financial responsibility, such as your job history, savings, and education, giving you the chance to get low rates even if you haven’t built very much credit. Once you’re approved, you can set your monthly payment based on your budget, with Precision Pricing loan terms at 1 to 3 month intervals between 5 to 20 years, meaning that there are 180 options for when to finish repaying your loan. You can even skip one payment a year, and make it up later.

    Pros
    • Offers a number of flexible repayment options
    • Precision Pricing model gives borrowers greater flexibility
    Cons
    • No option to apply with a cosigner
    • Lack of informative educational resources
    Read Earnest Review
  • 4

    LendKey

    30 people say

    Ease of use

    Brand satisfaction

    Value for money

    Service quality

    30 reviews
    Simplify your finances with flexible options
    LendKey
    • Best forLower rates and monthly payments
    • Fixed rate APR3.39%
    • Variable rate APR1.90%

    LendKey simplifies the student loan refinancing process using a single platform that allows you to find, customize and fund your loan through a network of banks and credit unions. It pairs you with both federal and private student loan refinancing companies, so you can have only one monthly payment that’s simple to keep track of. If you’re still on the fence or looking to learn more before you choose, there’s a student loan refinance calculator available, where you can input the numbers of your current loans and see how much money you could save with different terms and interest rates. There’s even a personal finance educational section with guides and how-to instructions for managing money, refinancing your loans and setting yourself up for the future. It has an excellent rating on Trustpilot, an A+ BBB rating, and an array of positive user reviews to back up the customer service and user experience.

    Pros
    • Competitive rates and excellent incentives
    • Consolidate loans into an affordable payment
    Cons
    • Comparison tool lacks information on lenders
    • Not a direct lender
    Read LendKey Review
  • 5

    Common Bond

    10 people say

    Ease of use

    Brand satisfaction

    Value for money

    Service quality

    10 reviews
    Simplify student loans and save money
    Common Bond
    • Best forHelping others when you refinance
    • Fixed rate APR3.21%
    • Variable rate APR2.14%

    Commonbond starts with a student loans quiz, asking you what your primary financial goals are, what you’d like to change about your current student loans, how much you think you owe (ranging from “not much” to “a whole lot”), how long do you have until payoff, how many lenders you currently pay monthly, and what’s your average interest rate. Your results will be an estimate of how much you can save by refinancing your loans with Commonbond based on a 10-year loan and the lowest offered fixed rates. It advertises a monthly payment that fits your budget, a timeline anywhere between 5 and 20 years, and no prepayment penalties. 

    An unusual perk? Commonbond has a strong social mission, partnering with Pencils of Promise to fund schools, teachers, and classroom tech to students in Ghana. Every loan funded helps pay for a child’s education, and over 470 schools have been built to-date. It’s called the social promise, and it means your student loans can fund more than just your own education. 

    Pros
    • Long repayment terms
    • No origination fee or prepayment penalties
    • Strong social mission
    Cons
    • Events only available in NYC
    • No repayment shorter than 5 years
    Read Common Bond Review
  • 6

    Laurel Road

    10 people say

    Ease of use

    Brand satisfaction

    Value for money

    Service quality

    10 reviews
    Lending technology builds your loan
    Laurel Road
    • Best forRecent graduates seeking lower rates
    • Fixed rate APR3.50%
    • Variable rate APR1.99%

    You can check your student loan refinance rate in 5 minutes or less with Laurel Road’s online loans platform. Aside from student loan refinancing, it also covers graduate school loans, mortgages, and personal loans, so this can be your one-stop-shop if you need other things too. There are zero application or prepayment fees, and it works in all 50 states. Talk to your employer too, because Laurel Road offers employer benefit partnerships with unique benefits. 

    It’s one of the unique student loan refinancing lenders that will refinance Parent PLUS loans too, which means that if you’re paying high interest and your child has finished college, it may be time to consider a better rate. You can get up to $400 for referring a friend, which seriously trumps some of the other companies’ find a friend offers with much lower payouts.

    Pros
    • Low fixed and variable rates
    • Works with both private and government refinancing
    Cons
    • Good to excellent credit only
    • Underwriting requirements are unclear
    Read Laurel Road Review
  • 7

    Splash Financial

    10 people say

    Ease of use

    Brand satisfaction

    Value for money

    Service quality

    10 reviews
    Providing hardworking graduates more freedom
    Splash Financial
    • Best forAdvanced degree holders, medical professionals
    • Fixed rate APR3.48%
    • Variable rate APR2.27%

    Splash’s mission is to help students move forward and “make a splash in the world.” The application starts with a rate estimate, which doesn’t have any impact on your credit score and takes under 3 minutes with 3 simple questions. You can then secure your new rate and lock it in by submitting a full application, which does have a hard credit pull. Once you’ve been accepted and are happy with your terms, just initiate your loan and start making payments and saving money and time. Splash boasts a 95% customer satisfaction rating and real concierge customer service, as well as a find-a-friend promotion, where you and you friend can both earn $20. Splash tries to get customers freed up from student debt in order to make healthy financial life choices, pursue life goals, and save for retirement.

    Pros
    • Low fixed-interest rates save you money
    • No application fee and no prepayment penalties
    • Reliable financial backing
    Cons
    • High credit requirements
    • Refinancing may disqualify you from loan forgiveness
    Read Splash Financial Review
  • 8

    College Ave

    0 people say

    Ease of use

    Brand satisfaction

    Value for money

    Service quality

    Write Review
    Three-minute application
    College Ave
    • Best forGrads looking for flexibility
    • Fixed rate APR4.64%
    • Variable rate APR3.64%

    College Ave advertises that it will not only reduce your monthly payments, it will also reduce your stress level. It’s possible to lower your total loan cost with fixed or variable interest rates, no application or origination fees, and auto-pay discounts of 0.25%. The application takes 3 minutes and is accessible to many types of borrowers. Unlike many other lenders, College Ave allows refinancing from $5,000, allowing flexible terms and loan amounts: there are 16 different loan terms to choose from. College Ave is a Better Business Bureau-accredited company with an A+ rating.

    Pros
    • High maximum loan amounts
    • No application or origination fee
    Cons
    • Little clear information about income requirements
    • Loss of federal program benefits
    Read College Ave Review
  • 9

    Education Loan Finance

    10 people say

    Ease of use

    Brand satisfaction

    Value for money

    Service quality

    10 reviews
    No-fee application process
    Education Loan Finance
    • Best forBorrowers with multiple student loans
    • Fixed rate APR4.50%
    • Variable rate APR2.39%

    If you have $15,000 or more of student loan debt, Education Loan Finance (ELFI) offers loans with low fixed or variable rates, with minute-to-minute prequalification. It offers refinancing for both student and parent loans, and can help release your cosigner from the original loan. See your personalized quote in minutes, and if you like the rates and terms, apply online. Once you’ve submitted your application, you can upload screenshots or smartphone photos of your documents and sign everything electronically. Parent loans and refinance loans for private student loans have terms of 5, 7, and 10 years, while refinancing government loans can go up to 20. The ELFI management team has over 30 years of expertise in this field, and provides countrywide customer service, including Puert Rico. ELFI has a 4.8 out of 5 star Excellent rating on Trustpilot.

    Pros
    • Variety of plans for different budgets
    • Seamless application and verification process
    • Personal Loan Advisors provided
    Cons
    • High minimum loan amount
    • Consolidation forfeits federal loan forgiveness
    Read Education Loan Finance Review
  • 10

    SuperMoney

    30 people say

    Ease of use

    Brand satisfaction

    Value for money

    Service quality

    30 reviews
    Get lowest rates from competing lenders
    SuperMoney
    • Best forComparing multiple offers
    • Fixed rate APR3.39%
    • Variable rate APR2.01%

    With loans up to $300,000 and a large network of lenders, SuperMoney allows you to compare offers and really find the right one. It’s 100% free to apply, and you’ll just fill out some questions about yourself, the amount you’re looking to refinance, and the current terms of your loan. The next step is simple: get your money. Receive new loan funding and start paying off your loans at a lower rate. If you have a solid credit history and income, you can qualify for lower rates and save money on both federal and private student loans, for both undergraduate and graduate school. You also don’t need to worry about getting tons of sales calls, as with some loan comparison sites, because the technology integrates with the lenders’ offers directly. Your data will never be sold, and you can get pre-approved right on the SuperMoney platform.

    Pros
    • Great user experience
    • Compare multiple lenders with one form
    Cons
    • Not a direct lender
    • Must share personal details to get rates
    Read SuperMoney Review

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. Private and federal student loans can be refinanced, and some lenders will even refinance Parent PLUS loans. 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. Debt consolidation 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. You can clearly see that refinance APRs are significantly lower, saving borrowers thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.

Refinanced Student Loans
First-Time Student Loans
1.9% Variable / 3.39% Fixed (LendKey) 
5.05% (Federal Stafford Subsidized Loan)
3.50% (with autopay) Variable / 4.25% (with autopay) Fixed (Earnest)
5.05% (Federal Stafford Unsubsidized Loan)
3.50% (with autopay) Variable / 4.25% (with autopay) Fixed (SoFi)
5% (Federal Perkins Loan)
2.27% Variable / 3.48% Fixed (Splash Financial)
7.08% (Parent PLUS Loan)
2.02% Variable / 3.21% Fixed (CommonBond)
3.11% (Private loans, SoFi)

How To Choose The Best Student Loan Refinance Company

  1. Know why you want to refinance. If you want to save money on your loan total, you’re looking for the lender with the lowest APR. If what you really need is a lower monthly payment, you may end up paying more overall, and extending the life of the loan, but you’ll want the lender who can offer you the payments you need. If you are trying to refinance a Parent PLUS loan, you’ll need a lender who covers that. Each lender offers only certain services, so you’ll want to find the one that offers what you need, with the best terms for you.
  2. Look at reputation. Any lender should have a solid reputation for being responsive, understandable and secure. Some have better customer service options than others, so if contacting your loan provider at night is important to you, look for that. They shouldn’t sell your data to any third parties, and your finances should be secure.
  3. Compare lender flexibility. Refinancing government backed student loans forfeits your rights to income based repayment plans and government loan forgiveness. Look at what the private refinance lenders offer. Will you be able to defer your loans through a period of unemployment? Can you skip a payment? Will you be able to refinance again if you want?  If your refinance savings will outweigh the benefits of government backed loans, it can still be worth refinancing—but it pays to know exactly what each lender offers. 

When to Refinance Student Loans (or Not)?

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 get a much lower interest rate by refinancing—and potentially save thousands of dollars on your total loan amount. 

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. Consider waiting until your credit score improves, and continue paying off your primary student loans in a timely way.
  • 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 refinance 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

Pros
Cons
Potential for major savings
With longer term, you may pay more overall
Reduce monthly payments
Applying for refinancing can affect your credit score
One single payment is easier
If you refinance a federal loan, you waive your government benefits
Pay off your loan faster

More flexible repayment terms

Option to drop your cosigner

Student Loan Refinancing Requirements

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

  • US citizen or permanent resident
  • Age 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 Cosigner

Benefits
Risks
Greater chance of approval
Cosigner takes on liability
Reduce the interest rate if the cosigner has good credit
Damage to cosigner’s credit score in event of missed payments
Flexibility to release the cosigner at the predetermined future date
Potential damage to relationship with cosigner over finances

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 cosigner. By bringing a cosigner with good credit and income, the lender is more likely to approve the refinance loan and to offer a low interest rate. Bringing on a cosigner involves more paperwork than applying alone. The lender will ask for documentation from both the primary borrower and their cosigner. A credit inquiry will be performed for both people.It might not be easy to find a cosigner. After all, not everyone would be open to sharing your financial liability. However, if a parent, relative, or close friend agrees to cosign your refinance loan, 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 cosigner 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. Hopefully, none of those things will happen to you over the course of your education and loan term.

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 we are at our most vulnerable—young, not-yet employed, and with no credit history. On the flipside, the reward comes by graduating and finding a job. Fortunately, there are ways to cancel or at least reduce your debt payments with better interest rates or lower loan terms. 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.

Top10.com StaffByTop10.com StaffAug. 18, 2019
Our editorial staff is comprised of writers who are knowledgeable about financial services. We specialize in simplifying the process of choosing the right student loan lender for your needs.