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7 Best Student Loan Refinance Companies

7 Best Student Loan Refinance Companies

At first glance, all student loan refinance lenders look a lot alike. But once you delve into the details, multiple differences in their loan featur

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At first glance, all student loan refinance lenders look a lot alike. But once you delve into the details, multiple differences in their loan features can make a significant difference in how easy it is to get or pay off the loan.

For example, some offer cosigner release, allowing you to take full financial responsibility for your loan after a series of on-time payments — an attractive feature for reluctant cosigners. Others allow you to combine loans with your spouse to get a single lower monthly payment. There are also deferment and forbearance options and special discounts and interest rate reductions.

Since refinancing your student loans can impact your finances for years to come, it pays to compare lenders to find the best student loan refinancing company for you.

Best Student Loan Refinance Companies

Of the best-known and highest-ranking student loan refinance lenders, these companies get high marks for their low interest rates, flexible terms, excellent customer service, extra perks, and borrower reviews.

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Each does at least one thing really well. And our top overall pick offers the best value for the greatest number of borrowers, in our opinion.

Best Overall: Credible

Credible Logo

Technically, Credible isn’t a lender. It’s a marketplace where you can search for and compare rates from its partner lenders using one convenient online application. 

Which is precisely why it tops our list. When time is of the essence, finding the best student loan refinance offer means sorting through lots of different offers quickly, without soliciting each one individually.

Plus, Credible doesn’t share your information directly with lenders and uses a soft credit inquiry to match you with prequalified rates. So you can easily shop around to find the best refinance loan for you without it affecting your credit score.

And if you like a rate, you can apply for the loan and get a final offer in as little as one business day.

Additional features:

  • Flexible borrower income requirements
  • Terms ranging from five to 20 years
  • Refinance undergraduate, graduate, parent PLUS, and private student loans
  • Competitive interest rates (starting around 2.00% APR variable)
  • Refinance balances as low as $7,500
  • For a limited time, get a $750* Money Crashers Reader Bonus when you complete your refinancing

Refinance Your Student Loans With Credible

Best for Personalized Service: Education Loan Finance

Education Loan Finance Logo

Education Loan Finance (ELFI) has some drawbacks, offering few perks and no co-signer release. But it scores highly with borrowers for its excellent customer service.

One reason is that ELFI matches borrowers with a dedicated, highly trained personal loan advisor. Borrowers can call, text, or email their advisors to ask questions throughout the refinancing process and throughout the life of their loan.

In fact, ELFI’s customer service is so outstanding, it lands it in the top ranks of refinance lenders year after year. 

Additional features:

  • Up to 12 months financial hardship or medical forbearance
  • $15,000 minimum loan balance
  • Loan terms from five to 20 years
  • Relatively low minimum income requirement ($35,000/year)
  • Variable rates below 2.00% APR
  • Minimum FICO score of 680

Refinance Your Student Loans With Education Loan Finance

Best for Bigger Loan Balances: Earnest

Earnest Logo 1

Earnest stands out for its flexible refinancing options, its unique approach to underwriting, and its unlimited loan size. 

No matter how much student debt you have, you can refinance it in its entirety here. That’s great news for borrowers with high-dollar professional school loans on top of undergraduate debt.

And you’re more likely to qualify with modest income or less-than-perfect credit thanks to a holistic underwriting approach that looks at your complete financial picture — how well you can afford your expenses, how regularly you save, and whether you have a retirement account.

Additional features:

  • 0.25% interest rate reduction, when you enroll in autopay
  • Choose your monthly payment and build your rate and terms around it
  • Unusually flexible repayment options
  • Refinance balances as low as $2,000
  • Variable interest rates below 2.00% APR
  • Minimum FICO score of 650

Refinance Your Student Loans With Earnest

Best for Financial Hardship Options: RISLA

Risla Logo 1

RISLA is another lender that stands out for its borrower protections. Its option to defer loans up to 24 months for financial hardship is longer than most other lenders and provides welcome relief for borrowers in volatile industries. 

Even more singular, RISLA offers a unique income-based repayment plan for borrowers who fall on hard times. You can reduce payments to 15% of your monthly income and repay them over a 25-year term. Similar options are currently only available to federal student loan borrowers through income-driven repayment plans. 

Additional features:

  • Refinance balances starting at $7,500, up to $250,000 (based on degree level and discipline)
  • Refinance undergraduate, graduate, or parent PLUS loans (loans borrowed to attend for-profit schools excluded)
  • 0.25% autopay discount
  • Minimum FICO score of 680
  • Loan terms ranging from five to 15 years
  • Maximum possible interest rate of around 7%

Refinance Your Student Loans With RISLA

Best Value-Added Products and Services: SoFi

Sofi Logo

SoFi, short for “Social Finance,” is one of the largest and most well-known student loan refinance lenders.

It’s consistently rated one of the top lenders because it offers a comprehensive array of benefits, including unemployment protection, career coaching, and free financial planning along with competitively low interest rates and flexible repayment options.

SoFi also offers a slew of other financial products and services, including online banking (checking and savings accounts) and a commission-free investment platform.

And its new SoFi Points program rewards you for using all these financial tools, including activities as simple as checking your credit score. You can redeem points toward paying down your eligible SoFi loans.

Additional features:

  • Quick online preapproval application
  • Choose your own repayment plan
  • Competitive interest rates
  • Loan deferment options for borrowers in graduate school
  • Minimum FICO score of 650
  • 0.25% autopay discount

Refinance Your Student Loans With SoFi

Best for Spousal Loan Consolidation: Splash Financial

Splash Financial Logo

Splash Financial is an online marketplace like Credible. After you apply with Splash and receive multiple lender offers, you’ll choose the bank or credit union that offers you the interest rate and terms that work best for you.

But Splash really stands out as one of the very few lenders that offer spousal loan refinancing. Married couples can consolidate their loans into one joint loan. That’s great news for spouses with unequal incomes — refinancing into a joint loan can help smooth out cash flow issues in such households.

Additional features:

  • Special terms for medical residents — just $100 per month during residency and for up to 6 months afterward
  • Co-signer release available after 12 consecutive on-time monthly payments
  • Refinance undergraduate, graduate, parent PLUS, and private student loans
  • 0.25% autopay discount
  • Minimum FICO score of 670 with a co-signer
  • Variable APRs below 2.00%
  • Terms ranging from five to 20 years

Refinance Your Student Loans With Splash Financial

Best for Lower-Income Borrowers: LendKey

Lendkey Logo

Like some of the other entrants on this list, LendKey is also a marketplace of lenders. But LendKey stands out because its exclusive network of lenders consists mainly of credit unions and community banks. As such, borrowers can often find student loan products with highly competitive interest rates and those that may be a better fit for their specific refinancing needs.

LendKey’s partners lend to borrowers with incomes as low as $24,000 without a co-signer and $12,000 with one. Plus, some LendKey partner lenders offer more flexible repayment options and generous economic hardship deferment terms. All told, LendKey is a top choice for those with low income.

Like other student loan refinancing marketplaces, LendKey uses a single application to match borrowers with the best possible interest rates for refinancing their student loans. But it also manages the application process, services the loans, and provides all the customer support.

Additional features:

  • Refinance balances up to $125,000 for undergraduate loans, $175,000 for graduate loans, and $300,000 for medical school loans
  • Minimum FICO score of 660
  • Undergraduate, graduate, parent PLUS, and private student loans are eligible
  • 0.25% autopay discount
  • Variable rates under 2.00% APR
  • Loan terms range from five to 20 years

Refinance Your Student Loans with LendKey

Methodology: How We Select the Best Student Loan Refinance Companies

We use several key factors to evaluate the best student loan refinance companies. Each relates in some way to their loans’ cost, terms, flexibility, or overall borrower experience.

Interest Rate Range (APR)

The interest rate, or annual percentage rate, is arguably the most important feature of a student refinance loan. After all, most people refinance to get a lower interest rate and a lower monthly payment to match.

Student loan interest rates do depend on prevailing benchmark rates, which lenders don’t control. But some lenders make a point of offering lower rates — or lower starting rates for well-qualified borrowers, at least. And they’re worth pursuing.

Loan Terms

All else being equal, your student loan term is inversely proportional to your payment size and directly proportional to the total amount of interest you pay over the life of the loan. The shorter the term, the higher the payment, and the lower the total interest charge.

Loan Repayment Options and Frequency

Monthly payment frequency is standard in the world of installment loans, but it’s not the only option. Some lenders offer a biweekly payment option, which may work better for borrowers who get paid every two weeks and can also reduce the total cost of the loan thanks to more frequent principal payments.

Separately, lenders that offer an array of flexible repayment options do well in our book. Many private lenders don’t offer income-based repayment programs, however.

Income Requirements

Every lender has minimum income requirements for student loan refinancing. The best lenders have very low minimums — often below the poverty line. 

Credit Score Requirements

Every lender has minimum credit score requirements for student loan refinancing as well. These aren’t always clearly disclosed, so we give preference to lenders that are transparent about what they’re looking for. Generally, loans get harder to find the farther you venture into subprime territory, and many lenders don’t work with borrowers whose FICO scores are under 600 unless they show up with a cosigner.

Deferment Options

If you fall on hard times, you want to know that you can temporarily pause your student loan repayment without going into default. Likewise, while you’re still in school and/or getting your feet under you after graduation, you want the flexibility that comes with temporary deferment. Bonus points for lenders that offer interest-only repayment during deferment periods, allowing borrowers to avoid costly interest capitalization.

Forgiveness and Cancellation Options

Private student loans tend to be harder to forgive or cancel than federal student loans, which is one reason why you should think twice about refinancing a federal loan into a private loan. But some private lenders are more flexible than others on this point.

Student Loan Refinancing FAQs

You have questions about refinancing your student loans. We have answers.

How Do You Refinance a Student Loan?

Start by checking your rate and evaluating lenders’ refinance offers. This part of the process won’t affect your credit score, but you will need to agree to a hard credit pull when you actually apply. That could ding your rate.

During the application process, you’ll need to substantiate your assets, income, employment, and other information so that the lender can evaluate whether you’re an acceptable risk. If you’re approved, the lender pays off the loans you’re refinancing and rolls the balances into a new loan with a new interest rate and monthly payment.

What Are the Benefits of Refinancing a Student Loan?

Many graduates refinance their student loans to lock in low interest rates, or at least lower rates than they got on the original loan.

If you can lock in a low interest rate, you can save significant amounts of money over the life of your loan, possibly enabling you to pay off your debt sooner so you can free up cash to save toward retirement, make a down payment on a home, or start a family.

Refinancing a student loan can also reduce your monthly payment, freeing up room in your budget for other expenses. Or it can shorten the term, reducing the time until you’re student debt-free — though this usually increases the monthly payment.

What Happens When You Refinance a Federal Student Loan?

Once you refinance your federal student loans, they’re no longer federal loans. A private bank owns them.

This means you lose all the benefits associated with federal student loans, including income-based repayment plans, extensive hardship options, more generous default terms, the option to consolidate multiple federal loans, and multiple forgiveness or cancellation options.

Before refinancing your federal student loans, make sure you don’t need these benefits more than you need a lower monthly payment or faster payoff.

Can You Refinance a Student Loan With Bad Credit?

It depends on the lender. You’ll definitely have more choices if you have good credit, but some student loan refinance companies work with borrowers whose credit is average or even impaired.

If your FICO score is much below 600, you may need a cosigner for your loan. Often, this is a parent or other relative willing to guarantee the loan should you default.

How to Select the Best Student Loan Refinance Option

As you’re researching student loan refinance companies, note that lenders’ annual percentage rates (APRs) and terms are subject to change. Always check the lenders’ websites for the latest information. The interest rate you qualify for depends on your credit profile, application, and the loan length you select.

The most creditworthy borrowers qualify for the lowest interest rates. That includes having a high annual income, low debt-to-income ratio, and a high credit score. If you don’t know yours, check your credit score before applying for a loan.

While a lower interest rate helps you save money, it’s not the only loan term to look for when comparing refinance loan offers. The best lenders lack origination fees, prepayment penalties, or excessive late fees. They also offer perks like autopay discounts.

They also have more generous deferment and forbearance options, including economic hardship deferment and in-school deferment. That’s crucial if you’re opting to refinance undergrad loans before going to grad school.

Although interest accrues on any deferred loans, the best student loan lenders allow you to make interest-only payments to avoid capitalization (the interest getting added to the principal loan balance when the deferment ends).

And if you can’t manage interest-only payments while in school, some top lenders have plans that allow flat-rate payments of low amounts, such as $25 per month, so you can tackle at least a portion of the accruing interest.

All these options help your bottom line just as much as qualifying for the best rates.


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