Going to college is a fulfilling experience for most people. While you hopefully snagged your dream job after graduation, it’s even more likely that you landed with some pretty steep student loan payments.
Depending on the type of student loan you have and your ability to meet your monthly payments, you may want to consider refinancing the loan.
With a student loan refinance, you take out a new loan to pay off the old one and then benefit from new interest rates or terms.
For example, you might be able to qualify for a lower interest rate if your credit has improved or rates have gone done since your loan was originated.
Alternatively, you could extend the repayment term of your student loan to help lower your monthly payments. You’ll pay more interest over time, but it can help prevent you from defaulting if your budget is tight.
Once you determine whether or not student loan refinancing is right for you, it’s time to start reviewing your options. Each private lender has different requirements for eligibility, including your credit, employment background, and your current loan balance amount.
We’ve gathered some of the best banks to refinance and consolidate student loans for you to explore. Take a look at each one to figure out which best fits your needs. Then reach out and start the loan application process so you can begin taking advantage of your refinance benefits.
Our Top 12 picks for Student Loan Refinancing of 2019
Ready to get refinancing offers from multiple lenders? Check out Credible, an online marketplace that specializes in student loans and refinances.
By filling out one easy application, you’ll receive a variety of different offers from lenders so that you can find the best fit — and fast. Plus, Credible has a great track record with a 9.5 out of 10 rating and thousands of reviews on TrustPilot.
It’s completely free and takes less than two minutes to fill out the entire application. It doesn’t get much easier than that!
You get a lot of flexibility when you refinance student loans with College Ave. To begin with, you can pick whether you want to start making full payments right away or do two years of interest-only payments.
You can also pick loan terms anywhere between five and 15 years and may refinance anything amount between $5,000 and $250,000. The private lender is completely online and once your refinanced loan begins, you’ll make your payments to Navient, a student loan servicer. The average credit score for a College Ave borrower is over 750. There are no application or origination fees.
Rather than operating strictly online, Citizens One is a traditional bank with physical branches. However, you can still apply for a student loan refinance entirely online and get a rate quote in less than two minutes.
There are also opportunities for rate discounts. You can save 0.25% if you or your co-signer already have an eligible account with the bank, and you can save another 0.25% by enrolling in autopay.
Another perk is that you can refinance student loans even if you didn’t graduate from college, which isn’t allowed by many lenders. For undergrads, you can refinance between $10,000 and $150,000 while graduate students can refinance up to $170,000. You can choose either a fixed or variable interest rate.
Earnest is a strong option for graduates with high credit scores and heavy student loan debt.
That’s because the average credit score is 700+, placing most borrowers within the “good credit” or higher category. On the plus side, you can refinance anywhere between $5,000 and $500,000 worth of student loans.
Earnest offers both fixed or variable rates so you can choose the best one for your situation.
In fact, you can even use a handy tool to choose your ideal monthly payment amount, then select the interest rate and term that helps you meet your budget. But if you want to apply for a student loan refinance with a co-signer, you’ll have to look elsewhere. Earnest only allows individual applicants.
Education Loan Finance (ELFi)
ELFi‘s competitive interest rates and terms are buoyed by the fact that you can earn $100 with a Fast Track Bonus by applying and accepting a loan within a 30-day window.
To qualify for a student loan refinance, you’ll need a minimum credit score of 680 and earn at least $35,000 a year.
You can also apply with a co-signer to help meet these requirements and can later apply for them to be released from the loan agreement. You can choose to refinance private or federal student loans.
To refinance student loans with slightly lower credit, try LendKey. The average borrower’s credit score is 680, indicating a little more flexibility than some of the other lenders we’ve discussed.
The minimum refinance amount is $5,000 and the maximum is $125,000 for undergrads and $250,000 for graduate students.
Rather than acting as a direct lender, LendKey instead provides refinance offers from banks and credit unions located across the country. There are more than 300 partnering financial institutions in their network, so you can maximize your chances of qualifying.
The average borrower saves $191 on their monthly payments with LendKey and they boast a 97% satisfaction rate from more than 40,000 borrowers.
SoFi loans have several unique features that make them stand out. First, they boast that the average member savings is more than $22,000 on a student loan refinance.
The company can help you refinance federal and private student loans, and it provides career strategy services.
There’s no upper limit to the amount of debt you can refinance with SoFi, although the minimum sits at $5,000. The average borrower’s credit score is 774, so you’ll need an excellent credit history to qualify. If you do, you can take advantage of competitive rates that offer a discount when you sign up for autopay.
CommonBond‘s borrowers save an average of $24,046 on their student loan refinances and can benefit from a high refinance maximum of up to $500,000.
The average credit score is 750 and your loan may be eligible for forbearance if you hit economic hardship in the future.
CommonBond’s loans are serviced by Firstmark Services and they offer private student loans and federal Parent PLUS loans. For all loans, you can choose between a variable rate, fixed-rate, or a hybrid rate which starts off as fixed and becomes a variable rate after five years.
Though its full name is the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority, you don’t have to live in Massachusetts to qualify for a student loan refinance with MEFA.
The organization boasts an average monthly savings of $191 and you don’t have to worry about paying an origination fee.
To qualify, you’ll need to be in good standing with all of your student loans and have made on-time payments for the last 12 months. The minimum loan amount is $10,000 and you can refinance up to the full amount of all your student loans.
You’ve already gone through the application process once, and you’ve probably already completed the schoolwork your loans originally paid for. So why not go for a loan company that makes student loan refinancing as easy as possible?
Laurel Road helps you find a loan with better interest rates in just minutes, with both fixed rates variable rate loan options available and starting as low as 2.50% APR. Depending on your individual circumstances, you may be approved for repayment options of up to 20 years, making those sky-high totals much more manageable.
When should you refinance student loans?
There are a few different reasons why you should consider student loan refinancing. The most common reason is to save money, either in the short-term or the long-term.
There are a couple of ways you can do this, and your choice depends on your personal situation. Ideally, you might have a higher interest rate on your existing loans and want to consolidate them into a single, lower monthly payment.
Maybe rates have dropped since you took out your loans or your credit has improved so that you qualify for a lower interest rate. In this case, you’d save money both on your monthly payments and on your overall loan.
If you’re struggling to meet your monthly financial obligations, you can also refinance student loans to repay them over a longer period of time. You’ll pay less each month, but end up paying more in interest.
Refinancing student loans also allows you to make one easy monthly payment if you have several different loans. On the flip side, check for any potential tax implications if you do decide to refinance.
Not all refinanced loans may be considered student loans, in which case you may not be able to use your paid interest as a tax deduction. Check with your lender before you make the commitment.
If you’re thinking about refinancing a federal student loan into a private student loan, note that you’ll lose any benefits associated with the federal loan.
These include things like income-based repayment plans and loan forgiveness for public service. Be sure to fully weigh the pros and cons before deciding if refinancing your student loans is the right choice for you.
Requirements to Refinance Your Student Loans
If you took out a number of federal student loans, then the student loan refinancing process will be a bit different than what you’re used to. For federal student loans, all you had to do was fill out the FAFSA. But private lenders tend to have much more rigid lending requirements.
Here are some of the requirements you’ll need to meet to refinance student loans:
- Have a credit score of at least 660 or higher
- A history of making your payments on time
- A regular income
- A college degree
If you don’t have a strong credit history, some lenders will let you apply with a creditworthy co-signer.
Things to Keep in Mind
When you’re refinancing your student loans, you want to get offers from multiple lenders. This will allow you to compare loan offers and see who has the best rates and terms.
Here are a few things you should consider when you’re comparing offers from lenders:
- What kind of interest rate does that lender have?
- What kind of repayment options do they offer?
- Does the lender offer deferment options for borrowers that go through financial difficulties?
- What are the credit score requirements?
- Does that borrower offer a co-signer release option?
- Are there any other benefits you should consider?
FAQs About Student Loan Refinancing
What is student loan refinancing?
When you refinance student loans, your new lender pays off your current loans with a new private student loan. Refinancing can simplify your monthly student loan payments and save you thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.
How do I get started?
To learn more, you can visit any of the online lenders above and apply right from their website. You’ll need to meet the requirements we discussed above to qualify.
Will I qualify for a lower interest rate?
Most people refinance their loans because they’re hoping to lower their interest rates. If you have good credit and a history of making on-time payments, then you may be able to lower your interest rate.
Can I refinance my student loans if I have bad credit?
If you have poor credit, then student loan refinancing isn’t going to be the best option for you. The goal of refinancing is to lower your interest rate, and you’ll need a credit score of at least 660 or higher to do this.
What’s the difference between refinancing and consolidating your loans?
When you refinance student loans, you’re taking out a new private loan that will replace your current Federal and private loans. Student loan consolidation is a program offered by the government in the form of a Direct Consolidation Loan, issued by the U.S. Department of Education. This option allows you to combine your federal loans into a new single loan.
The main difference between the two is that most people refinance so they can earn a lower interest rate and more favorable repayment terms. Meanwhile, a Direct Consolidation Loan doesn’t offer a change to the loan terms. They take the average rate of the loans you’re consolidating and round it up to the nearest eighth of a percent (0.125%).
When is it a bad idea to refinance my loans?
It’s not a good idea to refinance your loans if you’re pursuing a federal loan forgiveness program like the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF). Refinancing could cause you to become ineligible and lose out on such options.
It’s also not a wise choice to refinance if you’re in an unstable job situation. If you think you might be switching careers or have a sudden drop in income, you may want to pursue an income-driven repayment plan instead.
Can you refinance your loans while you’re still in school?
If you’re still in college, most lenders won’t let you refinance your student loans, though there are some exceptions. But it makes more sense to wait until after you graduate to refinance your loans. If you wait until after you graduate, you’ll have a job, be more financially stable, and will have had time to build up your credit.