San Francisco-based Earnest uses cutting-edge technology to qualify borrowers with a strong payment history and future earning potential for their student loan refinancing.


Earnest uses specific, yet transparent eligibility requirements. The list may seem daunting at first, but it removes a lot of the guesswork out of the application process. If you meet the qualifications on the list, you could refinance your student loans with low rates, plus a slew of extra perks.

Keep reading to find out how to qualify for student loan refinancing and how this stand-out process differs from other lenders.

Student Loan Refinance Application Requirements

To apply for an Earnest student loan refinance, you must either be a U.S. citizen or have a 10-year non-conditional permanent resident card. Additionally, applicants must be enrolled less than part-time, or within six months of graduation.

Earnest lends in all states but Delaware, Nevada, and Kentucky

Applicants should also have a credit score minimum of 650. You must have a job, a consistent income, or a job offer that starts within six months. You’ll also need all your student loan accounts in good standing, be current on your rent or mortgage, and your credit report must be free of bankruptcies and accounts in collections.

Your current student loans must also meet a few basic requirements. You must be the primary borrower on the loan and your refinance amount must be at least $5,000.

Earnest also sets out detailed approval factors concerning your cash flow and credit history:

  • Savings should be robust enough to cover at least two months of expenses, housing included
  • Bank account increasingly balances, having spent less than you earn
  • Carry low credit card and personal loan debt
  • Positive payment history
  • Not regularly charged late, overdraft, or insufficient fund fees

All of these factors may seem like a lot of information to process. The good news is that you know exactly what you need for a strong chance of approval on your refinancing application. Transparency is a strong value at Earnest, so think of these specific eligibility requirements as helpful rather than burdensome.

Types of Student Loans Available

Earnest offers student loan refinancing for both student borrowers and parents. There are a few restrictions, so read the details carefully to make sure your existing debt qualifies.

Student Loan Refinancing

You can refinance one or more federal or private student loan through Earnest. Loan amounts can range anywhere between $5,000 and $500,000. You can choose loan terms that last anywhere between 5 and 20 years.

Earnest does not allow for cosigners, so you need to be able to meet all of the eligibility requirements on your own.

Parent PLUS Refinancing

Parents who took out student loans on behalf of one or more child can also refinance with Earnest. The same loan amount ranges and repayment plans apply to parent loans. However, Earnest doesn’t allow parents to transfer the debt to their child. The refinanced loan must stay in the original borrower’s name.

Fees and Rates

Refinancing your student loans with Earnest can get you access to some pretty competitive interest rates. Fixed rates range between 3.03% – 6.38% APR, while variable rates start at 1.89% – 6.38% APR. These figures include a 0.25% autopay discount.

If you want to switch your Earnest loan from one rate type to another, you can apply to do so after making six months of on-time payments. You may have a hard credit inquiry performed and your request is subject to approval. However, it’s an easier process compared to going through a full refinance application with a new lender.

There are no application or origination fees with Earnest student loans. You’ll also be exempt from prepayment penalties and late fees.

Earnest’s Student Loan Process

Earnest has an innovative loan process. It starts with potential borrowers applying online. You can get a two-minute rate estimate online, which only requires a soft pull to keep your credit score intact. If you like what you see, you can continue with a full application.

Here’s where Earnest makes things interesting.

It doesn’t just look at traditional factors like your credit score. It also analyzes your savings patterns, your investments, and even your career trajectory. It’s a truly holistic approach to determine your ability to repay your student loan and get you the most competitive rate possible.

Earnest also offers a Precision Pricing tool, which lets you fine-tune your monthly payments to work with your budget. Borrowers are able to select their monthly payment amount upon getting approved.

Earnest then finds an interest rate and loan term to match your financial needs. The idea is to help you pay off your student loan as quickly as possible. In fact, it’s called “precision pricing” because you can schedule your repayment date down to the month.

Once you refinance student loans with Earnest, you can then manage your payments through the dashboard and mobile app. It’s easy to set up payments and make additional principal payments if you wish.

Special Features

Client Happiness Team – Student loan clients can access Earnest’s in-house team via call, text, or email. While you don’t get a designated loan advisor, the team is extremely client-focused.

Resource Library – Earnest’s resource library is full of helpful tools and information. You’ll find how-to guides, comparisons, and calculators for both refinancing and consolidating your student loans. No matter where you are in your student loan payoff journey, there’s something in there for you.

Deferment Available – You may be eligible to defer your Earnest student loan payments if you enroll in graduate school or serve in active military duty or the Peace Corps. Interest will, however, continue to accrue during this period.

Forbearance Options – If you’ve made at least three months of payments on your Earnest student loans, you could qualify for forbearance in certain situations. Eligibility requirements include one of the following situations:

  • An involuntary decrease in income or loss of employment
  • A sudden, significant increase in essential costs (such as medical expenses or emergency home repair)
  • Parental leave

Option to Skip a Payment. You can skip one student loan payment every 12 months after you’ve made 6 consecutive on-time payments. Just know that the skipped payment will be added to the end of your loan term and you’ll accrue extra interest so your monthly payment will rise slightly. But if you had a tight month, applying for Skip-A-Payment could help you. To qualify, you’ll need to submit a form at least five days before your loan payment is due.

Bottom Line

Earnest uses sophisticated technology to truly unlock your potential and get you the best rates possible. While their eligibility requirements list is long, it helps you quickly realize whether or not you’re part of the lender’s target demographic.

If you are, you can take advantage of low rates, a customizable repayment term, and the Skip-A-Payment program if you ever need a temporary reprieve from making payments. Earnest is a unique lender that definitely emulates everything you’d expect from a San Francisco startup.