San Francisco-based Earnest offers private student loans and refinancing options to qualified borrowers. The company uses cutting edge technology to evaluate borrowers on their payment history and future earning potential.

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Earnest is very upfront about its eligibility requirements, which removes a lot of the guesswork from the application process. And because its criteria is different than what most lenders look for, even borrowers with limited credit history can qualify.

And best of all, Earnest offers private loans and student loan refinancing at low rates with flexible loan terms. Keep reading to find out how to qualify for lending options with Earnest, and how the company stands out from other lenders.

Student Loan Refinance Application Requirements

To qualify for a loan product from Earnest, you must either be a U.S. citizen or have a 10-year non-conditional permanent resident card. And all applicants must either be enrolled in school part-time, or within six months of graduation.

Earnest is available in every state except Delaware, Nevada, and Kentucky. The company looks for borrowers with a minimum credit score of 650 that have consistent income, or a job that starts within the next six months.

All your accounts must be in good standing, including existing student loans and your rent or mortgage. Borrowers that have been sent to collections or gone through bankruptcy are not eligible.

If you’re considering refinancing your student loans through Earnest, they must meet a few basic requirements. You must be the primary borrowers on the loan and the minimum refinancing amount is $5,000.

And Earnest has some additional requirements regarding cash flow and credit history:

  • Your savings should cover at least two months of expenses, including housing.
  • Your bank accounts should demonstrate that you spend less than you earn.
  • You must have a positive payment history.
  • There’s no history of late, overdraft, or insufficient fund fees.
  • Your debt-to-income ratio is low.

These requirements may seem stringent, but Earnest makes it easy for borrowers to identify areas where they can improve.

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

Earnest offers private student loans and student loan refinancing options to borrowers and parents. Here is an overview of the lending products Earnest offers.

Private Student Loans

Earnest offers private student loans to undergraduate and graduate students. These loans come with competitive interest rates, flexible lending terms, and more borrower protections than what most private lenders offer.

For instance, new graduates receive a nine-month grace period before they have to start repaying their loans. You have the option to defer your loans during graduate school, and borrowers have the option to skip one payment every 12 months.

Student Loan Refinancing

Earnest also allows borrowers to refinance their federal or private student loans. You can refinance loan amounts between $5,000 and $500,000 with term limits between five and 20 years.

Unfortunately, Earnest does not offer an option for cosigners, so you’ll have to meet the eligibility requirements on your own.

Parent PLUS Refinancing

If you’re a parent who took out student loans for your child, you can refinance through Earnest. The terms are the same as regular student loan refinancing, but Earnest won’t allow you to transfer the debt to your child. The refinanced loan will stay in the original borrower’s name.

Fees and Rates

Earnest offers competitive interest rates on all their lending products. For private student loans, a fixed-rate loan starts at 4.39% APR and a variable rate loan starts at 2.74% APR.

For student loan refinancing, fixed-rate loans start at 4.25% APR and variable rate loans start at 3.50% APR. All of the figures listed about do include a 0.25% autopay discount.

If you’re on the fence about whether you should pursue a variable or fixed-rate loan, the good news is that you’re not stuck with either. After six months of making on-time payments, you can switch your Earnest loan to a different rate type. However, approval is not guaranteed and this may result in a hard inquiry on your credit report.

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 offers a seamless online application process. After you apply, you’ll receive a rate estimate within two minutes. And the company does a soft pull on your credit, so you don’t have to worry about your credit score dropping.

If you like the rate estimate you receive, you can continue with the application process. This is where Earnest’s approval process differs from other private lenders.

Earnest looks at more than just your credit score; the company also analyzes your savings patterns, your investments, and even your career trajectory. It’s a 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 can select their monthly payment amount once they’ve been approved for the loan.

The company 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’re approved for a private loan or refinancing through Earnest, you’ll manage your payments through the dashboard and mobile app. This makes it easy to set up payments and pay down your principal.

Special Features

Client Happiness Team: Earnest puts a high priority on customer satisfaction, which is why they created their client happiness team. You can access the company’s in-house team by phone, text, or email and the team is very responsive.

Resource Library: Earnest provides a lot of helpful tools and information for student loan borrowers. You’ll find additional guides and calculators for paying off your loans faster, and information about student loan consolidation. Earnest helps borrowers at every step of the lending process.

Deferment Available: Earnest offers generous borrower protections, which is somewhat rare for a private lender. You can defer your private loans if you enroll in graduate school or join the military or Peace Corps. Your interest will continue to accrue, but you don’t have to make payments.

Forbearance Options: If you’ve made three months of on-time payments on your private student loans, you may qualify for student loan forbearance. The following scenarios make you eligible for forbearance:

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

Option to Skip a Payment: After six months of consecutive, on-time payments, borrowers have the option to skip one loan payment every 12 months. The skipped payment is added to the end of your loan term, so you will accrue additional interest. But this could be beneficial for someone on a very tight budget.

Bottom Line

If you’re looking to take out private student loans or refinance existing loans, Earnest is a good option. The company uses technology to evaluate borrowers in an entirely new way, and help you access the most competitive rates.

The lending requirements may seem strict, but Earnest makes it easy to see how you can increase your odds of approval. The company is a truly unique lender, and a good choice for anyone that wants low interest rates, customized repayment terms, and robust borrower protections.