Updated: November 17, 2016
Are you tired of paying a high interest rate on your student loan debt? You may be looking for ways to refinance your student loans at a lower interest rate, but don’t know where to turn. We have created the most complete list of lenders currently willing to refinance student loan debt. But the Top 4 lenders offer the best rates, and you should focus your shopping on these lenders.
You should always shop around for the best rate. Don’t worry about the impact on your credit score of applying to multiple lenders: so long as you complete all of your applications within 14 days, it will only count as one inquiry on your credit score. You can see the full list of 19+ lenders below, but we recommend you start here, and check rates from the top 4 national lenders offering the lowest interest rates. We update this list daily:
We have also created:
- A student loan refinance calculator, which can help you find out how much money you can save if you refinance
- A comparison tool which lets you see student loan terms all at once, with no need to give up personal information.
But before you refinance, read on to see if you are ready to refinance your student loans.
Can I Get Approved?
Loan approval rules vary by lender. However, all of the lenders will want:
- Proof that you can afford your payments. That means you have a job with income that is sufficient to cover your student loans and all of your other expenses.
- Proof that you are a responsible borrower, with a demonstrated record of on-time payments. For some lenders, that means that they use the traditional FICO, requiring a good score. For other lenders, they may just have some basic rules, like no missed payments, or a certain number of on-time payments required to prove that you are responsible.
If you are in financial difficulty and can’t afford your monthly payments, a refinance is not the solution. Instead, you should look at options to avoid a default on student loan debt.
This is particularly important if you have Federal loans.
Don’t refinance Federal loans unless you are very comfortable with your ability to repay. Think hard about the chances you won’t be able to make payments for a few months. Once you refinance, you may lose flexible Federal payment options that can help you if you genuinely can’t afford the payments you have today. Check the Federal loan repayment estimator to make sure you see all the Federal options you have right now.
If you can afford your monthly payment, but you have been a sloppy payer, then you will likely need to demonstrate responsibility before applying for a refinance.
But, if you can afford your current monthly payment and have been responsible with those payments, then a refinance could be possible and help you pay the debt off sooner.
Is it worth it?
Like any form of debt, your goal with a student loan should be to pay as low an interest rate as possible. Other than a mortgage, you will likely never have a debt as large as your student loan.
If you are able to reduce the interest rate by re-financing, then you should consider the transaction. However, make sure you include the following in any decision:
Is there an origination fee?
Many lenders have no fee, which is great news. If there is an origination fee, you need to make sure that it is worth paying. If you plan on paying off your loan very quickly, then you may not want to pay a fee. But, if you are going to be paying your loan for a long time, a fee may be worth paying.
Is the interest rate fixed or variable?
Variable interest rates will almost always be lower than fixed interest rates. But there is a reason: you end up taking all of the interest rate risk. We are currently at all-time low interest rates. So, we know that interest rates will go up, we just don’t know when.
This is a judgment call. Just remember, when rates go up, so do your payments. And, in a higher rate environment, you will not be able to refinance to a better option (because all rates will be going up).
We typically recommend fixing the rate as much as possible, unless you know that you can pay off your debt during a short time period. If you think it will take you 20 years to pay off your loan, you don’t want to bet on the next 20 years of interest rates. But, if you think you will pay it off in five years, you may want to take the bet. Some providers with variable rates will cap them, which can help temper some of the risk.
Places to Consider a Refinance
If you go to other sites they may claim to compare several student loan offers in one step. Just beware that they might only show you deals that pay them a referral fee, so you could miss out on lenders ready to give you better terms. Below is what we believe is the most comprehensive list of current student loan refinancing lenders.
You should take the time to shop around. FICO says there is little to no impact on your credit score for rate shopping as many providers as you’d like in a single shopping period (which can be between 14-30 days, depending upon the version of FICO). So set aside a day and apply to as many as you feel comfortable with to get a sense of who is ready to give you the best terms.
Here are more details on the 5 lenders offering the lowest interest rates:
1. SoFi*: Variable Rates from 2.24% and Fixed Rates from 3.50% (with AutoPay)
SoFi (read our full SoFi review) was one of the first lenders to start offering student loan refinancing products. More MagnifyMoney readers have chosen SoFi than any other lender. Although SoFi initially targeted a very select group of universities (it started with Stanford), now almost anyone can apply, including if you graduated from a trade school. The only requirement is that you graduated from a Title IV school. You need to have a degree, a good job and good income in order to qualify. SoFi wants to be more than just a lender. If you lose your job, SoFi will help you find a new one. If you need a mortgage for a first home, they are there to help. And, surprisingly, they also want to get you a date. SoFi is famous for hosting parties for customers across the country, and creating a dating app to match borrowers with each other.
2. LendKey*: Variable Rates from 1.97% and Fixed Rates from 3.25% (with AutoPay)
LendKey (read our full LendKey review) works with community banks and credit unions across the country. Although you apply with LendKey, your loan will be with a community bank. If you like the idea of working with a credit union or community bank, LendKey could be a great option. Over the past year, LendKey has become increasingly competitive on pricing, and frequently has a better rate than some of the more famous marketplace lenders.
3. Earnest*: Variable Rates from 2.14% and Fixed Rates from 3.50% (with AutoPay)
Earnest (read our full Earnest review) offers fixed interest rates starting at 3.50% and variable rates starting at 2.14%. Unlike any of the other lenders, you can switch between fixed and variable rates throughout the life of your loan. You can do that one time every six months until the loan is paid off. That means you can take advantage of the low variable interest rates now, and then lock in a higher fixed rate later. You can choose your own monthly payment, based upon what you can afford (to the penny). Earnest also offers bi-weekly payments and “skip a payment” if you run into difficulty.
3. CommonBond*: Variable Rates from 2.23% and Fixed Rates from 3.50% (with AutoPay)
CommonBond (read our full CommonBond review) started out lending exclusively to graduate students. They initially targeted doctors with more than $100,000 of debt. Over time, CommonBond has expanded and now offers student loan refinancing options to graduates of almost any university (graduate and undergraduate). In addition (and we think this is pretty cool), CommonBond will fund the education of someone in need in an emerging market for every loan that closes. So not only will you save money, but someone in need will get access to an education.
In addition to the Top 4 (ranked by interest rate), there are many more lenders offering to refinance student loans. Below is a listing of all providers we have found so far. This list includes credit unions that may have limited membership. We will continue to update this list as we find more lenders. This list is ordered alphabetically:
- Alliant Credit Union: In order to qualify, you need to have a bachelor’s degree. The minimum credit score is 680, and you need two years of employment and a minimum income of $40,000. Interest rates start as low as 3.75%. Anyone can join this credit union by making a $10 donation to Foster Care for Success.
- Citizens Bank: To get the best deal, you should have at least a bachelor’s degree. They will look at your credit history, and want to make sure that at least the last three payments on your student loans have been made on time. If you don’t have your degree, you need to have made the last 12 payments (principal and interest) on time. You must make at least $24,000 per year. They offer fixed rates starting at 4.74% and variable rates start from 2.19%.
- College Avenue: College Avenue offers fixed rates starting at 4.74% and variable at 2.50%, and only offers 15 year terms.
- CommonWealth One Federal Credit Union: Variable interest rates start at 3.36%. You can borrow up to $75,000 and need to be a member of the credit union in order to qualify.
- Credit Union Student Choice: This is a tool offered by credit unions. The criteria and pricing vary by credit union. The credit unions have restricted membership, but you can find out if you qualify on this site.
- DRB Student Loan*: They will refinance undergraduate, Parent PLUS and graduate loans including MBA, Law, Medical/Dental (Post Residency), Physician Assistant, Advanced Degree Nursing, Anesthetist, Pharmacist, Engineering, Computer Science and more degrees. Variable rates as low as 3.64% and 4.20% fixed.
- Eastman Credit Union: They don’t share much of their criteria publicly. Fixed rates start at 6.5% and you must be a member of the credit union. Credit union membership is not available to everyone.
- Education Success Loans: You must be out of school for at least 30 months, and you must have a degree. You also need a good credit score, with on-time payment behavior. Variable and fixed loan options are available, with rates starting at 4.99%.
- EdVest: They offer refinancing options for private loans used to finance attendance at a Title IV, degree-granting institution. If the loan balance is below $100,000 you need to make at least $30,000 a year. If your balance is above $100,000 you need to make at least $50,000. Variable rates start at 3.180%, and fixed rates start at 4.740%.
- First Republic Eagle Gold. It’s hard to beat these rates – starting at 1.95% fixed and 1.87% variable. But you need to go in person to a First Republic branch to complete your account opening. They are located in San Francisco, Palo Alto, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Newport Beach, San Diego, Portland (Oregon), Boston, Palm Beach (Florida), Greenwich, and New York City. Loans must be $60,000 – $300,000 and you need a 750 or higher credit score with 24 months experience in your current industry.
- IHelp: This service will find a community bank. Community banks can actually be expensive. You need to have 2 years of good credit history, with a DTI (debt-to-income) of less than 45% and annual income of at least $24,000. Fixed rates are available, starting at 4.65% fixed, and 3.21% variable.
- Mayo Employees Credit Union: You need at least $2,000 of monthly income and a good credit history. Variable rates are available, starting at 5.15% and you would need to join the credit union.
- Navy Federal Credit Union: This credit union offers limited membership. For men and women who serve, the credit union can offer excellent rates and specialized underwriting. Variable interest rates start at 2.89%.
- RISLA: You need at least a 680 credit score, and can find fixed interest rates starting at 4.49% if you use a co-signer.
- UW Credit Union: $25,000 minimum income required, with at least 5 years of credit history and a good repayment record. Fixed and variable interest rates are available, with variable rates starting at 2.23% and fixed rates starting at 4.04%. You need to join the credit union in order to refinance your loans.
- Wells Fargo: As a traditional lender, Wells Fargo will look at credit score and debt burden. They offer both fixed and variable loans, with variable rates starting at 3.74% and fixed rates starting at 6.24%. Wells Fargo does not have a tradition of being a low cost lender.
You can also compare all of these loan options in one chart with our comparison tool. It lists the rates, loan amounts, and kinds of loans each lender is willing to refinance. You can also email us with any questions at email@example.com.
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*We’ll receive a referral fee if you click on offers with this symbol. This does not impact our rankings or recommendations. You can learn more about how our site is financed here.