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Updated on Wednesday, June 24, 2015
With Federal student loan rates skyrocketing, and tuition costs at an all-time high, refinancing high-interest student loans is something everyone burdened with student loan debt should consider.
CommonWealth One Federal Credit Union offers student loan refinancing to its members at rates as low as 3.00%.
- Competitive Rates: Ranging from 2.70% APR to 10.14% APR with autopay
- Loan Amounts: You can borrow up to $75,000
- No Origination Fee
- No Prepayment Penalties: You can prepay the principal on your loan, partially or in full, without any penalties, ever.
- 15 Year Repayment Period
- Proactive Payments: You have the option to make either interest payments only or $25 proactive payments towards the loan while in school.
- Cosigner Release: You are initially required to have a cosigner to take out the student loan with CommonWealth One. However, after 24 consecutive on-time principal and interest payments, creditworthy borrowers may be released from the cosigner requirement.
- 30-Day No-Fee Return Policy: If, within 30 days from disbursement, you decide that you would like to cancel, you can do so without any fees or penalties.
- 0.25% APR Reduction: Enrolling in automatic payments with CommonWealth One entitles you to a 0.25% APR reduction.
Pros and Cons
- Competitive Rates
- Loan amounts up to $75,000
- No origination fee
- No prepayment penalties
- 0.25% APR reduction for automatic payments
- Cosigner release
- 30-Day No Fee Return Policy
- Proactive Payments
- Must be a CommonWealth One member
- Variable APR
- Cosigner required
- Failed or canceled automatic payment will result in a rate increase of 0.25%
The Fine Print
You must be a member of CommonWealth One in order to apply for its student loans. In order to become a member, you must;
- Live, work, worship, go to school, or volunteer in one of the following areas:
- Washington, DC;
- City of Harrisonburg, VA;
- Warren County, VA;
- Clarke County, VA;
- City of Alexandria, VA. (Specific areas)
- Or, Be an employee of one of more than 200 sponsor groups
- Or, Have a family member who adheres to the above criteria
You can open and maintain an account with CommonWealth One for as little as $5, which will qualify you to apply for student loans.
A Cosigner is required for this student loan refinance program, but can be released if the primary borrower is creditworthy and after they have made 24 consecutive, on-time principal and interest payments.
Additionally, the APR on the loan is variable. CommonWealth One’s student loan program operates through LendKey, which offers loan refinance options from more than 300 banks and credit unions. Only a few lenders who operate through LendKey offer fixed rate loans, and CommonWealth One is not one of them.
While CommonWealth One offers a 0.25% APR reduction for borrowers who enroll in automatic payments, cancellation of automatic payments, or a failed automatic payment will result in the APR being increased by 0.25%.
How It Stacks Up Against The Competition
You should shop around. You can find the best places to refinance student loans here.
Social Finance, known to most as SoFi, offers rates as low as 2.99% on variable interest with autopay, and does not require a cosigner in most cases, like CommonWealth One. It also offers terms of up to 20 years. However, the minimum amount that you can borrow is $10,000.
During the underwriting process, SoFi takes into account criteria such as professional accomplishments and employments history in addition to income and credit, in an attempt to create a more “holistic” loan application process.
Earnest finances amounts from $5,000 with no maximum amount you can borrow. It offers terms of up to 20 years, and the ability to switch between variable and fixed rates with no charge.
Earnest does not have many loan eligibility requirements, and allows borrowers to skip a payment every 12 months, but that isn’t a freebie. Skipping payments will ultimately result in paying more interest.
Look Around for the Best Fit
The CommonWealth One Student Loan refinance program, while only open to individuals who live or work in a certain geographic area, is fair. There are very few fees, and in fact it offers several rate discounts for on-time or automatic payments. However, if your goal is a low or fixed interest, rate, you should carefully weigh your options and choose the student loan refinance program that will save you the most money.