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Reviews

INOVA Federal Credit Union Review: Checking, Savings, CD, Money Market and IRA Accounts

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Year Established1942
Total Assets$0.4B
LEARN MORE INOVA Federal Credit Union’s secure websiteNCUA Insured

INOVA Federal Credit Union was first established in 1942, initially serving employees of Miles Laboratories, a medical research company based in Elkhart, Indiana.

It has since grown to serve more than 34,000 members and employees from more than 500 companies. INOVA Federal Credit Union currently has seven branch locations (six in Indiana and one in California), as well as 5,000 service center locations and 30,000 free in-network ATMS across the United States. Membership requires paying a one-time $10 membership fee, in addition to opening a Membership Savings account before opening any other products.

INOVA offers customers a wide range of personal, business, loan and credit products. In this review, we will go over its checking, savings, certificate, money market and IRA accounts, and see how they stack up against the competition.

INOVA Federal Credit Union’s Most Popular Accounts

APY

Account Type

Account Name

Compare Rates from Similar Accounts

0.01%

Savings

INOVA Federal Credit Union Membership Savings

2.10%

American Express National Bank High Yield Savings Account

on American Express National Bank’s secure website

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1.00%

CD Rates

INOVA Federal Credit Union 1 Year CD

2.75%

Goldman Sachs Bank USA High-yield 12 Month CD

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2.50%

CD Rates

INOVA Federal Credit Union 3 Year CD

3.10%

Goldman Sachs Bank USA High-yield 5 Year CD

on Goldman Sachs Bank USA’s secure website

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INOVA Federal Credit Union checking account options

Shield Checking

An account that goes the extra mile on personal security and allows you to earn high dividends to boot.
APYMinimum Balance Amount to Earn APY
3.00%
$15,000
  • Minimum opening deposit: $10
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: $5
  • ATM fee: None from INOVA FCU ATM, Alliance One or CO-OP Network ATM; $2 for using any other ATMs.
  • ATM fee refund: None
  • Overdraft fee: $29

This account is loaded with perks and is a great option to earn high interest if you’re able to maintain a balance of $15,000. If you’re able to do that with no problem, the $5 monthly maintenance fee is likely negligible.

As an added bonus, this account comes with IDProtect®, an identity theft monitoring service that includes up to $10,000 in identity theft reimbursement coverage in the event that your identity is stolen. There’s also a cell phone protection feature when you pay your monthly bill through this account.

Other perks include unlimited check writing with no fees, a free Visa debit card and online banking services. You’ll also receive a thank-you gift when you open this account. Finally, INOVA Federal Credit Union will buy back your unused checks and debit card from another bank for up to $10.

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Simply Free Checking

A basic, non-interest earning account with minimal requirements.
  • Minimum opening deposit: $10
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: None
  • ATM fee: None from INOVA FCU ATM, Alliance One or CO-OP Network ATM; $2 for using any other ATMs.
  • ATM fee refund: None
  • Overdraft fee: $29

Although this account doesn’t have the ability to earn interest, it could be a good option for members who want a simple checking account without having to worry about hidden fees or balance requirements. Like the Shield Checking account, this free account also comes with a thank-you gift at opening, the opportunity to sell the credit union your old checks and debit cards for $10, as well as unlimited check writing, online banking services and a free Visa debit card.

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Performance Checking

A interest-earning checking account with minimal requirements.
APYMinimum Balance Amount to Earn APY
0.07%
$0.01
  • Minimum opening deposit: $10
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: $0.01
  • ATM fee: None from INOVA FCU ATM, Alliance One or CO-OP Network ATM; $2 for using any other ATMs.
  • ATM fee refund: None
  • Overdraft fee: $29

If you can’t meet the high minimum balance requirement to earn the APY on the Shield Checking account, this checking account is the one to get. It doesn’t have a monthly service charge or a minimum balance requirement to earn interest; all you have to do is make sure you have one direct deposit or make one automatic payment each month.

In addition to online banking services and a free Visa debit card, this account also offers unlimited check writing capabilities with no fees, a free thank-you gift at opening and the option to sell the credit union your old checks and debit cards from your previous bank.

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Advantage 50 Checking

A checking account exclusively for credit union members age 50 or older.
APYMinimum Balance Amount to Earn APY
0.07%
$0.01
  • Minimum opening deposit: $10
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: $0.01
  • ATM fee: None from INOVA FCU ATM, Alliance One or CO-OP Network ATM; $2 for using any other ATMs.
  • ATM fee refund: None
  • Overdraft fee: $29

Although this account is available exclusively to credit union members age 50 and over, its offerings, fees and other details are mostly the same as with the Performance Checking account, down to to the APY.

As with the Performance Checking account, you do have to make sure you have one direct deposit or make one automatic payment per month with this account. The only added perk with this account is that you can get 50 free personalized checks at any given time, while the Performance account has a fee for the checks.

This account also doesn’t have a monthly fee or minimum balance requirement. It comes with online banking services, a free Visa debit card, unlimited check writing with no fee, as well as a thank-you gift at opening and the option to sell the credit union your old checks and debit card from your previous bank.

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Elite Checking

Tiered dividend levels makes this checking account ideal for those able to maintain higher balances.
APYMinimum Balance Amount to Earn APY
0.11%
$0.01-$1,999.99
0.25%
$2,000
  • Minimum opening deposit: $10
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: $7.50 (can be waived with a maintained balance of $2,000 or more)
  • ATM fee: None from INOVA FCU ATM, Alliance One or CO-OP Network ATM; $2 for using any other ATMs.
  • ATM fee refund: None
  • Overdraft fee: $29

Like the Shield Checking account, this account is also more suited for those who can maintain higher account balances. However, its minimum balance requirement to earn a higher APY is much lower than the other account. This account does have a low monthly fee, but you have the ability to waive it if you maintain a balance of at least $2,000, the same balance you need to be able to earn that higher rate. It also comes with online banking capabilities, a free Visa debit card and free personalized checks, along with a thank you gift at its opening and the chance to sell the credit union your old checks and debit card from your previous bank.

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How INOVA Federal Credit Union’s checking accounts compare

If you’re able to maintain the minimum balance requirements on INOVA Federal Credit Union’s Shield and Elite checking accounts, you’ll have the opportunity to earn a great APY rate. However, despite the lack of fees and requirements for the credit union’s more basic accounts, when you take a look at the rates, they just don’t compare to some of the best checking account options out there. The bonuses like thank-you gifts and check buyback are a nice touch, but don’t do much in the long term.

INOVA Federal Credit Union savings account options

Membership Savings

Anyone joining the credit union is required to opening this account.
APYMinimum Balance Amount to Earn APY
0.01%
$100
  • Minimum opening deposit: $5, plus a one-time $10 membership fee
  • Minimum balance to earn APY: $100
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: None
  • ATM fee: None
  • ATM fee refund: $29

Opening this savings account is a requirement to join INOVA Federal Credit Union and open any of its other products. That’s not really such a bad thing, though, as it only requires a $5 deposit to open and has no monthly fee. It doesn’t really come with any added perks, though, aside from online banking capabilities. And, like all savings accounts, this account is subject to Federal Reserve Regulation D, which limits certain withdrawals up to six per month.

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Special Savings

A simple savings account that allows you to save for a goal with no requirements.
APYMinimum Balance Amount to Earn APY
0.01%
$0.01
  • Minimum opening deposit: None
  • Minimum balance to earn APY: $0.01
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: None
  • ATM fee: None from INOVA FCU ATM, Alliance One or CO-OP Network ATM; $2 for using any other ATMs.
  • ATM fee refund: None
  • Overdraft fee: $29

If you’ve got funds you want to stash aside for, say, a new car or vacation, this account is a great way to do it while earning interest. This account comes with no monthly fees or minimum balance requirements and has online banking capabilities. As with other savings accounts, it’s subject to Regulation D, which limits certain withdrawals up to six per month.

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Christmas Club

A savings account specifically for holiday-related expenses.
APYMinimum Balance Amount to Earn APY
0.01%
$0.01
  • Minimum opening deposit: None
  • Minimum balance to earn APY: $0.01
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: None from INOVA FCU ATM, Alliance One or CO-OP Network ATM; $2 for using any other ATMs.
  • ATM fee refund: None
  • Overdraft fee: $29

This account is similar to the Special Savings account; the key difference is that it’s specifically intended for holiday-related expenses. This interest-earning account doesn’t have any monthly fees or minimum balance or deposit requirements. You can make deposits at any time up until Oct. 31 of a given year before funds are transferred to your Member Savings account.

Keep in mind that this account does have an early withdrawal fee of $10 if you dip into it before Nov. 1. And as with other savings accounts, this account is subject to Federal Reserve Regulation D, limiting certain withdrawals up to six per month.

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How INOVA Federal Credit Union’s savings accounts compare

None of INOVA Federal Credit Union’s savings accounts offer spectacular rates, so we wouldn’t recommend joining the credit union for a savings account alone — though it is a requirement to open any other product. While we like the idea behind the Special Savings and Christmas Club accounts, they offer the same APY as the required Members Savings account, so it seems a little redundant to open both. If you’re simply in search of a savings account with great rates, we suggest looking elsewhere, as there are much better savings account options to be had out there.

INOVA Federal Credit Union certificate rates

Certificates

These offerings give you the opportunity to earn higher rates than with a savings account.
TermAPYMinimum Balance Requirement to Earn APY
30 day0.35%
$200
60 day0.35%
$200
91 day0.35%
$200
5 month0.75%
$200
6 month0.75%
$200
7 month0.85%
$200
14 month1.25%
$200
14 month3.00%
($50,000 or more of new money)
18 month1.50%
$200
30 month2.50%
$200
30 month3.25%
($50,000 or more of new money)
1 year1.00%
$200
2 year1.85%
$200
3 year2.50%
$200
4 year2.75%
$200
5 year3.00%
$200
6 year3.25%
$200
  • Minimum opening deposit: $200
  • Minimum balance amount to earn APY: Varies
  • Early withdrawal penalty: Terms of less than 90 days is 30 days’ dividends; terms of 90 days to one year is 90 days’ dividends; terms of longer than 1 year is 180 days’ dividends

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Step Up Certificates

These certificates offer you a one-time chance to increase your rate.
TermAPYMinimum Balance Requirement to Earn APY
91 day0.35%
$200
6 month0.75%
$200
14 month1.25%
$200
18 month1.50%
$200
30 month2.50%
$200
1 year1.00%
$200
2 year1.85%
$200
3 year2.50%
$200
4 year2.75%
$200
5 year3.00%
$200
6 year3.25%
$200
  • Minimum opening deposit: $200
  • Minimum balance amount to earn APY: $200
  • Early withdrawal penalty: Early withdrawal penalty: Terms of less than 90 days is 30 days’ dividends; terms of 90 days to one year is 90 days’ dividends; terms of longer than 1 year is 180 days’ dividends

NOVA Federal Credit Union offers share certificates with fixed rates that are higher than its regular savings account products, and those rates get higher the longer the term you select (available terms range from 30 days to 6 years). These certificates require a minimum deposit of $200 to open, lower than many other offerings out there.

The credit union also offers flexible Step Up certificates that allow you to increase your rate once during the term if you see rates go up on its regular products. Lastly, there is a chance to earn a higher rate on the 14-month and 30-month certificates if you deposit at least $50,000 in “new money” that is not currently on deposit in any other INOVA Federal Credit Union accounts.

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How INOVA Federal Credit Union’s certificate rates compare

When you compare INOVA Federal Credit Union’s certificate rates to the best CD rates out there, you’ll see that, for the most part, these rates don’t stack up. Still, if you prefer a much smaller minimum deposit than many other options out there, then these might be a good fit for you.

Generally speaking, though, we would suggest holding out for a better rate when you have more funds to deposit, or simply opening a CD with the same term length and a higher rate from an online-only bank.

INOVA Federal Credit Union’s money market account options

Gold Money Market

An account offering a decent rate and minimal requirements, other than a high minimum deposit.
APYMinimum Balance Amount to Earn APY
1.25%
$50,000
  • Minimum opening deposit: $50,000
  • Minimum balance to earn APY: $50,000
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: None
  • ATM fee: None from INOVA FCU ATM, Alliance One or CO-OP Network ATM; $2 for using any other ATMs.
  • ATM fee refund: None
  • Overdraft fee: $29

This account does offer a competitive rate in exchange for a high minimum deposit requirement of $50,000. On the plus side, it doesn’t come with a monthly service charge and does have online banking capabilities. Since this is a savings account, you are allowed to make up to six certain electronic transactions per month, as per Federal Reserve Regulation D.

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Platinum Money Market

The bank’s other money market account option, offering a higher rate and an even higher minimum balance requirement.
APY`Minimum Balance Amount to Earn APY
1.50%
$100,000
  • Minimum opening deposit: $100,000
  • Minimum balance to earn APY: $100,000
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: None
  • ATM fee: None from INOVA FCU ATM, Alliance One or CO-OP Network ATM; $2 for using any other ATMs.
  • ATM fee refund: None
  • Overdraft fee: $29

This is INOVA Federal Credit Union’s other money market account option, which also offers a high APY rate with a high minimum deposit and balance requirement. As with the Gold Money Market account, this account has no monthly fee, comes with online banking services, and limits you up to six certain transactions per month, as per Federal Reserve Regulation D.

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How INOVA Federal Credit Union’s money market accounts compare

INOVA Federal Credit Union’s money market account rates are on par with some of the best money market accounts out there. The main difference is that most others don’t require such a high minimum opening deposit and minimum balance requirement, which can be a limiting factor for many people. If you don’t have that much cash saved up to put aside, you can easily find another option from another financial institution with just as good a rate (if not better) and more flexible requirements.

INOVA Federal Credit Union IRA Certificate options

IRA Certificates

These offer the same terms and conditions as the credit union’s regular certificates, it’s just the rates that vary.
TermAPYMinimum Balance Requirement to Earn APY
91 day0.60%
$200
6 month1.00%
$200
7 month1.10%
$200
14 month1.50%
$200
14 month3.25%
$50,000 in new money
18 month1.75%
$200
30 month2.75%
$200
30 month3.50%
$50,000 in new money
1 year1.25%
$200
2 year2.10%
$200
3 year2.75%
$200
4 year3.00%
$200
5 year3.25%
$200
6 year3.50%
$200
  • Minimum opening deposit: $200
  • Minimum balance amount to earn APY: Varies
  • Early withdrawal penalty: Terms of less than 90 days is 30 days’ dividends; terms of 90 days to year is 90 days’ dividends; terms of longer than 1 year is 180 days’ dividends

LEARN MORE Secured

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Step Up IRA CDs

As with the regular Step Up certificates, these allow you to increase your rate once during the term.
TermAPYMinimum Balance Requirement to Earn APY
91 day0.60%
$200
6 month1.00%
$200
18 month1.75%
$200
30 month2.75%
$200
1 year1.25%
$200
2 year2.10%
$200
3 year2.75%
$200
4 year3.00%
$200
5 year3.25%
$200
6 year3.50%
$200
  • Minimum opening deposit: $200
  • Minimum balance amount to earn APY: $200
  • Early withdrawal penalty: Terms of less than 90 days is 30 days’ dividends; terms of 90 days to year is 90 days’ dividends; terms of longer than 1 year is 180 days’ dividends

Aside from the varying rates, INOVA Federal Credit Union’s IRA certificates don’t differ much from its regular certificate products. As with the regular certificates, these offer fixed rates and terms that range from 91 days to six years.

These certificates require a minimum deposit of $200 to open, which is lower than many other offerings out there. There is also the option to open flexible Step Up IRA certificates, which allow you increase your rate one time during the term if you see the rates go up on the regular certificates.

Lastly, you have the opportunity to earn a higher rate on the 14-month and 30-month IRA certificates if you deposit at least $50,000 in “new money,” or funds that are not currently on deposit in any other INOVA Federal Credit Union accounts.

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How INOVA Federal Credit Union’s IRA CD rates compare

There’s no getting around it — compared to the best IRA CD rates out there, INOVA Federal Credit Union’s rates are pretty low. The wide range of term lengths and the minimum required deposit might appeal to some people, but, again, we say hold off until you have a bit more cash to deposit so you can take advantage of being able to earn a much higher rate.

INOVA Federal Credit Union IRA options

IRA Savings

This IRA offers a very low rate compared to the credit union’s other offerings.
APYMinimum Balance Amount to Earn APY
0.01%
$0.01
  • Minimum opening deposit: None
  • Minimum balance to earn APY: $0.01
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: None
  • ATM fee: N/A
  • ATM fee refund: N/A
  • Overdraft fee: N/A

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IRA Money Market Savings

A slightly better rate than the traditional IRA savings account, but still not the best out there.
APYMinimum Balance Amount to Earn APY
0.05%
$0.01
  • Minimum opening deposit: None
  • Minimum balance to earn APY: $0.01
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: None
  • ATM fee: N/A
  • ATM fee refund: N/A
  • Overdraft fee: N/A

LEARN MORE Secured

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IRA Financial Management Account

This account allows you to earn higher dividends with higher balances.
APYMinimum Balance Amount
0.01%
$0.00 (up to $10,000)
0.10%
$10,000.01 to $25,000
0.20%
$25,000.01 to $50,000
0.35%
$50,000 to $100,000
0.40%
$100,000.01
  • Minimum opening deposit: $2,000
  • Minimum balance to earn APY: $0.00
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: None
  • ATM fee: N/A
  • ATM fee refund: N/A
  • Overdraft fee: N/A

INOVA Federal Credit Union’s regular IRA savings accounts currently offer the same rates as its regular savings account, with no opening, monthly or yearly fees to boot. Its IRA Money Market Savings and IRA Financial Management Accounts, meanwhile, offer higher rates, especially if you make a larger deposit into the latter account.

While there is no minimum deposit or balance requirement on any of these accounts, you can only contribute up to $5,500 per year, with an additional $1,000 “catch up” deposit allowed for account holders ages 50 and over. Some differences between the traditional and Roth IRAs are:
The traditional has no income limits to open, while the Roth does; and, the earnings on the Roth IRA are 100% tax-free at withdrawal, while the traditional account’s earnings are not. Both accounts allow withdrawals to begin at age 59½, although the traditional IRA requires you to begin making withdrawals by age 70½, while the Roth has no limits on making contributions as long as you’re still earning income.

Early withdrawals on all accounts are subject to a penalty and possible taxes, although certain instances such as healthcare expenses and buying a first home qualify as exceptions. Penalty amounts vary depending on how much you have in the account and how long it’s been open. All accounts are subject to Federal Reserve Regulation D, which limits certain transfers and transactions up to six per month.

How to get INOVA Federal Credit Union’s banking products

If you are over 18 years of age and meet one of the eligibility requirements, you can easily apply for membership at INOVA Federal Credit Union and open any of the above mentioned products online, once you agree to also open a Membership Savings account. You’ll need to provide personal information such as your name, address, Social Security number, government-issued ID number (e.g., drivers license or passport), as well as a debit or credit card or check from another financial institution to fund the account. You can also open an account at one of the credit union’s seven branch locations, or by calling 800-826-5465.

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How INOVA Federal Credit Union’s IRA rates compare

Of INOVA’s IRA three account options, it’s the IRA Financial Management Account that shines, even with its higher balance requirements to earn higher dividends. As with the credit union’s IRA CD rates, the wide range of term lengths and the minimum required deposit might appeal to some people.

Overall review of INOVA Federal Credit Union banking products

Most of INOVA Federal Credit Union’s personal banking products offer rates far below similar products at other institutions. The more flexible minimum balance and deposit requirements on the certificates might appeal to some people, but we would still advise you to do your research and hold out for better offerings. Meanwhile, the rates on its money market accounts are definitely competitive, but the high deposit and balance requirements could be a limiting factor to many people.

All in all, we would say take the time to comparison shop to make sure you get the best rate out there while still reaping the benefits of minimal fees and flexible requirements.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Emilia Benton
Emilia Benton |

Emilia Benton is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Emilia here

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Best of, Reviews

The Top 7 Second Chance Bank Accounts

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Some banks don’t like giving second chances to customers who have less-than-stellar financial histories, especially since it could expose them to expensive risks. A record of bounced checks or debit card overdrafts could easily lock you out of the conveniences of modern banking.

Fortunately, banks also like making money, and some offer special “second chance” accounts that minimize their risk while allowing consumers to stay in the banking system. A second chance bank account gives customers with troubled records a fresh opportunity to demonstrate they can bank responsibly.

When it comes to a second chance account, fees are an unfortunate reality. But some accounts offer customers a better deal than others, and we’ve researched our database to find the second chance accounts with the most reasonable fee structures, while also factoring in whether they provide online and mobile banking, and how accessible accounts are throughout the country.

Second chance account basics

With a second chance bank account, customers shut out of traditional bank accounts get the opportunity to win their way back into a bank’s good graces. Similar to credit bureaus, financial services company ChexSystems maintains records of consumers’ banking histories. Bounced checks, overdrawn accounts or instances of fraud can all end up on your ChexSystems record; if you accumulate enough black marks on ChexSystems, banks could deny your application to open a new account.

Because second chance accounts are meant for customers who have demonstrated bad banking behavior, some lack features of traditional accounts, such as overdraft protection. In the eyes of the bank, you represent too much of a risk for them to extend you such courtesies.

Nobody likes paying fees, and we generally advise consumers to avoid needless banking fees due to the many fee-free banking options available. But fees are the price you pay for access to banking when you have a poor record. Plus, the second chance accounts listed below give you access to online and mobile banking, which is always a plus.

The 7 best second chance bank accounts

1. Tie between BBVA Compass ClearConnect Checking and BBVA ClearChoice Free Checking

BBVA Compass

Regional bank BBVA’s Compass ClearChoice Free Checking product is available as a second chance bank account. Keep in mind that it’s only available to residents of the states where BBVA maintains physical branches: Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, New Mexico, and Texas. But if you don’t live in those states, you can still avail yourself of BBVA’s Compass ClearConnect Checking account (unless you live in Alaska and Hawaii, in which case you are out of luck).

ClearChoice Free Checking features:

  • Free online and mobile banking, free customized alerts, free online and paper statements, and a free debit card (with option to personalize)
  • $25 minimum deposit to open
  • No monthly service charge to worry about

Fees to watch out for:

  • BBVA ATMs are free, otherwise a $3 fee will apply
  • $38 insufficient funds fee ($32 in California)
  • $15 deposit item returned fee
  • $32 stop payment fee made over the phone or in person ($30 in California); $25 if made online
  • No fee for closing your account within 180 days of opening

You can get a full list of Compass ClearChoice fees for each state here.

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on BBVA Compass’s secure website

Member FDIC

ClearConnect Checking features:

  • Free online and mobile banking
  • Minimum deposit of $25 needed to open the account
  • No monthly service charge

Fees to watch out for:

  • No fees for using any of the 55,000 BBVA and Allpoint ATMs, but for ATMs outside the network a $3 fee applies
  • $38 insufficient funds fee ($32 in California)
  • $15 deposit item returned fee
  • $32 stop-request fee when made over the phone or in person at a branch ($30 in California); a $25 fee to make the stop-request online
  • $25 account close fee if made within 180 days of opening

You can get a full list of Compass ClearConnect fees broken down by state here.

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on BBVA Compass’s secure website

Member FDIC

2. Wells Fargo Opportunity Checking and Savings Accounts

Wells Fargo Bank

Wells Fargo’s Opportunity Checking and Savings Accounts are tailor-made for folks with a lackluster credit or banking history. With a $25 opening deposit, you’ll get access to a second chance bank account that offers most of the bells and whistles of a traditional bank account. The account does come with a monthly fee, although it’s possible to waive it if you meet a few requirements (see below).

Account features:

  • $25 minimum deposit to open
  • Free transfers are available between Opportunity Checking and Savings accounts
  • You can choose to opt into overdraft protection
  • Free access to bill pay
  • “My Spending Report with Budget Watch” is available if you want to pay extra attention to where your money is going
  • Free debit card with access to more than 13,000 Wells Fargo ATMs throughout the country

Fees to watch out for:

  • $10 monthly service fee, waived if any of the following are true:
    • You make 10 posted debit card purchases or payments
    • You keep a minimum daily balance of $1,500 in the account
    • You receive $500 total in direct deposits each statement cycle
  • $35 overdraft and returned item fee
  • $12.50 overdraft protection transfer fee
  • $15 fee for excess activity (exceeding withdrawals from your savings account)
  • 3% foreign transaction fee with your debit card
  • $5 for money orders
  • $31 for stop payments

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on Wells Fargo Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

3. Woodforest National Bank Second Chance Checking

Woodforest National Bank

This regional bank has a checking account aptly named Second Chance Checking, to help people rejected by other banks access — provided they live in one of the 17 states where a physical branch exists and can meet the $25 minimum opening deposit requirement. Those states are: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Fees to watch out for:

  • $9.95 monthly maintenance fee if you use a direct deposit (or $11.95 without a direct deposit), $3.00 monthly paper statement fee (which can be avoided if you sign up for electronic statements)
  • $9 one-time account set-up fee
  • $2.50 ATM withdrawal fee when used at a non-Woodforest network ATM
  • $15 debit card set-up fee
  • $29 overdraft fee (for each charge)

LEARN MORE Secured

on Woodforest National Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

4. First National Bank and Trust Company Renew Checking

First National Bank and Trust Company (WI)

First National Bank and Trust Company’s second chance bank account offering is called Renew Checking. You’re eligible for a new account if you live near the bank’s Beloit, Wisc. headquarters, in southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois.

Account Features:

  • No monthly minimum balance
  • $25 minimum deposit to open
  • Free online and mobile banking, bill pay, and e-statements
  • Access to 70,000 no-fee ATMs worldwide through Allpoint and MoneyPass
  • Eligible to upgrade account after twelve months in good standing

Fees to watch out for:

  • $9.95 monthly service fee, or $7.95 with direct deposit
  • $30 early account closure fee (if closed within 90 days of opening)
  • $34.50 overdraft fee
  • $34.50 insufficient funds fee
  • $34.50 stop payment fee

The fee schedule for personal accounts at First National Bank and Trust Company is here.

LEARN MORE Secured

on First National Bank And Trust Company (WI)’s secure website

Member FDIC

5. Peoples Bank Cash Solutions Second Chance Checking

Peoples Bank Cash Solutions

This Texas-based bank offers a second chance bank account that is available nationwide, and so long as you don’t have a record of bank or checking fraud on your record, you should be approved for this account. You’ll need to deposit at least $30 before the bank activates your account and provides you with checks and a debit card.

Fees to watch out for:

  • $4.95 monthly maintenance fee
  • $27.50 overdraft fee
  • $27.50 nonsufficient funds fee
  • $3.95 printed statement fee (which can be avoided with electronic statements)
  • $2.00 ATM withdrawal fee at machines not owned by Peoples Bank
  • $25 stop payment fee
  • $20 account closure fee (if within 90 days of opening account)

LEARN MORE Secured

on Peoples Bank Cash Solutions’s secure website

Member FDIC

6. Radius Essential Checking

Radius Bank

Products from online bank Radius are available to customers nationwide, and accessibility is a strong point in its favor. This second chance bank account only requires customers to deposit $10 to open an Essential Checking account, which is lower than some other accounts on this list.

Account Features:

  • A free debit card
  • 24/7 mobile and online banking
  • Access to Radius’s budgeting and personal finance tracking apps
  • Eligibility to upgrade to Radius’s Reward Checking account after 12 months of positive banking history

Fees to watch out for:

  • $9 monthly maintenance fee
  • $25 per item non-sufficient funds fee (waived on all overdraft items $5 or less)
  • $5 daily overdraft fee

LEARN MORE Secured

on Radius Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

Alternatives to a second chance bank account

Get a prepaid debit card

Tired of the traditional banking experience? You could opt for a prepaid debit card instead. With a prepaid card, you can load money onto it and spend at merchants that accept major credit and debit cards. But if you try and spend more money than what’s on the card, the transaction is declined — although this prevents you from accruing any overdraft or insufficient funds fees. This is useful if you feel you may still have trouble managing your spending and need an extra layer of security to prevent you from getting into trouble.

Some prepaid cards offer extra perks like advance direct deposit and free ATMs so long as you stay in their network.

Open a secured credit card

You may also have better luck applying for a secured credit card if your credit score is in good enough shape. Usually, this requires depositing cash with the lender, who then gives you the credit card for the same amount. Each month that you make on-time payments, the bank will report that good behavior to the credit bureaus, helping you boost your credit score. At the end of the payment period (generally 12 months, though it varies by banks), you’ll get the full deposit back.

Secured cards can come with high interest rates and many don’t feature the enticing rewards other high-end cards do, but they get the basic job done for consumers who don’t need a card with a high credit limit.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Erin Millard
Erin Millard |

Erin Millard is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Erin at erinm@magnifymoney.com

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College Students and Recent Grads, Reviews

Sallie Mae Student Loans Review for 2019

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

mortar board cash

Most students who borrow money for their education should start with federal student loans. The federal loan programs offer borrowers a variety of repayment, forgiveness, cancellation and discharge programs that aren’t available from private lenders.

But if you reach your federal loan limits, or examine your options and find you might be better off with a private student loan, you can compare loan offerings from private student lenders. One of the largest private student loan companies, Sallie Mae, has more than a dozen education loan products you can consider.

What is Sallie Mae?

Started nearly 50 years ago, Sallie Mae has played a variety of roles in the student loan space, including lending federally guaranteed loans and private student loans, and servicing federal and private loans.

Sallie Mae spun off a portion of its student loan servicing business to form a new company, Navient, in 2014. And due to changes in the federal student loan programs, Sallie Mae no longer originates federally guaranteed loans. Now, Sallie Mae only offers and services private student loans, while also offering other banking products, such as savings accounts.

Types of student loans Sallie Mae offers

Whether you’re a parent of a grade school student or about to begin your doctorate, Sallie Mae may have a student loan that fits your needs. Its loans are designed for undergraduate students, graduate students and parents or sponsors of students. It also has loans to cover medical residency or bar exam costs.

  1. K-12: For a parent or sponsor of a child who wants to take out a loan to pay for a student’s private kindergarten-through-high school education
  2. Parent: For a parent or sponsor of a child who wants to take out a loan to pay for an undergraduate, graduate or certificate program
  3. Career training: For students at eligible non-degree granting schools
  4. Undergraduate: For students at degree-granting schools who are earning an associate or bachelor’s degree
  5. Graduate: For students at degree-granting schools who are earning a master’s, doctorate or law degree
  6. MBA: For business school students
  7. Health professions graduate: For graduate health profession students, including those in allied health, nursing, pharmacy, and other graduate-level health degrees.
  8. Dental school: For graduate dental degree students, including those in dentistry, endodontics and orthodontics programs
  9. Medical school: For graduate medical degree students, including those in allopathic, osteopathic and podiatric programs
  10. Medical residency and relocation: For medical residency students to help pay for board examinations and residency-related travel and moving expenses
  11. Dental residency and relocation: For dental residency students to help pay for board examinations and residency-related travel and moving expenses
  12. Bar study: For law students and recent graduates to help pay for bar review courses, registration and living expenses while you study
  13. Law school: For students studying for their law degree

Sallie Mae student loans in a nutshell

Most of Sallie Mae’s loans are identical when it comes to fees, cosigner release options and discounts.

Fees

  • Aside from the K-12 loan’s 3% disbursement fee, none of the loans have application, origination, disbursement or prepayment fees.
  • Late payments result in a fee that’s 5% of the amount due (capped at $25).
  • Returned checks carry a $20 fee.

Cosigner release

  • You can apply to release a cosigner after making 12 consecutive, on-time, full interest and principal payments. However, parent loans don’t offer a cosigner release option.

Discounts

  • With all but the K-12 loans, you can receive a 0.25% interest rate discount if you sign up for automatic payments.
 K-12 loansParent loansCareer trainingUndergraduate loansGraduate loansMBA loans
Fixed APR range*Not available5.49% -
12.87%
Not available5.49% -
11.85%
6.00% -
10.23%
6.00% -
10.23%
Variable APR range*9.61% - 16.27%5.74% -
12.37%**
6.87% - 13.96%**4.37% -
11.47%**
4.50% -
10.11%**
4.62% -
10.23%**
Loan termsThree years10 yearsFive to 15 yearsFive to 15 yearsFive to 15 yearsFive to 15 years
Loan amount$1,000 minimum

Borrow up to the school-certified cost of tuition
$1,000 minimum

Borrow up to the school-certified cost of attendance
$1,000 minimum

Borrow up to the school-certified cost of attendance
$1,000 minimum

Borrow up to the school-certified cost of attendance
$1,000 minimum

Borrow up to the school-certified cost of attendance
$1,000 minimum

Borrow up to the school-certified cost of attendance
Repayment plans (both in-school and post-school)Full interest and principal paymentsFull interest and principal payments

Interest-only payments
$25 a month

Interest-only payments


12-month interest-only repayment that begins after your separation or grace period ends
Deferment

$25 a month

Interest-only payments

12-month interest-only repayment that begins after your separation or grace period ends
Deferment

$25 a month

Interest-only payments

12-month interest-only repayment that begins after your separation or grace period ends
Deferment

$25 a month

Interest-only payments

12-month interest-only repayment that begins after your separation or grace period ends

**Variable rates are capped at 25%.

 Health professionsDental schoolMedical schoolMedical residencyDental residencyDental residencyLaw school
Fixed APR range*6.25% - 10.23%6.24% - 9.99%5.99% -
9.98%
Not availableNot availableNot available6.00% -
9.99%
Variable APR range*4.87% - 10.23%**4.87% - 9.99%**4.62% -
9.98%**
5.51% - 11.78%5.51% - 11.78%5.61% - 12.31%4.62% -
9.99%
Loan termsFive to 15 years20 years20 yearsUp to 20 yearsUp to 20 yearsUp to 15 yearsUp to 15 years
Loan amount$1,000 minimum

Borrow up to the school-certified cost of attendance
$1,000 minimum

Borrow up to the school-certified cost of attendance
$1,000 minimum

Borrow up to the school-certified cost of attendance
$1,000 minimum

Borrow up to $20,000
$1,000 minimum

Borrow up to $20,000
$1,000 minimum

Borrow up to $15,000
$1,000 minimum

Borrow up to the school-certified cost of attendance
Repayment plans (both in-school and post-school)Deferment

$25 a month

Interest-only payments

12-month interest-only repayment that begins after your separation or grace period ends
Deferment

$25 a month

Interest-only payments

12-month interest-only repayment that begins after your separation or grace period ends
Deferment

$25 a month

Interest-only payments

12-month interest-only repayment that begins after your separation or grace period ends
Full interest and principal payments

Two- or four-year interest-only repayment
Full interest and principal payments

Two- or four-year interest-only repayment
Full interest and principal payments

Two- or four-year interest-only repayment
Deferment

$25 a month

Interest-only payments

12-month interest-only repayment that begins after your separation or grace period ends

**Variable-rate loans have a 25% APR cap.

How Sallie Mae compares with other lenders

Sallie Mae finished first among MagnifyMoney’s top five private student lenders for 2019. We compared undergraduate student loan products and began with the nation’s 10 largest national lenders. The ranking focused on loans’ APR ranges, discounts, fees and repayment terms, as well as lenders’ policies for releasing a cosigner, deferring loan payments and their online applications.

In addition to having a top-rated undergraduate loan, Sallie Mae differentiates itself by offering its wide variety of different student loans. Many of these other loans share characteristics with the undergraduate loan, including the 12-payment cosigner release requirement, lack of a specific maximum loan amount and a 0.25% interest rate discount for auto debit.

However, as with any lender, there are pros and cons to consider before taking out a loan from Sallie Mae.

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on Sallie Mae Bank’s secure website

Advantages of Sallie Mae Student Loans

You may be able to choose a repayment plan. Depending on the loan product, you may be able to choose from up to three different repayment plans. A plan that requires you make payments while you’re in school could help you save money in the long run; however, deferring your full payments can give you more money to cover education and living expenses now.

12-month payment requirement for cosigner release. With most Sallie Mae student loans, you can apply to release your cosigner once you make 12 consecutive, full, on-time payments. Other lenders may let you apply for cosigner release, but it could take longer to qualify, in some cases requiring 48 full monthly payments before you can apply.

In addition to the payments, you’ll need to pass a credit check and meet Sallie Mae’s requirements for releasing a cosigner.

Discharge due to death or permanent and total disability. Similar to the federal student loan guidelines, Sallie Mae will waive a borrower’s current balance if he or she dies or becomes permanently and totally disabled. The benefit may be especially important to borrowers who have a cosigner or dependents, such as a spouse or child(ren), who could be affected if the debt isn’t waived.

No preset loan limit. While some federal student loans and private student loans set dollar-amount limits on how much you can borrow, most Sallie Mae student loans allow you to borrow up to your school’s certified cost of attendance.

Loans for less-than-half-time students. Some private school lenders require borrowers to have at least a half-time course load to qualify for a student loan. Sallie Mae’s loans for students don’t have this requirement.

Forbearance and deferment options. Putting your loans into forbearance or deferment lets you temporarily stop making payments without getting charged late fees or hurting your credit. Forbearance is generally for when you have trouble making payments, perhaps due to losing a job or a medical emergency. Deferment, meanwhile, may apply to other circumstances, such as returning to school.

Sallie Mae could approve up to 12 months of forbearance in three-month increments and up to 60 months of deferment in 12-month increments. Interest continues to accumulate, and your long-term costs may increase, but forbearance or deferment are still better options than missing a payment or letting a loan go into default.

Extra perks. Many of Sallie Mae’s student loans also come with the Study Smarter benefit. With it, borrowers can get four months of free study tools or 30 minutes of live online tutoring through Chegg Tutors® or a combination of the two.

All of Sallie Mae’s loans also give borrowers and cosigners quarterly access to a FICO® credit score.

Drawbacks of Sallie Mae Student Loans

No additional interest rate discount. Sallie Mae’s 0.25% interest rate discount for auto debit is standard for most federal and private student loans. But other private lenders offer borrowers opportunities to get an additional 0.25% to 0.50% interest rate discount by having other financial products from the same lender or making auto debits from an account with the same lender.

Sallie Mae assigns loan terms. Many Sallie Mae student loans have a repayment term that ranges from five to 15 years. Most other lenders that offer a range of terms let borrowers choose their term, along with the corresponding monthly payment and interest rate. Sallie Mae, however, will assign you a term.

No loan pre-approval. Private student loans require a credit check. Some lenders will do a soft credit pull, which doesn’t hurt your score, to determine if you can qualify for a loan or need a cosigner and to show you estimated interest rates if you qualify. Sallie Mae will only show you rates after a hard credit inquiry, which could hurt your score slightly.

What it takes to qualify with Sallie Mae

All Sallie Mae student loans have the same basic requirements:

Minimum credit score: Sallie Mae doesn’t disclose a minimum credit score requirement. In 2016, applicants that were approved for a Sallie Mae student loan had, on average, a 748 FICO score at the time of approval.
Minimum age for borrowers: Borrowers must be the age of majority in their state (often 18 years old). Younger applicants will need an eligible and creditworthy cosigner.
State residency requirements: Sallie Mae student loans are available in every state.
Eligible schools: Sallie Mae doesn’t publish a list of eligible schools, but you can search for the name of a school at the beginning of the loan application to see if your school qualifies.

 K-12 loansParent loansCareer trainingUndergraduate loansGraduate loansMBA loans
Additional requirementsThe student you’re taking the loan out for has to be enrolled in a private school.The student you’re taking the loan out for has to be pursuing a certificate or an associate, bachelor’s or graduate degree at a degree-granting school.You must be enrolled at a non-degree-granting school and pursuing professional training or a certification.You must be a enrolled at a degree-granting school and pursuing a certification or an associate or bachelor’s degree.You must be enrolled at a degree-granting school and pursuing a master’s, doctorate or law degree.You must be enrolled at a degree-granting school and pursuing a masters of business administration degree.
 Health professionsDental schoolMedical schoolMedical residencyDental residencyBar studyLaw school
Additional requirementsYou must be enrolled at a degree-granting school and pursuing a degree in one of the eligible areas of study.You must be enrolled at a degree-granting school and pursuing a degree in one of the eligible areas of study.You must be enrolled at a degree-granting school and pursuing a degree in one of the eligible areas of study.You must either have a half-time course load and be in your last year at an eligible school, or graduated from an eligible school in the previous 12 months.

If you didn’t already earn your medical degree, you must expect to earn the degree in the current academic program year.
You must either have a half-time course load and be in your last year at an eligible school, or graduated from an eligible school in the previous 12 months.

If you didn’t already earn your dental degree, you must expect to earn the degree in the current academic program year.
You must either have a half-time course load and be in your last year at an eligible school, or graduated from an eligible school in the previous 12 months.

You must take the bar exam within 12 months of graduating.
You must be enrolled at a degree-granting school and pursuing a J.D. degree.

What borrower is Sallie Mae best for?

Sallie Mae offers a variety of student loan products that could be a good fit for parents or students. If you, or a student you’re supporting, can’t take out additional federal student loans but need more money for school, Sallie Mae’s lack of a predefined loan limit could make it a good option.

The medical and dental residency programs and the bar study loan do have a loan limit. But even then, it’s higher than the limit of some competitors who offer similar types of loans.

You also may want to consider Sallie Mae if you think you’ll need a cosigner and would like to release the cosigner later. Although you still may not qualify, depending on your creditworthiness, the 12 months of consecutive full payments is shorter than what some other lenders require.

Taking a closer look at the online platform

You can learn a lot of details about Sallie Mae’s student loans on its website. There are specific pages for each loan product that have a lot of the basic information you’ll want to know. And there are pages with generally helpful information, such as how to make a loan payment or options if you’re having trouble making payments.

Some of the informational pages, such as on the one about interest rates and interest capitalization, also have quick video explainers to help you understand the topic and why it’s important to student loan borrowers.

The actual loan application doesn’t have quite as nice of a design as the other parts of the Sallie Mae website, but it’s still relatively easy to navigate and fill out.

The fine print

The Sallie Mae product and informational pages give you a lot of the basic information you’ll want if you’re comparing student loans from several lenders. There are also loan application and solicitation disclosure forms for many of the loans online. In these, you can see fine-print items like the variable-rate loans’ interest-rate cap and late payment fees.

It’s more difficult to find fine-print information on some of the loans, though. The K-12, residency and bar loans don’t have application and disclosure forms on their pages, for example. We were only able to confirm these loans’ fees and interest rate caps by reaching out to a representative from Sallie Mae.

While you would have a chance to review your loan details after agreeing to a credit check but before signing the loan agreement, it would be nice to have that information up front.

We were also disappointed in how difficult it is to understand how loan terms work with Sallie Mae student loans.

Some private lenders only offer one term. Others offer a variety of terms and let borrowers choose their loan term. Most of Sallie Mae’s undergraduate and graduate student loans have a five- to 15-year term, but Sallie Mae chooses which term to offer you.

The loan-term range and the fact that Sallie Mae chooses the term rather than the borrower aren’t clearly disclosed on the loan’s main page.

What to expect during the application process

Sallie Mae has an online loan application system that makes the process fairly uniform for all its student loans. A few questions may differ, but you can expect the process to be similar to the following steps. Applicants with cosigners may need the cosigner’s personal information, including his or her Social Security number and date of birth.

Basic information

General information. Basic information about the student and borrower:

  • Your name, email address and phone number.
  • Your date of birth, citizenship status and Social Security number.
  • Your relationship to the student, if you’re taking out a loan for someone else.

Address. Your permanent address and a previous address if you moved in the last year. If you have a different mailing address you’ll have to fill that in, too.

Student and school information. If you’re taking out the loan for a student, you’ll need the student’s name, date of birth, citizenship status and Social Security number.

Enter the name of the school and your (or the student’s) academic information:

  • Degree type or certificate of study
  • Major or specialty
  • Enrollment status
  • Grade level
  • Academic period that the loan will cover
  • Anticipated graduation or certification graduate date

Loan application

Loan amount. The cost of attendance, which the application can help you estimate, as well as your estimated financial assistance.

You’ll automatically have a loan amount for the difference between your cost of attendance and financial assistance. You can choose to request less money, and even if you’re approved, Sallie Mae could offer you less than what you requested.

Employment info: Fill in information about your work, including:

  • Employment status
  • Employer’s name
  • Your occupation
  • Work phone number
  • Years with the current employer
  • Gross annual income

Financial info: You can list additional income and assets you have, such as:

  • Income from alimony, child support or a rental property
  • Investments
  • Disability
  • Social Security
  • Income from a household member, such as a spouse
  • Your current assets that could be in checking, savings, CD or money market accounts

You’ll also be asked about your expenses, including monthly housing payments (when applicable).

Personal contacts: Unless you’re taking out a loan for someone else, you’ll have to share two personal contacts that Sallie Mae can use as references. These could be a relative or family friends, and you’ll have to have their full name and phone number.

Submit application: Choose to apply on your own or add a cosigner. You’ll be prompted to read and agree to an electronic delivery consent form, and may then get a copy of the loan’s disclosure form and Sallie Mae’s privacy policy.

You’ll have to agree to let Sallie Mae review your credit history to submit your application.

Finalize the loan

Once you’ve completed an application, you may need to send verification information (such as pay stubs or tax returns). But generally, Sallie Mae will offer a quick response based on your credit.

If you’re approved, you can choose your type of interest rate and repayment plan before accepting the loan. Once you accept the loan offer, Sallie Mae will contact your school to verify that you’re eligible for the loan and loan amount.

The school certification process may take several weeks, and it could even be put on hold until about a month before your term begins. As long as everything checks out, Sallie Mae will send the loan to you or your school, depending on the type of loan.

Already have student loans and looking to refinance? Check out our top picks to refinance student loans.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Louis DeNicola
Louis DeNicola |

Louis DeNicola is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Louis at louis@magnifymoney.com

Rebecca Safier
Rebecca Safier |

Rebecca Safier is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Rebecca here

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