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Reviews, Student Loan ReFi

Review: Citizens Bank Private Student Loan

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

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Are Federal student loans not enough to cover your education? Then you’re probably looking at taking out private student loans to bridge the gap. Your goal should be to get as close to Federal rates as possible to make your loans more affordable. Let’s see how the private student loan from Citizens Bank compares.

Details of Citizens Bank’s Private Student Loan

You can borrow a minimum of $1,000 and a maximum of $170,000 depending on the level of education you’re attaining:

  • Undergraduates are allowed to borrow up to $120,000 of federal and private student loan debt combined, or $90,000 just from Citizens Bank.
  • Graduates can borrow a limit of $150,000 of federal and private student loan debt combined, or $110,000 exclusively from Citizens Bank.
  • Business and Law graduates can borrow a maximum of $225,000 of federal and private student loan debt combined, or $180,000 only from Citizens Bank.
  • Medical and Dental graduates can borrow a maximum of $180,000 or $350,000 depending on degree of federal and private student loan debt combined, or $180,000 straight from Citizens Bank.

Borrowers can choose a 5, 10, or 15 year term to repay their loans, and they can do so on three different types of repayment plans:

  • Immediate Repayment: Repayment begins as soon as the loans are disbursed, meaning borrowers are required to make payments while attending school. This option will likely save you the most money in the long run, but might be unrealistic if you don’t plan on working during the semester.
  • Interest Only Repayment: Similar to immediate repayment, borrowers are responsible for making payments while in school, but only have to pay enough to cover the interest on the loan. This will likely give you a slightly lower payment and will still save you money on interest. According to Citizens Bank, the average monthly payment is between $53.08 and $91.30, depending on your interest rate.
  • Deferred Repayment: This is essentially the same repayment plan federal loan borrowers are on. You’re not required to make payments while in school, and are entitled to a grace period after you graduate.

[7 Things You Need to Know about Private Student Loans]

APRs vary depending on what level of education you’re obtaining and whether you choose a variable rate or a fixed rate. There are four different types of loans: undergraduate, graduate, business and law and medical and dental loans.

Variable APRs are lower than fixed APRs, but they give you less stability as your interest rate can increase at any time (it’s limited to once per month, in this case). Additionally, immediate and interest only repayment plans will give you a lower interest rate than deferred repayment – sometimes 0.50% less. Lastly, choosing a shorter repayment period is going to give you a lower rate as well.

Be aware that if you opt into automatic payments, you’ll receive a 0.25% interest rate discount. If, at the time of applying, you also have an existing account with Citizens Bank, you’ll be eligible for another 0.25% interest rate discount.

A payment example looks like this: if you borrow $10,000 as an undergraduate student and choose to repay the loan in 10 years under an interest only repayment plan, depending on your APR (example APR: 6.25%-10.75%), your monthly payment will be $112.26 to $136.29. The total amount you’d pay is $15,972.44 to $20,657.77. Contrast that with the deferred repayment plan, in which you’d pay a total of $18,085.08 to $23,900.11.

Lastly, earlier in 2015, Citizens Bank introduced its “Multi Year Borrowing Option” specifically for student loans. If you qualify (you must meet certain credit standards), you won’t have to fully re-apply for funds each year. Instead, you’ll lock in the term you’re approved for the first time around, and you can request that the amount you need be sent to the school you’re attending. It’s a much more streamlined process.

How Does the Citizens Bank Private Student Loan Compare to Federal Student Loans?

While the private student loan from Citizens Bank offers a lot of options, you should exhaust your Federal options first. Make sure you fill out the FAFSA and take advantage of the aid you’re offered, as Federal student loans come with repayment assistance options that private loans don’t. They typically have lower interest rates, too.

If you’ve already done that and still need extra financing to cover the cost of tuition or books, then Citizens Bank could be a good option to go with. For the 2015-2016 academic year, the Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans have a fixed interest rate of 4.29%.

That’s lower than the starting point of 6.39% for Citizens Bank fixed-rate student loans and depending on your credit (or your co-signers credit), you may not qualify for an interest rate that low. Direct Loans also have an origination fee of 1.068% for the same academic year, whereas the private student loan from Citizens Bank doesn’t have an origination fee.

Direct Loans for graduate students have a fixed interest rate of 5.84%, and in most cases, Citizens Bank has that beat. Direct PLUS Loans have a fixed interest rate of 6.84%, again making the loans from Citizens Bank more attractive.

Overall, Citizens Bank isn’t the worst choice you could go with, especially if you’re eligible for the 0.50% interest rate reduction, or you’re a graduate student. Keep in mind that variable rates can be volatile; they’re not locked in like fixed rates are. While the lower rate may be tempting, consider that having fluctuating student loan payments might make budgeting harder down the road.

[How to Tell if Your Loans are Federal or Private]

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible to apply for a private student loan with Citizens bank, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
    • OR be an international student with a U.S. citizen or permanent resident that can co-sign your loan
  • Must be enrolled at least half-time at an eligible institution and working toward obtaining a degree
  • Be age of majority in your state (otherwise you’re required to have a co-signer)
  • Have a “reasonably strong credit history” (it’s recommended that younger borrowers apply with a co-signer)

Application Process and Documents Needed

You can easily apply online within minutes. All you need is:

  • Your personal information
  • A recent pay stub for proof of income
  • Your employer’s information
  • The name of the school you’re attending
  • The total amount of financial aid you’ve already received
  • The amount of funds you’re requesting
  • Personal references

If you’re applying with a co-signer, you’ll need to provide their name and email address so they can fill out the application as well. If you apply by yourself and you’re denied, Citizens Bank allows you to add on a co-signer and it will reevaluate your application with your co-signers information taken into account.

The first step of the application is selecting the school you want to attend, so you’ll know right away if your school is an eligible institution.

The second step of the application is accepting the general terms of the loan. Citizens Bank actually gives you access to the loan agreement, so you can review the fine print yourself if you wish.

From then on, you fill out your personal information. Citizens Bank will conduct a hard pull of your credit during the application process. If you’re approved and choose to move forward with the loan, you choose the loan option you like best, upload any documents that are requested, sign your loan electronically, and Citizens Bank will send the payment directly to your school.

[Student Loan Disbursement 101]

The Fine Print

There are no application fees, origination or disbursement fees, and no prepayment penalty associated with this loan. However, a late fee will be assessed if 15 days pass without a payment. The late fee is 5% of the outstanding balance. Additionally, if there’s a returned payment, you’ll be charged $15.

Citizens Bank will give borrowers with an existing Citizens Bank account a 0.25% interest rate discount. In case you were thinking of opening one before applying, know that its checking and savings accounts are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI and VT. However, if you have another loan under Citizens Bank, that counts toward your eligibility.

Co-signer release is allowed after making 36 consecutive payments of principal and interest (so interest only payments don’t apply). Additionally, if you applied for forbearance or deferment, your payment period will reset, so you’ll need to make another 36 consecutive payments to qualify. If you’re denied a release, you’ll have to wait another year from your application date to apply.

Repayment Assistance Options

Citizens Bank doesn’t make a direct reference to repayment assistance, but deferment and forbearance are mentioned in the fine print, so it might be offered on a case-by-case basis. This is something you should inquire about as you want to make sure you have options in case your loans become too big of a burden.

Pros and Cons of Citizens Bank Private Loan

Pro: Flexible repayment terms. You can choose a 5, 10, or 15 year term, and choose whether to make immediate payments, interest only payments, or to defer payments.

Pro: Citizens Bank is the first to come out with a “Multi Year loan” product. If you can qualify, it would be nice to lock your terms in for all years of your college education.

Pro: There are no fees associated with the loan, save for late payment and returned payment fees, which is standard.

Pro: APRs, especially for graduate and medical loans, are quite low when compared to the federal options borrowers have.

Con: Repayment assistance options aren’t emphasized, and this may be a concern for some borrowers worried about their ability to repay their loans.

Con: Citizens Bank places a lot of importance on credit score and history, which many younger borrowers lack. Co-signers are almost a necessity.

Citizens Bank (RI)

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on Citizens Bank (RI)’s secure website

Private Student Loan Alternatives

Not eligible for a private student loan with Citizens Bank? There are a few other worthy alternatives:

SunTrust Custom Choice Loan Fixed APRs are slightly lower than what Citizens Bank offers, though the variable APRs are higher. SunTrust also has repayment terms of 5 and 10 years – you have to borrow over $5,000 for the 15 year term. As a bonus, SunTrust offers borrowers a 2% principal balance reduction if they graduate with a Bachelor’s degree or higher.

SunTrust Bank

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on SunTrust Bank’s secure website

LendKey: This isn’t a lender; it’s a platform that aggregates private student loans offered by community banks and credit unions. As a result, it offers a variety of loans from lenders that typically have lower interest rates than big banks. You only need to enter your information once, and all the loans you’re eligible for will pop up.

LendKey

APPLY NOW Secured

on LendKey’s secure website

Conclusion

It always pays to shop around, and you should. Credit bureaus will count all inquiries made within a 30-day window as one inquiry, so your credit won’t be harmed as much as you might think. Take advantage of this and see which lender can offer you the best rates. Your future self will thank you for it when you’re paying back your 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.

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Auto Loan, Reviews

LightStream Auto Loan Review

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Written By

Reviewed By

If you’re in the market for a quick, affordable and hassle-free way to finance your next car, a LightStream auto loan should definitely be on your radar. It’s particularly well-suited for deal-seekers with good credit who don’t mind working with an online company when it comes to financing their cars. If you’d rather work with a local company that can offer in-person support, however, you might want to skip this lender.

How LightStream auto loans work

LightStream offers a wide range of options for financing your next ride, including:

  • Purchase of a new or used car, either from a dealer or an individual
  • Auto loan refinance (except it does not refinance its own loans)
  • Auto lease buyouts
  • Loans for motorcycles, as well as boats and RVs
  • Classic car loans

Auto loans at a glance:

  • Starting APR range: 3.49%–9.49%
  • Fees: None
  • Loan amounts: $5,000–$100,000
  • Terms: 24–84 months
  • Credit requirements: Minimum 660 credit score
  • Mileage or vehicle restrictions: None

LightStream offers the same starting rate whether you’re buying a new or used car from a dealer, something you don’t see at other lenders. But keep in mind that the lowest rates go to those with the best credit who opt for the shortest loan terms possible and use autopay to make their car payments.

Satisfaction guarantee

If you see a lower rate elsewhere, LightStream will beat any verified offer with a rate that is .10 percentage points lower. It also promises a $100 guarantee within 30 days if you aren’t satisfied with your loan experience.

How to apply for a LightStream auto loan

The only way you can apply for a LightStream auto loan is through its online form. It is an online lender, after all, so you should be comfortable with handling your business details — including the loan application — online. You’ll need to:

  1. Acknowledge receipt of LightStream’s statement on the use of electronic records.
  2. Agree to receive electronic records.
  3. Agree to use electronic signatures to sign your loan documents.

You’ll also need to have a Visa or Mastercard credit card to apply, which LightStream uses during the verification process.

You will be asked to provide:

  • The purpose, term and amount of desired loan
  • Your name
  • Your address
  • Phone number
  • Social Security number
  • Employment information
  • Annual income
  • Total amount of assets and equity in your home

From there, LightStream may contact you for more details and documentation. If approved, you’ll need to sign your loan documents electronically and provide LightStream with your bank account details. The money will then be deposited into your bank account, which means you’ll need to pass it along to the seller, whether that’s a dealer or private seller. LightStream will not send the money to the seller directly.

It’s important to note that LightStream doesn’t offer any preapproval options, but if you apply and are approved for a loan, you are under no obligation to accept the loan.

How to qualify for the best rates

LightStream requires good credit at a minimum, but looks for excellent credit when giving the best rates. It defines excellent credit as:

  • Five or more years of significant credit history.
  • A credit history with a variety of account types such as major credit cards (for example, Visa, MasterCard, Amex), installment debt (vehicle loans) and mortgage debt if applicable.
  • An excellent payment history with no delinquencies or other problems repaying debt obligations.
  • A proven ability to save as shown by some or all of the following: liquid assets (stocks, bonds, bank deposits, etc.), cash down payments on real estate, retirement savings and little, if any, revolving credit card debt.
  • Stable and sufficient income and assets to easily repay current debt obligations and any new loan with LightStream.

Pros and cons of LightStream auto loans

LightStream offers the convenience of an online lender with the backing of a brick-and-mortar bank as the online arm of Truist, the bank created by the merger of  SunTrust Bank and BB&T. But it’s important to weigh all of your options carefully when choosing an auto loan. It’s one of the biggest purchases you’ll make, after all.

Pros

  • Wide variety of loans: New, used, refinance and lease buyouts loans are available on a wide range of vehicles. Unlike other lenders, LightStream doesn’t place restrictions on your vehicle’s age, make, model or mileage.
  • Decent rates: We’ve seen lower starting rates at credit unions, but you’ll have to meet membership requirements. LightStream has no membership requirements and provides the same starting rates for new and used vehicles as well as refinance loans.
  • No down payment required: LightStream finances up to 100% of the car’s cost. Of course, it’s always best to put down as much as you can afford on an auto loan. This will help you save money over the life of your loan and avoid becoming underwater on that loan.
  • Quick funding: If you complete the application process and are approved by 2:30 p.m. EST, you could receive funds the same day.
  • Good reviews: LightStream auto loan reviews are generally positive.

Cons

  • Good credit required: To qualify for a LightStream auto loan you’ll need a credit score of at least 660 or better.
  • No preapproval process: Unlike many lenders, you’ll have to complete a full application in order to see your rates and terms. Still, the process is fast, and if you complete your rate shopping within a certain time period, multiple applications should not impact your credit any more than a single application.
  • No face-to-face service: If you’re the type of person who likes to seal the deal with a handshake after signing the documents, you’ll want to stick with some place local.

LightStream vs. Capital One

If you’d like a bit more of a guided approach to the car-buying process,  Capital One’s Auto Navigator loan options might be better for you. Rather than sending you cash directly that you can use on whatever car you want to buy, Capital One’s Auto Navigator service lets you first get prequalified for financing, and then shows you which dealers in your area may offer based on the type of car you want to buy and the financing you can afford.

If any of the offerings pique your interest, you can then finish the application and buy the car. It’s still a good idea to compare the offer with other new and used car loan rates.

LightStream vs. Carvana

Carvana works similarly to Capital One Auto Navigator in that you can prequalify for financing and browse real cars in your area that you may then be able to buy. It’s important to remember that Carvana only sells used cars and its financing is only available on Carvana cars. But it is possible to finance here with poor credit — Carvana requires borrowers to be 18 years old, have no active bankruptcies on their credit report and earn at least $4,000 per year.

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.

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Credit Cards, Reviews

CreditStacks Mastercard Review

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

Written By

The CreditStacks Mastercard offers a unique opportunity for individuals with little or no U.S. credit history – such as recent college graduates or professionals relocating to the U.S. for employment – to be approved for a credit card.

That’s because instead of requiring a Social Security number (SSN) or individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) as most traditional credit cards do, the CreditStacks Mastercard allows applicants to apply using a valid passport or U.S. government-issued ID, a U.S. visa or a permanent resident “green” card (if applicable), as well as proof of income. The CreditStacks Mastercard also allows you to apply up to 60 days prior to starting your new job in the U.S.

We break down the pros and cons of the CreditStacks Mastercard, and show how it compares to the Capital One® Secured Mastercard®, which is also designed to help individuals establish or rebuild credit.

CreditStacks Mastercard pros

No credit history required. With the CreditStacks Mastercard, you can apply without a Social Security number and with little or no U.S. credit history. Once you obtain your Social Security number, you must provide it within 60 days of account opening. At that point, CreditStacks will begin reporting your credit activity to the Equifax and TransUnion credit bureaus.

Note, if you have been living in the U.S. for more than one year, you will be required to provide a Social Security number when applying for the card. A credit check may also be performed.

Decent credit limit. The CreditStacks Mastercard offers a credit line of up to $5,000 – which is a generous amount for an unsecured credit card that doesn’t require credit history.

Your credit limit will be determined by the proprietary underwriting procedures of CreditStacks, which will consider your current employment situation and additional factors, instead of your credit score.

No annual fee. The CreditStacks Mastercard comes with a $0 annual fee.

Additional CreditStacks Mastercard benefits:

  • Mastercard ID Theft Protection(™). Access free identity theft resolution services, as well as Mastercard ID Theft Alerts(™).
  • Extended warranty. Receive an extended warranty of up to one year past a manufacturer’s warranty of 12 months or less.
  • Purchase protection. If you are dissatisfied with a purchase, you may be eligible to receive a full refund for up to 60 days from the date of purchase.
  • Price protection. Get reimbursed for the difference if you find a lower price for an eligible new item within 60 days of purchase using your CreditStacks Mastercard.
  • Purchase assurance. Cardholders receive coverage if an item is lost, damaged or stolen within 90 days of purchase.
  • Travel protections. The CreditStacks Mastercard offers a MasterRental(R) collision damage waiver, lost or damaged luggage insurance, travel accident insurance, baggage delay insurance and trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance. Plus, receive access to exclusive experiences and offers through Priceless Cities and special travel offers through Mastercard’s online booking tool.
  • Cellphone insurance. If you use your CreditStacks Mastercard to pay your monthly cellphone bill, you can receive coverage against theft or damage of up to $600 per claim and up to $1,000 per 12-month period.

CreditStacks Mastercard cons

No rewards program. The CreditStacks Mastercard does not offer a sign-up bonus or rewards on the purchases you make using the credit card. That said, when trying to build or rebuild credit, it’s best to focus on paying your bill on time and in full (when possible) each month, rather than racking up rewards.

No intro APR on purchases. The CreditStacks Mastercard does not offer a 0% intro APR on purchases – meaning, if you don’t pay your balance in full each month, you will be subject to interest charges at a rate of 15.49% Variable APR.

That said, the card’s ongoing APR for purchases is reasonable – considering that some cards designed for individuals with little or no credit come with APRs upwards of 26.99% (variable).

Compare it to the Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

Similar to the CreditStacks Mastercard, the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® is designed for individuals with little or no credit. However, because it is a secured credit card, the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® requires a refundable security deposit of $49, $99 or $200, for an initial credit line of $200.

If you deposit more money before your account opens, you may be eligible for a higher credit line, up to $1,000. Additionally, you can be given access to a higher credit line after demonstrating responsible card usage by making your first five monthly payments on time.

While the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® does not require U.S. citizenship to apply, it does require a valid SSN or ITIN, as well as a residential address in the U.S. or a U.S. military location.

See how the cards compare side-by-side in the table below.

CreditStacks Mastercard vs. Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

 CreditStacks MastercardCapital One® Secured Mastercard®
Annual fee$0$0
Rewards rateN/AN/A
Credit lineUp to $5,000$200-$1,000
Deposit requiredNone$49, $99 or $200
Regular purchase APR15.49% Variable26.99% (Variable)

The Capital One® Secured Mastercard® also comes with a number of benefits, including auto rental collision damage waiver, travel accident insurance, extended warranty and 24-hour travel assistance services. As a Capital One member, you will also have access to virtual card numbers and account alerts from Eno, as well as access to your credit score and fraud monitoring through CreditWise.

But if you plan to carry a balance on your card, you’ll be better off with the CreditStacks Mastercard, since the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® comes with a substantially higher APR of 26.99% (Variable).

Read our: Capital One Secured Mastercard review

Which credit card is best for me?

If you haven’t yet established credit in the U.S., the CreditStacks Mastercard could be a good fit. In addition to not requiring a Social Security number for approval, the card helps build your credit by reporting to two major credit bureaus.

But if you’re in the market for a secured credit card and already have a SSN or ITIN, the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® is a good alternative. While the card offers a much lower credit line than the CreditStacks Mastercard, it does offer a variety of useful benefits that aren’t common for a secured credit card.

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.