How To Find The Right Student Loan Refinance Company

Jon O'Donnell Updated on May 14, 2019

Refinancing student loans can be a great strategy to make monthly payments more manageable and cut overall interest costs. In recent years, the number of lenders offering refinancing has increased, creating a competitive environment with lots of innovation and new options. But picking a lender can be daunting. Which student loan refinance company is the best? What should you consider besides the interest rate? Which lender should you trust with your money?

10 tips to help you find the right student loan refinance company

Choosing a lender to refinance your student loans is a big decision. Fortunately, it’s easier than ever for people to explore rate options and find the best deal. With most lenders, it takes less than 15 minutes to see how much you could save by refinancing.

1. When comparing interest rates, make sure it’s “apples to apples.”

For side-by-side comparison, it’s important to compare different lenders’ offerings for the same loan balance, time frame, and type of interest. For example, is the rate you’re being shown fixed or variable? Variable rates are the lowest, but they can increase significantly over the next four to six years. Don’t compare one lender’s fixed rate with another’s variable rate.

2. What term length options does each company offer?

Most lenders offer a variety of term lengths between 5 and 20 years. But some have more choices than others.

3. What type of borrowers do they want to work with?

Eligibility requirements vary among lenders, but most of them want you to have a steady job and credit score of 650 or higher. Be sure to find out the lenders’ credit score requirements, debt-to-income ratio requirements, and degree requirements. What are the minimum and maximum amounts for refinancing? It’s also important to note that some lenders will only work with graduates of certain schools. Ask if your institution is eligible.

4. What types of loans do they refinance?

Not all companies refinance both private and federal loans. If you have a variety of loans and are eager to consolidate them into a single payment, be sure the company you choose accepts all of your loans. And note that while refinancing federal loans can get you a lower interest rate, it can also make you ineligible for income-based repayment or loan forgiveness programs. Be sure to weigh the benefits against the trade offs before you refinance federal student loans.

5. What are the lenders’ payment options and borrower protections?

Refinancing student loans is all about making your debt repayment strategy fit your lifestyle and goals. When choosing a company, ask if you can pick your monthly due date. What happens if you lose your job or change careers? Are there grace periods, deferment, or forbearance options? Some private lenders offer a two-year interest-only option for recent grads, and let you pause payments if you go back to school.

6. Do they offer other types of loans?

Some lenders specialize exclusively in student loans, but others with diverse offerings want to build long-term relationships with upwardly mobile college grads. If you have different types of loans – a car loan, mortgage, small business loan, etc. – you might be able to negotiate a better deal by having all of them with the same lender.

7. What’s the lender’s reputation?

It’s smart to research a company before you take out a loan with them. Read reviews and media coverage. Check their Facebook or Twitter accounts to see how engaged they are with their customers. How long have they been in business? What is their mission and founding principles? Is the company financially sound? How committed are they to customer service?

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8. What are the lender’s co-signer policies?

Many lenders publicly disclose the percentage of their borrowers who have co-signers. Are you likely to need a co-signer to get approved? And does the lender have a program for releasing a co-signer after a certain number of on-time payments?

9. Does the lender charge any fees or offer any discounts?

In an increasingly competitive lending environment, most companies have done away with application fees, origination fees, disbursement fees, and prepayment penalties, but it’s important to check to be sure. Also be sure to ask if you can get discounts for autopay, having other accounts, or referring friends. Many lenders will knock .25 percentage points off of the interest rate if you enroll in automatic billing.

10. Does the lender offer any perks?

Some lenders offer career counseling services, happy hours, networking events, entrepreneurial support, and more on the theory that everyone benefits when their borrowers are more successful and make more money. At least one lender donates to an education nonprofit for each loan they close.

How to get the best deal on student loan refinancing

There are many banks that offer student loan refinancing, but based on our research and reviews, we consider the ones below to be the best in terms of interest rates, transparency, product offerings, track records, ease of applying, and customer service....

Published in: Refinance

About the Author
Jon O'Donnell

Jon is a writer and marketer for Nitro who is passionate about bringing transparency to the student loan process along with providing families with the information needed to make smart financial decisions. He also just recently refinanced his student loans allowing him to pay them off 5 years faster all while saving an additional $152/month. As he continues to pay them off himself, he strives to help others do the same. Jon also has a long history of connecting people with educational opportunities to help them improve their careers and their overall personal finances. In his free time you can find him reading travel blogs and researching destinations around the world in search of his next adventure. Read more by Jon O'Donnell

Refinance and Save Today With These Lenders

#1 - Comet Recommended View More Details

Earnest empowers people with the financial captial they need to live better lives.

  • APR: 2.41% - 7.82%
  • Minimum credit score: 650
  • Refinance up to $500K
View More Details
Visit Earnest View Loan Disclosure

Using technology, data, and design to build affordable products, Earnest's lending products are built for a new generation seeking to reach life's milestones. The company understands every applicant's unique financial story to offer the lowest possible rates and radically flexible loan options for living life.

  • Commitment-free 2 minute rate check
  • Client Happiness can be reached via in app messaging, email, and phone 
  • No fees for origination, prepayment, or loan disbursement
  • Flexible terms let you pick your exact monthly payment or switch between fixed and variable rates
  • Skip a payment and make it up later
  • Online dashboard is designed to make it easy to apply for and manage your loan

Click here to apply with Earnest and to see how much you can save.

#2 View More Details

Many ELFI customers save hundreds per month month and thousands over the length of the loan term.

  • APR: 2.80% - 6.69%
  • Minimum credit score: 680
  • No refinancing maximum amount
View More Details
Visit ElFi View Loan Disclosure

Education Loan Finance is designed to assist borrowers through consolidating outstanding education loans into one single loan that effectively lowers your costs of education and/or makes repayment very simple. Education Loan Finance - backed by the strength of SouthEast Bank - combines the benefits of traditional education loan refinancing with the superior products, service, and support found in the private market.

Education Loan Finance (ElFi) review

Check out their low rates today to see how much you can save.

  • Get Your Rate. With Education Loan Finance's Find My Rate tool, you can complete a short application to receive a preliminary quote on your eligible rates and terms, all without affecting your credit score.
  • Apply in Minutes. Education Loan Finance's online application is fast and simple.
  • Outstanding Personalized Service. Our Personalized Loan Advisors specialize in student loan refinancing and help busy professionals find the option that's right for them.
  • Student Lending Experience: Education Loan Finance isn't a start-up company - we have a longstanding history and expertise in serving student loan borrowers.

Attractive Bonus and Referral Programs:

  • Education Loan Finance Fast Track Bonus**: Education Loan Finance's application process is streamlined and simple, and you can earn a $200 bonus just for closing your loan within 30 days of your initial application.
  • Education Loan Finance Referral Program**: Earn $400 for each new Education Loan Finance Client referred by you!
#3 View More Details

Works with 275+ not-for-profit community lenders for higher approval chances

  • APR: 2.38% - 7.50%
  • Minimum credit score: 660
  • Refinance up to $300K
View More Details
Visit LendKey View Loan Disclosure

LendKey operates student loan programs for over 275 not-for-profit and community lenders across the country. By partnering with these lenders, LendKey is able to give consumers direct access to the best rates available from the most borrower friendly institutions. As the servicer of all loans obtained through its platform, you can rest easy knowing your personal information will be safe and that the best customer service team will be ready to answer your questions from application until your final payment.

LendKey Student Loan Refinance review

  • Lightning fast rate check - 2-minute rate check with no impact on your credit score
  • More lenders, more options - see the best offers from over 275 not-for-profit and community lenders for higher approval chances
  • Life of loan relationship - With LendKey, your personal information will never be sent or passed on to third parties. Their customer service team is with you from the moment you land on their website until you've completely repaid your loan.
  • Unmatched benefits- Community lenders put people over profits and offer unique benefits like cosigner release after 12 on-time payments, interest only repayment options to keep monthly payments low, the largest unemployment protection period in the market, and more.

Get a personalized quote from LendKey now.

#4 View More Details

Operates in all 50 states; 2nd largest student loan refinancing lender

  • APR: 2.43% - 7.02%
  • Minimum credit score: 660
  • No refinancing amount maximum
View More Details
Visit Laurel Road View Loan Disclosure

Laurel Road is a national online lender with customers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Many of our non-bank competitors are not able to lend in all 50 states.Laurel Road has grown to be the second largest player in the student loan refinancing space in large part because of our reputation as the go-to low rate provider.

Laurel Road Student Loan Refinance Review

  • National reach - Online lender that is available in all 50 US states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
  • No fees & the lowest rates in the space - Laurel Road is the most transparent about the rates they provide customers, and offer the lowest rates where it counts. Our customers will save more than $20,000 over the life of their loans on average. 
  • Customer service reputation - Laurel Road's customer service representatives are no rookies. With 19 years of experience on average, Laurel Road’s Customer Service team delivers an experience that is best in the industry. They work to build meaningful, life-long relationships with our valued customers to improve their overall financial wellness.
  • The stability & security of a bank - They are a division of Darien Rowayton Bank, a stable and secure FDIC-insured bank, regulated by the FDIC and the Connecticut Department of Banking.

Get your personalized, pre-approved rates in less than 5 minutes.

#5 View More Details

For every loan they fund, they contribute to the education of a child in need

  • APR: 2.48% - 6.25%
  • Minimum credit score: 660
  • Refinance up to $500K
View More Details
Visit CommonBond View Loan Disclosure

CommonBond was founded in 2011 by three MBA graduates from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School who wanted to help their peers escape from high-interest student loan debt. Its original focus was on grad students, but it has since expanded to cover undergrads as well.

Of all the companies we reviewed, CommonBond has some of the best customer service. The company prides itself on being easy to reach by email, phone, or live chat. It offers networking events, expert panels, insider newsletters, and even has a program help borrowers who lose their jobs to find new ones. CommonBond also makes you feel good about choosing to refinance with them by donating money to an education nonprofit for each loan they write.

CommonBond Student Loan Refinance review

  • Unemployment protections - If you lose your job or decide to go back to school, you can delay your payments for up to 24 months.
  • Social promise - For every loan they fund, they also contribute to the education of a child in need.
  • Hybrid loan option - Offerings include a 10-year hybrid loan with fixed interest for the first five years, and variable interest for the final five.
  • Referral bonus - For every friend you refer who refinances their loans with CommonBond, you’ll earn a $200 cash bonus.
  • Qualification - Borrowers must have graduated at least 2 years prior if they want to apply without a co-signer. And borrowers in 6 states – Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, South Dakota, and Vermont – cannot currently refinance through CommonBond.

Get a personalized review of your refinancing options with CommonBond today.

#6 View More Details

Offers unemployment protection and career/coaching/networking

  • APR: 2.430% - 8.074%
  • Minimum credit score: 650
  • Refinance up to 100% of student debt
View More Details
Visit SoFi View Loan Disclosure

SoFi, which stands for “Social Finance,” was created by a group of Stanford business students who found themselves with a mountain of debt after graduation. They set out to change the student loan industry and help borrowers like themselves to get lower interest rates. SoFi has some of the lowest interest rates and, unlike the other lenders we reviewed, it has no maximum amount you can finance. However, Nevada residents can’t currently refinance with SoFi. Minimum loan balances are higher in Arizona, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania due to state laws. Additional state restrictions may apply.

SoFi Student Loan Refinancing Review

  • Low interest rates - For well-qualified borrowers, SoFi offers some of the lowest rates we have found.
  • Strong customer service - It has more than 350 customer service reps available to help applicants through process.
  • Career coaching and networking - Perks include career services representatives who can help you find a job or negotiate a higher salary. SoFi also hosts networking events, happy hours and educational lectures on topics like buying a home in major cities around the country.
  • Unemployment protection - Borrowers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own may apply for Unemployment Protection. If approved, SoFi will suspend their monthly SoFi loan payments and provide job placement assistance during the forbearance period. These benefits are offered in three month increments, and are capped at 12 months, in aggregate, over the life of the loan. Note that interest will still accrue while loans are in forbearance.

Find out what interest rate SoFi can offer you here.

#7 View More Details

Special offers for medical resident and fellow refinance products

  • APR: 3.02% - 7.76%
  • Minimum credit score: 670 w/cosigner
  • Refinance up to $350K
View More Details
Visit Splash View Loan Disclosure

Splash Financial is a leader in student loan refinancing with new rates as low as 3.25% fixed APR which can save you tens of thousands of dollars over the life of your loans. No application or origination fees and no prepayment penalties. Splash Financial is in all 50 states and is intensely focused on customer service. Splash Financial is also one of the few companies that offers a great medical resident and fellow refinance product. You can check your rate with Splash in just minutes.

  • Low interest rates – especially for graduate students
  • No application or origination fees. No prepayment penalties.
  • Co-signer release program - you can apply for a cosigner release form your loan after 12 months of on-time payments
  • Specialty product for doctors in training with low monthly payment

Click here to see more of Splash's offerings and to see how you can save money.

Comments

I reduced my student loan payment by $152 per month, by refinancing thru Nitro:

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