Loan refinancing is one of the best options for student loan borrowers. Refinancing involves a new loan that covers all existing debt and simplifies the debt management process. The advantage of this debt resolution strategy is that it helps to save money. Besides, both private and federal loans can take advantage of this program. However, it is hard to understand the features of the best student loan refinancing services. Refinancing can involve many technical terms and seem complex for debtors, but it doesn’t have to be.
In this guide, we gathered all the necessary details about refinancing and frequently asked questions about this option. Besides, we present the list of the best student loan refinancing companies in the market.
The Best Student Loan Refinancing Lenders
The market is saturated with refinancing companies, so it can be hard to find the most suitable one. In this section, we listed the best student loan refinancing companies and presented their features, as well as benefits. Keep in mind that the most favorable service highly depends on the borrowers’ needs.
Advantage Education Loan
This private lender offers to refinance loans to student loan borrowers. One of the greatest advantages of this lender is that it provides a “cosigner release” benefit. In more detail, if the borrowers make 36 qualifying payments consecutively, they can remove the cosigner from the obligation. Besides, Advantage Education Loan allows discharge in case of death or disability.
One can repay the refinancing loan in 10, 15, or 20 years to this lender. There is no fee involved to take advantage of the refinancing service. Undergraduate and graduate loan balances up to $250000-$500000 can be refinanced.
Pros of Advantage Education Loan:
- Any school-certified education loan is eligible
- No fees involved
- Fixed low rate interest rate
- Cosigner release
- 24 months of Forbearance
- Autopay Discounts
- Not available in most states
- Variable rates are not available
Citizens Bank provides refinancing services both at fixed and variable rates. Borrowers can repay the debt in shorter periods like 5 or 7 years, as well as 10, 15, or 20 years. It is possible to refinance both federal and private loans with the help of Citizens Bank. Like Advantage Education Loan, it also provides “cosigner release” in case of 36 successful payments. This loan has a maximum loan limit of $300000 for a bachelor’s degree or below, and $500000 for graduate students. According to the official website, fixed interest rates (APR) start from 2.99%, while variable rates start from 1.99%.
Pros of Citizens Bank
- Fixed and variable interest rate
- No origination fee
- Autopay and Loyalty Discounts
- Shorter repayment periods
- People without a degree can apply.
Cons of Citizens Bank
- Strong credit history is necessary.
College Ave is one of the best student loan refinancing companies that prequalifies the borrowers and provides the rate quickly. Even better, this check does not impact credit performance. The company offers both fixed and variable rate loans. Fixed rates start from 3.34%, and variable rates start from 3.24%, including the autopay discounts. The minimum loan amount is $5000 for refinancing, and repayment is possible between 5-20 years.
Pros of College Ave
- Prequalification is possible
- Lower minimum loan amount
- Grace period
- Both fixed and variable interest rate
- Flexible repayment period
- Cosigner release can be hard to achieve
Education Loan Finance
Another great student loan refinances company is Education Loan Finance. It also provides prequalification services to determine the rates beforehand. Both student loans and parent loans can be refinanced with the help of this service. The student loan refinancing repayment period is between 5 to 20 years, while this period is 5 to 10 for parent refinancing. Fixed interest rates (APR) offered by Education Loan Finance can be as low as 2.79%, and variable rates can be 2.93%. The minimum loan amount required is $15000.
Pros of Education Loan Finance
- Trusted by many reviewers
- Low-interest rates
- Accessible across the entire U.S
- No application or origination fees
- No prepayment penalties
Cons of Education Loan Finance
- High credit score needed.
- No Cosigner Release Benefit
INvestEd offers both fixed and variable interest rates to refinance student loans. The fixed rates (APR) are in the range of 3.16%- 6.89%, while the variable rates (APR) are between 3.16% and 6.89%. Borrowers can repay the loan in 5,10,15,20 year periods. The minimum amount to refinance is $5000, and the maximum limit is $250000. Debtors who qualify for this service should be residents or permanent residents of the U.S. If a cosigner is involved, both the borrower and cosigner should have a strong credit history and meet the income requirements. Whether you have private or federal debt, you can refinance them with INvestEd if the loans are in good standing.
Pros of INvestEd
- Auto payment discounts
- Cosigner release after 48 eligible payments
- Deferment options
Cons of INvestEd
- Relatively higher interest
- Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority (MEFA)
Another best student loan refinancing company is MEFA. It helps borrowers to make decisions by providing prequalification services. As a result, the borrower can get a preliminary rate for the refinance loan. These loans are available for private, federal, graduate, or undergraduate debt. Repayment periods of 7,10 and 15 years are accessible. Lastly, both fixed and variable interest rates are available.
Pros of MEFA
- People without a degree can apply.
- No origination fee
- Flexible repayment periods
Cons of MEFA
- No discounts
- No cosigner release
- No loan forbearance period
One of the most prominent student loans refinance service providers is SoFi. It offered to refinance loans to around 250000 borrowers and refinanced more than $18 billion in debt. With its competitive interest rates, flexible repayment conditions, and no fees, it is not surprising that SoFi has a special place for borrowers. This company delivers services all around the states, and it has high-level customer service.
Pros of SoFi
- Favorable interest rates
- Flexible repayment period
- Autopay and Loyalty discounts
Cons of SoFi
- No Cosigner Release
RISLA – Rhode Island Student Loan Authority also has highly rated customer services like SoFi. It provides refinance loans through a simple and quick application process. This service does not require any fees and even provides autopay discounts. Borrowers can return the debt in 5,10, or 15 years. Even better, graduate students who meet the eligibility requirements can get 36 months of deferment. Private loans, Parent PLUS, Stafford, subsidized or unsubsidized direct loans qualify for this refinancing option. Additionally, debtors should pass the credit check and other qualification requirements. One can refinance between $7500 and $250000 debt.
Pros of RISLA
- Disability discharge
- Military benefits
- Death discharge
- Income-based repayment
Cons of RISLA
- No cosigner release
One of the best student loan refinancing companies that are as transparent as possible is Laurel Road. This company provides much information to guide the borrowers. It is possible to find both fixed and variable APRs for different repayment periods, like 5, 7, 10, 15, or 20 years on the official websites. Laurel Road also offers referral discounts. One can earn a maximum of $500 by referring a friend.
Pros of Laurel Road
- Low APRs
- No application fees
- No prepayment penalties
- Autopay and referral rewards
Cons of Laurel Road
- Late fees
- High-income requirements
Different from many lenders, Commonbond offers fixed, variable, and even hybrid loans. Hybrid loans have fixed interest rates for the first years and then turn into a variable-rate loan. The APRs start from 2.83%, 1.99%, and 3.63% for fixed, variable, and hybrid loans, respectively. Additionally, Commonbond provides 24-month Forbearance to eligible borrowers. Hence, debtors with financial difficulties can postpone payments and try to improve the financial conditions.
Pros of Commonbond
- Long Forbearance
- No prepayment penalty
- No origination fee
Cons of Commonbond
- Cosigner is required
Student Loan Refinancing at a Glance
Loan refinancing involves getting a new loan from private lenders to cover the existing debt. These new loans usually provide better terms, such as lower or fixed interest rates. Hence, borrowers can save money and avoid the risks of rising interest rates. Therefore, student loan refinancing is one of the best strategies for borrowers to reduce their debt burden.
The best student loan refinancing companies’ eligibility requirements include good credit standing (credit score of 600 or higher), stable income, and, in some cases, a consigner. If a debtor satisfies the first two requirements, there might not be a need for a cosigner. Refinancing with a consigner is usually needed if the borrower lacks any of those eligibility criteria and has a nonpayment risk.
Besides lower interest or fixed terms, the advantage of this debt management strategy is that it is available to private and federal loans. Sure, it can be a better idea to utilize federal aid programs like student loan consolidation, cancellation, or repayment plans. However, if the debtors do not qualify for these options, they can enjoy the best student loan refinancing services in the market.
Additionally, refinancing is cost-effective because it mostly does not require origination and other fees. One can decide whether to apply for refinancing or not by considering several factors like eligibility, opportunity cost, new interest rates, or the company’s reputation.
What is the Best Time for Refinancing?
In general, it is advisable to benefit from the best student loan refinancing services as soon as an individual gets eligible. Qualifying for this program will require good credit performance and a stable income stream. In this way, the borrower can access lower rates quickly and start saving directly.
When utilizing this program, the lender will cover all existing loans by giving the individual access to a new funding source. This funding usually has a lower interest rate, which means the borrower will pay less monthly. Hence, he/she will end up saving in the long term. Therefore, refinancing can also depend on when the borrower finds a suitable rate provided by lenders.
You should Apply When…
As not every borrower will qualify to enjoy the best student loan refinancing services, in this section, we will go through several conditions that make the individual a perfect candidate for the refinance. Once debtors satisfy these requirements, they can start considering refinancing strategies:
- You will save a considerable amount- even if debtors do not have great credit performance, they can still access better interest rates with different lenders’ help. Sometimes, these lenders can even provide bonuses to aid borrowers to save more.
- You owe a private debt- while there are federal aid programs like loan cancellation or forgiveness for federal debt, there is almost no benefit for private loans. Hence, one does not have much to lose when having private debt. Such borrowers can consider the best student loan refinancing services with peace in mind.
- Your loan has a variable interest rate- variable payments are risky because borrowers cannot guarantee its future amounts. If interest rates rise, even loans with low variable rates can become extremely costly. Therefore, it is worth opting for refinancing to fix the interest.
- Economic factors are favorable- regardless of the interest types, a down turning economy can make the debt costly. If you notice that rates are falling, it can be a good time to take advantage and refinance the loans.
- Your income level rises- some borrowers might have applied for refinancing before and got rejected due to ineligibility. Once your income level rises and credit performance improves, it can be a fresh beginning for managing the debt through favorable refinancing programs.
You Should NOT Refinance When…
- You have federal loans, and your finances get worse- federal loans have access to multiple beneficial student aid programs. If there is an option that the borrower will change the job or the income will be lower due to Covid influence, it is better to avoid refinancing. In such cases, federal programs are more helpful.
- You want to take advantage of forgiveness- refinancing the debt can be a limitation for student loans forgiveness programs such as Public Service or Teacher Loan Forgiveness.
- You declared bankruptcy- if a borrower declares bankruptcy, he/she can still apply for the refinancing options. However, there will be almost no chance of getting the best student loan refinancing service because they require a good credit history. Besides, many years, from four to ten, should have passed since you declared the bankruptcy.
- You defaulted the loan- student loan default might not be as bad as bankruptcy, but it is still a negative even in credit performance. It is not advisable to opt for refinancing while the default is still on your credit history. Usually, seven years after the default, its impact is wiped out from the credit performance. In this case, the borrowers can refinance if they have a stable income, better credit rating, and satisfy other requirements.
- Your payback period will be increased- for some borrowers, this condition can be undesirable. When interest payments decrease, the payback period might be prolonged. It means, instead of paying the loan for 10 years, you might be obliged to repay for 15 years. If you do not want such a condition, you should wait till you find a better refinancing program.
How Many Times can a Loan be Refinanced?
Borrowers can refinance their loans as many times as they wish. If they previously enjoyed the benefits of the best student loan refinancing options, they can apply again to take advantage of lower interest rates. Usually, there is no application or origination fee. Hence, it will not cost anything for the borrower to refinance again if the credit performance and income level qualify.
What Happens if I Refinance for Multiple Times?
As mentioned before, it is reasonable to refinance multiple times if this strategy will help the borrowers save more money. In this case, borrowers can get lower interest rates or make their payments even more manageable. However, this strategy can bring some trivial challenges. First, lenders will conduct even detailed credit checks if the debtors refinance multiple times. Sometimes, making too many requests can decrease credit performance.
Yet, it is most favorable for the borrower to refinance multiple times. They can also avoid the downsides if they first prequalify for the program before actually applying.
Is it even Worth to Refinance?
The answer to this question depends highly on the borrower’s financial conditions and the benefits the refinancing strategy provides. If the borrower has federal loans, it might not be a wise decision to apply for refinancing. The main reason for such consideration is that you might qualify for better federal aid options. However, it is definitely much more worthy of applying to refinance if the debtor has private loans as there are not many options for such loans. Besides, the refinancing process does not require fees or costs. In this case, the best student loan refinancing companies can provide these benefits:
- Decreased interest payments
- Fast debt repayment
- Refinancing Bonuses
- No cosigner required
- Fixed interest rates, etc.
What are the Refinance Bonuses?
Some refinancing companies provide incentives to attract borrowers. These incentives can be sign-up or welcome bonuses, referral bonuses, or additional benefits for loyalty and early payments. Though the bonuses do not have as much importance as low-interest rates, they can still help debtors save money. Usually, in return, the debtor is obliged to apply by using a specific link or complete all the refinancing steps.
Bonuses can be catchy, especially when they help to decrease payments. However, borrowers should be careful. If a decision involves either low-interest rates or bonuses, one should choose the interest rates. Even if this decision involves passing great bonuses, reduced interest is more cost-saving in the long run.
How do Bonuses work?
Referral bonuses usually are provided by the third-party platforms to choose a particular student loan refinancing company. Some companies that provide referral bonuses are Education Loan Finance, Splash Financial, Laurel Road Student Loan Refinance, Earnest, LendKey, etc. Others, such as Wells Fargo or Citizens One Student Loan Refinance, offer loyalty rewards.
Some best student loan refinancing companies provide monetary rewards for third-party platforms to refer customers to them. These rewards are similar to signing-up bonuses, but they are provided to the third-party platform. In return, this platform gives a link to visitors to use while applying. If a borrower wants to benefit from such a link, he/she should consider several actions. First, borrowers should find the correct link. The links are usually specially created, so using another one will not bring any benefit. Second, they should know about the deadline. Sometimes, there can be a deadline, such as 90 days to finalize a refinancing application once you get referred. For SoFi lenders, this time period is 120 days. Lastly, the debtors should be aware of the limits. There can be limitations like up to 10 referral bonuses for a year.
Besides the mentioned elements, private lenders can add their own requirements. Hence, before signing up for a bonus or applying for a refinancing service, make sure you thoroughly read the terms and conditions.
Credit Score Requirement
Borrowers who want to get a new loan from the best student loan refinancing companies should have a high credit score. Usually, the eligible range of credit score is between high 600 to mid 700. Besides, if a cosigner is required, he/she should also have a qualifying score. In general, the higher the credit score, the better the loan terms. It means borrowers with great credit performance can enjoy lower interest rates. Besides the credit score, income level also has huge significance.
What if My Credit is Low?
People with bad credits can face difficulties in the refinancing process. If the applicant has less than 600, he/she can still be eligible for a new loan with the additional requirement of a cosigner. When the cosigner has great financial standing, refinancing can be possible depending on the service provider. Some refinancing companies do not allow borrowers to apply with a cosigner.
If you apply with a cosigner, the debt will also be owed by him/her. It means the loan will appear on their credit histories. Besides, if you do not make the payment, the consigner will cover the missing payments. Otherwise, the missed payment will hurt their credit ratings.
The good news is that there are some refinancing companies offering “cosigner release.” This benefit involves removing a cosigner if the original borrower improves the credit, or makes a certain number of qualifying payments.
What if I do not have a Cosigner?
The consigner is the easiest way of becoming eligible for refinancing if the borrower does not meet the credit score eligibility criteria. However, there also exist other strategies. For example, the borrower can improve credit performance to become eligible. This process requires on-time payments, as well as staying below the credit limits. It can be helpful to check your credit score and develop a feasible strategy to improve it.
If the reason for the ineligibility is low-income level, rather than credit, borrowers can improve their cash inflow or expense management. It can be hard, but increasing income level will decrease the risk of nonpayment, and the borrower will become eligible. For example, debtors can look for ways to earn additional income by freelancing or consulting.
It should also be mentioned that if the borrower does not qualify for refinancing, it might be a sign to find another opportunity. Though the refinancing provides many benefits, not every borrower will qualify. You can try to improve the conditions, but they can be hard to achieve. Therefore, sometimes considering alternatives is a better strategy. Such alternatives will be more applicable to federal loan borrowers. They can get more manageable payments through repayment plans. Besides, they can take advantage of debt consolidation. These programs will not be available for private debtors. Hence, they might consider negotiating with the lender to get favorable loan terms.
What are My Options for Refinancing if the Income is Low?
Another factor that makes the borrowers ineligible for student loan refinancing is the low income. However, this condition does not make refinancing impossible to get. It can be hard to qualify, but borrowers can still find the best student loan refinancing companies providing low-income applicants options.
First, individuals should check the income requirements of different refinancing companies. Although not all of them supply this information, there are some that will disclose the required minimum income level. This requirement can also change depending on the amount of existing debt. Second, if the income is low, one of the biggest challenges is to meet the Debt-to-Income ratio(DTI). This ratio compares the income level with liabilities like car payments, rent, or other debt payments. In this way, private lenders try to forecast if the borrower will meet a new obligation. For many refinancing companies, the ratio is 50%.
Hence, borrowers can consider improving their DTIs by decreasing debt expenses. For example, they can pay off all credit card debt to increase the DTI. The third factor in this problem is good credit. Usually, the lenders require a 600-750 credit score. If a borrower has strong credit performance, it means he/she can effectively manage the debt and income. Debtors lacking this condition can involve a cosigner.
Consolidation vs. Refinancing
When people consider refinancing as an option for better debt management, they mostly have difficulty understanding the difference between refinancing and consolidation. Hence, in this section, we will dive deep into the two alternatives borrowers have to reduce their debt burden.
The federal government provides this opportunity, and it is available to many different types of federal loans. Private loans do not qualify for this program. Consolidation involves combining two or more federal loans into one. This one loan has a new interest rate, mostly the weighted average of the existing loans. It means borrowers do not save money in the long term. However, federal consolidation has its own benefits.
First, borrowers will be required to deal with a single payment. In this way, there will be no risk of losing the payment track, and debt will be more manageable. Another benefit is that the new interest can be a fixed rate rather than a variable one. Hence, the borrowers will be protected from rising interest rates in the future. Lastly, borrowers can have lower monthly payments. The reason for this advantage is that usually, the federal debt consolidation prolongs the payment period. Hence, per month, you end up paying less. However, in total, you will pay more in the long-term. People can ignore this condition’s negative side if they struggle to make monthly payments with lower income levels.
Private consolidation works like federal consolidation with some differences. It will also combine the existing loans, but private loans will qualify for this program as its name suggests. Besides using a weighted average of existing loan interest rates, the lenders will provide a completely new interest rate. They decide on the rate by analyzing the credit performance and finances of the borrower. If the debtor has a good credit history and stable income, desirably, the new interest will be lower than the weighted average of existing loans.
In general, private consolidation can help save money, but if borrowers consolidate federal loans through this program, they can lose access to some essential federal programs. For instance, private consolidation of federal loans will make the borrower ineligible for an income-driven repayment plan or forgiveness programs.
As mentioned before, student loan refinancing involves covering existing debts by getting a new loan from a private lender. Usually, this program is available for private loans. However, some lenders can qualify for federal loans, too. Refinancing brings the benefits of consolidation, including single payment, lower payments, or fixed interest. Different from consolidation, it can reduce the payback period and help the borrower to save some money.
Which One Should I Apply?
Again, the answer depends on the conditions and goals. Borrowers with good credit performance and income levels will be eligible for refinancing. Hence, they can save money and get rid of the debt quickly. Federal debt consolidation, in turn, will not save the money. Even worse, it can prolong the debt payback period. Therefore, the borrower might end up paying more interest in the long term. However, if the borrower is not eligible for refinancing, consolidation can be considered a suitable option.
How to Refinance?
If you want to refinance the debt, you need to consider these six steps for maximum benefit.
Decide the Suitability
Though the best student loan refinancing programs offer great benefits, it can be hard to be eligible. Not every borrower will meet the requirements. They need to have a great credit score- 600 or more and a stable income. In this case, the borrower will get low-interest rates.
However, refinancing will make the debtor ineligible for government student aid programs, like repayment plans and some loan forgiveness options. Besides, it will not be a suitable option if the debtor risks losing the job. In short, a borrower needs to evaluate the pros and cons of refinancing in detail before starting the application process.
In general, most private lenders provide the same benefits, and their eligibility conditions are similar. However, the best student loan refinancing companies can make their services competitive by providing additional features. For example, they can allow parents to refinance Parent PLUS loans in the child’s name. Some companies can also provide “cosigner release” benefits as explained above, while others might not even require a college degree. Therefore, find the accessible lenders and evaluate the variety of their offerings.
Request Multiple Estimates
Once the borrower has some lender options, they should get interest rate estimates. The general rule of thumb is that the best student loan refinancing company has the lowest interest. Debtors can get general information about rates from the official websites of refinancing companies. Alternatively, they can use third-party platforms to compare different lenders.
However, when it comes to the specific interest rate qualified by the borrower, they should at least prequalify. It means the debtors need to submit some information about their finances to get interest rate estimates from the lender. Some lenders might not deliver this service and require the debtor to apply to know the rate fully. In this case, the borrower applies for refinancing, not pre-qualifies, and gets an actual offer.
When prequalifying for a refinancing service, it does not hurt credit performance. However, full application multiple times can impact credit ratings.
Decide on Loan Terms
After choosing a lender, one should evaluate the offerings and select the most suitable ones. For example, the borrower should decide whether he/she wants a fixed or variable interest. Generally, fixed interest is better because the rate is guaranteed. When choosing a variable interest, there is a risk of payment increase in the future. Besides, the borrower should decide on the repayment period. Debtors should choose the shortest period they can afford. Usually, a longer period means lower monthly payments. Therefore, if borrowers have urgent expenses or have low-income levels, they can opt for less interest and a prolonged debt repayment period. In short, there is a trade-off between the payment period and the monthly payment amount.
Submit the Application
Whether you have applied for prequalification or not, you need to submit the full application. This process involves submitting documents, such as proof of employment, residency, graduation, loan verification, ID, co-singer documents, etc. Additionally, the debtor will agree to the refinancing company to do the credit check. In this way, the best student loan refinancing companies make the final decision on interest rates.
Agree to Refinance
After the document submission and credit check, the refinancing companies will make the final decision. If they approve the credit, the borrower will need to sign documents to agree to refinance. In this case, there will be a three day rescission period. During this time, the debtor can change the mind and refuse to refinance. However, if they do not cancel the refinancing process, the lender will pay the current debt, and the borrower will be required to make monthly payments. It is recommended to continue meeting obligations of existing loans till the debtor receives a notification about the refinancing process completion. Do not worry about overpayments because such amounts will be refunded. Not meeting the obligations while the borrowers are obliged to can create problems for existing lenders. Once the refinancing is achieved, the borrower can forget about previous loan terms and focus on the new loan conditions.
In case of rejection, the best student loan refinancing companies will mention the reasons. Whether the reason is bad credit or low-income level, there are strategies to solve these issues, as mentioned in previous sections. For example, a bad credit problem can be solved by involving a cosigner or improving credit performance. If the income level is low, getting a side job can be a viable option. Besides, the borrower can consider alternative programs, such as consolidation, negotiation with the lenders, or federal aid programs.
There are many best student loan refinancing companies in the market. We listed some of them in this guide, but borrowers can find more lenders online. Each company provides different pros and cons. Hence, it is difficult to say which one is the absolute winner. Borrowers should choose a suitable lender by considering their needs. Also, one should be fully aware of the refinancing process before application. In this guide, we answered frequently asked questions about refinancing strategy. However, if you have more questions, you can contact Student Loans Resolved experts. Our specialists will analyze your financial conditions and recommend the most favorable lender to your debt challenges.