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Best Places to Refinance Student Loan Debt

If your student loans are starting to become a strain on your finances then you may want to consider refinancing your student loans for lower monthly payments and ideally, a lower interest rate.

When you set out to refinance your student loans, there will be countless lenders, banks, and programs to choose from, which can be very overwhelming.

Use my list of 12 of the best student loan refinancing companies below to compare refinancing quotes, and find the plan that will finally pay off your loan.

Earnest

One of the most flexible refinancing companies with the lowest rates, is Earnest.

  • Flexible loan length

This company gives you the choice to pick any monthly payment as well as term, between 5 to 20 years. Ultimately, this formula ends up saving you more than current terms and standard rates.

  • Flexible repayment

Earnest also offers the ability to change your loan. That means refinancing for free, the ability to change your payments, and if you happen to skip a payment once a year, you can make it up later on.

  • Income requirements

Many people decide to refinance through Earnest because there are no definite income requirements for people who are looking to borrow, making it a viable option for people across the board.

  • Refinance for free

If fees are holding you back, this company is completely fee-free, so keep that in mind.

  • Employment protections

Life happens, and sometimes people lose their jobs and sources of income, making it impossible to continue making their loan payments. Earnest offers protection in case unemployment strikes your financial status, allowing you to pause your payments until you have continued employment.

  • Credit history

A majority of Earnest’s benefits are primarily available to those who apply with good credit histories, which can set some people back.

If you have recently graduated and haven't had time to create a good credit report, it might be best to wait a few years, so you can qualify for some of the better rates and lower monthly payments.

  • Low monthly payments

If you are financially in good standing and have a decent credit score, look into Earnest’s 20-year term loan for some of the lowest monthly payments available.

  • Bonus for refinancing your student loan

When your student loan is refinanced with Earnest, you get a $300 bonus for refinancing a loan of 50k to 100k. You get a $500 bonus for refinancing over 100k of student loan debt.

LendKey

This student loan refinancing lender, Lendkey, collects their funds from credit unions and community banks so they can offer well-priced loans to their borrowers.

Lendkey's combination of competitive rates, flexibility, and loan term varieties make it one of the top choices because of the good qualities they offer to their borrowers. 

  • No fees

With no prepayment and origination fees, LendKey decides your rates based on your credit, and you may even be entitled to discounts signing up with their auto-pay features.

  • Low interest rates

Even though LendKey is able to issue their own loans, they mainly connect their borrowers with local credit unions and regional banks in your area to refinance your loans.

With this system, borrowers can shop around to find the best refinancing plan for them.

  • Forbearance period option

Just in case, LendKey will also let you enter a forbearance period, just like any other typical federally subsidized lender would do, opening the door for many borrowers.

  • Maximum loan caps

Using LendKey, your term with your loan can range between 5 and 20 years and they offer loans anywhere from $5,000 to $300,000 - depending on the degree that has been earned by the loan holder.

Undergraduate degrees qualify for the lowest amount that caps at $125,000.

  • For college grads only

Keep in mind that if you never obtained a degree, LendKey will not offer refinancing options to those borrowers, earning a degree is their minimum qualification.

  • Bonus for refinancing with Lendkey

Here are the bonuses you receive when you refinance your student loan with Lendkey.

With Lendkey you get a $750 bonus when you refinance $150,000 or more or a $300 bonus if you refinance less than $150,000.

CommonBond

CommonBond was one of the first student loan refinancing companies on the market, making it a very popular choice to refinance your loans through. Let's look at what makes them such a popular choice.

  • Fixed or variable rates

Whether you are looking for a fixed or variable rate loan, this no-fee lender has both options available.

If you are worried about a company running a hard check on your credit to determine an estimate of possible loan amounts, CommonBond is perfect for you because you can receive your estimate to compare with other companies without your credit score taking a hit.

  • 24 month forbearance if needed

If flexibility is one of the most important aspects to you when it comes to refinancing, CommonBond might be one of your top companies. They offer some great perks including offering a 24 month forbearance if you need it.

  • Cosigner flexibility

When starting if you need a cosigner, you will have the opportunity to release them from the loan later on and continue solely yourself.

If your parents took out a PLUS loan on your behalf during your education, it's possible to even refinance those loans into your name.

  • Unemploymenet protection

Also offering a particular protection plan for unemployment, CommonBond will pause your loan payments until you have regained a steady income.

  • Willing to help you find a job

One aspect that sets this refinancing company apart from others, is their willingness to find eligible graduates new jobs.

Even if it’s simply hiring them for short-term consulting projects, it allows new graduates a chance to get their footing navigating the workforce.

  • Bonus for refinancing your student loan

CommonBond has a generous bonus. You receive a $300 bonus when you refinance $40,000 - $75,000. Or you get a $550 bonus when you refinance over $75,000.

Splash Financial

Even though Splash Financial is one of the newer ones on our list, they are still making great headway, and are becoming a very popular option for refinancing.

  • No origination fees

Their unique repayment plans and zero original fees give people access to a plan that works specifically for them.

Loans start as low as $5,000 and have no maximum amount (depending on how much you’re refinancing) which makes them one of the more versatile lenders listed here.

  • Low interest rates

Splash Financial searches multiple lenders, including credit unions, to make sure you get the lowest interest rate on your student loan refi.

  • Personal service

If you make the choice to refinance through Splash Financial, you will get a personal loan officer that will help you navigate your refinancing plans and options.

This personal approach has been one of the top reasons people decide to refinance through this lender over many others.

  • No forbearance option

Before finalizing your loans, make sure you are capable of making each payment since they do not offer forbearance programs or any payment restructuring plans.

  • Bonus for refinancing your student loan

Refer your friends to refinance their student loan at Splash Financial and you each get a $250 bonus.

Laurel Road

For you medical professionals, Laurel Road might be the perfect company to refinance your loan through.

Laurel Road is a bit different than the other student loan companies. They are actually a bank, and thus are able to offer rates that are often times lower than their competitors.

  • Easy loan estimate

You can see if you qualify for a refi and what rate you'll get without them doing a hard credit check.

  • Ideal for medical professionals

Laurel Road offers the best rates on larger loans. So it is ideal for medical professionals, high-income and high-debt borrowers.

  • Tough underwriting requirements

You'll need good credit, low debt-to-income ratio and a high income to be approved here.

  • Up to 12 month forbearance

If you face economic hardship, Laurel Road will allow you to pause your payments for up to 12 months.

  • Refinances large loans

They are one of the few lenders that will refinance student loans above $300,000.

SoFi

One of the most recognizable lenders is SoFi, because they were one of the original student loan refinancing companies available.

  • Many repayment term options

What sets apart this company, is the variation of repayment terms they offer. You have your choice between 5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 year repayment terms, and your choice of fixed and variable rate loans.

  • Offer plenty of assistance

SoFi also offers unemployment protection for their borrowers, career support programs, and no origination fees and penalties for prepayment.

Borrowers have access to career networking events as well, which could potentially find their new career after college.

  • Best if you have excellent credit

To qualify for their best loans, you must be in excellent credit score standing or have a co-signer on your loan. Keep in mind if you do have a cosigner, there is no release program offered by this lender.

  • Your earning potential can qualify you

One aspect that sets SoFi apart, is how they determine your eligibility as a borrower.

They take an unorthodox approach by considering your earning potential, credit score, and debt-to-income ratio before offering your loan amount. 

This opens the door for people with a less than perfect credit score, but will be going into a higher paying profession, to qualify for a great refinancing loan option.

  • Completed refinancing bonus

Upon approval of your loan with SoFi you will receive a $100 cash bonus.

Figure

Offering some of the best rates on fixed-rate student loans is the newer lender company Figure

This completely online lender is one of the easiest to apply and obtain a loan, making it a top choice for those looking for fast and easy refinancing options.

  • They're new to student loan refinancing

Historically being known for home equity lending and mortgages, they are making a big mark in student loan refinancing.

  • Online-only experience

Automated application process, completely paperless.

  • Competitive rates

Figure offers some of the most competitive rates and terms, so keep them in mind when comparing lenders for refinancing.

  • Many choices on rate and year terms

Their loan amounts range from $5,000 to $250,000 and they offer fixed and variable rate types. With their multiple loan year terms available, there is a plan out there for everyone.

ELFI (Education Loan Finance)

Whether you are looking as a graduate to refinance your existing student loans or a parent looking to refinance your Parent PLUS Loan into your child’s name, ELFI is one of the best options out there.

  • No fees

With ELFI there are no application fees, origination fees or prepayment penalties.

  • Good for larger loans

Their minimum loan amount is $15,000 for those looking to refinance and the maximum is your current outstanding loan balance.

For those of you with extremely high student loans, like doctors and any other professions that require a lot of schooling, this can be a huge added bonus. 

  • Good credit required

Even though they do not have specific credit minimum qualifications, they do require their borrowers to be creditworthy. If you do not fall into this category, you may be able to have a creditworthy cosigner join on your loan with you.

  • Bonus for applying

You get $100 taken off your balance after you're approved for a student loan refi with ELFI.

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College Ave Student Loans

If you are a potential borrower that is looking to refinance a smaller amount, or even those who want to start paying off their loans while still in school, College Ave might be the lender company for you.

  • Best for smaller loans

They offer refinancing options as low as $1,000 with a max of $80,000 and their loan terms will not exceed 15 years.

  • Flexible payment options

For those of you that are still a student and are worried that interest charges on your loan will add up while deferring during school, College Ave offers an interest-only plan that can offer you payments as low as $25 each month.

There are also deferred payments as well as fixed rate payment options available.

  • Forbearance

Even though they do not offer an official forbearance policy to their borrowers, they will consider requests. Acceptance into this program is decided on a case-by-case basis, so it is a possibility.

  • Bonus for applying

You get a $100 bonus for an approved refinance here.

Citizens Bank

Citizens Bank is not a typical refinancing lender like many of the previous ones mentioned, it’s an actual bank.

It’s worth mentioning them because they offer many great loan options that are completely backed by the stability of a bank.

  • High loan limits

They also offer one of the highest loan limits on the list, capping at $500,000, giving those with large student loan debt an option of refinancing.

  • Many repayment options

This lender offers 5, 10, 15, and 20 year repayment options, has no application, disbursement, or origination fees, and offers discounts available through loyalty programs.

Also, they offer both variable and fixed rate loan options, so there is a refinance plan for everyone.

  • Not for low loan balances

If your existing student loan debt is less than $10,000 you can't apply here.

  • Co-signers

If you have a co-signer on your loan, you can have them removed after making three years worth of consecutive and on-time payments.

  • Interest rate discount

An additional perk if you already have a Citizens Bank account, you may be entitled to a 0.25% discount, considering their interest rates trend higher than national average. 

Other student loan refinancing options

  • Cash out refinance

College graduates are more likely to be homeowners than any other socioeconomic group. If you are a homeowner and have student loan debt, then you may be able to roll your mortgage and student loans into one payment, and possibly even lower the interest rates on both.

A cash-out refinance essentially replaces your old mortgage with a new one. Except the new mortgage allows you to tap into the equity of your home in order to take care of any large financial obligations, whether it be to remodel your home, or consolidate your student loan debt.

  • Unsecured loan

Though the interest rates may be higher, an unsecured loan is a good option for those who simply need to consolidate their loans and lower their monthly financial obligations.?

Start with your local credit union or a reputable online lender and work your way from there. Because there is no collateral involved with these loans, your credit will need to be in decent shape.

  • Hardship deferment

If you are unable to pay your student loans because of a recent hardship or life-changing event, then you may qualify for some sort of hardship program through your lender.

Often times they will grant these to people who have experienced a job loss, death of a spouse, or have been affected by a natural disaster.

  • Credit counseling

For those that feel overwhelmed with their student loan debt and aren’t sure which route to take, then you may benefit from non-profit credit counseling

These trained financial advisers will sit down with you and help you discover how you got in over your head, and then walk you through the process of attacking your student loan debt the right way.

It’s a great option for anyone who isn’t sure where to start when it comes to satisfying their loan obligations.

If student loan refinancing is not an option - either because of bad credit, no credit or no income - you're going to have to pay it off the old fashioned way: by making monthly payments until it is gone.

Here are some tips to help you pay off your student loans faster.

How to pay off your student loan faster

When you graduate and embark on your chosen career, it’s a good idea to start investing in your retirement from day one.

While that may seem like the perfect plan on paper, actually making it happen is incredibly tough, usually because college graduates are left saddled with a student loan that can be totally crippling.

Continuing your education in today’s world means shelling out tens of thousands of dollars, which ends up resulting in large monthly payments once you graduate.

Student loans are a tough debt to pay off, but there are a few ways you can get it paid down sooner rather than later:

  • Treat the loan like a mortgage

Homeowners paying down their mortgage know that there are several ways to pay the debt off faster. These include paying bi-weekly as opposed to monthly, or paying extra towards the principal each month.

Every little bit that you can pay over and above your minimum payment helps reduce the amount of time that it will take to become totally debt-free.

  • Create a budget

Talk to your lenders about what amount you would need to pay to have the loan paid off in a specific amount of time or look at options for refinancing your student loans.

5 years is usually a pretty reasonable timeframe in which to get the job done. You will know exactly what needs to be paid each month to get the loan paid in that time, and you can then budget accordingly.

Having a clear end date in sight is often very motivating, and can make it easier to sacrifice on luxury items for a relatively short period of time.

  • Establish a separate repayment fund

You can establish a separate account at your bank to which a percentage of your earnings are automatically transferred. This account should be a reinvestment type deal where your money can quickly grow.

Once you hit a nice little lump sum, that money can then be used to pay down your principal, shaving off a huge chunk of repayment time in the process.

  • Start early

Many students take on a part-time job while they are in college. While some of that is sure to go towards tuition and living expenses, you can also save some money that will quickly add up and make it possible for you to pay off a portion of your loan right out of the gate.

Attending college close to home and living with your parents may not seem like the college dream, but it can help you start your career on more stable financial footing.

  • Stay focused

Getting sucked into bad financial choices is the easiest way to fall off the budget bandwagon.

Do you really need the newest cell phone, or do you really need to eat out at a good restaurant 3 or 4 times per week?

I'm not saying you can't ever treat yourself, but try to stay on budget by limiting how often you make those decisions.

Consolidate vs refinance

It’s important to remember that student loan refinancing is different from consolidating your student loans, which means you are combining all of your federal loans into one loan to pay off.

Many people want to use the two interchangeably, but they are very different. However, most institutions will have a program for both options.

Before deciding to refinance your loans, make sure you can afford paying on a standard 10 year plan for your loan. For those that qualify for student loan refinancing, it can make a lot of sense financially!

You are essentially getting a lower interest rate on your newly refinanced loan, which means lower payments and less money you end up paying throughout the life of your loans.

If you are currently struggling to make your loan payments, refinancing may be the next option you try, to get on top of paying off those loans.

How to avoid getting into student loan debt in the first place

While college is famous for being a time and place for meeting people, having fun, and enjoying new experiences, it has developed a new reputation that has everyone talking.

At any rate, new graduates and current college students can probably agree that sharing $1.3 trillion in debt is absolutely no fun at all. With that being said, students are not powerless against the price tag over their heads.

There are multiple ways to limit the amount of debt on your shoulders during and after college.

Here are some of the more popular options that anyone with student loan debt can resort to.

  • Pay Interest Off During School

One of the chief culprits behind mounting student loan debt is interest. Since student loan interest capitalizes every month, these loans accumulate interest progressively throughout the year.

It can be compared to a snowball growing larger while rolling down the hill. In other words, interest can break the back of anyone with student loans.

The best way to stop the rolling snowball is to make interest payments while in school or before principal payments start.

By paying interest monthly, you can limit the size of the overall principal balance which eliminates the snowball effect of capitalizing interest. 

Many people may not want to start making payments early, but they will end up spending less on interest over the life of the loan.

  • Apply For Scholarships

If you are dreading student loans, then you may want to try and avoid them entirely. This can be accomplished by relying on scholarships.

Otherwise known as “free money”, scholarships are one of the most underused educational financial aid resources. If played right, students can cover 100% of their tuition costs; in some cases, funding towards living expenses can be secured.

How do you find these opportunities? Check the internet. There are thousands of scholarships found online which means there are millions of dollars in free financial aid ready for the taking.

 If you think your chances of success are low, then think again. Scholarships are awarded for countless reasons; for instance, you can get a scholarship for simply having red hair or wearing glasses.

The best idea is to look for niche scholarships (or weird scholarships) because your chances increase with smaller fields of competition. One more note, do not stop applying throughout college because anyone taking classes can qualify for some sort of scholarship.

  • Refinancing

Student loan refinancing has grown into a popular option for student loan debtors. It is offered by multiple private loan and some mortgage companies.

The basics are simple. If you have multiple student loans and interest rates, then you can refinance into a lump sum with a new underwritten credit score. Over the life of a loan, this action can save up to thousands in interest payments.

A common question involves knowing whether to refinance or not. Refinancing calculators are used to quickly assess how much can be saved by refinancing student loans.

An important note to cover is the underwriting process. Student loan refinancing is generally offered to those with solid credit history, so in order to get the best rate and savings, a co-signer might be necessary.

  • Overpay the Minimum Monthly Payment

This option bears the same rewards as making early interest payments, but there are two benefits to paying more than the minimum each month.

First, you are lowering the principal balance at a faster rate which puts you on the fast track to no more student loans. Second, you are actually fighting interest capitalization by cutting away at the overall loan balance (similar to paying interest early, but this goes one step further).

This tip is a solid way to eliminate student loans for obvious reasons, but not everyone has the luxury of spending more each month.

If you happen to have additional funds available, then making larger monthly payments is definitely a good way to reverse the growth of student loan debt.

  • Aim for Subsidized Federal Loans

Subsidized Federal student loans are probably the most desirable loan for higher education. These loans can be acquired by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), but they are only offered to students who fit a certain financial need threshold.

This threshold makes it harder to qualify, but it doesn’t change the fact that they are better options than private student loans or unsubsidized student loans.

Students with subsidized student loans benefit because the government pays the interest during grace and deferment periods.

This means you do not have to worry about the snowball effect mentioned earlier without actually having to make interest payments yourself.

  • Student Loan Forgiveness Programs

Just to clarify, there are multiple federal programs that offer student loan forgiveness.

Some examples of these loans include teacher loan forgiveness, public servant loan forgiveness, and loan discharges due to disability/death.

These programs have criteria requirements that applicants need to meet in order to enroll in a program. If you qualify for one of these programs, there are two basic scenarios to look forward to.

First, your loans are forgiven outright, or second, you receive partial loan forgiveness. 

Here are more details.

It is clear which scenario is more desirable, but you have to remember there are criteria standards. Total student loan forgiveness is offered for cases involving bankruptcy, permanent disability, or death, but these are not conditions anyone wants to strive for. Partial loan forgiveness is a much more common option.

Teachers can qualify for up to $17,500 in loan forgiveness after working in the field, and public servants can have their remaining loans forgiven after making 120 payments (or 10 years).

Wrapping it up

With the outstanding student loan debt toll reaching into the trillions of dollars, it's no surprise that people are facing debt troubles. Despite the trouble you can find yourself in, you can find help, too.

There are plenty of government programs that help alleviate tensions, but the best place to get help is from yourself. Many of the options on this list require the student loan debtor to put in some effort to help themselves. 

At the end of the day, proactivity and diligence are the best weapons you have in your arsenal for the student loan struggle!

Thanks for reading and hope this helped you figure out your student loan refinancing options.

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Edwin


Edwin is the money hacking millennial behind Cash The Checks. He lives a minimalist lifestyle and is always eager to learn and share his methods to save and make money.

  • Track your spending. You’ll be amazed at how much money you spend on bad financial decisions; this ties into your Stay Focused section.

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