Best Student Loan Refinance Companies

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In the nearly ten years since I graduated college (!), the face of student loan debt has changed quite a bit. In my college days, we mostly joked about our loans. My classmates and I would look at our total debt number in comparison to our major and say, “Yeah, we’re going to be paying that off well into middle age…” or “We’ll probably have kids in school and still be paying these loans off.”

Now that there legitimately are many parents paying off their loans while putting their children through school (sometimes referred to as the “Sandwich Generation”), that joke doesn’t quite seem so funny. Nor does it seem so funny when facing my own 20 year repayment plan.

So why did my classmates and I joke about such a serious subject? Quite frankly, it was because that seemed to be the only thing to do. There was no way myself nor my friends could afford to pay for college out of pocket – and not getting a degree was simply not an option. We felt stuck in a situation that we couldn’t control and figured we’d deal with that bridge when we crossed it.

Well, the bridge has now been crossed.

So now we have a situation in which younger students are thinking twice before jumping into such a large financial decision…but there are still many others who are already tied into the debt and need a way to pay it off faster. Besides the obvious tactics of trying to cut costs and earn more, there is another even more efficient way to pay down this debt faster: refinancing the loans to cut down on the money paid into interest.

I’ve recently been through this process myself. I’ve known for a long time that there were ways to lower my interest rate but I simply never made the time to do it. I’d push it further and further down my to-do list until finally one day I just did it. The results were surprising – and I’m not just talking about numbers.

Refinancing my student loans made me feel (surprisingly) empowered. I’ve been laden with this debt for so long that I’ve sort of made peace with it. This debt was a price I paid for my education, an education that has benefitted me greatly. But the funny thing is, even when we have obligations that we make peace with, that doesn’t mean we can’t optimize the way we handle them.

If you’re ready to optimize your obligations and make the switch from passive student loan payer to active student loan slayer, then exploring your refinancing options is a great place to start. Here is a list of companies that focus on student loan debt refinancing.

Student Loan Refinance Companies

This is a list of companies I personally explored the option of student loan refinancing with. However, as student loan debt continues to grow, you may find that more companies like this pop up. Here are a few things to think about when evaluating any student loan refinancing company:

  1. Do you trust this company and want to work with them? You’ll be with them for a long time so be sure this is a company you’re comfortable with. Contacting them and interacting before applying is a great way to test this.

  2. Many companies offer fixed and variable rates – but it’s important to remember that variable rates come with more risk as they can increase at anytime at the discretion of the lender

  3. When refinancing a federal loan, you will lose protections such as the Income Based Repayment Plan, deferrals and forbearance, and more. Find out if the company you’re applying with has similar protections such as economic hardship and unemployment forbearance programs.

And finally, remember that refinancing a loan doesn’t always equal a lower payment – the goal is to lower your interest rate so you can pay less on the loan or loans over time. In some cases, this can increase your payment if the loan comes with a shorter repayment term (such as 3 or 5 years) than you currently have. Could certainly be worth it – but make sure you can afford the change.

And now, let’s take a look at a few of the current top student loan refinancing companies:

Marketplace

Credible
Credible isn’t a lender, but rather a marketplace for lending that allows you to compare your rates to your peers and receive offers for better rates from various lenders. Offers through Credible can come from Citizen’s Bank, CommonBond, cuStudentLoans, Education Success Loans, RISLA, and SoFi.

Eligible loans: Federal and private loans
Rates: Will vary per lender
Fees: None, but there could be fees from the lender you choose
Bonuses: You can receive multiple offers at one time to make for easier comparison

General Lending and Peer-to-Peer Platforms

SoFi
SoFi is a non-traditional lender that offers help with student loans as well as other debt; and you can sign up as a borrower or an investor. SoFi evaluates applicants based on more than their credit score, also taking things like employment history into consideration.

Eligible loans: Federal and private loans
Rates: Variable as low as 2.66% and fixed as low as 3.63% (both with AutoPay)
Fees: No fee to apply, no origination fee, and no prepayment penalties
Bonuses: Unemployment protection, .25% savings through AutoPay, career services

Upstart
Upstart is another non-traditional lender that takes into consideration your area of study, academic performance, and more when evaluating your application. Upstart offers multiple types of loans and is available for both borrowing and investing.

Eligible loans: Various debt types are eligible for refinancing
Rates: Fixed rates as low as 6% (required repayment time of 3 years)
Fees: No fee to apply but there is an origination fee; no prepayment penalty
Bonuses: Potential hardship program if you become unemployed

Pave
Pave isn’t primarily for student loan refinancing. Rather they offer loans to cover whatever financial assistance you need in your lifestyle. (It could be a good option for student loan refinancing if the rates they offer are lower than your current rates.) Also available for investors.

Eligible loans: Various debt types are eligible for refinancing
Rates: Fixed rates as low as 6% (required repayment time of 2-3 years)
Fees: No application or prepayment fees; there is an origination fee of 1-2%
Bonuses: Flexible grace period of 3-6 months

Specifically for Graduate Degree Holders

Common Bond
Common Bond offers loans for students as well as loan refinancing for young professionals with graduate degrees from a variety of schools and programs. It is also available to investors. If your graduate school or program is not on the list of eligible schools, you can email info@commonbond.co to suggest adding your school to the list.

Eligible loans: Federal and private loans
Rates: For refinancing, variable as low as 2.65% and fixed as low as 3.625% (both with AutoPay)
Fees: No origination or prepayment fees
Bonuses: Financial hardship forbearance available, Academic forbearance available, .25% savings through AutoPay, Grace period of 30-60 days

Traditional Banks

Wells Fargo
You probably already know about Wells Fargo, one of the largest banks in the US. However, Wells Fargo also has a specific lending category for the refinancing of private student loans (not federal).

Eligible loans: Private loans
Rates: Variable rates as low as 3.75% and fixed rates as low as 7.24% (both with discount)
Fees: No application fee, origination fee, or prepayment penalty
Bonuses: .25% savings through automatic payments through Wells Fargo, .25% savings for customers of qualifying Wells Fargo checking accounts, or .50% savings for customers of the Wells Fargo PMA Package

DRB
DRB (Darien Rowayton Bank) is a traditional bank based in Connecticut that also has a student loan refinancing division. This refinancing is specifically for multiple different bachelors and masters program graduates as well as for parents who took out loans to help their children finance a bachelor’s degree.

Eligible loans: Federal and private loans
Rates: Variable rates as low as 2.63% and fixed rates as low as 3.5% (both with discount)
Fees: No origination fee or prepayment penalty
Bonuses: .25% savings through EFT (Electronic Funds Transfer from a DRB checking account)

Charter One
Charter One is a division of RBS Citizens (Citizens Financial Group) and dedicated to refinancing student loans with a product they call the Education Refinance Loan. With Charter One, you can actually combine various savings offers to your loan.

Eligible loans: Federal and private loans
Rates: Variable as low as 2.55% and fixed as low as 4.99%
Fees: No application or origination fees
Bonuses: .25% savings through automatic payments through Charter One and .25% savings for customers of other qualifying accounts with them

Special Note: The Difference Between Refinancing and Consolidation

One particularly confusing aspect of student loans is understanding the difference between student loan refinancing and student loan consolidation. In fact, in researching these companies, I sometimes found it difficult to remember which kind of company I was looking at since the marketing language is so similar. As you research these companies and any new ones that may come up, make sure you know the difference between refinancing and consolidation:

  • Consolidation could lower your monthly payment, but not necessarily by lowering your interest rate  – consolidation is simply combining all loans into one and may or may not decrease your rate
  • Consolidation could in fact extend your repayment period in order to lower your monthly payment – which could cause you to pay more in interest over the life of the loan and cause you to remain in debt for a longer period of time
  • Refinancing is the act of obtaining a new loan at a lower rate, which saves you money over the life of the loan. But again, remember that this could increase your monthly payment (though it will also decrease your time in debt).

In general, if your goal is to pay less on interest and pay your loans off faster, refinancing is going to be what you’re looking for. However, there may be times when consolidation can help you achieve this as well – just be sure to check for the repayment period and interest to see if one or both are less than what you currently have.

What do you think? Are you ready to empower yourself and optimize your student loan debt repayment? With these companies above, you’ll lose no money by seeing if you qualify for lower rates that can save you money – a win/win situation!

NOTE: Some links in this article have referral codes that allow us to get paid a small referral fee when we send new users to a partner site. With that said, we never recommend any product or service unless we think it is trustworthy and has the potential to help our readers.

Image Credit: Jason Long

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  • Thank you for this article! I’ve been looking for some seriously down to earth information about consolidating my loans. I went through the same thing, joking about my loans while I was in college. It’s definitely not funny now since the payments are half of a mortgage payment each month. I’m hoping that consolidating will improve my credit and get me on a track to getting rid of my loans quicker than I thought before. I’ve started blogging about my process and this information is great. Thank you!
    http://www.SurvivingOurDebt.com

    • Shannon_ReadyForZero

      Thanks Adam! I hope this does help and I’m excited to check out your blog :). It’s a great way to stay on track and accountable to your goals. Keep us posted on how everything goes for you!

  • Great article, Shannon. I learned about the student loan refinancing not too long ago. I am working on the public service loan forgiveness program so I am not interested in refinancing, but I think for others, it can be a great option to reduce your interest rates. I recently wrote a post about it on my blog http://www.objectwealth.com/how-refinancing-your-student-loans-can-save-you-thousands/

    • Shannon_ReadyForZero

      Thanks, Christa! So great that you’re able to use the public service loan forgiveness program – what a great help to so many!

    • GTBCPhD

      Christa, it’s great to pay loans off early. It’s also great to be able to have loan forgiveness. What’s not great is refinancing with companies that will require full payment of all interest and principal, for the entire term of the loan, even if the loan is paid off early (even years early). Can you believe that there are lenders out there that are doing this? One of them is ranked in the top 5 on this site, and other sites, but I am sure that more of them have this policy. It is in the fine print. Read SOFI’s, to start, let me know if you find any others. I would be interested to find out. An entire generation of borrowers is being abused by loose lending laws, that private banks are taking advantage of.

  • Austin Flynn

    I refinanced through DRB at the beginning of the year with ~$145k in grad school loans. Went from PLUS loans on a 10-year term at 7.6% fixed to a 15-year term at 2.75% variable (on 3-month LIBOR). This lowered my minimum monthly payment significantly and allows me the flexibility to pay additional towards principle now, but doesn’t lock me into a high minimum payment if I lost my job. I fully expect to pay them off in full in less than 10 years.

    • Shannon_ReadyForZero

      That’s great, Austin! I especially love the strategy of paying more on your loans when you can to have even more impact on your principal balance. Keep up the awesome progress!! Also, have you heard of biweekly payments? They could help you make even more progress.

      • GTBCPhD

        Shannon, how would this strategy work if I were to refinance my loan with SOFI? They require full payment of all interest and principal, even if the loan is paid off early. So, why would it make a difference how many payments I made per month?

    • Sophia Hall

      Now Say Good-Bye to Student Loan Debt! Find best loan forgiveness programs only at >>>> LOANFORGIVENESS4STUDENTS(dot)COM (Just replace the (dot) with the actual . )

  • Aly Sommer

    Hi Shannon – have you heard of CordiaGrad? Did they come up at all during your research as an option for student loan refinancing?

  • Dex

    BE CAREFUL if you are just looking to shop around for rates. Somewhere hidden in their initial account creation small print is permission to run your credit. A hard credit run can negatively affect your credit score resulting in worse loan terns. If you really want to use this company, maybe it’s fine but call them on the phone or online chat first and state clearly you are not yet ready to have your credit run until you know for sure you want to go with them. Most places put much more obvious sections that tell you you are about to consent to have your credit run. I don’t respect companies that hide important terms in their small print. Having several credit hits in a row can drop you an entire credit tier.

  • GTBCPhD

    I cannot believe, that websites are advertising that SOFI has no prepayment penalties. Is holding a borrower responsible for the entire term’s interest a penalty? Maybe it is not termed as such, but its’ about $10,000 on a $20,000 loan for 15 years, for example.

    Can this be any more unethical, in its own right, without having the addition of support from student loan websites?

    Read this email below, directly from SOFI, regarding my inquiry to them about this policy. I was about to refinance with them, using the advice on sites such as this… which state “no prepayment penalty”. That is not factual information.

    Read below:

    Actual email from SOFI, to me, today:

    NOV 17, 2015 | 08:27AM PST

    SOFI replied: (sender removed)

    Hi Mr. Potential Borrow (removed),

    I want to thank you for your call today and I am reaching out to you
    to let you know that all of the interest must be paid for before you can
    pay the loan off early. It is actually added in as the total amount of
    the loan as shown in your agreement in the box labeled the total amount
    of payments. If you have any questions you can call us at anytime to
    discuss this with you.

    Best Regards,

    Case #: (removed)

    Apply with SOFI, and then read their contract. How many other companies follow the same policy, I do not know. This is the new age of finance, and it will be a guaranteed corrupt system within the short-term.

    BEWARE. I came very close to refinancing with SOFI. It took about 90
    days to get a final approval, and then they bumped the interest rate a
    quarter point from their truth-in-lending offer that I was initially
    promised. HOWEVER….what is much worse is this. I read the contract
    quite thoroughly, and could not find any clear language that STATED I
    would not be responsible for the remaining interest on the loan, if I
    were to pay the loan off early. If you sign up for a 15 year loan, the
    contract stated, in very ambiguous terms, that “finance charges are not
    refundable”. Yet, the customer service reps state that in fact you are
    able to pay the loan off early, with no penalty. They don’t mention
    that you are paying the interest for the entire loan period (quite a
    penalty, but legally not disclosed as such). Here is an email from
    SOFI, explaining their policy. Now I understand where the name “Social
    Finance” comes from, and it is not pretty. It may work in a Socialistic
    society, where all share the common wealth. But in a capitalistic
    society, we all work for our profits, and we are able to reap the
    rewards of our hard work. There is no ethical standard that can justify
    me paying finance charges for a full 15 year term, for anything, if in
    fact I work hard to pay the loan off early. My goal with this loan was a
    variable rate, which is lower than my current fixed rate, and I intend
    on paying the loan off in less than 5 years. I have the capability of
    paying off all of my student loan debt today. I worked hard to do that.
    This company is a predatory lender, taking advantage of student
    borrowers, who are trusting that this company is as ethical as a Federal
    backed Student Loan lender.

    See for yourself, apply, read the
    fine print, and let your jaw drop, as mine did, once you actually
    understood what you were about to sign up for. I am concerned for those
    who do not understand this. Sure, you are fine if you pay the loan off
    over the full term, however, “what-if” a great student loan program
    comes out that reduces rates dramatically, well, you are stuck with this
    one, for full term. I think the federal government needs to step in
    and take a look at these lenders, and especially this website for not
    pointing it out. In fact, this website advertises for SOFI, and somehow
    they are ranked #2. A lot of people, including their own employees, are
    blindly accepting this company as ethical. I don’t call this type of
    lending ethical, I call it predatory.