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  • Writer's pictureNathan Zarcaro

Earnest Student Loan Refinancing Review (2023)

Updated: Mar 25

Affiliate Marketing Disclosure


Earnest was founded in 2013 amid the student debt crisis as an online private lender. Having since been acquired by Navient in 2017, Earnest is in both the student lending and refinancing spaces.


Best known for its flexibility, they offer loans for undergraduate, graduate, MBA, Medical, and Law School loans, as well as refinancing services.


Minimum Loan Amount

$5,000

Maximum Loan Amount

$500,000

Variable APR

Starting at 1.74%

Fixed APR

Starting at 2.99%

Term of Loan

5 to 20 years


What is Earnest?


Earnest is a national fintech company that offers private student loans, student loan refinancing, and other services. They are best known for their competitive rates, good customer service, and ease of doing business.


But they are best known for their precision pricing refinancing model (more on this in a minute!).


More: Explore student loan and refinancing with Juno



Earnest student loan refinancing eligibility


Like all other major lenders out there, Earnest does have some eligibility requirements that you must meet in order to be offered a new loan. Assuming you meet all credit and other requirements, Earnest does allow you to refinance a minimum of $5,000 all the way to $500,000.


Generally, you should meet the following criteria:

  1. A minimum credit score of 650

  2. Hold U.S. citizenship or be a legal, permanent resident

  3. Be at least 18 years of age

  4. No bankruptcies on your credit report

  5. Current on monthly rent/mortgage payments

  6. Have a minimum annual income of at least $35,000


Due to certain state laws and regulations, you can reside anywhere in the United States, with the exception of Kentucky and Nevada. Additionally, variable rate loans cannot be offered in Alaska, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas.


More: Learn more about credit building tips while in college



Earnest and precision pricing


In a first of its kind offering in the student loan space, Earnest offers borrowers the ability to dictate how much they'd like to pay per month. This allows borrowers to fit in their student loan payments around their monthly budgeting, which is a huge perk.


Once you determine what you'd like your monthly payment to be, Earnest will pair you with an interest rate and the corresponding loan term. As long as your term ends up between 5-20 years, it's likely to be accepted!


In aggregate, there are over 180 different loan terms possible, but this is a perk for refinancing customers only.



Pros to refinancing your student loans with Earnest


Earnest has a well-earned reputation as an industry leader, a creative lender that offers some pretty unique solutions and options.


Among the many perks to using Earnest are:

  • The option to make biweekly payments instead of monthly

  • The ability to refinance without a college degree

  • No application fees, origination fees, and prepayment penalties

  • An autopay rate discount of 0.25%

  • Flexible repayment terms and plan options


In terms of the actual approval process, Earnest notes on their website that they closely monitor criteria like:

  • Increasing balances in your checking and savings accounts

  • A history of timely debt payments

  • You have an emergency fund that can cover a few months of expenses


Below, we'll consider Earnest's pros one by one.





1. The option to make biweekly payments


One of the biggest gripes of private lenders nationwide is the rigidity of making monthly payments.


With Earnest, this is not an issue. If you're paid biweekly and would like to budget your student loan payments around your pay schedule, you have that option available to you.


PLUS - you can even alter your payment date to make them align perfectly.



2. You don't need to have a college degree


Unlike most other private refinancing companies on the market, you don't actually need to be a college graduate in order to be eligible to refinance with Earnest.


If you're on track to graduate, but haven't yet, you can actually refinance your student debt if you're within one semester of graduation. In these instances, Earnest will actually even honor the grace period on your loans, for up to nine months.


And even if you left school and are not a college graduate, you still may be eligible! Those without degrees should have credit scores of 700, rather than the 650 requirement in place for graduates.



3. No application, origination, or prepayment fees


The lack of application and origination fees has become more popular over the past few years, but it is still nice to see that Earnest has them in place, given the other undeniable perks of working with them.


The combination of biweekly payments and no prepayment penalties also gives you a great springboard to get out of debt as soon as possible.


And, as of this time, there are no late fees for payments made after the due date.



4. The autopay interest rate discount


Another popular perk, Earnest is not alone in offering an interest rate discount for making your payments on autopay from a checking or savings account. The 0.25% discount is just enough to make things enticing if you have plenty of cash in your accounts and no risk of overdrafting from an account.


Note that Earnest does not allow you to make payments via credit card.



5. Flexible repayment terms and plan options


Though highly dependent on obtaining loan approval, Earnest offers a lot of flexibility in both repayment term and flexibility.



Forbearance


Forbearance is an option for borrowers, even after refinancing. Your loan will allow you to put your payments on hold for up to 12 months if:

  • You've lost your job (layoffs, not termination)

  • Your income has decreased (involuntarily)

  • You're on unpaid maternity/paternity leave


Deferment


Deferment is also available if you are:

  • In the military or Peace Corps

  • Enrolled in school as a half time (or greater) student


There are other flexible options available too, including loan discharge upon death or disability, similar to what is available with federal student loan debt.



Cons to refinancing your student loans with Earnest


  • No Parent PLUS transfers

  • No spousal refinancing loans

  • No cosigners on refinanced loans


1. No transfer of Parent PLUS loans to a child


In a trend that is becoming more popular, lenders like CommonBond allow you a path forward to transition your Parent PLUS loans into another person's name.


Depending on your family dynamic and expectations, you may be looking to transfer these loans to your child, for example.


Earnest unfortunately does not offer this option.



2. You can't refinance loans with your spouse


Unfortunately, Earnest does not allow you to combine your loans with your spouses for simplicity. At this time, only one lender, PenFed Credit Union, allows you to do so, so it is important to note that Earnest is far from alone in not offering it.


While a small gripe, it is something that would be great flexible option to have.



3. No cosigners on refinanced loans


Finally, there is no option to apply for refinancing with a cosigner. And while this is rare for the largest private lenders out there, there is no shortage of other perks out there that make Earnest plenty attractive.


Obviously, this means that there is no cosigner release option.



Is Earnest right for you?


This is the million dollar question. Those looking for lots of perks and the ability to refinance with average credit will likely find a great fit.


For those that did graduate and have high credit scores, you may benefit financially from looking elsewhere.


Maybe you're unsure whether refinancing is even worth it at all. If you're wondering where to get started, you may consider checking your rates with marketplaces like Splash Financial. Since Splash is a marketplace, they'll compare rates and find you the lowest possible rate from their network of lenders.


The best part is that it will take less than three minutes and checking your rate will not impact your credit score.




Other student loan refinancing lenders


Brazos

CommonBond

ELFI LendKey

PenFed

SoFi

Splash Financial



Affiliate marketing disclosure


studentdebtdestroyer.com is a student loan research and education website provided by Grow Your Green LLC.

studentdebtdestroyer.com is not a student loan lender.

We're passionate about teaching and guiding people to a better personal finance situation. To do this, we create an enormous amount of content, which takes time, resources, and money. ​

In order to write about and offer these products and services for you, we utilize affiliate marketing and link to certain products and services. If you click on, subscribe, to purchase on these links then we may be paid a small commission. These are at no cost to you, but by earning small commissions, are able to help us keep our website active.

We manually review all products and services that we think are of high quality and value to you.


 

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About Nathan Zarcaro

Nathan Zarcaro is the founder of The Student Debt Destroyer and is passionate about personal finance related causes.  A 2018 graduate of Providence College's Liberal Arts Honors Program, Nathan studied Finance, and worked for one of the world's largest asset management firms before starting his own business.  In his free time, Nathan enjoys playing golf and traveling with his wife Brigid.

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