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  • Writer's pictureNathan Zarcaro

SoFi vs. Earnest: Which Lender to Refinance With?


This year, thousands of student loan borrowers we'll decide to refinance their loans. And it's normal to be nervous about the process, especially if you've never done it before.


Two of the more popular refinancing lenders on the market today are Earnest and SoFi. But how should you decide which of these two may be better suited for you? Keep reading to find out.






Loan terms

5, 7, 10, 15, 20 years

5 - 20 years

Loan amount

$5,000 - no maximum

$5,000 - $500,000

​Fixed rates

​3.99% - 8.24%

​Starting at 3.49%

Variable rates

2.24% - 8.24%

​Starting at 1.89%

Min credit score

​650

650

​Cosigner allowed?

Yes

No

Perks

Unemployment protections, career advice, and more

​Precision Pricing program


Comparing SoFi and Earnest


Using the above table as reference, let's compare these two lenders by approval criteria, rates/terms offered, eligibility information, and other perks.



Loan terms


At this time, SoFi offers terms of 5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 years. Earnest also offers terms ranging between 5 and 20 years, but their unique "precision pricing" model allows you to come up with a custom term based on what you can afford to pay per month! It is an incredibly flexible program that could lead to as many as 180 different term options.



Loan amounts


Both lenders set a minimum loan amount of $5,000, meaning that those with a student loan balance below this threshold are ineligible to refinance with either company. Where they differ slightly however is with their maximum loan amounts.


Earnest will allow you to refinance up to $500,000, while SoFi has no maximum amount.



Fixed and variable rates


All refinancing lenders routinely adjust the interest rates they offer on fixed and variable rate loans according to prevailing rate conditions.


As of the middle of August 2022, SoFi offers:


  1. Fixed rates between 3.99% and 8.24%

  2. Variable rates between 2.24% and 8.24%


Meanwhile, Earnest was offering fixed rates starting at 3.49% and variable rates beginning at 1.89%. So, if you have great credit and are likely to qualify for the best rates, you may be able to get a slightly lower rate with Earnest.



Minimum credit score


Both refinancing companies set minimum credit score thresholds at 650.


What is less clear, however, is how each lender's interest rate quotes change with certain credit scores. For example, the range of interest rates offered by both SoFi and Earnest don't help us to estimate what rate you may receive with a credit score of 700, for example.



Cosigner status


This one is plain and simple - SoFi allows you to apply for refinancing with a cosigner, and Earnest does not.



SoFi refinancing eligibility requirements


To refinance your outstanding student debt with SoFi, you're going to need to attest to or prove the following:


  1. Be one of: a citizen of the United States, a legal and permanent resident, or on a legal visa

  2. Have graduated from an institution of higher learning with at least an associate level degree


Pros:


There are a number of perks to the SoFi refinancing experience, including:


  • Refinancing Parent PLUS loans into child's name: Parents that took out loans to send their children to college can transfer those loans into their dependent's name.


  • No expenses: What you see is what you get. SoFi will not charge you any loan origination fees, prepayment penalties, or other miscellaneous fees.


  • Other borrower perks: You'll be eligible to take advantage of SoFi's other perks, including career assistance and unemployment protection.


Cons:


  • Need a degree to be eligible: Unfortunately, you are ineligible to refinance with SoFi if you have not achieved at least a bachelor's degree.


  • Stricter acceptance criteria: Though SoFi advertises refinancing opportunities for those with credit scores of 650 and above, the vast majority of borrowers have much higher credit scores than that. In fact, the average credit score for those that refinance with SoFi is 779. So, if you have subpar credit, this may not be the lender for you.




Earnest refinancing eligibility requirements


Refinancing your student debt will require you to meet the following eligibility criteria, many of which align with SoFi's general criteria:


  1. Be a United States citizen or a legal and permanent resident

  2. Be at least 18 years old

  3. Not have declared bankruptcy in the past at any point

  4. Be current on your monthly rent or mortgage

  5. Earn at least $35,000 in income annually


One other special criteria to note here too. Earnest offers loans to Americans nationwide, but cannot work with those in Kentucky or Nevada. Furthermore, those living in Alaska, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas may only opt for fixed rate loans.


Pros:


  • Precision pricing program: In our opinion, this is the most notable notable perk offered by any private lender in the refinancing space. The ability to pick a unique term around what your budget dictates you can afford monthly is the ultimate flexibility.


  • No degree needed: Unlike SoFi, which mandates that you'll need to have earned at least an associate's degree in order to be eligible for refinancing, you don't need to have a degree to work with Earnest.


  • Make biweekly payments: In yet another sign of flexibility, Earnest also provides you with the option to make biweekly payments if that works better for you. This is appealing since the majority of student loan borrowers are paid every two weeks.


Cons:


  • No cosigners allowed: Earnest does not allow for loans to be refinanced with cosigners, meaning that you'll need to apply on your own. For borrowers that have just graduated or have low credit scores, it could be hard to qualify.


  • Geographic restrictions: Unfortunately, not all borrowers nationwide are eligible to refinance with Earnest. Remember - at this time, those in KY and NV are not eligible at all, while those in AK, IL, MN, NH, OH, TN, and TX may not take a variable rate loan.




How to refinance your student debt


Before you decide which of these lenders, if either, you are going to want to compare all of the options on the market. It is prudent for you to consider interest rates, loan terms, perks, as well as your chances of being approved.


After you've compiled a list of lenders that interest you the most, your next step should be to get prequalified. Most companies these days can prequalify you without a hard credit inquiry, but you'll want to verify that is the case.


Completing each prequalification can be a little tedious, since you'll be asked many of the same questions. If you want, you can always apply with a student debt marketplace like Splash Financial or LendKey in order to browse multiple different loan options at once.


Finally, after you are accepted to work with a lender that you'd like to proceed with, you can complete the process, have your credit pulled, and get ready to start making payments on your new loan.



Our verdict


Both SoFi and Earnest have some great perks that will make thousands of borrowers decide to refinance with them. In our opinion, Earnest is the winner here for those that qualify, in large part due to their combination of low rates and their precision pricing program.



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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 has worked for industry leaders in both finance and healthcare.  In his free time, Nathan enjoys playing golf and traveling with his wife Brigid.

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