College was the best.  Sleeping in, hanging out with friends, and not dealing with many of the responsibilities of the real world.

But then graduation day happens. Not only do you have to deal with entering the “real world” you now have to start chipping away at the mountain of student loan debt. Sometimes, it can feel like an uphill climb that seems as impossible as climbing Mt. Everest.

According to CNBC, the average graduate of 2018 enters the real world with $37,172 of student loan debt.

With the cost of college increasing, more students are taking higher private student loans and federal loans to fund their degrees. CNBC says only 30% of students are able to graduate without student loan debt.

Simply put, you need to figure out how to pay off your student loans fast. Refinancing your student loans is one of the best options to help you become debt-free asap.

Refinancing can save you a ton of money, both in the short and long-term. Each situation will be different but ideally, you want to get your different loans into one, low monthly payment. This will make it easier on your financial life as you won’t have to juggle 2-4 different loan amounts, due dates, and interest rates.

But I want to put a necessary disclaimer in here about refinancing federal loans. If you do refinance a federal loan you lose any benefits that are associated with that loan.

Alright, here’s how to get started refinancing your student loans and get out of debt sooner.

What To Know Before Refinancing Your Student Loans

Before thinking about applying for a student loan, it’s important to understand what is required to get approved for a new, lower interest loan.

One of the biggest requirements to secure a new loan is a credit score of at least 660. The other main requirements are that you must be earning at least $24,000 annual gross income and a debt-to-income ratio of under 40%.

Beyond that, each lender will offer different interest rates, term lengths, and repayment options to help you save money on student loans. Before applying, make sure to shop around and compare several of the options below to get the best rate possible.

Here are the 12 best companies to refinance your student loans in 2018:

1. SoFi

SoFi continues to become a major player in the financial services industry. From life insurance, personal loans, and now refinancing student loans, they are a great option to help you refinance your debt.

The company was started by a group of Stanford students who wanted to help fellow students get out of the mountain of student loan debt upon graduation. Now, they are one of the largest and most trusted student loan providers since beginning in 2011!

The biggest factor to consider when refinancing with SoFi is your credit score. The minimum FICO credit score needed is 650.

The average income for a SoFi borrower is also $150,000 annually. While not everyone will meet these requirements, it’s a quick application process and you can get very low-interest rates if approved.

Benefits of Using SoFi

  • Fixed APR: 3.899% – 7.979% with AutoPay
  • Variable APR: 2.720% – 7.240% with AutoPay
  • 5, 7, 10, 15, or 20 Loan term lengths
  • Loan Amounts: $5,000 – No Max (this is rare to not have a maximum loan amount)
  • Undergraduate and graduate loans are eligible
  • Federal and private loans are eligible
  • You can lower your interest rate 0.25% for using AutoPay
  • Career guidance to help you advance in the workplace
  • Exclusive events for SoFi members (also a rare feature)
  • Access to SoFi wealth advisors (no other competitor does this)
  • 0.125% interest rate discount on other loans for being a SoFi member

Should You Use SoFi?  

SoFi is a great option if you can get approved. The credit score and income are higher than most people can afford but they have excellent benefits and perks. Including unemployment protection where your payments are temporarily suspended, an entrepreneur program, and career support. These services are very rare compared to other options on this list.

All rates, member figures, estimates, terms, state availability, and savings calculations are current at the time this article was written. All of the above may update in the future. For the most up-to-date information, visit SoFi.com.

2. Splash Financial

Splash Financial is a player to the financial industry. They offer loans funded by banks and credit unions with whom they’ve negotiated to get low rates for borrowers.

According to their website, you can find a rate in less than 3 minutes and fill out the entire application in as little at 15 minutes online.

Their rates are as low as 3.75% with terms between 5 and 15 years. You can refinance anywhere between $7,501 and $300,000 of student loans, including Federal, Private, and Parent Plus loans. They also offer discounts for graduate degrees.

The minimum credit score to be approved is 700, or 670 with a co-signer.

3. LendKey

Lendkey is a great option for refinancing your student loans and uses a slightly different model than others to get approved. They use credit unions to help you the find the lowest rates possible.

As you will be working with individual credit unions you tend to receive better service as there might be local branches close to you as well. As always, make sure you review the terms carefully!

They are a marketplace, not an online lender, and do allow deferment or forbearance with your loan. Plus, if you need to use a cosigner they can be used and are able to be released early as well.  

Benefits of Using LendKey

  • Fixed APR: 3.15% – 8.79%
  • Variable APR: 2.68% – 8.06%
  • 5, 7, 10, 15 or 20 Year loan term lengths
  • Loan amounts vary depending on your degree:
    • $5,000 to $125,000 for undergraduate degree
    • $250k for graduate degrees
    • $300k for medical degrees
  • Undergraduates and graduate degrees are eligible
  • Federal and private loans are eligible
  • 0.25% interest rate reduction for using AutoPay from a bank account
  • A cosigner can be removed from the loan after 12 consecutive on-time payments have been made
  • Work with a credit union so you tend to get a more personal and custom experience instead of a big lender  

Should You Use LendKey?

Lendkey is a great option for refinancing your student loans, no matter what amount you owe. With competitive rates, great customer service, and the ability to work with a credit union, it’s a great option.

Plus, if you need to use a cosigner you can help to qualify the loan and after 12 consecutive, on-time payments they can be removed from the loan.  

4. CommonBond

Similar to SoFi, Common Bond was formed by a group of students from the University of Pennsylvania to help fellow students get the best rates available. But, also like SoFi, they have very high requirements to get approved to refinance your student loans.

CommonBond requires a good to excellent credit score, a high paying job and the ability to afford the monthly payments. One positive is that they do allow co-signers if you aren’t able to secure the loan on your own. After you have made three years (36 payments) of on-time payments the co-signer is able to be removed from the loan.

Benefits of Using CommonBond:

  • Fixed APR: 3.14% – 6.49% APR
  • Variable APR: 2.54% – 6.39% APR
  • Hybrid APR: 4.13% – 6.26% APR
  • 5, 7, 10, 15 or 20 Years repayment terms
  • Loan Amounts: $5,000 – $500,000
  • Undergraduate and graduates loans are eligible
  • Federal and private loans are eligible
  • 0.25% interest rate reduction for using Auto-Pay
  • Temporary postponement of payments if you are facing financial hardship (i.e. job loss, medical emergency)
  • Cosigner to help get approved and able to be released after 36 months of on-time payments

Should You Use CommonBond?

CommonBond is another great option if you have a high enough credit score and income to meet the eligibility requirements.  If not, see if you can find a cosigner as they have a ton of great perks. They offer low-interest rates, a variety of term lengths, and temporary unemployment protection.

Lastly, they also give you access to the CommonBond Community which includes perks like networking, career tips, and other great tools to help you succeed in your financial future.

5. Discover Student Loans

Discover Student Loans now has consolidation loans to help you save money by refinancing from your higher rate student loans. To be eligible for these loans you must be a permanent resident or a U.S. citizen with a US based address.

You also can’t have more than $150,000 in total student loan debt. This exception can be waived if you graduated in a field that averages higher debt (i.e. medical, law,) than the average major.

Benefits of Discover Student Loans

  • Fixed APR: 5.24% – 8.24%
  • Variable APR: 4.74% – 7.99%
  • 10 or 20 Year loan terms  
  • Loan Amounts: $5,000 – $150,000 (exceptions can be made for higher expense degrees)
  • Undergraduate and graduate loans are eligible
  • Private and federal loans are eligible
  • 0.25% interest rate reduction for setting up AutoPay (this is .25% lower than the offered rate above)
  • Incredible customer service including U.S. based student loan specialists available to speak with 24 hours a day

Should You Use Discover Student Loans?

Maybe, but it depends on your individual circumstances as they don’t have the lowest interest rates on this list. But, they do have lower eligibility standards. Plus, they do not offer job placement help or career services like other providers on this list.

One perk is that they do have a very good reputation online with awards in outstanding customer service. Plus, they offer an Autopay discount to help lower your APR .25% and zero prepayment penalties.

6. Citizens Bank

Citizens Bank is a very reputable company that can help you refinance your student loans. They are currently the 13th largest bank in the world with branches around the world. According to their website, they can save graduates an average of $3,252 per year!

Benefits of Using Citizens Bank

  • Fixed APR: 3.50% – 8.69% APR
  • Variable APR: 2.75% – 8.20% APR
  • 5, 10, 15 or 20 Year repayment terms
  • Loan amounts vary:
    • $10,000 – $90,000 for undergraduates
    • Up to $350,000 for graduates  
  • Undergraduate and graduates loans are eligible for refinancing 
  • Federal and private loans are eligible
  • 0.25% interest rate reduction for setting up AutoPay (plus an additional 0.25% interest rate reduction for having Citizens Bank account)

Should You Use Citizens Bank?  

Citizens Bank is a great option if you want options for refinancing your student loans. While you do need a good credit score and secure job, they also have low rates and lots of term lengths to help you meet your financial goals.

Plus, the application process is simple, easy, and free. They have outstanding 24/7 customer service to help you with any loan questions.

7. Elfi

ELFi began helping students refinance student loan debt in 2015 as part of the Southeast Bank of Tennessee. Despite being new, they have a strong reputation online and offer very low-interest rates for borrowers. But, the displayed rates can differ once your underwriting is completed so always double check your rates.

To secure a new loan through ElFi make sure your credit score is as high as possible. They require some of the highest credit scores, good to excellent, in order to be approved for a loan.

They are a completely online lender and do allow deferment or forbearance when available. Plus, if you need help cosigners are allowed and they are able to be released early if you meet their requirements. 

Benefits of Using ElFi

  • Fixed APR: 3.09% – 6.69%
  • Variable APR: 2.55% – 6.01%
  • 5, 7, 10, 15 or 20 Year loan term lengths 
  • Loan Amounts: $15,000 – No Max
  • Undergraduate and graduates loans are eligible
  • Federal and private loans are eligible
  • 0.25% interest rate reduction for setting up AutoPay
  • A cosigner is able to be released after 12 months of on-time payments
  • If you accept your offer within 30 days of approval you can receive a $200 cash bonus
  • Postpone payments for up to 12 months if facing financial hardship (i.e. job loss)

Should You Use Elfi?

ELFi is a great option to refinance your student loans if you have a high enough credit score to get approved. They offer low rates, several different repayment terms, and even offer a $200 bonus for submitting your required paperwork within 30 days of receiving the application.

8. Earnest

Earnest is without a doubt one of the best student loan refinancing companies on this list. While they have only been around for five years they have been growing and expanding. Unlike most lenders, they use proprietary software that evaluates lenders based on how likely they are to repay the loan.

Earnest doesn’t just use specific metrics like credit score and income to determine if you are eligible for a loan. But, since they do use more data points it means your loan will take longer to get approved. 

Benefits of Using Earnest

  • Fixed APR: 3.49% – 6.32%
  • Variable APR: 2.57% – 5.87%
  • 5 to 20 Year term lengths
  • Loan Amounts: $5,000 – Unlimited (Yes, they have no maximum)
  • Undergraduate and graduate loans are eligible
  • Federal and private loans are eligible
  • 0.25% interest rate reduction for setting up AutoPay
  • The ability to defer payments for up to 3 years and you can skip one monthly payment each year

Should You Use Earnest?

If you can qualify for a loan with Earnest it is definitely recommended! They offer low-interest rates, great customer service, and flexible repayment terms. Plus, if you have a very high total debt amount they have no limit like most of the lenders on this list.

9. MEFA

MEFA stands for Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority but you don’t need to live in Massachusetts to take advantage of their student loan refinancing. They claim to lower your monthly payment an average of $200 dollars and lower your interest more than 2%. This can save you huge over the life of your loan!

One of the biggest downsides of refinancing with MEFA is the slightly higher interest rates. And their repayment terms are 10 or 15 years. But there is no prepayment, application or origination fee to get started.

Benefits of Using MEFA

  • Fixed interest rates starting at 4.45% APR
  • Variable interest rates as low as 4.38% APR
  • Minimum refinance amount: $10,000
  • 10 and 15-year repayment terms (limited flexibility)
  • Graduates and undergraduates loans are eligible
  • Federal and private loans are eligible  

Should You Use MEFA?

Mefa is a good option although not the best on this list with higher interest rates and limited flexibility on term lengths. Plus, they don’t offer any type of unemployment benefit but they do allow co-signers to help secure the loan.

10. Laurel Road

Laurel Road is a student loan provider who has great options for refinancing and consolidating your federal and private student loans. You have to be an alumnus of a bachelor’s or graduate degree and meet the credit and income requirements.

One of the biggest advantages to using Laurel Road is the ability to offer parents of bachelor degree holders the ability to refinance. As long as the student is employed parents can take advantage of this Parent PLUS loans. Once refinanced, parents can choose to keep the loan in their name or their child’s name.

Benefits of Using Laurel Road

  • 2.80% – 6.38% (with autopay) variable rates
  • 3.50% – 7.02% (with autopay) fixed rates
  • 5, 7, 10, 15, 20-year repayment terms
  • .25% Interest Rate Reduction with automatic payments via ACH

Should You Use Laurel Road?

Laurel Road isn’t as well known as some of the others on this list but they have great rates and flexible repayment terms. Plus, the parent PLUS loan is another huge perk of refinancing with Laurel Road.

11. College Ave

College Ave is the sleeper hit of this list when it comes to saving money on your student loans. They are under the Nationwide Bank umbrella and offer great rates and flexible customized payback plans. Compared to others, College Ave has many more loan choices on how long you want to repay compared to SoFi, Citizens Bank, and Commonbond.

Benefits of Using College Ave

  • Fixed rates: 3.5% – 8% APR
  • Variable Rates: 3.13% – 7.63% APR
  • Nationwide Member Rates
    • Fixed rates: 3.25% – 7.75%
    • Variable rates: 2.88% – 7.38%
  • Flexible repayment terms of 5-15 years with tons of flexibility compared to other lenders
  • Choose immediate full payments or 2 years of interest only
  • $5,000 minimum loan requirement
  • Receive a 0.25% interest rate reduction when you enroll in autopay with ACH (and an additional 0.25% interest rate reduction if your autopay is linked to a savings or checking account with Nationwide Bank)  

Should You Use College Ave?

College Ave is a great way to save money with refinancing, especially if you are a Nationwide customer. The rates are extremely low compared with others on the list and even lower for Nationwide customers. By enrolling ACH and being a Nationwide customer you are automatically reducing your interest by .5%.

12. iHelp

iHelp offers fixed hybrid rate loans and variable rates as well. The variable rate is based on the 3-month LIBOR and adjusts each quarter. This means your loans can increase every quarter!

  • You or the cosigner must have at least 3 years of positive credit history to meet creditworthy requirements.
  • You or the cosigner must also have an annual income of $24,000 or more for the past 2 years.
  • The minimum loan amount is $1,000 except for borrowers attending a school in Georgia. If you live in Georgia the minimum amount is $3,000.  

The borrower or cosigner may not exceed the debt to income threshold of 45%.

Benefits of Using iHelp

  • Generous loan amounts
    • Undergraduates: $100,000
    • Graduates: $150,000
  • Receive a 0.25% AutoPay discount for using ACH  
  • Cosigners are eligible for release at any time after 24 months of consecutive on-time payments have been made as long as the borrower meets the income and credit requirements.
  • They offer three repayment options if you are in an eligible school
    • Defer payments until you graduate or attend school less than half the time
    • Make interest-only payments (this will lower the cost of the loan significantly)
    • Make principal and interest payments
  • Deferment and forbearance options are available if you qualify after you graduate or drop below at least half-time attendance.

Should You Use iHelp?

With their rate structure, it can be a gamble as rates can increase each quarter. This would increase your loan payments every three months and make it difficult to pay off the loan early. While they do have some benefits I would use this one as a latter option if the other ones don’t work out.

13. Credible

Credible isn’t actually a loan processor but they are a marketplace to help you find the lowest offers available. By filling out one application you will receive different offers from different lenders from this list.

According to their website, the average person who refinances using them saves over $18,000 over the life the loan!

All you need to do is fill out a simple form to access all the options from eligible lenders. Plus, checking your rates won’t affect your credit score like other applications on this list do.

Once submitted, you can compare all your options in one place and get actual rates on your credit profile, not estimates or ranges!

The final step is to to use their automated tool to import your loan information, add some details about your financial history, and your loan is finalized within one day! If you have any issues then you can contact a member of their client success team as well.

Top Questions About Credible and Refinancing Your Student Loans

1. Can Credible help refinance my student loans even if I didn’t graduate?

Yes! They have partner lenders that provide options for borrowers with eligible student loans who did not graduate and aren’t currently enrolled in a graduate or undergraduate program.

2. How do I know I am eligible?

Credible makes it simple to determine your eligibility. Simply fill out the form and you’ll receive an update instantly. If you are eligible they will send you free, personalized, lender offers so you can start comparing rates instantly.

3. What if my loans are in forbearance or deferment?

Some lenders will require that you get the loans out of forbearance or deferment to receive a loan. By filling out the quick form you will instantly know which lenders will require you to remove them and which lenders will still give you rates.

4. What type of loans are able to refinance with Credible?

Federal and private loans are able for refinancing with Credible. This includes Parent Plus loans as long as you are the primary borrower or co-signer of the loan.

As always, refinancing a federal student loan the benefits might not transfer to private lenders when you refinance. Make sure to double check before hitting submit or contact someone on their customer success team.

5. How much does it cost to use Credible?

Absolutely nothing! Yes, it is 100% free for you to get the best deal on refinancing your student loans. The lenders actually pay Credible so you don’t have to spend a dime!

6. Can I use a cosigner to help? Are they on the loan forever?  

Yes, many of the lenders working with Credible have no problem with a qualified cosigner. Plus, many of the lenders do allow a release of the cosigner as long as the specific requirements are met. Make sure you review the lender’s website to know the exact requirements needed for the cosigner to be released as they do vary by lender.

Credible saves you so much hassle of searching 5-10 different websites seeking the lowest rate loan. 

FAQs of Refinancing Student Loans

1. What will student loan refinancing cost me?

Finally, some good news about student loans! Refinancing your student loans actually doesn’t cost a thing. If you choose a reputable lender there are no fees associated with refinancing.

If you have federal loans you can consolidate through the Department of Education for free as well. And if a company is claiming that you need to pay to refinance with them run away.

You don’t need to pay any more money for your student loans by wasting money on these unnecessary fees. There are tons of student loan scams out there so make sure you aren’t paying anything for refinancing.

2. Which is the best lender to refinance my student loans with?

I recommend normally choosing the lender based on the lowest interest rate. This will save you money each month and a ton of money throughout the life of the loan. If rates are similar, you need to compare the major differences with each lender.

Look for flexible repayment plans, deferment, and forbearance in case something bad happens in your financial future.

3. When should I refinance my student loans?

Refinancing your student loans is a great idea if you have federal student loans and don’t intend to use a federal forgiveness program or an income-driven repayment type of plan. Also, refinancing is a great idea if you have private student loans.

When you do choose, remember that the shorter term the more money you will save! If you’re struggling financially check out government income-driven repayment plans or student loan consolidation as well.

4. Is refinancing my student loans better than consolidating them?

Essentially, refinancing and consolidating is the same thing. With either option, you are turning several loans into one new loan. The main goal of refinancing or consolidating is receiving a lower interest payment or finding an income-driven repayment plan.

5. Can I even refinance my student loans?

Yes, you can! But to refinance student loans you need to show to lenders that you are a trustworthy lender by having a high credit score and proof of consistent income. If you’re not as high in either of those categories you can also elect to have a co-signer help you secure the loan. 

Often times, a lot of the lenders above will let the co-signer get released from the loan if specific loan requirements are met. This can help give your cosigner assurance they won’t be on the hook and help you secure a new low interest loan.

Final Thoughts on Refinancing Student Loan Debt

If you have a good credit score and low debt to income ratio what is stopping you from refinancing? With all these options it makes a ton of financial sense to secure the lowest interest rate possible. The sooner you can be 100% debt-free the sooner you can start growing your net worth and planning for your future.

If you don’t have the best credit score yet, keep working to improve it over time. Your credit score is one of the biggest factors in determining your loan eligibility and highly encourage you to spend time improving it.

The higher your credit score the more likely you will be approved and lower interest rate you will receive. This can save you thousands in interest over the life of your loan and be great for any future loans for a car or house.

Hopefully, you can use one of these lenders to consolidate and lower your student loan payments and start eliminating debt quickly.

Have you ever refinanced your student loans? What was your experience like? Please let us know in the comments.

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