Earnest vs. CommonBond: Which Is Better for Refinancing Student Loans?

Earnest is great for paying off loans fast, while CommonBond stands out for its generous forbearance policy.
Sep 29, 2020
Earnest vs. CommonBond: Which Is Better for Refinancing Student Loans?

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If you’re considering student loan refinancing, Earnest and CommonBond are strong options. NerdWallet gives both five stars and rates their refinancing loans among the best overall.

The right choice is the lender that offers you the lowest interest rate.

But if you’re debating Earnest vs. CommonBond because their potential savings are similar, you can decide between them by comparing features like repayment terms and options to avoid default.

Earnest vs. CommonBond refinancing at a glance

Earnest Student Loan Refinance
CommonBond Student Loan Refinance
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
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Fixed APR


Variable APR


Variable APR


Min. Credit Score


Min. Credit Score


Earnest vs. CommonBond key features

You can find complete details about each lender in NerdWallet’s individual Earnest student loans review and CommonBond student loans review. But here are some differences between their refinancing loans that may matter to you, depending on your repayment goals.

Borrower eligibility

Advantage: CommonBond

To qualify with any refinance lender, you’ll typically need a credit score in at least the high 600s and enough income to cover all your debts.

Neither CommonBond nor Earnest offers complete details about its specific financial requirements. But CommonBond refinances loans for borrowers in a wider range of situations.

For example, you can’t qualify with Earnest if you want or need to do the following:

  • Apply with a co-signer.

  • Transfer parent loans to your name.

  • Refinance with a visa.

One area in which Earnest has the edge: It lets you refinance if you have an associate degree, whereas CommonBond requires a bachelor’s degree or higher.

NerdWallet recommends pre-qualifying with multiple lenders before you apply. That way, you’ll know if you’re likely to be approved and at what rate without affecting your credit.

Repayment terms

Advantage: Earnest

CommonBond offers a number of repayment terms: 5, 7, 10, 15 or 20 years. But Earnest lets you choose any term between 5 and 20 years.

Being able to fully customize a repayment schedule may be better for you.

For example, you might have nine years left on your current loan. By refinancing to a seven-year term, your savings could increase — but your payments might as well, depending on your new interest rate. Opting for a 10-year term could shrink your bills, but also your savings.

In this case, CommonBond’s repayment terms would speed up or slow down your progress. Earnest would let you stay on the same track if you wanted to.

Use a student loan refinance calculator to see how adjusting your repayment term could affect your short- and long-term savings.

Options for struggling borrowers

Advantage: CommonBond

You’ll need to be in good financial shape to be eligible to refinance student loans. But if your situation changes, lender support can be crucial.

If you can’t afford payments, CommonBond will let you postpone them for up to 24 months via forbearance. That’s twice the industry standard of 12 months, which Earnest provides.

Earnest does offer assistance that CommonBond lacks: Earnest lets you skip a payment once every 12 months and will modify your loan’s term or rate if it’s in danger of defaulting.

But if you want to be able to weather economic hardship, CommonBond gives you more time to do so.

Fast payoff

Advantage: Earnest

Refinancing at a lower rate is a great way to pay off student loans fast. You can speed things up even more by increasing your monthly payment amount.

Earnest and CommonBond both help with this by letting you automate greater-than-minimum payments. But only Earnest allows biweekly payments via autopay. By splitting your monthly bill into two biweekly payments, you’ll make a full extra payment each year.

Another strategy to get rid of loans is to put found money toward them, like from a work bonus or other financial windfall. Both Earnest and CommonBond have student loan referral programs, but Earnest’s is more generous.

Earnest gives $200 to you and each person you successfully refer for refinancing — potentially helping you both pay off your debt faster. CommonBond offers $200 to the referrer alone.

If you’re interested in a more robust referral program, compare Earnest versus SoFi.


Advantage: CommonBond

Both CommonBond and Earnest primarily focus on student loans. But if you want more from your lender, CommonBond does offer a couple of unique programs.

Most notably, CommonBond partners with the international nonprofit Pencils of Promise to fund a child’s education whenever the company makes a loan. Its SmartSave service can also automatically deposit monthly savings from your refinancing loan into an account with high-yield savings.

If you want a refinancing loan with a lot of extra benefits, compare CommonBond versus SoFi.

Earnest vs. CommonBond: The bottom line

CommonBond is best if you value a generous forbearance policy or can’t qualify with Earnest — for example, you need a co-signer. Earnest is a great alternative that offers fast payoff and repayment flexibility.

Earnest and CommonBond are also good choices depending on your specific refinancing goals. Compare their products to others lenders in the following instances to get the best deal possible:

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