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9 Lenders to Refinance Student Loans With Low Income

To reduce student loan payments, consider refinancing if you have a low income and private student loans.

Jan 26, 2022

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Lenders often require a minimum income to refinance your student loans. You'll likely need to earn at least $24,000.

But there’s usually a big difference between the minimum income required and the actual average income of those approved for student loan refinancing. You can still refinance if you don’t make a lot of money, but you should think twice before refinancing federal student loans. If you have private student loans, however, refinancing may be the best way to lower your payments.

Here are our picks of lenders to refinance student loans with low income, as well as tips to decide if this option is for you.

Lenders to Refinance Student Loans With Low Income

Our picks for

No minimum income requirement

ISL Refinance Loan

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
ISL Refinance Loan

Min. credit score

670

Fixed APR

2.55-7.63%

Variable APR

N/A

Variable APR

N/A

Key facts

ISL Education Lending doesn't have a minimum income requirement and you can qualify even if you didn't graduate.

Pros

  • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

  • You can refinance without a degree.

  • You can refinance while in school or during a medical residency.

Cons

  • Interest rates vary by refi product.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: Approximately 750.

  • Loan amounts: $5,000 to $300,000. (Minimum for California residents is $10,000.)

  • Must have a degree: No.

Available Term Lengths

5, 7, 10, 15 or 20

Read Full Review
SoFi Student Loan Refinance
Check rate

on SoFi's website

SoFi Student Loan Refinance

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
SoFi Student Loan Refinance

Min. credit score

650

Fixed APR

3.49-7.99%

Variable APR

1.74-7.99%
Check rate

on SoFi's website


Variable APR

1.74-7.99%

Key facts

SoFi has no minimum income requirement, allows you to refinance parent PLUS loans in your name and has programs to help with career development and entrepreneurship.

Pros

  • You can refinance parent PLUS loans in your name.

  • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

  • Additional perks like career planning, job search assistance and entrepreneurship support available.

Cons

  • No co-signer release available.

  • Loan size minimum is higher than most lenders.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: 700+.

  • Loan amounts: $5,000, up to your total outstanding loan balance.

  • Must have a degree: Yes, an associate degree or higher.

Available Term Lengths

5, 7, 10, 15 or 20 years

Disclaimer

Fixed rates range from 3.49% APR to 7.99% APR with a 0.25% autopay discount. Variable rates from 1.74% APR to 7.99% APR with a 0.25% autopay discount. Unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law, Variable Interest rates on 5-, 7-, and 10-year terms are capped at 8.95% APR; 15- and 20-year terms are capped at 9.95% APR. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on the term you select, evaluation of your creditworthiness, income, presence of a co-signer and a variety of other factors. Lowest rates reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. For the SoFi variable-rate product, the variable interest rate for a given month is derived by adding a margin to the 30-day average SOFR index, published two business days preceding such calendar month, rounded up to the nearest one hundredth of one percent (0.01% or 0.0001). APRs for variable-rate loans may increase after origination if the SOFR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. This benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit lowers your interest rate but does not change the amount of your monthly payment. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance. Autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi.

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Laurel Road Student Loan Refinance
Check rate

on Laurel Road's website

Laurel Road Student Loan Refinance

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Laurel Road Student Loan Refinance

Min. credit score

660

Fixed APR

2.99-6.30%

Variable APR

1.89-6.20%
Check rate

on Laurel Road's website


Variable APR

1.89-6.20%

Key facts

Laurel Road has no minimum income requirement and allows you to refinance a parent PLUS loan in your name.

Pros

  • You can refinance parent PLUS loans in your name.

  • Refinancing available for medical and dental residents.

  • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

Cons

  • Payment postponement isn’t available if borrowers return to school.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: Did not disclose.

  • Loan amounts: $5,000 up to your total outstanding loan balance.

  • Must have a degree: At least an associate degree for select professions. Borrowers in their last year of undergrad can refinance. For parent PLUS loans, the child does not need to have graduated to refinance.

Available Term Lengths

5, 7, 10, 15 or 20 years

Disclaimer

All credit products are subject to credit approval. APRs shown include a 0.25% interest rate discount for AutoPay. If the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic fund transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the interest rate will decrease by 0.25% and will increase back if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the borrower’s bank account. The 0.25% AutoPay/EFT Discount will not reduce the monthly payment; instead, the discount is applied to the principal to help pay the loan down faster. Variable APRs are subject to increase after consummation. The current index for variable rate loans is derived from the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (“SOFR”) and changes in the SOFR index may cause your monthly payment to increase. Borrowers who take out a term of 5, 7, or 10 years will have a maximum interest rate of 9%, those who take out a 15 or 20-year variable loan will have a maximum interest rate of 10%. There is no limit on the amount your interest rate can increase at one time. The Index is currently published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (“New York Fed”). View payment examples here. KeyBank National Association reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice.

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Our pick for

Annual incomes of at least $15,000

Navy Federal Student Loan Refinance

3.5

NerdWallet rating 
Navy Federal Student Loan Refinance

Min. credit score

Does not disclose

Fixed APR

2.99-12.03%

Variable APR

1.45-10.26%

Variable APR

1.45-10.26%

Key facts

An option for members of Navy Federal Credit Union, especially those who have an associate degree.

Pros

  • Forbearance of 18 months is longer than many lenders offer.

  • Greater-than-minimum payments allowed via autopay.

Cons

  • Available only to existing Navy Federal Credit Union customers

  • Students cannot refinance a parent PLUS loan in their name.

  • You can’t see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: Did not disclose.

  • $7,500 minimum to $125,000 for undergraduates, or $175,000 for graduate students.

  • Must have a degree: Yes, at least an associate degree.

Available Term Lengths

5, 10 or 15 years

Read Full Review

Our picks for

Annual incomes of at least $24,000

Citizens Student Loan Refinance

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Citizens Student Loan Refinance

Min. credit score

Does not disclose

Fixed APR

2.39-9.15%

Variable APR

2.24-8.90%

Variable APR

2.24-8.90%

Key facts

Citizens allows student loan refinance with an income of at least $24,000 between the primary borrower and co-signer.

Pros

  • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

  • You can refinance parent PLUS loans in your name.

  • Loyalty discount: Borrowers with a Citizens Bank account when they apply get an additional 0.25% interest rate discount.

Cons

  • Estate is still responsible for loans refinanced by parents if the borrower dies.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: Does not disclose.

  • Loan amounts: $10,000 to $500,000.

  • Must have a degree: No.

Available Term Lengths

5, 7, 10, 15 or 20 years

Disclaimer

Education Refinance Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 2.24%-8.90% (2.24%-8.90% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 2.39%-9.15% (2.39%-9.15% APR).

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LendKey Student Loan Refinance
Check rate

on LendKey's website

LendKey Student Loan Refinance

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
LendKey Student Loan Refinance

Min. credit score

660

Fixed APR

2.69-7.93%

Variable APR

2.05-5.25%
Check rate

on LendKey's website


Variable APR

2.05-5.25%

Key facts

The minimum income to refinance with LendKey is $24,000. There is no income requirement if you have a co-signer. The maximum debt-to-income ratio is 50%.

Pros

  • Forbearance of 18 months for 15- and 20-year loan terms is longer than many lenders.

  • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

Cons

  • Loans aren't available in Maine, Nevada, North Dakota, Rhode Island or West Virginia.

  • No payment postponement available if borrowers return to school or serve in the military.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: 751.

  • Loan amounts: $5,000 to $300,000, depending on the higest degree earned.

  • Must have a degree: Yes, at least an associate degree.

Available Term Lengths

5, 7, 10, 15 or 20 years

Disclaimer

See LendKey's full terms and conditions at https://www.lendkey.com/disclaimers

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MEFA Student Loan Refinance

4.0

NerdWallet rating 
MEFA Student Loan Refinance

Min. credit score

670

Fixed APR

2.95-5.50%

Variable APR

N/A

Variable APR

N/A

Key facts

MEFA allows refinancing with an annual income of at least $24,000 — even without a degree.

Pros

  • No late fees.

  • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

Cons

  • No formal deferment/forbearance options.

  • No co-signer release.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: Did not disclose.

  • Loan amounts: $10,000 minimum.

  • Must have a degree: No.

Available Term Lengths

7, 10 or 15 years.

Read Full Review

Our pick for

Annual incomes of at least $35,000

Earnest Student Loan Refinance
Check rate

on Earnest's website

Earnest Student Loan Refinance

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Earnest Student Loan Refinance

Min. credit score

650

Fixed APR

2.74-7.99%

Variable APR

1.74-7.99%
Check rate

on Earnest's website


Variable APR

1.74-7.99%

Key facts

Best for borrowers who want to customize their repayment schedule to pay off debt fast.

Pros

  • Customizable payments and loan terms.

  • Option to skip one payment every 12 months.

  • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

Cons

  • You can’t apply with a co-signer.

  • Loans aren't available in Kentucky and Nevada.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: 760.

  • Loan amounts: $5,000 to $500,000.

  • Must have a degree: No, but must be within six months of graduation and have income or a job.

Available Term Lengths

5 to 20 years

Disclaimer

Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 2.99% APR to 8.24% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 1.99% APR to 8.24% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Earnest variable interest rate student loan refinance loans are based on a publicly available index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The variable rate is based on the rate published on the 25th day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month, rounded to the nearest hundredth of a percent. The rate will not increase more than once per month. The maximum rate for your loan is 8.95% if your loan term is 10 years or less. For loan terms of more than 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95%. Please note, we are not able to offer variable rate loans in AK, IL, MN, NH, OH, TN, and TX.

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Our pick for

Annual incomes of at least $42,000

PenFed Student Loan Refinance
Check rate

on Purefy's website

PenFed Student Loan Refinance

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
PenFed Student Loan Refinance

Min. credit score

670

Fixed APR

4.49-6.68%

Variable APR

N/A
Check rate

on Purefy's website


Variable APR

N/A

Key facts

Best for married couples who want to refinance their student loans into a single one.

Pros

  • Married couples can refinance student loans into a single loan.

  • You can refinance parent PLUS loans in your name.

  • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

Cons

  • Estate is still responsible for the loan if the borrower dies.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: 773.

  • Loan amounts: $7,500 to $300,000.

  • Must have a degree: Yes, at least a bachelor’s degree.

Available Term Lengths

5, 8, 12 or 15 years

Disclaimer

Rates and offers current as of May 13, 2022. Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Fixed Rates range from 4.49% APR - 6.68% APR. Fixed Rates will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.

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How to refinance student loans with low income

Having a low income doesn’t mean you can’t refinance student loans, but it may be harder to qualify. Take the following steps to help prevent your salary from holding you back:

  • Make sure you meet the lender’s income requirements. Not all lenders share their income requirements publicly, but those that do often set their minimum income threshold at more than $24,000. You may need to earn more than that number based on different factors, though. For example, PenFed requires a higher income if you want to refinance more than $150,000.

  • Have good credit. You’ll typically need a FICO score in at least the high 600s to qualify for refinancing. But getting your scores into the mid-700s or above may improve your odds and help you get a lower interest rate. Plus, a higher score can show lenders you do a good job managing money and expenses at your current income level.

  • Manage your debt-to-income ratio. If your income is low, your biggest hurdle to refinancing may be your debt-to-income ratio. DTI compares your monthly debts — student loans, car payments, rent, etc. — to your monthly income. This helps lenders understand whether you'll have enough cash on hand to afford your loan payments. Most lenders want a DTI below 50%.

Even if you can’t increase your income, you can take steps to make yourself a better candidate for student loan refinancing. For example, you can build credit faster by making payments strategically and minding credit limits, or you could improve your DTI by paying off your credit cards (but leaving the accounts open) before you apply.

If low income still prevents you from being approved, consider refinancing with a co-signer. That person will be equally responsible for your loan. You won’t want them to be on the hook forever, though, so be sure to review potential lenders’ co-signer release policies.

Other repayment options if you have low income

Some private lenders may let you pay less or pause repayment temporarily. But refinancing is the best way to lock in a smaller payment that doesn’t cost you more long-term. Be sure to compare offers from multiple refinance lenders to get the best interest rate — and lowest bill.

Federal student loans have more repayment options if you don’t make a lot of money — particularly income-driven repayment plans. These plans tie payments to a fixed percentage of your discretionary income, usually 10%, and are the best option if you have federal student loans and a low income. Payments can be as low as $0, though you'll likely pay more overall.

Refinancing federal student loans costs you access to income-driven plans, as well as other repayment benefits like loan forgiveness programs. Even if you’re positive your earnings will grow — for example, you’re a medical resident — you may want to wait until your income actually increases to refinance federal loans.

STUDENT LOAN REFINANCE RATINGS METHODOLOGY

Our survey of more than 29 banks, credit unions and online lenders offering student loans and student loan refinancing includes the top 10 lenders by market share and the top 10 lenders by online search volume, as well as lenders that serve specialty or nontraditional markets.

We consider 41 features and data points for each financial institution. Depending on the category, these include the availability of biweekly payments through autopay, minimum credit score and income requirement disclosures, availability to borrowers in all states, extended grace periods and in-house customer service.

The stars represent ratings from poor (one star) to excellent (five stars). Ratings are rounded to the nearest half-star.

Last updated on January 26, 2022

To recap our selections...

NerdWallet's Lenders to Refinance Student Loans With Low Income

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