BEST OF

5 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.

By Cecilia Clark 

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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 getting approval for student loan refinancing with a lower income can be difficult — there’s usually a big difference between the minimum income required and the actual average income of those approved. Still, you can refinance with the right lenders.

Before deciding to refinance, think twice if you have 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 pick for

No minimum income requirement

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

4.49-7.00%

Variable APR

4.74-7.65%
Check rate

on Laurel Road's website


Variable APR

4.74-7.65%

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

Laurel Road; Rates as of 1/30/23. Rates Subject to Change. Terms and Conditions Apply. All products subject to credit approval 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 less than $30,000 with a co-signer

Education Loan Finance Student Loan Refinance
Check rate

on Education Loan Finance's website

Education Loan Finance Student Loan Refinance

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Education Loan Finance Student Loan Refinance

Min. credit score

680

Fixed APR

4.83-7.64%

Variable APR

3.99-7.24%
Check rate

on Education Loan Finance's website


Variable APR

3.99-7.24%

Key facts

Best for borrowers who value good customer service.

Pros

  • You are assigned a student loan advisor.

  • You can refinance parent PLUS loans in your name.

Cons

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

  • The minimum amount to refinance is more than many lenders require.

  • No co-signer release available.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: 774.

  • Loan amounts: $10,000 up to your total outstanding loan balance.

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

Available Term Lengths

5, 7, 10, 15 or 20 years

Disclaimer

Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply. https://www.elfi.com/terms/

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College Ave Student Loan Refinance
Check rate

on College Ave's website

College Ave Student Loan Refinance

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
College Ave Student Loan Refinance

Min. credit score

Mid-600s

Fixed APR

5.24-9.99%

Variable APR

5.24-9.99%
Check rate

on College Ave's website


Variable APR

5.24-9.99%

Key facts

Best for borrowers who want a nonstandard loan term — six or nine years, for instance.

Pros

  • You can choose any loan term between 5 and 15 years.

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

Cons

  • No co-signer release available.

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

Qualifications

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

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

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

Available Term Lengths

5 to 15 years

Disclaimer

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through Firstrust Bank, member FDIC, First Citizens Community Bank, member FDIC, or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC.. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply. As certified by your school and less any other financial aid you might receive. Minimum $1,000. Rates shown are for the College Ave Undergraduate Loan product and include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Flat Repayment Option with an 8-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 7.78% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 54 monthly payments of $25 while in school, followed by 96 monthly payments of $176.21 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $18,266.38. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. Information advertised valid as of 2/1/2023. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Approved interest rate will depend on the creditworthiness of the applicant(s), lowest advertised rates only available to the most creditworthy applicants and require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.

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Advantage Education Loan Student Loan Refinance

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Advantage Education Loan Student Loan Refinance

Min. credit score

Does not disclose

Fixed APR

3.54-6.82%

Variable APR

N/A

Variable APR

N/A

Key facts

Best for borrowers who didn’t graduate.

Pros

  • You can refinance without a degree.

  • Forbearance of 24 months is twice as long as most 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 Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington or Washington, D.C.

  • You cannot postpone repayment if you re-enroll in school.

Qualifications

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

  • Minimum income: Does not disclose.

  • Loan amounts: Minimum $7,500. Maximum depends on creditworthiness and debt-to-income ratio.

Available Term Lengths

10, 15 or 20 years

Read Full Review

Our pick for

Annual incomes of less than $30,000 with no co-signer

Navy Federal Student Loan Refinance

3.5

NerdWallet rating 
Navy Federal Student Loan Refinance

Min. credit score

Does not disclose

Fixed APR

4.60-18.00%

Variable APR

5.23-18.00%

Variable APR

5.23-18.00%

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

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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 on time 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 December 21, 2022

To recap our selections...

NerdWallet's Lenders to Refinance Student Loans With Low Income

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