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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.

Cecilia ClarkAug 25, 2021

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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.

Summary of Lenders to Refinance Student Loans With Low Income

Our picks for

No minimum income requirement

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

2.48 - 5.79%

Variable APR

1.88 - 5.64%
Check rate

on Earnest's website


Variable APR

1.88 - 5.64%

Key facts

Earnest does not have a minimum income requirement. Its maximum DTI is 65%.

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

Specific Annual Percentage Rate (APRs) offered within these ranges will depend on a variety of factors including your creditworthiness and other application details. Annual percentage rates (APRs) reflect 0.25% discount for optional enrollment in autopay. Your approval for an Earnest Loan is subject to the full underwriting of your loan application. Read more about qualifying for a loan with Earnest here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility

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ISL Refinance Loan
See my rates

on NerdWallet's secure website

ISL Refinance Loan

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
ISL Refinance Loan

Min. Credit Score

670

Fixed APR

2.55 - 7.63%

Variable APR

N/A
See my rates

on NerdWallet's secure website


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

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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

2.49 - 6.94%

Variable APR

1.99 - 6.59%
Check rate

on SoFi's website


Variable APR

1.99 - 6.59%

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 from 2.49% APR to 6.94% APR (with autopay). Variable rates from 1.99% APR to 6.59% APR (with autopay). All variable rates are based on the 1-month LIBOR and may increase after consummation if LIBOR increases; see more at SoFi.com/legal/#1. If approved for a loan your rate will depend on a variety of factors such as your credit profile, your application and your selected loan terms. Your rate will be within the ranges of rates listed above. Lowest rates reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers, or may become available, such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp. or an affiliate (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license #6054612; NMLS #1121636 (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org). Additional terms and conditions apply; see SoFi.com/eligibility for details. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.

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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

2.50 - 6.00%

Variable APR

1.89 - 5.90%
Check rate

on Laurel Road's website


Variable APR

1.89 - 5.90%

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

FIXED APR Fixed rate options consist of a range from 3.00% per year to 5.00% per year for a 5-year term, 3.60% per year to 5.30% per year for a 7-year term, 4.10% per year to 5.60% per year for a 10-year term, 4.50% per year to 5.65% per year for a 15-year term, or 4.60% per year to 6.20% per year for a 20-year term, with no origination fees. The fixed interest rate will apply until the loan is paid in full (whether before or after default, and whether before or after the scheduled maturity date of the loan). The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 3.75% per year to 5.80% per year for a 5-year term would be from $183.04 to $192.40. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.14% per year to 6.25% per year for a 7-year term would be from $142.00 to $147.29. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.24% per year to 6.65% per year for a 10-year term would be from $107.24 to $114.31. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.30% per year to 7.05% per year for a 15-year term would be from $80.65 to $90.16. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.61% per year to 7.27% per year for a 20-year term would be from $69.41 to $79.16. However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the fixed rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular fixed interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account. VARIABLE APR Variable rate options consist of a range from 1.99% per year to 6.05% per year for a 5-year term, 3.75% per year to 6.10% per year for a 7-year term, 4.00% per year to 6.15% per year for a 10-year term, 4.25% per year to 6.40% per year for a 15-year term, or 4.50% per year to 6.65% per year for a 20-year term, with no origination fees. APR is subject to increase after consummation. The variable interest rate will change on the first day of every month (“Change Date”) if the Current Index changes. The variable interest rates are based on a Current Index, which is the 1-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) (currency in US dollars), as published on The Wall Street Journal’s website. The variable interest rates and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will increase or decrease when the 1-month LIBOR index changes. The variable interest rates are calculated by adding a margin ranging from 0.98% to 3.80% for the 5-year term loan, 2.35% to 3.85% for the 7-year term loan, 2.40% to 3.90% for the 10-year term loan, 2.65% to 4.15% for the 15-year term loan, and 2.90% to 4.40% for the 20-year term loan, respectively, to the 1-month LIBOR index published on the 25th day of each month immediately preceding each “Change Date,” as defined above, rounded to two decimal places, with no origination fees. If the 25th day of the month is not a business day or is a US federal holiday, the reference date will be the most recent date preceding the 25th day of the month that is a business day. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 3.49% per year to 6.31% per year for a 5-year term would be from $181.87 to $194.77. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.86% per year to 6.36% per year for a 7-year term would be from $140.68 to $147.82. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.91% per year to 6.41% per year for a 10-year term would be from $105.63 to $113.09. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.16% per year to 6.66% per year for a 15-year term would be from $79.92 to $87.99. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.41% per year to 6.91% per year for a 20-year term would be from $68.28 to $76.99. However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the variable rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular variable interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.

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Our picks for

Annual incomes of at least $24,000

Citizens Student Loan Refinance
See my rates

on NerdWallet's secure website

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%
See my rates

on NerdWallet's secure website


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

2.49 - 7.75%

Variable APR

1.90 - 5.25%
Check rate

on LendKey's website


Variable APR

1.90 - 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
See my rates

on NerdWallet's secure website

MEFA Student Loan Refinance

4.0

NerdWallet rating 
MEFA Student Loan Refinance

Min. Credit Score

670

Fixed APR

3.05 - 5.55%

Variable APR

3.05 - 5.55%
See my rates

on NerdWallet's secure website


Variable APR

3.05 - 5.55%

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.

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Navy Federal Student Loan Refinance
See my rates

on NerdWallet's secure website

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%
See my rates

on NerdWallet's secure website


Variable APR

1.45 - 10.26%

Key facts

Navy Federal Credit Union offers refinancing with an annual income of at least $24,000 to existing members.

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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Our pick for

Annual incomes of at least $25,000 (with a co-signer)

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

2.89 - 5.08%

Variable APR

N/A
Check rate

on Purefy's website


Variable APR

N/A

Key facts

PenFed’s requirements vary depending on your loan amount and the type of degree you have. For example, let’s say you wanted to refinance $30,000 from your undergraduate degree without a co-signer. You’d need an income of at least $42,000 and a DTI of 40% or less if you earned less than $75,999.

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 June 1, 2021. 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 2.89% APR - 5.08% 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.

Last updated on August 25, 2021

To recap our selections...

NerdWallet's Lenders to Refinance Student Loans With Low Income

Frequently asked questions