Best of

5 Best Lenders to Refinance Student Loans With Low Income

Ryan LaneJune 9, 2020

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

Consider refinancing if you have a low income and private student loans.

Lenders often require a minimum income to refinance your student loans. You'll likely need to earn at least $30,000, but that number could be even lower if you have a co-signer.

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. There’s no downside to refinancing any private loans you have, however.

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

Summary of Best Lenders to Refinance Student Loans With Low Income

LenderNerdWallet Rating Fixed APRVariable APRMin. Credit ScoreLearn More
LendKey Student Loan Refinance

LendKey Student Loan Refinance

Check Rate

on LendKey's website

Best for Refinancing student loans with low income

3.19 - 7.75%

2.61 - 5.25%

660

Check Rate

on LendKey's website

Earnest Student Loan Refinance

Earnest Student Loan Refinance

Check Rate

on Earnest's website

Best for Recent graduates with low income

3.19 - 6.43%

1.99 - 6.43%

650

Check Rate

on Earnest's website

Citizens One Student Loan Refinance

Citizens One Student Loan Refinance

Check Rate

on Citizens Bank's website

Best for Borrowers who didn’t graduate

3.20 - 8.63%

2.49 - 8.38%

Does not disclose

Check Rate

on Citizens Bank's website

PenFed Student Loan Refinance

PenFed Student Loan Refinance

Check Rate

on Purefy's website

Best for Working with a credit union

3.23 - 5.53%

2.18 - 5.54%

670

Check Rate

on Purefy's website

RISLA Student Loan Refinance

RISLA Student Loan Refinance

See my rates

on NerdWallet's secure website

Best for Making payments based on income

3.49 - 8.14%

N/A

680

See my rates

on NerdWallet's secure website

Our pick for

Refinancing student loans with low income

Borrowers who refinance with LendKey have an average income of $65,000 — the lowest number among lenders who shared this information with NerdWallet.

LendKey Student Loan Refinance
Check Rate

on LendKey's website

LendKey Student Loan Refinance

LendKey Student Loan Refinance

Fixed APR

3.19 - 7.75%

Variable APR

2.61 - 5.25%

Min. Credit Score

660

Check Rate

on LendKey's website


Variable APR

2.61 - 5.25%

Key facts

The minimum income to refinance with LendKey is $24,000, or $12,000 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
Read Full Review

Our pick for

Recent graduates with low income

It may take a while to reach your earning potential if you recently graduated. But Earnest can approve you based on a job offer alone.

Earnest Student Loan Refinance
Check Rate

on Earnest's website

Earnest Student Loan Refinance

Earnest Student Loan Refinance

Fixed APR

3.19 - 6.43%

Variable APR

1.99 - 6.43%

Min. Credit Score

650

Check Rate

on Earnest's website


Variable APR

1.99 - 6.43%

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 Delaware, 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
Read Full Review

Our pick for

Borrowers who didn’t graduate

Unlike many lenders, Citizens One does not require you to have a degree to refinance student loans.

Citizens One Student Loan Refinance
Check Rate

on Citizens Bank's website

Citizens One Student Loan Refinance

Citizens One Student Loan Refinance

Fixed APR

3.20 - 8.63%

Variable APR

2.49 - 8.38%

Min. Credit Score

Does not disclose

Check Rate

on Citizens Bank's website


Variable APR

2.49 - 8.38%

Key facts

Citizens One does not disclose its income or debt-to-income ratio requirements.

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

  • No formal forbearance options.

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 2.49%-8.38% (2.49%-8.38% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 3.20%-8.63% (3.20%-8.63% APR).
Read Full Review

Our pick for

Working with a credit union

As nonprofit organizations, credit unions may have more generous approval criteria and terms for low-income borrowers compared to other lenders.

PenFed Student Loan Refinance
Check Rate

on Purefy's website

PenFed Student Loan Refinance

PenFed Student Loan Refinance

Fixed APR

3.23 - 5.53%

Variable APR

2.18 - 5.54%

Min. Credit Score

670

Check Rate

on Purefy's website


Variable APR

2.18 - 5.54%

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 June 1, 2020. 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 3.23% APR to 5.53% APR and Variable Rates range from 2.18% APR to 5.54% APR. Both Fixed and Variable 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. For Variable Rate student loans, the rate will never exceed 9.00% for 5 year and 8 year loans and 10.00% for 12 and 15 years loans (the maximum allowable for this loan). Minimum variable rate will be 2.00%. 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.
Read Full Review

Our pick for

Making payments based on income

Income-driven plans are rare among private lenders, but RISLA offers one that sets payments at 15% of your discretionary income for up to 25 years.

RISLA Student Loan Refinance
See my rates

on NerdWallet's secure website

RISLA Student Loan Refinance

RISLA Student Loan Refinance

Fixed APR

3.49 - 8.14%

Variable APR

N/A

Min. Credit Score

680

See my rates

on NerdWallet's secure website


Variable APR

N/A

Key facts

The minimum income to refinance with RISLA is $40,000, and the maximum debt-to-income ratio is 50%.

Pros

  • Income-based repayment plan available, with forgiveness after 25 years.

Cons

  • No co-signer release available.

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

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

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: 748.

  • Loan amounts: $7,500 to $250,000, depending on the highest degree earned.

  • Must have a degree: No.

Available Term Lengths

5, 10 or 15 years

Disclaimer

Read Full Review

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 $30,000. 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 adding a co-signer to your application. That person will be equally responsible for your loan. If you don’t want them to be on the hook forever, 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 June 9, 2020

To recap our selections...

NerdWallet's Best Lenders to Refinance Student Loans With Low Income

Frequently asked questions