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PenFed Powered by Purefy Student Loan Refinancing Review

PenFed is one of the only lenders that allows married couples to refinance together.
May 16, 2019
Loans, Student Loans
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4.5 NerdWallet rating

Purefy-issued loans are funded by multiple lenders. This review focuses on Purefy’s partnership with Pentagon Federal Credit Union, known as PenFed.

PenFed student loan refinance borrowers range from police officers and teachers to doctors and lawyers. You don’t need to be an especially high earner to qualify to refinance with PenFed as long as you’re employed, have good credit and have a manageable amount of debt relative to your income.

PenFed also stands out because it’s one of the only lenders that allows married couples to refinance student loans together. But unlike most refinance lenders, it doesn’t offer a structured deferment or forbearance program, which would let borrowers pause payments if money got tight.

PenFed student loan refinancing at a glance:

  • Married couples can refinance together.
  • Borrowers can refinance their parents’ PLUS loans.
  • No option to make biweekly payments via autopay.
Reviewed loanStudent loan refinancing
Interest ratesFixed: 3.87% - 7.03%
Variable: 3.02% - 7.76%
Loan terms5, 8, 12 or 15 years
Loan amounts$7,500 to $300,000
Co-signer release availableYes, after 12 months of consecutive on-time payments.
Can transfer a parent loan to the childYes
Check rates at PenFed

How PenFed scores

NerdWallet student loan experts evaluated more than 50 data points across five categories to see whether PenFed ranks below average, average or above average compared with other student loan refinance lenders.

Enables faster repayment:
Below average
Lenders score highly if they offer a variety of term lengths and make extra payments easy.

Discloses requirements, limits costs:
Lenders score highly if they limit fees and interest rates, are transparent about their underwriting criteria and allow borrowers to get personalized rate estimates before applying.

Serves range of borrowers:
Above average
Lenders score highly if they cater to customers in varying locations, in different financial situations, and with varying citizenship statuses.

Offers payment flexibility:
Below average
Lenders score highly if they offer longer than 12-month forbearance periods, in-school and military deferment, and any other flexible policies that help borrowers during tough times.

Supports customers:
Above average
Lenders score highly if they assign borrowers an advisor, offer multiple ways to get in touch, and have in-house customer service. Websites should display full APR ranges, fees and forbearance policies.

How PenFed could improve

PenFed could improve by:

  • Offering a specific forbearance policy for borrowers experiencing a financial hardship.
  • Providing academic deferment for borrowers returning to school.

» MORE: Top credit union student loan refinance lenders

PenFed student loan refinancing details

  • Soft credit check to qualify and see what rate you’ll get: Yes.
  • Application or origination fee: No.
  • Prepayment penalty: No.
  • Late fees: Yes; a fee equal to 20% of the interest portion of the payment applies after the payment is five days late. The minimum late fee is $5; the maximum is $25, except where prohibited by law.

Compare PenFed’s range of interest rates with other student loan refinance lenders. Your actual rate will depend on factors including your — or your co-signer’s — credit history and financial situation. To see what rate PenFed will offer you, apply on its website.

Check rates at PenFed


  • Minimum credit score: 670. You’ll need a higher score if you’re applying without a co-signer or refinancing more than $150,000.
  • Minimum income: You’ll generally need an income of at least $25,000 if you’re applying with a co-signer, and $42,000 if you’re applying without one. If you’re refinancing more than $150,000, the minimum income is $50,000 or $100,000, depending on how much other debt you have.
  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: 779.
  • Typical income of approved borrowers: $94,000.
  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: Generally, 35% for applicants with undergraduate degrees and 40% for applicants with graduate degrees.
  • Can qualify if you’ve filed for bankruptcy: Yes, if the bankruptcy was 10 or more years ago. You can also qualify — even with a recent bankruptcy on your record — if you have a co-signer who meets all of the credit, income and debt-to-income criteria, and you have a credit score of 670 or higher and income of $25,000 or more.


  • Citizenship: Must be a U.S. citizen. Unlike many other lenders, PenFed doesn’t refinance college debt for permanent residents.
  • Location: Available in all 50 U.S. states.
  • Must have graduated: Yes, must have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • Must have attended a Title IV-accredited school: Yes.
  • Percentage of borrowers who have a co-signer: 22%.

  • Academic deferment: No.
  • Military deferment: No.
  • Forbearance: PenFed doesn’t have a structured deferment or forbearance program, unlike other lenders. If you lose your job or experience an illness or death in the family, the lender may offer temporarily payment relief on a case-by-case basis.
  • Are loans discharged in the event of death/disability of borrower?: No.
  • Allows greater-than-minimum payments via autopay: Yes.
  • Allows biweekly payments via autopay: No.

  • Loan servicer: Pentagon Federal Credit Union, known as PenFed.
  • In-house customer service team: Yes.
  • Process for escalating concerns: Yes.
  • Borrowers get assigned a dedicated banker, advisor or representative: Yes, each borrower is assigned a personal student loan advisor.
  • Average time from approval to payoff of the refinanced loans: Three to 14 days.
You can reap the following benefits by refinancing your student loans with PenFed through Purefy:

  • Couples refinancing: Spouses who both have student loans can qualify to refinance with PenFed based on their combined incomes and the higher credit score of the two. This means the spouse with the lower credit score would likely qualify for a lower interest rate than he or she would otherwise.
  • PenFed powered by Purefy referral program: Earn $200 cash for each friend you refer who receives a loan from PenFed through Purefy.


How to refinance with PenFed through Purefy

Before deciding on a student loan refinance lender, compare multiple student loan refinance options to make sure you’re getting the best rate you qualify for. In addition to interest rates, compare lenders’ repayment options and the flexibility they offer borrowers who are struggling to make payments.

» MORE: How to refinance student loans in 6 steps

If you’re ready to refinance with PenFed, you can apply on Purefy’s website.

Check rates at PenFed

Student loans ratings methodology

NerdWallet believes the best student loan is one you can repay at the lowest interest rate you can get. That’s why NerdWallet’s student loan ratings reward lenders that offer a variety of loan terms, limit their fees and penalties, and extend borrowers multiple options to avoid default. Points are also awarded for soft credit checks, underwriting transparency and other consumer-friendly features. Use these ratings as a guide, but we encourage you to shop around for the lowest interest rate you can qualify for. NerdWallet does not receive compensation for its reviews. Read our editorial guidelines.

5 stars out of 5 — Among the very best for consumer-friendly features

4.5 stars out of 5 — Excellent; offers most consumer-friendly features

4 stars out of 5 — Very good; offers many consumer-friendly features

3.5 stars out of 5 — Good; may not offer something important to you

3 stars out of 5 — Fair; missing important consumer-friendly features

2.5 stars out of 5 — Poor; proceed with great caution