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What Credit Score Is Needed for a Student Loan?

A credit score isn't required to get a federal student loan, but you'll need one for a private student loan.
Nov. 19, 2018
Credit Score, Loans, Student Loans
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The credit score needed for a student loan will depend on the type of loan you want to take out — federal or private. So if you don’t have a credit score, or if your scores are bad, you have options.

» MORE: Student loans for bad or no credit

Here’s how your credit affects how you borrow student loan money or refinance student loans.

You don’t need a credit score to get a federal loan

Federal direct undergraduate loans don’t require borrowers to have a credit history or a co-signer. Federal student loans are preferred over private student loans because they carry lower interest rates and offer income-driven repayment loan forgiveness options.

To get a federal student loan, you’ll have to meet basic eligibility criteria, such as citizenship requirements and enrollment in an eligible program.

Submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, to start the process for a federal student loan. This is the key to unlock all types of aid, including grants, scholarships and work-study.

Making payments on a federal student loan can help you build credit, but a score won’t appear with one of the three credit reporting bureaus until about six months after you start paying on it.

» MORE: How to build credit at 18

Private lenders expect a credit score or a co-signer

If you’ve maxed out federal student loans and you need a private student loan, you’ll need a credit history to qualify.

» MORE: What is a good credit score? 

Most private lenders require you to have a good credit score, which would be 670 or higher on a 300-850 scale used by FICO, the most widely known credit score.

If you’ve maxed out federal student loans and you need a private student loan, you’ll need a credit history to qualify.

If you don’t have a credit history, you’ll need a co-signer with a good credit score and a steady income in order to qualify for the loan. A co-signer takes on the responsibility to repay the loan if you can’t.

There are a few lenders that don’t require credit or a co-signer. Generally, they’ll consider earning potential instead of a credit history. But interest rates on these loans are higher than federal student loans and credit-based private student loans.

» MORE: How to take out student loans without your parents

Compare offers from multiple lenders to get the best rates.

Credit score needed to refinance student loans

If you already have college debt, refinancing can save you money by reducing your rate. You need good or excellent credit to qualify for student loan refinancing. Lenders’ minimum credit score requirements range from 650 to 680.

Know where your credit stands

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The better your credit, the lower the rate you’ll likely get. The typical credit scores of borrowers approved for student loan refinancing is often in the high 700s. You may be able to refinance student loans with bad credit if you apply with a co-signer.

In addition to credit score, refinance lenders look at other factors including debt-to-income ratio. The required debt-to-income ratio for student loan refinancing is generally 50% or less. A DTI less than 20% is excellent.

Lender
Minimum credit score
Typical credit score of approved borrowers
680
774
660
Did not disclose
660
Did not disclose
670
779
650
Did not disclose
650
700+
680
690+
660
757

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