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Private Student Loans: 6 Best Lenders for 2018

Loans, Student Loans
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Private student loans can be a good option if:

  • You have already completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA, to see if you’re eligible for federal grants, work-study and federal loans
  • You have already borrowed the maximum in both subsidized and unsubsidized federal student loans
  • You have good credit or a co-signer who does. Most private student loan borrowers have a co-signer.
  • You borrow only what you need

» MORE: Is a private student loan right for you?

Private student loan interest rates

Get personalized rates from the well-established lenders below. *Rates updated April 2, 2018

LenderAPR ranges*Visit


Visit SunTrust

Fixed: 4.75%-11.50%3

Variable: 3.63%-10.67%4
Ascent logo

Visit Ascent
Fixed: 5.85% - 15.18%5

Variable: 4.11% - 13.36%5


*includes Ascent Independent non-cosigned rates
SoFi logo
Visit SoFi
Fixed
4.25% APR to 8.00%

Variable
4.33% to 7.76%

Parent loans only
CommonBond
Visit CommonBond
Fixed:
5.38% to 9.21%1

Variable:
3.73% to 9.11%1

Discover logo
Visit Discover Student Loans
Fixed:
6.49% to 12.99%6

Variable:
4.99% to 12.49%6

Sallie logo
Visit SallieMae
Fixed:
5.74% to 11.852

Variable:
3.62% to 10.54%2

Visit NerdWallet’s student loan refinancing marketplace to consolidate your existing loans at a lower rate.

You apply for a federal student loan by submitting a FAFSA. Taking on a federal loan means you’re borrowing a loan funded by the government. You apply for a private student loan through a bank, credit union or online lender.

Federal student loans offer borrowers protections and alternative repayment options that private loans may not, such as income-based repayment and forgiveness programs. Federal student loans also have flat interest rates set by Congress, while the interest rate on a private student loan depends on your or your co-signer’s credit. Without a credit score of at least 690, you’ll likely pay a higher interest rate for a private loan than you would for a federal loan.

Learn more: How to get a student loan

Compare offers from multiple lenders including banks, credit unions and online lenders to find the lowest interest rate. Depending on the lender, you may be able to choose a fixed or a variable interest rate. A fixed rate stays the same throughout the life of a loan. A variable rate may start out lower than a fixed rate, but could increase or decrease over time depending on economic conditions.

Consider any borrower protections your private lender offers, including deferment and forbearance, as well as repayment options. You may also have the option to choose your loan term, which means you could pay off your loan faster and with less interest by making higher payments or pay lower amounts with more interest over a longer period of time.

Each lender will have its own requirements for taking out a loan. With most loans, credit score and income are taken into account. Higher scores and incomes tend to get the best rates or higher borrowing amounts. However, since undergraduate borrowers are less likely to have established credit or an income, lenders will usually require students to apply with a co-signer. Some lenders who have loans for borrowers without a co-signer will consider career and income potential.

Lenders will often require you to attend a Title IV school, which means your school processes federal student aid. Some lenders don’t offer loans in certain states.

You’ll have a hard time finding a private student loan from a bank, credit union or online lender if you have bad credit. Federal student loans don’t require borrowers to demonstrate creditworthiness, so they’ll be your best option. If you’ve already hit your limit on federal loans, you may be able to get a private student loan if you apply with a co-signer who has solid credit, typically scores in the high 600s or better.

Learn more: Student loans for borrowers with bad or no credit

If you have no income and either no credit or bad credit, you’ll need a co-signer to get a private student loan. Without bills in your name, such as a credit card, car loan or utility, you have no way to demonstrate that you can pay bills on time. Your co-signer will need to have a steady income as well as good to excellent credit scores, typically at least in the high 600s. Signing with a co-signer means they’re on the hook for your loan bill if you can’t pay.

Some lenders offer loans exclusively for student borrowers that don’t take credit into consideration. Instead, these lenders look at the school you’re attending as well as your income and career potential to determine the amount you can borrow and at what rate.

Learn more: How to get a student loan with co-signer

Each lender will have its own application requirements. You’ll usually need to provide documents that prove citizenship, identity and income along with school attendance and cost information or a financial aid award letter from your college.

As part of underwriting, you or your co-signer will need to show you have a credit score in the high 600s or higher, as well as cash flow to make loan payments. They’ll also look at your or your co-signer’s debt-to-income ratio to make sure you have the funds to pay a student loan bill in addition to any other bills in your name.



You apply for a federal student loan by submitting a FAFSA. Taking on a federal loan means you’re borrowing a loan funded by the government. You apply for a private student loan through a bank, credit union or online lender.

Federal student loans offer borrowers protections and alternative repayment options that private loans may not, such as income-based repayment and forgiveness programs. Federal student loans also have flat interest rates set by Congress, while the interest rate on a private student loan depends on your or your co-signer’s credit. Without a credit score of at least 690, you’ll likely pay a higher interest rate for a private loan than you would for a federal loan.

Learn more: How to get a student loan

Compare offers from multiple lenders including banks, credit unions and online lenders to find the lowest interest rate. Depending on the lender, you may be able to choose a fixed or a variable interest rate. A fixed rate stays the same throughout the life of a loan. A variable rate may start out lower than a fixed rate, but could increase or decrease over time depending on economic conditions.

Consider any borrower protections your private lender offers, including deferment and forbearance, as well as repayment options. You may also have the option to choose your loan term, which means you could pay off your loan faster and with less interest by making higher payments or pay lower amounts with more interest over a longer period of time.

Each lender will have its own requirements for taking out a loan. With most loans, credit score and income are taken into account. Higher scores and incomes tend to get the best rates or higher borrowing amounts. However, since undergraduate borrowers are less likely to have established credit or an income, lenders will usually require students to apply with a co-signer. Some lenders who have loans for borrowers without a co-signer will consider career and income potential.

Lenders will often require you to attend a Title IV school, which means your school processes federal student aid. Some lenders don’t offer loans in certain states.

You’ll have a hard time finding a private student loan from a bank, credit union or online lender if you have bad credit. Federal student loans don’t require borrowers to demonstrate creditworthiness, so they’ll be your best option. If you’ve already hit your limit on federal loans, you may be able to get a private student loan if you apply with a co-signer who has solid credit, typically scores in the high 600s or better.

Learn more: Student loans for borrowers with bad or no credit

If you have no income and either no credit or bad credit, you’ll need a co-signer to get a private student loan. Without bills in your name, such as a credit card, car loan or utility, you have no way to demonstrate that you can pay bills on time. Your co-signer will need to have a steady income as well as good to excellent credit scores, typically at least in the high 600s. Signing with a co-signer means they’re on the hook for your loan bill if you can’t pay.

Some lenders offer loans exclusively for student borrowers that don’t take credit into consideration. Instead, these lenders look at the school you’re attending as well as your income and career potential to determine the amount you can borrow and at what rate.

Learn more: How to get a student loan with co-signer

Each lender will have its own application requirements. You’ll usually need to provide documents that prove citizenship, identity and income along with school attendance and cost information or a financial aid award letter from your college.

As part of underwriting, you or your co-signer will need to show you have a credit score in the high 600s or higher, as well as cash flow to make loan payments. They’ll also look at your or your co-signer’s debt-to-income ratio to make sure you have the funds to pay a student loan bill in addition to any other bills in your name.

How can I compare these private student loan lenders?

NerdWallet experts have taken an in-depth look at the history, loan requirements and borrower-friendly features of major lenders. You’ll find ratings and links to their reviews below.

LenderNerdWallet ReviewExpert Rating
SunTrust offers private student loan options for undergraduate and graduate student borrowers with good credit — or a co-signer with good credit — and stands out for a wide variety of repayment choices.


SunTrust review
3.0 stars out of 5

NerdWallet rating: 3.0 / 5.0
Ascent logo
Online lender Ascent offers two private student loan products, one for borrowers who have a co-signer and one for independent students who don't have a co-signer or established credit.

Ascent review
5.0 stars out of 5

NerdWallet rating: 5.0 / 5.0

SoFi logo
SoFi offers student loan refinancing to undergraduates, graduate students and medical/dental residents who have good credit and the financial ability to repay the loan. It also offers loans for parents who want to borrow for their kids’ college.

SoFi review
5.0 stars out of 5

NerdWallet rating: 5.0 / 5.0
CommonBond
Through CommonBond, you can refinance undergraduate student loans, graduate student loans and Parent PLUS loans, or take a private student loan to get your MBA or bachelor's degree.

CommonBond review
5.0 stars out of 5

NerdWallet rating: 5.0 / 5.0
Discover logo
Discover offers private student loans and student loan refinancing to undergraduates and graduate students. Discover’s flexible payment options for borrowers experiencing financial hardship are noteworthy.

Discover review
5.0 stars out of 5

NerdWallet rating: 5.0 / 5.0
Sallie logo
Sallie Mae offers private student loans for undergraduate and graduate students, and parents. See what it takes to qualify, how to apply, repayment options, FAQs and more.

Sallie Mae review
4.5 stars out of 5

NerdWallet rating: 4.5 / 5.0

 


Lender disclosures

1. CommonBond – Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 1.88% as of April 1, 2018.

2. Sallie Mae – Interest rates for Fixed and Deferred Repayment Options are higher than interest rates for the Interest Repayment Option. You’re charged interest starting at disbursement, while in school and during your six-month separation or grace period. When you enter principal and interest repayment, Unpaid Interest will be added to your loan’s Current Principal. Variable rates may increase over the life of the loan. Advertised APRs assume a $10,000 loan to a freshman with no other Sallie Mae loans. LIBOR is the 1-month London Interbank Offered Rate rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of one percent. Either the borrower or cosigner (not both) must enroll in auto debit through Sallie Mae. The rate reduction benefit applies only during active repayment for as long as the Current Amount Due is successfully deducted from the designated bank account each month and is suspended during forbearances and certain deferments.


3. SunTrust Bank – Current fixed interest rates depend on (a) the student’s and cosigner’s (if applicable) credit histories, (b) the repayment option and loan term selected, and (c) the requested loan amount and other information provided on the online loan application. If approved, applicants will be notified of the rate qualified for within the stated range. The fixed rate assigned to a loan will never change except as required by law or if you request and qualify for the ACH interest rate reduction benefit(s); ACH interest rate reduction(s) apply when full payments (including both principal and interest) are automatically drafted from a bank account and will remain on the account unless (1) the automatic deduction of payments is stopped (including times during deferment or forbearance) or (2) there are three automatic deductions returned for insufficient funds within the life of the loan. Rates and terms effective for applications received on or after 4/01/2018.


4. SunTrust Bank – The variable interest rate for each calendar month is calculated by adding the current one-month LIBOR index (captured on the 25th day, or the next business day thereafter, of the month immediately preceding such calendar month and rounded up to the nearest 1/8th of one percent) to your margin. The current one-month LIBOR index is 1.875% on 4/01/2018. LIBOR stands for London Interbank Offered Rate. The one-month LIBOR is published in the “Money Rates” section of the Wall Street Journal (Eastern Edition). The interest rate will be determined after you apply. The variable interest rate and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) depend upon (a) the student’s and cosigner’s (if applicable) credit histories, (b) the repayment option and loan term selected, and (c) the requested loan amount and other information provided on the online loan application. If approved, applicants will be notified of the rate qualified for within the stated range. The variable interest rate will increase or decrease if the one-month LIBOR index changes. Rates and terms effective for applications received on or after 4/01/2018.

5. For Ascent terms and conditions, please visit: Ascent. Ascent rates are effective as of 04/01/2018. The current LIBOR is 1.861%, which may adjust monthly. Your interest rate may increase or decrease, based on LIBOR monthly changes. Competitive rates calculated monthly at the time of loan approval. Ascent Independent non-cosigned loan: Variable rate loans are based on a margin between 2.75% and 12.25% plus the 1-Month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), rounded to the nearest 1/100th of a percent, resulting in an APR range between 4.61% and 13.36%. Fixed rate loans have an APR range between 6.35% and 15.18%. Click here for Ascent Independent non-cosigned loan current rates and repayment examples. Ascent Tuition cosigned loan: Variable rate loans are based on a margin between 2.25% and 9.00% plus the 1-Month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) rounded to the nearest 1/100th of a percent resulting in an APR range between 4.11% and 10.36%. Fixed rate loans have an APR range between 5.85% and 12.19%. Click here for Ascent Tuition cosigned loan current rates and repayment examples.

6. The interest rate range represents the lowest and highest interest rates offered on Discover student loans, including Undergraduate, Graduate, Health Professions, Law and MBA Loans. The fixed interest rate is set at the time of application and does not change during the life of the loan. The variable interest rate is calculated based on the 3-Month LIBOR index plus the applicable Margin percentage. The margin is based on your credit evaluation at the time of application and does not change. For variable interest rate loans, the 3-Month LIBOR is 2.25% as of April 1, 2018. Discover Student Loans will adjust the rate quarterly on each January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1 (the “interest rate change date”), based on the 3-Month LIBOR Index, published in the Money Rates section of the Wall Street Journal 15 days prior to the interest rate change date, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of one percent (0.125% or 0.00125). This may cause the monthly payments to increase, the number of payments to increase or both. Please visit https://www.discover.com/student-loans/interest-rates.html for more information about interest rates.