9 Best Private Student Loan Options in 2017

Loans, Student Loans

When paying for college, exhaust all your other options — scholarships, grants, work-study and federal student loans by filling out the FAFSA — before turning to private student loans.

Federal student loans offer borrower protections that private loans may not, such as income-based repayment plans and forgiveness programs. And federal student loans have flat interest rates set by Congress, while private student loan interest rates depend on your credit. If you or your co-signer don’t have good credit, you’ll likely pay a higher interest rate for a private loan than you would for a federal loan.

Still, you might need to take out private student loans if you can’t cover your college costs with savings, income, grants, scholarships and federal student loans. Learn more about whether private loans are right for you below.

If you do need to take out private student loans, check out the nine options we’ve listed to find the best lender for you. The first six lenders are available on Credible, a student loan marketplace that partners with NerdWallet. You can fill out one application on Credible and receive offers from up to all six lenders, depending on the state where you live, your credit score, your income and your student loan balance.

Private student loan options

LenderAPR rangesEligibilityBorrower protectionsNerd review
Citizens Bank logo

Fixed:
3.74% to 11.75%

Variable:
2.99% to 9.99%
Borrowers who have good credit or a co-signer with good credit.

Undergraduate or graduate students and their parents.
Payment deferral or interest-only payments while in school.Citizens Bank review

CollegeAvelogo

Fixed:
5.74% to 11.85%

Variable:
3.22% to 9.67%
Borrowers who have a credit score in the mid-600s or have a co-signer who does.

Borrowers who have incomes of at least $35,000 per year.

Undergraduate or graduate students and their parents.
Payment deferral while in school.

Financial hardship forbearance.
College Ave review
iHelp logo

Variable:
3.53% to 8.98%
Borrowers who have had 3 years of good credit history.

Borrowers who have had incomes of at least $18,000 for the past two years.

Borrowers who have debt-to-income ratios of 45% or below.

Undergraduate or graduate students.
Payment deferral or interest-only payments while in school.

Financial hardship forbearance.

Option to make interest-only payments for 24 months after the loan enters repayment.
iHelp review
Rhode Island Student Loan Authority (RISLA) logo

Fixed:
4.49% to 6.42%
Rhode Island residents or students attending eligible Rhode Island schools.

Undergraduate or graduate students and their parents.
Payment deferral while in school.

Income-based repayment program similar to the federal government’s.
RISLA review
Sallie logo

Fixed:
5.74% to 12.87%

Variable:
3.00% to 12.37%
Borrowers who have good credit or a co-signer with good credit.

Undergraduate or graduate students.
Payment deferral or interest-only payments while in school.

Option to make interest-only payments for the first 12 months after your grace period.

Financial hardship forbearance.
Sallie Mae review

Additional private student loan options

The following lenders aren’t available through Credible’s platform, but they could be good options for you. If you’re interested, apply at the individual lender’s website.

LenderAPR rangesEligibilityBorrower
protections
Nerd review
CommonBond logo 10-year fixed:
6.25%

15-year fixed:
6.72%

10-year variable: 4.89

15-year variable: 5.03
MBA students only.Payment deferral while in school.

Financial hardship forbearance.
CommonBond review

Discover logoFixed:
6.24% to 11.99%

Variable:
3.99% to 10.99%

Borrowers who have good credit or a co-signer with good credit.

Undergraduate or graduate students.
Payment deferral while in school.

Financial hardship forbearance.

Option to temporarily reduce monthly payments.
Discover review
Sofi logoFixed:
4.25% to 8.00%

Variable:
3.45% to 6.88%
Parents borrowing for undergraduate students.Career development services for students.SoFi review
Wells logoFixed:
6.17% to 12.99%

Variable:
4.10% to 11.24%
Borrowers who have good credit or a co-signer with good credit.

Undergraduate or graduate students and their parents.
Payment deferral while in school.

Financial hardship forbearance.
Wells Fargo review

Is a private student loan right for you?

Before you apply for a private student loan, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA, to see if you’re eligible for federal grants, loans and work-study programs. All students, regardless of financial need, are eligible for unsubsidized federal student loans.

Federal student loan limits vary based on whether you’re an independent or dependent student; the type of degree you’re pursuing (undergraduate or graduate); and, for undergraduates, your year in school. If you borrow the maximum amount of federal student loans and still don’t have enough to cover your costs, you may have to take out private loans.

How to choose a private student loan

Various banks and online lenders offer private student loans. Before choosing one, compare your options to find the lowest interest rate. With private loans, you can choose a fixed interest rate, which will stay the same throughout the life of the loan, or a variable interest rate, which may start out lower than a fixed rate, but could increase or decrease as economic conditions change. It’s also worth looking at the borrower protections that private lenders offer, such as flexible repayment plans or the option to defer your payments if you hit a rough patch.

Next steps

If you’re ready to apply for a private student loan, click the “Get started” button below to head over to Credible. To apply for a loan from a lender that’s not on Credible’s site, visit that lender’s site directly.

 

Private student loan repayment options

Private student loans don’t tend to come with as robust of repayment options as federal loans do, but there are a few options to help ease your debt.

  • Contact your lender to discuss your options. This is the best thing you can do if you’re struggling to make your monthly payments. Your lender may be willing to offer you flexible repayment options, such as a loan modification, or offer you deferment or forbearance.
  • Refinance your student loansIf you have good credit and a stable income, you may be able to get a lower interest rate through student loan refinancing.