5 Excellent Private Student Loans

Compare offers from multiple private lenders to find the lowest student loan interest rate — but only after you've exhausted all federal financial aid.

Many, or all, of the products featured on this page are from our advertising partners who compensate us when you take certain actions on our website or click to take an action on their website. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

Top Private Student Loan Lenders
Ad
2024 Best Private Student Loan Overall
College Ave Private Student Loan
5.0/5
NerdWallet rating
College Ave Private Student Loan
Fixed APR
3.99-17.99%
Variable APR
5.59-17.99%
Min. credit score
Mid-600s
on College Ave's website
Sallie Mae Undergraduate Student Loan
Fixed APR
4.15-15.49%
Variable APR
5.37-15.70%
Min. credit score
Mid-600's
on Sallie Mae's website

Excellent Private Student Loans

LenderNerdWallet RatingMin. credit scoreFixed APRVariable APRLearn more
Sallie Mae Undergraduate Student Loan

Sallie Mae Undergraduate Student Loan

get rateson Sallie Mae's websiteon Sallie Mae's website

Mid-600's

4.15-15.49%

5.37-15.70%

get rateson Sallie Mae's websiteon Sallie Mae's website
College Ave Private Student Loan

College Ave Private Student Loan

get rateson College Ave's websiteon College Ave's website
5.0
/5
Best for Private student loan

Mid-600s

3.99-17.99%

5.59-17.99%

get rateson College Ave's websiteon College Ave's website
Citizens Private Student Loan

Citizens Private Student Loan

get rateson Citizens's websiteon Citizens's website
4.0
/5

Does not disclose

4.99-14.29%

5.17-14.83%

get rateson Citizens's websiteon Citizens's website
SoFi Undergraduate Student Loan

SoFi Undergraduate Student Loan

5.0
/5

Mid-600s

4.19-14.83%

5.74-15.86%

Education Loan Finance Private Student Loan

Education Loan Finance Private Student Loan

4.0
/5

680

4.50-14.22%

6.00-14.22%

Private student loan

Sallie Mae Undergraduate Student Loan
get rateson Sallie Mae's websiteon Sallie Mae's website
Sallie Mae Undergraduate Student Loan

Sallie Mae Undergraduate Student Loan

4.5
NerdWallet rating
Min. credit score

Mid-600's

Fixed APR

4.15-15.49%

Variable APR

5.37-15.70%

get rateson Sallie Mae's websiteon Sallie Mae's website
Key factsBest for part-time students and those who want to make payments during school.
Pros
  • One of the few lenders to provide loans to part-time students.
  • Non-U.S. citizens, including DACA students, who live in the U.S. and attend school in the U.S. can apply with a qualified co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
Cons
  • You can't see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.
Qualifications
  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: Does not disclose.
  • Minimum income: Did not disclose.
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to 100% of the school-certified expenses.
Available Term Lengths10 to 15 years
DisclaimerLowest rates shown include the auto debit. Advertised APRs for undergraduate students assume a $10,000 loan to a student who attends school for 4 years and has no prior Sallie Mae-serviced loans. Interest rates for variable rate loans may increase or decrease over the life of the loan based on changes to the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of one percent. Advertised variable rates are the starting range of rates and may vary outside of that range over the life of the loan. Interest is charged starting when funds are sent to the school. With the Fixed and Deferred Repayment Options, the interest rate is higher than with the Interest Repayment Option and Unpaid Interest is added to the loan’s Current Principal at the end of the grace/separation period. To receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate discount, the borrower or cosigner must enroll in auto debit through Sallie Mae. The discount applies only during active repayment for as long as the Current Amount Due or Designated Amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month. It may be suspended during forbearance or deferment. Advertised APRs are valid as of 7/12/2024. Loan amounts: For applications submitted directly to Sallie Mae, loan amount cannot exceed the cost of attendance less financial aid received, as certified by the school. Applications submitted to Sallie Mae through a partner website will be subject to a lower maximum loan request amount. Miscellaneous personal expenses (such as a laptop) may be included in the cost of attendance for students enrolled at least half-time. Examples of typical costs for a $10,000 Smart Option Student Loan with the most common fixed rate, fixed repayment option, 6-month separation period, and two disbursements: For a borrower with no prior loans and a 4-year in-school period, it works out to a 10.28% fixed APR, 51 payments of $25.00, 119 payments of $182.67 and one payment of $121.71, for a Total Loan Cost of $23,134.44. For a borrower with $20,000 in prior loans and a 2-year in-school period, it works out to a 10.78% fixed APR, 27 payments of $25.00, 179 payments of $132.53 and one payment of $40.35 for a total loan cost of $24,438.22. Loans that are subject to a $50 minimum principal and interest payment amount may receive a loan term that is less than 10 years. A variable APR may increase over the life of the loan. A fixed APR will not.
College Ave Private Student Loan
get rateson College Ave's websiteon College Ave's website
College Ave Private Student Loan

College Ave Private Student Loan

Min. credit score

Mid-600s

Fixed APR

3.99-17.99%

Variable APR

5.59-17.99%

get rateson College Ave's websiteon College Ave's website
Key facts

College Ave Student Loans is an online lender that offers student loans for undergraduates, graduate students and parents, plus student loan refinancing.

Pros
  • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.
  • More flexible repayment options than other lenders.
  • Six-month grace period extension is available.
Cons
  • You must be at least halfway through your repayment term before you can request a co-signer release.
Qualifications
  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: Mid-700s.
  • Minimum income: $35,000 per year.
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to cost of attendance.
Available Term Lengths5, 8, 10 or 15 years
DisclaimerCollege Ave Student Loans products are made available through Firstrust Bank, member FDIC, First Citizens Community Bank, member FDIC, or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC.. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply. As certified by your school and less any other financial aid you might receive. Minimum $1,000. Rates shown include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. If a payment is returned, you will lose this benefit. Variable rates may increase after consummation. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Flat Repayment Option with an 8-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 7.78% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 54 monthly payments of $25 while in school, followed by 96 monthly payments of $176.21 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $18,266.38. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. Information advertised valid as of 7/10/2024. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Approved interest rate will depend on the creditworthiness of the applicant(s), lowest advertised rates only available to the most creditworthy applicants and require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.
Citizens Private Student Loan
get rateson Citizens's websiteon Citizens's website
Citizens Private Student Loan

Citizens Private Student Loan

Min. credit score

Does not disclose

Fixed APR

4.99-14.29%

Variable APR

5.17-14.83%

get rateson Citizens's websiteon Citizens's website
Key factsBest for existing Citizens Bank customers.
Pros
  • Six-month grace period extension is available.
  • Loyalty discount for existing Citizens Bank customers.
  • Multiyear loan approval is available.
Cons
  • You must be pursuing a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • You can’t see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.
Qualifications
  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: Does not disclose.
  • Minimum income: Did not disclose.
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 to $100,000.
Available Term Lengths5, 10 or 15 years
SoFi Undergraduate Student Loan

SoFi Undergraduate Student Loan

Min. credit score

Mid-600s

Fixed APR

4.19-14.83%

Variable APR

5.74-15.86%

Key factsBest for flexible repayment options and no fees.
Pros
  • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.
  • Multiple in-school repayment options available, including interest-only and flat-fee, and deferred for undergrad and grad students.
Cons
  • Does not offer bi-weekly payments via autopay.
Qualifications
  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: 700+.
  • Minimum income: No minimum.
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 minimum.
Available Term Lengths5, 7, 10 or 15 years
DisclaimerInterest Rates: Eligibility and Important Details. Fixed rates range from 4.19% APR to 14.83% APR with 0.25% autopay discount. Variable rates range from 5.74% APR to 15.86% APR with a 0.25% autopay discount. Unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law, Variable Interest rates are capped at 17.95%. SoFi rate ranges are current as of 6/20/24 and are subject to change at any time. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on the term and type of repayment option you select, evaluation of your creditworthiness, income, presence of a co-signer (if applicable) and a variety of other factors. Lowest rates reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. Check out our eligibility criteria at https://www.sofi.com/eligibility-criteria/. For the SoFi variable-rate product, the variable interest rate for a given month is derived by adding a margin to the 30- day average SOFR index, published two business days preceding such calendar month, rounded up to the nearest one hundredth of one percent (0.01% or 0.0001). APRs for variable-rate loans may increase after origination if the SOFR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. This benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit lowers your interest rate but does not change the amount of your monthly payment. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance. Autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi. UNDERGRAD + GRADUATE + MBA/LAW SCHOOL LOANS: This repayment example is based on typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Partial Payment option with a 10-year repayment term, a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in a single disbursement, a 0.25% autopay discount, and a fixed rate between 8.52%-14.83% Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”) (with autopay). It also assumes the borrower remains in school for 4 years and has a 6-month grace period (together, the deferment period) before the loan term begins. It works out to 54 monthly payments of $25 during the deferment period, followed by 120 monthly payments ranging from $124.09-$160.30 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments ranging from $14,891.12-$19,235.46. This repayment example assumes that the borrower is signed up for autopay and that all payments are made on time, with no pre-payments. HEALTH PROFESSION LOANS: This repayment example is based on typical loan terms for a first year borrower who selects the Partial Payment option with a 10-year repayment term, a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in a single disbursement, a 0.25% autopay discount, and a fixed rate between 8.52%-14.83% Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”) (with autopay). It also assumes the borrower remains in school for 4 years and has a 9-month grace period (together, the deferment period) before the loan term begins. It works out to 57 monthly payments of $25 during the deferment period, followed by 120 monthly payments ranging from $124.09-$160.30 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments ranging from $14,891.12-$19,235.46. This repayment example assumes that the borrower is signed up for autopay and that all payments are made on time, with no pre-payments. PARENT LOANS: This repayment example is based on typical loan terms for a borrower who selects the Immediate Repayment option with a 10-year repayment term, a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in a single disbursement, a 0.25% autopay discount, and a fixed rate between 9.02-14.83% APR (with autopay). The Immediate Repayment option assumes full payment begins 1 month after full disbursement. It works out to 120 monthly payments ranging from $126.78-$160.30 for a total amount of payments ranging from $15,214.08-$19,235.46. This repayment example assumes that the borrower is signed up for autopay and that all payments are made on time, with no pre-payments. Actual rates may vary based on repayment type, loan amount, creditworthiness, and other terms and conditions. Lowest rates reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. UNDERGRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.19% to 14.83% annual percentage rate ("APR") (with autopay), variable rates from 5.74% to 15.86%% APR (with autopay). GRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.74% to 14.83% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 5.74% to 15.86% APR (with autopay). MBA AND LAW SCHOOL LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.74% to 14.83% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 5.74% to 15.86% APR (with autopay). HEALTH PROFESSION LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.74% to 14.83% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 5.74% to 15.86% APR (with autopay). PARENT LOANS: Fixed rates from 6.25% to 14.83% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 6.07% to 15.86% APR (with autopay). For the SoFi variable-rate product, the variable interest rate for a given month is derived by adding a margin to the 30-day average SOFR index, published two business days preceding such calendar month, rounded up to the nearest one hundredth of one percent (0.01% or 0.0001). APRs for variable-rate loans may increase after origination if the SOFR index increases. Interest rates for variable rate loans are capped at 17.95%, unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law. Lowest rates are reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. If approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, the repayment option you select, the term and amount of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. Information current as of 6/20/24. Enrolling in autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi. SoFi Private Student loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A. Member FDIC. NMLS #696891 (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org). The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. This benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit lowers your interest rate but does not change the amount of your monthly payment. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance. Autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi.
Education Loan Finance Private Student Loan

Education Loan Finance Private Student Loan

Min. credit score

680

Fixed APR

4.50-14.22%

Variable APR

6.00-14.22%

Key factsBest for borrowers with a significant funding gap.
Pros
  • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.
  • You are assigned a student loan advisor.
Cons
  • No co-signer release available.
Qualifications
  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: Not available.
  • Minimum income: $35,000.
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to your total cost of attendance.
Available Term Lengths5, 7, 10 or 15 years.

Learn more about private student loans

Find the best student loan companies for:

Options for independent students

Remove parents from your student loans quickly

College loans in a parent's name

Lenders that don't require a full-time class load

Funding without a credit score requirement

Most lenders require a U.S. co-signer

PLUS loans, co-signer and other options

Loans for students

How do private student loans and federal student loans differ?

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

Federal student loans only come with fixed interest rates — rates that are locked in for the life of the loan — that are set by Congress annually. Private lenders can offer fixed or variable rates that are based on your creditworthiness — and your co-signer's if you have one. Federal loans also charge origination fees; private loans typically do not.

Borrowers of federal student loans get extra protections — like income-driven repayment and Public Service Loan Forgiveness — that private loans lack.

How do I choose a private college loan online?

Compare offers from multiple lenders including banks, credit unions, online companies and state-based 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 other 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.

How do I qualify for a private student loan?

Each lender will have its own requirements for taking out a loan. Credit score and income are taken into account for most student loans. Higher credit scores and incomes tend to get the best rates and are more likely to be approved for higher borrowing amounts. Since undergraduate borrowers are less likely to have established credit or income, lenders will usually prompt students to apply with a co-signer. Some lenders who have loans for borrowers without a co-signer will consider academic performance 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.

Can I get a private student loan with bad credit?

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 have bad credit. 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.

Will I need a co-signer for a private student loan?

If you have no income and 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, it's hard to demonstrate that you can pay bills on time. Your co-signer will need a steady income and excellent credit scores, typically in the high 600s. Signing with a co-signer means they’re on the hook for your loan if you can no longer pay it.

Some private lenders will let students apply without a co-signer. Instead of basing your loan offer on your credit, they look at your academic performance and earning potential to determine your ability to pay back the debt.

How do I apply for a private student loan?

Each lender will have its own application requirements. You’ll usually need to provide documents that prove citizenship, identity and income along with school information, like cost of attendance or the 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 exactly do student loan interest rates work?

Learn more about how student loan interest rates are determined, including a history of rate changes through the years. Private student loan interest rates can sometimes be lower than federal rates, but approval for the lowest rates requires excellent credit. If you have good credit, you may be able to refinance existing student loans to get a lower rate.

Recent studies on paying for college

NerdWallet study: College-bound grads could exit with $37K of student debt

A 2024 high school graduate who will depend on student loans to pay for college can expect to borrow about $37,000 for their bachelor’s degree, according to a recent NerdWallet analysis.

For more details, and to learn a number of ways to cut down on the amount borrowed for a bachelor's degree before, during and after college, see the full study here.

College Board study: More than half of college students take out student loans

Among 2021-22 bachelor's degree recipients from public and private four-year colleges, 51% graduated with student debt, according to College Board’s latest 2023 Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid study.

However, overall student borrowing is steadily falling. In 2022-23, borrowing decreased for the 12th year in a row, the study found. Families borrowed $98 billion in federal and private student loans, down from an inflation-adjusted peak of $153 billion in 2010-11.

If you or your child are considering going to college, familiarize yourself with all of the options available to you to fund that education — and submit the FAFSA to be considered for the most aid possible.

Frequently asked questions

  • Take out a private student loan only after you have exhausted your eligibility for federal student loans and you need additional financing to cover your remaining financial need. Borrow only what you need.

  • To qualify for most private student loans, you (or your co-signer) will need good credit and income. Information on your citizenship and your education costs, among other criteria, is also required.

  • Compare offers from multiple lenders to see which will offer you the lowest interest rate. Ensure that lender meets your other needs, like offering funding in your state or for your degree program.

  • You will almost certainly need a co-signer to meet a lender’s credit and income requirements. A few lenders consider borrowers without a co-signer, looking at career and income potential instead.

NerdWallet Pixel