Earnest Reviews: Student Loan Refinancing and Private Student Loans

Earnest offers student loan refinancing and private student loans for undergraduate and graduate students. It stands out for its flexible repayment options.
Cecilia Clark
By
Last updated on April 15, 2024
Edited by
✅ Fact checked and reviewed
Karen Gaudette Brewer
Edited by
✅ Fact checked and reviewed

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  • 35+ student loans lenders reviewed and rated by our team of experts.
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  • Objective, comprehensive star-rating system assessing 43 categories and 40+ data points across student loan origination and student loan refinance.
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NerdWallet's student loans content, including articles, reviews and recommendations, is produced by a team of writers and editors who specialize in consumer lending. Their work has appeared in The Associated Press, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Nasdaq, MSN, ABC News, MarketWatch and many other national and regional media outlets. They also have appeared on NerdWallet's “Smart Money” podcast, as well as local TV and radio.

Student loan ratings

Earnest Student Loan Refinance
Earnest Student Loan Refinance
Earnest Undergraduate Loan

5.0

NerdWallet rating
The Nerdy headline:

Earnest is an online lender that offers student loan refinancing and private student loans, as well as personal loans. Its refinancing loan is best for borrowers who want to customize their repayment schedule to pay off debt fast. Its private student loan is an option for borrowers who want flexible repayment.

Earnest Student Loan Refinance review

Earnest Student Loan Refinance
Earnest Student Loan Refinance

5.0
NerdWallet rating
Min. credit score
650
Fixed APR
5.09-9.74%
Variable APR
5.89-9.74%
on Earnest's website

Pros

  • Customizable payments and loan terms.

  • Option to skip one payment every 12 months.

  • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

Cons

  • Loans aren't available in Nevada.

Best for borrowers who want to customize their repayment schedule to pay off debt fast.

Full Review

Earnest is ideal for borrowers who want to refinance college debt and pay it off quickly. Its customizable repayment options make it easy to increase monthly minimum payments, make multiple extra payments at once and make same-day payments.

Founded in 2013, Earnest also stands out for an underwriting approach based on a borrower's earning potential and the financial accounts they connect. Typical Earnest borrowers save money regularly, historically make on-time payments, and have minimal credit card or personal loan debt.

Earnest at a glance

  • Customizable payments and loan terms.

  • No late fees.

How Earnest student loan refinancing could improve

Earnest, like other five-star lenders, isn't perfect. Earnest could improve by:

  • Refinancing loans for borrowers in all 50 states.

Earnest student loan refinancing details

    • Soft credit check to qualify and see what rate you’ll get: Yes.

    • Loan terms: Borrowers can choose from 180 loan terms, ranging from five to 20 years. They can customize their loan term and payment amounts based on their budget.

    • Loan amounts: $5,000 to $500,000. In California and New Mexico, the minimum is $10,000 and $10,001, respectively.

    • Can transfer a parent loan to the child: No.

    • Application or origination fee: No.

    • Prepayment penalty: No.

    • Late fees: No.

    Compare Earnest’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 Earnest will offer you, apply on its website.

  • Financial

    Earnest has a unique underwriting approach that considers the earning potential for your career and data from the financial accounts you connect. At a minimum, you need to connect the checking account where your paycheck is deposited so Earnest can verify your income.

    You can also choose to connect accounts for your savings, investments, credit cards and other loans to give Earnest more insight into your financial picture.

    • Minimum credit score: 650 for co-signers; 665 for borrowers with no co-signer..

    • Minimum income: No minimum. Applicants must be employed or receive consistent income.

    • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: 740.

    • Typical income of approved borrowers: Over $70,000.

    • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: No DTI requirement.

    • Can qualify if you’ve filed for bankruptcy: Bankruptcy cannot be present on the credit report.

    Other

    • Citizenship: Must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year, non-conditional green card or have a qualified U.S. citizen co-signer.

    • DACA borrowers: DACA students can qualify without a co-signer.

    • Location: Not available to borrowers in Nevada. Variable rates aren’t available to borrowers in Alaska, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas.

    • Must have graduated: No. Borrowers refinancing a loan for an incomplete degree must have a 700 credit score. The incomplete degree must be from a not-for-profit school the borrower attended over six years ago.

    • Must have attended a school authorized to receive federal aid: Yes.

    • Percentage of borrowers who have a co-signer: Between 10 - 20%.

    • Academic deferment: Yes. Individuals who return to school for a graduate degree can defer repayment for up to 36 months.

    • Internship or residency deferment: Yes. Borrowers in a qualified internship or residency program can postpone payments for up to 36 months in 12-month increments.

    • Military deferment: Yes.

    • Forbearance: Yes, borrowers can postpone payments in three-month increments, for up to 12 months total, if they have:

      • An involuntary decrease in income, such as a reduction in hours, unpaid leave and change from full-time to part-time employment.

      • An involuntary loss of employment at no fault of their own.

      • A significant increase in essential costs such as medical expenses, emergency home repairs or child care.

      • Unpaid maternity/paternity leave.

      • Made three months of full consecutive on-time payments.

    • Skip a payment: Borrowers can skip one month’s worth of payments every 12 months — one if they’re making monthly payments, or two if they’re paying biweekly. The skipped payment amount will be spread out across the remaining loan payments, slightly increasing them. Skipping a payment also counts toward your 12-month forbearance limit. A borrower can make the first request if they've made six months' worth of full, on-time consecutive payments and their loan is in good standing.

    • Natural disaster forbearance: Yes.

    • Administrative forbearance: Yes.

    • Interest-only payments: Yes. Borrowers can make interest-only payments for up to 24 months in three-month increments.

    • Co-signer release available: There's no option to add a co-signer, but refinancing removes the original co-signer.

    • Death or disability discharge: Yes.

    • Loan discharge if co-signer dies or becomes disabled: No option for a co-signer.

    Repayment preferences

    • Allows greater-than-minimum payments via autopay: Yes.

    • Allows biweekly payments via autopay: Yes.

    Earnest also allows borrowers to make same-day payments and schedule multiple extra payments at once.

    • Loan servicer: Earnest.

    • In-house customer service team: Yes.

    • Process for escalating concerns: Yes.

    • Borrowers get assigned a dedicated banker, advisor or representative: No.

    • Average time from approval to payoff: Usually 10 days.

  • Earnest stands apart from other student loan refinance lenders with these features:

    • Customize your monthly payment: Earnest’s precision pricing feature lets borrowers save on interest by choosing an exact monthly payment amount. It adjusts your repayment term to match the amount you choose — even if that results in a seven-year-and-two-month loan, for example.

    • Easily adjust your payments: You can call Earnest to increase your minimum monthly payment at any time to pay off the loan faster.

    • Referral bonus: You can receive $200 for each person you refer who successfully refinances their student loans with Earnest.

Before refinancing with Earnest

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.

If you aren’t eligible to refinance with Earnest

If Earnest denies your refinance application, the lender will let you know why. Depending on the reason, you may want to consider other lenders or need a co-signer.

NerdWallet recommends prequalifying with multiple refinance lenders before you apply. This will let you know which lenders you may be eligible with, without affecting your credit.

Compare private student loans
Lender
Fixed APR
Min. credit score
Variable APR
Sallie Mae Undergraduate Student LoanSallie Mae Undergraduate Student Loan
4.5
COMPARE RATESon Credible’s website
on Credible’s website
4.50- 15.49%
Mid-600's
6.37- 16.70%
College Ave Private Student LoanCollege Ave Private Student Loan
4.07- 16.49%
Mid-600s
5.59- 16.85%
Ascent Credit-based Student LoanAscent Credit-based Student Loan
4.29- 15.76%
Low-Mid 600s
6.24- 15.85%
Custom Choice LoanCustom Choice Loan
4.43- 14.04%
600
5.39- 15.57%
Education Loan Finance Private Student LoanEducation Loan Finance Private Student Loan
8.42- 13.01%
680
4.98- 12.79%

Earnest Undergraduate Loan review

Earnest Undergraduate Loan

4.5
NerdWallet rating
Min. credit score
650
Fixed APR
4.39-16.49%
Variable APR
5.62-16.85%
on Earnest's website

Pros

  • Option to skip one payment every 12 months.

  • No late fees.

  • Nine-month grace period is longer than most lenders offer.

Cons

  • Loans aren't available in Nevada.

An option for undergraduate borrowers who want flexible repayment.

Full Review

Earnest began offering private student loans in April 2019. It's an alternative for borrowers who have exhausted their federal student loan options and need additional money to cover college costs.

Earnest stands out for its unique repayment options, including the ability to skip one payment per year.

Earnest private student loans at a glance

  • Option to skip one payment every 12 months.

  • The nine-month grace period is longer than most lenders offer.

  • Loans aren't available in Nevada.

How Earnest could improve

Earnest could improve its private student loan product by:

  • Lending to borrowers in all 50 U.S. states.

Earnest private student loan details

    • Soft credit check to qualify and see what rate you’ll get: Yes.

    • Loan terms: For cosigned loans: 5, 7, 10, 12 or 15 years.

    • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to the annual cost of attendance with an aggregate limit of $250,000.

    • Application or origination fee: No.

    • Prepayment penalty: No.

    • Late fees: No.

    Compare Earnest's range of interest rates with private student loan lenders. Your actual rate will depend on factors including your credit history and financial situation. To see what rate Earnest will offer you, apply on its website.

  • Financial

    • Minimum credit score: The minimum credit score for a borrower without a co-signer is 650. If a borrower uses a co-signer, the minimum credit score for a co-signer is 650.

    • Minimum income: Borrowers without a co-signer have a minimum income requirement of $35,000. If a borrower has a co-signer, the co-signer's minimum income is $35,000.

    • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: Roughly 770.

    • Typical income of approved borrowers: $80,000 - $120,000.

    • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: Did not disclose.

    • Can qualify if you’ve filed for bankruptcy: Bankruptcy can not be present on credit report.

    Other

    • Citizenship: International students can qualify if they have a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The primary borrower must have a Social Security number.

    • DACA borrowers: DACA students can qualify independently without a co-signer.

    • Location: Not available to borrowers in Nevada.

    • Must be enrolled half-time or more: Yes.

    • Loan can be used for past due tuition: Yes, up to 365 days past due.

    • Types of schools served: Any school that is Title-IV qualified and not-for-profit.

    • Percentage of borrowers who have a co-signer: Roughly 90%.

  • In-school repayment options

    • Immediate repayment: Make full payments as soon as the loan is disbursed, while you’re still in school.

    • Deferred repayment: Don’t make any payments while you’re in school.

    • Fixed repayment: Pay $25 every month while enrolled in school and through the grace period.

    • Interest-only repayment: Pay interest every month you’re in school and through the grace period.

    • Full in-school deferment: Yes, borrowers can defer payments until their nine-month grace period has expired.

    Post-school repayment options

    • Grace period: 9 months.

    • Income-based repayment option: No.

    • In-school deferment: Yes, borrowers can ask to defer payments when returning to school for up to 48 months when enrolled at least half-time in an undergraduate or graduate program.

    • Military deferment: Yes.

    • Temporary lower payments: Yes. Borrowers can make interest-only payments on their loan in three-month increments for up to 24 months.

    • Skip-a-payment: Borrowers can skip one payment every 12 months. A borrower can make the first request if they've made six months of on-time consecutive payments and are in good standing.

    • Forbearance: Borrowers can pause payments for up to 12 months.

    • Co-signer release available: No. Borrowers may refinance with Earnest and release their co-signer.

    • Death or disability discharge available: Yes.

    • Loan discharge if co-signer dies or becomes disabled: In some cases, Earnest can discharge a loan due to the death or total and permanent disability of a co-signer. Borrowers would need to contact Earnest’s Client Happiness team for assistance.

    Repayment preferences

    • Allows greater-than-minimum payments via autopay: Yes.

    • Allows biweekly payments via autopay: Yes.

    • Loan servicer: Earnest.

    • In-house customer service team: Yes.

    • Process for escalating concerns: Yes.

    • Borrowers get assigned a dedicated banker, advisor or representative: No.

    • Average time from application to approval: Some will know instantly. Those requiring manual review will take a few days.

    Before applying for a Earnest student loan

    Before taking out an Earnest student loan or any other private student loan, exhaust your federal student loan options first. Submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA, to apply.

    Compare your private student loan options to make sure you’re getting the best rate you qualify for. In addition to interest rates, look at lenders’ repayment alternatives and the flexibility they offer to borrowers who struggle to make payments.

    If you aren’t eligible for an Earnest student loan

    If Earnest denies your student loan application, the lender will let you know why. Depending on the reason, you may want to consider other lenders or, if you haven’t already, try applying with a co-signer.

    If you don’t have access to a co-signer — or still aren’t eligible with one — consider lenders that don’t require co-signers or specialize in bad or no credit student loans.

    STUDENT LOAN REFINANCE RATINGS METHODOLOGY

    Our survey of more than 29 banks, credit unions and online lenders offering student loans and student loan refinancing includes the top 10 lenders by market share and the top 10 lenders by online search volume, as well as lenders that serve specialty or nontraditional markets.

    We consider 41 features and data points for each financial institution. Depending on the category, these include the availability of biweekly payments through autopay, minimum credit score and income requirement disclosures, availability to borrowers in all states, extended grace periods and in-house customer service.

    The stars represent ratings from poor (one star) to excellent (five stars). Ratings are rounded to the nearest half-star.

    Earnest Graduate Loan review

    Earnest Graduate Loan

    4.5
    NerdWallet rating
    Min. credit score
    650
    Fixed APR
    4.39-14.30%
    Variable APR
    5.89-15.97%
    on Earnest's website

    Pros

    • Option to skip one payment every 12 months.

    • No late fees.

    • Nine-month grace period is longer than most lenders offer.

    Cons

    • Loans aren't available in Nevada.

    An option for graduate students who want flexible repayment.

    Earnest Parent Loan review

    Earnest Parent Loan

    4.5
    NerdWallet rating
    Min. credit score
    650
    Fixed APR
    4.45-14.90%
    Variable APR
    4.99-15.30%
    on Earnest's website

    Pros

    • Option to skip one payment every 12 months.

    • No late fees.

    • Nine-month grace period is longer than most lenders offer.

    Cons

    • Loans aren't available in Nevada.

    An option for parent loan borrowers who want flexible repayment.

    Earnest MBA Loan review

    Earnest MBA Loan

    4.5
    NerdWallet rating
    Min. credit score
    650
    Fixed APR
    4.45-14.30%
    Variable APR
    4.99-15.15%
    on Earnest's website

    Pros

    • Option to skip one payment every 12 months.

    • No late fees.

    • Nine-month grace period is longer than most lenders offer.

    Cons

    • Loans aren't available in Nevada.

    An option for MBA students who want flexible repayment.

    Earnest Medical School Loan review

    Earnest Medical School Loan

    4.5
    NerdWallet rating
    Min. credit score
    650
    Fixed APR
    4.45-14.30%
    Variable APR
    4.99-15.15%
    on Earnest's website

    Pros

    • Option to skip one payment every 12 months.

    • No late fees.

    • Nine-month grace period is longer than most lenders offer.

    Cons

    • Loans aren't available in Nevada.

    An option for medical students who want flexible repayment.

    Earnest Dental School Loan review

    Earnest Dental School Loan

    4.5
    NerdWallet rating
    Min. credit score
    650
    Fixed APR
    4.45-14.90%
    Variable APR
    4.99-15.30%
    on Earnest's website

    Pros

    • Option to skip one payment every 12 months.

    • No late fees.

    • Nine-month grace period is longer than most lenders offer.

    Cons

    • Loans aren't available in Nevada.

    An option for dental students who want flexible repayment.

    Earnest Law School Loan review

    Earnest Law School Loan

    4.5
    NerdWallet rating
    Min. credit score
    650
    Fixed APR
    4.45-14.90%
    Variable APR
    4.99-15.30%
    on Earnest's website

    Pros

    • Option to skip one payment every 12 months.

    • No late fees.

    • Nine-month grace period is longer than most lenders offer.

    Cons

    • Loans aren't available in Nevada.

    An option for law school students who want flexible repayment.

    Earnest Pharmacy School Loan review

    Earnest Pharmacy School Loan

    4.5
    NerdWallet rating
    Min. credit score
    650
    Fixed APR
    4.45-14.90%
    Variable APR
    4.99-15.30%
    on Earnest's website

    Pros

    • Option to skip one payment every 12 months.

    • No late fees.

    • Nine-month grace period is longer than most lenders offer.

    Cons

    • Loans aren't available in Nevada.

    An option for pharmacy school students who want flexible repayment.

    Earnest International Graduate Loan review

    Earnest International Graduate Loan

    4.5
    NerdWallet rating
    Min. credit score
    680
    Variable APR
    9.99-16.51%
    on Earnest's website

    Pros

    • Option to skip one payment every 12 months.

    • No late fees.

    • Nine-month grace period is longer than most lenders offer.

    Cons

    • Limited to international graduate students from Canada, India, Mexico or South Korea.

    • Loans aren't available in Nevada.

    An option for international graduate school students who want flexible repayment.

    Find the Right Student Loan

    Private student loansStudent loan refinancingCalculate monthly paymentsGraduate school loansStudent loan interest rates

    Frequently asked questions

    • Earnest is a private online lender that offers refinancing to college graduates and private student loans to undergraduate and graduate students. It was founded in 2013 and began offering private student loans in April 2019.

    • Earnest has a 5 star rating for its refinancing loan and a 4.5 star rating for its private student loan, as reviewed by NerdWallet. The highest possible rating is 5 stars.

    • Earnest offers private student loans and refinancing. It does not service federal student loans.

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