Student loan ratings
Student loan refinancing
Private student loan
The bottom line:
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.
Student loan refinancing review
- 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.
- You can’t apply with a co-signer.
- Loans aren't available in Kentucky and Nevada.
Best for borrowers who want to customize their repayment schedule to pay off debt fast.
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 he or she connects. Typical Earnest borrowers save money regularly, have a drama-free payment history and have minimal credit card or personal loan debt.
Earnest at a glance
Customizable payments and loan terms.
No late fees.
Borrowers can’t apply with a co-signer.
» MORE: Earnest personal loan review
How Earnest student loan refinancing could improve
Earnest, like other five-star lenders, isn't perfect. Earnest could improve by:
Letting borrowers apply with a co-signer.
Allowing borrowers to refinance their parents’ PLUS loans.
Refinancing loans for borrowers in all 50 states.
Earnest student loan refinancing details
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.
Private student loan review
- Option to skip one payment every 12 months.
- No late fees.
- Nine-month grace period is longer than most lenders offer.
- You can’t see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.
- Loans aren't available in Nevada.
An option for borrowers who want flexible repayment.
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. Its private student loan application is fully available on mobile.
Earnest private student loans at a glance
Option to skip one payment every 12 months.
9-month grace period is longer than most lenders offer.
Loans aren't available in Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Hampshire, Texas or Virginia.
How Earnest could improve
Earnest could improve its private student loan product by:
Offering personalized rate estimates without affecting credit.
Offering more than 12 months of forbearance.
Lending to borrowers in all 50 U.S. states.
Earnest private student loan details
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.
» MORE: NerdWallet’s FAFSA Guide
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.
Student loans ratings methodology
NerdWallet believes the best student loan is one you can repay at the lowest interest rate you can get. That’s why NerdWallet’s student loan ratings reward lenders that offer a variety of loan terms, limit their fees and penalties, and extend borrowers multiple options to avoid default. Points are also awarded for soft credit checks, underwriting transparency and other consumer-friendly features. Use these ratings as a guide, but we encourage you to shop around for the lowest interest rate you can qualify for. NerdWallet does not receive compensation for its reviews. Read our editorial guidelines.
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.