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.

Anna HelhoskiSeptember 21, 2020

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Student loan ratings

Earnest
  • 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

Best Student Loan Refinancing Overall

Earnest Student Loan Refinance
Check Rate

on Earnest's website

Earnest Student Loan Refinance

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Check Rate

on Earnest's website

Fixed APR

2.98 - 5.49%

Variable APR

1.99 - 5.34%

Min. Credit Score

650

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

  • You can’t apply with a co-signer.
  • Loans aren't available in Delaware, Kentucky and 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 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.

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

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

  • Loan terms: 5 years to 20 years. Choose a precise loan term, down to the month.

  • Loan amounts: $5,000 to $500,000.

  • 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.

  • Minimum income: No minimum. Applicant must have a written job offer for employment starting within six months or have consistent income.

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: Did not disclose.

  • Typical income of approved borrowers: Did not disclose.

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

  • Can qualify if you’ve filed for bankruptcy: Yes, if you don’t have accounts recently in collection and after the bankruptcy drops off your credit report. This happens after seven years for Chapter 13 bankruptcy and after 10 years for Chapter 7.

Other

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

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

  • Must have graduated: Yes, but you may be able to refinance in your last semester before graduating.

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

  • Percentage of borrowers who have a co-signer: Borrowers cannot apply with a co-signer.

Many lenders are offering relief related to COVID-19. Check this list of private loan relief options to see what this lender offers.

  • Academic deferment: Yes.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Extend a payment date by seven days: Borrowers can push back the due date on an individual payment or change their autopay date through their online Earnest account.

  • 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: No.

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

  • Average time from approval to payoff: Did not disclose. Approval takes 20 minutes.

    Longtime customers of Earnest may miss features that have been unavailable since Navient purchased the company in 2017, such as Earnest’s mobile app, the ability to adjust payment amounts and due dates online, and access to full payment history online.

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.

How does this loan compare?

Earnest Student Loan Refinance
CommonBond Student Loan Refinance
SoFi Student Loan Refinance
Check RateCheck RateCheck Rate
Fixed APR

2.98 - 5.49%

Fixed APR

2.98 - 5.79%

Fixed APR

2.99 - 6.28%

Variable APR

1.99 - 5.34%

Specific Annual Percentage Rate (APRs) offered within these ranges will depend on a variety of factors including your creditworthiness and other application details. Annual percentage rates (APRs) reflect 0.25% discount for optional enrollment in autopay. Your approval for an Earnest Loan is subject to the full underwriting of your loan application. Read more about qualifying for a loan with Earnest here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility

Variable APR

1.99 - 5.61%

Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. 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 0.16% effective Sep 1, 2020 and may increase after consummation.

Variable APR

2.25 - 6.28%

Fixed rates from 2.99% APR to 6.28% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.25% APR to 6.28% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.25% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 0.18% plus 2.32% margin minus 0.25% ACH discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. See eligibility details. 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. The discount will not reduce the monthly payment; instead, the interest savings are applied to the principal loan balance, which may help pay the loan down faster. Enrolling in autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score. Terms and Conditions Apply. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.

Min. Credit Score

650

Min. Credit Score

680

Min. Credit Score

Does not disclose

Private student loan review

Earnest Private Student Loan
Check Rate

on Earnest's website

Earnest Private Student Loan

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Check Rate

on Earnest's website

Fixed APR

3.49 - 12.78%

Variable APR

1.24 - 11.44%

Min. Credit Score

650

Pros

  • Option to skip one payment every 12 months.
  • No late fees.
  • Nine-month grace period is longer than most lenders offer.

Cons

  • 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 or New Mexico.

An option for 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. 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

  • Soft credit check to qualify and see what rate you’ll get: No.

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

  • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to the school's cost of attendance.

  • 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: 650.

  • Minimum income: None for independent student loans; $35,000 for co-signed loans.

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: Did not disclose.

  • Typical income of approved borrowers: Did not disclose.

  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: 65%.

  • Can qualify if you’ve filed for bankruptcy: No.

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.

  • Location: Not available to borrowers in Nevada.

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

  • Types of schools served: Any school authorized to receive federal aid.

  • Percentage of borrowers who have a co-signer: No information is available, but Earnest is targeting 90%.

Many lenders are offering relief related to COVID-19. Check this list of private loan relief options to see what this lender offers.

    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.

    • Interest-only repayment: Pay interest every month you’re in school.

    Post-school repayment options

    • Grace period: 9 months.

    • In-school deferment: Yes, borrowers can ask to defer payments when returning to school.

    • Military deferment: Yes.

    • Internship, residency or fellowship deferment: Borrowers can defer payments for up to 48 months during a medical residency, internship or fellowship program.

    • 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: No.

    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: Less than three days.

      Longtime customers of Earnest may miss features that have been unavailable since Navient purchased the company in 2017, such as Earnest’s mobile app, the ability to adjust payment amounts and due dates online, and access to full payment history online.

    Earnest offers these unique perks:

    • Skip one payment every 12 months.

    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 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