LendKey Review: Student Loan Refinancing and Private Student Loans

LendKey connects borrowers with student loans from community banks and credit unions. It also services its own loans.
Cecilia Clark
By
Last updated on January 5, 2024
Edited by
✅ Fact checked and reviewed
Des Toups
Edited by
✅ Fact checked and reviewed

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Student loan ratings

LendKey Student Loan Refinance
LendKey Student Loan Refinance

4.5

NerdWallet rating
The Nerdy headline:

LendKey is a marketplace that connects borrowers with private student loans and refinanced student loans from credit unions and community banks. Its loans are best for borrowers who prefer to work with these institutions, rather than a big bank. The requirements below apply to all loans made through LendKey. Once you choose a loan, make sure you understand that partner lender’s specific terms.

LendKey Student Loan Refinance review

LendKey Student Loan Refinance
LendKey Student Loan Refinance

4.0
NerdWallet rating
Min. credit score
660
Fixed APR
5.24-9.35%
Variable APR
5.52-8.70%
on LendKey's website

Pros

  • Forbearance of 18 months for 15- and 20-year loan terms is longer than many lenders.

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

Cons

  • Loans aren't available in Maine, Nevada, North Dakota, Rhode Island or West Virginia.

  • No payment postponement available if borrowers return to school or serve in the military.

Best for borrowers who prefer to work with a community bank or credit union, rather than a big bank.

Full Review

LendKey is a platform that offers the opportunity to work with a community bank or credit union rather than a big bank, which is important to some borrowers. Also, LendKey’s average refinance borrower earns $90,000 a year, making the company a strong option for those who don’t earn six figures.

LendKey student loan refinancing at a glance

  • LendKey services all loans.

  • Extended forbearance for longer loan terms.

  • Loans aren't available in Maine, Nevada, North Dakota, Rhode Island or West Virginia.

How LendKey student loan refinancing could improve

LendKey could improve by:

  • Offering refinancing to borrowers without a degree and to international students.

  • Offering loans to students in all 50 states.

  • Allowing biweekly payments via autopay.

LendKey student loan refinancing details

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

    • Loan terms: 5, 7, 10, 15 or 20 years.

    • Loan amounts: $5,000 to $250,000.

    • Can transfer a parent loan to child: No.

    • Application or origination fee: No.

    • Prepayment penalty: No.

    • Late fees: Yes; vary by lender.

    Compare LendKey'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 LendKey will offer you, apply on its website.

  • Financial

    • Minimum credit score: 680; 660 with co-signer.

    • Minimum income: $24,000 per year; $12,000 per year with a co-signer.

    • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: 754.

    • Typical income of approved borrowers: $90,000 per year.

    • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: 33% - 50%, depending on credit score.

    • Can qualify if you’ve filed for bankruptcy: Yes, after five years.

    Other

    • Citizenship: Must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

    • Location: No loans available in Maine, Nevada, North Dakota, Rhode Island or West Virginia.

    • Must have graduated: Yes, must have at least an associate degree.

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

    • Percentage of borrowers who have a co-signer: 9%.

    • Academic deferment: Depends on lender.

    • Military deferment: Depends on lender.

    • Forbearance: Depends on lender.

    • Co-signer release: Yes, after 12 months of on-time payments.

    • Death or disability discharge: Loan agreements do not guarantee it, but automatic discharge has been common practice among lenders, according to LendKey.

    • 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: No.

    • Loan servicer: LendKey.

    • 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: Within 30 days.

    • Referral bonus: Earn $200 for every person you successfully refer to LendKey who refinances a student loan. The person you refer will receive $200 as well. More details.

    • Career Assistance Program. Borrowers have access to services that can help them regain employment or improve their current employment situations — for example, if they are under-employed.

Before refinancing with LendKey

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 LendKey

If LendKey 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.

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.

Compare credit unions that refinance student loans
Lender
Fixed APR
Min. credit score
Variable APR
LendKey Student Loan Refinance
4.0
Check rateon LendKey's website
on LendKey's website
COMPARE RATESon Credible’s website
on Credible’s website
5.24- 9.35%
660
5.52- 8.70%
N/A
Does not disclose
N/A
6.80- 7.45%
660
N/A

LendKey Private Student Loan review

LendKey Private Student Loan

4.0
NerdWallet rating
Min. credit score
660
Fixed APR
4.39-11.11%
Variable APR
5.84-11.11%
on LendKey's website

Pros

  • Forbearance of 18 months is longer than many lenders offer.

Cons

  • You can’t see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

  • Payment required while in school and during the grace period.

Best for students who value working with a community bank or credit union.

Full Review

LendKey’s undergraduate private student loans are best for those who value working with a community bank or credit union, and those who like the idea of a long forbearance period as a safety net. LendKey offers 18 months of forbearance for undergraduate student loans, more than many other lenders provide, but requires payments while you're in school.

LendKey private student loan at a glance

  • LendKey services all loans.

  • 18 months of forbearance available, in six-month increments.

  • No personalized rate estimates via soft credit check.

How LendKey could improve

LendKey could improve its private student loans by offering:

  • Personalized rate estimates via a soft credit check.

  • Payment postponement for those who are in school or return to school.

LendKey private student loan details

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

    • Loan terms: 5, 10 or 15 years.

    • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to the total cost of attendance, minus other aid received.

    • Application or origination fee: No.

    • Prepayment penalty: No.

    • Late fees: Yes; 5% of the unpaid amount, after payment is 15 days late.

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

  • Financial

    • Minimum credit score: 660.

    • Minimum income: $24,000 per year.

    • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: 689.

    • Typical credit score of approved co-signers: 748.

    • Typical income of approved borrowers: $32,000 per year.

    • Typical income of approved co-signers: $85,000 per year.

    • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: 33%, not including housing costs.

    • Can qualify if you’ve filed for bankruptcy: Yes, after five years.

    Other

    • Citizenship: Must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

    • DACA borrowers: Not eligible.

    • Location: Available in all 50 U.S. states.

    • Must be enrolled half-time or more: No.

    • Loan can be used for past due tuition: You can request funds for tuition up to 90 days past due.

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

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

  • In-school repayment options

    • Flat-fee: Pay a flat fee of $25 a month while you're in school for up to 60 months. Full payments are due after that point.

    • Interest-only: Make monthly interest payments while you're in school for up to 60 months. Full payments are due after that point.

    • Full in-school deferment: No.

    Post-school repayment options

    • Grace period: 6 months.

    • Income-based repayment option: No.

    • In-school deferment: No, borrowers cannot request to defer payments when returning to school.

    • Military deferment: No.

    • Forbearance: Borrowers are eligible for 18 months of forbearance, in six-month increments, over the life of the loan.

    • Co-signer release available: Yes, after 24 months.

    • Death or disability discharge: Loan agreements do not guarantee it, but automatic discharge has been common practice among lenders, according to LendKey.

    • 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: No.

    • Loan servicer: LendKey.

    • In-house customer service team: Yes.

    • Process for escalating concerns: No.

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

    • Average time from application to approval: Instant.

    • Career Assistance Program. Borrowers have access to services that can help them regain employment or improve their current employment situations — for example, if they are under-employed.

Before applying for a LendKey student loan

Before taking out a LendKey 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 a LendKey student loan

If LendKey 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 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 top 10 lenders by online search volume, as well as lenders that serve specialty or nontraditional markets.

We consider 40 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.

Find the Right Student Loan

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

Frequently asked questions

  • LendKey is a 4.5 star lender for both its private student loan and its student loan refinancing based on NerdWallet's student loan rating system. Ratings prioritize low interest rates and flexible repayment options that allow borrowers to repay loans faster and avoid default.

  • LendKey was founded in 2009 and is a marketplace that connects borrowers with private student loans and refinanced student loans from established credit unions and community banks.

  • No. LendKey doesn't penalize borrowers for paying off their loans early.

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