PenFed Student Loan Refinancing Review

PenFed is one of the few lenders to allow married couples to refinance together.
Cecilia Clark
Last updated on January 5, 2024
Edited by
✅ Fact checked and reviewed
Karen Gaudette Brewer
Edited by
✅ Fact checked and reviewed

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Our Take


NerdWallet rating
The Nerdy headline:

Pentagon Federal Credit Union, or PenFed, offers student loan refinancing for its members. It's best for married couples who want to refinance their student loans into a single one.

Jump to:Full Review
PenFed Student Loan Refinance
PenFed Student Loan Refinance

Min. credit score
Fixed APR


  • Married couples can refinance student loans into a single loan.

  • You can refinance parent PLUS loans in your name.

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


  • Estate is still responsible for the loan if the borrower dies.

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Full Review

Until June 17, 2022, online lender Purefy was the exclusive provider of PenFed student loans. Purefy was previously part of the Bank of Virginia, issuing student loans under the name CordiaGrad. It became a separate company in 2016. Purefy currently offers a student loan marketplace.

Pentagon Federal Credit Union, known as PenFed, offers student loan refinancing for its members. PenFed stands out because it allows married couples to refinance student loans together.

PenFed also lets you release a co-signer after 12 on-time payments. That's much faster than many lenders offer, making PenFed a good option if you can't qualify to refinance on your own. However, spouse co-signers are ineligible for this option.

PenFed student loan refinancing at a glance

  • Offers personalized rate estimates via a soft credit check.

  • Married couples can refinance together.

  • Borrowers can refinance their parents’ PLUS loans.

How PenFed could improve

Like other five-star lenders, PenFed isn't perfect. It could improve by offering additional programs such as:

  • Discharging loans if the borrower dies or becomes disabled.

  • Offering military deferment, as well as academic deferment for borrowers returning to school.

  • Refinancing loans for lawful permanent residents of the United States.

PenFed student loan refinancing details

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

    • Loan terms: 5, 8, 12 or 15 years.

    • Loan amounts: $7,500 to $300,000.

    • Can transfer a parent loan to a child: Yes.

    • Application or origination fee: No.

    • Prepayment penalty: No.

    • Late fees: Yes; a fee equal to 20% of the interest portion of the payment applies after the payment is five days late. The minimum late fee is $5; the maximum is $25, except where prohibited by law.

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

  • Financial

    • Minimum credit score: 670. You'll need a higher score if you’re applying without a co-signer or refinancing more than $150,000.

    • Minimum income: You’ll generally need an income of at least $25,000 if you’re applying with a co-signer, and $42,000 if you’re applying without one. If you’re refinancing more than $150,000, the minimum income is $50,000 or $100,000, depending on how much other debt you have.

    • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: 777.

    • Typical credit score of approved co-signers: 793

    • Typical income of approved borrowers: $96,985.

    • Typical income of approved co-signers: $109,553

    • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: Generally, 35% for applicants with undergraduate degrees and 40% for applicants with graduate degrees.

    • Can qualify if you’ve filed for bankruptcy: Yes, if the bankruptcy was 10 or more years ago. You can also qualify — even with a recent bankruptcy on your record — if you have a co-signer who meets all of the credit, income and debt-to-income criteria, and you have a credit score of 670 or higher and income of $25,000 or more.


    • Citizenship: Must be a U.S. citizen. Unlike many other lenders, PenFed doesn't refinance college debt for permanent residents.

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

    • Must have graduated: Yes, must have a bachelor's degree or higher.

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

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

    You must be a Pentagon Federal Credit Union member to qualify to refinance your loans, but membership is included — at no additional cost — as part of the refinancing process.

  • 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: No.

    • Military deferment: No.

    • Forbearance: PenFed offers case by case relief.

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

    • Death or disability discharge: No.

    • 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: Pentagon Federal Credit Union, known as PenFed.

    • In-house customer service team: Yes.

    • Process for escalating concerns: Yes.

    • Borrowers get assigned a dedicated banker, advisor or representative: Yes, each borrower is assigned a personal student loan advisor.

    • Average time from approval to payoff: From three to 14 days.

  • Refinancing student loans with PenFed through Purefy comes with the following perks:

    • Spousal consolidation: Partners who both have student loans can qualify to refinance with PenFed based on their combined incomes and the higher credit score of the two. This means the spouse with the lower credit score would likely qualify for a lower interest rate than he or she would otherwise.

    • Member discounts: PenFed members receive discounts on auto, home, financial and other products and services. For example, members can save money on car rentals and tax preparation software. Visit the PenFed website for complete details.

Before refinancing with PenFed

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 PenFed

If PenFed denies your refinance application, the lender will let you know why. Depending on the reason, you may want to consider other lenders, including those that allow 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.


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.

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Frequently asked questions

  • Purefy is an online lender. It was originally named CordiGrad and was part of the Bank of Virginia. Purefy has been an independent company since 2016 and refinances loans for PenFed.

  • PenFed began as a credit union for the military, but that affiliation is no longer required. You can refinance student loans with PenFed if you meet the lender's financial qualifications.

  • PenFed does not offer private student loans, referring borrowers to Sallie Mae instead. PenFed does refinance existing student loans via a partnership with the online lender Purefy.

  • NerdWallet rates PenFed as a five-star student loan refinancing lender based on more than 50 data points. PenFed is especially good for married couples who want to combine their loans.

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