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By Heidi RiveraJoan PabónAndrea Agostini and Gabriella Cruz-Martínez
Updated: April 7, 2021 9:37 AM ET | Originally published: April 6, 2021
house with calculator over it 2021 Money Best Mortgage Refinance
Money; Getty Images

Interest rates are projected to stay low well into 2021 and mortgage refinance applications are on the rise, with homeowners eager to take advantage of the best rates available. To help, we selected our top picks for the best mortgage refinance lenders, as an extension of Money’s Best Mortgage Lenders.

To ease your mortgage refinance process, we also have a mortgage refinance calculator that can help you estimate how much you might be able to save.

Our Top Picks for Best Mortgage Refinance Companies

This is our selection of the best refinance companies for April 2021.

Our Top Picks
Refinancing Lender Best For JD Power Customer Satisfaction Rating Regulatory Actions with the NMLS Variety of Mortgage Products Accessible Information
Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans Overall Among the Best 5
Bank of America Member Discounts About Average 2
Loan Depot Online Mortgage Refinance About Average 4
Navy Federal Credit Union Credit Union Didn’t Qualify 2
Nationwide Home Loans Borrowers with Poor Credit Score Below Average 0
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The Best Mortgage Refinance Reviews

Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans Review – Best Refinance Lender Overall

Highlights from Rocket Mortgage

  • Rated best in the industry for customer support
  • Ranked as the nation’s top refinance originator by the MBA
  • Variety of loan products including adjustable-rate mortgage, 15- and 30-year mortgages, FHA, VA, and USDA loans
  • Streamlined online application process with eClosing
  • Outperformed every other mortgage company in 2020, even in government-backed loan originations
  • Features a mortgage refinance rates calculator

We chose Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans (NMLS#3030) as the best refinance mortgage lender overall because of its great track record in customer satisfaction, in-depth digital software, and web-based customer support. From tracking your budget to evaluating mortgage products, this online lender provides comprehensive tools to help borrowers manage their refinancing process totally online from start to finish.

Through Rocket Mortgage, Quicken’s digital platform, customers can import their property taxes and home insurance information automatically upon entering their address. Using eClosing customers can modify their rate, repayment term, and costs to see other payment options.

Another big win for Rocket is they basically offer every loan option under the sun. From conventional to ARM, short-term rentals, and government-backed loans — if you decide to go with the company, you’ll have plenty of choices.

Rocket Mortgage has consistently ranked first place in the JD U.S Primary Mortgage Origination Satisfaction Study, outperforming other lenders every year. Although the company is deeply rooted in online technology, it also has over 3,000 Home Loan experts available 7 days a week to help you complete your application over the phone.

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Bank of America Review – Best For Member Discounts

Highlights from Bank of America

  • Offers conventional, 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgages, FHA, VA and USDA loans along with 15- and 30-year mortgages
  • Exclusive membership discounts available on both purchase and refinance closing costs
  • Physical branch locations available throughout the nation
  • Considers alternative credit data such as utility bills and rental payment history

As one of the nation’s leading mortgage lenders, Bank of America (NMLS# 399802) is well-suited to help you determine whether a refinance is the right option.

The company offers multiple types of refinancing options and home equity loans to choose from, including fixed-rate mortgages, adjustable-rate refinance loans, FHA and VA loans, and cash-out refinancing.

What makes Bank of America the top mortgage refinance company for member discounts, however, is its Preferred Rewards program. With this service, members can qualify for a closing cost reduction of up to $600 from their purchase or refinance origination fees.

The program works in tiers ranging from Gold to Platinum Honors, with discount levels based on the tier for which each customer qualifies. A member’s tier is determined by qualifying balances in Bank of America banking and/or Merrill investment accounts. Customers who have one of or both of these accounts should definitely look into this as an option.

Another perk of doing business with Bank of America is its comprehensive digital services, including an online tool to track the progress of your mortgage loan and refinance application in real-time. While the company doesn’t state a credit score requirement on its website, you can consult a loan specialist to see if you qualify for refinance.

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loanDepot Review – Best For Online Mortgage Refinance

Highlights from loanDepot

  • Mello SmartLoan
  • 200 locations throughout the country and over 1,700 affiliated licensed loan professionals
  • Fixed-rate mortgage, ARM loans, jumbo loans, VA and FHA loans, and HARP loans

loanDepot (NMLS# 174457) is a mortgage loan provider with competitive loan products, offering fixed- and adjustable-rate loans, jumbo loans and government-backed loans.

loanDepot also boasts one of the lowest number of complaints out of all the companies we vetted, with only 217 filed in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). However, where it really shines is with Mello SmartLoan, its online loan engine that streamlines the entire process, from application to closing.

The Mello SmartLoan employs artificial intelligence to use borrower information and save you money, time, or both, all in a matter of minutes. It does so by calculating the best loan products that can lower interest rates and/or negotiating a shorter term.

With this proprietary loan engine, the whole loan process, including closing, can take place online. Loan Depot guarantees it can cut the time to close by up to 17 days.

loanDepot also has licensed loan consultants available to help the consumer select the best mortgage product for their particular financial situation.

By calling their lending officers, you can also request information on their mortgage rates, which are unfortunately not readily available on their website.

Lastly, choosing loanDepot for a mortgage refinance is rewarded with a lifetime guarantee. The company offers to waive lender fees and reimburse appraisal fees on future refinances after you’ve refinanced with them at least once.

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Highlights from Navy Federal Credit Union

  • Only available for military members, Department of Defense civilians, veterans, and their family members
  • Realty Plus and Navy Federal Title Services
  • Branches both in the US and internationally in countries such as Japan, Guam, Singapore, Spain, and Italy, among others
  • Offers VA, fixed and adjustable-rate mortgage loans, and jumbo loans

As one of the biggest credit unions in the world, Navy Federal (NLMS #399807) is a good option for members of the armed forces looking to refinance their mortgage. They have a variety of loan options, credit cards, and savings and checking accounts for members and their families.

Navy Federal has mortgage refinance options ranging from 10- to 30-year loan terms for their VA Streamline (IRRL), and Homebuyers Choice. Navy Federal also offers the Military Choice loan, for those who have exhausted their VA loan option. However, they don’t offer FHA, USDA loans, construction loans, or reverse mortgages.

Realty Plus and Navy Federal Title Services are tools that facilitate the mortgage refinance process for homebuyers, those looking to refinance, or sell and buy new property. Through their online application, Realty Plus connects you with a real estate agent and an agent coordinator to assist you with your mortgage application. Further, if you close your mortgage with Navy Federal using Realty Plus, you can get $400-$8,000 cash back.

Navy Federal Credit Union made it to this list because of their competitive rates, loan options, and their online pre-approval application. This credit union doesn’t require private mortgage insurance (PMI), offers fixed rates and consistent payments, and allows the seller to contribute up to 6% of the value of the home towards closing costs.

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Nationwide: Best for Borrowers with Poor Credit

Highlights from Nationwide Home Loans

  • Options for self-employed buyers, difficult credit, or other unique situations
  • Mortgage refinance options to remodel, cash out, pay off debt, and/or invest
  • Bring a loan estimate from a competing company and they will match the offer
  • Offers a free consultation

Nationwide Home Loans (NMLS #331347) has competitive options for VA, FHA, Conventional, and Jumbo loans. This lender offers a Best Rate Guarantee, where they not only match a loan estimate from another lender, but will find even more ways to help you save money.

The Lease Option Program makes Nationwide a good refinance lender for people with poor or less than excellent credit by targeting:

  • Self-employed homebuyers whose mortgage might not be approved at a more traditional bank because the way their taxes are filed makes it seem like they don’t earn enough for a monthly mortgage payment
  • Borrowers with a poor credit history

The Lease Option Program requires that you have at least 10% of the down payment for your home, and enough income to afford a monthly payment. Nationwide buys the home, and you sign a lease agreement with an option to buy within three years.

During that 3-year period, you can live in your new home (paying the lease) while Nationwide helps you improve your credit score, sort out income reporting requirements, or perform whatever other steps are necessary to help you get ready to purchase the home.

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Other Companies We Considered

When we looked at the refinance mortgage lending industry, we found that many of the biggest mortgage refinance lenders didn’t necessarily offer the best refinance products, though they might excel in other areas.

Other Companies we Considered
Refinancing Lender JD Power Customer Satisfaction Rating Regulatory Actions with the NMLS Variety of Mortgage Products Accessible Information
Ally Bank Above Average 2
Wells Fargo About Average 9
Chase About Average 9
Caliber Home Loans The Rest 1
Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation Better than Most 3
U.S. Bank Below Average 0

Ally Bank Review:

Highlights from Ally Bank (NMLS #181005)

  • Online application
  • Fixed-rate, adjustable-rate, and jumbo loans available
  • You can obtain a quote without impacting your credit score

Why it didn’t make the cut

  • You have to visit one of their branches to finish the mortgage application
  • Not enough information about rates, terms, and credit score requirements

Wells Fargo Review

Highlights from Wells Fargo (NMLS# 399801)

  • Second-largest originator of mortgage loans in the country
  • Variety of mortgage loan products including FHA, VA and Guaranteed Rural Housing programs, jumbo loans, 15-, 20- and 30-year mortgages and adjustable-rate mortgages
  • Traditional banking plus online tools that allows borrowers to get a rate quote, upload documents, verify employment, and e-sign
  • Loan consultants available in-person at a bank branch or by phone

Why it didn’t make the cut

  • Subject to several regulatory actions by the CFPB, for improper handling of mortgage loans and placing loans into forbearance without the borrower’s knowledge
  • High number of customer complaints with the CFPB
  • About Average rating in JD Power customer satisfaction survey

Chase Review

Highlights from Chase (NMLS# 399798)

  • Third-largest originator of mortgage loans
  • Large variety of loan products, including adjustable-rate mortgages, 10-, 15-, 20-, 25- and 30-year mortgages, FHA and VA loans and the DreaMaker mortgage
  • Competitive mortgage interest rates
  • Online Refinance Learning Center with calculators for loan estimates, interest rates and terms, refinancing guides and other home buying resources

Why it didn’t make the cut

  • Subject of several regulatory actions with the CFPB within the last five years (although none filed within the last three years)
  • High number of customer complaints with the CFPB
  • About Average rating in JD Power customer satisfaction survey

Caliber Home Loans Review

Highlights from Caliber Home Loans (NMLS# 15622)

  • Flexible borrower qualifications
  • Considers payment history instead of credit score or debt-to-income ratio, which makes it a great option for those with low credit scores or the self-employed
  • Accepts borrowers with a DTI of up to 50%
  • Down payments can be as low as 3%
  • Streamlined application process
  • Variety of mortgage products including adjustable-rate mortgages, 10- to 30-year fixed mortgage, FHA, USDA, VA, and jumbo loans

Why it didn’t make the cut

  • Information on interest rates and lender fees isn’t readily found on their webpage
  • Charges a prepayment penalty
  • No discounts that reduce mortgage interest rates
  • Below Average rating in the JD Power customer satisfaction survey

Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation Review

Highlights from Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation (NMLS# 2289)

  • One of the largest refinance mortgage loan originators in the country, with over 400 locations
  • Better than Most rating in the JD Power customer satisfaction survey
  • Loan products include adjustable-rate mortgages, conventional loans, fixed-rate mortgages, jumbo, FHA, USDA and VA loans

Why it didn’t make the cut

  • No accessible information on interest rates, required credit scores, minimum and maximum loan amounts, lender fees, or available discounts

U.S. Bank Review

Highlights from U.S. Bank (NMLS# 402761)

  • Good variety of refinance loan offerings: traditional, cash-out, and a customer credit offer option that rewards homeowners with an existing first mortgage with U.S. Bank
  • Great online tools, with a fully digital application and a proprietary app
  • Provides general mortgage rates, with the option to input your state and narrow down results

Why it didn’t make the cut

  • Customer satisfaction rating was below average
  • Published mortgage rates are measured with an above-average credit score
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Covid-19 and Mortgage Refinance

  • A new “adverse market refinance fee,” effective December 1, 2020, is projected to drive up refinancing costs for the average borrower. This fee doesn’t apply to loans under $125,000, VA loans, FHA loans, USDA loans, or jumbo loans
  • Current large volume of refinancing applications has lenders struggling to keep up with demand due to reduced staffing and working hours
  • Appraisers may not be permitted to enter your home to avoid potential contagion
  • Lenders are taking risk-lessening measures in response to rising unemployment numbers
  • Borrowers with a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac refinance have forbearance plan options available.
  • Many have attempted to write a mortgage rate interest forecast for 2021, but the pandemic has made trends notoriously hard to predict. As is natural after hitting all-time lows, interest rates have slowly begun to creep up and are estimated to continue on this upwards trend. In any case, the Fed has pledged to keep its benchmark rate low until 2023, virtually guaranteeing lower rates for consumers, from a historical perspective.

Mortgage Refinance Guide

Types of Mortgage Refinance

Rate-And-Term Refinance

Also known as a “no cash-out refinance,” a rate-and-term refinance adjusts the interest rate or the term (or both) of an existing mortgage, while its balance stays the same. This option often has a lower interest rate than cash-out loans.

 

Zero-Closing-Cost Refinance

Some lenders offer “no-closing-cost” or “zero-closing-cost” refinance loans for those who qualify. These let you roll up closing costs into your mortgage loan. While you’ll still pay closing costs and interest on those fees, it won’t be upfront.

 

 

Cash-Out Refinancing

A cash-out refinance converts the home equity you’ve accumulated into cash, similarly to a HELOC. You’re essentially replacing your existing mortgage loan with a new loan that’s higher than your current mortgage balance. In turn, you get the difference in home equity as a tax-free cash advance paid to you at closing.

What to Watch Out For: The borrower may end up with a higher interest rate and may extend the life of the loan. Keep in mind that you should only borrow an amount that’s feasible to pay off.

Cash-In Refinance

A cash-in refinance refers to the act of paying down an existing mortgage to lower your mortgage loan balance during a refi negotiation. Contrary to cash-out refinancing, this option may improve the chances of an underwater mortgage qualifying for a refinance. Generally, most lenders require an LTV ratio of at least 80%.

 

Streamline Refinance

This is a refinance option for government-backed loan programs that allow borrowers to bypass low- or no-income documentation or underwriting. These loans don’t require appraisals, in most cases only employment verification.

 

What Do You Need to Refinance Your Mortgage?

Regardless of the type of loan, there are three main considerations lenders take into account when you apply for a new mortgage refinance: credit score, debt-to-income ratio, and average loan-to-value ratio (LTV).

Debt-to-income ratio (DTI) of Less Than 50%

Your debt-to-income ratio consists of all of your monthly debt payments added up and then divided by your gross monthly income. The DTI helps lenders determine your ability to manage payments and plays a key role when you apply for refinance.

Lenders usually require that your debt-to-income ratio be 50% or less to qualify for a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan refinance. Meanwhile, conventional loans may allow DTI ratios of up to 43%, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). To get started, you can calculate your current DTI ratio here.

A Healthy FICO Credit Score

Refinance lenders have a minimum credit score requirement. Experian, Equifax and My Fico are authorized FICO score retailers, but you can still obtain free copies of your credit report from the three main credit reporting bureaus — TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian — at annualcreditreport.com once a year.

Average Loan-to-Value Ratio (LTV) of 20% or More

The LTV is the amount of the loan you want to take out divided by the appraised value of your home. Most lenders require that borrowers have at least 20% in equity in order to qualify for refinance.

Should I refinance with my current lender?

You can refinance and renegotiate the terms of your current loan with your lender, but it’s still wise to shop around and request loan estimates from multiple lenders. You might find lender offers that are better deals in terms of refinance rates, loan products, or closing costs.

Mortgage Refinance Checklist

When applying for a mortgage refinance, lenders will ask you for specific documents. Check out the list below to ensure you have everything you need:

✓ A copy of your government-issued ID or Social Security card
✓ A recent copy of your credit report
✓ Proof of income for the last 30 days
✓ W-2s for the past 2 years
✓ Federal tax returns (personal and business) for at least the last 2-3 years
✓ Written explanation if employed less than two years or if there’s a gap or change in employment
✓ Statements of outstanding debt, and all current expenses
✓ Address of property to be refinanced and purchase contract
✓ Homeowners insurance information such as the agent’s name and contact information
✓ Statements of assets
✓ Bankruptcy/ discharge papers if applicable
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Best Mortgage Refinance FAQs

What is refinancing?

Refinancing a mortgage is, essentially, replacing a current loan with a new one – whether changing the terms, interest rates, or amount borrowed. In the best cases, refinancing can help you save money on your mortgage payments by negotiating low rates, or by reducing your term.

When to refinance a mortgage?

The best time to refinance a mortgage is when the interest rates are lower than the one you locked in at the time of closing your mortgage. Lower interest rates will allow you to reduce your term and monthly payments.

How much does it cost to refinance a mortgage?

Refinancing your mortgage can cost around 2% to 6% of your loan amount.

What are the benefits of refinancing?

Refinancing can lower the interest rate on your mortgage, help you obtain a lower monthly payment, and even reduce the loan term. Homeowners also choose to refinance their homes for expansion, reparations, and even to use the home equity to consolidate debt or other financial emergencies.

Can I refinance a second property?

Yes, you can refinance a second home or property, but lenders will have guidelines you must meet to qualify. Be aware of the distinction between a second home and an investment property, because it will affect the interest rate.

How We Chose the Best Mortgage Refinance Companies

Customer experience

Our methodology considered lenders that provided online tools, pre-approval, discounts, or exclusive refinance programs.

Data analysis

We considered lender size and reach, and reputation for customer satisfaction. As part of our research, we consulted the Mortgage Bankers Association, J.D. Power’s U.S. Primary Mortgage Origination Satisfaction Study, and the NMLS (Nationwide Multistate Licensing System, or “Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System”).

Consumer feedback and expert input

We vetted each based on the most important attributes of a lender according to expert interviews and consumer feedback from a short poll that ran on Money’s social media platforms.

Summary of Money’s Best Refinance Companies of 2021

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