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By: and
Published: Oct 02, 2023 32 min read
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  • Rates starting at 5.48% fixed APR (with autopay)*
  • Refinance your total debt
  • No origination fees or prepayment penalties
  • See personalized rates from multiple lenders in 2 minutes without affecting your credit score
Our Partner
  • Get pre-approved in 2 minutes
  • Easy-to-use loan calculator
  • Up to 20-year loan terms
  • Career coaches & wealth advisors available to SoFi members
  • Get a 0.125% discount on other SoFi loan products
Our Partner
  • Rates starting at 5.19% fixed APR (with autopay) and 5.72% variable APR (with autopay)
  • Refinance undergraduate, graduate, and parent loans
  • Refinance available for users with incomplete bachelor's or associate's degrees 
  • Loan amounts between $5,000 and $500,000
  • Skip one payment per year with no penalty
  • Flexible loan terms from 5 to 20 years
  • Rates based in part on your earning potential
  • No application or origination fees or early repayment penalties
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  • Rates start at 4.96% fixed APR with Autopay
  • No application or origination fees or pre-payment penalties
  • Checking rates will not impact your credit score
  • Accredited by the Better Business Bureau with an A+ rating
Our Partner
  • Rates as low as 6.79% APR fixed and 7.06% APR variable
  • Consolidate federal and private loans
  • Borrow up to $300,000 if you have an undergraduate degree, $500,000 if you have a graduate degree
  • Refinancing also available for borrowers without degrees
  • Powered by Credible
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APRs starting at 5.28% (variable) & 5.48% (fixed)

  • Low-interest rates & a variety of repayment options
  • Consolidate both federal & private student loans
  • Repayment terms of 5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 years
  • A+ Rating from the Better Business Bureau

Refinancing your student loans can help some borrowers pay off their debt quicker and save money in the long run. Student loan refinance rates increased from their historic lows in 2021 as the Federal Reserve strives to curb inflation, and most financial experts anticipate higher interest rates will continue through 2023.

If you’re thinking about refinancing private student loans, it might be a good idea to act before rates go up any further. Many federal loan borrowers, meanwhile, may be considering refinancing now that the federal payment freeze has ended.

Read on to learn more about our top picks for best student loan refinancing companies of 2023, along with industry insights and the latest information regarding student loan debt forgiveness and repayment options.

Note: The federal student loan payment pause is officially over and most borrowers will have their first payment due in October. To help, the Biden administration has introduced a new income-driven repayment plan called SAVE, which could significantly reduce your payments and help you achieve loan forgiveness faster.

Our Top Picks for the Best Student Loan Refinance Companies

  • RISLA – Best for Borrower Protections
  • Credible - Best Student Loan Marketplace
  • PenFed - Best for Parents
  • Earnest - Best for Flexible Repayment Terms
  • MPOWER Financing – Best for International and DACA Students
  • SoFi – Best for Member Benefits
  • Laurel Road - Best for Medical Professionals
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Best Student Loan Refinance Reviews

Why we chose it: RISLA stands out from other lenders because of its borrower protection programs, including an income-based repayment option that offers loan forgiveness after 25 years of payments.

Pros
  • Income-based payment option
  • Forbearance for financial hardships
  • In-school refinancing available
Cons
  • Only offers fixed-rate loans
  • Maximum loan term is 15 years
  • No cosigner release
HIGHLIGHTS
Minimum income requirements
$40,000
Minimum credit score
No minimum credit score but lender conducts credit check
Cosigner release
No
Loan amount
$7,500 to $250,000
Loan terms
Immediate repayment: 5-,10- and 15-year terms | Deferred repayment: 15 years
Eligible loan types
Federal (both student and parent PLUS) and private loans
Eligible degrees
Bachelor's and graduate degrees
Allows refinance for non-graduates
Yes
Fees
No application or origination fees. Late payment fee may apply
Prepayment penalty
No
Fixed interest rate
Immediate repayment: 5.79%-8.74% APR (Lowest rates include 0.25% autopay discount) | Deferred repayment: 7.49%%-7.70% APR (Lowest rates include 0.25% autopay discount)
Variable interest rate
Unavailable

The Rhode Island Student Aid Authority RISLA is a non-profit, state-based organization. Despite its name, it offers private student loans and student loan refinancing to borrowers in all 50 states.

Unlike most refinancing companies, RISLA has robust borrower protections, including an income-based repayment program. Under this program, monthly payments will never exceed 15% of the borrower and co-signer’s discretionary income. And if there is still a loan balance after 25 years on the repayment plan, RISLA will forgive the remainder.

RISLA’s other borrower protections include:

  • Nursing rewards program – Nurses working in Rhode Island may pay 0% interest on their loan for up to four years
  • Economic hardship forbearance – Loans disbursed on or after July 1, 2021, are eligible for up to 24 months of forbearance if experiencing financial hardship, unemployment or disability

For students refinancing with RISLA, the lender offers one fixed-rate loan with two repayment options:

  • Immediate refinancing – Borrowers start the new repayment term 30 days after disbursement.
  • Deferred refinancing – Borrowers can refinance while still in school. Payments aren’t due until six months after graduating.

All of RISLA’s loans have fixed interest rates; variable-rate loans aren’t available, and the longest repayment term RISLA offers is 15 years.

To qualify for a RISLA loan, applicants must earn a minimum income of $40,000 annually, which is slightly higher than what other lenders require. There’s no minimum credit score, but the lender conducts a credit check and allows cosigners in case the borrower’s credit isn’t satisfactory. However, there’s no cosigner release; the only way to remove a cosigner is to refinance the loan again.

Why we chose it: We chose Credible as our best student loan marketplace because its prequalification tool allows borrowers to check rates from multiple lenders after filling out a single application.

Pros
  • Free to use
  • Parent and student loan refinancing
  • $200 best rate guarantee
Cons
  • Does not include all major lenders
  • Repayment policies vary by company
  • Loans serviced by third parties
HIGHLIGHTS
Minimum income requirements
Varies by lender
Minimum credit score
Varies by lender
Cosigner release
Varies by lender
Loan amount
$5,000 up to total balance
Loan terms
5-20 years
Eligible loan types
Federal (including student and Parent PLUS) and private
Eligible degrees
Undergraduate and graduate/professional
Allows refinance for non-graduates
Dependent on lender
Fees
No origination or application. Late payment fees may apply.
Prepayment penalty
None
Fixed interest rate
4.90% - 11.83% APR
Variable interest rate
5.28% - 14.51% APR

Credible isn’t a lender. Instead, it’s an online marketplace where borrowers can compare rates and shop around for private student loans and student loan refinance options. The company provides personalized quotes from banks, fintech companies and state loan authorities such as the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority (MEFA) and RISLA.

Borrowers can find refinancing options for federal student loans, private student loans and Parent PLUS loans.

Credible partner lenders include Brazos, Citizens Bank, EdvestinU, ELFI, INvestEd, ISL Education Lending, MEFA, Nelnet Bank and RISLA. All of Credible’s partners offer competitive rates with no origination fees.

However, Credible doesn’t partner with all major lenders. For example, major refinancing lenders like SoFi and Discover aren’t available through Credible, so you may have to do some homework on your own.

And lender policies regarding forbearance, co-signer releases and loan forgiveness in cases of death and disability may vary, so you have to review each lender’s policies yourself.

Why we chose it: Parents who took on debt in the form of federal Parent PLUS loans or private parent loans to pay for their child’s education may benefit from PenFed’s refinance program. Most lenders prohibit transferring debt to another person’s name, but PenFed Credit Union allows parents to refinance student loans and transfer them to the child as long as the child consents and meets the lender’s underwriting requirements.

Pros
  • Spouses can refinance their student loans together
  • Graduates can take over Parent PLUS loans as primary borrowers
  • Cosigner release is available after just 12 on-time payments
Cons
  • Borrowers must be an existing PenFed credit union member or join PenFed to apply
  • Bachelor's degree required
  • No autopay discount
HIGHLIGHTS
Minimum income requirements
Ranges from $42,000 to $50,000, depending on the loan amount and whether there is a cosigner
Minimum credit score
670
Cosigner release
After 1 year of consecutive on-time payments
Loan amount
$7,500 minimum, $300,000 maximum
Loan terms
5- to 15-year terms
Eligible loan types
Federal (both student and parent PLUS) and private loans
Eligible degrees
Associates, bachelor's and graduate/professional
Allows refinance for non-graduates
No
Fees
No origination or application fees. Late fee may apply
Prepayment penalty
None
Fixed interest rate
7.74%-9.93% APR
Variable interest rate
Unavailable

Pentagon Federal Credit Union, generally known as PenFed, is the second-largest credit union in the nation that offers student loan refinancing. The company offers fixed-rate options for borrowers — students, parents and couples — refinancing up to $300,000 in private or federal student loan debt, with loan payment terms ranging from five to 15 years.

With PenFed, married couples can file a loan application to refinance their student loans together. The spouse with the highest degree should apply as the primary applicant to ensure the best rates. Unlike traditional refinancing, only one person needs to have completed at least a bachelor’s degree to refinance through PenFed’s Couple Loan.

Parents can also refinance their Parent PLUS loans and transfer the debt to their children. Other lenders require the parent to stay on the loan after refinancing, but PenFed allows your child to apply for refinancing and assume your debt, removing your obligation to pay.

The minimum annual income requirement for refinancing ranges from $42,000 to $50,000, depending on the loan amount and whether there is a cosigner. As a PenFed member, you will also gain access to member rate discounts, an advice center and financial offers.

For more information, check out our full review of PenFed Credit Union's refinancing options.

Why we chose it: Earnest is our top pick for customizing loan repayment due to its flexible payment options, which is unique among lenders. Earnest allows borrowers to pick the monthly payment that fits their budget, and sets the repayment term based on that amount (even if it results in an uncommon number like 7.5 years).

Pros
  • Customizable payments
  • Monthly and biweekly payments available
  • In-school refinancing available
Cons
  • No co-signer releases
  • Not available in Kentucky or Nevada
  • High credit score required
  • Variable-rate loans not available in all states
HIGHLIGHTS
Minimum income requirements
Does not disclose
Minimum credit score
650
Cosigner release
No
Loan amount
$5,000 up to $500,000
Loan terms
5-20 years
Eligible loan types
Federal (including student and Parent PLUS) and private
Eligible degrees
Bachelor's and graduate/professional
Allows refinance for non-graduates
Yes, if the student is in the last semester before graduation
Fees
No origination or application. Late payment fees may apply.
Prepayment penalty
No
Fixed interest rate
5.19% - 9.74% APRĀ (includes 0.25% autopay discount)
Variable interest rate
5.72% - 9.74% APR (includes 0.25% autopay discount)

Earnest allows you to customize your payments by selecting a loan term that fits your budget. You can also choose from monthly or biweekly payments, so you can pick a payment plan that matches up with your pay periods to help you stick to your budget.

Earnest offers refinancing for both undergraduate and graduate school loans, and students enrolled at least half-time can refinance while still in school as long as they’re in their last semester before graduating.

However, Earnest’s requirements are strict. Its minimum credit score is 680 or higher, and Earnest takes your current savings, bank account balances and spending habits into consideration. And while Earnest does allow you to apply with a cosigner, it does not offer cosigner releases. The only way to remove a cosigner from the loan is to refinance with another lender.

Why we chose it: Most lenders require borrowers to be U.S. citizens or permanent residents to qualify for student loan refinancing, but MPOWER Financing offers refinancing for international and DACA students that live and work in the U.S.

Pros
  • Only lender that offers refinancing options for international students
  • Borrowers build U.S. credit history with their loan payments
  • Accepts DACA recipients, refugees and asylum seekers with a valid visa
  • Accepts international applicants without cosigner or credit history
Cons
  • Origination and currency conversion fees apply
  • High interest rates
  • A single repayment term
  • No refinance options for borrowers with unfinished degrees
HIGHLIGHTS
Minimum income requirements
Does not disclose
Minimum credit score
Does not disclose
Cosigner release
Not applicable
Loan amount
$2,001- $100,000
Loan terms
10-year
Eligible loan types
International, federal and private loans
Eligible degrees
Undergraduate and graduate
Allows refinance for non-graduates
No
Fees
2.00% origination fee, foreign currency exchange rate fee and late payment fees may apply.
Prepayment penalty
No
Fixed interest rate
11.74% APR (includes autopay discount)
Variable interest rate
Not available

MPower Financing is a public benefit corporation that specializes in financing higher education for international students. For international or DACA students looking to refinance their loans, MPOWER allows them to refinance without a cosigner or U.S. credit history.

All of its loans have fixed interest rates and 10-year repayment terms, and MPOWER will allow borrowers to refinance loans originated in the following countries: Australia, Austria, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Germany, India, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Philippines, South Korea, Switzerland, Spain, the U.K. and the U.S.

MPOWER reports loan payment activity to the major credit bureaus, so making your payments on time can help you build your U.S. credit history.

MPower accepts refinancing applications from U.S citizens, DACA recipients, permanent residents and foreign students, provided they meet its income and debt requirements. Borrowers must also:

  • Reside and work in the U.S. for a minimum of three months
  • Have a bachelor’s degree or higher from eligible institutions
  • Own a valid visa with two or more years of work authorization, in the case of foreign students

Although MPower is the only lender on our list that caters to international students, its loan terms are less favorable compared to competitors. It has higher-than-average interest rates, and it’s the only lender we looked at that charges origination fees.

Why we chose it: SoFi is a leading online servicer that offers unique membership benefits in addition to its competitive rates and refinancing terms. Refinancing with SoFI grants you access to career coaching, free financial planning, estate planning discounts and more.

Pros
  • Forbearance programs
  • Financial coaching and other benefits
  • Special payment plans for medical residency
  • Parent loan refinancing available
Cons
  • High credit score needed
  • Loans serviced through a third party
  • Bar exam loans for lawyers and medical residency loans aren't eligible for refinancing
  • Does not allow co-signer releases
HIGHLIGHTS
Minimum income requirements
Does not disclose
Minimum credit score
Does not disclose
Cosigner release
No
Loan amount
$5,000 up to total balance
Loan terms
5-20 years
Eligible loan types
Federal (including student and Parent PLUS) and private
Eligible degrees
Associate, bachelor's and graduate/professional
Allows refinance for non-graduates
No
Fees
No origination, application or late fees.
Prepayment penalty
No
Fixed interest rate
5.24% - 9.99% APR (lowest rates include autopay discount)
Variable interest rate
6.24% - 9.99% APR (lowest rates include autopay discount)

SoFi stands out for its variety of membership benefits. Anyone with a SoFi product (banking and investment services, personal loans, mortgage loans, credit and student loans) qualifies for membership and the following benefits:

  • Financial planning provided by a non-commissioned fiduciary agent
  • Career coaching and financial webinars
  • Nationwide member meet-ups and events
  • 15% discount for estate planning through Trust & Will, an online estate planning service
  • Points program that’s redeemable for cash

Members also qualify for a 0.125% rate discount off their monthly payment on top of the 0.25% autopay discount. Finally, SoFi features a loan referral program that awards a $300 bonus to you and the person you referred if they refinance with SoFi.

SoFi’s student loan refinancing program, serviced by the Higher Education Loan Authority of the State of Missouri (MOHELA), accepts applications for federal and private loans (including Parent PLUS and students who wish to take over their parent’s Parent PLUS loans).

The lender’s eligibility requirements and loan terms are on par with other student refinance companies, with one exception: there’s no cosigner release available after refinancing. You can apply for refinancing with a cosigner, but there’s no way to remove the cosigner later on without refinancing again with another lender.

Why we chose it: Laurel Road is an online lender specializing in student loan refinancing for doctors, offering lower rates for healthcare professionals. Plus, it has a program for individuals participating in a medical residency program that allows you to refinance your loans and pay just $100 per month during your residency or fellowship.

Pros
  • Low payments through the medical residency refinancing program
  • Lower rates for eligible healthcare professionals
  • Loan terms as long as 20 years
Cons
  • Limited options for those with associate degrees
  • Lowest rates require you to sign up for a bank account
  • Loans serviced by Mohela, a third party company
HIGHLIGHTS
Minimum income requirements
Does not disclose
Minimum credit score
Does not disclose
Cosigner release
Yes
Loan amount
$5,000 to total balance ($50,000 maximum for associate degrees)
Loan terms
5-20 years
Eligible loan types
Federal (including student and Parent PLUS) and private
Eligible degrees
Associate (some fields), bachelor's and graduate/professional
Allows refinance for non-graduates
No
Fees
No origination or application. Late payment fees may apply.
Prepayment penalty
No
Fixed interest rate
5.49%-10.74% APR (Lowest rate includes a linked checking account and autopay discount)
Variable interest rate
5.24%-10.64% APR (Lowest rate includes a linked checking account and autopay discount)

Rates current as of Oct. 25, 2023, rates subject to change. Terms and Conditions apply. All products are subject to credit approval. Please see all Laurel Road disclaimers here.

Laurel Road offers refinancing for those with undergraduate, graduate or parent student loans. Where Laurel Road stands out is its refinancing program for healthcare professionals and those completing their medical residencies.

Medical professionals that refinance through Laurel Road can choose loan terms as long as 20 years, and if they sign up for a bank account, they can qualify for lower APRs. If you set up direct deposit and deposit at least $2,500 per month, you can also qualify for a $200 cash bonus.

Laurel Road also offers a separate residency refinancing program. Medical and dental residents or fellows can pay as little as $100 per month for up to four years before starting a standard repayment plan. Interest will accrue during this period, but it will not compound, or be added to their principal balance, until they enter the standard repayment. After their fellowship or residency ends, they can defer the standard repayment term by up to six months.

Eligibility requirements for residents are based on the following:

  • Credit profile
  • Monthly debt payments
  • Income projections at the end of the training period

Laurel Road also offers a refinancing option for up to $50,000 for medical professionals with associate degrees, but the number of qualifying career paths is limited. And if you don’t sign up for a Laurel Road bank account, you’ll have a higher APR than the lowest advertised rates.

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Other student loan refinance companies we considered

The companies reviewed below offer competitive interest rates and loan terms that may suit many borrowers. Readers will find short reviews, a highlights table listing loan terms and eligibility requirements and an explanation for why the company didn’t make it into our top picks.

Splash Financial

HIGHLIGHTS
Minimum income requirements
Varies by partner lender
Minimum credit score
Varies by partner lender
Cosigner release
Varies by partner lender
Loan amount
$5,000 to total balance
Loan terms
5-25 years
Eligible loan types
Federal (including student and Parent PLUS) and private
Eligible degrees
Associate (some fields), bachelor's and graduate/professional
Allows refinance for non-graduates
No
Fees
No origination or application. Late payment fees may apply.
Prepayment penalty
No
Standard Student Loan Refinancing:
Fixed interest rate: 4.96%-9.99% APR (lowest rates include autopay discount) | Variable interest rate: 5.28-9.99% APR (lowest rates include autopay discount)
Medical School Refinancing:
Fixed interest rate: 6.39%-9.84% APR (lowest rates include autopay discount) | Variable interest rate: 6.39%-9.84% APR (lowest rates include autopay discount)

Splash Financial is an online marketplace that partners with loan servicers to provide low refinance rates and affordable repayment options for students looking to refinance their loans.

Married couples can refinance together and consolidate their student loans into one, while parents can also refinance Parent PLUS loans and transfer the debt to their child.

Splash Financial recently launched a new medical school refinancing option. It offers competitive rates and an optional 84-month deferment period during residency or fellowship.

Why it didn’t make the cut: Splash Financial offers competitive rates and an easy loan application, but the company falls short when compared to similar marketplaces. It doesn’t offer added bonuses or incentives to use the platform, and policies and repayment terms vary by lender.

For more information, read our full review of Splash Financial>>

Navy Federal Credit Union

HIGHLIGHTS
Minimum income requirement
Does not disclose
Minimum credit score
Does not disclose
Cosigner release
Yes
Loan amount
$7,500 to $125,000 for undergraduate loans, $175,000 for graduate or combined loans
Loan terms
5-15 years
Eligible loan types
Federal (including student and Parent PLUS) and private
Eligible degrees
Bachelor's and graduate/professional
Allows refinance for non-graduates
No
Fees
No origination or application. Late payment fees may apply.
Prepayment penalty
No
Fixed interest rate
4.60%-10.45% (lowest rate includes autopay discount)
Variable interest rate
6.62%-13.67% (lowest rate includes autopay discount)

Navy Federal is the largest credit union in the world and specializes in banking and financial services for members of the military. Students with any type of student loan with Navy Federal are eligible to use the Career Assistance Program, an online job training tool that provides tips on interviewing, resume building and more. Parents with student loans for multiple children can refinance and benefit from student loan consolidation.

Why it didn't make the cut: The credit union only services members of the military or those who have family or household members in the armed forces. By contrast, anyone can become a member of PenFed Credit Union, one of our top picks.

Citizens Bank

HIGHLIGHTS
Minimum income requirements
$24,000 annually
Minimum credit score
Does not disclose
Cosigner release
Yes
Loan amount
$10,000 to $300,000 for undergraduate debt, $500,000 for graduate debt and $750,000 for professional degree debt
Loan terms
5-20 years
Eligible loan types
Federal (including student and Parent PLUS) and private
Eligible degrees
Bachelor's and graduate/professional
Allows refinance for non-graduates
Yes
Fees
No origination or application. Late payment fees may apply.
Prepayment penalty
No
Fixed interest rate
6.79% - 10.99% APR (lowest rates include loyalty and autopay discounts)
Variable interest rate
7.06% - 12.41% APR (lowest rates include loyalty and autopay discounts)

Citizens Bank combines the stability of a traditional bank with the flexibility of online lending, and it offers refinancing options for both students and parents.

Loan refinancing is available to permanent resident aliens and non-U.S. citizens (with a qualified cosigner). Citizens Bank is also one of the few lenders that accepts refinance applications from borrowers who didn’t finish their degrees. To qualify, applicants must have made 12 consecutive, on-time payments.

Why it didn't make the cut: Citizens Bank has strict eligibility requirements. Borrowers need good to excellent credit to qualify, and the loan minimum is $10,000 — higher than other lenders require. Citizens Bank does have forbearance programs, but the lender says decisions are made on a case-by-case basis rather than having set requirements or durations.

For more information, check out our full review of Citizens Bank's refinancing options.

Student loan refinance guide

Students and parents may be able to save money by refinancing, especially during periods of low interest rates. But refinancing isn’t a smart move for every borrower, so before taking that step, consider the implications of refinancing and if the outcome will be beneficial to your particular financial situation. For example, federal borrowers may score a lower interest rate but lose financial protections that could be crucial down the road.

Use our guide as a starting point to learn about refinancing, how it works and whether it’s the right choice to manage your student debt.

Table of Contents:

How does refinancing student loans work?

When you refinance your student loan you are replacing your current loan with a new loan and new terms from a private lender. Generally, borrowers refinance student loans to extend their repayment period (and therefore lower monthly payments), obtain a lower interest rate or consolidate multiple student loans into one single payment. Some borrowers may find terms that achieve all three at once.

You can only refinance student loans through a private lender, not the federal government. Experts caution people with federal loans to think very carefully about their situation before refinancing, because they’ll be giving up federal benefits that come with government loans such as student loan forgiveness programs and income-driven repayment plans. If your student loan is from a private lender, you can refinance with your current lender or choose a different lender.

Student loan refinancing vs. Student loan consolidation

One of the benefits of refinancing through a private student loan lender is that borrowers can consolidate multiple loans into one and have a single monthly payment under one servicer. But this benefit is not limited to private lenders. Students with eligible federal loans can consolidate their debt with a Direct Consolidation Loan, though there are pros and cons with that process as well.

Here are the key differences between federal student loan consolidation and refinancing:

Private Loan Refinance Direct Consolidation Loans
Replaces one or more existing loans — federal or private — with a new private loan. Combines your existing federal student loans into one federal student loan.
Available for federal and private loans, depending on the lender. Available for federal student loans only.
Interest rates are determined by your credit history and potential market trends. This may result in a lower interest rate. Your new interest rate will be the result of the weighted average of the interest rates on the loans you're consolidating, so this option does not reduce the amount of interest you’re paying each month.
Credit history will be verified. Does not require a credit check for approval.
Fixed and variable APRs Fixed APRs only
Multiple repayment terms are available, often 5 to 20 years. Consolidation loans offer several repayment options beyond the standard 10-year repayment plan, with terms ranging from 12 to 30 years.
Parent PLUS loans can be refinanced under the adult child's name, relieving parents of debt. Parent PLUS loans cannot be consolidated under the adult child’s name.
You lose all benefits associated with federal student loans. You retain many benefits and protections available to federal student loans.

Should you refinance your student loans?

Refinancing your debt — whether federal or private student loans — may save you money if you have high interest rates and a large monthly payment. However, it’s not always the best financial move, especially for borrowers with federal loans.

Refinancing a federal loan means converting it to a private lender. You'll lose valuable benefits and protections, such as income-based loan repayment plans, Public Service Loan Forgiveness and interest subsidies. And, the process cannot be reversed. For many federal borrowers, enrolling in an income-driven repayment plan will be a better option, as those plans can reduce your monthly payment and offer loan forgiveness on any balance left over after a certain number of years.

If you have a private student loan, there’s no real downside to refinancing to get better terms. But you will need a good credit score and stable income (or a creditworthy cosigner) to qualify for refinancing. When weighing whether it makes sense for you, remember that lenders’ lowest rates are reserved for borrowers with the strongest credit.

Pros and cons of student loan refinance

Consider the following advantages and disadvantages to determine if refinancing your student loan is the right choice:

Pros
  • Take advantage of market fluctuations to reduce your rate
  • Shorten your loan repayment term
  • Increase or lower your monthly payment
  • Consolidate federal and private student loans and have a single monthly payment
  • Option to remove your cosigner
  • Multiple repayment terms are available, often 5 to 20-year terms
Cons
  • No federal repayment protections
  • No federal student loan forgiveness
  • Generally no income-based repayment option
  • Subject to the private lender's repayment terms
  • No flexibility to alter the repayment plan without refinancing
  • Irreversible: private loans can't be converted back to federal loans

What to consider when refinancing a student loan

Before refinancing your loans, consider the following:

Federal student loans

With federal student loans, refinancing can help you secure a lower interest rate and possibly reduce your monthly payment. But your federal loans will be transferred to a private lender, and you’ll no longer be eligible for borrower protections like federal income-driven repayment (including the new, more generous SAVE repayment plan), Public Service Loan Forgiveness or Total & Permanent Disability Discharge.

Private student loans

When you refinance, the loans are switched to a new loan servicer. Private loan rates, policies and customer service varies by lender, so be careful about refinancing your loans.

How to refinance student loans

Refinancing student loans can be an excellent way to save money or accelerate your repayment, and it's easier to do than you may think:

Check your credit

Lenders generally require borrowers to have good to excellent credit, meaning a score of 670 or higher, and to get the best student loan refinancing rates, you’ll need an even better score. Check your credit to see where you stand. If your credit is less-than-perfect or you have a high debt-to-income ratio, you may not even qualify for a loan unless you add a cosigner to your application.

Not all refinancing companies offer cosigner releases, so review the lender’s loan terms to see if a cosigner release is possible.

Consider the types of loans you have

If you have a mix of federal and private loans, remember that you don’t have to refinance all of your debt. You can decide to refinance a portion of your debt, such as the loans with the highest interest rates or only your private student loans.

Shop for the best rate

Each lender has its own credit and income requirements, so you may qualify for better rates with some lenders over others. Shop around and request quotes from multiple companies to find the best deal. Many lenders have tools that allow you to view prequalified rates without affecting your credit score.

Rates range based on your credit and loan term; the lowest rates are usually for the shorter repayment periods, such as five or seven years.

Research lender’s financial hardship relief options

Not all refinancing lenders offer financial relief programs if you lose your job or become ill. And not all lenders will discharge your loans in cases of death or permanent disability. Carefully review the lender’s forbearance, deferment and forgiveness policies so you know under what circumstances the lender will pause or forgive your loans.

Fill out your loan application

Student loan refinancing companies allow you to apply online. You’ll need to provide your current loan statements, student loan account numbers and employment information. You’ll also need to consent to a hard credit inquiry.

Sign your loan approval and start making monthly payments

Once you’re approved, the lender will send you a loan agreement to review and sign. After that, the lender will work with your current loan servicers to pay off your student loans. Continue making your usual monthly payments until you receive confirmation that your loans have been paid in full; otherwise, you risk late payment fees and damage to your credit report.

How to refinance student loans with bad credit

If you have poor credit or no credit history, you will need a cosigner with a high credit score and steady source of income to qualify for a loan. (Most lenders require a minimum credit score around 680, but your cosigner will need a very good or excellent score to qualify for the best rates) Some lenders will allow you to apply for a cosigner release if you meet its requirements and make a specific number of payments on time, but not all lenders offer that option.

If you don’t have a cosigner to apply with, you’ll have to improve your credit before applying to refinance.

Student loan refinance application requirements

To qualify for student loan refinancing, you must meet the following requirements:

Good credit

Lenders evaluate your creditworthiness when reviewing your application. They typically require good to excellent credit and an established credit history. Otherwise, you’ll need a cosigner.

Proof of Income

You must have a verifiable source of income, such as pay stubs or a recent W-2. Some lenders will accept offers of employment if you’re still in school or just graduated.

Cosigner

If you’re a recent college graduate, you are unlikely to have an established credit history or substantial income, so you may need a cosigner to qualify for a loan.

College degree

Most lenders require applicants to graduate with four-year degrees to qualify for refinancing. However, there are a handful of lenders, such as Citizens Bank, that will approve borrowers that did not graduate.

U.S. citizenship or permanent residency status

Most, if not all, lenders require you to be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to be eligible to refinance your student loans. However, some will allow you to refinance your loans if you have a co-signer that is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a valid Social Security number.

If your student loans are from a foreign country, it’s recommended that you build sufficient credit in the United States to qualify for refinancing.

Private student loan forbearance and relief options

PenFed
Borrowers encountering financial concerns with their accounts are encouraged to contact
PenFed’s Financial Hardship Center for further assistance or call 1-800-246-5626
Earnest
Earnest’s short-term, interest-only program that allows clients to make lower (interest only) payments for up to 90 days. Borrowers may use this program for a maximum of 18 months.
Laurel Road
Full or partial forbearance of 3 monthly payments. Interest will continue to accrue.
For more information on financial assistance, contact the lender’s servicing partner MOHELA at 1-877-292-6845.
RISLA
Payments pause for up to 24 months in the event of financial hardship, unemployment or disability.
For more information, read the lender’s guide on borrower protections.
MPower Financing
The lender encourages borrowers to contact customer support if they’re experiencing financial hardship.
Splash Financial
Splash Financial encourages customers to reach out directly at (800) 349-3938 so they can negotiate accommodations like forbearance or waiving fees.
Navy Federal Credit Union
Eligible members may apply for a 3-month forbearance on their student loan payments.
The company encourages borrowers to contact their Student Loan Center at 1-877-304-9302 for more information.
For more information, please consult the lender’s Pandemic Relief FAQs section.
Citizens Bank
The bank offers discretionary loan payment forbearance. Interest will still accrue.
For more information, please refer to the lender’s Forbearance FAQ.
SoFi
The option to request a forbearance period for up to 12 months in 3-month increments (interest will still accrue, and the life of the loan will extend).
For more information, go to the lender’s Unemployment Protection Program guide.
Credible is excluded from this section because it’s a loan marketplace and does not issue loans. As it does not have its own payment relief policy in place, we recommend you refer to the specific loan servicer's platforms for further information.

Latest news on student loans

The student loan payment pause has officially ended, with interest accruing since Sept. 1 and monthly payments due in October. The White House has announced what it's calling an "on ramp" to payments restarting: For 12 months, borrowers who miss a monthly payment will not be considered delinquent or reported to credit bureaus, though their loans will accrue interest.

After the Supreme Court blocked the proposed student loan relief program, President Biden announced that his administration is exploring other paths for loan forgiveness, including a plan that invokes the Higher Education Act of 1965. However, the President cautioned that this approach will take longer to achieve.

Best Student Loan Refinance Companies FAQ

How to refinance a student loan?

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First, decide if refinancing is the right path for you, as opting to refinance your federal loan will eliminate various federal loan benefits, including more generous deferment, forbearance and repayment options. Once you've made up your mind, request quotes from leading refinancing lenders to find the best rates and loan options for your situation. You can finish the application process online.

How often can you refinance student loans?

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There is no limit to how often you can refinance your loans. Some borrowers may find that they can qualify for lower rates later as the economy changes and their credit scores improve, so it can make sense to shop around once a year to see what loan options are available.

What is the best student loan refinance company?

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There's no one lender that's best for everyone. The best lender is the one that's suitable for your situation. A good place to start is with a lending marketplace, which lets you compare rates from different lenders with a single application. You can also take a look at our best student loan refinance list to further narrow down your options.

What is a cosigner release?

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A cosigner release allows a borrower to remove a cosigner's name from the debt, so that the loan is tied only to the primary borrower's record. Cosigner releases can be useful if you need help to qualify for a loan, but you're anticipating your financial situation will improve later on so that you'll be able to manage the debt on your own. Many lenders require a certain number of payments, typically one or two years' worth, before releasing a cosigner. But some lenders don't allow it at all, so you should check before you take out a loan.

How we chose the Best Student Loan Refinance Companies

Loan refinance selection

Some lenders didn’t make our cut because they didn’t offer a full range of refi options, such as for Parent PLUS student loans, which was a non-negotiable point in our criteria.

Payment options and fees

We favored companies with flexible payback policies, such as cosigner release and financial hardship relief options for qualified applicants. We also looked for financial institutions that offered refinance loans without charging origination fees or late fees. Additionally, we favored lenders who offered interest rate reductions for signing up for automatic payments, or autopay programs.

Customer experience

When we researched each company on our shortlist, it was important for us to evaluate whether lenders had an inordinate number of complaints or any ongoing actions with regulatory agencies such as the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau.

Summary of Money’s Best Student Loan Refinance Companies of October 2023

  • RISLA – Best for Borrower Protections
  • Credible - Best Student Loan Marketplace
  • PenFed - Best for Parents
  • Earnest - Best for Flexible Repayment Terms
  • MPOWER Financing – Best for International and DACA Students
  • SoFi – Best for Member Benefits
  • Laurel Road - Best for Medical Professionals

Gabriella Cruz-Martinez contributed to this story.