Before shopping for a student loan refinance company, you should have a clear idea about what you hope to achieve by getting a new loan. Some graduates go this route after hearing how refinancing student loans saves money, while others refinance to change the terms or payments to fit their budget better.
If you’ve decided refinancing is right for you and you prioritize having a lot of control over setting up your monthly payments, Earnest’s student loan refinance options may be a good fit. Keep reading to find out why Earnest’s flexible repayment plans make it one of the best student loan refinance companies.
Best Student Loan Refinance for flexible repayment terms
Earnest offers competitive rates and excellent customer service. However, the company really stands out from its competitors for having the most flexible options for repaying student loans. Their flexible repayment terms allow you to choose how much you want to pay monthly, set payment frequency, skip one payment every 12 months and more.
By comparison, most lenders have a handful of standard repayment term lengths, usually 5 years, 7 years, 10 years and 15 years. But with Earnest, you can set your repayment term to whatever works for your budget — even if it results in a term like 8 years and 6 months.
Earnest Student Loan Refinance Pros and Cons
- Flexibility of payment plan options
- Skip one payment a year
- Eligibility for incomplete degrees
- Services own loans
- Strict eligibility requirements
- Limited product availability in some states
- No cosigner release
Flexibility of payment plan options
A rigid end-of-month payment schedule may not be a good fit for every borrower. Earnest provides customization options to meet different payment preferences. To tailor your payment plan, Earnest lets you:
- Choose your payment amount: You can set the size of your monthly payments; if, for example, your budget can afford monthly bills of $250, Earnest will build your repayment term length around that.
- Choose your repayment term: Repayment terms can be anywhere between 5 to 20 years, down to the month.
- Choose your payment frequency: You can make monthly or biweekly payments.
- Make changes to your payments: You can increase regular payments, make early or extra payments, and adjust your payment date at any time
Allowance for one payment skip a year
After six months of on-time payments, you can skip a payment every 12 months. Note that while skipping a payment may help address a period of the year when your finances are tight, when you miss a payment, the principal and interest from that payment will be spread out across your remaining payments. This will increase your monthly payments in the long run.
Eligibility for incomplete degrees
Borrowers who haven’t completed their degrees are eligible to refinance through Earnest as long as they meet a few extra criteria. Students must be in the last semester of their graduate or undergraduate degree to qualify. Alternatively, borrowers could also qualify if they meet all of these criteria: the degree is incomplete, your last date of attendance was more than six years ago, your credit score is 700 or higher and the school you attended was not a for-profit institution.
Services own loans
When you start repaying a student loan, whether an in-school loan or a refinanced loan, that loan is often sent to a third-party loan servicer, which will manage your payments and be your primary point of contact. In other words, you may borrow from one lender but ultimately have little contact with them over the life of your loan. Instead, you’ll deal with another company that you have no role in choosing.
That’s not the case with Earnest. Earnest services all of its own loans, so you will deal with the same company and customer service the entire time you have your loan.
Strict eligibility requirements
To refinance with Earnest, borrowers must have a minimum credit score of 665. Earnest also looks at your bank accounts and payment history to build a financial profile. Factors that determine approval include: having at least two months’ expenses in savings, spending less than you earn each month and not carrying a lot of other debts (excluding a mortgage)
No cosigner release
You can apply to refinance your loans with or without a cosigner. But if you apply with a cosigner, Earnest doesn’t allow you to remove a cosigner from your refinanced loan. To remove a cosigner, you must refinance your loan with a new account.
Limited product availability in some states
Earnest’s student loan refinance is not available in Nevada. The lender also does not offer variable-rate loans to borrowers in the following states: Alaska, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas.
Earnest student loan refinance offerings
Earnest offers two interest rate options for student loan refinance: fixed rate and variable rate. Each has pros and cons to consider before choosing one.
Fixed-rate student loan refinance
Fixed-rate loans offer predictability and peace of mind. With a fixed-rate loan, your monthly payments and account balances will remain the same throughout the repayment period, even if interest rates rise. Fixed-rate loans offer long-term stability and suit extended repayment plans.
The biggest downside is that if the market rate goes down, your rate won’t change. To lower your interest rate with a fixed-rate plan, you’ll have to apply to refinance the loan all over again. In some cases, this process may incur fees or penalties.
Earnest offers fixed-rate refinance in the District of Columbia and all states except Nevada.
Variable-rate student loan refinance
With a variable-rate student loan refinance, your APR will fluctuate depending on changing market rates. The upside is that if the market rate decreases, so will your interest rate which may save you money. Also, variable-rate student loans will likely start at a lower interest rate than fixed-rate student loans.
This option is typically best if you plan to pay your loans quickly because your rates won’t fluctuate significantly. However, variable-rate loans are unpredictable, so this option may not be for you if you need payment stability.
Earnest’s variable-rate loan is not available in all states. Alaska, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas are excluded.
Earnest student loan refinance pricing
Earnest’s pricing varies by loan product and credit history of each borrower. Prices may change according to the current market, so it’s always best to check Earnest’s website for the most recent rates.
Like most lenders, Earnest does not charge origination fees or prepayment penalties, though late payment fees may apply. As of December 2023, Earnest’s fixed-rate loans for refinance start at 5.19% and variable-rate loans start at 5.99% (both including an autopay discount).
Earnest student loan refinance financial stability
As part of the loan shopping process, customers should research the financial health of prospective lenders. Earnest is a fintech company rather than a bank. The company partners with several banks, including One American Bank out of Texas, to provide the financing for the loans it offers.
In 2017, Navient Corporation, one of the country’s largest student loan companies, bought Earnest. Navient is a publicly traded company with a Fitch rating of BB- and a stable outlook.
Earnest student loan refinance accessibility
When refinancing your student loan, it is important to be able to contact your servicer if you have a concern. Earnest's customer service is highly rated, but it is only available during limited hours. This may be a downside for borrowers who need help outside of these hours.
Variable-rate loans are unavailable in Alaska, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas. You can still apply for a fixed-rate loan if you live in one of these states. Earnest student loan refinance isn't available in Nevada.
You can contact Earnest’s representatives by email, phone or online chat. The email form and online chat access are available through the contact page on the company's website. They can also be reached at (888) 601-2801. Hours of availability for both phone and chat assistance are Monday thoughFriday, 5 AM-5 PM (PST), excluding holidays.
According to online reviews, borrowers are happy with Earnest’s customer service. They’re highly responsive, friendly and knowledgeable. Also, Earnest promises no robocalls, which many reviewers appreciate.
Earnest student loan refinance customer satisfaction
On the BBB, Earnest has a customer review score of 1.67 out of 5. But that is based on only 15 reviews. On other online review sites, the company fares better. On Trustpilot, for example, more than 80% of the roughly 6,000 customer reviews are five stars. Borrowers appreciate Earnest’s straightforward loan application process, quick approval and exceptional customer service. In fact, many people praise Earnest's customer service representatives for quickly resolving any issues that may arise.
On the other hand, when there were complaints, they often regarded the online user interface, pointing out issues accessing their loan details on their online account. Some reported problems include missing account information and the lack of a feature to track variable interest rates on variable-rate accounts. A few complaints mention unexpected hard pulls on borrowers' credit reports.
Earnest Student Loan Refinance FAQs
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How we evaluated Earnest Student Loan Refinance
We used a variety of criteria to evaluate Earnest student loan refinance, including:
- Pros and cons: We considered the benefits and drawbacks of the lender’s products and terms.
- Plans offered: We evaluated how many and what kinds of options borrowers have when choosing their plan.
- Pricing and interest rates: We looked at the rates borrowers can expect on their new loans.
- Minimum financial requirements: We examined factors such as employment, savings, credit score and payment history that may affect rates and approval.
- Accessibility: We tested how easy it is to get a hold of the company in case of questions or concerns.
- Customer satisfaction: We evaluated user experience with considerations such as customer service, ease of application and user interface.
Summary of Money’s Earnest Student Loan Refinance review
Earnest student loan refinance is ideal for anyone wanting flexibility with their loan. The option to customize your payment amount and terms helps tailor your payments to your budget. The lender also has excellent customer service reviews and manages the repayment of all the loans it originates.
But if you have federal loans, you should think carefully before refinancing with a private lender like Earnest. You’ll give up access to federal protections and flexibilities, like income-based repayment plans and forgiveness opportunities.
Earnest also has strict eligibility requirements. In addition to reviewing your credit score, Earnest requires a stable income, savings to cover two months of expenses and a credit history free of recent debt collection reports. Therefore, Earnest loans better fit borrowers who are financially stable and looking to refinance their loans to save money on interest rates.