The Best Student Loan Refinance Options for 2024

Updated: December 28, 2023

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Student loan refinancing is when a lender pays off your debt by issuing you a new loan. It can be an effective debt management strategy because you may get better interest rates or shorter loan terms — both of which could allow you to save money in the long run.

MoneyGeek analyzed several lenders to help you find the best student loan refinance option for your specific needs. These are private lenders, and the order in which they're presented doesn't indicate their ranking. So, if the first lender doesn't appeal to you, don't hesitate to check out the others on our list.

Key Takeaways

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Refinancing your student loan debt often allows you to find lower interest rates and shorter repayment terms. You can also combine several student loans into a single one through refinancing. All these can help make your student debt more manageable.

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Several financial institutions, such as banks and credit unions, can refinance your student loan. You can even refinance through an online lender.

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There are several excellent options to refinance your student loan. Examples are Sofi, Discover and RISLA.

Citizens Bank Review


  • Citizens Bank

    • 3.48%–10.78%Fixed APR Range
    • 1.99%–8.39%Variable APR Range
    • Up to $150,000Loan Amounts
    • Six monthsGrace Period
    • Only for some borrowersCo-signer

    Although it's best to refinance your student loan as early as possible to maximize your potential savings, Citizens Bank may not be the best option for college students (or those who recently graduated). It doesn't specify a minimum credit score requirement, but its eligibility requirements indicate that you must have good credit standing and a strong credit history to qualify.

    Realistically, not all young adults can meet that criterion. And that leaves them at the higher end of the APR spectrum. With interest exceeding 11% for fixed and variable rates, you can find more competitive rates with other lenders, even if your credit score isn't stellar.

    However, Citizens does allow you to have a cosigner, which could improve your chances of getting your refinance with more competitive rates. It also offers multiple discounts and multi-year approval.

    Pros

    • Widely available
    • Conducts a soft credit inquiry when checking rates
    • Offers multi-year approval
    • You can lower your interest by 0.5% through AutoPay and Loyalty Rewards
    • International students can refinance their student loans if they have a U.S. citizen or permanent resident co-signer

    Cons

    • The highest possible APR is over 11%
    • The minimum loan amount is $10,000
    • Requires a good credit score and a strong credit history
    • Fixed APR Range: 3.48%–11.34%
    • Variable APR Range: 1.99%–6.95%
    • Loan Amounts: For undergrad and grad degrees, up to $150,000 or the total cost of education, whichever is lower
    • Grace Period: Six months
    • Co-signer: Yes
    Citizens Bank

SoFi Review


  • SoFi

    • 3.22%–11.16%Fixed APR Range
    • 1.10%–11.68%Variable APR Range
    • $5,000 minimum, no maximumLoan Amounts
    • Deferment until six months after graduationGrace Period
    • OptionalCo-signer

    SoFi has over 350,000 members who have refinanced their student loans using its services. And you can understand why — when it began operations in 2011, student loan refinancing was its first financial product. Now, SoFi remains one of the best options for student loan refinancing.

    If you undergo financial hardship while repaying your loan, SoFi offers some repayment benefits and options, such as repayment postponement and loan discharge.

    A good credit score will help you get the best rates, and you can reduce them further by signing up for AutoPay. If you can't meet the eligibility requirements, you may be able to apply with a co-signer. However, it's not something you should get into lightly because you must make 24 consecutive on-time payments before requesting a release for your co-signer.

    Pros

    • Offers a 0.25% discount on your interest if you sign up for AutoPay
    • Available in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.
    • No application or origination fees
    • No prepayment penalty
    • Rate checking doesn't affect your credit score

    Cons

    • Requires borrowers to be employed or have an employment offer within 90 days of your application
    • Requires the borrower to have a good credit score
    • Charges a $10 late payment fee or 5% of the overdue amount, whichever is lower
    • Fixed APR Range: 3.22%–11.16%
    • Variable APR Range: 1.10%–11.68%
    • Loan Amounts: $5,000 minimum, no maximum
    • Grace Period: Deferment until six months after graduation
    • Co-Signer: Optional
    SoFi

Discover Review


  • Discover

    • 3.99%–11.59%Fixed APR Range
    • 1.79%–11.09%Variable APR Range
    • $1,000 up to 100% of college expensesLoan Amounts
    • Six monthsGrace Period
    • OptionalCo-signer

    Discover proves to be very understanding with their borrowers. Besides not charging a fee for origination and prepayment, it doesn't apply a penalty for late payment.

    What sets it apart, however, is the support it provides borrowers who may have challenges making their monthly payments. Discover offers the following payment assistant options:

    • Deferment
    • Early repayment
    • Payment extension
    • Reduced payment
    • Forbearance
    • Hardship

    Of course, you must meet specific criteria to be eligible for these, but it's good to know that you have options.

    However, no matter the quality of Discover's support once you've signed your loan agreements, the bigger question is whether they will approve your application. With no pre-qualification tool and an undisclosed credit score requirement, it's challenging to estimate whether or not you qualify for a refinance.

    Pros

    • No fees, whether application, origination or late payment
    • Reduces interest rate by 0.25% if you sign up for Auto Debit
    • Allows you to apply with a co-signer
    • No prepayment penalty
    • Allows you to defer payments for either three or five years, depending on the reason

    Cons

    • Does not have a tool for pre-qualification
    • No option for co-signer release
    • An undisclosed minimum credit score requirement
    • Fixed APR Range: 3.99%–11.59%
    • Variable APR Range: 1.79%–11.09%
    • Loan Amounts: $1,000 up to 100% of college expenses
    • Grace Period: Six months
    • Co-signer: Optional (unless an international student)
    Discover

Earnest Review


  • Earnest

    • 2.44%–7.99%Fixed APR Range
    • 1.74%–7.99%Variable APR Range
    • $1,000 upLoan Amounts
    • Deferment until 9 months after graduationGrace Period
    • AllowedCo-signer

    Despite its benefits, Earnest has a considerable drawback for those exploring options to refinance their student loans — its availability. You'll have limited interest rate options if you're in Arkansas, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas. You can only get fixed rates in those states since variable ones (which are often lower) aren't available. Earnest doesn’t offer refinance options in Kentucky and Nevada at all. If you’re in California, your minimum refinance amount is $10,000.

    But if Earnest refinancing is available in your area, you can expect multiple benefits. Borrowers who prefer to make more frequent payments can choose a bi-weekly payment option, which might make managing your monthly budget easier since you're looking at shorter periods.

    Earnest also allows you to customize your monthly payment. Instead of asking you to choose between several options, it takes a different approach. You can use their tool to determine how much you can afford to pay each month, and Earnest calculates your loan term based on that.

    Pros

    • Conducts a soft credit pull when you check rates
    • Offers a 0.25% AutoPay discount
    • Allows you to skip a payment once every 12 months
    • Offers monthly or bi-weekly payment options
    • No origination, late or prepayment fees

    Cons

    • Borrowers from Arkansas, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas do not have variable-rate option
    • Does not offer refinance options in Kentucky and Nevada
    • Requires a minimum credit score of 650
    • Fixed APR Range: 2.44%–7.99%
    • Variable APR Range: 1.74%–7.99%
    • Loan Amounts: $1,000 up to the total cost of attendance
    • Grace Period: Deferment until 9 months after graduation
    • Co-signer: Allowed
    Earnest

PNC Bank Review


  • PNC

    • 2.99%–9.89%Fixed APR Range
    • 1.09%–8.19%Variable APR Range
    • $1,000–$50,000Loan Amounts
    • Six monthsGrace Period
    • AllowedCo-signer

    Although PNC doesn't disclose its minimum credit score requirement, it's safe to assume that borrowers with very good to excellent credit scores can qualify for refinancing. They can also take advantage of PNC Bank's interest rates. Even with a 20-year repayment term, you can still get a rate lower than 4%.

    However, if your credit standing is less than ideal, that doesn't mean you can't get competitive rates. You can apply with a co-signer, who you can release once you've worked on improving your credit score. Unlike other lenders, PNC has a co-signer release program in place. But you must complete 48 consecutive payments (all made on time) before it is available to you.

    Pros

    • Offers a 0.5% rate discount if you set up automated payments
    • No application and origination fee
    • No prepayment penalty
    • Has a process for co-signer release
    • Forgives outstanding debt if the borrower dies

    Cons

    • 20-year repayment terms are only for undergraduate or graduate degrees (with a minimum loan amount of $75,000)
    • Forbearance and deferment are not available
    • Charges a late fee — 5% of the past due amount or $5, whichever is lower
    • Fixed APR Range: 2.99%–9.89%
    • Variable APR Range: 1.09%–8.19%
    • Loan Amounts: $1,000–$50,000 ($225,000 aggregate limit)
    • Grace Period: Six months
    • Co-signer: Allowed
    PNC

Laurel Road Review


  • Laurel Road

    • 4.03%–9.01%Fixed APR Range
    • 1.49%–8.09%Variable APR Range
    • $2,000 up to the cost of attendanceLoan Amounts
    • Six monthsGrace Period
    • OptionalCo-signer

    Laurel Road offers multiple benefits to borrowers who consider it an option to refinance their private student loan. It's a solid option for those who want to maximize the various financial products they offer.

    For example, you can lower your interest rate further by opening and maintaining a checking account with the lender. Laurel Road also has a student loan cashback card. It allows you to redeem 2% cashback from eligible purchases and use it to repay your debt.

    Borrowers who make their monthly payments on time benefit most. Laurel Road is a stickler for on-time payments, considering the late fee and return payment penalty it applies. These amounts may be small but can quickly eat away at your funds.

    Pros

    • Gives a 0.25% discount if you enroll in AutoPay
    • You can get lower rates (on top of the AutoPay discount) if you open a checking account
    • Allows you to apply with a co-signer
    • Does a soft credit inquiry when you check your rates
    • No prepayment penalty

    Cons

    • Loan amount for eligible Associate degrees in healthcare is capped at $50,000
    • Charges a late fee of $28 or 5% of the required payment
    • Returned payment due to non-sufficient funds come with a $20 penalty
    • Fixed APR: 4.74% to 7.15%

    • Variable APR: 2.75% to 7.05%

    • Loan Amount: $5,000 to 100% of outstanding student debt

    • Repayment Terms: 5, 7, 10, 15 and 20 years

    • Minimum Credit Score: 660

    Laurel Road

Rhode Island Student Loan Authority (RISLA) Review


  • Risla

    • 2.99%–4.74%Fixed APR Range
    • Not availableVariable APR Range
    • $1,500–$150,000Loan Amounts
    • 15 days to six monthsGrace Period
    • Not required if borrower meets qualificationsCo-signer

    RISLA can be an excellent option to refinance your student loan, especially if you work, live or completed your education in Rhode Island. Although it accepts applications from borrowers from all states, those with ties to the Ocean State often enjoy lower rates.

    You can find several programs that focus on protecting you against unfortunate situations. For example, RISLA offers forbearance during times of hardship, so you don't have to worry about making payments if you're already under financial stress. It also has an income-based repayment option and forgives the debt if you are permanently disabled (or worse).

    That said, you may find its requirements too stringent. You must have an annual income of at least $40,000 to qualify for a refinance. If there are eligibility requirements that you don't meet, applying with a co-signer could help. However, ensure the co-signer is someone you trust because RISLA does not have a co-signer release program.

    Pros

    • Offers two repayment options — immediate or deferred
    • Automatic monthly payments qualify you for a 0.25% rate reduction
    • No application or origination fees
    • Conducts a soft credit inquiry when you check your rates
    • Offers borrower protection

    Cons

    • Only one term for deferred repayment
    • High income requirement
    • Fees include a 6% penalty for late payment and $10 for a returned check
    • Fixed APR Range: 2.99%–4.74%
    • Variable APR Range: Not available
    • Loan Amounts: $1,500–$45,000 per year to a maximum of $150,000 per borrower
    • Grace Period: 15 days after disbursement for immediate repayment and six months after leaving school for deferred repayment
    • Co-signer: Not required if borrower meets qualifications
    Risla

How to Find the Best Student Loan Refinance Option

Knowing how to refinance your student loan can help you make the right decision for your needs. MoneyGeek outlined several steps to guide you through the process from comparing potential lenders to preparing the necessary paperwork.

1
Compare lenders

MoneyGeek's private student loan refinance options are recommendations, so don't hesitate to consider other options. When comparing lenders, ensure you factor in the elements that may make repayment less challenging. These include APRs, loan terms, fees and penalties.

It's also best to look into some features that may come in handy. For example, SoFi allows a 24-month forbearance, which not all lenders offer.

2
Get pre-qualified

One way to see how manageable a refinance would be for you is by getting pre-qualified. This will give you an idea of how much interest a lender is willing to offer based on your personal and financial information.

Fortunately, most lenders only do a soft credit pull during pre-qualification, which means it won't affect your credit score. This way, you'll know how much you'll need to pay each month and if it fits your budget.

3
Choose a lender and apply

Comparing lenders allows you to narrow your options, making finding the best deal more likely. Once you identify your preferred lender, you can pursue your application.

4
Submit necessary documents

When you're trying to refinance a student loan, you'll need to submit several documents to your lender. These usually include the following:

  • Proof of employment
  • A government-issued ID
  • Your transcript or diploma
  • Proof of residency
  • Documents for your existing student loan

Remember that requirements vary between lenders. It's best to confirm whether or not you should prepare other documents.

5
Complete your application and make payments

Once you've gathered everything you need to submit, wait for your lender's decision.

Remember, when you refinance your private student loan, you'll have a different monthly payment and a new due date. It might take a little getting used to — you may want to set reminders to ensure you don't miss any.

Frequently Asked Questions About Student Loan Refinance

MoneyGeek answered common questions about how to refinance student loans to help you decide whether or not it's the best move for you.

What interest rates can I get in student loan refinancing?
Do I need a co-signer to refinance a student loan?
When is the best time to refinance a student loan?
Where can you refinance student loans?
Is it possible to refinance after consolidating a student loan?
What can I do if I can’t qualify for a student loan refinance?
Are there fees involved in student loan refinancing?
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*Rates, fees or bonuses may vary or include specific stipulations. The content on this page is accurate as of the posting/last updated date; however, some of the offers mentioned may have expired. We recommend visiting the card issuer’s website for the most up-to-date information available.
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