How to Refinance Student Loans in 4 Easy Steps

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Refinance rates with Laurel Road start at 1.89%.

Checking your rates won’t affect your score.

Check out Laurel Road

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Learning how to refinance student loans is simpler than it sounds. It involves shopping around for rates and applying with the lender offering the best deal. Then it’s a matter of waiting for that lender to pay off your old debt and issue your new, hopefully more affordable loan.

Of course, the question of how to refinance a student loan has finer details, such as the documents needed to proceed, plus how long the process takes.

Fortunately, even if you’re undecided about refinancing, it’s easy to browse offers with no impact on your credit score. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to refinance student loans in just two to three weeks.

1. Check rates with multiple lenders
2. Choose a lender and your loan terms
3. Have your documents ready and fill out the application
4. Keep paying your loans as you wait for approval
● Plus: FAQs: How to refinance student loans today

See Student Loan Refinance Rates - No hard credit check

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1. Check rates with multiple lenders

To easily refinance student loans, you should first window-shop. You don’t have to commit to one lender or offer. In fact, you can browse multiple offers without any risk to your credit score, and you’re under no obligation to choose one unless it would benefit you.

There are a variety of banks, online lenders and credit unions that refinance student loans. And you can enter your information and check rates in just a couple of minutes. Lenders such as SoFi, CommonBond and LendKey offer competitive interest rates, transparent practices and good customer service.

Top loan options for…
Parent PLUS Loan consolidationRefinancing with a credit union
Job loss protectionRefinancing without a college degree
Consolidating six figures of student loan debt

Compare refinancing to see which would be best for you. Then check your rate by visiting the lender’s website and entering some basic information. Most lenders ask for the following:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Degree and university
  • Total student loan debt
  • Income
  • Monthly housing payment

Different lenders might have slightly different requirements, but the gist will be the same. You could also be prompted to create an account so you can revisit your information later.

After entering this data, the lender will instantly run a soft credit check. Again, this check won’t impact your credit score.

If your income and credit score meets the lender’s eligibility requirements, you’ll see a range of offers. Most lenders offer loans with five-, seven-, 10-, 15- and 20-year repayment terms.

You’ll also see variable and fixed interest rates. Variable rates can fluctuate with the market, while fixed rates stay the same over the life of your loan. Variable rates tend to start lower than fixed rates, but they could increase over time.

Generally, it’s only wise to choose a variable rate if you can pay off your loan fast. If you have a longer repayment term, going with a variable rate carries more risk.

2. Choose a lender and your loan terms

If you land some good offers, it’s time to choose a lender and a loan. Most borrowers go with the lender that offers them the lowest interest rate. Do the math with a student loan refinancing calculator to see how much you’ll save with a new interest rate.

You can also compare loan terms to help you choose a five-year, 10-year or longer repayment term. A longer term can help lower your monthly payments, but it could also mean more accrued interest over the life of your loan.

Student Loan Comparison Calculator

Balance

Rate

Monthly

Interest

Total

5 year10 year15 year20 year25 year
Balance
Rate
Monthly
Interest
Total

If you need to free up more of your monthly income, a longer term could be the way to go. But if you can manage higher payments, a shorter term will save you money on interest and help you get out of debt fast.

Besides interest rates, repayment protections might also factor into your choice. If your job is on shaky terms, for example, you might prioritize lenders with unemployment protection or economic hardship forbearance programs.

Finally, customer service could sway your decision. Online reviews offer good insight into how well a company treats its customers. If that’s an important element to you, do your homework before selecting your lender. You might start by testing its customer service’s responsiveness online over the phone, or by reading customer reviews written by other customers.

3. Have your documents ready and fill out the application

Before locking in your new interest rate, you need to submit a full application. You’ll upload documents, such as loan statements and proof of income. Plus, you’ll consent to a hard credit check at this point.

Check out our interactive quiz: Are you eligible for refinancing?

Here are the main documents and information that most lenders require:

  • Government-issued photo identification such as a driver’s license or passport
  • Social security card or number
  • Proof of income (pay stubs or a job offer letter)
  • Official statements for all your federal and private loans

If you’re applying with a cosigner, you’ll also provide that person’s information. You’ll upload any supporting documentation to your online account with the lender.

If anything is missing, the lender will notify you. You can also call or chat with customer service if you have any questions.

Feel free to call your current loan servicers if you’re not sure where to locate full statements. Statements need to show your original balance, date of disbursement and full history of repayment.

4. Keep paying your loans as you wait for approval

Even though you can browse initial offers in an instant, you may have to wait a few weeks for full approval of a refinancing application. The process usually takes two to three weeks to complete.

In the meantime, don’t stop paying your current loans. Only stop paying your current servicers when you get the green light from your new lender.

Once you’re approved, set up automatic withdrawals from your bank account so you don’t miss a payment. Many lenders offer an additional 0.25% discount on your interest rate when you set up autopay. You might qualify for an additional loyalty discount if you refinance with a bank where you already have a bank account.

FAQs: How to refinance student loans today

Now that you know you can easily refinance student loans, it will only take a few minutes to check your rates and compare lenders.

If you find a good offer, you can submit a full application. Once you’re approved, you can say goodbye to your old loan servicers. Plus, your new interest rate could save you lots of money over the life of your loans. As long as you’ve thought through all the pros and cons of refinancing, it can be a smart way to get out of student debt faster.

With that said, here are three frequently asked questions that might help inform your decision:

What credit score do you need to refinance student loans?

Banks, credit unions and online lenders have different eligibility requirements for refinancing education debt. Generally, you will need a credit score of at least 650 to qualify with most reputable lenders. A score into the 700s and above would further help you access lenders’ lowest advertised rates. If your credit score isn’t high enough, you could find a cosigner who does clear your preferred lender’s threshold.

When should you refinance your student loans?

The right time to refinance student loans is specific to your situation. If you have high-interest private student loans and the credit score to refinance, you should investigate refinancing immediately. It could save you a significant sum in interest over your repayment — check out our refinancing calculator above to get an idea of how much. But if you have federal student loans, it may not be the right time to refinance, considering the potential downsides.

What is the downside of refinancing student loans?

Student loan refinancing is free and relatively easy to undertake, but there are potential negatives, particularly if your family finances aren’t secure. Refinancing federal loans, for example, might save you money or stress, but it would force you to give up your government-exclusive safeguards, such as income-driven repayment plans and loan forgiveness programs. Be sure that refinancing your federal (or private) loans is right for you before signing on the dotted line, as all refinancing decisions are irreversible.

Andrew Pentis contributed to this report.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 6 lenders of 2021!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
1.89% – 5.99%1Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Splash

1.99% – 5.64%2Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Earnest

1.99% – 6.84%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit CommonBond

1.91% – 5.25%4Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Lendkey

2.25% – 6.53%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit SoFi

2.17% – 4.47%6Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit PenFed

Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.

Splash Financial Disclosures

Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount.

The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.

To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of Feburary 1, 2021.


2 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.

Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 2.98% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.49% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.34% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of October 26, 2020, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.

Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.

The information provided on this page is updated as of 10/26/2020. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at [email protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.

© 2020 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.


3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. ‍All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 0.15% effective Jan 1, 2021 and may increase after consummation.


4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it  endorse,  any educational institution.

Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of  5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.

As of 02/17/2021 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.91% APR – 5.25% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.95% APR – 7.63% Fixed APR with AutoPay.


5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance: 1. Fixed rates from 2.99% APR to 6.99% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.25% APR to 6.53% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.25% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 0.12% plus 2.38% margin minus 0.25% ACH discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. See eligibility details. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. The discount will not reduce the monthly payment; instead, the interest savings are applied to the principal loan balance, which may help pay the loan down faster. Enrolling in autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score.Terms and Conditions Apply. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.

6 Important Disclosures for PenFed.

PenFed Disclosures

Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Fixed Rates range from 2.99%-5.15% APR and Variable Rates range from 2.17%-4.47% APR. Both Fixed and Variable Rates will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. For Variable Rate student loans, the rate will never exceed 9.00% for 5 year and 8 year loans and 10.00% for 12 and 15 years loans (the maximum allowable for this loan). Minimum variable rate will be 2.00%. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.