6 Best Private Student Loans Available in 2018

top private student loans

Sometimes your federal student aid allotment isn’t enough to cover your tuition and other college costs. If you come up short, you have another financing option at your disposal: private student loans.

But before you sign anything, it’s important to know what you’re looking for and to choose the best private student loans for your financial situation. After all, not all lenders are created equal.

What to look for in a private student loan

A variety of factors differentiate the best private student loans. The main ones to focus on are interest rates and fees.

The amount of money you take out on your loan is only the beginning. Give yourself the best chance of maintaining a manageable level of debt by keeping your rates and fees as low as possible.

As you review different interest rates, remember that you can apply for more than one loan to see which one will give you the best rate. There are two ways you can do so without your credit score taking a hit:

  1. Many private student loan lenders do a soft pull on your credit, which enables you to see what you might be approved for without taking a hit on your credit.
  2. If you were to do a formal application with more than one lender, you could avoid taking a hit on your credit by rate shopping within a two-week window.

Besides looking for the best offer, look for perks you can take advantage of. For example, some lenders offer a lower rate for good grades. Others offer the ability to release your co-signer.

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of options, use our payment calculator to determine what your monthly payments might be.

6 top private student loans

Not sure where to begin your search? Check out our list of the top private student loans offered by the best private student loan lenders. Think of it as a jumping-off point as you start your research.

1. Citizens Bank

  • No application or origination fee
  • No fee for paying off the loan early
  • Interest rate reduction if you already have an account with Citizens Bank
  • Interest rate reduction if you set up automatic payments
  • Student and parent loan options
  • Available to undergraduate and graduate students
  • Loans from $1,000 to $295,000, depending on your degree level
  • Student repayment options of five, 10, or 15 years
  • Option for students to make full or interest-only payments while in school or to defer payments until after graduation
  • Parent repayment options of five or 10 years
  • Option for parent to make full or interest-only payments while student is in school (but not to defer payments)
  • Fixed and variable rates

Additional information

  • Applicants will need either good credit or a qualified co-signer.
  • Potential qualification for co-signer release is based on creditworthiness and whether there have been 36 consecutive on-time principal and interest payments.
Visit Citizens Bank

2. College Ave

  • No application or origination fee
  • No fee for paying off the loan early
  • Interest rate reduction if you set up automatic payments with College Ave
  • Student and parent loan options
  • Available to undergraduate and graduate students
  • Loans from $2,000 up to 100 percent of the school-certified cost of attendance
  • Student repayment options of eight, 10, 12, or 15 years
  • Option for students to make full, interest-only, or flat payments while in school or to defer payments until after graduation
  • Parent repayment options of five to 12 years
  • Option for parent to make full, interest-only, or interest-plus payments while student is in school
  • Up to $2,500 deposited into parent’s bank account to pay for student’s education costs
  • Fixed and variable rates

Additional information

  • Potential qualification for co-signer release is based on the following:
    • Creditworthiness
    • If more than half the scheduled repayment period has elapsed
    • If most recent 24 consecutive payments were made on time and didn’t include any forbearance or workout programs for hardship reasons
    • If borrower has demonstrated income for the previous two years that is more than twice the outstanding balance of all their loans with College Ave
    • If borrower has no reported late payments on their credit report in the past 24 months
Visit College Ave

3. LendKey

  • Loans facilitated by LendKey but funded by credit unions and community banks
  • No application or origination fee
  • Interest rate reduction once you enter the full repayment period and repay 10 percent of the loan principal
  • Interest rate reduction if you set up automatic payments
  • Student repayment option of 10 years
  • Minimum of interest-only payments or $25 per month during the in-school period and grace period (students can make full monthly payments during that time if they want)

Additional information

  • Good grades can help you get a lower interest rate.
  • Potential qualification for co-signer release is based on the following:
    • Creditworthiness
    • If there have been 24 consecutive, full, on-time principal and interest payments
Visit LendKey

4. Connext

  • Loans serviced by Connext but funded by a network of lenders
  • No origination fee
  • No fee for paying off the loan early
  • Interest rate reduction if you set up automatic payments
  • Available to undergraduate and graduate students
  • Loans from $2,000 to $150,000, depending on your degree level
  • Student repayment options of 10 or 15 years
  • Fixed and variable rates
  • Option for students to defer payments until graduation or enter into repayment while in school

Additional information

  • Potential qualification for co-signer release is based on the following:
    • Creditworthiness
    • If there have been 36 consecutive, on-time, full principal and interest payments
Visit Connext

5. Sallie Mae

  • No origination fee
  • No fee for paying off the loan early
  • Interest rate reduction if you set up monthly payments by automatic debit with Sallie Mae
  • Available to undergraduate and graduate students as well as parents
  • Available for private K-12 education, career training certificate courses, dental and medical residencies, bar study fees, and living expenses
  • Loans up to 100 percent of the school-certified cost of attendance
  • Three repayment options to choose from: deferred, fixed, or interest
  • Fixed and variable rates

Additional information

  • Graduate students can receive lower rates than undergraduates.
  • Borrowers can apply for co-signer release after graduation and 12 on-time principal and interest payments.
  • Borrowers and co-signers receive free FICO credit score tracking.
  • Borrowers receive free tutoring (up to 120 minutes) or study resources through Chegg.
Visit Sallie Mae

6. CommonBond

  • 2 percent origination fee
  • No application fee
  • No fee for paying off the loan early
  • Interest rate reduction if you set up automatic monthly payments with CommonBond
  • Available to undergraduate students, graduate students, and MBA students
  • Loans up to 100 percent of the school’s cost of attendance
  • Student loan repayment options of five, 10, or 15 years
  • Fixed and variable rates
  • Four different repayment plans for students, all of which come with a six-month grace period: deferment until after graduation, fixed monthly payments of $25 during school, interest-only payments during school, or full monthly payments for the duration of the loan

Additional information

  • Applicants must apply with a creditworthy co-signer (excluding MBA students, who aren’t required to have a co-signer to apply).
  • Student borrowers who are the age of majority can apply for co-signer release after 24 months of consecutive full payments.
  • Students dealing with economic hardship after graduation can apply for forbearance.
  • Every time a loan is funded, CommonBond funds a loan for a child in need.
Visit CommonBond

Is a private student loan right for you?

When you consider whether a private student loan is right for you, remember that private loans don’t come with the same protections federal student loans do. That’s because private student loans are issued by private banks and lenders, not by the federal government.

Federal student loans offer income-driven repayment plans as well as deferment, forbearance, and forgiveness options. Some private student loan lenders do offer hardship programs in case you hit an income snag, but that option isn’t guaranteed for all of them.

Private student loans also start accruing interest immediately. On the other hand, if you qualify for subsidized federal student loans, the Department of Education will pay the interest on them until you graduate.

Also keep in mind that you’ll likely need a co-signer. That’s because private student loan offers are based on your creditworthiness, and most students are too young to have much of a credit history.

If you get a loan with a co-signer, make all your payments on time. If you don’t, your co-signer will be responsible  and missing payments or going into default can damage their credit as well as yours.

If you see tough financial times ahead, reach out to your lender immediately to see if you can adjust your repayment plan. It doesn’t hurt to ask. Plus, the sooner you handle the situation, the better your chances are of having a good outcome.

Conclusion

Like all financial tools, private student loans can be a lifesaver if you use them wisely. They are best used as a backup when you can’t get enough federal student loans to cover your tuition and other education costs. In that case, the top private student loans can be a great tool to finish off the funding for your education.

Need a student loan?

Here are our top student loan lenders of 2018!
LenderRates (APR)Eligibility 

1 = Citizens Disclaimer.

2 = CollegeAve Autopay Disclaimer: The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
3.24% -
11.99%
1
Undergraduate, Graduate, and ParentsVisit Citizens
2.93% -
9.67%
Undergraduate, Graduate, and ParentsVisit CommonBond
3.54% -
12.66%
2
Undergraduate, Graduate, and ParentsVisit CollegeAve
4.04% - 9.07%Undergraduate and GraduateVisit LendKey
3.00% - 10.76%Undergraduate and GraduateVisit Connext
3.25% - 11.85%Undergraduate and GraduateVisit SallieMae
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Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print, understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.