The Top 10 Cheapest States to Live in Have Hidden Costs

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When you’re deciding where to live, a state’s cost of living can make a big difference.

But sometimes the cost-of-living index doesn’t tell the whole story. For example, it might not factor in tax rates. What’s more, some of the states with the lowest costs of living have even lower median household incomes.

We’ve run the numbers for all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia to determine the top 10 cheapest states to live in. We’ve also included extra data on each of the top 10 states to give you the full picture.

The 10 cheapest states to live in

Based on data from the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center in the second quarter of 2017, we’ve ranked the 10 cheapest states to live in. The rankings are based on the cost-of-living index score for each state, which is compared to the national average score of 100.

Here’s a snapshot of the top 10:

  1. Mississippi
  2. Arkansas
  3. Tennessee
  4. Kansas
  5. Oklahoma
  6. Missouri
  7. Michigan
  8. Texas
  9. Georgia
  10. Alabama

Because the cost-of-living index doesn’t account for taxes, we’ve also included state income, property, and sales tax rates from the Tax Foundation. These rates are for your information only and aren’t included in the ranking calculation.

10. Alabama

cheapest states to live in

Image credit: Pixabay

  • Cost of living index: 90.7
  • State income tax rate: 5.00%, ranked No. 17 (tied)
  • Property tax rate: 0.43%, ranked No. 2
  • Sales tax rate: 9.01%, ranked No. 48
  • Median home price: $189,900
  • Median rent cost: $975

Rounding out our top 10 list is Alabama, nicknamed the Heart of Dixie. Residents might add that their hearts lie in football, as the University of Alabama has won the third-most national championships in college football history.

In terms of affordable living, Alabama is a state of contrasts. For example, it has the second-lowest housing costs in the U.S. at 73.5 percent of the national average. Utility costs, however, are 5.9 percent higher than the national average.

If you’re a property owner in the state, you’ll enjoy one of the country’s lowest property tax rates. But you’ll also pay one of the highest sales tax rates in the U.S.

In addition to ranking in the top 10 cheapest states to live in, Alabama has the sixth-lowest median household income at $47,221.

Bottom line: Alabama is great for homeowners, but low income can make it hard to afford other essential costs.

9. Georgia

cheapest states to live in

Image credit: Pixabay

  • Cost of living index: 90.6
  • State income tax rate: 6.00%, ranked No. 28 (tied)
  • Property tax rate: 0.95%, ranked No. 25
  • Sales tax rate: 7.00%, ranked No. 29 (tied)
  • Median home price: $225,900
  • Median rent cost: $1,300

Georgia’s capital city, Atlanta, is the birthplace of the civil rights movement’s most recognizable leader, Martin Luther King Jr. The state also is well-known for its peaches, pecans, and peanuts, but these goods come at a cost.

The only cheap expense for Georgia residents is housing. The Southern state’s housing costs are 75.8 percent of the national average.

All other cost-of-living components are fairly close to the national average, with groceries the highest at 99.5 percent. What’s more, the tax burden for Georgia residents is about average compared to other states.

The state’s median household income of $53,527, however, falls in line with its cost of living. It’s 90.7 percent of the national average.

Bottom line: Although housing costs are among the nation’s lowest, don’t get your hopes up. All other cost-of-living components are about average.

8. Texas

cheapest states to live in

Image credit: Pixabay

  • Cost of living index: 90.6
  • State income tax rate: N/A
  • Property tax rate: 1.90%, ranked No. 46
  • Sales tax rate: 8.19%, ranked No. 40
  • Median home price: $269,000
  • Median rent cost: $1,500

Texas was once an independent nation, and six flags have flown over it: British, French, Mexican, Texan, United States, and Confederate. It’s the largest oil producer in the country, and it has more cattle than any other state, with 12 million heads.

Texans pay less for housing than any other major expense, with housing costs coming in at 83.9 percent of the national average. The state also has the third-cheapest grocery costs, with residents paying 90 percent of the national average.

What really sets Texas apart, however, is the fact that it’s the only state on this list that doesn’t have a state individual income tax. Only six other states follow suit: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Washington, and Wyoming. New Hampshire and Tennessee tax only dividend and interest income.

Of course, the state government makes up for that lost revenue by charging some of the highest property and sales tax rates in the country.

Despite the state’s low cost of living, its median household income of $58,146 is almost on par with the national average of $59,039.

Bottom line: Decent median household income numbers and a lack of sales tax give residents more money to spend, but property and sales taxes neutralize some of those benefits.

7. Michigan

cheapest states to live in

Image credit: Pixabay

  • Cost of living index: 90.3
  • State income tax rate: 4.25%, ranked No. 12
  • Property tax rate: 1.78%, ranked No. 44
  • Sales tax rate: 6.00%, ranked No. 12 (tied)
  • Median home price: $169,000
  • Median rent cost: $1,100

The northernmost state on our list, Michigan is the only state where you’ll find both Paradise and Hell — or at least two cities with those names.

Michigan deserves its place on this list of cheapest states to live in because of its low housing costs. Michiganders spend just 78.7 percent of the national average on housing. Transportation costs in the state are higher than average, though (103.8 percent).

The state’s income and sales tax rates rank among the lowest in the nation, but its property tax rate is one of the highest.

Although Michigan’s cost of living is 90.3 percent of the national average, its median household income of $57,091 is 96.7 percent of the national average.

Bottom line: The state’s low housing costs are dampened by the high property tax rate.

6. Missouri

cheapest cities to live in

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  • Cost of living index: 89.9
  • State income tax rate: 6.00%, ranked No. 28 (tied)
  • Property tax rate: 1.02%, ranked No. 26
  • Sales tax rate: 7.89%, ranked No. 38
  • Median home price: $169,000
  • Median rent cost: $975

Missouri has produced some of the best literary minds in U.S. history. T.S. Eliot, Mark Twain, Tennessee Williams, and Sara Teasdale were all born in the state.

Like most other states on this list, Missouri can thank low housing costs for its place in the top 10. But while residents spend just 74.1 percent of the national average on housing, their utility costs are 4 percent higher than the national average.

The state’s income, property, and sales tax rates are all above average. But like some other states on this list, Missouri’s median household income of $55,016 outpaces its cost of living, measuring at 93.2 percent of the national average.

Bottom line: Missouri might not have made this list if taxes had been included in the calculation.

5. Oklahoma

cheapest cities to live in

Image credit: Pixabay

  • Cost of living index: 89.8.
  • State income tax rate: 5.00%, ranked No. 17 (tied)
  • Property tax rate: 0.86%, ranked No. 21 (tied)
  • Sales tax rate: 8.86%, ranked No. 46
  • Median home price: $176,360
  • Median rent cost: $1,000

Despite being landlocked, Oklahoma has 55,646 miles of shoreline, with its lakes and ponds covering a larger area than the state of Rhode Island. Like its neighbor to the south, Texas, Oklahoma’s largest industry is energy.

Although Oklahoma’s cost of living is one of the lowest in the nation, its sales tax  which residents pay on many of the goods that make up the cost-of-living index  is among the highest.

The state’s low cost of living is driven largely by housing costs  76.4 percent of the national average  but also by its transportation costs, which are the fourth-lowest in the country.

Unfortunately, the state’s median household income doesn’t keep up with the cost of living in the state. The $50,943 figure is only 86.3 percent the national average.

Bottom line: Homeowners get the biggest benefit, but the state’s low median household income isn’t enough to make the low cost of living worth it for some people.

4. Kansas

cheapest places to live in

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

  • Cost of living index: 89.7.
  • State income tax rate: 4.60%, ranked No. 14.
  • Property tax rate: 1.39%, ranked No. 37.
  • Sales tax rate: 8.62%, ranked No. 44.
  • Median home price: $164,500.
  • Median rent cost: $1,025.

Kansas is known for its rolling hills and cornfields. And like other Midwestern states, its housing costs are fairly low (78.2 percent of the national average).

That said, other cost-of-living components aren’t much lower than the national average, and the state’s sales tax helps counteract below-average grocery costs.

The median household income of $56,810 helps make up for it, though. The state’s residents also earn 96.2 percent of the national average.

Bottom line: If it weren’t for cheap housing, Kansas might not be on this list. But with a decent median household income, residents can handle it.

3. Tennessee

cheapest states to live in

Image credit: Pixabay

  • Cost of living index: 89.4.
  • State income tax rate: 6.00%, ranked No. 28 (tied).
  • Property tax rate: 0.75%, ranked No. 13.
  • Sales tax rate: 9.46%, ranked No. 50.
  • Median home price: $190,000.
  • Median rent cost: $1,295.

Home to country music, blues, and barbecue, Tennessee is almost half farmland.

Although the state’s housing costs are only 77.4 percent of the national average, they’re among the highest on this list.

Transportation costs, which are the third-lowest in the country, bring down the state’s cost of living even more. Also, health costs are the second-lowest, which is notable considering the state is part of the Stroke Belt.

Residents shouldn’t celebrate too early, though; the state has the second-highest sales tax rate in the nation. What’s more, its median household income of $51,344 doesn’t keep up with the cost of living, coming in at 87 percent of the national average.

Bottom line: Housing and health costs are impressively low, but the state’s sales tax on everyday goods can feel oppressive.

2. Arkansas

cheapest states to live in

Image credit: Pixabay

  • Cost of living index: 87.4.
  • State income tax rate: 6.90%, ranked No. 36 (tied).
  • Property tax rate: 0.62%, ranked No. 10.
  • Sales tax rate: 9.30%, ranked No. 49.
  • Median home price: $160,000.
  • Median rent cost: $1,025.

Nicknamed the Natural State, Arkansas is home to the only diamond-bearing site open to the public, Crater of Diamonds Park, which has a “finders keepers” policy with its natural diamonds.

But that isn’t Arkansas’ only gem. The state has the lowest transportation costs in the country, costing residents 87.9 percent of the national average. Housing costs are also low at 77 percent of the national average.

The state also ranks high for the lowest health and miscellaneous expenses as well as the lowest property taxes. That said, citizens pay the third-highest sales tax rate of any state.

Arkansas’ low cost of living doesn’t provide a lot of value to its residents, either. The state’s median household income is $45,907, which is just 77.8 percent of the national average.

Bottom line: Despite the state’s low cost of living, many Arkansans don’t make enough money to take advantage of it.

1. Mississippi

cheapest states to live in

Image credit: Pixabay

  • Cost of living index: 85.5.
  • State income tax rate: 5.00%, ranked No. 17 (tied).
  • Property tax rate: 0.80%, ranked No. 16 (tied).
  • Sales tax rate: 7.07%, ranked No. 32.
  • Median home price: $172,900.
  • Median rent cost: $1,100.

Elvis Presley and blues became well-known in Tennessee, but both were born in Mississippi.

Although the state tops our list for the cheapest cost of living, the tax burden can neutralize some of the savings on household goods.

The state’s biggest savings come in housing costs, which are 69.3 percent of the national average. Groceries are the biggest expense for Mississippians relative to other everyday expenses, costing 94.4 percent of the national average.

The median household income is also the lowest in the U.S. at $41,099 (69.6 percent of the national average).

Bottom line: For Mississippians, it’s a good thing the state’s cost of living is so low. But there’s still a lot of room for income levels to catch up.

Consider all the costs before moving

For all the states on our list of cheapest states to live in, housing prices are the biggest factor in driving down the cost of living. But in many cases, other expenses aren’t far off from the national average.

If you plan to move to one of these states to take advantage of the lower costs, consider the state’s tax burden, which isn’t reflected in the cost-of-living index. Depending on your financial situation, it could limit the benefit of lower costs in other areas.

See how your state stacks up

Methodology: These rankings are based on data from the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center for each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. For added context, we also included state income tax, property tax, and sales tax rates from the Tax Foundation.

Tax rates are based on the most recent data available. Income tax rates are based on 2016 figures, property tax rates on 2015 figures, and sales tax rates on 2017 figures.

Additionally, median home price and rent costs were sourced from Zillow, and median income data was sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau. 

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1 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 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% 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 Month/Day/Year, 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 08/21/18. 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 hello@earnest.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.

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2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

  1. VARIABLE APR – APR is subject to increase after consummation. The variable interest rates are based on a Current Index, which is the 1-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) (currency in US dollars), as published on The Wall Street Journal’s website. The variable interest rates and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will increase or decrease when the 1-month LIBOR index changes.

3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance: Fixed rates from 3.899% APR to 8.179% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.570% APR to 6.980% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. SoFi rate ranges are current as of September 14, 2018 and are subject to change without notice. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.570% APR assumes the current index rate derived from the 1-month LIBOR of 2.08% plus 0.740% margin minus 0.25% AutoPay 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. 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. *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. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score.
  2. Terms and Conditions Apply. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

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.


5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

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  1. Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). The following table displays the estimated monthly payment, total interest, and Annual Percentage Rates (APR) for a $10,000 loan. The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) shown for each in-school loan product reflects the accruing interest, the effect of one-time capitalization of interest at the end of a deferment period, a 2% origination fee, and the applicable Repayment Plan. All loans are eligible for a 0.25% reduction in interest rate by agreeing to automatic payment withdrawals once in repayment, which is reflected in the interest rates and APRs displayed. Variable rates may increase after consummation. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.08% effective July 25, 2018.

6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Education Refinance Loan Rate DisclosureVariable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of August 1, 2018, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.07%. Variable interest rates range from 2.57%-8.17% (2.57%-8.17% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the borrower’s loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Fixed interest rates range from 3.75%-8.69% (3.75%-8.69% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Lowest rates shown require application with a cosigner, are for eligible, creditworthy applicants with a graduate level degree, require a 5-year repayment term and include our Loyalty discount and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. The maximum variable rate on the Education Refinance Loan is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. 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. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of their loan.
  2. Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer with the Education Refinance Loan. Borrowers should carefully review their current benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans and replace those with the benefits of the Education Refinance Loan. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision at http://www.citizensbank.com/EdRefinance, including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
  3. Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loan Eligibility: Eligible applicants may not be currently enrolled, must be in repayment of their existing student loan(s) and must make the minimum number of payments after leaving school. Primary borrowers must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. Resident aliens must apply with a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The co-signer (if applicable) must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer will be required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Education Refinance Loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, certification of borrower’s student loan amount(s) and highest degree earned.
  4. Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  5. Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
  6. Co-signer Release: Borrowers may apply for co-signer release after making 36 consecutive on-time payments of principal and interest. For the purpose of the application for co-signer release, on-time payments are defined as payments received within 15 days of the due date. Interest only payments do not qualify. The borrower must meet certain credit and eligibility guidelines when applying for the co-signer release. Borrowers must complete an application for release and provide income verification documents as part of the review. Borrowers who use deferment or forbearance will need to make 36 consecutive on-time payments after reentering repayment to qualify for release. The borrower applying for co-signer release must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If an application for co-signer release is denied, the borrower may not reapply for co-signer release until at least one year from the date the application for co-signer release was received. Terms and conditions apply.
  7. Estimated average savings amount is based on 14,659 Education Refinance Loan customers who saved on loans between August 1, 2017 and July 31, 2018. The calculation is derived by averaging monthly savings across Education Refinance Loan customers whose payment amounts decreased after refinancing, calculated by taking the monthly payment prior to refinancing minus the monthly payment after refinancing. We excluded monthly savings from customers that exceeded $4,375 and were lower than $20 to minimize risk of data error skewing the savings amounts. Savings will vary based on interest rates, balances and remaining repayment term of loans to be refinanced. Borrower’s overall repayment amount may be higher than the loans they are refinancing even if monthly payments are lower.

2.57% – 6.98%3Undergrad
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2.47% – 5.87%1Undergrad
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2.47% – 8.03%4Undergrad
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2.80% – 6.22%2Undergrad
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2.48% – 6.25%5Undergrad
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2.57% – 8.17%6Undergrad
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