How Citizens Bank’s Multi-Year Approval Could Make Borrowing Easier

Advertiser Disclosure

Student Loan Hero Advertiser Disclosure

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality. 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 to help you understand what you are buying. Be sure to consult with 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.

Editorial Note: This content is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the financial institution.

citizens bank private student loan

We’ve got your back! Student Loan Hero is a completely free website 100% focused on helping student loan borrowers get the answers they need. Read more

How do we make money? It’s actually pretty simple. If you choose to check out and become a customer of any of the loan providers featured on our site, we get compensated for sending you their way. This helps pay for our amazing staff of writers (many of which are paying back student loans of their own!).

Bottom line: We’re here for you. So please learn all you can, email us with any questions, and feel free to visit or not visit any of the loan providers on our site. Read less

Every time you secure private or federal student loans, you’re funding a single year of your education. Almost every time, that is.

Citizens Bank is the only known lender to offer multi-year approval to its borrowers. You could be approved for as many as four years’ of loans, all at once.

“This (addresses) the biggest pain point we hear from families,” said Christine Roberts, head of student lending at Citizens Bank, in a phone interview. “The uncertainty they wouldn’t get the money they needed every year to finance their children’s educations.”

Let’s learn more about multi-year approval by looking at its three main benefits, plus three things you should consider. They can help you determine whether a Citizens Bank private student loan is right for you.

3 reasons to consider Citizens Bank’s multi-year approval

Private loans as a whole have their own set of pros and cons, but let’s narrow our focus to the potential positives of utilizing Citizens Bank’s multi-year approval feature.

1. One application with one hard credit inquiry

When you apply for a private loan, the lender will likely make a hard inquiry into your credit history to verify your creditworthiness. The hard check could drop your credit score by as much as five points.

Citizens Bank’s multi-year approval ensures your report would only be affected by a single hard credit check. The bank performs annual soft credit checks (which don’t affect your score) after you’ve met the initial qualifications, Roberts said.

One application with a single promissory note also means less paperwork. After completing a Citizens Bank private student loan application — a process that usually takes less than 20 minutes — you will receive one of four possible results, Roberts said.

  1. Approved for a single-year loan
  2. Approved for a multi-year loan
  3. Rejected for a loan
  4. Asked to provide a cosigner

If your application is worthy of a multi-year approval, you would be eligible to receive money for as many as four years for an undergraduate student, or two to four years for a postgraduate student, Roberts said.

It all depends on what stage you’re at in your education. A college sophomore could be approved for three years, for example.

You (and your cosigner, if you have one) would be required to provide the following information in your one-time application.

  • Recent pay stub or other proof of income, plus a monthly housing payment
  • Graduation date, loan period, and the loan amount
  • Name, date of birth, and Social Security number
  • Name of school, cost of attendance, and any financial aid received
  • A personal reference

Remember that you may apply for loans from other private lenders, though that means you may get hit with additional hard credit checks. Still, you don’t have to stick (or maintain an exclusive borrowing relationship) with Citizens Bank for multiple years.

2. Opt out without penalty

Just because you receive multi-year approval doesn’t mean you have to take out a Citizens Bank private student loan every year you’re in school. There are no fees or penalties for opting out, Roberts said.

College freshmen borrowing from Citizens Bank, for example, could still switch to another lender at any time. They could be motivated by, say, a lower interest rate at a competing lender.

It’s also important to think about how many years you will be enrolled in school. More than 60 percent of students who entered a bachelor’s degree program in the fall of 2009 didn’t graduate within four years, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Realize that a four-year approval may not keep you covered, even if you do stick with Citizens Bank for the duration of your education.

3. The lone multi-year feature on the market

Citizens Bank started developing its multi-year approval feature in the middle of 2013 when other private lenders were either just joining the industry or still developing basic products. That’s one reason it’s the only bank currently offering multi-year approval, Roberts said.

The bank’s underwriting model includes a host of factors it uses to evaluate applicants’ creditworthiness. The aim is to cater to applicants with different strengths, Roberts said. But the typical qualifying factors still carry heavily in the bank’s proprietary algorithm, she added.

“If you feel you have a good credit score with a reasonable debt-to-income ratio,” Roberts said, “then you’d be a perfect fit for this.”

3 considerations for Citizens Bank’s multi-year approval

No loan product is a perfect fit for everyone. While Roberts said that Citizens Bank’s research and focus-group feedback yielded no disadvantages of multi-year approval, it’s important to consider that its loan may be no better or worse than traditional, single-year private loans.

The following three factors would also be true of private loans from many other top-rated lenders.

1. Changing variable and fixed rates

The multi-year approval program was unveiled with a variable interest rate in June 2015. Then, last month, Citizens Bank launched it with a fixed rate.

Roberts said she expected 65 to 70 percent of multi-year approved borrowers to take a fixed rate.

Under the bank’s feature, your interest rate would be frozen for one year but not for multiple years, Roberts said. If you’re a college freshman, for example, here’s what your Citizens Bank loan terms could look like for four years.

  • Freshman: $10,000 at 5.50% APR
  • Sophomore: $10,000 at 6.50% APR
  • Junior: $10,000 at 6.00% APR
  • Senior: $10,000 at 5.75% APR

To clarify, fixed rate changes only reflect the market, not your (or your cosigner’s) credit, said the bank’s spokeswoman.

If you choose a variable rate: As long as you remain in school and creditworthy, your variable rate range stays the same, Roberts said. But the range is expansive. In June 2017, Citizens Bank’s variable APRs spanned between 4.03% and 10.48%.

There is some built-in flexibility, however. A borrower could go with a variable rate for their freshman year loan, for example, before switching to a fixed rate as a sophomore, according to the bank’s spokeswoman.

Having some flexibility is as important as ever. This summer, the Federal Reserve announced that rates were ticking up.

Given that you’re not locked in and Citizens Bank’s private student loan rates can change annually, shopping around and rate-comparing would remain a wise choice for every borrower. Going to the trouble of filling out an application with another lender could save you significant money over the long haul.

2. Multi-year approval is subject to annual review

It may seem like a contradiction, but Citizens Bank’s multi-year approval feature only guarantees year-to-year approval. The lender uses soft credit checks annually to ensure you and your cosigner remain eligible.

“It is possible an additional request for funds would not be granted if (the borrower or cosigner is) no longer eligible for the feature,” the bank spokeswoman clarified via email.

So while you may be told you’ve been approved for a specific number of years, that approval is not set in stone.

If you’re an undergraduate, imagine a scenario where your cosigner falls on hard times. Maybe your cosigner loses a job and falls behind on a credit card bill.

While this type of situation isn’t likely, it is possible. So as you consider multi-year approval, understand what that term really means.

3. One application, but multiple loans

Each school year that you request a Citizens Bank private student loan using the multi-year approval feature, the lender confirms that you’re still enrolled. It then sends the funds directly to your school.

Each time that process happens, you’re receiving a separate loan.

One positive is that your multiple loans would still be held by the same bank. That makes repayment easier down the road. Borrowers would receive one monthly statement and make one payment, which would be allocated proportionally to each loan, the Citizens Bank spokeswoman said.

Still, this means that even borrowers who were approved for multiple years may end up needing or wanting to consolidate or refinance student loans.

Is a Citizens Bank private student loan right for you?

You should max out federal student loans first. They come with income-driven repayment options and loan forgiveness programs, and they typically don’t require a cosigner. The interest rates are also usually lower compared to private loans.

Another important distinction is that most federal loans aren’t dependent upon your credit history (or the history of your cosigner). While you do have to apply each year for a new round of funds, you’re not at risk of losing eligibility over a worsening credit report.

After federal aid, private loans are a resource for students looking to fill any funding gaps. If you fall into this bucket, consider Citizens Bank’s offering.

Its multi-year approval feature may get you in the door, but ensure the bank’s rates, terms, and service are competitive before deciding to stay.

Need a student loan?

Here are our top student loan lenders of 2019!
LenderVariable APREligibility 
2 Important Disclosures for College Ave.

CollegeAve Disclosures

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.

(1)All rates shown include the auto-pay discount. 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.

(2)This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with an 8-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 7% variable Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 96 monthly payments of $179.28 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $17,211.20. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.

(3)As certified by your school and less any other financial aid you might receive. Minimum $1,000.

Information advertised valid as of 5/22/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.

* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers.
3 = Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.

4 Important Disclosures for Discover.

Discover Disclosures

  1. At least a 3.0 GPA (or equivalent) qualifies for a one-time cash reward of 1% of the loan amount of each new Discover undergraduate and graduate student loan. Reward redemption period is limited. Please visit for any applicable reward terms and conditions.
  2. View Terms and Conditions at

5 Important Disclosures for SunTrust.

SunTrust Disclosures

Before applying for a private student loan, SunTrust recommends comparing all financial aid alternatives including grants, scholarships, and both federal and private student loans. To view and compare the available features of SunTrust private student loans, visit

Certain restrictions and limitations may apply. SunTrust Bank reserves the right to change or discontinue this loan program without notice. Availability of all loan programs is subject to approval under the SunTrust credit policy and other criteria and may not be available in certain jurisdictions.

©2019 SunTrust Banks, Inc. SUNTRUST, the SunTrust logo and Custom Choice Loan are trademarks of SunTrust Banks, Inc. All rights reserved.

  1. Interest rates and APRs (Annual Percentage Rates) depend upon (a) the student’s and cosigner’s (if applicable) credit histories, (b) the repayment option and repayment term selected, (c) the requested loan amount and (d) other information provided on the online loan application. If approved, applicants will be notified of the rate applicable to your loan. Rates and terms effective for applications received on or after 5/1/2019. The current variable APRs for the program range from 4.251% APR to 11.300% APR and the current fixed APRs for the program range from 5.251% APR to 12.00% APR (the low APRs within these ranges assume a 7-year $10,000 loan, with two disbursements and no deferment; the high APRs within these ranges assume a 15-year $10,000 loan with two disbursements). The variable interest rate for each calendar month is calculated by adding the current One-month LIBOR index to your margin. LIBOR stands for London Interbank Offered Rate. The One-month LIBOR is published in the Money Rates section of The Wall Street Journal (Eastern Edition). The One-month LIBOR index is captured on the 25th day of the immediately preceding calendar month (or if the 25th is not a business day, the next business day thereafter), and is rounded up to the nearest 1/8th of one percent. The current One-month LIBOR index is 2.500% on 5/1/2019. The variable interest rate will increase or decrease if the One-month LIBOR index changes. The fixed rate assigned to a loan will never change except as required by law or if you request and qualify for the auto pay discount.
  2. Any applicant who applies for a loan the month of, the month prior to, or the month after the student’s graduation date, as stated on the application or certified by the school, will only be offered the Immediate Repayment option. The student must be enrolled at least half-time to be eligible for the partial interest, fully deferred and interest only repayment options unless the loan is being used for a past due balance and the student is out of school. With the Full Deferment option, payments may be deferred while the student is enrolled at least half-time at an approved school and during the six month grace period after graduation or dropping below half-time status, but the total initial deferment period, including the grace period, may not exceed 66 months from the first disbursement date. The Partial Interest Repayment option (paying $25 per month during in-school deferment) is only available on loans of $5,000 or more. For payment examples, see footnote 7. With the Immediate Repayment option, the first payment of principal and interest will be due approximately 30-60 calendar days after the final disbursement date and the minimum monthly payment is $50.00. There are no prepayment penalties.
  3. The 15-year term and Partial Interest Repayment option (paying $25 per month during in-school deferment) are only available for loan amounts of $5,000 or more. Making interest only or partial interest payments while in school deferment (including the grace period) will not reduce the principal balance of the loan. Payment examples within this footnote assume a 45-month deferment period, a six-month grace period before entering repayment and the Partial Interest Repayment option. 7-year term: $10,000 loan disbursed over two transactions with a 7-year repayment term (84 months) and 8.382% APR would result in a monthly principal and interest payment of $198.61. 10-year term: $10,000 loan disbursed over two transactions with a 10-year repayment term (120 months) and an 8.851% APR would result in a monthly principal and interest payment of $161.70. 15-year term: $10,000 loan disbursed over two transactions with a 15-year repayment term (180 months) and a 9.335% APR would result in a monthly principal and interest payment of $135.68.
  4. The 2% principal reduction is based on the total dollar amount of all disbursements made, excluding any amounts that are reduced, cancelled, or returned. To receive this principal reduction, it must be requested from the servicer, the student borrower must have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher and proof of such graduation (e.g. copy of diploma, final transcript or letter on school letterhead) must be provided to the servicer. This reward is available once during the life of the loan, regardless of whether the student receives more than one degree.
  5. Earn an interest rate reduction for making automatic payments of principal and interest from a bank account (“auto pay discount”). Earn a 0.25% interest rate reduction when you auto pay from any bank account and an extra 0.25% interest rate reduction when you auto pay from a SunTrust Bank checking, savings, or money market account. The auto pay discount will continue until (1) automatic deduction of payments is stopped (including during any deferment or forbearance) or (2) three automatic deductions are returned for insufficient funds during the life of the loan. The extra 0.25% interest rate reduction when you auto pay from a SunTrust Bank account will be applied after the first automatic payment is successfully deducted and will be removed for the reasons stated above. In the event the auto pay discount is removed, the loan will accrue interest at the rate stated in your Credit Agreement. The auto pay discount is not available when payments are deferred or when the loan is in forbearance, even if payments are being made.
  6. A cosigner may be released from the loan upon request to the servicer provided that the student borrower is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien, has met credit criteria and met either one of the following payment conditions: (a) the first 36 consecutive monthly principal and interest payments have been made on-time (received by the servicer within 10 calendar days after their due date) or (b) the loan has not had any late payments and has been prepaid prior to the end of the first 36 months of scheduled principal and interest payments in an amount equal to the first 36 months of scheduled principal and interest payments (based on the monthly payment amount in effect when you make the most recent payment). As an example, if you have made 30 months of consecutive on-time payments, and then, based on the monthly payment amount in effect on the due date of your 31st consecutive monthly payment, you pay a lump sum equal to 6 months of payments, you will have satisfied the payment condition. Cosigner release may not be available if a loan is in forbearance.
  7. If the student dies after any part of the loan has been disbursed, and the loan has not been charged off due to non-payment or bankruptcy, then the outstanding balance will be forgiven if the servicer is informed of the student’s death and receives acceptable proof of death. If the student becomes totally and permanently disabled after any part of the loan has been disbursed and the loan has not been charged off due to non-payment or bankruptcy, the loan will be forgiven upon the servicer’s receipt and approval of a completed discharge application. If the student borrower dies or becomes totally and permanently disabled prior to the full disbursement of the loan, and the loan is forgiven, all future disbursements will be cancelled. Loan forgiveness for student death or disability is available at any point throughout the life of the loan.

6 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

Additional terms and conditions apply. For more details see 

7 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

A government loan is made according to rules set by the U.S. Department of Education. Government loans have fixed interest rates, meaning that the interest rate on a government loan will never go up or down.

Government loans also permit borrowers in financial trouble to use certain options, such as income-based repayment, which may help some borrowers. Depending on the type of loan that you have, the government may discharge your loan if you die or become permanently disabled.

Depending on what type of government loan that you have, you may be eligible for loan forgiveness in exchange for performing certain types of public service. If you are an active-duty service member and you obtained your government loan before you were called to active duty, you are entitled to interest rate and repayment benefits for your loan.
If you are unable to pay your government loan, the government can refer your loan to a collection agency or sue you for the unpaid amount. In addition, the government has special powers to collect the loan, such as taking your tax refund and applying it to your loan balance.

A private student loan is not a government loan and is not regulated by the Department of Education. A private student loan is instead regulated like other consumer loans under both state and federal law and by the terms of the promissory note with your lender.
If you refinance your government loan, your new lender will use the proceeds of your new loan to pay off your government loan. Private student loan lenders do not have to honor any of the benefits that apply to government loans. Because your government loan will be gone after refinancing, you will lose any benefits that apply to that loan. If you are an active-duty service member, your new loan will not be eligible for service member benefits. Most importantly, once you refinance your government loan, you will not able to reinstate your government loan if you become dissatisfied with the terms of your private student loan.

If your private student loan has a fixed interest rate, then that rate will never go up or down. If your private student loan has a variable interest rate, then that rate will vary depending on an index rate disclosed in your application. If the interest rate on the new private student loan is less than the interest rate on your government loans, your payments will be less if you refinance.
If you are a borrower with a secure job, emergency savings, strong credit and are unlikely to need any of the options available to distressed borrowers of government loans, a refinance of your government loans into a private student loan may be attractive to you. You should consider the costs and benefits of refinancing carefully before you refinance.

If you don’t pay a private student loan as agreed, the lender can refer your loan to a collection agency or sue you for the unpaid amount.

Remember also that like government loans, most private loans cannot be discharged if you file bankruptcy unless you can demonstrate that repayment of the loan would cause you an undue hardship. In most bankruptcy courts, proving undue hardship is very difficult for most borrowers.

8 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Student Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable 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 May 1, 2019, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.48%. Variable interest rates range from 4.45%-12.42% (4.45% – 12.32% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Fixed interest rates range from 5.25%-12.19% (5.25% – 12.09% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Lowest rates shown requires application with a co-signer, are for eligible applicants, require a 5-year repayment term, borrower making scheduled payments while in school and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. 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 the loan. 
  2. Citizens Bank Student Loan Eligibility: Borrowers must be enrolled at least half-time in a degree-granting program at an eligible institution. Borrowers must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident or an international borrower/eligible non-citizen with a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident co-signer. For borrowers who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer is required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Citizens Bank private student loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, and if applicable, self-certification form, school certification of the loan amount, and student’s enrollment at a Citizens Bank- participating school.  
  3. 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. Borrowers whose loans were funded prior to reaching the age of majority may not be eligible for co-signer release. Note: co-signer release is not available on the Student Loan for Parents or Education Refinance Loan for Parents.
Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents

Visit College Ave

4.50% – 11.35%*,3Undergraduate and Graduate

Visit SallieMae

Undergraduate and Graduate

Visit Discover

4.25% – 11.30%5Undergraduate and Graduate

Visit SunTrust

4.50% – 9.47%6Undergraduate and Graduate

Visit LendKey

Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents

Visit CommonBond

Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents


Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality. 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 to help you understand what you are buying. Be sure to consult with 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.

You're on your way...

We'll take you to where you'll be able to fill out one form to get multiple personal loan offers.