Citizens Bank Student Loan Reviews: Accessible Refinancing, New Loan Options

 July 30, 2021
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Citizens Bank student loan refinancing

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Pros of Citizens Bank student loans: Cons of Citizens Bank student loans:
● Accessible for nontraditional borrowers, including noncitizens, nongraduates and parents
● Autopay and loyalty discounts chip away at interest rates
● Ability to borrow or refinance large amounts
● Keep your finances under one roof
● Minimum 700 credit score required (though applying with a cosigner is possible)
● Limited repayment protections that are granted case by case
● Slow path toward cosigner release (36 months of prompt payments)
● Fewer perks than online lenders tend to offer

Founded nearly 200 years ago, Citizens Bank is one of the largest and oldest financial institutions in the country. It offers a variety of financial products to more than 5 million customers nationally.

The Citizens Bank student loan refinancing and in-school student loan programs cater to borrowers with good credit (or a creditworthy cosigner) but are also accessible to noncitizens, nongraduates and parents.

Both products — refinancing and in-school loans — come with helpful discounts if you already have or plan to open another account at the bank.

Citizens Bank student loan refinancing review Citizens Bank student loans review
The basics
What to like
What to keep in mind
Competitor comparison
The basics
What to like
What to keep in mind
Competitor comparison
Frequently asked questions about Citizens Bank

Citizens Bank student loan refinancing review

Citizens Bank student loan refinancing customers net an average annual savings of $2,628, according to the publicly traded company’s 2021 review of nearly 22,000 loans. So if you’re anxious to pay off your student loans as soon — and as cheaply — as possible, Citizens Bank might be worth a review.

Citizens Bank student loan refinancing is a good fit for creditworthy applicants who want to keep their finances under one roof to benefit from loyalty rate discounts. The lender is a worthy option for nontraditional borrowers, such as nongraduates or noncitizens who have a Social Security number. Thanks to its high debt limits, Citizens Bank refinancing is also geared toward borrowers with high outstanding loan balances.

What to like: What to keep in mind:
Available to noncitizens, nongraduates with a Social Security number
Competitive APRs and discounts
Easy-to-use online platform
Relatively high minimum borrowing amount
Few student loan refinancing perks
Limited repayment protections

Citizens Bank student loan refinancing review: The basics

Citizens Bank stands out for its accessibility. Any former student or parent borrower who has a Social Security number could be eligible for refinancing. With that said:

  • Non-bachelor’s degree-holders must make 12 payments on their loans after leaving school to qualify for refinancing.
  • You (or your cosigner) must also have a credit score of at least 700 and $24,000 in annual income.

If you can clear those criteria, you could enjoy the following perks of refinancing with Citizens Bank:

  • View your potential fixed or variable interest rate in two minutes and without harming your credit.
  • Refinance a minimum of $10,000 and a maximum of $300,000 for bachelor’s degree holders, $500,000 for graduate degree holders and $750,000 for professional degree holders.
  • Parents can refinance federal Parent PLUS Loans into their child’s name
  • Receive up to a 0.50% interest rate discount for being an existing Citizens Bank customer and enrolling in autopay.
  • Pay no origination or application fees or prepayment penalties.
  • Choose among repayment terms of 5, 7, 10, 15 or 20 years.
  • Option to add a cosigner to your application
  • Apply to release your cosigner after making 36 on-time, consecutive payments
  • Apply to postpone or pause payments if you return to school, suffer a hardship
  • Loan forgiveness in the case of the borrower’s death or permanent disability

What to like about Citizens Bank student loan refinancing

Whether you’re an ex-student or the parent of one, Citizens Bank refinancing options could be beneficial because of the following considerations.

Available to noncitizens, nongraduates with a Social Security number

Some banks, credit unions and online lenders limit refinancing to U.S. citizens with at least a four-year degree. Citizens Bank is more flexible on both fronts.

U.S. citizens, permanent residents and resident aliens with a Social Security number (SSN) are eligible to apply. However, resident aliens will need to have a resident cosigner to complete the application. (If you don’t have a SSN, consider a lender like MPOWER Financing.)

Citizens Bank is one of the few lenders that offer refinancing even if you didn’t graduate. Many people who left school early may feel like they’re out of options —but, by refinancing through Citizens Bank, you can save on your debt even without a degree.

The only hard-and-fast rule is that you must no longer be attending school, and you need to have started making payments on the debt. If you earned an associate degree or did not graduate, you simply need to have made at least 12 full, on-time payments in order to refinance.

Competitive APRs and discounts

The interest rate you’ll receive is typically the most important part of your loan agreement, as it determines how much you’ll save from refinancing.

Citizens Bank’s rates are competitive, offering APRs as low as 2.24% (variable) and 2.39% (fixed), corresponding to your loan amount, repayment term, degree level and other factors. Just be sure you weigh the pros and cons of fixed and variable rates.

Additionally, the bank also offers incentives to reduce your interest rate even more. If you or your cosigner have a Citizens Bank savings or checking account, you can get 0.25 percentage points off your interest rate. Plus, if you sign up for automatic payments, you can get another 0.25 percentage point discount.

Dropping your rate by as much as 0.50 percentage points could be a significant money-saver, over time.

Easy-to-use online platform

Citizens Bank will give you a personalized rate and savings quote, if you qualify, in as little as two minutes. This prequalification process also won’t ding your credit, as it triggers only a soft credit pull. If you are satisfied with the rate and choose to complete your application, the bank then makes a hard inquiry.

You and your cosigner, if you have one, can use the tool separately to gauge your potential refinancing options.

Citizens Bank also has a robust mobile banking app for iOS and Android devices. You can check your balance, make payments and review your account history after you download the app. You can also apply over the phone.

Citizens Bank student loan refinance customer service
Though your repayment will be managed by Citizens Bank’s loan servicer, Firstmark Services, you can always contact your lender directly with questions or concerns.
For application questions: 888-411-0266
For repayment questions: 866-259-3767
These phone lines are maintained 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Friday and 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.

What to keep in mind about Citizens Bank student loan refinancing

Low rates, flexible eligibility requirements and ease of use are benefits of Citizens Bank student loan refinancing. But also keep the following drawbacks in mind as you shop around.

Relatively high minimum borrowing amount

Citizens Bank student loan refinancing allows you to privately consolidate your federal and/or private education debt. But it also requires you have at least five figures of it.

If you have less than $10,000 in student loans to refinance, keep in mind that most top-rated lenders set their minimum borrowing requirement at $5,000. If you have an especially low balance to refinance, check out LendKey, which sets its threshold at $2,000.

Few student loan refinancing perks

The self-proclaimed 13th largest retail bank in the U.S., Citizens Bank has been around since 1828. It allows you to potentially house your personal finances under one roof, offering savings accounts and credit cards as well as personal loans, mortgages and more. If you live close to one of its approximately 1,000 branches, you have the option to hash out your financial plan with a banker.

If those features aren’t relevant to you, however, you might find competitors’ more modern perks to be more enticing:

  • SoFi offers unemployment protection and career guidance during repayment.
  • CommonBond funds the education of an underserved student abroad when you refinance.
  • Earnest lets you choose from as many as 180 repayment term options, spanning five to 20 years.

Limited repayment protections

Before selecting a refinancing lender, compare the safeguards it provides to protect you in repayment. Being able to press pause on your monthly payment because of a job loss, for example, would help you avoid student loan default.

For its part, Citizens Bank awards forbearance on a case-by-case basis for borrowers experiencing financial hardship. You could postpone your monthly payment for up to 12 months.

Citizens Bank, which also delivers deferments for borrowers returning to school and serving in the military, could improve its product by offering more transparency about how to qualify for forbearance. SoFi’s unemployment protection program, for example, spells out how you could qualify for relief.

Citizens Bank reviews repayment safeguards during the COVID-19 pandemic
For its part, Citizens Bank expanded its student loan forbearance program in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. It offered three-month, interest-accruing forbearances to help its customers get by when the pandemic was at its worst.

How Citizens Bank student loan refinancing compares with competitors

There is no shortage of options when it comes to student loan refinancing banks, credit unions and online companies. Here’s how Citizens Bank compares to two other reputable lenders.

Citizens Bank College Ave SoFi
Products ● Student loan refinancing
● Parent loan refinancing
● Student loan refinancing
● Parent PLUS Loan refinancing
● Student loan refinancing
● Parent PLUS Loan refinancing
● Medical resident refinancing
Eligibility requirements ● 700 credit score
● $24,000 income
● Citizenship, permanent residency or have a Social Security number
● Bachelor’s or advanced degree
● Associate degree-holders and nongraduates must make 12 monthly payments before applying
● 680 credit score
● $65,000 income
● Citizenship or permanent residency
● College degree
● Good or excellent credit score
● No minimum income
● Non-permanent residents without eligible visas can apply with a permanent resident cosigner
APRs Variable starting at 2.24% and fixed starting at 2.39% Variable starting at 2.94% and fixed starting at 2.99% Variable starting at 2.25% and fixed starting at 2.74%
Minimum loan amount $10,000 $5,000 $5,000
Repayment terms available Up to 20  years 15 years Up to 20 years
Apply with a cosigner Yes Yes Yes

Is refinancing student loans with Citizens Bank right for you?

If student loan refinancing is the right measure for your education debt, it’s wise to shop around for the right bank, credit union or online lender.

Thanks to its low rates and easy-to-use platform, Citizens Bank should be among your options. It could be worthwhile to consider if you’re a noncitizen or nongraduate who hasn’t found a refinancing lender elsewhere, or if you’re a graduate with six figures of student loans.

As you compare Citizens Bank with competitors, however, keep in mind that you must have a strong credit profile, or a cosigner with one, to qualify. Citizens Bank also might not meet your needs if you’re attracted to online lenders with more perks or stronger repayment protections.

To make a thorough comparison, review our recommended lenders in the student loan refinancing marketplace.

Citizens Bank student loans review

For students and parents who need to take out private student loans, Citizens Bank is worth circling back to after you’ve shopped around with other lenders. That’s because the institution doesn’t allow you to confirm eligibility and check rates without completing a full application and submitting to a hard credit check.

Citizens Bank student loans are a good fit for borrowers with good credit (or a good cosigner) pursuing a bachelor’s degree or higher and could envision needing funds for future years. The lender is an especially keen choice for international students who have a U.S.-based cosigner, but be aware of the long path toward cosigner release.

What to like: What to keep in mind:
International students are eligible with cosigner support
Low variable and fixed interest APRs
Various in-school repayment options
Multi-year approval simplifies future borrowing
Unavailable to students seeking an associate degree
You can’t check rates without a hard credit check
Cosigner release takes three years to achieve
Thin menu of repayment protections

Citizens Bank offers funding for three types of borrowers: undergraduates pursuing a bachelor’s degree, graduate students and parents. Even international students can apply so long as you have a stateside cosigner who can prove citizenship or permanent residency.

Other eligibility requirements include a minimum 700 credit score, but don’t worry if your credit history is thin: You have the option to apply with a cosigner.

Basics ● Borrow as little as $1,000 and as much as your cost of attendance (with an aggregate limit of $100,000)
● Fixed and variable interest rates available
● Trim your rate by as much as 0.50 percentage points with autopay, loyalty discounts
Applying Multi-year approval means you don’t have to completely reapply each year you’re in school
● No application, origination or other fees
Repayment ● Standard six-month grace period
● No prepayment penalties
● Three in-school repayment options, including full deferment
● Repayment term options: 5, 10 or 15 years
● Release your cosigner after 36 months of payments
Support ● Apply to postpone or pause payments if you return to school, suffer a hardship
● Loan forgiveness in the case of the borrower’s death or permanent disability

What to like about Citizens Bank student loans

Anytime you evaluate student loan lenders, it’s wise to consider pros and cons of working with a given financial institution. Here are a handful of pros of Citizens Bank student loans.

International students are eligible with cosigner support

Unlike many lenders, Citizen Bank’s underwriting criteria leave the door open for international students. If you’re studying in the U.S. on a visa away from your home country, for example, you would just need to find a cosigner with deep American roots.

Low variable and fixed interest APRs

Citizens Bank keeps up with industry competitors in the most important category you should evaluate: interest rates. The lender’s APRs are helped by a lack of fees, but they’re low in the first place. Variable rates start at 2.24%, and fixed rates bottom out at 2.39%. Just do your homework before picking a variable rate over a fixed option.

You might be able to lower your quoted APR even further once you begin repayment. You could shave up to 0.50 percentage points off your rate by enrolling in autopay and opening a Citizens Bank account. Estimate your potential long-term savings using our monthly payment calculator.

Various in-school repayment options

It’s always smart to make even small in-school payments on your student loans, if you can. Doing so can ensure your balance doesn’t balloon while you’re focused on your studies. Citizens Bank provides three in-school repayment options:

  • Interest-only payments
  • Full principal-and-interest payments
  • Defer payments until you leave school

To be fair, Citizens Bank doesn’t offer one in-school repayment option that’s common among other lenders. That’s the ability to make small, fixed monthly payments (usually $25) toward their debt. If you like that option, consider a competitor like College Ave Student Loans.

Multi-year approval simplifies future borrowing

If you’re a couple years or more away from earning your degree, you might like the idea of avoiding the whole student loan application process next time you need funding. That’s what Citizens Bank’s multi-year approval program is all about: Without incurring any fees, you can more easily receive loan approval next semester or next year without being locked into borrowing.

While Citizen Bank pioneered the idea of multi-year loan approval, competing lenders Sallie Mae and Discover have since started offering the same benefit.

What to keep in mind about Citizens Bank private loans

Citizens Bank student loans are a great option for some borrowers and their families, but it might not be the ideal fit for everyone. Here are some reasons why you might be better off borrowing with a competitor.

Unavailable to students seeking an associate degree

Yes, Citizen Bank student loans are available to undergraduate, graduate and professional students as well as parents — but not if you’re pursuing anything besides a bachelor’s degree or beyond.

Citizens Bank customer service confirmed to Student Loan Hero that it only works with four-year colleges and universities. So, if you’re seeking an associate degree, certificate or another atypical diploma, you’ll have to borrow elsewhere.

Fortunately, there are top-rated lenders with loans for students pursuing an associate degree. There are even student loan options for non-degree programs.

You can’t check rates without a hard credit check

Citizens Bank has a fairly straightforward application process that won’t send you running all over the place to gather paperwork. You or your cosigner will just need to supply recent pay stubs, other proof of income and information about your monthly living expenses. (International students and borrowers who are in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will also be asked to hand over documentation relating to their immigration status.)

And yet, you have to go through the full application process, submitting to a hard credit check, before you know whether you’ll qualify and at what APRs.

This is a staid process that other reputable lenders have left behind. If you want to prequalify without causing potential harm to your (or your cosigner’s) credit report, check out lenders like Earnest.

Cosigner release takes three years to achieve

If a parent or other creditworthy adult agrees to cosign your Citizens Bank student loan, ideally you’d get to thank them by sending them on their merry way in record time. Unfortunately, Citizens Bank requires that you make 36 on-time monthly payments on your debt before you can remove your cosigner.

If you (and, likely, your cosigner) care about a faster route to release, check out Sallie Mae. It has an industry-best 12-month policy.

Thin menu of repayment protections

Like with its refinancing product, Citizens Bank is somewhat cagey about its menu of repayment protections. If you borrow a student loan and run into trouble with making payments, you’ll want to be with a lender that is likely to grant you a reprieve.

Citizens Bank and its loan servicer, Firstmark, don’t explicitly define its deferment and forbearance options, which would allow you to postpone or pause repayment in the event of hardship. It only says that it approves such measures on a case-by-case basis, as it did en masse early on during the coronavirus pandemic.

How Citizens Bank compares with student loan competitors

Even if Citizens Bank sounds like a great option for your borrowing purposes, it’s smart to shop around. Here’s how the longstanding lender contrasts with other well-known companies with similar products.

Citizens Bank College Ave SoFi
Loans for… ● Undergraduates and graduate students
● Parents
● Undergraduates and graduate students
● Career school students
● Business, law, medical and dental school
● Parents
● Undergraduate and graduate students
● Business and law school
● Parents
APRs Variable starting at 1.16% and fixed starting at 4.18% Variable starting at 0.99% and fixed starting at 2.99% Variable starting at 1.12% and fixed starting at 4.13%
Ability to prequalify without affecting credit No Yes Yes
Borrowing amount $1,000 to 100% of your cost of attendance $1,000 to 100% of your cost of attendance $5,000 to 100% of your cost of attendance
In-school repayment options 3 4 4
Repayment terms 5 years  8 years (and 15 years for parents) 10 years
Cosigner release available Yes — after 36 months of payments Yes — after half the repayment term has elapsed Yes — after 24 months of timely payments

Note that you may have to expand your search to additional lenders to find the student loan you need. Check out top-rated lenders for your situation:

Borrower Programs Personal situation Lender feature
Part-time students Community college Applying without a cosigner Credit unions
Adults returning to school Trade school Bad or no credit Cosigner release
Graduate students Nursing school Economic hardship forbearance
Parents Medical school
Law school
Dental school
Business school

Are Citizens Bank student loans right for you?

The best private student loans carry the lowest interest rates but don’t stop there. They also provide additional support and rewards that you might find useful in the short term or years into repayment.

Citizens Bank student loans carry attractive APRs, few fees and a pair of valuable rate discounts. The lender also stands out for its multi-year approval benefit as well as a nice variety of in-school repayment plans.

On the downside, Citizens Bank could improve by clearly outlining its repayment protections and shorten the time required to release a cosigner.

Because Citizens Bank also lacks a prequalification process, it’s wise to revisit the lender once you’ve already shopped around and are ready to submit to a hard credit check. If you’re not yet at that point, visit our private student loan marketplace to learn about more borrowing options.

Frequently asked questions about Citizens Bank student loans

If you didn’t find your question answered in our Citizens Bank reviews, see the following FAQs.

Are Citizens Bank student loans federal or private?

Citizens Bank offers private student loans. It’s generally best to first borrow federal loans, which feature a much stronger safety net, before resorting to private education debt.

If you’re looking to refinance your existing balance, you might be glad to know that Citizens Bank refinances federal and private loans. Just be sure it’s a good idea to refinance your federal loans as the process is irreversible and would remove government-exclusive safeguards like the ability to pause, postpone or lower your monthly payments.

Is Citizens Bank a good option for student loans?

Like all private lenders, Citizens Bank has its pluses and minuses. If you’re considering applying for student loan refinance or are borrowing for the first time, Citizens Bank is worth a look, particularly for financially stable borrowers who won’t miss stronger repayment protections found among other private lenders. Just be sure you meet eligibility requirements and would stand to benefit from the advantages it offers.

How much can I borrow in student loans from Citizens Bank?

Whether you’re considering Citizens Bank student loan refinancing or new, in-school loans, maximum borrowing allotments apply. Your aggregate limit depends on the degree you’ve earned (in the case of refinancing) or the one you’re seeking (new loans).

Student loan refinancing Bachelor’s degree: $300,000
Graduate degree: $500,000
Professional degree: $750,000
Student loans Undergraduates: $100,000
Graduate students: $150,000
Business and law students: $225,000
Health care professionals: $180,000 or $350,000, depending on the degree

Rebecca Safier, Kat Tretina, Sarah Sharkey and Melissa Lockert contributed to this report.

Student Loan Hero has independently collected the above information related to Citizens Bank student loans, which is current as of July 1, 2021, unless otherwise noted. None of the financial institutions named has either provided or reviewed the information shared in this article.