Earnest Review: Innovative Merit-Based Lending

When it comes to student loan refinancing, smart and innovative strides have been made thanks to lenders like SoFi, Prosper, and College Ave offering marketplace and peer-to-peer lending.

Another brand changing the game of student loan refinancing: Earnest. They’re building a reputation for offering merit-based – not credit-based – lending options.

Check out our Earnest review below to see if they may be the perfect lender for you.

Earnest review

Merit-based lending can be a game-changer for current students or new grads whose nascent credit standing may get them turned down for a new loan by a conventional bank or lender.

This San Francisco-based lender specializes primarily in three areas: student loan refinancing, Parent PLUS loan refinancing, and Earnest personal loans.

Part of the company’s growing appeal is that it runs and maintains its own financial services. That’s different than the fundraising angle of its P2P competitors, or the indirect lending of third-party vendors.

Visit the Earnest Website

Best products and services from Earnest

Earnest’s flagship service is a convenient, modern student loan refinancing option that bases eligibility underwriting on a data-centric algorithm.

They analyze up to 100,000 data points about your life. This acute insight into the particulars of your entire financial picture is what Earnest likes to call the “new-fashioned” way of doing things.

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They move beyond your credit score and look at things like:

  • Your current employment, education status, and income level
  • How much money you have in your savings
  • The amount of additional debt you currently have
  • Bill payment history
  • Your debt-to-income ratio

Similar to financial apps like Mint, this data-driven, analytics based format allows applicants to enter this information in a speedy application process.

And if you’re approved, you can select a personalized fixed or variable rate. You can also manage your account, profile, and payments through their customizable dashboard.

The site’s protocol for Parent PLUS refinancing applicants is similar. Earnest’s analytics platform may ask applicants to submit other specifics about their finances, like investments or retirement accounts. This may in turn influence the types of rates and terms applicants are approved for.

For Earnest personal loans, the lender caters to borrowers who may need a quick or large cash flow to finance a major purchase or debt payoff. Earnest uses the same merit-centric criteria when considering applicants for one of its low-interest personal loans.

Using the Earnest online platform

Earnest maintains that its account setup and application process takes a quick two minutes.

The first thing you need to do is go to their homepage and click on “2 Min: Get Your Rate” under “Student Loan Refinancing” or “Parent PLUS Refinancing”.

Then you fill out their one-page rate check form (shown below). It will ask for several academic, financial and personal details, like the amount of your existing student loan, your rent or mortgage payments, and contact info.

Earnest Review

Note: Rates shown are for example purposes only and may not reflect rates currently available.

It will also ask for you to create an Earnest login as well as your consent for a soft credit inquiry using your social security number. A soft credit check will not affect your FICO score.

Start a Refinancing Application

Earnest Review

Earnest personal loans applications are a bit longer, and it’s more credit-based than the refinancing arm of its business model. You can click on “Get Your Loan” under “Personal Loans” to get started on the six-step process (the first step is pictured below).

Earnest Review

Note: Rates shown are for example purposes only and may not reflect rates currently available.

From your education and employment history to financial and personal details, Earnest will ask for it all during the personal loan application process.

Earnest will also ask your permission to gain access to your bank accounts. From there, they will note any delinquencies or collections you may have and distil your financial history, right down to the last credit card swipe.

Start a Personal Loan Application

Once you’re approved, your budget, interest rates and terms (coined Precision Pricing by Earnest) are determined. You can then begin managing your account and choose to increase your payment amounts or make extra payments.

Fun fact: Earnest will even let you skip one loan payment a year once you’ve made at least 6 months of consecutive on-time payments, and your loan is in good standing.

Earnest interest rates and fees

With Earnest, customers are offered attractive interest rates through its data and merit-driven system. APRs are on the whole lower for borrowers than those from regular lenders.

Earnest offers both variable interest rates and fixed interest rates for student loan refinancing as well as for personal loans. Visit the Earnest website to see the latest student loan rates and personal loan rates.

Refinancing loans and personal loans with Earnest are free of all fees and do not have prepayment penalties.

Earnest eligibility requirements

Earnest doesn’t have a huge laundry list of requirements. But, they do have a few eligibility boxes you’ll need to check off.

All applicants must be at least 18 years old, employed, and with an income that can support a refinanced loan, along with other debt and living expenses.

For refinancing loans, you’ll need to be the primary borrower on a degree you’ve earned or are actively pursuing. Good news is co-signers are also allowed on Earnest loans.

Earnest customer service

You can call Earnest Monday through Friday from 8:00am to 5:00pm Pacific Time. Or, reach out to them via email. They typically respond to emails within one day.

Some Earnest customers may consider the loan application process to be lengthy and intrusive. However, they’ve received praise for how quickly the application process can be overall.

More about Earnest

Established in 2013, Earnest’s mission has been to provide low-cost loans and loan refinances to financially responsible young adults new to using credit.

The company’s objective is to give consumers a chance at qualifying for credit through data science and tech, rather than the regular credit system in place with most lenders.

One year after it was created, Earnest had already processed more than $8 million in loans, according to Forbes.

Earnest contact

Visit Earnest online today to check your rates and eligibility. You can also give them a call at 888-601-2801. Or, email them hello@earnest.com.

If you would like to visit Earnest in person, they’re located at 1455 Market St., 18th floor in San Francisco, CA 94103. You can also check them out on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

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