Earnest Student Loans Review: Choose Your Own Repayment Terms

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Earnest Student Loans Review
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Pros of Earnest student loans:Cons of Earnest student loans:
● Check rates without affecting credit
● Low fixed and variable interest rates
● No fees, not even for late payments
● Customize your repayment term
kip one monthly payment annually
● Sometimes-stiff eligibility requirements include a 650 credit score
● No option to add a cosigner (for refinancing) or seek cosigner release (in-school loans)
● Loans not available in Kentucky (refinancing) and Nevada (refinancing, in-school loans)

Earnest is an online company that refinances and lends student loans for creditworthy borrowers. Loans are available to undergraduate, graduate and professional students, as well as their parents.

Acquired by industry veteran Navient in 2017, Earnest has maintained its innovative practices. Refinancing borrowers with excellent credit can expect access to as many as 180 repayment term options. Borrowers of private student loans, meanwhile, are promised an extremely flexible repayment, including the ability to skip one payment per year.

Earnest student loan refinancing reviewEarnest private 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 Earnest student loans

Earnest student loan refinancing review

Earnest student loan refinance helps borrowers save money by considering more than just their credit score during the application process. Earnest refinance is also known for flexibility, allowing customers to choose their repayment term and payment due date.

Earnest loans are a good fit for borrowers with stable financial history who won’t need to apply for refinancing with a cosigner’s help — and prefer setting the terms of their repayment.

What to like:What to keep in mind:
Prequalify and receive a rate quote in minutes
Be judged beyond your credit score
Pick your own repayment term
Skip one payment per year
Rest easy with unemployment protection
Credit score requirement of 650
No ability to apply with a cosigner
Can’t refinance Parent PLUS loans into the child’s name
Poor mobile app experience

Earnest student loan refinance review: the basics

Earnest (which also does personal loans) offers student loan refinancing to college graduates who have their own college debt, as well as to parents who borrowed loans to pay for their child’s education.

Here are some features you can expect with Earnest student loan refinance:

  • Earnest loan APRs: Variable starting at 1.99% and fixed starting at 2.98%
  • Receive a rate quote in two minutes
  • Autopay discount of 0.25 percentage points
  • The option to choose your minimum payment
  • Repayment terms of between five and 20 years
  • Deferment and forbearance options for borrowers who return to school or run into financial hardship
  • No set income requirement
  • No origination fees or prepayment penalties
  • Minimum loan amount of $5,000 ($10,000 for California borrowers) and maximum of $500,000
  • Earnest’s minimum credit score of 650

*Variable interest rates were not available in Alaska, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas, as of Oct. 12, 2020.

To refinance student loans with Earnest, you must be at least 18 years old and a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Your debt must also be from a Title IV accredited nonprofit college or university, and you must have either completed your degree or be set to do so in the current semester.

What we like about Earnest student loan refinancing

There’s plenty to love about Earnest loans if you plan to refinance student loans. Here are some of our favorite features:

Check Earnest loan rates in two minutes

If you’re wondering how long Earnest takes to review your fit for refinancing, keep in mind that you could apply for and receive a quote in two minutes. Just by entering some basic information and yourself, you could check whether the lender might be a fit for your repayment.

Does Earnest do a hard pull on your credit at this time? No — instead, the company will perform only a soft check on your credit report to deliver quotes. The hard credit check that could temporarily ding your credit would only come during the formal application process.

Flexible approval process

One of the biggest advantages of Earnest refinancing loans is the fact that approval is possible even with a short or nonexistent credit history.

If you don’t have a strong credit history, Earnest could approve you for student loan refinancing based on several other factors (a particularly negative financial history, however, could prevent you from approval).

When you apply for Earnest student loans, you link your bank accounts to your Earnest profile. The process is similar to the way budgeting tools like Mint and Personal Capital work — that’s why Earnest’s asking for bank account information. It requires your username and password to access your account information.

While the lender does look at your credit report, it doesn’t rely entirely on this traditional method of assessing your reliability. Other aspects of your personal finances — including your checking, savings and investments accounts — are considered during the process.

The approval process for Earnest loans is unique because it looks not just at your income and current debt, but also other aspects, like your job history. Because of this, Earnest loans might offer an alternative for borrowers who can’t get a competitive rate with a more traditional lender.

If you’re looking to refinance without a degree, Earnest also opens refinancing to current students who are within a semester of graduating.

Expansive repayment options

Earnest loans also include flexible repayment terms that you can customize before locking in your loan. Instead of picking a repayment term and automatically receiving an interest rate and monthly payment, you’re in control.

For example, you can choose your monthly payment from a broad range of options that Earnest provides. In fact, with excellent credit, you could choose from as many as 180 options spanning every month between five and 20 years.

You can also choose to skip one payment a year and make it up later.

Additionally, Earnest is among student loan refinance companies with job loss protection. It also provides a deferment if you’re returning to school or serving active duty in the military. These options allow you to temporarily pause your payments, making it a little easier to manage your student loan debt.

Be aware, however, that interest will continue to accrue onto your balance while you’re away from repayment.

What to keep in mind with Earnest student loan refinance

While Earnest loans feature certain advantages, there are some things to consider before you move forward with your application. For example, the company doesn’t offer financing in Kentucky and Nevada. Other factors to keep in mind include:

Minimum credit score

Even though Earnest uses factors beyond your credit history to determine your eligibility, you must still meet its minimum credit score requirement. In fact, to get Earnest’s benefits, you’ll need a score of 650 or above.

As a result, Earnest loans might not be an option you’ve had financial problems in the past. For instance, you might not qualify to refinance your student loans through Earnest if those loans aren’t in good standing or if you have accounts recently in collection.

However, most lenders also have minimum credit score requirements, so if you do have poor credit, you’ll likely need to improve your financial situation anyway before applying elsewhere.

No cosigner option

With some lenders, such as SoFi and Citizens Bank, it’s possible to get a cosigner to help you qualify for student loan refinancing. Earnest student loans, however, don’t have a cosigner option for refinancing. So, if you don’t qualify on your own, you won’t be able to improve your chances by getting a cosigner to help you.

No changing ownership of a parent PLUS Loan

While Earnest offers parents the ability to refinance parent PLUS Loans borrowed from the federal government, it doesn’t enable them to refinance loans into their child’s name. If your family desires that option, check out CommonBond, which would allow you to transfer debt to your child.

Earnest app has received negative reviews

If you plan to manage your refinanced loan repayment on a mobile device, keep in mind that the Earnest app has mostly received negative reviews — “Earnest app not working” is a common complaint (in addition, at time of writing, there does not appear to be any listings for an Earnest app in either Google Play or Apple’s app store). For its part, the company previously said that the app allowed customers to view your balance and submit payments, among other features.

Paying for Earnest student loan refinance with credit card not possible

For all of its flexibility elsewhere, Earnest doesn’t allow customers to make their student loan payments with a credit card. You could still pay digitally from your checking or savings account.

Refinancing federal student loans turns them private

Besides issues to consider that are specific to Earnest student loan refinancing, there are some general caveats to refinancing when it comes to federal loans.

Even though refinancing can help you reduce your interest rate in some cases, it’s important to understand that you will lose certain borrower protections if you refinance federal student loans.

Once you refinance with Earnest, for example, you’ll be ineligible for federal income-driven repayment plans and federal student loan forgiveness programs. Given this, you’ll want to make sure you won’t need any governmental programs before you turn your debt private through refinancing.

How Earnest refinancing compares with competitors

Student Loan Hero recommends you shop around with multiple lenders before selecting a new, refinanced debt. When comparing Earnest student loans to competitors, focus on key factors beyond the simple interest rate.

Given the unique perks offered by online-only lenders, you could be right to focus on Earnest vs. SoFi and CommonBond.

EarnestSoFiCommonBond
Products● Student loan refinancing
● Parent PLUS loan refinancing
● Student loan refinancing
● Parent PLUS loan refinancing
● Medical resident refinancing
● Student loan refinancing
Credit score required650Good or excellent credit660
APRsVariable starting at 1.99% and fixed starting at 2.98%Variable starting at 2.25% and fixed starting at 2.99%Variable starting at 1.99% and fixed starting at 2.83%
Minimum loan amount$5,000$5,000$5,000
Repayment terms availableUp to 20 years (including any year-and-month combination)Up to 20 yearsUp to 20 years
Apply with a cosignerNoYesYes
Note on eligibilityNo degree necessary (or if you’re one semester from your degree)Nonpermanent residents could be eligible, in some cases needing a permanent resident cosignerU.S.-based students eligible if graduated from one of 2,000-plus approves colleges and universities in CommonBond’s network
Good fit for…Citizen or permanent resident borrowers who can qualify on their own.Borrowers, including parents and doctors, who may need to apply with the help of a cosigner.Borrowers who attended approved schools that may prefer hybrid loans, with or without cosigner assistance.

Is Earnest refinancing right for you?

Now that you know Earnest is legit and, possibly, a great option for your repayment, you might be raring for the next step. Before you decide, compare lenders who refinance student loans.

Generally speaking, Earnest might be a good choice if you:

  • Have good financial habits, like saving money regularly
  • Can show regular income and can comfortably afford the monthly payments
  • Don’t plan to take advantage of income-driven repayment or student loan forgiveness for your federal student loans
  • Have higher interest rates on your current student loans than what’s offered for your refinancing loan

In the end, Earnest student loan refinancing offers flexibility and options that can work well for some borrowers. Carefully consider your situation and your financial needs as you make a decision about your student loans.

Earnest private student loans review

Earnest expanded its offerings into new student loans for undergraduates, as well as graduate and professional students, in April 2019.

Among the advantages of borrowing from Earnest, now a subsidiary of student loan servicer Navient, is its streamlined online application process for students and cosigners. Earnest lets you easily apply for as much funding as you need to cover the costs of your degree.

Earnest student loans are a good fit for full-time students who have already maxed out their federal loan borrowing and are seeking a private lender with flexible repayment options, not including cosigner release.

What to like:What to keep in mind:
Streamlined application process
Nine-month grace period
Flexible repayment options
Skip a payment once per year
Good credit (or cosigner) needed to qualify
No cosigner release
Doesn’t lend to Nevada residents

Here are some features you can expect with Earnest student loans:

  • Earnest loan APRs: Variable starting at 1.05% and fixed starting at 3.49%
  • Receive a rate quote in two minutes
  • Option to apply with a cosigner
  • Funding from $1,000 up to 100% of your cost of attendance
  • No origination, disbursement, prepayment or late payment fees
  • Autopay discount of 0.25 percentage points
  • Four in-school repayment options, including full deferment
  • Receive a nine-month grace period
  • Repayment terms of between five and 20 years
  • Option to skip one payment annually
  • Deferment and forbearance options for borrowers who return to school or run into financial hardship

Like other private lenders, Earnest has stringent underwriting criteria to qualify for a student loan. Since most students won’t be able to qualify on their own, you can add a cosigner to your application.

To borrow Earnest loans, you or your cosigner must have a minimum credit score of 650 and at least three years of credit history, among other criteria we discuss below.

What we like about Earnest loans

As a student loan borrower, you have many private student loan options. Here are a few benefits that make Earnest a competitive option for funding your education.

Streamlined application process

As an online company, Earnest prioritizes a streamlined user experience. As compared to applying at a bank or credit union, you’ll find it easy to apply for Earnest student loans.

Plus, its instant rate quote means you can check your loan offers without any impact on your credit score. The lender will only run a hard inquiry (which does have a small impact on your credit) if and when you choose a loan offer and submit a full application for consideration.

Nine-month grace period

Earnest student loans feature a longer student loan grace period than most other lenders, allowing you to defer payments while you’re in school and for nine months after you graduate. Most lenders only let you defer payments for six months after you graduate, and this extra time could be invaluable if you need a while longer to search for a job and stabilize your income.

That said, taking advantage of the full grace period isn’t always in your best interest. Private student loans start accruing interest as soon as the money you borrowed is disbursed, so you’ll face a bigger balance at the end of your grace period if you wait to begin repayment.

If you can afford small in-school payments, you can cut down on interest and make it easier on yourself after you graduate and full repayment kicks in.

Flexible repayment options

Before you borrow Earnest student loans, review your options for repayment.

The lender has various options for when you start repayment. You can choose among the following:

  • Defer payments. Take full advantage of your grace period while you’re in school and don’t start making payments until nine months after you graduate.
  • Pay $25 per month. Make small, fixed payments as a student in order to cut down on interest.
  • Pay the interest while you’re in school. Pay just the accrued interest so you won’t face a bigger balance once full repayment starts.
  • Make principal and interest payments. Begin repayment right away — if you can afford it — to get the lowest long-term costs of borrowing.

As for the length of your repayment term (regardless of when it begins), Earnest lets you choose terms of 5, 7, 10, 12 or 15 years on a cosigned student loan, or 10, 12, or 15 years for an independent student loan.

Before choosing a repayment term, use our student loan payment calculator to estimate how much you’ll pay each month and how much interest it will cost, based on the term you choose.

Skip a payment once per year

Life happens, and you might experience a layoff or run into an unexpected expense. To help you through a tough time, Earnest allows you to skip one payment on your student loan every 12 months.

To qualify, you’ll have to make the request at least five business days before your payment is due. You can only do this after you’ve made on-time consecutive payments of both principal and interest for at least six months.

Although this feature isn’t a long-term solution to financial problems, it could help if you need a month without paying your student loan while you get back on your feet.

What to keep in mind about Earnest loans

Although Earnest student loans have a lot of perks for students, they might not be right for everybody. Before you borrow an Earnest loan, review these potential downsides.

Might not approve you without strong credit

Earnest student loans are only available to borrowers or cosigners with strong credit and a steady income. Fortunately, Earnest makes its underwriting requirements for you or your cosigner clear:

  • A minimum credit score of 650
  • An annual income of at least $35,000
  • At least three years of credit history
  • No bankruptcy on your credit report
  • A history of on-time payments
  • No accounts in collection

All private lenders have some sort of underwriting requirements to qualify for a loan, and if you can’t meet Earnest’s criteria, you might have to look elsewhere.

No cosigner release

As a student, chances are you won’t be able to qualify for a private student loan on your own. To boost your chances, it’s likely you may need to apply with a creditworthy cosigner, such as a parent.

Your cosigner becomes just as responsible for the debt as you, and their credit is on the line in the event you can’t pay. Plus, their debt-to-income ratio could increase, since their name is on your loan, and this might limit their own access to credit.

Some lenders, such as Sallie Mae and College Ave Student Loans, allow you to apply for cosigner release after a certain period of on-time payments. If approved, you could get your cosigner removed from the loan completely.

Earnest, however, doesn’t offer cosigner release at this time, so your cosigner will be on the hook for your debt for the entire life of your loan, unless you refinance the debt down the road.

Doesn’t fund student loans in Nevada

While the company has made strides to expand nationally, Earnest student loans aren’t accessible in every state. If you or your cosigner live in Nevada, you won’t be able to access Earnest loans.

For what it’s worth, Florida borrowers will also be subject to a stamp tax of 0.35% on Earnest student loan applications. That would equate to a $21 application fee on a $6,000 loan, for example.

How Earnest compares with student loan competitors

Earnest isn’t the only fintech with better-than-average student loan terms. As you shop around for additional funding, you might also consider Earnest student loan competitors SoFi and CommonBond.

EarnestSoFiCommonBond
Loans for…● Undergraduates
● Graduate students
● Business, medical and law school
● Undergraduates
● Graduate students
● Business and law school
● Parents
● Undergraduates
● Graduate students
● Business, dental and medical school
Interest ratesVariable starting at 1.05% and fixed starting at 3.49%Variable starting at 3.65% and fixed starting at 5.05%Variable starting at 3.52% and fixed starting at 5.45%
Borrowing amount$1,000 to 100% of your cost of attendance$5,000 to 100% of your cost of attendance$2,000 to 100% of your cost of attendance (aggregate limit of $500,000)
In-school repayment options444
Repayment terms5, 7, 10, 12 or 15 years5, 10 or 15 years5, 7 and 10 years
Cosigner release availableNoYes (after 24 consecutive, full payments)Yes (after 24 consecutive, full payments)
Open to…Resident students attending school full-time, seeking a bachelor’s or higher degreeCitizens and noncitizen residents attending school at least half-time at a degree-granting programCitizens and permanent residents attending an approved school at least half-time

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:

BorrowerProgramsOther degreesPersonal situationLender feature
Part-time studentsCommunity collegeAssociate degreeApplying without a cosignerCredit unions
International studentsTrade schoolNon-degree programsBad or no creditCosigner release
Adults returning to schoolNursing schoolEconomic hardship forbearance
Graduate studentsMedical schoolHybrid interest rate
ParentsLaw school
Dental school
Business school

Are Earnest student loans right for you?

If you’re looking to borrow for your degree program, Earnest student loans could be right for you. With its easy application process and repayment benefits, Earnest offers a streamlined way to get the funding you need at competitive rates.

But Earnest loans aren’t the only option out there, and it’s important to shop around to find the best loan for your needs. So before choosing Earnest, make sure to compare offers from other lenders, including those on our list of some of the best private student loan companies.

By putting in your due diligence now, you can find a student loan with the best rates and terms for you.

Frequently asked questions about Earnest student loans

If you didn’t find your question answered in our Earnest loans review, see the following FAQs:

Is Earnest legit, safe and trustworthy?

Founded in 2013, Earnest is a legitimate lender with a long-running track record in education financing. To determine whether it’s the right lender for your needs, test out its customer service and compare it with other industry leaders.

Are Earnest-Navient loans federal loans?

Earnest is a private company that refinances private and federal student loans and, starting in 2019, lends out private student loans. Earnest’s parent company, Navient, services federal loans lent directly by the Department of Education.

Therefore, Earnest student loans are private in nature and do not include federal loan protections like access to income-driven repayment.

Why is Earnest asking for my bank account?

Most lenders rely on factors like your credit report and debt-to-income ratio when determining whether to approve your application. While Earnest does the same, it takes extra steps to review your cash-flow.

Earnest asks for your bank account information to include your banking history and habits in its unique underwriting process. Keep in mind it will request read-only access to your bank account to look specifically at your transaction and balance history. You don’t have to worry about Earnest being able to make charges to your checking account.

Rebecca Safier, Miranda Marquit and Eric Rosenberg contributed to this article.

Student Loan Hero has independently collected the above information related to Earnest student loans, which is current as of Oct. 12, 2020, unless otherwise noted. Earnest has neither provided nor reviewed the information shared in this article.

The information in this article is accurate as of the date of publishing.

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