Education Loan Finance Review: ELFI Student Refinancing for Graduates and Parents

 September 9, 2020
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Refinance Student Loan rates starting at 1.88% APR

1.88% to 6.15% 1
VARIABLE APR

Visit Lender

1.88% to 5.64% 2
VARIABLE APR

Visit Lender

2.50% to 6.85% 3
VARIABLE APR

Visit Lender

  • Variable APR

In 2019, students left college with an average of $29,900 in loans. For millions of people, student loans and high interest rates are a significant burden, and many struggle to keep up with their payments.

If you have a balance higher than $15,000 and are considering student loan refinancing, Education Loan Finance (ELFI) is worth a look. While its refinancing eligibility criteria are more strict than some competitors, the low interest rates could help you save money each month or overall.

Education Loan Finance review: The basics

Education Loan Finance is a student loan refinancing and consolidation program run by SouthEast Bank, a financial institution based in Tennessee. The company, which also lends private student loans to undergraduates, was designed to simplify repaying your loans by combining them into one easy payment.

After you graduate from school, Education Loan Finance helps to make your education more affordable. Many students leave school with a mix of private and federal loans, with multiple payments and different due dates. By refinancing, you can combine them into one easy payment, with one due date.

At ELFI, refinancing is available for graduates with their own loans, as well as for parents with federal parent PLUS loans or private loans. As the graduate, you may also refinance your mom or dad’s parent PLUS Loans into your name (if you can qualify on your own, without a cosigner).

Here are some other features you can expect with Education Loan Finance student loan refinance:

  • Fixed and variable interest rates
  • Prequalify and receive a rate quote — without harming your credit
  • No application or origination fees or prepayment penalty
  • Refinance at least $15,000, with maximum loan amounts depending on your creditworthiness
  • Eligibility requirements include a 680 credit score and a debt-to-income ratio below 55%, but applying with a cosigner is possible
  • Repayment terms of 5, 7, 10, 15 and 20 years (for ex-students) and 5, 7 and 10 years (for parent borrowers)
  • Up to 12 months of forbearance available for borrowers in a financial hardship (awarded on a case-by-case basis)
  • No in-school deferment available (if you return to campus while in repayment)

What we like about ELFI student loan refinance

There are some significant benefits to refinancing your loans with Education Loan Finance.

Competitive interest rates — and few fees

Education Loan Finance’s interest rates vary depending on the type of loan you want. If you apply for a fixed-rate loan and are approved, the offered loan’s interest rate could range from 2.47% to 5.99%.

For a variable-rate loan, the starting APR (annual percentage rate) can range from 2.39% to 6.01%. After that, the APR may increase with market changes.

ELFI bakes the industry-standard autopay discount into your awarded interest rate automatically because the lender requires all borrowers to make payments electronically.

Also, with Education Loan Finance, borrowers are never charged most student loan fees, such as for application, origination or prepayment. For late payments, you may be charged 5% of the late amount or $50, whichever is less. If a payment must be returned for any reason, you could be charged $30.

Potential borrower savings

If you have good credit or have someone willing to act as a cosigner, refinancing your debt with Education Loan Finance can help you save a lot of money.

For example, say you had a $20,000, 10-year loan at 7.00% interest. Over the length of your repayment, you’d pay back a total of $27,866. Because of the relatively high interest rate, you’d pay over $7,800 just in interest charges, according to our monthly payment calculator.

If you refinanced and qualified for a 10-year loan at 4.50% interest, the difference is dramatic. Over the length of your loan, you’d repay just $24,873. By taking a few minutes to submit your refinancing form, you’d save nearly $3,000.

Such arithmetic allows the average ELFI customer to save $13,940 over their repayment, according to the company’s data from February 2020.

Use our student loan refinancing calculator to estimate how much you can save.

Transparent application process

The highlight of Education Loan Finance’s application is its transparency. You can confirm your eligibility and potential rate within minutes and without subjecting your credit report to harm. Not all lenders prequalify borrowers this way.

If you elect to file a formal application with ELFI, you will have to submit to a hard credit check, which could temporarily ding your credit score.

Also, during the formal application process, you’ll need to provide the following documents:

  • Recent pay stub or proof of employment
  • W-2 form from the most recent tax year (and tax returns if you’re self-employed)
  • Government-issued ID
  • Bank account information (to set up Education Loan Finance payments)
  • Current billing statement or student loan payoff letter for each debt included in your refinancing application

Reliable customer service

Like with other student loan refinancing companies, Education Loan Finance won’t directly manage your repayment. It contracts federal loan servicers MOHELA and American Education Services (AES) to do just that.

At first blush, you might be reluctant to work with federal loan servicers, but MOHELA and AES have among the best servicer track records. MOHELA was absent from the latest Consumer Financial Protection Bureau complaint report, and AES was brought down, in part, by parent company PHEAA. On top of that, Education Loan Finance hasn’t been the subject of a student loan-related complaint filed to the CFPB since 2017.

Education Loan Finance customer service also has other notable positives going for it:

  • Each customer is assigned a Student Loan Advisors
  • The company’s management team claims three-plus decades of student loan refinancing experience

Speaking of experience, in January 2020, the company announced it has surpassed $1 billion in refinanced student loans, thanks to its approximately 14,500 customers.

Referral bonus program

Besides the benefits of refinancing, Education Loan Finance offers other benefits, too, like its student loan referral program. If you refer a friend, you get $400, and your buddy will get $100. (You get the money as a check to use as you want.)

Best of all, there’s no limit to how many people you can refer. You can post a referral link on your social media pages, your personal website and more to get the word out and earn cash.

What to keep in mind about Education Loan Finance

There are some drawbacks to student loan refinancing that you should keep in mind, particularly if you have federal student loans.

When you refinance, you’re replacing your federal loans with one private loan. That means you lose out on certain federal benefits, such as access to income-driven repayment plans, the ability to apply for Public Service Loan Forgiveness and forbearance and deferment options. That can make it more difficult to manage your loans later.

Other fine print to be aware of includes:

Stiff eligibility requirements

Education Loan Finance works with borrowers across the U.S. and Puerto Rico, but that’s where its accessibility starts to shrink.

To qualify for refinancing with Education Loan Finance, you must have at least $15,000 in student loan debt, be a U.S. citizen and have obtained your bachelor’s degree or a higher degree from an approved postsecondary institution.

While Education Loan Finance won’t publicly cite a specific number, they do say that applicants should have a debt-to-income (DTI) ratio that shows you can pay back the loan.

ELFI is clear about thresholds for other financial factors, including:

  • Minimum income: $35,000
  • Minimum credit score: 680
  • Minimum credit history: 36 months

If you don’t qualify for a loan based on your own credit, income or DTI ratio, you may need to find a cosigner.

Alternatively, you could find a lender with less stringent requirements.

Don’t have $15,000 in loans to refinance? LendKey will refinance as little as $2,000 worth of debt
Not a citizen? Prodigy Finance is among lenders assisting international borrowers
Don’t have a bachelor’s degree? EdVestinU works with borrowers who didn’t graduate or hold an associate’s degree
Don’t have income of at least $35,000? SoFi doesn’t set a minimum income requirement
Don’t have a credit score of 680? Earnest sets its threshold at 650

Missing features found elsewhere

Beyond inaccessible eligibility standards, Education Loan Finance doesn’t provide some perks that you’ll find available from other lenders.

The good news is that you could find these features by signing on with a competitor.

Options not available at ELFI Alternative lender
Spousal consolidation loans Splash Financial
Cosigner release (if you apply for refinancing with a cosigner) Laurel Road
Discharge due to borrower’s death (ELFI reviews each case individually) Discover

Are ELFI student loan refinance right for you?

Although there are some drawbacks to consider before submitting your application, refinancing your loans with Education Loan Finance could help you save money or pay off your debt faster. But it’s always a good idea to compare offers from multiple student loan refinancing companies to ensure you get your best possible offer.

Andrew Pentis contributed to this report.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 9 lenders of 2021!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
1.88% – 6.15%1Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Splash

1.88% – 5.64%2Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Earnest

2.50% – 6.85%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit CommonBond

1.89% – 5.90%4Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Laurel Road

1.99% – 6.59%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit SoFi

1.88% – 5.64%6Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit NaviRefi

1.90% – 5.25%7Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Lendkey

2.39% – 6.01%Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Elfi

2.13% – 5.25%8Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit PenFed

Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.

Splash Financial Disclosures

Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount

The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.

To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of June 1, 2021.


2 Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

Interest Rate Disclosure

Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 2.48% APR to 5.79% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 1.88% APR to 5.64% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 36% (the maximum allowable for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate student loan refinance 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 2.04% and 5.8% to the one month LIBOR. Earnest rate ranges are current as of 6/8/2021, and are subject to change based on market conditions.

Auto Pay Discount Disclosure

You can take advantage of the Auto Pay interest rate reduction by setting up and maintaining active and automatic ACH withdrawal of your loan payment. The interest rate reduction for Auto Pay will be available only while your loan is enrolled in Auto Pay. Interest rate incentives for utilizing Auto Pay may not be combined with certain private student loan repayment programs that also offer an interest rate reduction. For multi-party loans, only one party may enroll in Auto Pay.

Student Loan Refinancing Loan Cost Examples

These examples provide estimates based on payments beginning immediately upon loan disbursement. Variable APR: A $10,000 loan with a 20-year term (240 monthly payments of $72) and a 5.89% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $17,042.39. For a variable loan, after your starting rate is set, your rate will then vary with the market. Fixed APR: A $10,000 loan with a 20-year term (240 monthly payments of $72) and a 6.04% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $17,249.77. Your actual repayment terms may vary.Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest. com/terms-of-service, e-mail us at [email protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.

Earnest Loans are made by Earnest Operations LLC or One American Bank, Member FDIC. Earnest Operations LLC, NMLS #1204917. 535 Mission St., Suite 1663, San Francisco, CA 94105. California Financing Law License 6054788. Visit earnest.com/licenses for a full list of licensed states. For California residents (Student Loan Refinance Only): Loans will be arranged or made pursuant to a California Financing Law License.

One American Bank, 515 S. Minnesota Ave, Sioux Falls, SD 57104. Earnest loans are serviced by Earnest Operations LLC with support from Navient Solutions LLC (NMLS #212430). One American Bank and Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.

© 2021 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved.


3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. ‍All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 0.15% effective Jan 1, 2021 and may increase after consummation.


4 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

All credit products are subject to credit approval.

Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.

As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.

  1. Checking your rate with Laurel Road only requires a soft credit pull, which will not affect your credit score. To proceed with an application, a hard credit pull will be required, which may affect your credit score.
  2. Savings vary based on rate and term of your existing and refinanced loan(s). Refinancing to a longer term may lower your monthly payments, but may also increase the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Refinancing to a shorter term may increase your monthly payments, but may lower the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Review your loan documentation for total cost of your refinanced loan.
  3. After loan disbursement, if a borrower documents a qualifying economic hardship, we may agree in our discretion to allow for full or partial forbearance of payments for one or more 3-month time periods (not to exceed 12 months in the aggregate during the term of your loan), provided that we receive acceptable documentation (including updating documentation) of the nature and expected duration of the borrower’s economic hardship. During any period of forbearance interest will continue to accrue. At the end of the forbearance period, any unpaid accrued interest will be capitalized and be added to the remaining principle amount of the loan.
  4. Automatic Payment (“AutoPay”) Discount: if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically from a bank account, the interest rate will decrease by 0.25% and will increase back if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically from the borrower’s bank account. The 0.25% AutoPay discount will not reduce the monthly payment; instead, the discount is applied to the principal to help pay the loan down faster.

Assumptions: Repayment examples above assume a loan amount of $10,000 with repayment beginning immediately following disbursement. Repayment examples do not include the 0.25% AutoPay Discount.

Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.

Interest Rate: A simple annual rate that is applied to an unpaid balance.

Variable Rates: The current index for variable rate loans is derived from the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) and changes in the LIBOR index may cause your monthly payment to increase. Borrowers who take out a term of 5, 7, or 10 years will have a maximum interest rate of 9%, those who take out a 15 or 20-year variable loan will have a maximum interest rate of 10%.

KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.

This information is current as of April 29, 2021. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.
 


5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

Fixed rates from 2.49% APR to 6.94% APR (with autopay). Variable rates from 1.99% APR to 6.59% APR (with autopay). All variable rates are based on the 1-month LIBOR and may increase after consummation if LIBOR increases; see more at SoFi.com/legal/#1. If approved for a loan your rate will depend on a variety of factors such as your credit profile, your application and your selected loan terms. Your rate will be within the ranges of rates listed above. Lowest rates reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers, or may become available, such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp. or an affiliate (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license #6054612; NMLS #1121636 (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org). Additional terms and conditions apply; see SoFi.com/eligibility for details. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.


6 Important Disclosures for Navient.

Navient Disclosures

1. NaviRefi loans are made by Earnest Operations LLC, a member of the Navient family of companies, subject to individual approval and underwriting criteria. California residents only: Loans made or arranged pursuant to a California Finance Lenders Law license. Additional terms and conditions apply.

– To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or non-citizen permanent resident of the United States, reside in a state we lend in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.navirefi.com/help-and-questions. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Loan terms are subject to eligibility. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application. Loan approval is subject to confirmation that your debt-to-income, free cash flow, credit history and application information meet the minimum requirements. You must have a minimum FICO score to be considered.

– You can choose between fixed and variable rates. Fixed interest rates are 2.75% – 6.04% APR (2.50% – 5.79% APR with Auto Pay discount). Starting variable interest rates are 2.13% – 5.89% APR (1.88% – 5.64% APR with Auto Pay discount). Variable rates are based on an index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) plus a margin. Variable rates are reset monthly based on the fluctuation of the index. We do not currently offer variable rate loans in AK, CO, CT, HI, IL, KY, MA, MN, MS, NH, OH, OK, SC, TN, TX, and VA.

– You can take advantage of the 0.25% Auto Pay interest rate reduction by setting up and maintaining active and automatic ACH withdrawal of your loan payment. The interest rate reduction for Auto Pay will be available only while your loan is enrolled in Auto Pay. Interest rate incentives for utilizing Auto Pay may not be combined with certain private student loan repayment programs that also offer an interest rate reduction. NaviRefi rate ranges are current as of June 1, 2021 and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.

– Loan cost examples: These examples provide estimates based on payments beginning immediately upon loan disbursement. Variable APR: A $10,000 loan with a 20-year term (240 monthly payments of $72) and a 5.89% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $17,042. For a variable loan, after your starting rate is set, your rate will then vary with the market. Fixed APR: A $10,000 loan with a 20-year term (240 monthly payments of $72) and a 6.04% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $17,250. Your actual repayment terms may vary.

– The information provided on this page is updated as of 06/1/2021. Earnest Operations LLC reserves the right to modify or discontinue (in whole or in part) this loan program and its associated services and benefits at any time without notice. Check www.navirefi.com for the most up-to-date information. Terms and Conditions apply. Call 855-284-4893 for more information on our student loan refinance product.

– Earnest Operations LLC – NMLS #1204917, CA CFL #6054788 – 535 Mission St., Suite 1663, San Francisco, CA 94105.
Navient Solutions, LLC – NMLS #212430 – 123 Justison St., Wilmington, DE 19801. Visit https://navirefi.com/lending-licenses for a full list of licensed states.


7 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.

Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of  5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.

As of 04/07/2021 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.90% APR – 5.25% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.49% APR – 7.75% Fixed APR with AutoPay.


8 Important Disclosures for PenFed.

PenFed Disclosures

Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Fixed Rates range from 2.89%-4.78% APR and Variable Rates range from 2.13%-5.25% APR. Both Fixed and Variable Rates will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. For Variable Rate student loans, the rate will never exceed 9.00% for 5 year and 8 year loans and 10.00% for 12 and 15 years loans (the maximum allowable for this loan). Minimum variable rate will be 2.00%. These rates are 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.