HomeAway Review: Is It Better Than a Hotel?

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I love to travel. But it can get expensive, especially if you plan a multiday stay at a large rental. Even if you’re on a road trip and only stop for one night in each location, the cost of staying in different hotels can add up.

So, how do you save money on lodging when you like to travel? One solution is to consider booking your stays using HomeAway, a travel website that specializes in vacation rentals.

HomeAway review

HomeAway was established in 2005 as WVR Group, but the name changed in 2006. Over time, the company bought rival sites VRBO and VacationRentals.com. In 2015, HomeAway was acquired by Expedia for $3.9 billion in cash and stock.

Today, HomeAway competes with Airbnb in the vacation rental space. It has a similar business model that allows people to rent out their homes to travelers.

Here’s what you need to know about using HomeAway.

How to use HomeAway

Using HomeAway is fairly straightforward, much like using any other hotel booking website. Simply enter your city of choice, the dates you want to stay, and how many guests you have.

HomeAway reviews

Image credit: HomeAway

For example, say you’re planning a three-day trip for four adults and four children. After entering in this basic information, you’ll be shown available listings and a map of the area.

To filter through listings, you can adjust your preferences for pricing, number of bedrooms, and more. It’s also possible to find bookings that offer instant confirmation, so you don’t have to wait to see if your reservation is approved.

Click on a listing to learn more about the home. You can see pictures of the rental, read details about its location, and see how many bedrooms and bathrooms are available. You can also review house rules before booking so you know what to expect.

HomeAway request to book

Image credit: HomeAway

Once you’re comfortable with a rental, click on “Request to Book.” You’ll submit your information and receive a decision within 24 hours. If you book a home with a lightning symbol on its listing, you’ll clinch the deal immediately.

How to use HomeAway

Image credit: HomeAway

You can ask homeowners and managers questions about the property through the HomeAway website. If you’re curious about location, you can review the map provided by HomeAway. That makes it easier to see whether the neighborhood makes sense for you, especially if you’re looking for something within walking distance of attractions.

HomeAway map

Image credit: HomeAway

Before booking, you might want to read the fine print and communicate with the owners.

Okeoma Moronu Schreiner, an attorney and family travel advocate, has been using HomeAway since 2009. She recommended asking the owner questions to get a feel for who’s in charge.

“Trust your instincts when it comes to owners,” she said. “If they’re not friendly, helpful, and responsive during the booking process, things probably won’t get better if you need their help during your stay.”

You can also read HomeAway reviews of the property before booking to decide if it’s someplace you want to stay.

Booking your vacation rental

Once you choose a rental, go ahead and move forward. As you go through the process, you’ll review the policies of the rental, decide whether you want to add trip protection, and enter your payment information. Trip protection costs vary based on the cost of your stay and whether the owner offers it as an option.

Realize that the owner or manager of the property will decide if they’ll accept your booking request. HomeAway suggests that leaving a message about why you’re coming to town and who you’re traveling with can boost your chances of being accepted.

HomeAway doesn’t force you to book online either. If you need help, you can call 888-640-6970 at any time of the week. Make note of the rental number so you can reference it when you speak with a representative.

HomeAway listing

Image credit: HomeAway

Your booking page includes a breakdown of fees you’re likely to pay. Some properties also charge a refundable deposit.

After your stay is complete and the owner or manager verifies that you haven’t damaged anything, you’ll get your deposit back. But that deposit will be part of the upfront cost of renting the home.

Is HomeAway cheaper than a hotel?

Depending on your situation, HomeAway can be cheaper than a hotel. Consider the trip to Denver above. In that scenario, there are eight people traveling together. In order to accommodate the group at a hotel, you’d need a suite or two rooms.

Using Orbitz, it’s possible to find hotels that charge much less per night.

HomeAway vs hotel

Image credit: Orbitz

However, you’re paying per night, per room. So if you have two rooms that cost $57 each, that’s $114 per night. With taxes, the total is $382.14. Plus, you don’t have to worry about cleaning fees, extra service fees, or deposits.

Compare that to the $480 cost you’d pay for a home rental on HomeAway. That amount doesn’t account for the deposit you’ll pay when booking.

On the other hand, a nicer hotel like a Marriott property could cost you more. You could easily end up paying $658.20 in total with taxes.

HomeAway vs hotels

Image credit: Marriott

While HomeAway beats a hotel with nightly rates closer to $100, at first glance it looks like you could do better by staying at a cheap hotel.

But is that really the case?

Schreiner said that having a kitchen saves her money, especially during an extended stay. In our trip to Denver, for example, you pay less than $100 extra for staying at a HomeAway property. Compare that figure to how much money you can save by cooking your own meals.

Schreiner said that being able to go to a local grocery store and cook most of her meals easily saves her money.

I can attest to the money you can save when you have a kitchen.

While using Airbnb in Toronto one summer, my son and I bought groceries at a store around the corner from our rented condo. We fixed our own breakfasts and dinners, eating out only for lunch.

Instead of spending between $100 and $125 a day eating out for three meals, we spent $75 on groceries and $30 a day on lunch. Over the course of three days, instead of spending close to $375 on food, we spent $165.

HomeAway is more comfortable for large groups than a hotel

Even if you could save a little money by staying at an inexpensive hotel, the reality is that a HomeAway rental is likely more comfortable. Many of the rentals come with common spaces that a larger party can utilize.

“I believe my accomodations while on vacation really set the tone for my trip,” said Schreiner. “Anyone with toddlers knows it can be exhausting trying to keep little ones entertained in a tiny hotel room.”

Further, Schreiner said bedtime is much more convenient when you have different rooms in the same house, rather than trying to squeeze everyone into one room.

When traveling with friends, you can take advantage of the amenities you find on HomeAway. You don’t have to worry about being broken up into different rooms, and those who want to turn in early can do so.

Kate Horrell, a financial expert who’s been using HomeAway since 2010, likes that you can spread out in a vacation rental.

“You usually have a living space other than just the bed,” she said. “And there are often things like books or board games that you wouldn’t find in a hotel.”

In a HomeAway rental, there’s also a smaller chance you’ll disturb other guests or be asked to quiet down.

Finally, there’s a chance to experience something different with HomeAway. “Hotels tend to have an impersonal cookie-cutter corporate feel that isn’t what I’m looking for when traveling,” said Schreiner. “I love to book homes that are unique, often showcasing local art or located in a vibrant neighborhood. For my family, the home is part of the experience.”

How does HomeAway compare to Airbnb?

Airbnb made a name for itself by being a major part of the sharing economy. Like HomeAway, it allows homeowners to rent out their places.

Using the same criteria for the Denver stay for eight guests, I checked listings on Airbnb. I was able to find several listings at a lower cost than HomeAway.

Airbnb vs HomeAway

Image credit: Airbnb

Some of the Airbnb rentals were in the range of a cheaper hotel.

However, I had to be careful about how I entered my dates in the search filters. In some cases, I had to re-enter my desired dates. I also found that some of the prices advertised in the search results were lower than the actual costs of the rentals.

HomeAway vs Airbnb

Image credit: Airbnb

For this listing, the $77 shown in the search results suddenly became $166 per night.

Like HomeAway, Airbnb operators can choose to charge cleaning fees, and renters have to pay service fees and taxes. Despite these factors, I was able to find some good deals on Airbnb compared to HomeAway.

If you’re traveling alone, Airbnb also allows you to book private rooms in homes where others might be living or staying.

With Airbnb, though, you might sacrifice some level of professionalism. “In my experience, HomeAway tends to attract more professional homeowners than Airbnb,” said Schreiner. “On average, the quality of the homes on HomeAway tends to be more consistent and reliable.”

Drawbacks to a HomeAway vacation rental

HomeAway isn’t always the perfect choice. Horrell said that even with the rental descriptions and details, you can’t really know exactly what you’re going to get.

Sometimes you show up and end up with an experience that’s less than advertised.

With a hotel chain, it’s pretty clear what you’re going to get. Hotels tend to be uniform across the country, so it’s easy to predict how things will go.

I know what to expect when I stay in a Residence Inn by Marriott. When I stayed at an Airbnb in Vancouver a couple years ago, I was surprised that the space didn’t live up to its listing. For example, the pictures on the listing were taken from angles that made the rental look bigger.

It was an uncomfortable couple of nights as my son and I tried to deal with the less-than-stellar sleeping arrangements, inadequate heating, and subpar shower.

Horrell added that sometimes you don’t get the same level of care and attention.

“You can’t just call the front desk and get switched to a new room if the hot water isn’t working,” she said. “Sometimes the hosts live nearby and can help easily, and sometimes your technical support is half a world away.”

Horrell also pointed out that you might miss out on some of the social amenities offered at hotel chains. “You probably won’t get a free breakfast,” she said. “Also, there are no evening dinners or happy hours.”

HomeAway reviews online

HomeAway reviews are mixed. If you look at Google results, the first thing you see is an ad and a rating of 4.3 stars out of five.

HomeAway review

Image credit: Google

On Sitejabber, HomeAway reviews are brutal, rating the service 1.3 stars out of five. On Trustpilot, HomeAway gets a TrustScore of 7.7 out of 10.

Many reviewers cited poor customer service and difficulty in getting the service fee refunded when an owner cancels a booking.

Other reviewers were happy with the service and how easy it was to book. Many of these customers didn’t encounter snags between booking and their trip.

Is HomeAway right for you?

Whether HomeAway works for you depends on your travel priorities and the size of your party.

My son and I are planning a spring break trip with my sister and her family, and we’re looking at HomeAway to find comfortable and affordable accomodations for our party of eight.

If you’re planning a multiday trip and have family or are traveling with a group of friends, it can make sense to book a vacation rental. The service is also a good idea for travelers who want that at-home feel when they’re out of town or want a cost-effective lodging solution in the heart of a popular destination.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 6 lenders of 2018!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.

Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.89% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.97% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate 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 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of Month/Day/Year, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.

Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.

The information provided on this page is updated as of 08/21/18. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at hello@earnest.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.

© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.

2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

APR stands for “Annual Percentage Rate.” Rates listed include a 0.25% EFT discount, for automatic payments made from a checking or savings account. Interest rates as of 11/8/2018. Rates subject to change.

Variable rate options consist of a range from 3.27% per year to 6.09% per year for a 5-year term, 4.64% per year to 6.14% per year for a 7-year term, 4.69% per year to 6.19% per year for a 10-year term, 4.94% per year to 6.44% per year for a 15-year term, or 5.19% per year to 6.69% per year for a 20-year term, with no origination fees. APR is subject to increase after consummation. The variable interest rate will change on the first day of every month (“Change Date”) if the Current Index changes. The variable interest rates are based on a Current Index, which is the 1-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) (currency in US dollars), as published on The Wall Street Journal’s website. The variable interest rates and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will increase or decrease when the 1-month LIBOR index changes. The variable interest rates are calculated by adding a margin ranging from 0.98% to 3.80% for the 5-year term loan, 2.35% to 3.85% for the 7-year term loan, 2.40% to 3.90% for the 10-year term loan, 2.65% to 4.15% for the 15-year term loan, and 2.90% to 4.40% for the 20-year term loan, respectively, to the 1-month LIBOR index published on the 25th day of each month immediately preceding each “Change Date,” as defined above, rounded to two decimal places, with no origination fees. If the 25th day of the month is not a business day or is a US federal holiday, the reference date will be the most recent date preceding the 25th day of the month that is a business day. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 3.27% per year to 6.09% per year for a 5-year term would be from $180.89 to $193.75. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.64% per year to 6.14% per year for a 7-year term would be from $139.65 to $146.76. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.69% per year to 6.19% per year for a 10-year term would be from $104.56 to $111.98. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.94% per year to 6.44% per year for a 15-year term would be from $78.77 to $86.78. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.19% per year to 6.69% per year for a 20-year term would be from $67.05 to $75.68.

However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the variable rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular variable interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.

3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance:
    Fixed rates from 3.899% APR to 7.979% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.470% APR to 6.990% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.470% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 2.30% plus 0.91% margin minus 0.25% ACH discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score.
  2. Terms and Conditions Apply. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

4 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.

5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). 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 2.28% effective October 10, 2018.

6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Education Refinance 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 November 1, 2018, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.29%. Variable interest rates range from 2.79%-8.39% (2.79%-8.39% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the borrower’s loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Fixed interest rates range from 3.75%-8.69% (3.75%-8.69% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Lowest rates shown require application with a cosigner, are for eligible, creditworthy applicants with a graduate level degree, require a 5-year repayment term and include our Loyalty discount and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. The maximum variable rate on the Education Refinance Loan is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. 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 their loan.
  2. Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer with the Education Refinance Loan. Borrowers should carefully review their current benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans and replace those with the benefits of the Education Refinance Loan. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision at http://www.citizensbank.com/EdRefinance, including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
  3. Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loan Eligibility: Eligible applicants may not be currently enrolled. Applicants with an Associate’s degree or with no degree must have made at least 12 qualifying payments after leaving school. Qualifying payments are the most recent on time and consecutive payments of principal and interest on the loans being refinanced. Primary borrowers must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. Resident aliens must apply with a cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The cosigner (if applicable) must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a cosigner will be required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Education Refinance Loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, certification of borrower’s student loan amount(s) and highest degree earned.
  4. Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  5. Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
  6. 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.

2.47% – 6.99%3Undergrad
& Graduate

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2.57% – 6.97%1Undergrad
& Graduate

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2.51% – 8.09%4Undergrad
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3.02% – 6.44%2Undergrad
& Graduate

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2.50% – 7.24%5Undergrad
& Graduate

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2.79% – 8.39%6Undergrad
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Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. 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 understand what you are buying, and consult 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. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.


Published in Personal Finance, Review