LendKey Private Student Loans Review: Connect with Community Banks, Credit Unions

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When you shop around for a private student loan, you might apply with multiple banks and credit unions to compare offers. But when you look into LendKey private student loans, this process is already baked into the cake.

On its platform, LendKey promises to connect you with hundreds of community banks and credit unions simultaneously. You can access lenders you might have otherwise overlooked and, ideally, compare multiple loan offers in one place.

In addition to the student loan refinancing it offers to graduates, LendKey’s partner lenders also offer in-school loans with competitive interest rates and some partner lenders even offer an an attractive cosigner release policy. Read on for all the details.

LendKey student loans review: The basics

To be eligible at LendKey — founded in 2009 with offices in New York City and Cincinnati — you have to be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident attending an eligible school. You must also meet the specific lender’s credit and income requirements to qualify for a loan. You (or your cosigner), for example, would need a credit score of at least 660.

Keep in mind that because LendKey would be your servicer, not your lender, the terms of your loan would depend on your lending bank or credit union. With that said, here are the basics of private student loans serviced by LendKey:

  • Available for undergraduate and graduate students
  • Borrow as little as $5,000 and as much as $125,000 (undergraduates) or $250,000 (graduate students)
  • Fixed and variate interest rates available
  • No application or origination fees
  • No prepayment penalties
  • 6-month low-payment grace period after you leave school (see below)
  • Autopay rate discount of 0.25%
  • Up to 18 months of forbearance
  • Cosigner release offered after 12-36 prompt monthly payments

There are also some factors of LendKey private student loans that might not be as appealing:

  • You’re required to apply with a cosigner when your income is below $24,000 or you have less than 3 years of credit history
  • You must make interest-only or fixed $25 payments while enrolled in school and during the grace period
  • Only a 10-year repayment term is available

What we like about LendKey private student loans

Given that LendKey is more of a marketplace than a lender, you might not be surprised to learn that its application process generally takes less than 15 minutes and is relatively easy to follow.

When applying, you’ll be asked for information about your school, major and citizenship status. You’ll also have to give your Social Security number and total annual income, and you must agree to undergo a credit check. After that, you’ll receive a loan offer.

Here are a few factors that could make that offer more attractive in your eyes.

Your ‘Academic Credit Score’ could lower your rate

You might wonder why LendKey also asks you to select the range of your grade point average (GPA) or send over your latest transcripts. This is because the company uses the information to assess your reliability.

Your GPA, course of study and class-standing information — right alongside your (or your cosigner’s) credit history — is plugged into LendKey’s proprietary credit scoring model. This is referred to this as your Academic Credit Score, and the better it is, the better the chance you have to score lower interest rates.

A lower rate could mean significant savings. Say you qualify for a 6.00% interest rate and intend to borrow $10,000 for your next year of school. Repaying your five-figure debt over a 10-year term would cost you $3,322 in interest, according to our monthly payment calculator.

Now say your Academic Credit Score dragged down your loan application, so you only qualified for a 9.00% rate. Repaying that $10,000 over the same term would include $5,201 of interest.

Release your cosigner in 1 to 3 years

Most undergraduate student loans offered by private lenders require or strongly encourage you to apply with a cosigner. As a teen or 20-something, you likely don’t have the income or credit history to apply on your own anyway.

At LendKey, you’ll need to attach this guarantor to your loan application if you earn less than $24,000 per year or have fewer than 36 months of credit history.

On the plus side, some LendKey network lenders have a cosigner release policy that would allow you to thank your Mom, Dad or other guarantor and send them on their merry way after 12 to 36 months of full and prompt payments.

Pause your repayment for up to 18 months

Hiccups are a part of life, so naturally, you could expect to experience one during your student loan repayment as well. A significant benefit of borrowing from one of LendKey’s member lenders is that you could pause your repayment for up to 18 months (in six-month increments).

The forbearance policy is especially generous when compared with competitors. Even some top-rated lenders max out their offering at 12 months.

Borrowing from a company that promises relatively extensive hardship protection will not only put your mind at ease — it could lower your costs and keep your finances from additional harm, avoiding a serious incident like student loan default.

But be aware that, like most competitors, LendKey’s policy allows interest to accrue and capitalize onto your loan balance while you step away from repayment.

What to keep in mind about LendKey private student loans

You might find LendKey’s platform user-friendly, but remember that it’s not your lender — the bank or credit union would be.

That explains, at least in part, why you must complete a full application off the bat, subjecting yourself to a hard credit check. There’s no way, at least currently, for the company to help you prequalify faster and with less effect on your credit.

Here are a few more factors to consider before choosing LendKey as your loan servicer:

You might not receive multiple loan offers

The real boon of borrowing from LendKey is that it can help you rate-compare among lenders and connect you with lesser-known lenders you might not have considered on your own.

Unfortunately, depending on your borrowing situation, LendKey might not truly deliver part of this key benefit. After completing the first stage of your application, for example, you might be asked to select your lender, only to find a single credit union available.

In other cases, your state of residence might restrict you to just one of LendKey’s partner lenders. And even if LendKey’s prescribed lender offers a suitable loan agreement, you might still need to hunt around elsewhere to ensure you find the best loan available.

You are required to make in-school payments

There are plenty of benefits of making in-school payments: Beginning to repay your loan while you’re enrolled could beef up your credit history, for example, and also stop interest from ballooning your balance.

Many LendKey partner lenders, however, lock you into this choice. They require borrowers — regardless of their financial situation or personal preference — to either make interest-only payments or fixed $25 payments while enrolled and after, while enjoying a grace period.

If you’d rather take the higher toll of accruing interest in exchange for the freedom to put off repayment, you might prefer a lender like College Ave, which offers four in-school repayment options, including full deferment.

You might need to join a credit union first

If your LendKey application directs you to select one or more credit unions, you will also have to apply — and pay for — membership at the credit union itself. The process isn’t especially difficult, and the costs can often be as low as $1-$5, but there’s more red tape here than if you elected to borrow from a bank or online-only lender.

If you don’t see a discounted rate or other unique benefits to joining and borrowing from a not-for-profit credit union, you might test the waters with no-fee online lenders, such as Ascent.

Are LendKey private student loans right for you?

When shopping around for a private student loan, we recommend comparing rates with at least three lenders. That way, you’ll find the least costly — or best overall — loan agreement for your borrowing needs.

You could qualify for relatively low interest rates from LendKey’s partner lenders. These community banks and credit unions also tack on one of the more generous forbearance policies available among private lenders.

On the downside, you might prefer full deferment to the in-school repayment options required by LendKey’s partners. More critically, you might wonder if the company lives up to its promise as a marketplace if it only connects you with a single lender, rather than a few.

Even if it doesn’t serve as a one-stop shop, however, you could consider LendKey one of the “lenders” you request quotes from before making your final decision. Additionally, if you like the idea of borrowing from a nonprofit lender like LendKey’s partners, you can also explore some of the other ways to find credit union student loans that are a good fit for you.

Need a student loan?

Here are our top student loan lenders of 2019!
LenderVariable APREligibility 
* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers.

1 = Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.

2 Important Disclosures for College Ave.

CollegeAve Disclosures

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.

(1)All rates shown include the auto-pay discount.  The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.

(2)This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.

(3)As certified by your school and less any other financial aid you might receive. Minimum $1,000.

Information advertised valid as of 9/3/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.

3 Important Disclosures for Discover.

Discover Disclosures

  1. Students who get at least a 3.0 GPA (or equivalent) qualify for a one-time cash reward on each new Discover undergraduate and graduate student loan. Reward redemption period is limited. Please visit DiscoverStudentLoans.com/Reward for any applicable reward terms and conditions.
  2. View Auto Reward Debit Reward Terms and Conditions at DiscoverStudentLoans.com/AutoDebitReward.
  3. Aggregate loan limits apply.
  4. Lowest rates shown are for the undergraduate loan and include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments. The interest rate ranges represent the lowest interest rate offered on the Discover Undergraduate Loan and highest interest rates offered on Discover student loans, including Undergraduate, Graduate, Health Professions, Law and MBA Loans. The fixed interest rate is set at the time of application and does not change during the life of the loan. The variable interest rate is calculated based on the 3-Month LIBOR index plus the applicable Margin percentage. The margin is based on your credit evaluation at the time of application and does not change. For variable interest rate loans, the 3-Month LIBOR is 2.50% as of July 1, 2019. Discover Student Loans will adjust the rate quarterly on each January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1 (the “interest rate change date”), based on the 3-Month LIBOR Index, published in the Money Rates section of the Wall Street Journal 15 days prior to the interest rate change date, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of one percent (0.125% or 0.00125). This may cause the monthly payments to increase, the number of payments to increase or both. Please visit discover.com/student-loans/interest-rates for more information about interest rates.
Discover's lowest rates shown are for the undergraduate loan and include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments.

4 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change and state law restrictions. Loans are offered through CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS #1175900).

  1.  Rates are as of July 1, 2019 and include auto-pay discount. All loans are eligible for a 0.25% reduction in interest rate by agreeing to automatic payment withdrawals once in repayment. Variable rates may increase after consummation.

5 Important Disclosures for Citizens.

Citizens Disclosures

  1. Undergraduate 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 September 1, 2019, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.14%. Variable interest rates range from 3.24% – 11.50% (3.24% – 11.35% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Fixed interest rates range from 4.72% – 12.19% (4.72% – 12.04% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Lowest rates shown requires application with a co-signer, are for eligible applicants, require a 5-year repayment term, borrower making scheduled payments while in school and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. 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 the loan.
  2. Citizens Bank Student Loan Eligibility: Borrowers must be enrolled at least half-time in a degree-granting program at an eligible institution. Borrowers must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident or an international borrower/eligible non-citizen with a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident co-signer. For borrowers who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer is required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Citizens Bank private student loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, and if applicable, self-certification form, school certification of the loan amount, and student’s enrollment at a Citizens Bank- participating school. 

    Please Note: International Students are not eligible for the multi-year approval feature.

  3. 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. Borrowers whose loans were funded prior to reaching the age of majority may not be eligible for co-signer release. Note: co-signer release is not available on the Student Loan for Parents or Education Refinance Loan for Parents.
3.25% – 10.65%*,1Undergraduate and Graduate

Visit SallieMae

Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents

Visit College Ave

Undergraduate and Graduate

Visit Discover

3.52% – 9.50%4Undergraduate and Graduate

Visit CommonBond

3.24% – 11.50%5Undergraduate and Graduate


Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality. 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 to help you understand what you are buying. Be sure to consult with 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.

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