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!
|* 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.
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'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.
Offered terms are subject to change and state law restrictions. Loans are offered through CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS #1175900).
5 Important Disclosures for Citizens.
|3.25% – 10.65%*,1||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.70% – 11.98%2||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|3.37% – 11.87%3||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.52% – 9.50%4||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.24% – 11.50%5||Undergraduate and Graduate|