PenFed Student Loan Refinancing Review: Is It Right for You?

 September 4, 2020
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PenFed student loans

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Refinance Student Loan rates starting at 2.49% APR

2.49% to 11.72% 1

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2.50% to 6.30% 2

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4.13% to 7.39% 3

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  • Variable APR

Note that the government has paused all repayment on federally held student loans through the end of 2022, with no interest to be charged during that period and no loans to be held delinquent or in default.

*          *          *

With the PenFed student loan refinance program, you may be able to get a lower interest rate or monthly payment on your education debt.

PenFed is a good fit for bachelor’s degree-holders with multiple student loan types who have solid-to-stellar credit and income (or access to a cosigner who does). It’s especially useful when attempting to consolidate spousal or parental student loan debt.

Let’s review the basics of PenFed student loan refinance, plus the credit union’s application process.

What to like: What to keep in mind:
Competitive interest rates
Consolidate spousal debt
Refinance Parent PLUS Loans
Add (and release) a co-signer
In-house loan servicing
Credit union membership required
Stiff income, credit score requirements
Few deferment, forbearance options
No autopay discount available

Established in 1935, Pentagon Federal Credit Union serves about 2 million members nationwide. PenFed primarily serves government employees and military personnel, but you don’t have to belong to either group to join.

Here’s what you need to know about the PenFed student loan refinancing program, which has been powered by Purefy since 2016:

  • Refinance $7,500 to $300,000 in student loans
  • Private and federal loans are eligible, including parent PLUS loans
  • Consolidate your significant other’s loans into a PenFed couple loan
  • Refinance parent PLUS loans into your child’s name
  • Fixed and variable APRs available
  • Estimate your rate using the lender’s Find My Rate Tool (without submitting to a credit check)
  • No application, origination fees or prepayment fees
  • Choose from four repayment terms: five, eight, 12 or 15 years
  • Option to apply with a cosigner

Keep in mind, however, that to reap the rewards of PenFed student loan refinancing, you must be a bachelor’s degree-holding U.S. citizen. Also, your creditworthiness will be put under the microscope.

  • Credit score: PenFed requires solo applicants to have a 700, or a 670 when applying with a spouse or cosigner
  • Income: PenFed requires lone applicants to prove earnings of $42,000, or $25,000 when applying alongside a cosigner

With all that said, if you’re interested in the PenFed student loan refinancing program, there are some key benefits and drawbacks to consider.

See Student Loan Refinance Rates - No hard credit check


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What to like about PenFed student loan refinance

Competitive fixed and variable interest rates

PenFed advertises both fixed and variable interest rates, and they’re competitive with APRs promoted by more well-known banks and online lenders.

Remember that if you choose a fixed rate, you won’t have to worry about your interest rate changing over time like variable interest rates do. Inherently riskier, variable rates start out lower but could rise over time.

Your APR will also depend on your creditworthiness (or that of your cosigner) as well as which of the following repayment periods you choose for your PenFed student loans:

Term (years) Lowest fixed APR* Lowest variable APR*
5 3.23% 2.58%
8 3.45% 2.64%
12 4.18% 2.84%
15 4.39% 2.97%
* APRs current as of Aug. 24, 2020

Consolidate your partner’s debt with PenFed’s couple loan

The credit union’s spouse loan makes it possible for couples to save money on their student loans without having to refinance separately.

If both you and your significant other have student loans, you can combine them into a couple loan. When you apply for a couple loan, PenFed combines your incomes and bases your interest on the higher of your two credit scores. Either you or your partner must have a 670 credit score and $42,000 in annual income.

Consolidating student loans with a spouse isn’t the right move for everyone, however, so proceed cautiously.

Refinance parent PLUS loans, possibly into the student’s name

It’s also possible to refinance federal parent PLUS loans, either as the mom or dad, or as the ex-student.

However, if you’re the parent, your son or daughter must be the primary borrower on at least one other loan to be eligible for PenFed student loan refinance.

Shopping around will help you secure your best loan terms, however, so check out the offerings of competing lenders that refinance parent PLUS loans.

Option to add a cosigner — and release them in 12 months

Adding a student loan cosigner with good or excellent credit can increase your chance of getting a lower interest rate. It can also help you qualify for PenFed student loan refinance.

Loan amount You’ll need a cosigner if your … And your cosigner needs …
Up to $150,000 ● Credit score is 670 to 699
● Income is between $25,000 and $41,999
● A 720 credit score and $42,000+ income
Above $150,000 ● Credit score is 670 to 724
● Income is between $25,000 and $49,999
● A 725 credit score and $50,000+ income

If you’re adding a cosigner to your application, they must also be a U.S. citizen the age of majority in their state.

On the plus side, after 12 months of consecutive on-time payments, you can apply to have PenFed remove your cosigner from the loan. At this time, PenFed will reevaluate your financial and credit profile to make sure you qualify for a cosigner release.

Cosigners are jointly responsible for the student loan debt. So, cosigning a student loan can be risky for both the cosigner and the primary borrower. PenFed student loans’ cosigner release policy can help resolve any long-term concerns.

In-house loan servicing

This national credit union also stands out for servicing its own loans. If you elect to apply for PenFed student loan refinance, you won’t have to worry about your new debt being passed off to a loan servicer that manages your repayment.

Unfortunately, that is the case with other refinancing lenders, who may issue your new loan before sending you elsewhere to make your monthly payments.

What to keep in mind about PenFed student loan refinance

PenFed Credit Union membership is required

Like most other student loan refinancing credit unions, PenFed has certain eligibility requirements to become a member. The good news is you can bypass those requirements if you apply for its student loan refinancing program.

After you’re preapproved, you’ll fill out a membership form as part of the underwriting process. Once you’re approved, you’ll be a full-fledged member and will have access to PenFed’s other products and services.

PenFed doesn’t charge a membership fee, as you only need to maintain a $5 savings account balance. Also, PenFed provides member discounts on home, auto, financial and other services.

Other eligibility requirements can be stiff

To be eligible for the program, you must meet some basic requirements:

  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Be at least the age of majority in your state
  • Be the borrower on at least one outstanding education loan
  • Have a bachelor’s degree or higher
  • Have a strong credit history
  • Have an annual income of at least $42,000 (or $25,000 with a cosigner)

PenFed also requires an annual income of at least $42,000 and a credit score of at least 700 to apply without a cosigner. Even with a cosigner, you must earn at least $25,000 and have a 670 credit score or higher to qualify.

If you can’t meet these thresholds, no sweat: Some other refinancing programs have no minimum income requirements or require as little as $24,000 annually.

In fact, there are a handful of cases where an alternative lender might be more accessible should you find yourself ineligible for PenFed student loan refinance:

Scenario Alternative lender
You’re still in school or have an associate degree EdVestinU works with borrowers who hold an associate degree, or didn’t graduate
You’re a noncitizen Prodigy Finance is among lenders assisting international borrowers
You have less than $7,500 in loans to refinance LendKey sets its minimum lending amount at $2,000
Your income is below $42,000 (and you don’t have a cosigner) Splash Financial has no minimum income requirement
Your credit score is below 700 (and you don’t have a cosigner) Earnest only requires that your score eclipses 650

Lacking deferment and forbearance options

PenFed doesn’t offer a clear-cut deferment or forbearance policy. But it does work with borrowers on a case-by-case basis during times of economic hardship.

Other extraordinary circumstances may also apply (losing a job after refinancing, an illness or a death in the family) if you’re looking for assistance with your PenFed student loan payments.

Unfortunately, if you head to graduate school, you won’t get a deferment on your payments during that time. And if you do qualify for forbearance, it may or may not be favorable. That’s because interest will continue to accrue during the forbearance period.

No industry-standard autopay discount

Some refinancing programs offer a 0.25% rate discount if you sign up for automatic payments. PenFed, however, doesn’t offer this or any other type of rate discount.

On the other hand, PenFed student loan refinance does offer low interest rates, so compare its terms to other lenders that do offer student loan discounts.

Applying for PenFed student loans refinancing

To find out what kind of rate you qualify for, you first need to share basic information about yourself, your education history and financial picture.


Next, you can share more information about your current loans, select a term and view what APR you might qualify for if you apply solo or with a cosigner.

The good news is inputting this information to figure out your rate does not affect your credit in any way because you don’t give Purefy or PenFed your Social Security number.

After you go through that prequalification process (or if you want to skip it altogether), you can apply online. You’ll need to create a student lending profile so you can log in to see your application.

To file a formal application, you’ll need to hand over screenshots or smartphone pictures of …

  • Pay stub or tax return, among other options to verify income
  • ID, such as a driver’s license or passport
  • Payoff verification statements from your existing loan servicers
  • Your diploma or transcripts

You’ll then consent to e-sign certain documents and agree to disclosures and terms and conditions. After that, you can submit your application.

When you apply, PenFed will run a credit check, which will trigger a hard inquiry on your credit report. If you apply with a cosigner, the same will happen with their credit report.

Should you apply for the PenFed student loans refinancing program?

If you meet PenFed’s income and credit score requirements, its program is worth considering. Its competitive interest rates, speedy cosigner release policy and options for couples and parents make it a strong option among top refinancing banks.

If you plan to go back to school, though, you might want to choose a program that has a deferment policy. Also, if you have federal student loans, keep in mind that you’ll lose access to student loan forgiveness and income-driven repayment plans if you refinance through PenFed.

To make sure PenFed is right for you, shop around and compare rates and other features. With time and research, you’ll find the best student loan refinancing program for you.

Student Loan Hero has independently collected the above information related to PenFed student loan refinance, which is current as of Aug. 24, 2020, unless otherwise noted. PenFed Credit Union has neither provided nor reviewed the information shared in this article.

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

Andrew Pentis contributed to this report.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 9 lenders of 2022!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
2.49% – 11.72%1Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Splash

2.50% – 6.30%2Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Laurel Road

4.13% – 7.39%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Lendkey

2.49% – 7.99%4Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Earnest

2.49% – 7.99%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit NaviRefi

3.24% – 8.24%6Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit SoFi

2.48% – 7.98%Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Elfi

1.74% – 7.99%7Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Purefy

3.69% – 9.92%8Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Citizens

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 September 6, 2022.

2 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 $9 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

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%.


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

3 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

Refinancing via 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 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 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 09/09/2022 student loan refinancing rates range from 4.13% APR – 7.39% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.99% APR – 9.93% Fixed APR with AutoPay.

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

Earnest Disclosures

You can choose between fixed and variable rates. Fixed interest rates are 3.99% – 8.74% APR (3.74% – 8.49% APR with Auto Pay discount). Starting variable interest rates are 2.74% APR to 8.24% APR (2.49% – 7.99% 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.

5 Important Disclosures for Navient.

Navient Disclosures

You can choose between fixed and variable rates. Fixed interest rates are 3.99% – 8.74% APR (3.74% – 8.49% APR with Auto Pay discount). Starting variable interest rates are 2.74% APR to 8.24% APR (2.49% – 7.99% 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.

6 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

Fixed rates range from 3.99% APR to 8.24% APR with a 0.25% autopay discount. Variable rates from 3.24% APR to 8.24% APR with a 0.25% autopay discount. Unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law, Variable Interest rates on 5-, 7-, and 10-year terms are capped at 8.95% APR; 15- and 20-year terms are capped at 9.95% APR. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on the term you select, evaluation of your creditworthiness, income, presence of a co-signer and a variety of other factors. Lowest rates reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. For the SoFi variable-rate product, the variable interest rate for a given month is derived by adding a margin to the 30-day average SOFR index, published two business days preceding such calendar month, rounded up to the nearest one hundredth of one percent (0.01% or 0.0001). APRs for variable-rate loans may increase after origination if the SOFR 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. This benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit lowers your interest rate but does not change the amount of your monthly payment. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance. Autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi.

7 Important Disclosures for Purefy.

Purefy Disclosures

Purefy Student Loan Refinancing Rate and Terms Disclosure: Annual Percentage Rates (APR) ranges and examples are based on information provided to Purefy by lenders participating in Purefy’s rate comparison platform. For student loan refinancing, the participating lenders offer fixed rates ranging from 2.73% – 7.99% APR, and variable rates ranging from 1.74% – 7.99% APR. The maximum variable rate is 25.00%. Your interest rate will be based on the lender’s requirements. In most cases, lenders determine the interest rates based on your credit score, degree type and other credit and financial criteria. Only borrowers with excellent credit and meeting other lender criteria will qualify for the lowest rate available. Rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice. Terms and conditions apply.  

8 Important Disclosures for Citizens.

CitizensBank Disclosures

Education Refinance Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.69%-9.92% (3.69%-9.92% APR). Fixed interest rates range from  4.49%-10.11% (4.49%-10.11% APR). 

Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 6.39%- 9.60% (6.39% – 9.60% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 6.58% – 9.79% (6.58% – 9.79% APR).

Graduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.69% – 9.16% (3.69% – 9.16% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.49% – 9.35% (4.49% – 9.35% APR).

Education Refinance Loan for Parents Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.69%- 9.09% (3.69%- 9.09% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.49% – 9.28% (4.49% – 9.28% APR).

Medical Residency Refinance Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.69% – 9.16% (3.69% – 9.16% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.49% – 9.35% (4.49% – 9.35% APR).