Student loans are definitely a struggle. Luckily, there are a lot of big banks, small startups, and innovative fintech companies competing to refinance them for you. But with so many to choose from, it becomes harder to tell them apart.
In most cases, the key factor is how much money each lender can save you. Beyond that, it’s important to consider what each lender does best — and how it can work best for you.
So if you’re shopping around and hoping to break a tie between lenders, look no further. Here’s what sets each of the top student loan refinancing lenders apart from the rest.
1. SoFi: Extra support
It’s not uncommon for lenders to let you pause your payments for a few months if you lose your job, but SoFi goes above and beyond. The company will set you up with a career advisor, whether you’ve lost your job or not.
SoFi promises to help borrowers with:
- Career transitions: Guidance toward a promotion, new job, or a new field.
- Job searches: Help improving your resume and networking skills.
- Personal branding: Valuable advice to differentiate yourself from other candidates.
SoFi also offers extra support for professionals who have risky but rewarding jobs: entrepreneurs. With the entrepreneur program, borrowers can get six months of loan deferment, executive mentorship and workshops, and access to its network of investors.
The program also promises to connect you with other business founders, including those who have completed the program and gone on to success.Refinance With SoFi
2. Laurel Road: Larger loans
Laurel Road is the national online lending division of Darien Rowayton Bank. Established in 2006, Darien Rowayton Bank is among the veteran refinancing companies in the market.
Since Laurel Road is part of Darien Rowayton Bank, it can refinance any loan amount under the sun. Other refinancing companies might work with banks and are dependent upon those banks to help set the minimum and maximum loan amounts.
To achieve its promise, Laurel Road performs a processing trick. If you need to refinance more than $300,000 in student loans, it will refinance those loans into two or more new loans.
Laurel Road also has one of the largest spectrums of potential loan amounts; you can refinance as little as $5,000 worth of existing loans.
It should be said that other lenders are competitive on this front. SoFi says it can refinance the full balance of “qualified” loans, but it decides which loans would qualify. Similarly, CommonBond offers as large of a refinancing package as you could possibly need. It maxes its refinancing amount at $500,000.Refinance with Laurel Road
3. CommonBond: Social good
While other lenders might perform charitable works, CommonBond separates itself from its peers by having a one-for-one donation model, like Warby Parker and TOMS. Instead of its members gifting a pair of eyeglasses or shoes to the less fortunate, though, CommonBond members give the gift of education.
In fact, CommonBond’s social promise is that every time one of its new members refinances or takes out a loan, it funds one year of schooling for a child in a developing country such as Ghana. This work, in conjunction with the nonprofit Pencils of Promise, has benefited more than 2,000 kids.
If giving back while paying off debt sounds appealing, CommonBond could be the right lender for you.Refinance With CommonBond
4. LendKey: Compare offers
Unlike refinancing lenders that work directly with large banks (or are large banks themselves), LendKey has a different model. Its refinanced loans are funded through credit unions and community banks. This allows customers to compare multiple offers instead of being presented with one set of terms from a single lender.
LendKey claims that this difference also keeps rates low. While its APRs are, on average, similar to competitors, you might find more attractive terms through a particular offer on the LendKey platform.
One other unique benefit of choosing LendKey is that you can make interest-only payments for the first four years of your new loan. Few lenders offer this option.Refinance With LendKey
5. Citizens Bank: Fewer academic requirements
All lenders have certain requirements for their prospective members to qualify for refinancing. Almost always, they will require that you have graduated from a four-year Title IV school.
If you never finished your degree, you’ll be relieved to learn that Citizens Bank will still consider you for a refinanced loan. The bank is satisfied as long as your former school is located in the U.S.
Citizens Bank does have a few rules for non-graduates (or graduates of non-Title IV schools) looking to refinance their student loans. You must:
- Have a Social Security number (resident aliens need an eligible cosigner to apply)
- Not currently be enrolled in school
- Have made 12 consecutive on-time, monthly payments on your existing loans
We wouldn’t suggest leaving school just to begin paying off your student loan debt. But it’s nice to know that if your life plan no longer includes college, you can still refinance your existing loans.Refinance With Citizens Bank
6. Education Loan Finance: Low variable rates
Education Loan Finance enters the spotlight by offering some of the lowest variable rates around. The bottom of Education Loan Finance’s current range of variable-rate student loans (2.69%) is 0.33% lower than its next-closest peer.
What would that mean for your wallet if you refinanced $50,000 worth of loans? A 0.33% rate difference could save nearly $1,400 over the life of your loan.
Of course, the interest rate on variable-rate student loans (new or refinanced) can increase over time. So it’s important to consider the differences between variable and fixed rates — and that’s the biggest.Refinance With Education Loan Finance
Comparing student loan refinancing lenders
No matter which student loan refinancing company you’re considering, think about the one thing each does better than the competition.
Whatever aspect is most important to you, go to the source and ask the lenders themselves about that defining feature. If they don’t have a good answer, that should tell you all you need to know.
If you’re still on the fence, here are some reasons you shouldn’t wait to refinance your student loans.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2018!
|Lender||Rates (APR)||Eligible Degrees|
|Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!|
|2.54% - 7.38%||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit SoFi|
|2.57% - 6.32%||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Earnest|
|2.80% - 7.02%||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Laurel Road|
|2.56% - 8.12%||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Lendkey|
|2.72% - 6.49%||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit CommonBond|
|2.88% - 8.34%||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Citizens|