How to Decide If a Loan Origination Fee Is Worth Paying

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So you need to borrow money. Maybe you’re refinancing student loans, consolidating credit card debt, or financing an urgent purchase.

In any case, you’ll need the cheapest loan you can get. You’ll also need to know the answer to the following question: what is an origination fee?

Along with interest rates, origination fees are a factor that can quickly increase your borrowing costs. To find the best deals on a loan, figure out what is an origination fee — and when it is worth paying.

What is an origination fee?

Simply put, a lender charges origination fees for processing a loan application and agreement. The loan fee covers the lender’s costs of underwriting a loan, pulling the borrower’s credit and verifying identity and documents.

An origination charge is a common cost on several types of loans, from a mortgage to a car loan or a personal loan. It’s typically a percentage of the total amount borrowed. The average loan origination fee is between one and six percent.

Most lenders will determine the origination fee based on the borrower’s creditworthiness. So if the lender sees you have a less-than-perfect credit history or otherwise deems you’re a riskier bet, you’ll likely pay a higher origination fee.

Here’s how origination fees are collected

An origination fee is not usually charged upfront with a loan application. Instead, it’s collected once the loan is approved, agreed upon, and signed.

Different lenders will have their own policies on how they charge an origination fee. For instance, some will roll it into the loan’s balance. In this case, if you have a $10,000 personal loan with a four percent origination fee, your final balance with the fee added in is $10,400.

Other lenders will deduct the origination fee from the disbursed funds. So for a loan balance of $10,000 with a 4 percent fee, the borrower would only receive $9,600 of the funds. That’s because the lender takes out the $400 origination fee.

Sometimes, a borrower might be required to pay an origination fee outright, with cash, instead of from the loaned amount. This is most common with a mortgage and is typically included in the homebuyer’s closing costs.

Loan applicants should watch out for advance-fee scams, however. These scams promise or guarantee a loan, even for bad credit, but charge high origination fees or have hidden costs.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns borrowers to be diligent. Research lenders and fees to avoid advance-fee loan scams.

How to compare loans with an origination charge

Because an origination fee adds to your total costs when borrowing, it’s important to factor this into your choice.

On top of comparing terms and interest rates, you’ll also want to cross-check origination fees to ensure you’re getting the best deal.

Loans with no origination fees could be cheaper

With certain loan types or lenders, it’s possible to find a loan with no origination fee.

Among our top lenders for student loan refinancing, for example, none charge an origination fee. And some of the lenders we work with also offer no-fee personal loans.

If you want to get a personal loan with no fee, you simply have to choose a lender that doesn’t charge one, like SoFi or Citizens Bank. If you can qualify for a personal loan with a no-fee lender, you could save big-time.

However, a no-fee loan isn’t always cheaper. One way or another, a lender will have to cover the costs of originating a loan.

If it doesn’t charge an upfront fee, these costs are often rolled into other loan costs, primarily the interest rate. Because of this, it’s possible you could end up with an APR that will cost you more over the life of the loan than you’d pay for an origination fee.

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Compare loan APRs along with fees

You’ll definitely have to do some legwork and compare costs and find the loan that is truly the best deal, including rates and origination fees. To really know how much your costs will be, you need to get some loan offers from different companies then compare the total costs.

Luckily, most lenders will use a “soft credit pull” to evaluate your creditworthiness, which will allow you to get multiple loan offers without adversely affecting your score. Pick some lenders that look most promising, and apply for pre-approval for a loan.

Once you have a few offers in hand, you’ll want to compare a few key items. These include the APR of loans with similar terms, the quoted origination fees, as well as the proposed monthly payment.

When comparing the APR of loans, check whether this includes the loan origination fee or not. Depending on how the loan’s fee is charged, the lender might or might not be required to reflect this cost in the APR.

If all costs are included in the APR, you can compare loans straight across to see which carry the lowest interest costs.

Look at total loan costs

Remember, you’ll want to compare origination fees if these aren’t included in the APR. Depending on the different terms offered, you’ll need to compare the rates along with the origination fee to find which offers the best deal.

For example, maybe you have three loan offers to borrow $10,000 over five years.

Offer No. 1 has a proposed APR of 4.99% with a 3% origination fee, offer No. 2 has no origination fee but an APR of 6.25%, and the last loan has a 1.5% origination fee with a 5.65% APR. Which is the best deal?

Using this handy loan comparison tool, the actual APRs with the origination fees included are as follows:

  • No. 1 – 6.214% APR with $11,620 total loan costs
  • No. 2 – 6.25% APR with $11,670 total loan costs
  • No. 3 – 6.269% APR with $11,652 total loan costs

As you can see, loan No. 1 with the lowest APR when origination fees are included. And it has the lowest cost over the life of the loan, despite having the highest origination fee. The longer your loan is, the more likely it is that the initial cost or an origination fee could be worth paying.

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Decide what’s important to you

Depending on what you’re looking for a loan, you might choose one that’s not necessarily the lowest-cost option. Maybe you are willing to pay an origination fee to get a lower monthly payment.

Or maybe you have less-than-perfect credit, and the loans you qualify for all require an origination fee. Many lenders with less-strict credit requirements will also include an origination charge. But paying this fee could unavoidable if you need the loan.

If you know what’s important to you in a personal loan, you can weigh an origination fee to decide on your best option. It can add to your loan costs.

However, you may also find that this fee is worth paying if it gives you access to the financing you need. The only way to know for sure is to research your options and take your time choosing a loan and lender that’s right for you.

Interested in a personal loan?

Here are the top personal loan lenders of 2018!
LenderAPR RangeLoan Amount 
1 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Personal LoansFixed rates from 7.08% APR to 15.37% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 5.81% APR to 14.11% APR (with AutoPay). SoFi rate ranges are current as of August 10, 2018 and are subject to change without notice. Not all rates and amounts available in all states. See Personal Loan eligibility details. Not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, to qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including evaluation of your credit worthiness, years of professional experience, income and other factors. See APR examples and terms. Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at 14.95%. Lowest variable rate of 5.81% APR assumes current 1-month LIBOR rate of 2.07% plus 4.175% margin minus 0.25% AutoPay discount. 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. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account.
  2. Minimum Credit Score: Not all applicants who meet SoFi’s minimum credit score requirements are approved for a personal loan. In addition to meeting SoFi’s minimum eligibility criteria, applicants must also meet other credit and underwriting requirements to qualify.
  3. SoFi Personal Loans are not available to residents of MS. Maximum interest rate on loans for residents of AK and WY is 9.99% APR, for residents of IL with loans over $40,000 is 8.99% APR, for residents of TX is 9.99% APR on terms greater than 5 years, for residents of CO, CT, HI, VA, SC is 11.99% APR, and for residents of ME is 12.24% APR. Personal loans not available to residents of MI who already have a student loan with SoFi. Personal Loans minimum loan amount is $5,000. Residents of AZ, MA, and NH have a minimum loan amount of $10,001. Residents of KY have a minimum loan amount of $15,001. Residents of PA have a minimum loan amount of $25,001. Variable rates not available to residents of AK, TX, VA, WY, or for residents of IL for loans greater than $40,000.
  4. Terms and Conditions ApplySOFI 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)

2 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for Payoff.

Payoff Disclosures

  1. All loans are subject to credit review and approval. Your actual rate depends upon credit score, loan amount, loan term, credit usage and history. Currently loans are not offered in: MA, MS, NE, NV, OH, and WV.

3 Important Disclosures for FreedomPlus.

FreedomPlus Disclosures

  1. All loans available through FreedomPlus.com are made by Cross River Bank, a New Jersey State Chartered Commercial Bank, Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender. All loan and rate terms are subject to eligibility restrictions, application review, credit score, loan amount, loan term, lender approval, and credit usage and history. Eligibility for a loan is not guaranteed. Loans are not available to residents of all states – please call a FreedomPlus representative for further details. The following limitations, in addition to others, shall apply: FreedomPlus does not arrange loans in: (i) Arizona under $10,500; (ii) Massachusetts under $6,500, (iii) Ohio under $5,500, and (iv) Georgia under $3,500. Repayment periods range from 24 to 60 months. The range of APRs on loans made available through FreedomPlus is 4.99% to a maximum of 29.99%. APR. The APR calculation includes all applicable fees, including the loan origination fee. For Example, a four year $20,000 loan with an interest rate of 15.49% and corresponding APR of 18.34% would have an estimated monthly payment of $561.60 and a total cost payable of $7,948.13. To qualify for a 4.99% APR loan, a borrower will need excellent credit on a loan of $15,000 with a term of 24 months, and qualify for at least two of the following discounts: (1) add a co-borrower who has sufficient income; (2) use at least fifty percent of the loan proceeds to directly pay off existing debt; or (3) show proof of having at least forty-thousand dollars in retirement savings – contact FreedomPlus for further details.

4 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Personal Loan Rate DisclosureFixed interest rates from 6.49% – 19.49% (6.49% – 19.49% APR) based on applicable terms. Lowest rates range from 5.99%-18.99% (5.99%-18.99% APR), are for eligible applicants, require a 3-year repayment term, 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.
  2. Loyalty Discount: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower has 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, student loans or other personal 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. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) disclosed in the Truth-In-Lending 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.
  3. Automatic Payment Discount: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their Citizens Bank Personal Loan 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. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account two or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.

5 Important Disclosures for LendingPoint.

LendingPoint Disclosures

  • Loan approval is not guaranteed. Actual loan offers and loan amounts, terms and annual percentage rates (“APR”) may vary based upon LendingPoint’s proprietary scoring and underwriting system’s review of your credit, financial condition, other factors, and supporting documents or information you provide. Origination or other fees from 0% to 6% may apply depending upon your state of residence. Upon LendingPoint’s final underwriting approval to fund a loan, said funds are often sent via ACH the next non-holiday business day. LendingPoint makes loan offers from $2,000 to $25,000, at rates ranging from a low of 15.49% APR to a high of 34.49% APR, with terms from 24 to 48 months. The loan offer(s) shown reflect a 28 day payment cycle which is being offered as a courtesy as many of our customers are paid on a biweekly schedule and thus this may better align the loan payment dates with your actual income receipt schedule.

6 Important Disclosures for LendingClub.

LendingClub Disclosures

All loans made by WebBank, Member FDIC. Your actual rate depends upon credit score, loan amount, loan term, and credit usage & history. The APR ranges from 6.16% to 35.89%. For example, you could receive a loan of $6,000 with an interest rate of 7.99% and a 5.00% origination fee of $300 for an APR of 11.51%. In this example, you will receive $5,700 and will make 36 monthly payments of $187.99. The total amount repayable will be $6,767.64. Your APR will be determined based on your credit at time of application. The origination fee ranges from 1% to 6% and the average origination fee is 5.49% as of Q1 2017. There is no down payment and there is never a prepayment penalty. Closing of your loan is contingent upon your agreement of all the required agreements and disclosures on the www.lendingclub.com website. All loans via LendingClub have a minimum repayment term of 36 months or longer.


7 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

  1. Earnest does not lend in Alabama, Delaware, Kentucky, Nevada, or Rhode Island.

8 Important Disclosures for Avant.

Avant Disclosures

* The actual rate and loan amount that a customer qualifies for may vary based on credit determination and other factors. Funds are generally deposited via ACH for delivery next business day if approved by 4:30pm CT Monday-Friday. Avant branded credit products are issued by WebBank, member FDIC.

** Example: A $5,700 loan with an administration fee of 4.75% and an amount financed of $5,429.25, repayable in 36 monthly installments, would have an APR of 29.95% and monthly payments of $230.33


* Important Disclosures for Upgrade Bank.

Upgrade Bank Disclosures

* Your loan terms are not guaranteed and are subject to our verification and review process. You may be asked to provide additional documents to enable us to verify your income and your identity. This rate includes an Autopay APR reduction of 0.5%. By enrolling in Autopay your payments will be automatically deducted from you bank account. Selecting Autopay is optional. Annual Percentage Rate is inclusive of a loan origination fee, which is deducted from the loan proceeds. Late payments or subsequent charges and fees may increase the cost of your fixed rate loan. All loans made by WebBank, member FDIC. Please refer to Upgrade’s Terms of Use and Borrower Agreement for all terms, conditions and requirements.

** Accept your loan offer and your funds will be sent to your bank via ACH within one (1) business day of clearing necessary verifications. Availability of the funds is dependent on how quickly your bank processes this transaction. From the time of approval, funds should be available within four (4) business days.

7.73% – 29.99%$1,000 - $50,000Visit Upstart
5.81% – 15.37%1$5,000 - $100,000Visit SoFi
6.87% – 35.97%*$1,000 - $50,000Visit Upgrade
8.00% – 25.00%2$5,000 - $35,000Visit Payoff
4.99% – 29.99%3$10,000 - $35,000Visit FreedomPlus
5.99% – 18.99%4$5,000 - $50,000Visit Citizens
15.49% – 34.49%5$2,000 - $25,000Visit LendingPoint
6.16% – 35.89%6$1,000 - $40,000Visit LendingClub
5.49% – 18.24%7$5,000 - $75,000Visit Earnest
9.95% – 35.99%8$2,000 - $35,000Visit Avant
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.