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Biggest Earnest Refinance Review + Bonus (Up to $1,000)

What you need to know:

  • Earnest is a private student loan lender that offers student loan refinancing with customized loan terms.
  • Earnest refinance rates are known for their consistently low variable and fixed interest rates.
  • If you refinance through our Student Loan Planner® Earnest bonus referral link, you can get up to a $1,000 cash-back, depending on your loan amount.
  • Earnest’s application process looks at more than just your credit score to determine whether you are a good candidate for refinancing.

Earnest is an online lender with a unique approach to student loan refinancing. If you’re approved by Earnest, you’ll have a chance to pick the repayment term and monthly payment that fits your needs. They also have a user-friendly interface that allows you to check your interest rate before applying.

Plus, you can score a large cash-back bonus when you refinance through our Student Loan Planner® Earnest referral link. You can get a bonus of $200 for loan amounts from $50,000 to $99,999. If you refinance $100,000 or more, you get $500 from Earnest and $500 from Student Loan Planner®.

In addition to the main Earnest student loan refinance product, Earnest offers private student loans to help pay for school. You can check your student loan refinance rate in only a couple of minutes with the button below.

Earnest student loan refinance review

Check out these quick facts from our Earnest student loan refinance review. You can also get a cash bonus of up to $1,000 when you apply for refinancing through our Earnest referral link.

Earnest

earnest
4.5 out of 5

Earnest: Best for flexible repayment

  • Positives: Flexible repayment terms, custom loan payments
  • Allows cosigners: Yes
  • Deferment or forbearance available: Yes, up to 36 months
  • Interest rates: Fixed starting at 5.19% APR; Variable starting at 5.99% APR
  • Bonus: $200 for refinancing 50k to $99,999; $1000 for refinancing 100k or more.

Pros and cons of refinancing with Earnest

Pros

  • Flexible repayment options. Earnest offers the option to customize the loan terms of your student loans, from anywhere between five to 20 years1. This allows borrowers to choose the monthly payment that fits their budget. You choose how long you want to pay back your loan in order to fit your needs. Also, Earnest allows its borrowers to skip one payment every 12 months1.
  • Competitive rates. Earnest is known for offering low fixed and variable interest rates that often undercut its competitors.
  • Low fees. Earnest doesn't charge loan application or origination fees. You also won't pay a prepayment penalty if you pay off your student loans early.
  • Easy-to-use website. Earnest makes it easy to navigate their website when applying for refinancing or private student loans or accessing your account.
  • Checking rates won’t affect your credit score. Earnest performs a soft credit check when you check your interest rates. Soft credit inquiries don’t impact credit scores. There is a hard credit inquiry during the application process, which can lower your credit score temporarily.
  • Autopay discount. Receive a 0.25% discount for making automatic payments from a bank account1.
  • Educational resources. The Earnest website includes a helpful resource library filled with how-to guides, comparisons, and calculators to help you improve your finances and pay down debt faster.

Cons

  • Parent PLUS loans transferring. If you have Parent PLUS loans, you can refinance through Earnest. But loans must remain in the primary borrower’s name. Earnest doesn’t allow debt from Parent PLUS loans to be transferred to the child during refinancing.
  • Navient Affiliate funding. Earnest was acquired by Navient in 2017. This could be good or bad, depending on your view or your history with Navient as a student loan servicer.
  • Variable rates aren’t available everywhere. Variable rate loans aren’t available in Alaska, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas.

Eligibility requirements

You need to meet several requirements to be eligible for student loan refinancing with Earnest. To refinance, you must:

  • Be a U.S. Citizen, possess a Permanent Resident card (10-year-non-conditional or 2-year conditional), are a DACA recipient, are an asylee or hold an H-1B visa with a U.S. citizen cosigner.
  • Be enrolled in school half-time or less with student loans in repayment status (or your degree will be complete at the end of the semester).
  • Your private loans must be in your name and from a Title IV-accredited school.

Additionally, Earnest performs a hard credit inquiry and requires a minimum credit score of 680. It also looks at employment status, income, loan status, payment history and debt-to-income (DTI) ratio.

Earnest student loan refinancing is available for residents of the District of Columbia and 49 states. Refinancing is not available in Nevada. Note that variable rates are not available in Alaska, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas.

Application process

The application process for Earnest student loans may take longer than other private student loan lenders since it looks at more than just your credit history. Your education and finances are a major factor in whether you will be approved for refinancing. Ultimately, that's a good thing. It could help you qualify for a lower interest rate and monthly payment amount.

As part of the application process, you enter information about yourself and the loan you are applying for to help them get a better feel for your needs. Next, you’ll enter information about your education, employment background and student loan balances. Be sure to have any necessary records on hand to pull information quickly.

Something to keep in mind is that Earnest asks for access to your financial accounts. This is read-only access — they can’t go in and make any changes. They do this in order to get a full picture of your financial health. They can also see if you are a good candidate to borrow money.

Earnest asks for a copy of your photo ID and social security number as part of their credit check. It’s not a long application process, but you can speed it up by gathering all the necessary information before applying.

Should you refinance with Earnest?

Student Loan Planner® recently surveyed over 3,900 of our readers about their student loan refinancing experiences through Earnest and other private lenders. Overall, Earnest received positive ratings, specifically related to its low interest rates, easy application and responsiveness.

Here’s what our readers had to say about refinancing with Earnest:

“The process with Earnest was easy. I got a great rate and haven’t had to utilize customer service since refinancing several years ago. I set up autopay and was able to forget about it otherwise.”

“I really like Earnest. They have good customer service and respond quickly. I was also able to take advantage of their bonus for referring others which was really nice because it paid a bonus to both me and the person I referenced.”

January 2024 Student Loan Planner Reader Survey

However, we’ve received reader feedback in the past concerning that they feel the application process is more invasive because it requires the borrower to connect to personal financial accounts.

That said, Earnest shines in the payment flexibility department. Here’s one reader’s experience:

“Earnest makes refinancing easy and adjustable to more financially beneficial terms (monthly payment and interest rate). Earnest is user friendly and has clear communication and payment processing.”

January 2024 Student Loan Planner Reader Survey

Borrowers can choose from 180 repayment terms and are able to skip a payment once every 12 months1. Other ways to get relief from your monthly payments include:

  • Hardship forbearance (Up to a maximum of 12 months)
  • Military deferment
  • Death and disability discharge

It's important to point out that when borrowers refinance loans with Earnest, they're taking out new Earnest private student loans. For borrowers with federal student loans, that means losing eligibility for a variety of federal benefits and protections, such as loan forgiveness programs and income-driven repayment plans. Even if you can secure a lower interest rate, think carefully through the pros and cons before refinancing your federal student loans into private student loans.

Where does Earnest rank compared to other lenders?

Earnest consistently battles for the number one spot in the student loan refinancing market, alongside other top refinancing lenders such as SoFi and Laurel Road.

Due to its low interest rates and user-friendly experience, many of our readers say they feel happy with their decision to refinance with Earnest.

“I found Earnest pretty easy to work with. I love that I can split my payments biweekly and do other things through their website without needing to try to speak with a rep.”

January 2024 Student Loan Planner Reader Survey

Several professions relied heavily on Earnest student loans for refinancing including:

  • Chiropractors (63% of market share)
  • Lawyers (22% of market share)
  • Government employees (33% of market share)
  • Teachers (25% of market share)

Additionally, our 2024 Student Loan Planner Reader Survey found that Earnest does well with more middle class professionals and those with smaller debt loads. In comparison, a refinancing lender like Laurel Road tends to win more business from high-income professions that typically have very large student debt balances.

Overall, the survey results show that most people have a positive experience refinancing their student loans through Earnest.

Refinancing with Earnest: Compare rates and refi bonus offers

We aren’t seeing interest rates as low as we were in recent years. But if you’re looking to refinance student loans, Earnest offers some of the lowest refinancing rates. Plus, you can also receive a big refinancing bonus if you use our Earnest referral link.

Because of their consistently low rates, flexible loan terms, and user-friendly web interface, Earnest student loans earn a rating of 4.5 out of 5 from Student Loan Planner®.

But the student loan refinancing market is constantly changing based on external financial conditions. So, it’s important to shop around with all of the top refinancing lenders to find the best rates and the right fit for your refinancing needs. We’re sure that for many people, Earnest will be a top choice.


If you’re thinking about refinancing your student loans, Earnest offers competitive loan options as do our other refinancing partners. In our student loan refinancing guide, we compare the key features, terms, and bonus offers from all the best student loan refinancing lenders available today.

1Earnest disclosures

THIS IS AN ADVERTISEMENT. YOU ARE NOT REQUIRED TO MAKE ANY PAYMENT OR TAKE ANY OTHER ACTION IN RESPONSE TO THIS OFFER.

Refinance student loans, get a bonus in 2024

Lender Name Lender Offer Learn more
sofi
$500 Bonus
*Includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. For 100k or more.
Fixed 5.24 - 9.99% APR*
Variable 6.24 - 9.99% APR*
splash logo
$1,000 Bonus
For 100k or more. $300 for 50k to $99,999
Fixed 5.19 - 10.24% APPR
Variable 5.99 - 10.24% APR
earnest
$1,000 Bonus
For 100k or more. $200 for 50k to $99,999
Fixed 5.19 - 9.74% APR
Variable 5.99 - 9.74% APR

Not sure what to do with your student loans?

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Comments

  1. Bo Huff August 21, 2020 at 6:17 PM
    Reply

    I recently refinanced my student loans with Earnest. Unfortunately, it was a mistake. Earnest does not apply extra payments to principle only, they apply the extra payments to interest, sneaky way of Earnest making more profits. When I asked about it, they stated we are unable to apply the extra payment to principle only. Wow, they must think people are stupid. Guess I get to refinance again, ugh…

    • Amy at Student Loan Planner August 28, 2020 at 12:08 PM
      Reply

      It should go toward the principal. This is on Earnest’s website: In accordance with state law, all payments (including early and extra payments) on our student loan refinance or private student loans are processed first to any interest that has accrued since the last payment… After the payment has been applied to the interest accrued, the remaining balance of the payment goes toward the principal balance of your loan.” You can read more here: https://help.earnest.com/hc/en-us/articles/220615487-How-does-Earnest-apply-payments-

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