When you refinance student loans, you transfer your existing federal and / or private student loans to a private lender primarily for a lower interest rate (some borrowers also seek lower payments or fewer lenders to deal with). This post has everything you need to have a 99% chance of finding the best student loan refinance deal.
We list the top 5 lenders in the table below that most frequently offer the best deals to our readers, who refinance an eight figure sum through this site each month. If you want near certainty that you’ve found the best deal, then read the whole article and check all 12 lenders that we mention.
- Variable APR
1.81 - 6.49%
- Fixed APR
3.45 - 6.99%
- For 100k+, $300 for
50k to 99k
- Variable APR
2.02 - 6.30%
- Fixed APR
3.21 - 6.45%
- For 75k+, $300 for
40k to 74k
- Variable APR
1.99 - 6.65%
- Fixed APR
3.50 - 7.02%
- For 250k+, $300 to $500 for 20k to 249k
- Variable APR
1.81 - 9.12%
- Fixed APR
3.14 - 7.94%
- For 150k+, $100 to $400 for 5k to 149k
- Variable APR
2.01 - 8.88%
- Fixed APR
3.49 - 8.36%
- For 150k+, $100 to $400 for 5k to 149k
Student Loan Planner intentionally earns less money from our refinancing referral links than our competitors. We do that so the refinancing companies can pay you a significant cash bonus on top of the lower interest rate you’ll get.
The paid referral relationship we have with our partners does not affect the rate you’re offered, which means that you get better deals than if you applied directly. Notice that for some of these companies, you need to refinance a minimum amount with that lender to get the incentive.
If you’ve already started an application with any of the companies above, you can still get the bonus if you apply with a new email you haven’t used before.
If you do find a better refinancing deal somewhere else, please let us know because we might still be able to help you beat it. It’s extremely rare that a reader finds a better deal from a lender not on this site.
Also leave a comment at the bottom if you have any questions or want to share your experience with refinancing. A CFA or CFP® professional will respond to every comment on this post.
Who should refinance student loans and what banks should you start with? The quiz button below will give you our free recommendation.
Should I Refinance Student Loans? Here’s 2 Rules of Thumb
After advising hundreds of millions of dollars in student debt, here’s what I tell borrowers when they ask “should I refinance my student loans?”
- For your federal student loans, refinance if you work in the private sector, have a solid emergency fund, and owe federal debt less than 1.5 times your income
- For your private student loans, shop for new interest rates and refinance at least once a year if you can find a lower rate. Most borrowers do not know that you can refinance two, three, or even four or more times and get multiple cash bonuses by changing lenders if a company on this page will offer you a better deal than what you currently have.
Please be aware that refinancing federal student loans eliminates income driven repayment, forgiveness, and the most generous forbearance options. You need to be sure that these protections are not as important as getting a lower interest rate before refinancing. After you’ve refinanced, you can’t undo it.
How to Compare the Best Student Loan Refinance Companies
Our research shows only 10% of borrowers will check more than three lenders. That’s why we created the table at the top of the page so you can focus your search on the companies that are least likely to waste your time. If you want to be assured of getting the best deal though, check all 12 companies we list below.
Some companies, like Earnest, Commonbond, and Laurel Road offer rates directly. Others, like Credible and LendKey, connect you to a huge number of lenders listed on their platforms that you probably wouldn’t check on your own.
What Are the Current Student Loan Refinancing Interest Rates?
These are examples of interest rates I’m seeing based on different credit scores in the national student loan refinancing market in 2019 (excluding regional lenders).
If you have an interest rate higher than those in the table, you need to get quotes from the lenders below.
Articles to Make Your Student Loan Refinance Decision Easy
National Student Loan Refinancing Lenders
National lenders have a footprint in almost every state. Some don’t lend in specific locations, but that’s the exception, not the rule.
If you want to learn more about each lender, we’ve written reviews for linked in the respective section.
Earnest allows for flexible repayment terms instead of the typical 5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 year terms offered elsewhere. No one else offers that to my knowledge. More of our readers use Earnest than any other lender.
Earnest also services their loans internally instead of outsourcing that to a third party. They are not as flexible with cosigners and Parent PLUS loans as other refinancing companies are (check out our Earnest review for the full story).
Get our $500 Earnest referral bonus by filling out their 2 minute rate check and securing a lower cost loan.*
Check out the tiered Earnest refinance bonus below:
- To get the $500 bonus, you need to refinance more than $100,000 with Earnest through our link
- If you refinance $50,000 to $100,000, you’ll get a $300 bonus
- You can still refinance less than $50,000 and cut your interest rate. You just won’t get a cash bonus.
Make sure you apply with a new email if you’ve already got an account if you want to get the cash bonus. Earnest won’t be able to honor it if you use an email to apply that already existed in their system (ie if you even think you might have applied already, use a different email address with the account signup if you want the bonus).
Commonbond has unemployment protection. They also fund a child’s education in a foreign country every time they do a refinancing, which is really cool. Commonbond has a clear social mission that other student loan lenders do not focus on quite as much. My wife and I refinanced with them, so they have a special place in my heart. If you have a debt to income ratio below 1.5 and you owe over $100,000, Commonbond is a must check.
You can read our Commonbond review and see why they’re one of our readers top 3 choices for student loan refinancing. You’re eligible for the Commonbond referral bonus if you refinance through our link and have the corresponding debt amounts below. Commonbond refinances smaller loans than $40,000 by the way. The numbers below are just the minimums needed to get the bonus.
*Note: With any of these companies, if you’ve already applied you might want to create a new profile with a different email address (if you want to make sure you’ll get the cash back).
Laurel Road is known for refinancing student loans for medical professionals, but they work with a much broader group than that today. They invented resident and fellow refinancing, and they also help out with Parent PLUS loans too.
Check out our Laurel Road review to learn more. Laurel Road has been historically most competitive for 15 or 20 year fixed rate terms. If you’re looking for a relatively low required payment with significant interest rate savings, Laurel Road could be a great fit.
Our Laurel Road bonus is tiered. It gives you a larger cash back amount the more you refinance with the company.
Here’s the exact terms below for applying through the Student Loan Planner link.
|Amount||Bonus (with no|
added rate discount)
*Note: Laurel Road checks the rosters of professional society organizations to see if they can offer you additional discounts. If that rate discount is better than the upfront cash back bonus, they’ll apply the one that’s better. You can’t get both.
Credible shops a bunch of lenders all at once (now including Sofi). There is no unemployment protection with Credible guaranteed across the board, but some of their lenders on the platform do offer unemployment protection. You just have to check with the one that you find the best rate through.
Credible has one of the best websites of any student loan lender as you’ll find in our Credible review. Take a couple minutes just to see what they could offer.
Here’s the exact terms below for applying through the Student Loan Planner link with Credible. You’ll notice the tiered bonus based on the amount you refinance.
*Additional terms: Payment of any Welcome Bonus will occur either via a credit through TangoCard.com sent to the email address provided by Referrer or Referee, as applicable, or by any other means determined by Credible.”
LendKey searches a network of small banks and credit unions. Check out our LendKey review, and you’ll find that LendKey has among the best unemployment protection of any private lender. Their max is $300k for medical professionals. If you’re a ‘bank local’ person, LendKey is a must check.
Our LendKey referral bonus is $750 when you apply through our link and refinance more than $150,000. Here’s the bonus for different loan amounts you refinance with LendKey through our link.
They have a habit of connecting you with lenders that you never would have searched. We have seen a large growth in the number of readers using LendKey, so their rates must be getting better relative to the competition.
Again keep in mind you need to apply after clicking our link using an email that has never been used to apply with them before. They pay out the bonus usually within 4 to 6 weeks of the loan funding.
Would you be more likely to trust a financial company if it was located in the Midwest? From our Splash Financial review, you’ll see that Splash is a relatively new entrant into the student loan refi space based out of Cleveland. They should be a very competitive option, especially for folks with FICO scores in the 700s.
Splash accepts borrowers with degrees from associate programs and even for profit schools in addition to the usual undergrad and graduate degree programs.
Splash Financial gives you a $500 referral bonus when you refinance more than $100,000 and $300 when you refinance more than $50,000.
When people know only one lender in the student loan refinancing world, it’s usually SoFi. They are the most aggressive about brand advertising, with sponsorships in recent years of professional sports teams and other TV programs. You can read our Sofi review here.
They are particularly strong in three areas.
- Borrowers that might have trouble refinancing other places (Caribbean medical school, freelancer, etc)
- Extremely high income high debt borrowers. (orthodontist with $500,000 in income and $600,000 of student debt)
- Medical and dental residents and fellows. Sofi along with Laurel Road are the two major lenders to check in that case
Sofi is now available on the Credible platform. Previously, the $500 Sofi referral bonus was the best I’ve ever seen. Now you can qualify for as much as a $750 SoFi referral bonus through the link below. Just see the tiered Credible bonus above for the bonus amount, which is based on loan size.
Citizens Bank has historically been strong in these areas for refinancing:
- Allows parents to transfer Parent PLUS loans into the name of their child
- Cosigner release available after 36 months of on time payments
- Additional 0.25% rate discount for Citizens Bank account holders
- Can refinance without a degree, not a common feature among lenders
- Highly competitive rates for moderately qualified borrowers
Citizens Bank usually does not show up very competitively for the best qualified borrowers like physicians, dentists, and lawyers, in my experience.
Also the cosigner release option is something that can be very difficult to obtain. Even though it’s offered, I would not let that be the reason you decide to refinance with them.
Hence, you can make Citizens a part of your comparison, but for six figure balances you can probably skip them.
Like Sofi, Citizens Bank is available to Student Loan Planner readers via Credible, with up to a $750 Citizens Bank refinance bonus.
A lot of companies are “based in Delaware,” but College Ave actually is.
They have no origination fee and solid rates on their student loans, and I saw a dentist recently get an absurdly low fixed rate in 10 years from them recently (almost 3.8% fixed), hence my decision to add them to the site despite the lack of a cash back bonus.
They can refinance up to $300,000 for dentists, physicians, veterinarians and pharmacists. They’ll refinance up to $150,000 for all other graduate and undergrad degrees.
Please note that to get the $500 College Ave bonus, you have to refinance more than $100,000. It’s going to be send in the form of a $500 Amazon gift card for College Ave only. Also, College Ave is the only lender on this list where the bonus comes from Student Loan Planner instead of the lender directly. Once you’ve applied, send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org so we’ll know that you used our link.
All the other lenders track automatically and handle the bonus through their own company.
Education Loan Finance (better known as Elfi) is one of the more recent additions to the student loan refinance market. They offer the standard 5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 year fixed rate terms with a minimum loan amount of $15,000 to refinance.
Elfi’s rates go from competitive to not competitive depending on the interest rate environment. They seem to change their rates more slowly than other lenders not regulated by banking laws, which makes sense.
Student Loan Planner readers can get a $350 bonus for refinancing with Elfi.
Refinancing Guides for Graduate Degree Professionals
Regional Student Loan Refinancing Lenders
These two companies require that you live within their service area. They might have an alternative goal besides just making a fair profit on your refinanced loan. For First Republic, they want you to sign up for a bank account with them. For Brazos, they want to help Texas residents only.
If you do live in their area, you should apply to these lenders because they will likely have the best rates if you can qualify.
First Republic Bank is only available to residents of NYC, most of California, Portland, Boston, and a couple other places. They have unbelievably low fixed rates. Email our banker Miguel at email@example.com and mention the $300 Student Loan Planner referral bonus to see if you qualify for the best rates in the country with a cash bonus too.
You’ll have to open a bank account with First Republic. Here’s three rate discounts you can also qualify for.
- Rate discount of 0.50% for keeping at least 10% of the original loan amount in your checking account for at least 12 months.
- An additional 0.25% discount for keeping at least 20% of the original loan amount in your checking account for at least 12 months.
- Relationship based pricing discount of 2% for maintaining autopay and direct deposit with your First Republic bank account
This option is good for folks who have a nice sized emergency fund and want to get rid of their debt asap (First Republic also has the only fixed rate that starts with a 1, currently 1.95% fixed for 5 years. They’ll even rebate interest if you pay the loan off early).
Available only in the State of Texas, Brazos is a nonprofit with over 40 years of experience in student loans. Because of Brazos’ nonprofit status, their rates have the potential to be better than the national lenders listed above. I’d spend some time checking what they have to offer if I lived in Texas. You can refinance up to $150,000 with a bachelor’s degree and up to $250,000 with a graduate, law, medical or other professional degree.
The Brazos website and application experience could be smoother. However, that’s often the case with smaller lenders that might have better rates. If you refinance through our $600 Brazos referral link, you can expect a check within 8 weeks of the loan funding*. See disclosures
Use a Student Loan Refinance Calculator, See Potential Savings
To refinance student loans, you need to choose a repayment term (usually 5, 7, 10, 15, or 20 years). It’s common to start with a 10 or 15 year, make a bunch of extra payments above what you owe, then refinance again in a couple years to a 5 or 7 year.
Check out these student loan refinancing calculators to see how much money you could save:
- Refinance calculator (to see interest savings alone)
- Prepayment calculator (showing savings from higher monthly payments with no prepayment penalties)
- Forgiveness vs Refinancing calculator (reveals whether refinancing would save you more than forgiveness)
Student Loan Refinancing FAQ
Here’s a list of some of the most common questions we get from readers who are thinking about refinancing.
If you have your own unique question, we’d love to hear it! Just ask in the comments of this post below.
Visit a lender's website to check to see if you're pre-qualified (you'll find out in a couple minutes). If the offer is competitive, then you'll want to agree to a hard credit check and submit proof of income, identity, and loan details. You'll get a final offer typically within a few business days and you can either accept or decline.
Your credit score might decline by approximately five points or less when you refinance student loans. This is a temporary impact. If you are ever denied for a mortgage or business loan because of your student loans, it will be because your monthly payment is too high not because of a hit to your credit score from refinancing.
For federal student loans, aim for at least a 0.5% lower rate than what you have now to justify giving up income driven repayment and forbearance options. For private loans, a rate at least 0.25% below what you have justifies a refinancing.
Yes, you can transfer a Parent PLUS or private cosigned loan to your name alone. Lenders that will do this include Commonbond and Laurel Road.
Yes, you can combine federal and / or private student loans into one new loan with a private lender.
No, you cannot reverse a student loan refinancing decision. You can refinance with a new lender to move your loan to a new repayment term, but you cannot return to the federal student loan system.
Variable interest rates can save you money through lower interest costs if you can afford to take the risk of your rate increasing. Consider a variable rate if you could afford to pay off your student loan rapidly and you get a rate offer at least 1% below the fixed rate offer. Most borrowers opt for the fixed rate.
Yes. You can refinance your student loans as many times as you can find a lower interest rate. You should check competing lenders at least once a year to see if you can lower your interest costs further. Many borrowers refinance two, three, four, or even five times.
To qualify to refinance, you need to be a US citizen or permanent resident and have qualifying educational debt from an accredited college or university, a credit score of at least 650, and less than 36% of your income going to debt payments.
The borrower whose name is on the loan is on the hook for all of the debt. Cosigning a student loan for a spouse is a risk in case of divorce. Additional considerations may apply in community property states.
Most student loan refinancing denials happen due to a low credit score, high debt to income ratio, or an ineligible institution you attended. If you improve your credit score or debt to income ratio, you can reapply as soon as 30 days later so that this positive change shows up in your credit profile.
A good time to refinance is when you've determined student loan forgiveness will not benefit you, your career is stable, and you have an emergency fund.
Consolidation means combining multiple federal loans into a single new Direct Consolidation loan through studentloans.gov. You consolidate for an easier path to loan forgiveness. Refinancing means moving your loans to a private lender. It is easy to confuse these two terms. Both consolidation and refinancing can reduce the number of loans you have.
Generally any federal or private student loan you took out during school is eligible. Credit card debt, personal loans, residency relocation loans, or other debt you might have incurred during your education is not eligible for student loan refinancing.
Yes, you can refinance a consolidated student loan since individual loans are always eligible to be refinanced. You would just apply normally as you would if you had not consolidated your loans.
As often as you can find a lower interest rate. This is especially true when you receive a student loan refinance bonus each time you refinance with a new lender.
The default must be fixed before you are eligible to refinance. If you rehabilitate a federal loan, refinancing will be easier as the default comes off your credit report. If the default stays on your record after it is cured, then you will need a cosigner to access lower interest rates through refinancing.
You can still refinance with bad credit as long as you have a qualifying cosigner. If you want to refinance in your own name, you should apply to a large number of lenders as some have looser underwriting requirements. You should also make efforts to increase your credit score by paying your loans on time and eliminating credit card balances.
You can refinance as soon as you have graduated and can prove your income, usually through a signed offer letter or contract showing your salary. Certain professionals like dentists and physicians may be able to refinance several months ahead of their higher post training salaries with signed offer letters.
You should always apply to refinance your existing private student loans at least once a year. There is no good reason to pay extra interest income to a private lender, yet that is exactly what borrowers do when they do not shop for a better rate annually.
Testimonials from Student Loan Planner Readers Who Refinanced
These readers refinanced through Student Loan Planner and picked up a cash back bonus. We wanted to share some real world examples so you’ll feel confident that yes, refinancing and getting paid to do it is a real thing.
Experience Getting a Lower Interest Rate through Student Loan Planner
Refinancing with CommonBond was super easy and quick!
They were able to beat all the other big companies and […my rep] at CommonBond was a pleasure to work with!
I want to thank Travis for referring me and also getting a big refinance bonus!!!
-Zach, Dentist / ‘Disillusioned Dentist’ podcast host
TJ and I were able to refinance with Commonbond. We each received $500…an extra $1000 for something we were going to do anyways!
With your help, we chose Commonbond as they had the most competitive interest rate. I have been VERY happy with them as their customer service is fantastic.
– TJ and Lauren, Physicians
Student Loan Planner made refinancing so easy!!
Travis gave me the best companies to look into and then after I did my research I chose which company worked best for me!! The refinancing process was a breeze! I am so glad that I did it and the cash back was a nice bonus too!
If you use these links and save money, we’d love to know about it. Click on this link to drop us a note.
Please share these deals with your friends who are thinking about refinancing. Maybe they’ll take you out to dinner with part of the bonus. Better yet, maybe they could put it to their principal and get out of student loan debt even sooner!
Start Applying or Take the Student Loan Refinancing Quiz
Ready to refinance student loans? Just click the links at the top of the page and get started.
Still a little unsure? Take the quiz below. It will recommend if we think refinancing is a good idea, and the quiz will suggest a specific lender if we do think student loan refinancing could help you out. It will also warn you if student loan forgiveness might be your better option.
Please use the comments below to ask anything you want or share your experience with refinancing.