Refinancing student loans can get you a lower interest rate, a lower monthly payment, or both. There’s a perfect storm of competition right now where borrowers have the upper hand, especially those with the highest incomes and best credit histories. If you owe a large amount and refinance through Student Loan Planner, you can also get a student loan refinance bonus of up to $1,000 or more with all of the 9 national lenders featured in this article.
We’ll show you whether or not you should refinance your federal and private student debt, how to compare the best student loan refinance companies, and where to get the best student loan refinance deal.
The 6 lenders in the table below offer the lowest interest rates more than 90% of the time. If you want to make sure you’ve found the best rate, you’ll see the full list of 9 refinancing companies farther down the page.
1.99 - 5.64% APR1
2.98 - 5.79% APR1
- For 100k or more. $200 for 50k to $99,9991
2.50 - 6.85% APR2
2.59 - 6.74% APR2
- For 100k+, $300 for
50k to 99k.2
1.89 - 5.90% APR3
2.50 - 6.00% APR3
- For 250k+, $300 to $500 for 50k to 249k.3
2.39 - 6.01% APR4
2.58 - 5.99% APR4
- For 150k+, $300 to $575 for 50k to 149k.4
2.25 - 6.64% APR5
2.99 - 6.64% APR5
- For 100k or more. $200 for 50k to $99,9995
1.89 - 8.85% APR6
2.55 - 9.10% APR6
- For 100k+, $350 for 5k to 100k.6
See important lender disclosures and bonus terms below
Here’s how we determine what student loan refinance companies to feature and where:
- How many readers successfully refinanced with a lender in the past few months? A good conversion rate means a company should receive more prominent placement on our site.
- What are we hearing from applicants? Reader feedback on a lender’s website, the application process, and rates needs to be excellent to receive prominent placement.
- How much does a lender pay us? All websites that offer student loan refinancing earn advertising commissions when you refinance through their links. We mitigate this conflict of interest by taking a lower payment from our partners so we can offer the best student loan refinance bonuses to you.
Should I Refinance Student Loans?
I estimate the majority of private student loan borrowers in the country could find a lower interest rate right now through refinancing. Unfortunately, inertia is a powerful force, and many borrowers who could save thousands of dollars with a couple minute application do not take action like they should.
Borrowers who refinanced even a few months ago are often finding better deals because of this low interest rate and low credit risk environment. Remember, you can refinance your private student loans as many times as you want as long as you find a lower interest rate.
Many borrowers interested in refinancing federal student loans might wait to apply until September 2021. That’s because President Biden issued an executive order on January 20 that suspends federal student loan interest until the end of that month.
However, in the past couple months, Commonbond has offered some borrowers with federal student loans a special deal with a 0% introductory APR for 6 months along with a low 20-year fixed rate. If you were to get that deal and you plan to eventually refinance, we’d suggest that even borrowers with federal student loans consider refinancing right now.
Borrowers with private student loans need to apply to more companies though.
How to Get the Best Refinancing Deal
Here’s why you will get the best refinancing deal when comparing lenders on Student Loan Planner.
- We encourage you to shop around since it’s tough to predict who will offer you the lowest rate
- Our partner lenders account for the vast majority of the student loan refinancing market
- We take lower advertising fees to offer you bonuses that you can’t get elsewhere
If you find a better student loan refinancing deal somewhere else, please let us know because that should be pretty close to impossible.
Get the Best Student Loan Refinance Bonus Along with a Lower Interest Rate
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.
The paid referral relationship we have with our partners does not affect the rate you’re offered, which means that you get a better offer than if you applied directly.
The websites that show up at the top of the Google search results try to hide that they offer no student loan refinance bonus to their readers at all. That’s because they keep the higher profit margin for themselves. We’d prefer to take a lower commission so you get a bonus.
Notice that for some of these companies, you need to refinance a minimum amount with that lender to get that bonus.
If you’re refinancing a six figure loan amount that’s large enough to receive a $1,000 or higher student loan refinance bonus, reach out to us. Use the contact button on this page at the bottom right to verify that your loan shows up as being credited to Student Loan Planner prior to signing the refinancing documents.
If you’re not sure which company to start with, take our quiz below to get a personalized recommendation.
When to Refinance Federal Loans and Private Student Loans
After advising over $1.3 billion dollars in student debt, here’s what I tell borrowers when they ask if they should refinance federal and private student loans.
- Refinance federal student loans if you:
- Work in the private sector,
- Have a solid emergency fund
- Expect to owe federal debt less than 1.25 times your income
- Are ready to give up forbearance/deferment, forgiveness, income-driven repayment plans, and potential eligibility for the PSLF program
- Get a 0% introductory interest rate (only relevant until September 30, 2021)
- Refinance private student loans if you:
- Can find a lower interest rate anywhere
- Want a lower or higher monthly loan payment
- Have not checked current offers in the last six months
- Have had an increase in your credit score or income
Remember you can refinance private loans two, three, four or more times. The only thing that matters is if you find a better rate.
Choosing the Best Student Loan Refinance Company
We’ve done surveys of thousands of professionals with six figure student debt. Only 10% of these borrowers check more than three lenders. That means higher profits for student loan refinance companies. Since it only takes two to five minutes to get a rate estimate from a company, you should at least check a few different options.
You’ll be asked for basic information, and the company will give you a rate estimate if you could potentially qualify. This is called a “soft credit check,” which does not impact your credit score.
Once you’ve identified one or two companies that offer excellent rates, you can submit to a hard credit check, which has a very small, temporary, one-time impact on your credit score (often 5 to 10 points). This is similar to applying for a credit card, so it’s not something to be concerned about unless you’re applying for a mortgage in one or two weeks after applying for your student loan refinance.
Some student loan refinance companies, like Earnest, CommonBond, ELFI, SoFi and Laurel Road offer rates directly. Others, like Credible and LendKey, connect you to a network of lenders on their platforms that you probably wouldn’t check on your own.
Note that you can apply to as many companies as you want. If you do so within 30 days, then it’s considered “rate shopping” and only counts against your credit score one time.
What Are Current Student Loan Refinancing Interest Rates for the Best Qualified Borrowers?
Your interest rate on a refinanced student loan depends on your credit profile, income, debt to income ratio, and many other factors.
The table below shows the absolute lowest fixed interest rates readers have reported to us in April 2021 that are available nationwide. Variable rates are available, but most of our readers choose fixed-rate loans.
You should not necessarily expect to get a rate as low as what’s listed below. The table merely shows the current state of the refinancing market for the best-qualified borrowers so you can gauge if you should apply or not.
5 Year Fixed
7 Year Fixed
10 Year Fixed
15 Year Fixed
20 Year Fixed
Articles to Make Your Student Loan Refinance Decision Easy
All 9 Student Loan Refinancing Companies Compared
Compare the 9 student loan refinance companies below to get the lowest interest rate. We highlight the top reasons you would consider using each lender, the cash bonus terms available (some are specific to the amount refinanced), lender-specific reviews if you want to learn more, as well as a star rating reflecting feedback we receive from our readers.
Best Student Loan Refinance Company by Profession in 2021
In February 2021, we surveyed over 3,200 of our readers, who tend to have higher incomes and higher debt than the typical student loan borrower.
We list the first place lender below for each profession in our 2021 survey, along with the market share of the profession that each lender won.
- Dentists: Laurel Road (42%)
- Physical therapists: Earnest (39%)
- Lawyers: Earnest (33%)
- Physicians: Laurel Road (30%)
- Pharmacists: Earnest (32%)
- Chiropractors: SoFi (29%)
- Physician assistants: Earnest (29%)
- Veterinarians: Earnest (23%)
- Optometrists: Laurel Road (22%)
- College Faculty and Staff: SoFi (21%)
- Corporate employees: SoFi (15%)
- Nurses: Laurel Road (15%)
Three Companies Tend to Dominate the Student Loan Refinancing Market
We found that one of Earnest, SoFi, or Laurel Road captured the plurality of the student loan refinancing volume for each job category we looked at. If you only search three companies, those would be excellent places to start.
Why You Should Still Compare Rates at Several Companies
Even so, notice that no one company captured more than half of a profession’s student loan refinancing volume. For most jobs, the most popular company captured less than one third of the market.
That means it still pays to check at least three to five lenders to see how low of an interest rate they could offer. You can also compare repayment options, possible interest rate reductions, and other loan terms.
For example, companies will sometimes offer temporary interest rate discounts that are far superior to the top 3 student loan refinance companies. You never know when that will happen, so it pays to shop around.
Student Loan Refinancing Guides for Professionals
Dentists have very different student loan refinancing considerations than lawyers do. Check out our some of our most popular profession specific student loan refinance guides below.
Use a 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, 15, or 20 year term, make a bunch of extra payments above what you owe, then refinance again in a couple years to a 5 or 7 year. This is the student loan refinancing ladder strategy of paying down debt, which Student Loan Planner popularized.
The 20 year fixed rate option has been significantly more popular as of late, given many borrowers seek the longest repayment term possible with potential inflation on the horizon.
Regardless of which strategy or loan term you choose, these student loan refinancing calculators can show you how much money you could save:
- Refinance calculator (to see interest savings alone)
- Payoff calculator (showing savings from higher monthly payments with no prepayment penalties)
- Forgiveness vs Refinancing calculator (reveals whether refinancing would save you more than forgiveness)
Common Refinancing FAQs
Here’s a list of some of the most common questions we get from readers who are thinking about refinancing.
Simply apply through Student Loan Planner using the links present in this article. If you have a large enough loan size, you’ll get a cash bonus shortly after your loan funds. In some cases, Student Loan Planner offers additional $500 student loan refinance bonuses on top of what a lender offers to combine for the maximum student loan refinance bonuses you see above.
Your credit score might decline by approximately five to ten points or less when you refinance. 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 plans and forbearance options. For private loans, a rate at least 0.25% below what you have justifies 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 in the table above.
Yes, you can combine federal and / or private student loans into one new loan with a private lender. We would not recommend including federal student loans until the interest freeze has ended.
Variable interest rates can save you money through lower interest costs if you can afford to take the risk of your rate increasing. Consider variable rates 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 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.
Most private lenders allow up to three months of forbearance. Check your promissory note to verify. Forgiveness of private student loan debt due to death or disability could be considered taxable income, so make sure you have good term life and disability coverage.
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.
Student loan consolidation means combining multiple federal loans into a single new Direct Consolidation loan through studentloans.gov. Refinancing means moving your loans to a private lender for a lower interest rate or lower payment, or both. While refinancing can technically “consolidate” multiple loans into one, we prefer to reserve the term consolidation for the federal version of consolidation.
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.
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.
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.
If you are seeking student loan forgiveness, refinancing is a very bad idea. Generally, you need to owe less than two times your income and work in the private sector to even consider leaving the safety of the federal student loan system. If your loans are private though, the only risk of refinancing would be choosing a monthly payment that is too high for you to comfortably pay each month.
Testimonials from 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
Student Loan Planner gave me the best companies to look into and then after I did my research I chose which company worked best for me!! I am so glad that I did it and the cash back was a nice bonus too!
TJ and I were able to refinance with CommonBond. We each received a $500 Commonbond bonus…an extra $1000 for something we were going to do anyways!
Start Applying And Find the Lowest Rate
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!
1Earnest: If you refinance $100,000 or more through this site, $500 of the $1,000 cash bonus is provided directly by Student Loan Planner. Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Earnest disclosures.
2Commonbond: if you refinance over $100,000 through this site, $500 of the cash bonus listed above is provided directly by Student Loan Planner. Commonbond disclosures.
3Laurel Road: If you refinance more than $250,000 and Student Loan Planner receives credit, we will provide a $500 cash bonus directly to you. If you are a member of a professional association, Laurel Road might offer you the choice of an interest rate discount or the $300, $500, or $750 cash bonus mentioned above. Offers from Laurel Road cannot be combined. Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Laurel Road disclosures.
4Elfi: If you refinance over $150,000 through this site, $500 of the cash bonus listed above is provided directly by Student Loan Planner. Elfi disclosures.
5SoFi: If you refinance $100,000 or more through this site, $500 of the $1,000 cash bonus is provided directly by Student Loan Planner. Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. SoFi disclosures. Student Loan Planner disclosures.
6Credible: if you refinance over $100,000 through this site, $500 of the cash bonus listed above is provided directly by Student Loan Planner. Credible disclosures.
Please note that Student Loan Planner cannot issue a bonus to a borrower if the loan that was refinanced was not credited to Student Loan Planner. To make sure that you receive the maximum student loan refinance bonus possible, reach out to us with the contact button in the bottom right prior to signing the loan documents if you wish to verify this.