43.2 million people carry some form of student loan debt, with most averaging around $39,000—although many of us have a lot more.
If you’re reading this, chances are that’s you.
Even with the recent White House announcement that the pause on student loan repayment, interest, and collections will extend until May 1, 2022, millions of people struggle with the amount of debt they owe from attending college.
Refinancing your student loans could help lower your monthly payments and reduce your overall repayment amount. But finding a good lender can feel intimidating when you don’t know what to look for.
To make things easier, we assessed multiple companies and compared interest rates, minimum credit score required, repayment flexibility, and Better Business Bureau scores to find the top options.
Keep reading for a deep dive into our picks for the seven best student loan refinancing companies. Additionally, look at our best student loan companies to apply completely online.
How to Find the Best Student Loan Refinance
When looking for the best student loan refinancing options, keep these tips in mind.
Shop around for the lowest interest rates
Different lenders have different eligibility requirements and offer different interest rates. Getting the best student loan refinance rate can save you hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars.
Avoid too many hard credit checks
Pulling multiple credit scores in a short span of time can negatively impact your credit rating. When you’re shopping around for refinancing options, make sure lenders are doing a soft pull of your credit score.
Be aware that refinancing federal student loans can lose you some benefits
Many federal student loan programs offer hardship assistance or loan deferral options. An example is the pause on payments during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you refinance your federal student loan through a private lender, you won’t be eligible for these programs.
Some lenders require you to have graduated
It can be harder to refinance a student loan if you didn’t finish college. Many lenders require that you graduated from an accredited school and are employed, sometimes in the field in which you got your degree. Some lenders will allow you to refinance while still in school or a residency program. Make sure you’re eligible for refinancing with a particular lender before moving forward.
The Best Student Loan Refinance Companies of 2022
Credible is an online marketplace for lenders offering personal and student loans, refinancing, and other lines of credit. We like this company for its simple application process and ability to compare several lenders at once. By consolidating several loan firms under one application, Credible makes it easier for customers to avoid filling out the same paperwork multiple times. It also provides side-by-side comparisons of lenders’ rates without multiple pulls that could hurt your credit score.
Credible’s application process also has a quick turnaround time. With a history of excellent customer service (the firm’s TrustPilot score is 4.7/5) and 24/7 availability, this online marketplace is considered one of the best student loan refinancing companies.
As part of KeyBank, Laurel Road is able to offer lower rates and more incentives than many other lenders. This affiliation also means you can get in-person support at bank locations, making the provider one of the best private student loan refinance options. It has a straightforward application process and offers a variety of flexible payment options.
Laurel Road also stands out for having a flat fee or interest-only payment option while you’re still in school and during a six-month grace period after you graduate. In the event of a natural disaster, the company lets you apply for forbearance, meaning it will temporarily postpone your loan payments instead of forcing you into foreclosure or default.
Splash Financial is a dedicated student loan refinancing marketplace that offers competitive rates through its lending partners. Similar to Credible, it lets you check multiple lenders with one application, making shopping around easier.
Splash also lists special deals on its website for medical student loan refinancing, as well as different payment options for those still in school.
PenFed offers a unique student loan refinancing option that we haven’t seen anywhere else so far. Through this company, married couples can consolidate their student loans with interest rates based on which partner has the better credit score or income. While you have to become a member of PenFed Credit Union, the process is simple and no longer requires you to have links with the military or federal government.
After you apply, an assigned loan advisor guides you through the process. It’s a useful benefit that can help if you’re new to the loan process. However, PenFed does have somewhat stricter credit score requirements than other lenders, which could mean that you’ll need a co-signer to qualify.
According to ConsumerAdvocates.org, SoFi may be the best student loan refinancing option if you’re a medical resident. Offering flat payments of $100 for up to four years during your training is just one way the company eases the refinancing process. It also honors original loan grace periods and defers payments during graduate school or active military service.
We’re also impressed with the other benefits SoFi offers its clients: career coaching and financial counseling at no extra cost, plus customer support available seven days a week.
Earnest stands out because of its impressive list of benefits. With this company, you can select bi-weekly rather than monthly payments to help shorten the life of your loan. You can also choose your payment amount based on your budget and even easily adjust the date of when the money leaves your bank account. In our opinion, though, the most impressive feature is the ability to skip a payment per year and make it up later. If your water heater suddenly fails or your car needs repairs, this could be crucial.
Earnest also allows you to defer payments for up to three years if you go back to school or into military service. You also get up to 12 months forbearance in the event of a job loss, a significant household cost like medical bills or emergency home repairs, or unpaid parental leave.
CommonBond operates on the principle that businesses have a responsibility to society and the world as a whole. This mission is what puts the firm on our list of the best student loan refinancing companies. For every degree funded through CommonBond, it pays for a year of education for a student through the non-profit Pencils of Promise.
The fact the company lets borrowers pause payments for up to three months at a time and 24 months total—with a separate forbearance policy for natural disasters—also caught our attention. That mission is passed along to its workforce by offering a monthly contribution to employees’ student loans.
How We Found the Best Student Loan Refinance Rates and Companies
When compiling our list of the best student loan refinancing companies in 2021, we considered several criteria. The most important were:
Getting a lower interest rate on your student loan is one of the biggest factors in deciding to refinance. This can decrease your monthly payment, shorten the life of your loan, and potentially save you thousands of dollars. If you can’t find a lower interest rate than the one you currently have, you typically won’t go through refinancing.
Minimum Credit Score Required
Most lenders require a credit score of around 650 to 680. A higher credit score will get you better interest rates and repayment terms. If your credit is not up to that standard, you may need a co-signer to help you secure a refinanced loan.
Forbearance or Deferment Policies
If you have a student loan through the federal government, you have many more options for payment deference or forbearance. Refinancing through a private lender means you lose access to these programs. If you think you may need help paying your loan in the future, choose a private lender with a deferment or forbearance policy.
We also looked into each company’s Better Business Bureau ratings as an additional factor.