6 Best Student Loan Refinancing / Consolidation Lenders

If paying back your student loans feels like a burden you’ll never escape from, don’t stress – there are options to simplify the process. Refinancing or consolidating your loans may be a strategic move if you’re looking to lower your interest rate, shorten (or lengthen) your payment term, or streamline all of your payments into one monthly payment. 

What is Student Loan Refinancing? 

Refinancing your student loans means moving your private and federal loans into a new loan with a private lender. If you qualify, this can be a smart move to lower your interest rate to make it easier to pay off your loans. You can also switch up the payment terms to pay off your loans faster (or over a more extended time period if you need it.) 

Refinancing consolidates your private and federal loans, bringing everything together into a streamlined monthly payment. (Keep in mind that refinancing is not the same thing as consolidating – consolidating brings all your federal loans together into one, while refinancing helps you lower your interest rate.) 

Should You Refinance Your Student Loans?

While refinancing your loans can be a great way to lower your interest rate, there are a few things to keep in mind before pulling the trigger. 

Because refinancing means moving all of your federal and private loans into one private lender, you relinquish all of the benefits from your federal loans. This might be pertinent in times when the government is offering additional leniency and forgiveness, so just be aware of any benefits you may be giving up when you refinance. 

If you’re frustrated with high interest rates on your federal loans, however, refinancing privately at a lower rate may be a wise choice. And if you find yourself overwhelmed by numerous loans every month that never seem to diminish, refinancing streamlines them all into one payment – so the end goal can come clearer into sight! 

The following are a few good reasons to refinance your student loans: 

  • Lowering your interest rate
  • Paying off your student loans sooner
  • Extending your payment term if needed
  • Combining your various loans into one monthly payment
  • Switching lenders for other reasons (customer service, personal preference, etc.) 
  • Adding or removing a cosigner to your loan

Top Five Lenders to Refinance Your Loans (Plus a Bonus) 

1 – RISLA

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Don’t be turned away by their name – the Rhode Island Student Loan Authority offers loans to those from any other states who apply for its competitive rates and outstanding benefits. 

One feature that sets RISLA apart from the rest is its option for an income-based repayment plan for those under extended financial hardship. This flexibility makes refinancing ideal for those struggling financially post-graduation. However, RISLA does not have a co-signer release program, and an estimate from them will cost you a hard credit check. 

Fixed APR: 3.49% – 8.14%

Min. credit score: 680

Benefits: 

  • Income-based repayment plans
  • Loan forgiveness after 25 years
  • Graduate school deferment for up to 36 months

Caveats: 

  • There’s no co-signer release available
  • A rate estimate will cost you a hard credit check

Who it’s best for: 

Students looking for greater financial flexibility with income-based repayment options.

2 – Laurel Road

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While Laurel Road is available to any eligible borrower, they specifically cater to health professionals with special pricing for medical, dental, nursing, and physician assistant students.

Laurel Road is also great for parents who’ve taken out Federal Parent PLUS Loans for their children, and are stuck with a sky-high interest rate. Laurel Road is one of only a few companies that specifically offers refinancing benefits for Parent PLUS Loans, including a seamless transition of the loan into the child’s name. 

Fixed APR: 2.80 – 6.00%

Variable APR: 1.89% – 5.90%

Min. Credit Score: 700

Benefits: 

  • Special prices for doctors, dentists, nurses, and physician assistants
  • Parents can transfer Parent PLUS Loans into their child’s name
  • You can get a rate estimate without a hard credit check

Caveats: 

  • No payment deferment if the borrow goes back to school

Who it’s for: 

Students in the health/medical field, and parents who took out high-interest federal loans and are ready to transfer the loans into their child’s name.

3 – SoFi

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For comprehensive benefits and support, SoFi offers a ton of perks to help students successfully take on life after graduation. With a personalized approach, they offer career counseling and financial advisors to support students with tailored guidance for budgeting, saving, and investing in their post-graduate life. 

SoFi also offers unemployment protection that will postpone your payments for three months at a time if you get laid off from your job. 

Fixed APR: 2.99 – 6.09%

Variable APR: 2.25% – 6.09% 

Min. Credit Score: Unknown

Benefits: 

  • Unemployment benefits
  • Perks such as career counseling, job search and entrepreneurship support
  • You can get a rate estimate without a hard credit check

Caveats: 

  • There’s no cosigner release available
  • They require a higher minimum loan size than many other lenders

Who it’s for: 

Those who want lots of perks and benefits with their refinanced student loan.

4 – Discover

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Compared with other lenders, Discovery shines in its flexible repayment assistance programs that helps borrowers who need wiggle room paying back their loans. They also waive all of the annoying application and startup fees, and won’t even ding you with late payment fees. 

Discover will refinance your loans even if you didn’t graduate – but keep in mind that they’re only currently offering repayment plans over 10 and 20 year terms, while most other lenders offer shorter repayment plan options. 

Fixed APR: 3.49% – 6.99%

Variable APR: 1.87% – 5.87%

Min. Credit Score: Unknown

Benefits: 

  • Flexible repayment options for financially struggling borrowers
  • No origination, application, or late fees
  • You can refinance your loans without a degree

Caveats: 

  • There’s no cosigner release available
  • A rate estimate will cost you a hard credit check
  • Repayment plans come in only 10 and 20-year terms

Who it’s for: 

Those who may need some wiggle room on payments, and want to avoid extra fees.

5 – Citizens One

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Citizens One is the national lending division of Citizens Bank, and is ideal for current bank customers, international students, and those who didn’t complete their degree. 

If you are already banking with Citizens Bank, you can take advantage of their 0.25% interest rate discount for existing account holders. 

They’re also a good option for international students, as they refinance loans for non-US citizens with a qualifying co-signer. However, keep in mind that they have a somewhat complicated process for students who need to take over their parents’ loans. 

Fixed APR: 2.99% – 8.49%

Variable APR: 1.99% – 8.24%

Min. Credit Score: Unknown

Benefits: 

  • Loyalty discounts for Citizens Bank customers
  • You can get a rate estimate without a hard credit check
  • You can refinance your loans without a degree

Caveats: 

  • Complicated process for taking over your parents’ loans
  • Their forbearance options are somewhat vague

Who it’s for: 

Non-US citizens, existing Citizens Bank customers, and borrowers who didn’t graduate.

6 – LendKey

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LendKey is a marketplace that uniquely connects lenders with private loans from credit unions or local community banks, rather than big banks. So if you prefer to work with a smaller institution than one of the larger banks, LendKey is a great option. 

They’re also a solid choice for borrowers who don’t earn 6 figures, as their average borrower earns around $60,000 per year, and they offer longer forbearance than many other lenders. 

Fixed APR: 2.99% – 8.77%

Variable APR: 1.98% – 8.55%

Min. Credit Score: 680

Benefits: 

  • Longer forbearance of 18 months than many other lenders
  • You can get a rate estimate without a hard credit check
  • Connects borrowers with community banks and credit unions

Caveats: 

  • Loans aren’t available in some states (Maine, Nevada, North Dakota, Rhode Island, and West Virginia) 
  • No payment deferment if the borrow goes back to school or enters the military

Who it’s for: 

Those who want to work with a community bank or credit union over a large bank. 

Bonus: Credible

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Before selecting a lender to refinance your student loans, you’ll want to shop around to ensure you’re checking all the right boxes. While not technically a lender themselves, Credible is a refinancing marketplace that essentially does this work for you, offering you quotes from multiple lenders once you submit them your information. It’s a free service to use, and won’t impact your credit score. 

They also offer a handy best-rate guarantee, so that if you do find a lower rate and end up refinancing elsewhere, they’ll hand you a $200 Best Rate reward. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Refinancing Student Loans:

Am I Eligible For Student Loan Refinancing?

If you have a solid credit score, you’ll most likely be eligible to refinance your student loans. There are also several other factors that come into play when determining your eligibility and desirability as a borrower: 

  • Credit score: This is the most significant factor playing into whether you’ll be approved for a refinanced student loan. 
  • Total balance: Lenders will look at the total debt you have left to pay off when assessing your eligibility for a new loan. 
  • Income: Lenders want to see that you have enough income to pay back your loans before they’ll guarantee you a lower interest rate. 
  • Debt to-Income Ratio: Just as it sounds, your DTI is a number representing how high your debt is compared to how much income you earn. If your outstanding debt vastly outweighs your income (a high DTI) you’ll be less likely to secure refinancing, while a low DTI makes you much more appealing to potential lenders. 
  • Education: Lenders may have various requirements for you to have graduated from your educational institution, or to have achieved a specific level of degree. 

What Credit Score Do You Need to Refinance Your Student Loans?

While there isn’t a specific threshold of credit score that you need to refinance, a lender will want to see a solid credit score before offering you a new loan. The higher your credit score, the more access you’ll have to a wider diversity of refinancing options. 

In order to access a decent amount of lenders, you’ll generally want your minimum credit score to be around 680. 

What Is the Difference Between Student Loan Consolidation and Student Loan Refinancing?

While these terms are sometimes used rather interchangeably, refinancing and consolidation are two completely different things. Consolidating your federal student loans means combining them into one federal loan – and yes, consolidation can only be done with federal loans. Refinancing combines your federal and/or private loans into a new private loan. This is a significant difference, because while federal interest rates are set by the government, private interest rates are set by each individual loan company. 

The most important difference between refinancing and consolidation, however, is that refinancing can help you achieve a lower interest rate, while consolidation does not. 

Consolidating your loans helps you bundle your federal loans into one payment, but your interest rate will not lower (in fact, it may increase.) This can be smart as a strategic move because it streamlines your payment and may qualify you for additional government support – but prepare for your interest rates to be the same or slightly higher. 

Refinancing, on the other hand, can help you achieve a lower interest rate through a private lender. You’ll lose any federal loan benefits, but can achieve a lower interest rate through shopping around and selecting a private lender to streamline your loans. 

Can You Refinance Federal Student Loans?

Because the government sets the rate for federal student loans, you can’t refinance them federally. If you want to change your loan schedule or interest rate, you’ll need to refinance these federal loans privately. 

Keep in mind that by refinancing federal loans, you’re giving up any federal benefits and setting yourself up with a new system privately.