Is Earnest the Right Choice to Refinance Your Student Loan?

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Stanley Tate

#1 Student Loan Lawyer

Updated on September 23, 2022

Earnest overview:

  • Rating: ⭑⭑⭑✭✩

Pros:

  • Earnest’s repayment options are remarkably flexible. You can set your own monthly payment, skip a month every year, and apply for financial hardship forbearance.

  • There are no origination fees, prepayment penalties, or late fees on an Earnest refi loan.

Cons:

  • You can’t add a cosigner to an Earnest refinance loan.

  • Earnest refinancing is unavailable in Nevada and Kentucky.

Is Earnest a good student loan refinance lender? Yes, Earnest is a well-reviewed private loan lender owned by Navient. It offers student loan refinancing, private student loans, and an Earnest credit card.

Earnest also partners with Fiona, a financial marketplace, to connect borrowers with high-quality personal loans.

Known for its flexible repayment plans, Earnest rises above the pack as one of the highest-quality refinance lenders on the market. Keep reading to learn more about Earnest and whether it might be a good fit for your student loan refinance.

Pros & cons of refinancing student loans with Earnest

✅Flexible repayment. Earnest lets borrowers set their own monthly payment amount, which means you can repay your loan faster and save money in the long term. Unlike most lenders’ set loan terms of 7, 10, or 12 years, Earnest lets you set the life of the loan to whatever works for your budget — even if it’s a weird term like 8 years and 3 months.

✅Skip a payment if you want. You can skip one payment every 12 months without consequence so long as you’ve already paid 6 consecutive months of full, on-time payments. Your last payoff date will extend by the length of the payment period you skipped. Here’s how to skip a payment, as well as the form to fill out.

✅Referral bonus. You receive $200 for each person you refer to Earnest after their refinance loan has been disbursed. To refer someone, log into your Earnest account, click the “Refer Friends” tab, and copy your referral link. That custom link is the only way to ensure you receive your bonus.

✅Financial hardship protections. During financial hardship, you might qualify for forbearance or deferment. Pro tip: Remember that during forbearance, daily interest continues to accrue. While your loan is in deferment, interest usually doesn’t accrue.

✅No hidden fees. Earnest does not charge prepayment penalties, late fees, or origination fees on their refinance loans or their private student loans.

✅Parent PLUS loans eligible. Earnest refinances federal PLUS loans and private parent loans. This does not transfer the debt to the student. The parent will still owe the refinanced debt.

✅Autopay discount. Earnest features an interest rate reduction when you enroll in automatic payments straight from your bank account. Most lenders offer this rate discount.

✅In-house customer service. Unlike many loan servicers, Earnest doesn’t outsource their customer service. They’re also both the lender and loan servicer, which makes it easier for dedicated representatives to access your loan information and get you the help you need.

✅Cosigner release. If you refinance with Earnest, you can release your current cosigner from a student loan or loans.

🚫No cosigner for refinancing. At this time, Earnest does not let you add a cosigner to refinance loans. However, they do allow cosigners for new private student loans to pay for current or future schooling.

🚫No lending in NV and KY. Earnest doesn’t lend to Nevada residents. Earnest lends private student loans to Kentucky residents, but not refinance loans.

🚫Limited availability of variable rate loans. Due to various state laws, Earnest does not offer variable interest rate loans to residents of Alaska, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Tennessee, or Texas. Only fixed interest rate refinance loans are available in these states, taking a little bit of choice away from the borrower. In some cases, you might pay more in interest over time.

🚫Extra taxes in Florida. The Florida Stamp Tax applies to Earnest loans borrowed by Florida residents. This tax amounts to $3.50 per $1,000 of the principal loan balance, paid directly to the Florida Department of Revenue.

How much can you refinance with Earnest?

The maximum you can refinance with Earnest is $500,000 in student loans. The minimum is $5,000.

You can refinance one student loan or multiple. There is no maximum number of loans you can refinance into one loan.

Earnest interest rates and fees

As of July 2022, Earnest offers the following interest rates for their refinance loans:

  • 2.99%-7.99% fixed rate APR

  • 1.74%-7.99% variable APR

Both of these rates reflect a 0.25% autopay discount.

Earnest does not charge the following fees on their refinance loans or their private student loans:

  • Prepayment penalties

  • Late fees

  • Origination fees

Eligibility requirements

Here are the eligibility requirements for refinance loans with Earnest: :

  • Your credit score must be 650 or above.

  • You must be a U.S. citizen, or you must possess a 10-year non-conditional Permanent Resident Card.

  • You must be enrolled less than half-time and your student loans must be in repayment, or you must expect to complete your degree by the end of the semester when you apply.

  • You must reside in a U.S. state (besides Kentucky and Nevada) or in Washington D.C.

  • You must be the age of majority in your state (usually 18).

  • You must be the primary borrower of the loan you want to refinance, not the cosigner.

  • Your loans are not for future schooling.

  • You must refinance at least $5,000. (California residents must refinance at least $10,000.)

  • You must be employed or have consistent income. No income requirement is given for refinance loans.

  • Your student loans must not be in default.

  • You must not have bankruptcy on your credit report.

  • Your student debt must be from a Title IV-accredited school.

  • You must be up to date on your rent or mortgage payments.

  • Your debt must be held by an institution within the United States.

You can’t refinance again until you’ve made 4 consecutive, on-time student loan payments on your Earnest loan. But after that, you totally can! There is no limit to how many times you can refinance a student loan.

You can check your eligibility and rates for an Earnest loan with a “soft” credit check that doesn’t impact your credit history.

Learn More: How Does Student Loan Refinance Affect Your Credit Score?

Do you need a cosigner?

For Earnest’s private student loans, you may have a cosigner, which can help you get the lowest rates possible for underwriting your cost of attendance. If you have fewer than 3 years of credit history or under $35,000 in income, Earnest may require you to have a cosigner to borrow private student loans from them.

For Earnest’s refinance student loans, you may not have a cosigner. For the foreseeable future, Earnest does not intend on adding a cosigner option to these loans. However, you can refinance with Earnest to release a cosigner.

Application process

The application process is similar to other student loan lenders. Earnest asks you for several official documents, including student loan account numbers, bank account information, and proof of consistent income.

How long does it take for Earnest to review a loan application? After you’ve applied, it should take 2-5 business days for Earnest to either process your application or request more information from you. Requesting more info from you may extend the time it takes Earnest to process your loan application.

You can check your eligibility for an Earnest loan before applying without impacting your credit score.

Earnest customer service reviews

Earnest has an in-house team of customer service representatives, so they don’t outsource their customer support like other lenders might. Customer service is available via phone, email, and live chat.

Earnest acts as lender and servicer. Unlike many private lenders who outsource their loan servicing, they employ an in-house loan servicing team. Not communicating back and forth with a third-party servicer improves their customer service experience.

Credible rates Earnest 5 out of 5 stars on Customer Experience. Customer reviews average a 1.5 out of 5.0 rating on Better Business Bureau, which is on par with most other lenders. The BBB gave Earnest an Accredited Business rating of A — notably not an A+.

Unfortunately, borrowers are not given designated representatives. There is also no process for escalating concerns to higher management.

Learn More: Credible Reviews

Earnest contact info

Earnest’s phone number is 1-888-601-2801. You can call them Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM PST, excluding holidays.

Send Earnest a message, and they will reply to your email.

You can also send them an email at hello@earnest.com, but they seem to steer customers towards live chat and sending a contact form.

You can live chat on Earnest’s website. Regular live chat hours are Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM PST, excluding holidays.

Their onsite live chat starts with an automated message that attempts to answer your question via their FAQ database. If you can’t find your answer there, you’ll be redirected to a live chat with a real representative.

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