April 20, 2019

Earnest Student Loan Refinancing Review

In an industry that doesn’t lend itself to variety, it can be hard for a student loan refinancing company to stand out from the pack. However, Earnest has succeeded in finding some truly innovative ways to improve upon the typical student loan refinancing experience.

There is no doubt that Earnest is one of the best student loan refinancing companies available today— especially if you have a healthy income and good credit. In this review, I’ll do my best to explain why.

What Makes Earnest Unique?

As usual, we begin by taking a look at the distinctive features and benefits that set Earnest apart from other student loan lenders.

1. Payment Flexibility

One of the biggest benefits of federal student loans is you can choose an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan. With these plans, your monthly payments go up or down based on your monthly income. When you refinance federal student loans into private, you lose this benefit. You also lose the right to take advantage of federal forbearance or deferment.

While Earnest isn’t quite as flexible as the government, they offer some of the best payment flexibility options in the student loan refinancing space. Here are just a few of the ways they make things easier on their borrowers:

  • Student loan deferment can be granted up to 36 months when you enlist in the military or enroll in graduate school
  • Borrowers can request forbearance for 3 months at a time for up to 12 months if they lose their job at no fault of their own. Forbearance can also be requested for other financial hardships, excessive debt burden or medical disability.
  • Borrowers can extend a payment date by seven days: Borrowers can also push back the due date on an individual payment or change their autopay date through your online Earnest account.
  • Earnest will cover up to 9 months of grace period from your previous lender (this is way more than average)
  • Allows borrowers to make payments that are larger than the minimum payment via AutoPay.
  • Earnest will even let you skip a payment every 12 months!

That’s fantastic payment flexibility for a private lender. But their best feature may, in fact, be what we’ll discuss next: name your own price.

2. Name Your Own Price

Believe it or not, Priceline isn’t the only business with a “Name Your Own Price” tool. Earnest offers the coolest feature that allows you to choose exactly how much you want to pay each month and what your payoff date will be.

If you want your monthly payment to be $500, Earnest will tell you exactly (down the month) when your loans will be paid off. As long your payoff date will be less than 20 years, you’re good to go!

Most lenders only offer a small variety of repayment terms like 5, 7, 10, 15, or 20-year loans. Earnest, on the other hand, gives you 180 options!  This could help you find the perfect monthly payment amount for your financial situation.

3. Alternative Methods for Determining Your Credit Risk

While many lenders don’t seem to be capable of recognizing that you are more than just your credit score, this is an area that Earnest shines. Instead of looking at your credit score as the be-all-end-all, Earnest will also ask to connect to your bank account and investments to get a better picture of your financial situation.

Earnest will try to find any shred of evidence they can in your financial records that will help you qualify for a refinance or get a better interest rate.

  • If you are a great saver, Earnest will take that into consideration.
  • If you have a great income, they will enter that into the equation as well.

Earnest is so serious about really getting to know who are as a person and as an employee, they will check your LinkedIn profile to see you what you’ve accomplished in your career and where you’re heading. When they review your application, they will take your career history and potential into account.

4. No Cosigners Allowed

Earnest is quite unique in that they do not allow borrowers to have a cosigner on their loan. This could be a problem for you if you are not able to qualify for a low interest rate without the help of a cosigner.

Although Earnest does not allow parents cosigners, they will allow cosigner releases during the refinance as long as a borrower is able to qualify for the loan on their own.

Finally, Earnest does not allow Parent Plus loans or any other loan that is in the parent’s name to be transferred to the child.

Apply now for an Earnest student loan refinance.

The Nuts and Bolts

Now that we’ve taken a look at some of Earnest’s distinctive features, let’s get into some of the finer details of their business. As we do for most student loan lenders, we’ll take a look at the following “Nuts and Bolts”:

  1. Junk Fees
  2. Interest Rates
  3. Customer service
  4. Requirements

1. Junk Fees

Earnest gets 5 stars in this category. They do not charge origination, prepayment, early payment, or extra payment fees.

2. Interest Rates

Earnest has always offered competitive interest rates, but that doesn’t mean that they will necessarily offer the best rate to you.

I highly recommend that you compare Earnest’s rates with other top lenders by using Credible.

  • Credible is like the Kayak of student loans.
  • It gives you the ability to compare several student different student loan refi companies at one time.
  • You should never take out any new student loan or refi until you’ve checked Credible to see what other lenders can offer you.

Related: Read our review of Credible and our guide to using their comparison tool.

3. Customer service

Although Earnest is owned by Navient (which has been in a lot of hot water lately), you’ll be glad to hear that they do service all their loans themselves and they do have an in-house customer service team.

However, they don’t have a clearly laid out process for escalating concerns and new borrowers are not assigned a dedicated banker. Still, Earnest has an Excellent rating on Trustpilot where you can see for yourself what real customers are saying about their experience with them.

4. Requirements

Here are the key requirements and eligibility criteria that you need to be aware of with SoFi:

  • Minimum loan amount: $5,000 (may be higher in some states)
  • Minimum credit score: 650
  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: 700+
  • Typical income of approved borrowers: $100,000+
  • State Eligibility: Earnest is not available to borrowers in Alabama, Delaware, Kentucky, Nevada, and Rhode Island. Variable rates aren’t available to borrowers in Alaska, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas
  • Co-signer release: Not available
  • Must have graduated: Yes, with at least an Associate’s Degree
  • Must have attended a Title IV-accredited school: Yes

While Earnest does not require their borrowers to have a Bachelor’s Degree, their Associate’s Degree requirement could still be a problem for you. If so, I recommend checking Credible to see if you can find a lender that doesn’t have a graduation requirement.

Apply now for an Earnest student loan refinance.

Our Warning to Federal Student Loan Borrowers

As we make clear in our student loan refinance guide, federal student loan borrowers need to think long and hard before refinancing into private loans.

When you move a federal loan to private, you lose all of your federal student loan benefits. While SoFi offers many of these same benefits, there are a few that they do not offer — specifically income-based repayment plans and the possibility to someday receive student loan forgiveness.

We recommend that you take the time to read The Complete Guide to Getting Out of Student Loan Debt to learn more about each of these benefits.

You, ultimately, may decide that the lower monthly payments would outweigh the loss of the federal student loan benefits. But that’s a decision that you should make with a full understanding of what you’d be giving up.

Conclusion:

Earnest has a lot of good things going for them. They offer amazing payment flexibility, they’ll let you name your own price, and their alternative credit-checking methods may give you a better chance of getting approved for a loan.

As always though, don’t take my word for anything. Make sure to research Earnest for yourself, read reviews from actual members, and use Credible to compare their rates to other lenders.

Apply now for an Earnest student loan refinance.

About the author 

Clint Proctor

Hi, I'm Clint! I love writing about everything personal finance. In addition to this site, my work has been featured on several major publications including Business Insider, Forbes, Credit Karma, and U.S. News and World Report. My hope is that you'll be able to find plenty of helpful information and inspiration on this site to help you reach your financial goals. Thanks for visiting!

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