September 27, 2019

LendKey Review

LendKey

4.8

Repayment options


4.5/5

Junk fees


5.0/5

Customer service


5.0/5

Availability


4.5/5

Forbearance, deferment, and forgiveness


5.0/5



LendKey is not your average student loan refinance company. They’ve created an incredible lender network that includes over 300 community banks and credit unions. Their comparison shopping tool could help you find a great deal quickly.

For all these reasons, LendKey has made it onto our list of the best student loan refinance companies. In our LendKey review, we’ll look at the specifics of how their service works and whether or not it would be a good fit for your situation.

What Makes LendKey Unique?

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

1. LendKey Does the Student Loan Shopping for You.

Having to shop your student loans with multiple lenders can be time-consuming and exhausting. But it can also save you a lot of money. Even a 0.5% difference interest rate could mean thousands of dollars of savings over the life of your loans.

When you use LendKey, you let them do the shopping for you. LendKey says that they work with over 300 partners. After filling out one single application, you can start receiving offers from multiple lenders.

LendKey isn’t the only company that’s known for shopping student loans. Credible is another popular student loan comparison-shopping platform.

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

While I love both platforms, there is one major difference between LendKey and Credible. We’ll take a look at that key difference in the next point.

Get started with LendKey.

2. LendKey Connects Borrowers to Community Banks and Credit Unions.

Community banks and credit unions are known for offering some of the most consumer-friendly banking products. They’re rarely out to gouge their customers (unlike some of the monster mega-banks that shall remain nameless) and they usually have less “gotchas” and fees.

But these institutions also typically have small marketing departments. And they’re not experts in web design or SEO. So it can be difficult for community banks and credit unions to connect with borrowers…especially borrowers from another town or state.

That’s where LendKey comes in. They provide the platform that connects credit unions and small banks with customers like you and me. This community aspect of LendKey’s lender partners helps differentiate them from Credible. And since not-for-profit lenders often pass savings back to the customer, LendKey’s partners could save you more money.

Does that mean that you should only shop your student loans with LendKey? No. There’s no guarantee that a community bank or credit union is going to offer you the best price for your student loans or student loan refinance.

In some cases,  a large for-profit bank could end up offering you the best deal. You’ll still want to shop around. But, as a general rule, I always trust community banks and credit unions to take better care of me than monster megabanks.

Get started with LendKey.

3. LendKey Serves Borrowers from a Wide Range of Incomes.

There are several high-end student loan lenders and refinance companies that offer amazing interest rates and other perks. But there’s only one problem. Some of them are intensely focused on high-income earners.

These lenders are going after the doctors, dentists, and lawyers of the world. In other words, their ideal customer is the borrower who has massive debt but also works in a profession that pays incredibly well.

In fact, many of the top student loan lenders won’t even consider a borrower who is making less than $100k a year. This can make it difficult for borrowers working in middle-class jobs to qualify for some of the best deals.

Thankfully, LendKey’s partners will work with borrowers from a wide variety of income levels. In fact, LendKey says that the average refinance borrower makes $63,000 a year.

4. LendKey Offers Lengthy Forbearance Periods.

One of the nice things about federal student loans is that they come with generous forbearance and deferment benefits. Plus, you don’t have to start making payments until after you’ve graduated and your 6-month grace period has passed.

But if you’ve maxed out your federal student loan options, you may be hoping to find similar perks from a private lender. Unfortunately, many of the top private banks require you to start making payments immediately after loan disbursal and have a 12-month cap on forbearance periods.

LendKey loans can be more generous. If you choose one of those two longer-term repayment periods, you can postpone payments for up to six months at a time, up to 18 months in total. But if you have 5,7, or 10-year loan, the maximum forbearance period is 12 months.

If extended forbearance periods is something that you’re specifically looking for in a lender, you may want to consider CommonBond. They offer forbearance periods of up to 24 months on refinanced student loans.

Related: Read our full editorial review of CommonBond

Get started with LendKey.

What Else Do You Need to Know About LendKey?

There are a few other things that you’ll want to know about LendKey before deciding whether or not they’re a good fit.

Junk Fees

LendKey does a great job here.

  • Origination fee: No
  • Prepayment penalty: No
  • Late fees: Yes, the exact amount will depend on the lender but will fall between $5 and $15.

Customer service

  • LendKey services the loans themselves.
  • They do have an in-house customer service team
  • LendKey does have a process for escalating complaints or concerns. The call can escalate to a supervisor, manager, and then to the director. Additionally, LendKey tracks all complaints through Continuity.
  • Borrowers do not get assigned a dedicated representative.

Repayment Periods

All of LendKey’s student loans or refinance products come with the following repayment term options.

  • 5 years
  • 7 years
  • 10 years
  • 15 years
  • 20 years

This is pretty much the industry standard in regards to repayment term periods. If you’re looking for more flexibility on your repayment terms, you may want to check out Earnest.

Related: Read our editorial review of Earnest.

Requirements

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

  • Minimum loan amount
    • $2,000 for undergraduate student loans
    • $5,000 for student loan refinancing
  • Minimum credit score: 660
  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: Not disclosed
  • Minimum income: $24,000 for independent borrowers and $12,000 with co-signers
  • State Eligibility: Not available in Maine, North Dakota, Nevada, Rhode Island, and West Virginia
  • Allows co-signers: Yes, and allows co-signer releases as well
  • Must have graduated to qualify for refinancing: Yes, with at least an associate’s degree
  • Must have attended a Title IV-accredited school: Yes

Get started with LendKey.

Do You Have Federal Student Loans? If So, Tread Carefully.

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 LendKey offers quite a few benefits themselves, there are a few that they cannot offer — specifically income-driven repayment plans and eligibility for Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

You may decide that lower monthly payments would outweigh the loss of 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:

LendKey is one of my favorite student loans and student loan refinance companies available today. And it’s all because of the fact that they’re not really one company at all.

Rather, they’re the bridge that connects you to community banks and credit unions that could offer you fantastic rates. I love Credible for the same reason.

However, keep in mind that certain popular lenders like SoFi and CommonBond aren’t available on LendKey OR Credible. I’d recommend taking the extra time to get quotes from some of these top lenders as well.

Get started with LendKey.

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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