SoFi is an innovative company that originally made a name for themselves by disrupting the student loan refinancing industry.
- They have recently expanded their product line to include no-fee mortgages and personal loans.
- However, the unique features and benefits that SoFi offers student loan borrowers are still what set them apart from other companies.
For this review, we will only be evaluating SoFi’s student loan refinancing product.
Even though I have no affiliate relationship with SoFi, they are still one of my favorite student loan refinancing companies. In fact, they were ranked in our Best Lenders to Refinance Student Loans guide. Here’s why.
Unique Features and Benefits
SoFi is not your average student loan refi company. They offer lots of perks that you simply won’t find available with any of the other lenders out there.
Below, we break down a few of the distinctive qualities which have made SoFi such a popular choice for student loan borrowers.
1. Free Career Coaching
It’s pretty hard to pay off your student loans when you’re unemployed (or underemployed). SoFi understands this and they want to help their borrowers advance their careers.
They try to accomplish this by offering completely free one-on-one career coaching to SoFi members. Some of the things that their coaches will advise on include:
- Choosing your industry and identifying career path goals.
- Designing your resume and LinkedIn profile.
- Creating your personal brand.
There a lot of people who get paid well to offer this kind of career advice, so this truly is a valuable complimentary benefit that SoFi offers to their members.
2. Enthusiastic and Helpful Community
SoFi realizes that a large majority of its members are college-educated individuals who are eager for opportunities to network and grow.
SoFi decided to create events, held all around the country, for their members to receive career training and network with other professionals.
- They call these events Member Experiences and have been a huge hit.
- They even hold “SoFi Pay-Off Events” where they celebrate borrowers who have recently paid off their loans.
All these purposeful actions that SoFi have taken to invest in their members have resulted in an engaged and loyal community.
See Ya Later Affiliates (Like Me)
In fact, SoFi is so confident in the power of their community, that they have discontinued the majority of their media affiliate partnerships. Instead, they offer generous $300 referral bonuses to their members and $100 off to those who join from a referral.
This decision has made a lot of people who do what I do for a living unhappy. And while I can’t lie and say that I wouldn’t enjoy getting a kickback if you decided to refinance with SoFi, I can’t really get mad at them.
Instead, I have to give them credit for having that much confidence in their community. Being able to rely nearly 100% on word-of-mouth advertising alone to grow your business is pretty impressive.
3. Access to No-Fee Investing
SoFi members are given no-fee access to SoFi’s investment platform called SoFi Wealth. And yes, no-fee means no transaction fees OR management fees. Here are a few of SoFi Wealth’s other main features:
- Choose between active investing (you choose each individual ETF yourself) or automated investing (you choose one of SoFi’s custom-built portfolios).
- Access to Robo AND Human Advisors.
- Ability to open Traditional, Roth, or SEP IRAs.
If you are not already a SoFi member, you can still get up to $10,000 of funds managed for free.
- Above that, you’ll pay 0.25% of the assets under management per year.
- This is still not a bad deal, but other companies like Betterment and WealthFront offer similar pricing and currently offer more features.
4. Customer-Friendly Repayment Options
As we’ll discuss later, one of the biggest downsides to refinancing a federal student loan into a private student loan is the fact that you lose all of the federal repayment benefits.
SoFi softens the blow more than most lenders, though. They voluntarily offer their members many of the same repayment benefits that are typically only available to federal student loan borrowers.
We will discuss these benefits in greater detail under our “Nuts and Bolts” section below, but they include:
- Academic deferment
- Military deferment
- Disability deferment
- Forbearance (for up to 12 months)
- Lower payments for medical and dental professionals during residency
The Nuts and Bolts
Now that we’ve taken a look at some of SoFi’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”:
- Junk Fees
- Interest Rates
- Repayment periods
- Customer service
- Payment Flexibility
1. Junk Fees
If you haven’t caught on yet, SoFi is all about getting rid of fees. They’ve even chosen to not charge for things that are considered “normal” to charge for like mortgage origination and mutual fund management.
Knowing this, it shouldn’t be any big surprise that SoFi does not charge any junk fees on their student loans. Below are just a few of the fees that SoFi does not include on their student loan products:
- Application fee
- Origination fee.
- Prepayment fee.
SoFi really stepped out on their own in this area years ago. But as they have gained in popularity, other lenders have followed their lead. Today, you’ll find that many of their top competitors also have removed all junk fees on their loans.
2. Interest Rates
Interest rates are constantly changing, so it would be an exercise in futility to try to update our reviews every time lenders change their rates. Plus, the interest rate you will be offered will depend largely on your credit rating and debt-to-income ratio.
I can say that SoFi 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 SoFi’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.
3. Repayment Periods
SoFi gives borrowers the following repayment period options:
- 5-year loans
- 7-year loans
- 10-year loans
- 15-year loans
- 20-year loans
4. Customer service
While SoFi does not service their loans themselves, they do have an in-house customer service team and they do have a process to escalate concerns.
As mentioned earlier, SoFi considers their happy community one of their best sources of advertising, so I don’t see their customer service being a problem.
If you want to see for yourself what actual customers are saying about their experience, feel free to check out their most recent reviews on TrustPilot.
5. Payment Flexibility
This is one of SoFi’s strongest areas and one that they, in many ways, have pioneered. Here are a few of the ways that SoFi offers unusual payment flexibility to their members:
- Academic deferment: Allows borrowers to postpone payments if they return to school.
- Military deferment: Allows borrowers to postpone payments during active military duty.
- Disability deferment: Allows borrowers to postpone payments during rehabilitation for a disability.
- Lower payments for medical and dental professionals during residency: Allows medical professionals to pay $100 per month during residency for up to to 54 months. If this interests you, you should compare it with a similar program offered by Splash Financial that allows payments as low as $1 during residency for up to 84 months.
- Forbearance: Allows members to postpone their payments for three months at a time, for up to 12 months total. They have to work with SoFi’s career advisors in order to be eligible and must have lost their job through no fault of their own.
When it comes to death and disability loan forgiveness, SoFi evaluates each request on a case-by-case basis. Members will need to contact customer service to discuss their options.
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: SoFi is available in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia.
- 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 SoFi does not require their borrowers to be bachelor’s degree graduates, as some lenders do, 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 does not have a graduation requirement.
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.
In summary, yes, SoFi is still one of the best student loan refinance companies on the market today. It really comes down to two main points:
- They seem to truly care about the success of their members both in their careers and their finances.
- They offer many of the same repayment perks that make federal loans so attractive, and hopefully at a lower interest rate).
As always, don’t just take my word for anything. Make sure to research SoFi yourself, read reviews from actual members, and use Credible to compare their rates to other lenders.