Best student loans for bad credit or no credit: January 2021

As of

For many people, student loans are the only way to afford a college education. Although loans are money that you'll have to repay, you often don't have to start paying back funds until after you leave school. And while most types of loans require a good credit score, student loan lenders recognize that many student borrowers may not have much credit history. Bad-credit student loans are available for those borrowers.

|
Filters
Fixed APR
From
3.49%
Variable APR
From
1.04%
Term5-15yr5-15 yrNext
Fixed APR
From
4.13%
Variable APR
From
1.78%
Term5-15yr5-15 yrNext
Fixed APR
From
3.49%
Variable APR
From
1.24%
Term5-20yr5-20 yrNext
Fixed APR
From
4.25%
Variable APR
From
1.25%
Term5-20yr5-20 yrNext
Fixed APR
From
4.74%
Variable APR
From
1.25%
Term5-15yr5-15 yrNext
Fixed APR
From
3.39%
Variable APR
From
1.09%
Term5-20yr5-20 yrNext

The Bankrate guide to choosing the best bad-credit or no-credit student loans

As of Monday, January 25, 2021

Why trust Bankrate?

At Bankrate, our mission is to empower you to make smarter financial decisions. We’ve been comparing and surveying financial institutions for more than 40 years to help you find the right products for your situation. Our award-winning editorial team follows strict guidelines to ensure the content is not influenced by advertisers. Additionally, our content is thoroughly reported and vigorously edited to ensure accuracy.

When shopping for student loans you can use to pay for school, look for a competitive interest rate, repayment terms that meet your needs and minimal fees. Loan details presented here are current as of the publish date. Check the lenders’ websites for more current information. The top lenders listed below are selected based on factors such as student loan interest rates, loan amounts, fees, credit requirements and broad availability.

Best college loan companies for bad credit of 2021

Lender
Current APR Range
Loan Terms
Min. Loan Amount
Max. Loan Amount
Best For
Federal student loans
2.75% to 5.3%
Standard repayment is for 10 years
None
$12,500 annually for undergraduates and 100% total cost of attendance for graduate students
Overall student loans
Earnest
Starting at 1.05% variable and 3.49% fixed (with autopay)
Not specified
$1,000
100% total cost of attendance
Flexible repayment options
Ascent
2.46% to 12.98% variable, 3.39% to 14.5% fixed (with autopay)
5 to 20 years
$1,000
$200,000
Student loans without a co-signer
Sallie Mae
1.25% to 11.76% variable, 4.25% to 12.35% fixed (with autopay)
5 to 20 years
$1,000
100% total cost of attendance
Student loans with a co-signer
Credible
1.04% to 13.19% variable, 3.39% to 14.5% fixed (with autopay)
5 to 20 years
Varies
Varies
Loan comparison

Summary: Student loans for bad or no credit in 2021

How to shop for a student loan with bad credit or no credit

If you're searching for a student loan with bad credit or no credit, start with the following steps:

  1. Determine how much you need. Your cost of attendance will determine which lenders and types of loans you look for. Federal student loans typically have lower loan limits, but private student loans can fill in the gaps.
  2. Fill out the FAFSA. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) determines what type of federal aid you may be eligible for, and it's also required if you want access to federal student loans.
  3. Compare rates and terms. If you have poor credit, your best bet is applying for a federal student loan. Where private student loans from individual lenders tend to apply restrictive eligibility requirements, most federal student loans don’t even require a credit check. However, it's also smart to compare rates from private lenders, some of which may be forgiving of lower credit scores.
  4. Consider a co-signer. If you have no credit history or your credit score is on the poor side, you should also look into getting a co-signer for your loan. Having a co-signer with a good credit score can improve your chances of being approved for the student loan funds you need, and it may also get you a better interest rate and better loan terms.

Federal vs. private student loans

If you don’t have a solid credit history, you still have options. Most federal student loans don't require a credit check, and the interest rate for each type of federal loan is the same for all borrowers.

If you need to borrow private student loans, the best thing to do is shop around with a few lenders to find one that offers products to borrowers with less-than-stellar credit. Getting a co-signer can also increase your chances of approval with private student loans.

Regardless, you can get approved for both private and federal student loans with little or bad credit, but it's best to do your research before applying so you don't hurt your credit score down the road by applying for loans that you don't qualify for.

How to improve your credit score for a student loan

If you don’t have a co-signer or you have some time to go before you need to apply for a student loan, it’s worth figuring out some ways to increase your credit score. Fortunately, there are some simple ways to boost your credit score.

  • Pay all of your bills early or on time. Your payment history is the most important factor in determining your FICO score. This is why late payments are so detrimental to your credit health, but it’s also why making on-time or early payments on all of your bills has the potential to boost your credit score over time.
  • Pay down other types of debt. The amount you owe in relation to your credit limits makes up 30 percent of your FICO score. The more debt you pay off, the lower your credit utilization will be. If you have several types of debt, focus on high-interest debt and unsecured debt like credit cards first.
  • Get a new credit account. If you don’t have any credit history, you need some credit reporting to start building your credit score. The easiest way to do this is by signing up for a starter credit card. If you use your credit card to make small purchases and pay it off each month, you’ll build positive credit habits and your credit history at the same time.
  • Pay off accounts in default or collections. Finally, consider paying off any late accounts you have. After debt that’s in default, focus your attention on debts that are in collections. According to Experian, collections accounts stay on your credit report for seven years, which could drastically reduce your chances of being approved for a student loan.

Student loans in the coronavirus pandemic

Like other financial products, student loans have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Interest rates are at near-record lows, making this a good time to take out a new loan or refinance old private loans.

The federal government has introduced its own relief options for federal student loans, as well. Through Jan. 31, 2021, borrowers with federal student loans are not required to make payments, and interest charges are suspended.

Details: Student loan rates for bad or no credit in 2021

While college loan lenders for bad credit can’t offer the best rates and terms, they do make it possible to borrow money you can use to pay for school. We compared the top loan options for bad credit to help you figure out which lender might work best for your needs and goals.

Best overall: Federal student loans

Overview: Most federal student loans don’t require a credit check, so these loans are easily the best option for students with poor credit or no credit history. Federal student loans also come with competitive interest rates, and you get the option to choose from a variety of repayment options.

Perks: Federal student loans come with federal protections like deferment, forbearance and income-driven repayment plans that can lead to loan forgiveness after 20 to 25 years. Federal student loans may also be subsidized by the federal government, meaning that the government may pay your interest charges while you’re still in school.

What to watch out for: Federal student loans come with limits and may have higher interest rates than the lowest rates advertised by private student lenders. Also watch out for loan fees that are tacked on to your monthly payment throughout the life of the loan.

Lender Federal student loans
APR 2.75% to 5.3%
Loan amounts Up to $12,500 annually for undergraduates and up to 100% total cost of attendance for graduate students
Loan terms Standard repayment is for 10 years, but repayment terms vary
Fees Loan fees of 1.057% to 4.236%

Best for flexible repayment options: Earnest

Overview: Earnest is a unique private student loan company based on the fact that it considers factors other than your credit score during the application process — although a minimum credit score of 650 is still required to be a borrower or a co-signer. Better yet, Earnest lets you choose among flexible repayment options to suit your needs.

Perks: Student loans from Earnest don’t charge an origination fee, prepayment fee or late payment fee. Earnest also bases its rates on a variety of factors outside of your credit score.

What to watch out for: You will need a minimum credit score of 650 to qualify.

Lender Earnest
APR Variable: Starting at 1.05% (with autopay) Fixed: Starting at 3.49% (with autopay)
Loan amounts $1,000 to 100% total cost of attendance
Loan terms Not specified
Fees None

Best for student loans without a co-signer: Ascent

Overview: Ascent offers unique non-co-signed student loans, which take into account your school, program, graduation date and other factors. Ascent claims that these loans are based on your future income, so you may be able to qualify if you're in a high-earning field of study. Check your personalized rates from Ascent today.

Perks: Ascent offers borrowers a 1 percent back cash reward upon graduation. You can also earn an autopay discount of 0.25 percent to 2 percent off your APR.

What to watch out for: Requirements vary depending on the type of loan you are applying for; depending on the loan, you may be subject to income requirements, a well as a debt-to-income ratio limit and a minimum credit history.

Lender Ascent
APR Variable: 2.46% to 12.98% (with autopay) Fixed: 3.39% to 14.5% (with autopay)
Loan amounts $1,000 to $200,000
Loan terms 5 to 20 years
Fees None

Best for student loans with a co-signer: Sallie Mae

Overview: While Sallie Mae doesn’t disclose a minimum credit score for its student loans, it does have extremely low rates that could be attainable if you have a co-signer with good credit. Having a co-signer may make it considerably easier to qualify for a student loan, and that’s especially true if you need access to private student loans for bad credit.

Perks: Sallie Mae student loans come with no origination fees and no prepayment penalties. Its undergraduate student loans also come with four free months of Chegg Study, and you can get a 0.25 percent discount off your rate if you sign up for autopay.

What to watch out for: If you have poor or fair credit and don't want to use a co-signer, you may have trouble being approved for a Sallie Mae loan.

Lender Sallie Mae
APR Variable: 1.25% to 11.76% (with autopay) Fixed: 4.25% to 12.35% (with autopay)
Loan amounts $1,000 to 100% total cost of attendance
Loan terms 5 to 20 years
Fees Late fee: 5% or $25; Returned check fee: Up to $20

Best loan comparison site: Credible

Overview: Credible is a loan comparison site, meaning you can enter your information once and see loan offers from multiple sources in one place. This means that Credible itself doesn’t have any minimum credit score requirements, but you’ll be able to gauge your ability to qualify across multiple student lenders, including bad-credit student loans, in one place.

Perks: Instead of having to get student loan quotes from multiple lenders, Credible does the grunt work for you. There are also no origination fees, no service fees and no prepayment fees if you pay your loan off early.

What to watch out for: Credible is just a loan aggregator, so it does not extend loans itself. If you apply for a loan with Credible and you’re approved, you’ll be connected with a partner lender.

Lender Credible
APR Variable: 1.04% to 13.19% (with autopay) Fixed: 3.39% to 14.5% (with autopay)
Loan amounts Varies
Loan terms 5 to 20 years
Fees None

Frequently asked questions about bad-credit or no-credit student loans

Can I get a student loan with bad credit?

It is possible to get a student loan with bad credit. That said, having a bad credit score means that you will be charged higher rates.

Can I get a student loan with no credit check?

Many federal student loans do not require a credit check, but most private lenders do. If you don't have much credit, you may be required to add a co-signer to your loan.

What credit score do I need for a student loan?

Many private student loan lenders do not disclose credit score requirements, but it's likely that you or your co-signer must have a credit score in the mid-600s to qualify. The higher your credit score, the lower rates you'll receive.

Will applying for a bad-credit student loan impact my credit score?

Applying for a student loan could temporarily lower your credit score, since the lender will likely perform a hard credit check. However, you may be able to prequalify with lenders, which allows you to see what rates you're eligible for before going through the hard credit check. Any negative effects to your score should be temporary.

Can I get a student loan without a co-signer if I have bad or no credit?

If you don't have a co-signer, your best bet at finding funding is federal student loans, since most federal student loans don't require a credit check.

When it comes to private student loans, whether or not you can get approved without a co-signer depends on the lender. Use lenders' prequalification tools or check the minimum requirements to avoid multiple hard credit checks.