Student Loans for Bad or No Credit

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Sallie MaeFixed APR
Variable APR
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SoFiFixed APR
Variable APR
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College AveFixed APR
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CredibleFixed APR
Variable APR
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Bankrate’s guide to choosing the best student loans for bad or no credit

As of Sunday, September 27, 2020

The best student loans for bad credit make it possible for those with imperfect credit histories to pay for school.

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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 2020

Current APR Range
Loan Terms
Min. Loan Amount
Max. Loan Amount
Federal student loans
4.53% - 7.08%
Standard repayment is for 10 years
Up to $12,500 annually for undergraduates and up to $20,500 annually for graduate students
Starting at 2.74% variable and 4.39% fixed
Not specified
Full amount of education costs
3.42% to 14.18% variable, 4.13% to 15.00% fixed
5 to 15 years
Sallie Mae
2.00% to 10.09% variable, 4.74% to 11.85% fixed
5 to 20 years
Cost of attendance
Starting at 1.79% variable and 3.95% fixed

Summary: student loans for bad or no credit in 2020

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

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. This makes them considerably easier to qualify for regardless of your financial situation.

To apply for federal student loans, you’ll start by filling out a FAFSA form, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This form helps schools determine how much aid you’re eligible for and the amount and type of federal student loans you may receive.

If you decide you want to apply for bad-credit student loans with a private lender, you should start your search online. Compare lenders in terms of their eligibility requirements, APRs and repayment options. Many private student lenders also let you get prequalified online and without a hard inquiry on your credit report, which can help you gauge your ability to qualify without filling out a full loan application.

Consider a co-signer for a private student loan

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. A co-signer can be a parent or close family friend, but the key is finding someone with a strong credit score and history.

Having a co-signer with a good credit score can improve your chances of being approved for the student loan funds you need. Since their credit score and income will be considered on your loan application, the fact that you have a co-signer can also help you qualify for a better interest rate and loan terms. Having a lower interest rate can easily save you hundreds or thousands of dollars over the life of your loan, so don’t discount this benefit.

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 debts and unsecured debt like credit card debt before you worry about other debt you have.
  • 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.

Details: student loan rates for bad or no credit in 2020

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 4.53% to 7.08%
Loan amounts Up to $12,500 annually for undergraduates and up to $20,500 annually for graduate students
Loan terms Standard repayment is for 10 years, but repayment terms vary
Fees Loan fees of 1.059% to 4.248%

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 Starting at 2.74% variable and 4.39% fixed
Loan amounts $1,000 to full amount of education costs
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.

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: 3.42% to 14.18%
Fixed: 4.13% to 15.00%
Loan amounts $1,000 to $200,000
Loan terms 5 to 15 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 maintain that it’s considerably easier if you have a co-signer willing to sign along with you on your loan. 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: 2.00% to 10.09%
Fixed: 4.74% to 11.85%
Loan amounts $1,000 up to the cost of attendance
Loan terms 5 to 20 years
Fees None

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: Starting at 1.79%
Fixed: Starting at 3.95%
Loan amounts Varies
Loan terms Varies
Fees None