International Student Loans in January 2021

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While federal student loans can be a great way to pay for college, they're limited to U.S. citizens and eligible noncitizens. That means a private student loan is the best way to pay for college for most international students. International student loans are private student loans designed for international students attending college in the United States. These loans may cover up to 100 percent of the cost of education, including tuition, books, supplies, housing and more.

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3.49%
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1.04%
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4.13%
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1.78%
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4.74%
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3.39%
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1.09%
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Bankrate’s guide to choosing the best international student loans

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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 a student loan, compare APRs across multiple lenders to make sure you’re getting a competitive rate. Also look for lenders that keep fees to a minimum and offer repayment terms that fit your needs. Loan details presented here are current as of the publish date. Check the lenders’ websites for more current information. The student loan lenders listed here are selected based on factors such as APR, loan amounts, fees, credit requirements and more.

Summary: What you need to know about international student loans

Best international student loan rates in January 2021

Lender
Current APR Range
Loan Term
Loan Amount Range
Best For
Ascent
Fixed: 3.53% – 14.5% (with autopay) Variable: 2.69% – 12.98% (with autopay)
5 to 20 years
$1,000 – $200,000 (aggregate
Flexible payment options
Citizens One
Fixed: 3.99% – 11.39% (with autopay) Variable: 1.21% – 11.14% (with autopay)
5 to 15 years
$1,000 – $150,000 for undergraduate and $350,000 for graduate
Low APR
College Ave
Fixed: 3.49% – 12.99% (with autopay) Variable: 1.24% – 11.98% (with autopay)
5 to 20 years
$1,000 – 100% total cost of attendance for undergraduate and $150,000 for graduate
Quick application process
Discover
Fixed: 4.24% – 12.99% Variable: 1.24% – 11.99%*
15 or 20 years
$1,000 – 100% school-certified college costs. Aggregate loan limits apply.
Multiyear approval
MPower Financing
Fixed: 7.52% – 13.63% (with autopay)
10 years
$2,001 – $50,000
Undergraduate students with no co-signer
Prodigy
Variable: Starting at 5.4%
7 to 20 years
Not specified
Graduate students with no co-signer
Sallie Mae
Fixed: 4.25% – 12.68% (with autopay) Variable: 1.25% – 11.76% (with autopay)
5 to 20 years (depending on the loan)
$1,000 – 100% total cost of attendance
Building credit
Wells Fargo
Fixed: 4.53% – 11.76% (with autopay) Variable: 2.68% – 9.46% (with autopay)
Up to 15 years
$1,000 – $120,000 for undergraduate and $250,000 for graduate
Part-time students

*Lowest APRs shown for the Discover Undergraduate Loan are available for the most creditworthy applicants, and include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments.

What are current international student loan rates?

Interest rates for international student loans currently range from about 1.12 percent to 14.5 percent. The actual rate you receive depends on multiple factors, such as whether you have a co-signer, the type of APR (fixed versus variable) and your credit profile, income and debt-to-income ratio. The amount you can borrow also varies depending on your degree program and cost of attendance.

Details: Best student loans for international students

Ascent: Best for flexible payment options

Overview: Ascent is an online lender that offers student loans to international students who have a qualified co-signer. Ascent's flexible hardship options and rewards program set it apart from other lenders.

Perks: Students who are not U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent residents may apply as long as they have a creditworthy co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or U.S. permanent resident. Ascent also offers rewards, flexible repayment plans and a generous hardship program. Borrowers can request forbearance between one and three months, for a maximum 24 months over the life of the loan.

What to watch out for: Ascent has some of the highest APRs on this list, which can add to your overall cost of borrowing. And while most lenders allow you to release a co-signer after making a certain number of payments, international students don't have this option.

Lender Ascent
Current APR Range Fixed: 3.53% – 14.5% (with autopay) Variable: 2.69% – 12.98% (with autopay)
Loan Amount $1,000 – $200,000 (aggregate)
Loan term 5 to 20 years
Fees None

Citizens One: Best for low APR

Overview: Citizens Bank is a traditional bank that has branches in 11 states. If you live elsewhere, you may be directed to its national lending division, Citizens One. The bank offers student loans to international students for both graduate and undergraduate degrees. Of all the lenders on this list, Citizens One advertises some of the lowest APRs.

Perks: With competitive rates and APR discounts, Citizens Bank can be a good option for students looking to save money. International students can apply as long as they have a creditworthy co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or U.S. permanent resident.

What to watch out for: International students won't be able to release their co-signer from the loan, and they also can't take advantage of Citizens Bank's multiyear approval process.

Lender Citizens Bank
Current APR Range Fixed: 3.99% – 11.39% Variable: 1.21% – 11.14%
Loan Amount $1,000 – $150,000 for undergraduate and $350,000 for graduate
Loan term 5 to 15 years
Fees None

College Ave: Best quick application process

Overview: College Ave is an online lender that offers private student loans to international students with an eligible co-signer. The lender specializes in a quick application process.

Perks: International students can apply as long as they have a Social Security number and a qualified co-signer who's a U.S. citizen. The competitive interest rates and large selection of loan terms and repayment plans make it easier to choose a loan with a monthly payment you can manage.

What to watch out for: International students will need to apply with a Social Security number. College Ave also doesn't have a defined forbearance program, so if you need to postpone payments due to financial difficulties later on, the lender will handle each situation on a case-by-case basis.

Lender College Ave
Current APR Range Fixed: 3.49% – 12.99% (with autopay) Variable: 1.24% – 11.98% (with autopay)
Loan Amount $1,000 – 100% total cost of attendance for undergraduate students and $150,000 for graduate students
Loan term 5 to 20 years
Fees None

Discover: Best for multiyear approval

Overview: Discover is a bank most known for its credit cards, but it also offers private student loans. International students can apply with an eligible co-signer, and they may also prequalify for future loans through the lender's multiyear loan option.

Perks: With the multiyear approval process, you first apply for a private student loan with a co-signer. You'll find out whether you qualify for future loans, which cuts down on time involved in subsequent years with no impact to your credit. Discover also offers an APR discount if you make interest payments while in school, and you may also get rewards by earning good grades and upon graduation.

What to watch out for: The only repayment term is 20 years for a graduate degree and 15 years for an undergraduate degree, which doesn't offer as much flexibility as other lenders. However, there's no prepayment penalty, so paying more toward the loan every month won't incur a fee.

Lender Discover
Current APR Range Fixed: 4.24% – 12.99% Variable: 1.24% – 11.99%*
Loan Amount $1,000 – 100% of total school-certified college costs. Aggregate loan limits apply.
Loan term 15 or 20 years
Fees None
*Lowest APRs shown for the Discover Undergraduate Loan are available for the most creditworthy applicants, and include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments. The fixed interest rate is set at the time of application and does not change during the life of the loan. The variable interest rate is calculated based on the 3-Month LIBOR index plus the applicable margin percentage. For variable interest rate loans, the 3-Month LIBOR is 0.250% as of January 1, 2021. Discover Student Loans may adjust the rate quarterly on each January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1 (the “interest rate change date”), based on the 3-Month LIBOR Index, published in the Money Rates section of the Wall Street Journal 15 days prior to the interest rate change date, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of one percent (0.125% or 0.00125). This may cause the monthly payments to increase, the number of payments to increase or both. Our lowest APR is only available to customers with the best credit and other factors. Your APR will be determined after you apply. It will be based on your credit history, which repayment option you choose and other factors, including your cosigner’s credit history (if applicable). Learn more about Discover Student Loans interest rates at DiscoverStudentLoans.com/Rates.

MPower: Best for undergraduate students with no co-signer

Overview: MPower Financing is an online lender that offers student loans for undergraduate juniors and seniors as well as graduate students. Because borrowers don't need a co-signer or U.S. credit history to qualify, this lender is ideal for international students and those with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) status.

Perks: Most international students attending school in the U.S. need a co-signer to qualify, but MPower borrowers do not. Instead, MPower bases its lending decision on a borrower's earning potential. The lender also helps with visa support letters and career services.

What to watch out for: Borrowers will have to pay a 5 percent origination fee and only have one repayment option: 10 years. Also, students will have to make interest payments while in school and during the grace period.

Lender MPower Financing
Current APR Range Fixed: 7.52% – 13.63% (with autopay)
Loan Amount $2,001 – $50,000
Loan term 10 years
Fees Origination fee: 5%

Prodigy: Best for graduate students with no co-signer

Overview: Prodigy Finance is an online lender that offers private student loans to international students seeking master's degrees. Like MPower, Prodigy doesn't require international borrowers to have a co-signer.

Perks: You can see whether you qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check, and the average APR for student loans is a relatively low 7.3 percent. If you miss a payment, you won't pay a late fee. Prodigy also reports payments to the credit bureau Experian, which can help you build credit in the U.S.

What to watch out for: Prodigy's rates are variable, meaning your APR (and monthly payment) could increase over the life of the loan.

Lender Prodigy Finance
Current APR Range Variable: Starting at 5.4%
Loan Amount Not specified
Loan term 7 to 20 years
Fees Administration fee: 4%

Sallie Mae: Best for building credit

Overview: If you're an international student, building credit in the U.S. can help you with matters such as qualifying for other credit products and renting an apartment. Student loans generally help you build credit when the lender reports your payments to the credit bureaus. Sallie Mae takes it one step further by offering borrowers a free FICO credit score every month. This allows you to track your credit health and understand how managing your student loan influences your credit score.

Perks: Sallie Mae's competitive interest rates, flexible repayment terms and wide variety of loan options make this a strong option for any borrower. It's also one of the only lenders that allows borrowers to enroll less than half time and use loan funds for career-training programs. International students can apply with a creditworthy co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

What to watch out for: Some of Sallie Mae's loans come with just one loan term option, which provides less flexibility compared to others on this list. The lender also charges a late fee of 5 percent or $25 and a returned check fee of up to $20.

Lender Sallie Mae
Current APR Range Fixed: 4.25% – 12.68% (with autopay) Variable: 1.25% – 11.76% (with autopay)
Loan Amount $1,000 – 100% total cost of attendance
Loan term 5 to 20 years (depending on the loan)
Fees Late fee: 5% or $25; Returned check fee: up to $20

Wells Fargo: Best for part-time students

Overview: Wells Fargo is a traditional bank that offers loans to international students who meet eligibility requirements and have a co-signer. This is one of the few lenders that allows borrowers to enroll in school less than half time and has loans for nontraditional degree programs.

Perks: Wells Fargo has a wide range of loan options (including career and community college), offers some of the most generous forbearance and repayment options available and allows students to enroll less than half time. To qualify, international students will first need to have a co-signer, temporary resident alien status and a U.S. address.

What to watch out for: Wells Fargo has a lower loan maximum than some others on this list. If you need to borrow more, consider other lenders. Additionally, only customers who already have a Wells Fargo student loan are eligible to take out a new loan.

Lender Wells Fargo
Current APR Range Fixed: 4.53% – 11.76% (with autopay) Variable: 2.68% – 9.46% (with autopay)
Loan Amount $1,000 – $120,000 for undergraduate and $250,000 for graduate
Loan term Up to 15 years
Fees None

What are international student loans?

While federal student loans are a popular option for funding higher education, they're restricted to U.S. citizens. That means international students studying in the U.S. will need to check out international student loans. These are specialized loans designed for international students studying in the U.S.

How do they work?

International student loans are provided by private lenders such as banks, credit unions and online lenders. You can typically use the funds to pay for tuition, fees, books, school supplies, transportation, insurance and living costs.

Here's a quick overview of how to get an international student loan:

  1. Compare several loans. Then apply for a student loan that is affordable to you.
  2. Check your eligibility. This may depend on the school, cost of attendance and whether you have a co-signer. The lender may check your co-signer's credit history.
  3. Complete the application. Provide your personal information, including proof of your student visa, and choose your repayment terms. Make sure you understand the APR (and when it can change), repayment options, monthly payment and available hardship options.
  4. Wait for verification. The lender will communicate with your school to confirm your enrollment and loan amount. This may take a few days or even a few weeks, depending on your school and the time of year.
  5. The lender disburses the funds. Once your school certifies the loan, the lender will notify you and will typically disburse the funds directly to your school.

Requirements for eligibility

Eligibility requirements for international student loans vary by lender, but you can expect a few common baselines:

  • A creditworthy co-signer: Because international students may not have a Social Security number or credit profile, most lenders will require co-signers with good credit on international student loans.
  • An eligible school: Lenders may limit which schools and/or programs the borrower may attend in order to qualify for a loan.
  • A U.S. address: Borrowers typically must have a U.S. address in order to receive loan funds.

How to find the best international student loan lenders

When comparing international student loans, compare these loan features to make sure you're getting the best deal:

  • APR: The annual percentage rate is the total cost of borrowing; it includes your interest rate but also factors in any financing charges, such as an origination fee. Getting a low APR will help you save money on borrowing. It's also better to choose a fixed interest rate when possible. A fixed interest rate won’t increase over the life of the loan, while a variable interest rate can.
  • Repayment term: These typically last between five and 20 years, depending on the loan and the lender. A longer loan term may have lower monthly payments, but you'll pay more interest overall.
  • Fees: Check for origination fees, prepayment penalties and late fees. These increase your cost of borrowing.
  • Hardship programs: These programs include deferment and forbearance, which let you postpone payments if you have trouble paying back the loan after graduation. Check whether the lender offers these options and for how long.
  • Co-signer release: Some lenders allow you to release the co-signer from the loan after making a certain number of on-time payments.
  • Monthly payment: You'll usually have to make this payment over several years. Based on your degree program, will your expected post-graduation income cover your payments? If you think your potential monthly payment will be too high, then consider applying for a lower loan amount or finding a lower APR.

Frequently asked questions about loans for international students

What GPA do you need for international student loans?

Most international student loan lenders do not advertise specific GPA requirements for their loans. However, you may be required to make satisfactory academic progress while in school — a minimum GPA of around 3.0 is common.

Do you need a co-signer to get an international loan?

To qualify for a private loan, most international students will need a co-signer who's a U.S. citizen and has a strong credit history. A co-signer accepts responsibility for making payments on your loan if you miss payments. If you fall behind, it could negatively impact your credit as well as your co-signer's.

It may be hard to find someone willing to co-sign a loan with you, especially if you don't have friends and family in the U.S. yet. Some lenders, such as Prodigy and MPower, don't require a co-signer.

How easy is it to get approved?

The approval process for international student loans largely depends on your financial profile and that of your co-signer. If your co-signer has good or excellent credit, you should be able to get approved for a loan.

Is there a minimum credit score requirement?

Because international students likely don't have a credit score, lenders typically don't set credit score requirements for the borrowers themselves. However, the borrowers must have a creditworthy co-signer with a credit score in the mid-600s or above. The higher the credit score, the lower the rates you may receive.