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Best private student loans in November 2022

As of November 26, 2022
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Federal student loans are almost always a better first choice than private student loans. However, private student loans can help cover tuition, room and board, fees and other costs of higher education once you've reached your federal limit. Private student loans can be useful for:

  • Borrowers who don't qualify for federal aid, including international students.

  • Borrowers who have reached their federal student loan limits.

  • Borrowers who would like the flexibility of a variable interest rate.

  • Borrowers with great credit scores.

Bankrate's ranking of the best private student loans weighs interest rates, loan types, terms, fees, unique features and more to give you a starting point in your search for college funding. The resources below can also help you decide whether a private loan is right for you and find the best interest rate for your situation.

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INCOME BASED REPAYMENT

4.6

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR From

4.50- 14.83%

with AutoPay
Loan Amount

Cost of attendance minus aid

Term: 10-15 yr
Min. Credit

639

Apply on partner site

4.7

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR From

4.99- 14.75%

with AutoPay
Loan Amount

$5k- $500k

Term: 5-15 yr
Min. Credit

640

Apply on partner site

4.1

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR From

3.65- 15.75%

with AutoPay
Loan Amount

$1k- $400k

Term: 5-20 yr
Min. Credit

Not disclosed

Apply on partner site

4.5

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR From

3.99- 14.96%

with AutoPay
Loan Amount

$1k- $500k

Term: 5-15 yr
Min. Credit

650

Apply on partner site

Income Based Repayment - No Cosigner Required

Get approved in minutes. Pre-qualify without affecting your credit score.

Apply on partner site

4.3

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR From

3.99- 12.78%

with AutoPay
Loan Amount

$1k- $350k

Term: 5-20 yr
Min. Credit

650

Apply on partner site

4.0

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR From

3.99- 10.32%

with AutoPay
Loan Amount

$1k- $500k

Term: 5-20 yr
Min. Credit

Not disclosed

Apply on partner site

BEST WITH CO-SIGNER

4.4

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR From

5.99- 12.90%

with AutoPay
Loan Amount

$1k- $350k

Term: 5-15 yr
Min. Credit

Not disclosed

Apply on partner site

4.2

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR From

3.21- 11.99%

Loan Amount

$1k- $500k

Term: 5-15 yr
Min. Credit

Not disclosed

Apply on partner site

4.5

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR From

4.62- 16.75%

Loan Amount

$2k- $200k

Term: 5-20 yr
Min. Credit

Not disclosed

The Bankrate guide to choosing the best private student loans

Why trust Bankrate?

Bankrate wants to empower readers to make smart 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, look for a competitive interest rate, flexible repayment terms that meet your needs, generous hardship options and minimal fees. Loan details presented here are current as of Oct. 21, 2022. Check the lenders’ websites for more current information. 

The top lenders listed below are selected based on factors such as APR, loan amounts, fees, credit requirements and broad availability. To learn more about how we chose lenders, read our methodology at the bottom of the page.

Compare private student loan interest rates in November 2022

LENDER BEST FOR MIN. CREDIT SCORE APR MIN. LOAN AMOUNT MAX LOAN AMOUNT
College Ave International students Not specified Variable: 3.24%–14.86% (with autopay); fixed: 3.99%–14.96% (with autopay) $1,000 100% total cost of attendance ($150,000 for some degrees)
Custom Choice Graduation rewards Not specified Variable: 3.53%–12.32% (with autopay); fixed: 3.65%–12.47% (with autopay) $1,000 $99,999 annually; $180,000 aggregate
Earnest Applying without a co-signer 650 Variable: 3.58% - 12.28% (with autopay); Fixed: 3.99% - 12.78% (with autopay) $1,000 100% total cost of attendance
Sallie Mae Part-time students Not specified Variable: 4.00%–14.34% (with autopay); fixed: 4.50%–14.83% (with autopay) $1,000 100% total cost of attendance
SoFi Online borrower resources Not specified Variable: 4.49%–13.82% (with autopay); Fixed: 4.99%–14.75% (with autopay) $5,000 100% total cost of attendance

Best private student loans in November 2022

Best for international students

Min. credit score:
650
Fixed APR From:
3.99% –14.96%
Loan amount:
$1,000– $500,000
Term lengths:
5 to 15 years
Min. annual income:
$35,000

Overview: College Ave offers private loans for students seeking undergraduate, graduate, dental, law, medical and business degrees. Parents can also take out loans on behalf of their college-bound kids, and students interested in attending community college or receiving career training may also apply.

Why College Ave is best for international students: College Ave is one of the only lenders that has loans available for international students attending school in the U.S. If students have a qualified co-signer who is a U.S. citizen, they may be eligible for a private loan from College Ave.

Best for applying without a co-signer

Min. credit score:
650
Fixed APR From:
3.99% –12.78%
Loan amount:
$1,000– $350,000
Term lengths:
5 to 20 years
Min. annual income:
$35,000

Overview: Earnest offers private student loans for students seeking undergraduate, graduate, business, law and medical degrees. Borrowers may qualify on their own or use a co-signer.

Why Earnest is best for applying without a co-signer: Earnest does not require undergraduate students to have a co-signer, which is rare among private lenders. You will need to meet financial and credit requirements, but Earnest is a good option for students who can qualify for a loan on their own – especially since it doesn't offer co-signer release.

Best for part-time students

Min. credit score:
639
Fixed APR From:
4.5% –14.83%
Loan amount:
$1,000– $500,000
Term lengths:
10 to 15 years
Min. annual income:
$0

Overview: Of all the lenders on this list, Sallie Mae offers the most extensive menu of private student loan options. There are loans for students seeking undergraduate, graduate, medical, dental and law degrees, plus career-training loans.

Why Sallie Mae is best for part-time students: Most lenders require students to attend their program at least half time. Sallie Mae offers broader eligibility requirements, so even students attending less than half time or looking to fund a study abroad program may get a student loan from Sallie Mae.

Best for online borrower resources

Min. credit score:
640
Fixed APR From:
4.99% –14.75%
Loan amount:
$5,000– $500,000
Term lengths:
5 to 15 years
Min. annual income:
$0

Overview: SoFi offers undergraduate student loans, law school loans, medical school loans, MBA loans and parent loans, plus other financial products such as personal loans and mortgages.

Why SoFi is best for online borrower resources: SoFi goes beyond simply providing student loans; it also offers a mobile app, financial planning advice, unemployment protection and more.

What is a private student loan and how does it work?

A private student loan is a loan used to cover qualifying educational expenses. You can take out private student loans through banks, online lenders, credit unions and sometimes through colleges and state agencies. These usually have higher borrowing limits than federal student loans and may offer lower interest rates for borrowers with good credit, but they come with fewer borrower protections.

To qualify, you’ll need to meet the lender’s eligibility requirements and go through a credit check. Applicants with good or excellent credit tend to get the lowest interest rates. But because undergraduates usually don’t have extensive credit histories, they typically need a co-signer to take out a private student loan. 

Some lenders specialize in student loans without a co-signer for undergraduates. To determine your eligibility and rate, they may evaluate your performance in school, earning potential, work history and more.

What can private student loans be used for?

While the restrictions vary by lender, generally you can use private student loans for:

  • Tuition.
  • Fees.
  • Room and board.
  • Books and supplies.
  • Transportation.
  • Child care.

Typically you cannot use student loans for:

  • Clothes.
  • Vacations.
  • Restaurant dining.
  • Business expenses.
  • Car or home purchases.

What happens after you apply for a private student loan?

Once you've applied for a student loan and you're approved, your lender will communicate with your school to verify the cost of attendance. This certification process may take a few weeks. At that point, funds will be disbursed to your school for tuition and fees and any remaining amount will be refunded to you.

Generally, you don't need to worry about repaying your student loan until after your grace period. A standard grace period is six months after you graduate or drop below half-time enrollment, but it may be longer with some private lenders. At that point, you'll be responsible for paying back the principal and interest.

With many private companies, you have the option of selecting a payment plan while you're in school to decrease how much interest accumulates. Once your funds are disbursed, you may have the option to make interest-only payments or a small flat monthly payment.

Types of private student loans

Just about any type of student can apply for a private student loan, from undergraduates to graduate students seeking medical, business, dental and law degrees

Some lenders also offer private student loans for international students or people who are in a residency program, studying abroad, attending community college, enrolled in a career-training school or studying for the bar exam. There are even student loans for borrowers with poor credit, although these student loans for bad credit might be more expensive.

Pros and cons of private student loans

Before applying for a private student loan, consider the benefits and drawbacks of this type of financing.

Pros:

  • High borrowing limits: Private loans will often have higher borrowing limits than federal loans, with some covering the full cost of enrollment.
  • Low interest rates: Borrowers with good credit could qualify for lower interest rates than federal student loans offer.
  • Flexible enrollment requirements: Federal student loans require you to be enrolled at least half time to qualify, but some private lenders offer loans for borrowers taking only a few classes or attending summer school.
  • Choice between fixed and variable rates: You can customize your repayment by choosing either a fixed interest rate or a variable interest rate.

Cons:

  • No federal protections or benefits: Federal student loans come with benefits like standardized forbearance and income-driven repayment plans. Private lenders have fewer of these options available.
  • Average credit required: While most federal student loans don't check your credit, you will likely need a credit score in the mid-600s to qualify for a private student loan.
  • High rates for borrowers with poor credit: The lower your credit score, the higher your interest rates with private student loans. If you have a credit score near the lender's minimum requirement, your interest rate could be in the double digits.

How does a private student loan differ from a federal student loan?

While private and federal student loans are both viable ways to pay for college, there are some differences to keep in mind:

Federal student loans Private student loans
Where do they come from? The U.S. Department of Education Banks, credit unions, online lenders
How much can you borrow? Up to $31,000 for dependent undergraduates, up to $57,500 for independent undergraduates, up to the full cost of attendance for graduates Varies by lender; often up to the full cost of attendance
What are the interest rates? 4.99% for undergraduates, 6.54% or 7.54% for graduates; all fixed rates 1.29% to 14.96%; may be fixed or variable
What are the benefits? Income-driven repayment plans, loan forgiveness options, extensive deferment and forbearance Low interest rates for borrowers with good credit, potential discounts and rewards, larger loan amounts
What are the drawbacks? Limited loan amounts for undergraduates, only one interest rate option Credit check required, high interest rates for borrowers with poor credit

How do student loan interest rates work?

Most private student loans offer two types of interest rates: variable and fixed. With a fixed interest rate, the rate doesn’t change throughout the life of the loan. Borrowers who prefer predictable payments may prefer fixed rates, although the rates usually start a little higher. 

Variable rates, on the other hand, are tied to changes to an index, such as the Libor or SOFR. These rates may go up or down during repayment, although lenders usually limit how high the rate can go.

Every month, your bill include part of the principal — the base loan amount you borrowed — and interest charges. While your monthly payment will be the same if you have a fixed interest rate, more and more of each payment will go toward the principal and less toward interest with each successive month. 

You can use a student loan calculator to determine how different interest rates will affect your monthly payment over time.

FAQ about private student loans

Methodology

To find the best private student loan lenders, Bankrate first searched for lenders that are reputable and widely available. It was also important to find lenders with relatively low starting interest rates.
To narrow down the field, we then compared repayment terms, number of loan types and eligibility requirements to determine which lenders would cater to a variety of borrowers. For our top picks, we selected companies that not only make private student loans affordable, but also offer a variety of unique features for borrowers with specific needs.