Best refinance student loans in May 2021

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4.1

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR
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2.54%

Variable APR
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1.89%

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4.6

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2.99%

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2.25%

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4.5

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2.89%

Variable APR
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2.19%

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4.6

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR
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2.98%

Variable APR
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1.99%

Term5-20yr5-20 yrNext

4.1

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR
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2.95%

Variable APR
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1.90%

Term5-20yr5-20 yrNext
Fixed APR
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2.55%

Variable APR
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1.89%

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4.1

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR
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2.58%

Variable APR
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2.39%

Term5-20yr5-20 yrNext

3.9

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR
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2.83%

Variable APR
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1.99%

Term5-20yr5-20 yrNext

The Bankrate guide to choosing the best student loan refinance company

Reviewed by Mark Hamrick, Bankrate senior economic analyst

As of Friday, May 07, 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 comparing companies that offer student loan refinancing, look for a competitive interest rate, repayment terms that meet your needs and minimal fees. Loan details presented here are current as of April 22, 2021, but you can check the lenders’ websites for more current information. The top lenders listed below are selected based on factors such as interest rate, loan amounts, fees, credit requirements and broad availability. To read more about how we selected lenders, read our methodology below.

Best student loan refinance rates in May 2021

Lender Best For Fixed APR* Variable APR* Loan Term Loan Amount
SoFi
Overall refinancing
2.99% to 6.99%
2.25% to 6.54%
5 to 20 years
$5,000–full balance of education loans
Earnest
Flexible repayment options
Starting at 2.98%
Starting at 1.99%
5 to 20 years
$5,000–$500,000
Laurel Road
Students in health care
2.80% to 6.00%
1.89% to 5.90%
5 to 20 years
$5,000–full balance of education loans
CommonBond
Forbearance protection
2.59% to 6.74%
2.50% to 6.85% variable, 2.87% to 6.56% hybrid
5 to 20 years
Up to $500,000
Citizens Bank
Available discounts
2.89% to 9.10%
2.19% to 8.85%
5 to 20 years
$10,000–$750,000
LendKey
Long repayment terms
2.95% to 7.63%
1.91% to 5.25%
5 to 20 years
$5,000–$300,000
College Ave
No fees
3.34% to 5.69%
3.24% to 5.54%
5 to 20 years
$5,000–$300,000
Splash Financial
Low rates
2.54% to 6.25% (without autopay)
1.89% to 6.15%
5 to 25 years
$5,000–full balance of education loans

*Rates include autopay discount.

Summary: Student loan refinance companies in 2021

What is student loan refinancing?

Student loan refinancing is the process of taking out a new loan to pay off your existing student loans. When you refinance your student loans, you may qualify for a lower interest rate and a different repayment timeline, which could help you save money on interest and pay off your loans faster. Student loan refinancing is offered only through private lenders, although you may refinance both federal and private student loans.

Should you refinance student loans during the coronavirus pandemic?

With many Americans currently experiencing reduced income due to the coronavirus pandemic, student loan refinancing is an attractive option for those struggling to make student loan payments. Interest rates on student loans are at record lows, meaning now could be one of the best times to refinance your private student loans if you've been considering it.

However, it's likely not a good idea to refinance your federal loans. Interest and payments are currently waived on federal student loans through Sept. 30, 2021; by refinancing your federal loans, you would be required to make payments with interest and lose the ability to take advantage of any future federal relief programs.

Learn more: Should you refinance your student loans during the COVID-19 pandemic?

How to refinance student loans

If you're considering refinancing your student loans, here's how to start the process:

  • Check your credit score. Many lenders require good credit for you to refinance your loans. If you see that your credit score is on the low side (i.e., below 650), you can take steps to improve it or look for a qualified co-signer.
  • Shop around. Whether you're refinancing federal or private student loans, one of the most important steps you can take is to shop around. Check with multiple lenders and research student loan refinancing rates to ensure that you're getting the best deal possible.
  • Choose a loan offer. Lenders that approve you should offer you a variety of repayment options to choose from, which will impact your monthly payment and how much you pay on your loan overall. Select a loan offer that matches your budget and goals.
  • Send in an application. While some lenders will let you check rates using a simple application form, you'll eventually need to submit a full application. You'll need details about your existing loans, as well as documents verifying your income and other financial details. At this point, you'll go through a hard credit inquiry. Once all of your details have been verified, the lender will either pay off your former loans or send you the funds directly. Payments begin as soon as funds are disbursed.

What are the requirements to refinance student loans?

Once you find a lender that best suits your financial situation, check the specific refinancing requirements. These can vary from lender to lender, but here are a few general criteria to be aware of:

  • Debt-to-income ratio: Your debt-to-income ratio is a measurement of how much debt you've accumulated in comparison to your monthly earnings. You may have a better chance of getting approved if your debt-to-income ratio is below 43 percent.
  • Credit score: When you apply for any loan, your credit score has a large impact. Check your lender's credit score requirements before applying. If your credit score is in the mid-600s or lower, you may need to add a co-signer to your loan in order to qualify.
  • Income: Lenders may impose a minimum income threshold, and they will likely want to see proof of employment — this tells them that you have the cash to make your monthly payments.
  • Refinancing amount: You will likely need to have a minimum of $5,000 in student loans outstanding if you'd like to refinance. If you have less than that, most lenders won't work with you.
  • Degree: You'll typically need a degree to be eligible for student loan refinancing, though some lenders accept borrowers regardless of degree status.

If the lender you're considering offers a prequalification tool, you can see your estimated rate based on your general financial history with a soft credit inquiry, which won't hurt your credit score.

Learn more: Requirements for student loan refinancing

Should I refinance my student loans?

Refinancing your student loans makes financial sense only if the loan you apply for has a lower interest rate than the current interest rate of your student loans. You can use a loan calculator to determine your current monthly payment versus that of the loan you're considering.

Whether or not you should refinance also depends on what type of loans you have. Refinancing could be a good idea if you have private loans, but you'll lose benefits if you refinance federal loans. These include:

  • Income-driven repayment plans.
  • Loan forgiveness programs.
  • Deferment and forbearance options.
  • Waived interest and payments due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Learn more: Should you refinance your student loans now?

What is the difference between student loan consolidation and student loan refinancing?

Student loan consolidation is the process of combining federal student loans into one federal Direct Consolidation Loan. This gives you a fixed interest rate based on the weighted average of your current loans' interest rates, and you won't lose federal protections.

Student loan refinancing is the process of taking out a new loan with a different interest rate and different terms to pay off your existing loans. You can refinance both federal and private loans, but the process must be done with a private lender.

Learn more: The difference between student loan refinancing and consolidation

Pros and cons of refinancing student loans

Before choosing a lender, consider whether refinancing your student loans is the best move for your current situation.

Pros:

Cons:

  • Private lenders usually require good or excellent credit (or a co-signer) to qualify for a new loan with their best rates and terms.
  • You give up federal protections like deferment, forbearance and income-driven repayment plans when you refinance federal loans with a private lender.
  • You’re locking yourself into another repayment plan.

How to choose between a fixed-rate and a variable-rate loan

Most private lenders will let you refinance with either a fixed or a variable interest rate. With a fixed rate, your interest rate will never change, meaning your monthly payment will remain consistent. With a variable interest rate, your interest rate can fluctuate month-to-month based on market conditions.

The choice between a fixed or variable rate comes down mostly to your risk tolerance. If you value predictability in your finances, a fixed rate is a better choice — particularly if you can lock in a low rate. You do have the chance to save more money with a variable interest rate if interest rates dip below your starting rate, but the inverse is true as well; it's possible that interest rates could rise during your repayment term, costing you more money overall unless you can pay off your loan early.

Learn more: Fixed vs. variable rate student loans

Can I refinance my student loan with bad credit?

It is possible to refinance your loan if you have bad credit, though the process will be more difficult. Most lenders require a credit score in the mid-600s, and even if you do qualify, you'll likely see higher interest rates. If this is the case, refinancing ultimately may not be worth it. Before applying for a student loan refinance, check your credit score to know where you stand and compare that against lenders' listed credit requirements.

How to refinance with bad credit

If you're looking to refinance your student loan with bad credit, keep the following considerations in mind:

  • Shop around: Shopping around with at least three lenders is the best way to determine which lender is best for your situation. You'll likely get higher rates if you have bad credit, but some lenders may be more forgiving than others.
  • Improve your credit: Where possible, work on improving your credit score before submitting your application. Try to pay off as much debt as possible, pay your bills on time and avoid any other loan or credit card applications prior to applying for your refinance loan.
  • Apply with a co-signer: If you have a friend or family member who is willing to co-sign your loan with you, you could get a break on your rate — particularly if that person has excellent credit.
  • Improve your cash flow: Lenders check your debt-to-income ratio when considering your application. To have a better chance at qualifying, pay down as much debt as you can before applying or find ways to supplement your income.

Details: Student loan refinance rates in 2021

The best student loan refinancing companies offer competitive interest rates and fees for qualified buyers. These companies also offer helpful resources on their websites, as well as the ability to apply for student loan refinancing online. Compare each of these lenders' loan terms and limitations before you apply.

  • Best overall student loan refinance company: SoFi
  • Best student loan refinance company for flexible repayment options: Earnest
  • Best student loan refinance company for students in health care: Laurel Road
  • Best student loan refinance company for forbearance protection: CommonBond
  • Best student loan refinance company for available discounts: Citizens Bank
  • Best student loan refinance company for long repayment terms: LendKey
  • Best student loan refinance company for no fees: College Ave
  • Best student loan refinance company for low rates: Splash Financial

Frequently asked questions about student loan refinancing

Am I eligible for student loan refinancing?

Student loan refinancing companies all have their own eligibility requirements that you’ll have to meet to get approved. Generally you'll need to have a good credit score, a decent debt-to-income ratio, stable income, a bachelor's degree or higher and a student loan balance of at least $5,000. We suggest checking eligibility requirements for any company you’re considering.

You can also use a student loan refinancing platform like LendKey to compare rates among multiple banks and credit unions. This way, you can enter your information once and compare loan offers from companies whose eligibility requirements you meet.

How can I choose the best refinancing company?

To find the right lender for you, compare student loan refinancing companies' interest rates and repayment terms. Also check for hidden fees, including application fees and late fees. If your goal is finding the best student loan refinance rates, we recommend shopping around with at least three lenders and taking advantage of any prequalification offers if they're available — prequalification allows you to check your eligibility and rates without impacting your credit score.

What credit score do I need to refinance my student loans?

Credit score requirements vary from lender to lender, but you'll likely need a credit score in the mid- to high 600s in order to refinance your student loans. However, if you have less-than-stellar credit, you still may be eligible to refinance your loans with the help of a co-signer who has a credit score in that range.

When should I refinance my student loans?

There isn't a single best time to refinance — the decision is personal and comes down to your financial situation and current interest rates. However, as a rule of thumb, it's usually only worth it to refinance if you can get a lower interest rate or a lower monthly payment than what you're currently paying on your student loans. Typically, you'll want to wait until you have strong credit and a stable job before refinancing.

What types of loans are eligible for refinancing?

Most private lenders will refinance any type of student loan — federal or private. However, you may encounter different rates for different types of loans.

Methodology

To find the best student loan refinancing companies, we selected lenders based on the following criteria:

  • Broad availability.
  • Wide range of loan amounts and repayment options.
  • Low starting interest rates.

From there, we evaluated lender fees, APR ranges and eligibility requirements to see which lenders kept costs low and catered to a variety of borrowers. We also looked for unique features that set lenders apart — for instance, good forbearance options or benefits for students in health care fields — to determine our final rankings and recommendations.