Student loan refinancing offers an opportunity to lower your interest rate, get more flexibility with your monthly payments and more. Before you apply with a lender, though, it’s important to shop around and compare multiple offers.
In your search, you’ll come across banks, credit unions and online lenders that provide refinance loans. There are a few reasons a bank could be the best choice for you; for one, you may be able to get a discount if you have other products with the bank, and you can also benefit from the convenience of a local branch for personalized help.
What is student loan refinancing?
Student loan refinancing is the process of paying off one or more existing student loans with a new loan via a private lender. Refinancing can come with certain benefits, including the chance to get a lower interest rate, but refinancing federal student loans will cause you to lose access to the benefits offered by the U.S. Department of Education.
As such, it’s crucial that you take the time to understand both the benefits and the drawbacks of refinancing before you make the decision. Refinancing is a good idea if you have private student loans and you can qualify for a lower interest rate than what you’re currently paying. If you have federal student loans or you can’t qualify for a lower interest rate, it’s likely best to hold off for now.
5 banks that refinance student loans
If you’re thinking about refinancing your student loans, here are five banks to help you get started on your search.
Citizens Bank is one of a handful of student loan refinance companies that will let you refinance your debt even if you didn’t graduate. The bank offers loans ranging from $10,000 to $750,000 (the limit is $300,000 for bachelor’s degrees and below).
Repayment options are five, seven, 10, 15 and 20 years. The bank’s interest rates are competitive, and you’ll be able to choose from fixed and variable rates. In addition to an autopay discount, Citizens Bank offers a 0.25 percent interest rate discount if you or your co-signer have a qualifying bank account with the lender when you apply.
Citizens Bank doesn’t disclose a minimum credit score, but it does say that you need good credit. You’ll also need to earn at least $24,000 in annual income and not have defaulted on your student loans in the past. Citizens Bank’s co-signer release period is also relatively long at 36 months.
SoFi started out strictly as a student loan refinance company but received approval from federal regulators in early 2022 to become a national bank. The online bank offers loans as low as $5,000 with no ceiling. Repayment terms are five, seven, 10, 15 or 20 years.
The lender’s interest rates, both fixed and variable, are competitive. If you do find a better rate elsewhere, SoFi will match it and give you $100 when you complete the funding process. What really sets SoFi apart from other lenders, though, is its member benefits. You’ll get interest rate discounts on other SoFi loans, 10 percent off an estate plan, career resources, an unemployment protection program and more.
You can refinance with SoFi if you’ve graduated with at least an associate degree, but the lender doesn’t publicly disclose any minimum requirements for credit or income. You are also not eligible if your loans were taken out for bar study or a residency.
PNC Bank‘s student loan refinancing program may be worth considering if you don’t have a ton of debt, don’t have a degree or are unlikely to qualify for the best interest rates on the market.
PNC Bank’s lowest interest rates aren’t as impressive as those of other top student loan refinance lenders. However, its interest rate ceiling is fairly low. You can also qualify for 0.5 percent off your interest rate if you set up automatic payments. The autopay discount isn’t unique, but most lenders offer only 0.25 percent.
The lender doesn’t provide concrete eligibility criteria, but if you need a co-signer to get approved, you can have them released from their obligation after you make 48 consecutive on-time payments and pass a credit check — a much longer waiting period than with other lenders.
Laurel Road is an online banking brand for KeyBank, with student refinance loans ranging from $5,000 up to your total outstanding loan balance. Repayment terms are five, seven, 10, 15 and 20 years.
The lender’s interest rates are competitive, and you can qualify for a discount if you have a checking account with Laurel Road and meet direct deposit and savings balance requirements. This is in addition to the 0.25 percent autopay discount.
You need to have an associate degree or higher to qualify. And if you do have an associate degree, you must have earned a degree in a health care field.
Education Loan Finance
Education Loan Finance (ELFI) is the student loan refinance division of SouthEast Bank. The minimum loan amount is a bit high at $15,000, with the limit varying based on eligibility. Repayment terms include five, seven, 10, 15 and 20 years, though parents are limited to a repayment period of 10 years. The lender offers competitive fixed and variable interest rates.
ELFI does have some downsides. Namely, there’s no co-signer release program, and a bachelor’s degree is required to refinance. On the plus side, though, ELFI is more transparent than other lenders about its eligibility criteria. To qualify, you need to have a minimum income of $35,000, a minimum credit score of 680 and a minimum credit history of 36 months.
Pros and cons of refinancing student loans with a bank
If you’re thinking of going with a bank to refinance your student loan, consider the benefits and drawbacks.
- Some discounts for existing customers.
- Potentially more personalized terms.
- Branch network for in-person help.
- Often higher interest rates.
- May not offer the unique benefits of online lenders.
How to refinance with a bank
To refinance student loans with a bank, you’ll go through a similar process as you would with an online lender:
- Shop around. You’ll start by comparing interest rates from multiple companies, which should include both banks and other types of lenders. Most student loan refinance companies allow you to get a rate quote with just a soft credit check, making the comparison process easy and risk-free.
- Apply online. Once you decide on a lender, you’ll apply directly through its website. You’ll need to provide information about you, your school and your student loans. Once you submit your application, the lender will run a credit check and ask you to provide some documentation, such as pay stubs and a copy of your driver’s license.
- Accept the loan. If the lender approves your loan, you’ll receive a final offer, which may or may not be the same as the initial quote. At that point, you can decide whether or not to accept the loan. If you don’t, you can repeat the process with other lenders, but if you want to move forward with this particular lender, read the agreement and sign the documents. The lender will pay off your existing loans directly, but you’ll need to continue to make payments until that’s been confirmed.