Key takeaways

  • In order to refinance a student loan, lenders like to see a strong credit score, a stable income, a degree and a decent debt-to-income ratio.
  • Lenders require a minimum refinancing amount, which is the amount you still have to pay on the loan. This is so the lender can make enough interest.
  • You’ll need to provide detailed paperwork as part of the refinance, like tax documents, bank statements, transcripts and IDs.

Refinancing your student loans could get you a lower interest rate, lower monthly payments and different repayment terms than your current student loans offer. However, you may need to find a new lender to refinance your loans to get more favorable terms and meet the minimum financing requirements.

Most lenders’ requirements for refinancing include a good credit score and proof of stable income to qualify for student loan refinancing. If you don’t meet the credit score and income guidelines, you may be asked to apply with a co-signer. Be mindful that certain student loans may not be eligible for refinancing, especially if the balance exceeds a certain amount or if you did not graduate from your degree program. You should know the common refinancing requirements before you get started.

A strong credit score

In order to qualify to refinance a student loan, you will need a good credit score. Your credit history and credit score are some of the biggest influences on your eligibility for student loan refinancing. The higher your credit score, the more likely you will qualify for competitive terms when refinancing your student loan.

If you have little to no credit history, some lenders may not approve you. The ones that do will likely give you a higher interest rate since the best rates go to borrowers with high credit scores. Aim for a credit score in the mid-600s to qualify and one above 700 to get the lowest rates.

If you have a low score, it’s critical to shop around. Many lenders offer prequalification, which lets you see your estimated APR and approval odds before applying without impacting your credit. Get prequalified with at least three lenders to find your best rate. If you do have a low credit score, you might think about using a co-signer, which can help you get approved or could even lower your interest rate.

Stable income

Lenders also take into account what your income source(s) or payment schedule look like. Common reasons for fluctuating income can include self-employment, working on contract, receiving disability or being employed sporadically.

If you don’t have a steady income, lenders may assume that you don’t have the cash on hand to make payments on your bills. Many lenders require proof of employment and consistent income to qualify– you may use bank statements or pay stubs to provide a record of regular, steady deposits into your account.

If you have income outside traditional employment, you may be required to prove your earnings through documents like tax forms or bank statements, as lenders are still looking for steady income in these situations. If you cannot prove a stable income, you may need a co-signer.

Decent debt-to-income ratio

Your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) is the percent of your income taken up by bills and necessary expenses. The lower your DTI, the more likely you are to get approved since you have more cash freed up to stay current on your payments. You can even calculate DTI yourself.

Lenders might be more cautious if you have a high DTI. Try to keep your DTI to less than 50 percent, and pay off as much debt as you can right before you apply for your loan.

Minimum refinancing amount

You might see minimum amounts, which is how much money you still need to repay that the lender will take on. Every lender has a different minimum amount you can refinance. For many, this starts between $5,000 and $10,000. Many lenders don’t have a maximum amount, but those that do will typically set a high ceiling, like $300,000. Minimum amounts help lenders determine if the loan will return enough interest.

Bankrate insights
Inquire about the minimum amount you can refinance to ensure the lender is a good fit. If not, explore other options to find a lender willing to let you refinance a smaller amount of student loan debt.

A degree

Many lenders have requirements to refinance student loans for how much schooling you’ve completed. Some require you to hold a degree to be eligible for student loan refinancing, although some may be more lenient with these requirements. You can even refinance after an associate degree in many cases.

If a lender doesn’t require that you hold a degree to get approved, it may have other eligibility criteria, like grade level or enrollment status requirements.

A co-signer 

You may need a co-signer if you do not meet the requirements of the loan yourself. A co-signer is usually required when the primary borrower has low or unestablished credit, a high debt-to-income ratio or unstable income. The co-signer legally agrees to repay the loan along with the primary borrower.

It’s common to have a co-signer for student loans since student loans are made with younger people in mind who have not had time to build credit. The co-signer in these cases is usually a creditworthy adult, like a parent or guardian.

Check into whether the lender offers a co-signer release. If the primary or student borrower makes a certain number of on-time payments or meets credit requirements, the co-signer may be released from the loan.


Once you’ve found the lender with the lowest interest rate, fewest fees and best repayment terms for your budget, it’s time to get your paperwork in order. Here’s what you’ll likely need for your application:

  • Proof of employment: A recent pay stub, a W-2 or your tax returns.
  • Government-issued ID: A license, passport or ID card.
  • Proof of degree: A transcript or diploma. May not be required with all lenders.
  • Proof of residency: A document confirming where you live.
  • Loan documents: Recent loan statements detailing your account and payoff information.

If you have a co-signer, they’ll need these corresponding documents as well.

After submitting your application, the lender will run a credit check. If you’re approved, you’ll sign formal paperwork. This usually consists of giving the lender permission to pay off your current loans for you, with you agreeing to your new loan terms, interest rate and monthly payment.

Next steps

If you’ve decided that refinancing is the right move for your student loans, take these steps to prepare for your application.

1.Check your credit reports and scores. allows you to access all three of your credit reports weekly through the end of 2023. Through the same site, people in the U.S. can also get six free credit reports annually from Equifax through 2026. You can also access one free credit report every 12 months from all three major credit reporting agencies. Checking your reports is the only way to ensure that they are free of errors. Once you have an idea of your creditworthiness, you’ll have a better sense of which lenders are likely to approve you.

2.Pay down debt. Where possible, eliminate as much debt as you can before you apply for your refinancing loan. Lowering your credit card balances or other debt could raise your credit score and boost your eligibility with lenders.

3.Compare lenders. Get prequalified with a few lenders before making your decision; seeing your potential rates and terms is the only way to decide which loan is best for your individual situation. One lender may advertise low rates, but it may have stricter requirements for getting those rates.

4.Send in an application. When you formally apply with a lender, you’ll be subject to a hard credit check, which could lower your credit score by a few points. However, in most cases, you could receive funds within a few weeks.

5.Consider alternatives. If you don’t qualify for refinancing, or if you’d like to explore other methods of managing your student loans, you have options. If you have federal student loans, an income-driven repayment plan or a Direct Consolidation Loan could help you lower your monthly payment without giving up federal protections. If you have private loans, you could negotiate deferment or forbearance with your lender to temporarily reduce your monthly payments.

By taking these steps, you can better ensure that you are finding the right student loan option for you. Choosing to refinance might lower your interest rate and monthly payments, as well as potentially allow for terms that work better for your situation. You may also find other options, like a Direct Consolidation Loan or deferment, that could make payments easier to manage.