CommonBond Student Loans: 2020 Review

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Launched in 2011, CommonBond is an online lender that offers private student loans for several degree programs. It’s also a major lender for refinancing student loans.

With several lending options, low interest rates, generous forbearance options and strong customer support, it’s worth considering if you need to borrow money for school.

CommonBond features

CommonBond offers loans for students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, business, dental and medical degrees. If you have an existing student loan, you can also refinance with a CommonBond loan.

Rates are affordable, ranging from 3.46 percent to 10.74 percent depending on the loan type and borrower’s credit score, and can be either fixed or variable. CommonBond offers deferment and forbearance options, which can help if you need to pause payments down the road due to financial difficulty.

Plus, the lender has a charitable mission. Every time the company makes a loan, it donates to international education nonprofit Pencils of Promise.

CommonBond student loan snapshot

Loan types
Undergraduate, graduate, MBA, dental, medical, refinancing
Loan amounts
$2,000 to 100% of the cost of attendance, with a lifetime maximum of $500,000
Interest rates
Private loans: 3.46% to 9.42% variable APR, 5.56% to 10.74% fixed APR (with autopay)
Refinancing loans: 1.99% to 5.41% variable APR, 2.78% to 5.59% fixed APR, 3.85% to 5.35% hybrid APR (with autopay)
Repayment terms
Private loans: 5 to 20 years
Refinancing loans: 5 to 20 years
Grace period
6 months
Co-signer required?
Yes for undergraduate loans

Pros and cons of CommonBond student loans

CommonBond may not be the right choice for everyone. Below are some of its biggest benefits and drawbacks.

Pros

  • Generous forbearance program: Borrowers can request hardship forbearance in three-month increments, for up to 12 consecutive months, and for 24 total months total throughout the life of the loan. The lender also offers natural disaster forbearance, which allows you to pause payments throughout a national emergency, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Low loan amounts available: CommonBond sets its minimum loan amount at $2,000. This is good if you only need a small amount of money to fill in the gaps of your education costs.
  • Co-signer release: You can release your co-signer from your loan after you make at least 24 consecutive, on-time payments (36 payments for a refinance).

Cons

  • Co-signer required: All borrowers are required to have a creditworthy co-signer, with the exception of borrowers pursuing business, medical and dental degrees.
  • Not available everywhere: There are no loans available to customers in Mississippi or Nevada.

CommonBond student loan requirements

To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen, a permanent resident or a visa holder with an H1-B, J-1, L-1, E-2 or E-3 visa type. You also must be enrolled at least half time at one of CommonBond’s eligible schools.

During the application process, CommonBond will pull your credit and base eligibility and your interest rate on your credit history. All students must apply with a creditworthy co-signer, with the exception of business, medical and dental school borrowers. But after making at least two years of consecutive, on-time payments, you can apply to release your co-signer from your loan. Refinance loan borrowers will need to make at least 36 payments.

Who is this loan good for?

If you’re already planning to use a co-signer, this loan is best for borrowers who value strong customer support. Each borrower is paired with a Money Mentor, which is a real person who helps you manage your budget, understand your loan and find internship opportunities.

The lender also offers a defined hardship program, which provides flexibility if you need to pause payments down the road. Borrowers can request hardship forbearance in three-month increments for up to 12 consecutive months at a time, for 24 months total. The lender also offers natural disaster forbearance, which allows you to pause payments throughout a national emergency.

CommonBond is also a good fit if you want your lender to have a strong charitable mission. Every time it funds a loan, CommonBond donates to students in need through the international Pencils of Promise program.

Interest rates and terms

CommonBond borrowers can get a 0.25 percent discount after setting up automatic payments. The following rates include this discount:

Loan product Variable rate Fixed rate
Undergraduate student loans 6.61% to 9.42% APR 6.98% to 10.74% APR
Graduate student loans 6.76% to 9.42% APR 7.12% to 10.74% APR
MBA student loans 5.82% to 7.17% APR 6.04% to 7.25% APR
Dental student loans 5.95% to 7.32% APR 5.79% to 7.16% APR
Medical school loans 3.46% to 4.64% APR 5.56% to 6.76% APR
Refinance student loans Variable: 1.99% to 5.41% APR
Hybrid: 3.85% to 5.35% APR
2.78% to 5.59% APR

Fees and penalties

CommonBond undergraduate, graduate and refinance loans come with no application fees, no origination fees and no prepayment penalties. There’s a 2 percent origination fee baked into the APR on medical, dental and business degrees.

All borrowers pay a late fee equal to 5 percent of the unpaid amount due or $10, whichever is less. There’s also a returned check fee of $5, subject to state law restrictions.

What are repayment terms and grace period for CommonBond?

CommonBond’s undergraduate and graduate student loan borrowers can choose from four repayment plans:

  • Deferment: Borrowers can postpone payments while in school and during a six-month grace period after graduation. Interest will accrue and capitalize at the end of the deferment period.
  • Fixed monthly payment of $25: To shrink your principal balance while in school, you can make monthly payments of $25. Any unpaid interest will be capitalized at the end of the fixed monthly payment period.
  • Interest-only payment: Making monthly interest-only payments in school will also reduce your loan balance.
  • Full monthly payment: You can also choose to make full payments — with principal and interest — as soon as the loan funds are disbursed, while you’re still in school.

Borrowers with other types of student loans have slightly different options:

  • Borrowers in business school can choose from the deferment, interest-only and full monthly payment plans.
  • Medical and dental school students can choose the deferred repayment plan and the full monthly payment plan. They can also choose a fixed $100 repayment plan, in which you make monthly payments of $100 while enrolled in school. Then payments will increase to a full monthly payment with principal and interest.
  • Borrowers who refinance may also choose a “hybrid” repayment plan. The interest rate is fixed for the first five years of repayment, then varies monthly for the final five years.

CommonBond also offers the following programs:

  • Academic deferment while you’re enrolled at least half time in school.
  • Military deferment while you’re on active duty.
  • Deferment while you work in a residency program (with a signed job offer letter).
  • Hardship forbearance in three-month increments for up to 12 months; you may qualify for up to 24 months over the life of the loan.
  • Natural disaster forbearance during a national emergency.

Customer service

CommonBond gets a B rating from the Better Business Bureau. Firstmark Services, a division of Nelnet Inc. that services the loans, receives a D rating.

You can email CommonBond customer service anytime at care@commonbond.co or through live chat, or you can call 800-975-7812 Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST. With a few trial phone calls, we confirmed that customer service is very friendly and has minimal waiting time.

How to apply for a loan with CommonBond

You can complete the application process entirely online from any device and find out if your loan is approved in just a few minutes. The entire process, from application to funds disbursement, may take up to three weeks.

In order to apply, you’ll need to gather information, including your Social Security number, estimated annual income, school name and the amount you’d like to borrow. You’ll see your interest rate once you’re approved. If you’re looking to refinance a loan, CommonBond may also need proof of employment, a recent loan statement for each loan you plan to refinance and proof of residency.

Here’s what the process looks like when applying for a student loan through CommonBond:

  1. Fill out the online application. The process is easy and even contains some helpful pieces of info about what to expect.
  2. Get your response. If you’re approved, select a loan product and e-sign your loan disclosures.
  3. Wait for the lender to process the loan. CommonBond will contact your school to confirm your enrollment and loan amount. This process can take five days to three weeks, depending on your school and the time of year.
  4. Get confirmation. Once your school certifies the loan, CommonBond will notify you by email and disburse the funds directly to your school.

What to do if your application gets turned down

If CommonBond rejects your application, it will tell you why. You may need to ask someone to co-sign the loan with you. That person can be a trusted friend or relative who agrees to take on payments if you’re unable to. Be careful before choosing this option. If you miss payments down the road, it can damage your credit score, along with your co-signer’s scores.

You may also need to improve your credit score or increase your income. Focus on making these changes before applying again.

It’s also a good idea to shop around with other student loan lenders. Ascent offers loans for creditworthy borrowers without requiring a co-signer, and other lenders may also have different eligibility criteria. Some lenders worth checking out include Discover, SoFi and Sallie Mae.

How Bankrate rates CommonBond

Overall Score 4.3
Repayment Options 4.4
Affordability 3.0
Customer Experience 4.0

Editorial disclosure: All reviews are prepared by Bankrate.com staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the lender’s website for the most current information.