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Earnest student loans: 2024 review

Updated on Jan. 1, 2024

At a glance

Bankrate 2024 Awards Winner: Best student loan for parents

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Bankrate Score
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Repayment Options
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Rating: 4.4 stars out of 5
Customer Experience
Rating: 4 stars out of 5

About Bankrate Score

Launched in 2013, Earnest is an online lender offering student loan refinancing and private student loans. Both types of loans are best for borrowers who want flexible repayment options, including a few built-in forbearance protections. An Earnest loan stands out due to its longer grace periods, permission to skip a payment once per year and lack of co-signer requirement.  

Lender Details


Loan amount

$1,000 to total cost of attendance


APR from

5.62%-16.85% Variable; 4.39%-16.49% Fixed

Clock Wait

Term lengths

5 to 20 years

Credit Good

Min Credit Score


Earnest features

Earnest offers loans for students seeking undergraduate, graduate, business, law and medical degrees. Borrowers may qualify on their own or use a co-signer. Earnest also allows you to refinance your student loans.

Earnest’s best feature is its full menu of repayment options. Borrowers can choose from four main repayment plans, and during repayment, they may be able to tap into several defined forbearance and deferment programs. For example, you can request to skip a payment once a year*. The lender also charges few fees and offers low interest rates on all of its loans.

Earnest: In the details

Pros and cons of Earnest student loans

Earnest’s student loans can be a great option if you need to fill in the gaps after maxing out federal student loans. But you may also have to consider downsides like credit requirements and local availability.  

Green circle with a checkmark inside


  • No co-signer needed. Unlike with other student loan lenders, you may be eligible for a student loan based on your credit history, income and other factors.
  • Skip a payment: Earnest allows eligible student loan and refinance borrowers to skip one payment every 12 months. But keep in mind that this move extends your repayment term and counts toward your forbearance limits.
  • Long grace period: Eligible borrowers can defer payments for up to nine months after graduation.
Red circle with an X inside


  • No co-signer release: If you do have a co-signer on your loan, there are no options to remove them unless you refinance your loan.
  • Average credit needed: Earnest requires borrowers or their co-signers to have a credit score of at least 650. If you have poor credit, then you may not qualify for a loan.
  • Not available in all states: Earnest student loans aren’t available to residents of Nevada — if you live there, you’ll have to choose another lender.

Earnest student loan requirements

Eligibility requirements vary based on which type of loan you’re taking out. Generally, all borrowers must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
  • Be at least the age of majority in their state.
  • Live in any state except Nevada.
  • Have a minimum credit score of 650 (or have a co-signer with a minimum credit score of 650).

Independent undergraduate and graduate private student borrowers

If you’re a student with some credit history under your belt, you might be able to qualify for an Earnest student loan on your own. 

During the application process, Earnest will check that you have:

  • At least three years of good credit history.
  • A minimum annual income of $35,000.
  • Zero bankruptcies on your credit reports.
  • A history of making on-time payments on debt where you’re listed as the primary borrower. You also can’t have accounts in collections.

Co-signed loan borrowers

Many students don’t have enough credit history to qualify for private student loans — but you still have options. If you don’t meet the above qualifications, you can add a creditworthy co-signer to your loan. This person promises to make payments on your loan if you default later on.

They will need to meet the same eligibility requirements as independent borrowers. But Earnest may check more details about your co-signer’s financial situation, such as their savings account balance.

Refinance loan borrowers

Earnest has a unique underwriting system for refinance loan borrowers that looks at spending patterns, earning potential and education. There’s no minimum income requirement, but applicants must either be employed or have consistent income. You may qualify even if you’ve filed for bankruptcy as long as it’s dropped off of your credit reports and you don’t have accounts recently in collections.

Earnest also wants to know that you typically spend less than you earn every month, keep at least two months’ of expenses in savings and show a pattern of increasing bank account balances.

And if you’re still in school, you must be enrolled less than half time, with your student loans already in repayment.

Who is this loan good for?

Earnest’s private student loans are best for borrowers who either can qualify on their own or have a creditworthy co-signer. Because the lender offers several repayment protections, it’s also a good fit for borrowers who prefer a measure of financial security.

Interest rates and terms

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

Loan product Variable rate Fixed rate
Undergraduate student loans 5.87%-18.51% (with autopay)* 4.36%-16.15% (with autopay)*
Graduate student loans 5.89%-15.97% (with autopay)* 4.39%-14.30% (with autopay)*
Parent undergraduate student loans 5.62% to 16.20% APR (with autopay) 4.42% to 15.90% APR (with autopay)*
MBA student loans 5.89%-15.97% (with autopay)* 4.39%-14.30% (with autopay)*
Medical student loans 5.89%-15.97% (with autopay)* 4.39%-14.30% (with autopay)*
Law student loans 5.89%-15.97% (with autopay)* 4.39%-14.30% (with autopay)*
Refinance student loans 5.99%-9.74% (with autopay)* 5.19%-9.74% (with autopay)*

Fees and penalties

Earnest doesn’t charge origination fees or late fees. However, Florida residents must pay a documentary stamp tax, which is calculated as 35 cents for each $100 borrowed. On a $10,000 loan, that works out to $35.

Repayment terms and grace period

Terms run from five to 20 years for refinanced loans and five to 15 years for all other loan products.

  • Deferred payments: Pay nothing while you’re enrolled in school and for a grace period of nine months after graduation. At that point, you start making full payments of principal and interest.
  • Fixed payments: You pay $25 a month while in school and for nine months following graduation — then you’ll start full payments.
  • Interest-only: You can choose to pay only interest while in school and for the nine months following graduation.
  • Full payment: You can start making full payments as soon as the funds are disbursed.

If you’ve hit a rough spot once in repayment, Earnest offers a few forbearance and deferment options.

Forbearance is available to borrowers with either private or refinanced loans. Borrowers may be able to temporarily pause payments, up to 12 months, for the following reasons:

  • Your income has involuntarily decreased.
  • You’ve lost your job through no fault of your own.
  • Your basic essential expenses have significantly increased.
  • You’re on unpaid maternity or paternity leave.
  • You request to skip a payment, available once a year.

You can defer payments while you’re:

  • Enrolled in school at least half time.
  • In the military.

You also might be able to access these options:

  • Loan discharge in the event of death or total and permanent disability.
  • Rate reduction program, which reduces your interest rate (and therefore monthly payment) for up to six months.
  • Term and rate modification program, which extends your repayment term and lowers your interest rate.

How to apply for a loan with Earnest

Your application can be completed online.

  1. For the initial check, you’ll need to provide basic demographic information, including your name, email address, postal address, birthdate, school name and credit score range. Earnest will also ask about your citizenship status, whether you earned income last year, the type of degree you plan to pursue and your expected graduation date. 
  2. Once you start the official application, you’ll need your Social Security number. You also may need to supply proof of income, such as a pay stub, and permission to check your credit.
  3. Then you’ll see a range of interest rates you may qualify for. Choose the ones that work best for you. 

Customer service

Earnest gets an “A+” rating from the Better Business Bureau. When calculating ratings, the BBB considers the company’s complaint history and whether it resolved those complaints in an appropriate, timely manner.

This company also has a 4.7 stars out of 5 rating on Trustpilot, based on nearly 6,200 customer reviews. Positive reviewers mentioned that the loan application was easy and fast, and some had excellent customer service experiences. Meanwhile, some negative Earnest reviews cited bad experiences with Earnest’s customer service team and issues with the website and online application.

Borrowers can contact Earnest’s customer service department by submitting a request online or by calling customer service at 888-601-2801. Hours are Monday through Friday, 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST, excluding holidays.

Earnest frequently asked questions 

How Bankrate rates Earnest

Overall Score 4.5
Repayment Options 5.0 Earnest offers generous loan amounts and flexible repayment terms for both its private and refinance loans.
Affordability 4.4 Earnest offers competitive rates on its private student loans but does charge a few fees.
Customer Experience 4.0 While Earnest does offer online access, its customer service is only available during the week for a limited number of hours.


The Bankrate team evaluated over a dozen lenders to select our top picks for the best student loans. To do this, Bankrate considers 14 factors, including loan amounts, fees, repayment terms and options, as well as fixed and variable APR ranges. Then, lenders are rated using our vetting system known as the Bankrate Score, which focuses on three main categories.

  • Availability: We looked at minimum and maximum loan amounts, as well as the lender’s eligibility requirements, co-signer option, degrees covered and state availability. Lenders that offered the most flexibility as well as nationwide servicing and that offered financing for a variety of programs ranked higher in this section.
  • Affordability: Fixed and variable interest rates, fees, penalties and discounts were measured in this category. Lenders with the lowest rates, fewer fees and multiple discounts got the higher scores.
  • Customer experience: Our team looked at the ease of the application process, as well as online account management tools, customer support hours, app availability, repayment options and grace periods offered by the lenders. This allowed us to determine the lenders’ ability to satisfactorily serve customers.

Editorial disclosure: All reviews are prepared by 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.