Founded in 2013, Earnest is an online lender that offers student loan refinancing and private student loans, as well as personal loans. As a leading student loan refinancing company refinancing loan is best for borrowers who want to customize their repayment schedule to pay off debt fast. Its customizable repayment options make it easy to increase monthly minimum payments, make multiple extra payments at once and make same-day payments.
The company has student loans for both undergraduates and graduates, including students in MBA programs, medical school, and law school.
Advantages & Disadvantages of Earnest
- Flexible Payments and Loan Terms.
- Option to Skip One Payment Every 12 Months
- Rate Estimate Doesn’t Require Hard Credit Check
- 9-Month Grace Period
- Choice of Loan Term Length
- No Early Prepayment Penalties
- Not Available in Kentucky or Nevada.
- No Co-Signer Release.
- 650 FICO Credit Score Minimum Required
Benefits of Earnest Student Loans
- Reputable. Earnest is a BBB-accredited business with an A rating. It has an excellent rating of 4.7-star rating with Trustpilot, based on more than 5,500 reviews. It also has a 4.9-star rating with U.S. News Money and a 5-star rating with Nerd Wallet.
- Well-Established. Earnest has worked with more than 164,000 clients and refinanced more than $14.5 billion in student loans.
- User-friendly. Students can apply for undergraduate or graduate student loans online and typically receive a response within 72 hours.
- Comprehensive. Earnest offers eight different loan programs, complete with repayment and refinancing options.
- Flexible. Earnest offers terms from 5-20 years, with the ability to skip a payment once every 12 months.
- Customer-centric. Earnest offers “precision pricing,” which allows you to select the exact number of months you’d like to repay your loan, based on your desired monthly payment. Loans start as low as $1,000 and Earnest will refinance loans as small as $5,000.
What does Earnest offer in terms of loans?
Earnest offers flexible in-school repayment options, a unique range of loan terms, an extended grace period, and flexible forbearance options. But an Earnest loan may be hard to qualify for without a cosigner. Earnest has been a leader in student loan refinancing since it started offering those loans in 2015. The company later added private student loans to its roster of financial options in 2019. Today, the company offers a variety of private student loans, including:
- Undergraduate loans.
- Graduate loans.
- MBA, medical, or law school loans.
- Parent loans.
- Co-signer loans.
- Student loan refinancing.
Earnest lends to students and parents in nearly every state (Kentucky and Nevada residents are excluded). It also offers credit cards and personal loans.
To be eligible for an Earnest student loan you must meet a lengthy list of requirements:
- You must have a Social Security number.
- You must live in the District of Columbia or a state Earnest lends in.
- You must be the age of majority in the state where you reside.
- You must be enrolled in school full-time.
- You must be pursuing a bachelor’s or graduate degree.
- Your school must be a Title IV-qualified, not-for-profit, four-year institution.
- You must have no past-due balances for at least 365 days.
If you’re taking out a loan independently, you’ll have to meet some extra requirements:
- You must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
- You must have a minimum FICO score of 650.
- You must have at least three years of credit history.
- You must have a minimum income of $35,000 per year.
If you don’t meet all of those requirements, you can apply with a co-signer who does. Both co-signers and students must have a history of on-time payments, with no accounts in collections or bankruptcies on their credit reports.
Earnest will take other factors of your finances into consideration when determining your eligibility. You should have enough savings to cover at least two months of normal expenses, including housing, spend less than you earn, have increasing bank account balances, and not carry large amounts of non-student, non-mortgage debt, such as credit cards, personal loans, etc.
Earnest student loans are free of fees, meaning you’ll never be charged any application, origination, late payment, or prepayment fees.
Earnest offers a 0.25% interest rate discount for borrowers who enroll in its Auto Pay program. This discount is reflected in Earnest’s advertised rates.
Forbearance and Loan Discharge Options
Earnest has a variety of options for borrowers going through financial hardships. The simplest is the option to skip a payment once every 12 months without applying for forbearance. You can also apply for up to 12 months of forbearance over the life of your Earnest student loan for several reasons:
- An involuntary decrease in income due to a reduction in hours, unpaid leave, or a change from full-time to part-time employment
- Involuntary loss of employment due to layoffs
- Significant increase in essential home or family costs, including medical expenses, emergency home repairs, and child care
- Unpaid maternity or paternity leave
Military members are eligible for a deferment during active duty and up to 180 days after demobilization.
How it works
Get a Pre-Qualification
Discuss Terms of Loan & Repayment
Get Your Student Loan
With Earnest, you’re able to receive personalized loan amounts and rates based on your information. It takes as little as two minutes to get your rate or check your eligibility. To apply, start by filling out the form on Earnest’s website. The process is simple, and Earnest walks you through the application.
Earnest assesses each applicant’s credit score to create an estimate. These estimates don’t utilize a hard credit pull, so they don’t impact an applicant’s credit score. However, borrowers or cosigners must have a score of at least 650, which is relatively high. Borrowers must also be citizens or U.S. permanent residents, and loans are not available for students seeking associate degrees.
After going through the process, you should start to see what types of options are available to you. Once you choose your loan and proceed with the application, Earnest will do an actual credit check and finalize the process.
The repayment process
Once pre-qualification is complete, you have the ability to customize the loan to better fit your needs by modifying repayment terms, rates, payment types, and other factors. Repayment options include:
- Full Payment – While in school and following graduation, the full minimum monthly payments will be due. This is only available for cosigned loans.
- Interest Only – While in school and for the nine months following graduation, you’ll make monthly payments to cover the interest that accrued since your last payment. This is only available for cosigned loans.
- Fixed – You pay flat monthly payments of $25 while in school and for the nine months following graduation.
- Deferred – You pay nothing while you’re in school and for the first nine months after graduation. This option isn’t available to residents of the following states: Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, North Dakota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington.
Earnest offers repayment terms of five, seven, 10, 12, or 15 years. At the end of the application process, borrowers can see a summary of their loan options before signing. You can then choose between terms and in-school repayment options to customize a loan for your individual financial needs.
Best website to refinance student loans. I tried so many places trying to refinance and they would not work with me. I have a great job and am not late on my payments! I was confused and ready to give up until a friend told me about Earnest. Very easy to work with and would highly recommend them to everyone! I was able to refinance loans and reduce my percentage rate by over 4 points!!!
The only place that actually listened to me as a human being instead of just running some numbers and denying me, despite having a stellar payment track record of eight years. The staff was wonderful and happy to make notes about a change in my salary that wasn't reflected by my year to date earnings, which I do believe made a massive difference in the decision making. It was also fast - I was approved ten minutes after letting the gentleman I'd be speaking with know I had submitted my year to date information. All around wonderful to work with a company that's not completely automated and easy to contact and speak with.
Earnest uses innovative technology to offer the most flexible repayment options of any student loan refinancing company. It already offers flexible repayment options for its student loans, but the possibilities for improvement are significant. Furthermore, in the case of unanticipated financial hardship, Earnest offers the most flexibility to help borrowers protect their credit scores by lowering payments and interest rates and offering forbearance programs.
*Its refinancing loan is best for borrowers who want to customize their repayment schedule to pay off debt fast. Its private student loan is an option for borrowers who want flexible repayment.