14 best student loan refinance companies of 2021

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The best student loan refinance lenders offer lower interest rates, a variety of loan terms, and other benefits. (iStock)

If you have student loan debt, refinancing your student loans can come with several benefits. You can lock in a lower interest rate, lower your monthly payments, or take advantage of a flexible repayment plan. You may also release a cosigner, switch to a lender with better service, or consolidate multiple loans into one.

It’s possible to refinance to pay off private or federal loans. But be aware that refinancing federal loans with a private loan will force you to give up many of the benefits that come with federal loans, like income-driven repayment plans.

You can use Credible to compare private student loan rates in minutes.

The best student loan refinance lenders

The best student loan refinance companies generally offer lower interest rates, various loan terms, broad eligibility requirements, and several other benefits. If you want to refinance your student loans, here are 14 lenders to consider. 

The following 12 lenders are Credible partners.

Advantage Education Loan: Best for refinancing student loans taken out by a parent

Provided by the Kentucky Higher Education Authority and serviced by the Kentucky Higher Education Student Loan Corporation, Advantage Education Loan offers student loan refinancing with fixed interest rates. 

Minimum credit score: 670

Terms: 10, 15, and 20 years

APR: Fixed

Maximum loan amount: $500,000 (depending on degree and loan type)

Pros:

  • A graduated repayment plan with low monthly payments that increase every two years
  • Ability to transfer a parent Direct PLUS Loan to the child who benefited from it

Cons:

  • No variable interest rate
  • Must wait 36 months to apply for cosigner release

Brazos: Best for Texas graduates with strong credit and income

Brazos Higher Education is a nonprofit lender specializing in student loan refinancing to Texas residents with competitive rates and flexible terms.  

Minimum credit score: 690

Terms: Five, seven, 10, 15, and 20 years

APR: Fixed and variable

Maximum loan amount: $400,000 (depending on degree)

Pros:

  • Forbearance options for economic hardships, active-duty military members, and natural disasters
  • Interest rate reduction with automatic payments

Cons:

  • Only available in Texas
  • No cosigner release

Citizens: Best for borrowers who didn’t graduate

Citizens Bank offers private student loans and student loan refinancing to students and parents nationwide. 

Minimum credit score: Not disclosed

Terms: Five, seven, 10, 15, and 20 years

APR: Fixed and variable

Maximum loan amount: $750,000 (depending on degree and loan type)

Pros:

  • Interest rate discount with automatic payments
  • Can refinance even if you didn’t earn your degree

Cons:

  • Lack of transparency around minimum income and credit requirements
  • No cosigner release on the Education Refinance Loan for Parents

College Ave: Best for graduates seeking flexible loan terms

College Ave is a fintech lender that offers both private student loans and student loan refinancing. 

Minimum credit score: Not disclosed

Terms: Five to 20 years

APR: Fixed and variable

Maximum loan amount: $300,000 (depending on degree type)

Pros:

  • Interest rate discount with automatic payments
  • $150 statement credit on the College Ave Career Loan with Success Rewards for completing your degree

Cons:

  • Lack of transparency around minimum income and credit score requirements
  • Limited options for borrowers who experience financial hardship

CommonBond: Best for parents who want to transfer Parent PLUS Loans to their child

CommonBond has been around since 2012 and refinances student loans for both college graduates and parents. 

Minimum credit score: 680

Terms: Five, seven, 10, 15, and 20 years

APR: Fixed and variable

Maximum loan amount: $500,000

Pros:

  • Up to 24 months of forbearance over the life of the loan
  • Parents can transfer Parent PLUS Loans to students

Cons:

  • Late fees
  • Not available in Mississippi or Nevada

ELFI: Best for borrowers who want to refinance large balances

Offered by Tennessee-based SouthEast Bank, Education Loan Finance (ELFI) is a student loan refinancing program for college graduates and parents nationwide. 

Minimum credit score: 680

Terms: Five, seven, 10, 15, and 20 years for student loans; five, seven, and 10 years for parent loans

APR: Fixed and variable

Maximum loan amount: No maximum

Pros:

  • Offers refinancing for graduates and parents who took out loans for their children
  • Up to 12 months of forbearance for financial hardship

Cons:

  • High loan minimum requirements
  • Not available to borrowers who didn’t graduate

INvestEd: Best for borrowers who might need forbearance 

INvestEd is an Indiana nonprofit that offers private student loans to students attending universities within the state, and refinances student loans for borrowers all over the country. 

Minimum credit score: 670

Terms: Five, 10, 15, and 20 years

APR: Fixed and variable

Maximum loan amount: $250,000

Pros:

  • Up to 24 months of forbearance during the life of the loan
  • Interest rate discount with automatic payments

Cons:

  • Late fees
  • Prepayment penalties

ISL Education Lending: Best for borrowers who are still in school 

ISL Education Lending is a nonprofit that offers student loan refinancing for both students and parents.  

Minimum credit score: 670

Terms: Five, seven, 10, 12, 15, and 20 years

APR: Fixed

Maximum loan amount: $320,000 for students still in school

Pros:

  • Students can refinance while still in school
  • Graduated repayment plans available

Cons:

  • Lengthy cosigner period
  • Low loan maximum

MEFA: Best for borrowers refinancing debt to attend a public or nonprofit college or university

The Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority (MEFA) is a not-for-profit lender that provides student loans and student loan refinancing to borrowers nationwide. 

Minimum credit score: 670

Terms: Seven, 10 or 15 years

APR: Fixed and variable

Maximum loan amount: $10,000 up to the total amount of qualified education debt

Pros:

  • Competitive rates
  • Payment deferral for up to 60 months

Cons:

  • Limited repayment terms
  • No cosigner release

PenFed: Best for refinancing student loans taken out by parent or spouse

Pentagon Federal Credit Union (PenFed) offers competitive rates for student loan refinancing. 

Minimum credit score: 670

Terms: Five, eight, 12, or 15 years

APR: Fixed

Maximum loan amount: $300,000 

Pros:

  • Spouses can combine their loans when refinancing
  • Graduates can refinance PLUS Loans taken out by their parents

Cons:

  • Only serves U.S. citizens
  • Not available to borrowers who didn’t earn a degree

RISLA: Best for borrowers who are worried about their job security 

The Rhode Island Student Loan Authority (RISLA) focuses on refinancing in the form of income-based repayment to borrowers in all 50 states.

Minimum credit score: 680

Terms: Five, 10, and 15 years

APR: Fixed

Maximum loan amount: $250,000 (depending on highest degree earned)

Pros:

  • Income-based repayment available for financial hardship
  • Up to 36 months of deferral if you go back to graduate school

Cons:

  • Low loan limits
  • No cosigner release

SoFi: Best for borrowers with excellent credit

SoFi is known as the first lender to offer refinancing for federal and private loans together. 

Minimum credit score: Not disclosed 

Terms: Five, seven, 10, 15, and 20 years

APR: Fixed and variable

Maximum loan amount: $5,000 up to the full balance of your qualified education loans

Pros:

  • Competitive rates
  • Academic, military, and medical deferment

Cons:

  • Must have good or excellent credit
  • No cosigner release

Compare private student loan rates from various lenders using Credible.

Other lenders to consider

The following lenders are not Credible partners, so you won’t be able to easily compare your rates with them on the Credible platform. But they may also be worth considering if you’re looking to refinance your student loans.

Earnest: Best for borrowers who want to pay off their student loans early

Founded in 2013, Earnest is an online lender that offers private student loans and student loan refinancing to graduates.

Minimum credit score: 650

Terms: Five to 20 years

APR: Fixed and variable

Maximum loan amount: $500,000

Pros:

  • Competitive rates
  • Ability to choose your own monthly payment and pay your loans off early with the Precision Pricing program

Cons:

  • No cosigner release
  • Not available in all 50 states

Laurel Road: Best for borrowers pursuing health care degrees

Laurel Road is a part of KeyBank and offers refinancing for undergraduate, graduate, and some associate’s degrees.  

Minimum credit score: Not disclosed 

Terms: Five, seven, 10, 15, and 20 years

APR: Fixed and variable

Maximum loan amount: $50,000

Pros:

  • Special rates for certain medical professionals
  • No application, disbursement, or origination fees

Cons:

  • $50,000 maximum loan amount for associate’s degrees in certain health care fields
  • Short six-month grace period

Methodology

Credible looked at a number of factors to determine the best companies for refinancing student loans, including minimum fixed and variable interest rates, whether or not both types of rates are offered, loan terms, repayment options, and fees. Other factors considered include discounts, customer experience, cosigner release, maximum undergraduate balance, and maximum graduate balance.

Student loan refinance FAQs

How do you refinance federal student loans?

If you have multiple federal student loans, you can consolidate them into a federal Direct Consolidation Loan. Your interest rate will be the average of all your loans combined, so you might not necessarily get a lower rate. The only way to refinance federal loans is through a private lender. But think carefully before you do: You’ll no longer have access to federal benefits, like income-driven repayment plans and Public Service Loan Forgiveness. You may also miss out on any future relief programs.

Can you refinance more than once?

Yes — there’s no limit to how many times you can refinance your student loans. While many people only refinance once, some refinance multiple times to save as much money as possible on their student loan debt. Just be aware that refinancing and extending the repayment term means you’ll likely end up paying more in interest over the life of your loans.

When’s the best time to refinance?

If you intend to refinance your student loans, it’s a good idea to wait until you have good credit and a stable income. This can increase your chances of landing a low rate that saves you the most money. You may also want to consider refinancing if rates are lower than usual or you only have private student loans because you won’t have to worry about losing any federal protections.

What’s the average student loan refinance rate?

From 2006 through 2021, average federal student loan interest rates were 4.66% for undergraduates, 6.22% for graduate students, and 7.27% for parents and graduate students taking out Direct PLUS Loans.

Can refinancing student loans hurt your credit?

Refinancing your student loans shouldn’t impact your credit too much. While a hard credit check may temporarily bring down your score, it’ll only be by a few points. If you submit several refinancing applications in a short time period, however, your credit score may take a bigger hit.

Are there any downsides to refinancing student loans?

The greatest disadvantage of refinancing your federal student loans through a private student loan lender is giving up your federal protections, like income-driven repayment plans. Another drawback is that refinancing often requires a good credit score and stable income.

Are there any costs associated with refinancing?

You typically won’t have to pay any money upfront to refinance your student loans. Depending on the lender you choose, you may be on the hook for late fees, prepayment penalties, and other fees, though.

What credit score do you need to refinance your student loans? 

Every lender has its own credit score requirements. But in most cases, you’ll need a fairly high credit score to refinance your student loans. If your credit is on the low side, you may want to work to boost your score before you apply to refinance.

If you’re ready to refinance your student loans, use Credible to compare private student loan rates.

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