Earnest Loans Reviews: 2023 Student Loan Refinance Review
According to the U.S. Department of Education, more than 43.8 million Americans have a total of $1,635.4 billion dollars in student debt as of 2023 — and medical residents carry some of the highest amounts.
Med school graduates averaged over $205,000 in debt as of 2022. That’s an overwhelming amount of money to pay back, especially for those just starting out in their careers.
It comes as no surprise, then, that many student loan borrowers are looking for better and more efficient ways to pay down their debt.
Fortunately, they now have more options than ever before. One option to tackle student loan repayments is to refinance with Earnest.
Consolidating and/or refinancing loans is nothing new. Borrowers have been doing it for decades.
But Earnest approaches the process a little bit differently.
In this 2023 Earnest review for student loan refinancing, we’ll cover what the company does, how refinancing student loans works, and whether or not a refi through Earnest is the right choice for you.
Who is Earnest?
Earnest is an online, tech-based Fintech lender founded in 2013 in Silicon Valley. With headquarters in San Francisco, the company was acquired by student loan servicer Navient in 2017.
Today, they operate as a merit-based lender. That means they look at not just your credit score, but also at your income earning potential, your amount of current savings, where you attended college or medical school, and several other factors.
Since its 2013 inception, Earnest has firmly positioned itself at the forefront of a new wave of companies eager to revolutionize the student loan refinancing space.
They began offering student debt refinancing options but have since expanded to offer additional financial services. Those services include credit cards and private student loans, including loans for medical school.
Earnest allows borrowers to consolidate and refinance both federal and private loans. In turn, medical residents and post-graduate students have an easier way to lower their interest rates, make one monthly loan payment, and pay off their educational debt in a shorter period of time.
Earnest has excellent ratings and reviews online. The Better Business Bureau gives them an A+ rating and accreditation, and Trustpilot’s rating for Earnest is 4.7 stars out of five on Trustpilot. They also received NerdWallet’s “Best Student Loan Refinancing Award” in 2020.
The Benefits of a Student Loan Refinance With Earnest
All refinancing options have pros and cons.
Here are some of the benefits you can expect when refinancing student debt with Earnest:
Earnest charges competitive interest rates and offers some of the lowest rates among its competitors. With a strong personal savings pattern, a low debt-to-income ratio, and high income earning potential, you can qualify for some of the lowest rates available.
Both variable rates and fixed rates are available. Currently, fixed rates start at 4.96% for highly qualified borrowers. Variable APRs start at 5.32%. Keep in mind that variable rates may be lower to start but can increase over time.
Customize Repayment Terms
One of the things that borrowers love about Earnest is that you can customize your repayment terms. That means you can make your monthly payment when it’s most convenient and financially sound for you.
Loan terms range from 5 to 20 years. You can decide for yourself how much you’re comfortable paying per month, as well as how quickly you want to eradicate your debt.
While most lenders have rigid repayment options, Earnest is much more flexible.
You can make biweekly payments or monthly payments. Using Earnest’s one-month forbearance program, you can even skip a payment once every 12-month period.
Earnest allows you to skip a payment once a year as long as you’ve made six months of consecutive, on-time full payments and your loan is in good standing.
Fewer Fees Than Other Lenders
Unlike some lenders, Earnest does not charge application fees, origination fees, or late fees. They also do not charge prepayment penalties. You always have the option to apply extra payments to your account to pay down your interest and principal faster.
Auto Pay Discounts
Sign up for autopay to reduce your monthly payments even further. Borrowers who enroll in the autopay program can enjoy a 0.25% discount and never have to worry about missing or being late on a payment.
Refinancing Offers a Cosigner Release Option
If a parent or grandparent cosigned a student loan for you, that debt amount is impacting their debt-to-income ratio. Refinancing with Earnest includes a cosigner release option that eliminates that debt burden from loved ones and puts the debt solely on you.
Earnest is a tech-based lender. That’s why their online dashboard, as well as their online application process, is incredibly easy to use.
They also have an excellent customer service department to whom they refer as their “Customer Happiness Team.”
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The Drawbacks of Refinancing With Earnest
Earnest isn’t for everyone. There are some drawbacks, as well as some eligibility requirements that can be difficult to meet for some graduates.
Here are the downsides to using Earnest to refinance student loan debt.
You Can’t Refinance With a Co-Signer
You can refinance loans that originally had a co-signer, but you can’t refinance loans with a co-signer.
If your own credit history and other factors preclude you from getting an Earnest loan on your own, having a co-signer is not an option.
Minimum Refinance Amounts May be More Than You Need
Earnest has a minimum refinance amount of $5,000 in most states.
However, the minimum in the state of California is $10,000. New Mexico’s minimum amount is one dollar higher at $10,001.
If these amounts are more than you need in order to refinance, Earnest will not be an option for you. They also have a maximum refinance amount of $500,000.
Regardless of the amount, the refinance program is not available in the state of Nevada.
No Income Driven Repayment (IDR) Plan
While Earnest offers favorable repayment terms, they do not offer an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan.
The protections you receive through IDRs are strictly for federal student loans. Refinancing eliminates your ability to pay back your debt on an income-driven repayment plan.
What Earnest does do is decide your rates based on their Precision Pricing strategy. Precision Pricing determines how much you can afford each month, then provides rates and term lengths based on the amount you feel comfortable paying each period.
Meeting All of the Eligibility Standards May be Difficult
Though Earnest is a merit-based lender, they still have stringent requirements for eligibility.
Depending on your complete financial history, earning potential, and other factors, some graduates may find it difficult to meet all of the requirements.
No Opportunity for Student Loan Forgiveness
As the Student Loan Forgiveness Program makes its way through the U.S. Congress, it remains unclear if and when any amount of student debt will be forgiven.
Keep in mind that if you refinance your current loans you will no longer be eligible for loan forgiveness through the federal government.
When you refinance federal loans you lose the protections they provide, including IDRs, forbearance, and deferment options.
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Eligibility Requirements for Earnest Student Loan Refinancing
To qualify for an Earnest refinance you’ll need to meet some standard requirements.
Although Earnest considers more than just your credit score and DTI, you’ll still need to prove creditworthiness in order to get approved for a loan. Here are some of the requirements you’ll need to meet:
- You must be a U.S. citizen or have a non-conditional 10-year Permanent Resident Card.
- Your current enrollment is less than half-time and your student loans are already in repayment status.
- You are the primary borrower on your current loan.
- You have a minimum credit score of 680.
- You do not have a bankruptcy on your credit report.
- All of your student loans are currently in good standing.
- The debt is from a completed degree or for a degree that will be completed in the current semester.
- The debt is owned by a U.S. institution.
- You will not be applying for new educational financing in the future.
- You have a steady current income or an employment contract to indicate that you will be working within the next six months.
It’s important to note that a credit score of less than 680 won’t automatically disqualify you. However, you will need to have other outstanding factors — such as the high income potential a medical resident may have — to obtain refinancing.
A score of 670 is considered a “good credit score.” If yours is less, it can be beneficial to pay off some other debts and increase your score before applying for a refi program. The higher your credit score, the lower your interest rate is likely to be.
Other Factors That Earnest Considers in Determining Eligibility
While there is no specific income requirement, Earnest requires you to be currently employed and have a consistent income. They will do a credit check and look at a variety of different factors to determine if you’re eligible for a refi.
Here’s what to expect:
Earnest wants to know that you can afford your monthly loan payments, so they require that you’re current on your mortgage or rent and that you have enough money in your savings account to cover two months of normal living expenses.
They also want their borrowers to spend less than they earn and have bank balances that are constantly increasing. Furthermore, they prefer borrowers who do not carry a large amount of debt in the form of credit cards or personal loans.
To qualify for an Earnest refi, you’ll also need to have a history of making payments on time.
You’re not likely to get approved for refinancing if you have a history of late charges, overdraft fees, or insufficient funds. They also won’t approve a refi if you have recent accounts in collections.
How to Apply for Refinancing With Earnest
Earnest makes the application process quick and easy. To see if you qualify for a student debt refinance, just visit Earnest.com and submit your loan application.
By filling out a short preliminary application and providing a bit of personal information, you can obtain your rate in less than two minutes. This only requires a soft credit inquiry and will not affect your credit score.
After that comes the full application and the need to provide further information, such as pay stubs and a valid government ID to prove you are who you say you are.
Other Financial Products Offered by Earnest
In addition to refinancing options, Earnest offers a variety of private loan products for students who don’t want to finance their education through federal lenders. These include:
- Private student loans for undergraduate and graduate school
- Private student loans with a cosigner
- Private parent loans
- Private MBA loans
- Private medical school loans
- Private law school loans
- Private half-time student loans
Through their partnership with Fiona, a search and comparison engine for loan offers, personal loans are also available. Personal loan amounts are available from $1,000 to $250,000 with competitive rates and loan terms up to 144 months.
College, graduate school, and medical school are expensive. Meanwhile, the cost of attendance continues to increase year over year.
Refinancing student debt is an excellent way to bring down the cost of a pricey education — not to mention the amount you’ll spend on interest payments.
Earnest is a viable option for medical school graduates looking to refinance their existing student loans, but it’s not the only option.
It’s always best to obtain rates from different lenders before choosing one. To start comparing and obtaining rates from multiple lenders, contact LeverageRx now.