Today, seven out of ten college graduates have student loan debt, with an average of $30,100 per borrower. Many of those graduates would be wise to refinance their student loans. Interest rates on student loans vary by loan type and creditworthiness but refinancing at a lower interest rate can save thousands of dollars over the life of a loan. We compared three companies that offer student loan refinancing: SoFi, CommonBond, and Earnest to look at rates, terms and more.
- Review of: SoFi vs. CommonBond vs. Earnest
Published on: Feburary 28th, 2017
Last modified: Feburary 28th, 2017
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SoFi is not a traditional lender. Instead, they provide a platform for crowd-sourcing or peer-to-peer lending. CommonBond offers refinancing of undergraduate and graduate student loans as well as Parent PLUS loans. Earnest provides student loan refinancing with broader qualification criteria than many other lenders, so they are particularly appealing to borrowers with short credit histories and small paychecks.
SoFi was one of the first companies to consolidate federal loans with private loans, but now all three companies offer that option. Some borrowers like this option because they can have one simplified monthly payment, a lower rate, and lower monthly payments, but you should give careful consideration before consolidating federal and private loans, as you could lose out on potential student loan forgiveness programs, lower repayment plans, and more generous deferment and forbearance options.
The main benefit of refinancing student loans is lowering your interest rate to save. So what interest rates can you expect from SoFi, CommonBond, and Earnest?
SoFi offers both fixed and variable interest rate loans. Rates on variable loans currently range from 2.355% APR to 6.280% APR. Rates on fixed loans range from 3.375% APR to 6.740% APR. Included in those rates are a 0.25% Autopay discount, assuming you sign up for ACH payments.
With CommonBond, rates for variable interest loans range from 2.35% APR to 6.27% APR with autopay and 3.37% APR to 7.74% for fixed rate loans with autopay. CommonBond also offers hybrid loans, where you have a fixed rate for the first five years of the loan and variable for the last five years. Rates on hybrid loans range from 3.87% APR to 6.31% APR with autopay.
Earnest variable rates start at 2.55% APR. Fixed rates start at 3.75% APR with autopay.
Loan balances and terms
SoFi has some of the lowest minimum loan balance requirements around at just $5,000 and upper limits at the full balance of your qualified education loans. Borrowers can choose five-, seven-, 10-, 15- or 20-year loan terms.
CommonBond requires a minimum loan balance of $10,000 to refinance or consolidate, but they have a high upper limit at $500,000 in federal and private student loans. They offer five-, 10-, 15-, and 20-year terms.
Earnest will refinance a minimum of $5,000 of eligible student loans, up to a $500,000 maximum. Earnest claims they can help borrowers save money compared to other lenders by using Precision Pricing. The borrower determines how much they can afford to pay each month, then Earnest matches a loan rate and term to that amount. Essentially, Earnest offers terms at every month interval from five to twenty years.
SoFi is known for having strict qualification requirements. The typical borrower has excellent credit and an annual income of $124,630.
CommonBond works only with graduates of a selection of more than 2,000 Title IV accredited universities or graduate programs. While that is a significant number of institutions, they aren’t available to everyone. They also work only with borrowers with good credit and stable income.
Earnest places less value on credit scores and income than the other lenders. Instead, they look at your financial records to get an idea of your financial responsibility and ability to pay, looking at things like how much you have saved, whether you spend less than you earn and have a lot of non-student, non-mortgage debt. While that sort of flexibility can be beneficial to borrowers with short credit histories, it will mean more documentation requirements during the loan underwriting process.
All three companies offer no origination fees, no prepayment fees, and provisions for loan discharge in the event of disability or death. These are important terms that not all lenders include, so borrowers should look for them no matter where they shop for student loans.
What sets SoFi apart from the competition is their job placement program. They employ career coaches and provide free career planning and job search assistance to all of their borrowers, whether they’re just entering the job market, looking to switch careers, or thinking of starting their own business.