Find the Best Student Loans for You
Student loan options from Earnest include:
- Undergraduate loans.
- Graduate loans.
- MBA, medical or law school loans.
- Parent loans.
- Co-signer loans.
- Student loan refinancing.
Earnest asks applicants to submit their education and employment history for a full picture of their achievements. The company also considers your or your co-signer’s credit score, credit history and income. Students can apply for undergraduate or graduate student loans online and typically receive a response within 72 hours. Once approved, students can pick a payment plan or defer repayment for nine months post-graduation. The process could take between two to five weeks for the loan to be funded, depending on the applicant and the school’s financial aid office.
Earnest’s student loans and refinancing are available at both fixed and variable rates. You can choose a loan term of between five to 20 years. The minimum loan amount is $1,000, and loans of up to 100% of the school’s certified cost of attendance are available. There is no application, origination or late fee.
There is a 0.25-percentage-point interest rate discount if you choose to set up automatic payments. Borrowers can choose their monthly payment amount while still in school when applying for the loan. Accounts in good standing can skip a payment once every 12 months, but it has to be paid later. Earnest’s nine-month grace period after graduation is longer than the typical six months that other student loan lenders offer.
Earnest will also match a competitor’s contractual interest rate for an in-school loan, excluding discounts for autopay or good grades. To qualify, borrowers need to contact Earnest’s customer service team and upload a loan agreement from a competitor. If approved, the borrower can view and sign an updated agreement in their Earnest account. The competitor offer must have been made within the last 30 days.
Earnest offers a quick online eligibility check so you can get an idea of whether you qualify without a hard inquiry on your credit report. Earnest has different eligibility requirements for each loan type.
To qualify for an independent undergraduate or graduate student loan, borrowers must:
- Be pursuing a bachelor’s or graduate degree.
- Have at least a three-year credit history.
- Show no bankruptcies on your credit report.
- Have an income of at least $35,000 for an undergraduate loan.
- Other factors for approval include having a history of making payments on time, avoiding overdraft and insufficient funds fees and avoiding a large amount of credit card debt.
Co-signed student loans require:
- The co-signer to have a minimum of a three-year credit history.
- Have at least $35,000 in annual income.
- Both the co-signer and the student cannot have any bankruptcies or accounts in collections.
- The lender also considers whether you have a history of making payments on time, avoiding overdraft and insufficient funds fees, not taking on a large amount of credit card debt and spending less than you earn.
For refinancing student loans, you must:
- Request to refinance at least $5,000 in loans.
- Be employed or have a consistent income.
- Have student loan accounts in good standing.
- Be current on your rent or mortgage payments.
- Other factors for approval include having enough savings to cover two months of expenses, spending less than you earn and having a history of making payments on time.
Borrowers may be able to refinance a loan for a completed degree, a degree that will be completed by the end of the semester or a degree that hasn’t been completed. For the latter, borrowers must meet these requirements:
- Their last attending date must be more than six years ago.
- Their credit score should be 700 or higher.
- The school they attended wasn’t for-profit.
Earnest student loans require either the borrower or co-signer to have a FICO score of at least 650. In the application process, Earnest also looks at an individual’s education and employment history – putting less weight on the credit score.
For student loan refinancing, Earnest requires a credit score of 650. Those who haven’t completed their degree may need to have a score of 700.
Earnest offers loans in Washington, D.C., and in all states except Nevada. It also doesn’t offer student loan refinancing in Kentucky.
Earnest is accredited and has an A rating with the Better Business Bureau. It also has an excellent rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars with Trustpilot, based on more than 4,600 reviews.
In 2020, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau received 13 student loan complaints about Earnest. The most common issue was related to dealing with the lender or servicer, mainly regarding how payments were handled or receiving bad information. Earnest provided a timely response to all issues, and all were closed with explanation.
Earnest offers a chat feature directly on its website, as well as space to send an email. To speak to a representative, call 888-601-2801. Business hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Pacific Time.
Applicants can apply directly through the website and upload all documents to their Earnest account. Borrowers may see upcoming payments and payment history through their Earnest dashboard, set up automatic payments, change payment dates and reach out to customer service representatives during business hours through its chat feature.
Earnest does not have prepayment penalties, so borrowers can make payments for more than the full monthly payment amount. Borrowers have four payment options while still in school:
- Deferred payment: Borrowers wait until nine months after graduation to begin making payments.
- Fixed $25 payment: For this option, borrowers make small monthly payments while in school so they can reduce the amount of interest they accrue.
- Interest-only payment: This involves paying the accrued interest each month during school.
- Principal and interest payment: Borrowers who choose this option start making full payments right away, with no grace period.
Forbearance due to financial hardship is available. However, specific qualification requirements are not disclosed. Loans may be discharged due to death or permanent disability.
- Students who want the option to borrow with or without a co-signer.
- Graduates who need to refinance student loans.
- Borrowers who want to choose their monthly payment and loan terms.