Best Student Loan Refinancing

Updated October 2020
Header Image
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

30 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
152 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for choosing the best student loan refinancing service

Although no college student wants to go into debt to complete a degree, sometimes they have no choice. Fortunately, many qualify for student loans, allowing them to obtain the money they need to pay for tuition, supplies, room, and board. But they may not fully understand the loan process, meaning they could sign up for something that sounds good now but that becomes a burden after graduation.

Fortunately, there is another avenue when student loan repayments become overwhelming. You can refinance your original student loans as a single new loan. Now that you’re a few years older and wiser, you can look for better terms than your original loan offered, giving you payments that are easier to handle given your current income.

At BestReviews, we want to help our readers find the best student loan refinancing service for their needs. With the information we have compiled in hand, you can look for loan terms that fit your income and budget.

Get emails you’ll love.
Learn about the products you’re wondering if you should buy and get advice on using your latest purchases.
Content Image
Sometimes, you may be able to negotiate a lower interest rate on your current loan. If you like the repayment terms you have now, it never hurts to call your current lender and ask for a lower rate.

Key considerations

Before you begin researching your options to refinance your student loans, you need to do a little homework. Begin by answering the following questions.

Is refinancing worth it?

The key reason to refinance is to get a better interest rate, a lower monthly payment, or both. You may already have good terms on your current loan, which means it might be difficult to find a better deal.

Before beginning this process, verify your current interest rate, length of the loan, and monthly payments so you can do an accurate comparison. But don’t just look at the numbers. Some loans have special terms, such as the ability to pause your payments if you suddenly lose your job. If you refinance, you could lose those special terms.

Do you have more than one loan?

If you have more than one student loan, you might want to consolidate them into a single loan. Odds are you can receive more favorable payment terms overall with a single loan than with a few different loans. However, know that some lenders treat applications for a loan consolidation differently than they treat a refinancing.

Is your loan federal or private?

If you currently have a federally backed student loan, you may have some benefits like loan forgiveness or the ability to pause payments if your job status changes. When you refinance, you have to switch to a private loan. You cannot refinance within the federal student loan program.

However, if you have more than one federal student loan, you may be able to consolidate them into one federal loan, but this is not the same as refinancing. If you have a mix of federal and private student loans, your only consolidation option is a private loan.

What is your credit score?

One disadvantage of trying to refinance a student loan soon after you graduate is that you probably don’t have a very long credit history. If you have a low credit score, you may struggle to find decent terms in a refinanced student loan. If your credit score is low, you might be better served by keeping your current loan terms for several months, if possible, and build up your credit score by making your payments on time.

Content Image
Expert Tip
A refinanced student loan could carry upfront fees, so always ask about these before agreeing to anything.
STAFF
BestReviews

Researching student loan refinancing services

The good news is that it’s easier than ever to research student loan refinancing services. Start with some online research to find lenders that can accommodate your needs. Here are some specific items to consider when comparing lenders.

Rates

Look for rate discounts. Some lenders will discount your interest rate if you sign up to receive only electronic documents or automatic payments from your bank account.

Watch out for adjustable rates. Some lenders may draw you in with a very low interest rate, but if it’s an adjustable rate, it could go up several months after you sign the papers. Don’t let an adjustable rate catch you off guard. (During the refinancing process, you may have to choose between an adjustable or fixed interest rate.)

Payments

Look for flexible payment options. While this isn’t a common service offered by private lenders, some will give you the ability to pause your payments if you lose your job. If this is important to you, look for a refinancing lender that offers this service.

Watch out for early repayment penalties. If you believe you’ll be able to pay off your loan early, look for a lender that doesn’t charge a penalty for doing so.

Look for a repayment duration that fits your needs. Some people want to spread the payments over a longer period in order to lower the monthly payment enough to make refinancing worthwhile. Some lenders will only refinance a student loan for five or ten years, while others will extend it twice that long, which might fit your current situation better.

Income

Understand the income requirements. Most lenders require that you have a minimum income before accepting your application. Know this number so you don’t waste time applying to lenders who are going to reject you based on your current income.

Content Image
Did you know?
If you have not earned your college degree yet, you probably will not be eligible to refinance a student loan.
STAFF
BestReviews

Common mistakes to avoid

To ensure that your student loan refinancing process goes smoothly, avoid these common mistakes.

Mistake #1: You don’t do enough research.

Some lenders dealing with student loans may tout very low interest rates or very low monthly payments, but you need to look beyond those numbers. How can those lenders offer such low payment terms? Perhaps the lenders require numerous fees or a variable interest rate. Read the fine print carefully and ask questions to make sure you understand the terms.

Mistake #2: You think you have to refinance all of your loans.

You may have one loan with favorable terms and a reasonable monthly payment and a couple others that are crippling your financial well-being. You don’t have to refinance or consolidate all of your loans. Look for a lender that will allow you to refinance or consolidate the two loans that are causing the problem and keep the original loan as is.

Mistake #3: You stop making payments prematurely.

You’ve agreed to a refinanced or consolidated student loan, and you now assume you can stop payment on the original loan. Be careful. It can take 15 to 60 days for your original loan to be officially settled, which means you may have to continue to make regular monthly payments on the original loan. If you miss this payment, you could be subject to penalties. If you inadvertently make an extra payment, the original lender will return the money to you.

Content Image
Expert Tip
If your student loan currently is in default, you will have a difficult time finding a new lender. Try to make your current loan’s overdue payments before starting the refinancing process.
STAFF
BestReviews

Tips

  • Small changes in the interest rate can save you a lot of money. While a percentage point or two may not seem like much, it can equate to hundreds or thousands of dollars in savings over the life of the loan. And while most people refinance to get a lower monthly payment, you can refinance at a lower interest rate but keep the monthly payment the same. You’ll pay off the more quickly.
  • Check the interest rates periodically. They fluctuate over time, so check them occasionally. You could find that even though you refinanced 18 months ago, a recent drop in interest rates would make refinancing again beneficial to you.
  • Refinance to remove a cosigner from your loan. This will benefit your credit score as you pay off the loan.
  • Check reviews of customer service. If you ever have a problem with your loan, you want to be able to speak to a human. Read some online reviews to learn more about the customer service performance of particular lenders.
  • Find the right lender for your circumstance.  If you have a special circumstance, such as needing to refinance a loan for medical school, for another type of advanced degree, or for a student who never graduated, you may need to find a lender who specifically deals with those types of situations to receive the best terms.
Content Image
Many refinancing services want you to have steady employment before they will consider taking you on as a client.

FAQ

Q. What exactly does it mean when I attempt to refinance a current student loan?
A.
You are agreeing to open a new loan, using the proceeds from your new loan to pay off your existing student loan. You must use the proceeds to pay off the existing loan, or you will be in violation of the terms of your refinanced loan. Ideally, the interest rate and monthly payment amount are lower with the refinanced loan than with the original loan.
 

Q. If I refinance an existing student loan, will my credit score take a hit?
A.
It shouldn’t affect your credit score too much. Instead, think of it this way: If you are making late payments on your current student loan because you cannot afford them, it will hurt your credit score quite a bit. If you can refinance to a lower payment amount that fits your current situation better, you’ll improve your credit score by making on-time payments.
 

Q. Is there any downside if I am refinancing my student loans for a second or third time (or more)?
A.
No. Refinancing your student loans more than once does not affect your credit score in any significant way, nor does it cause lenders to consider you as a risky borrower. If your job status changes and you need to change the terms of your loan to fit your new job status, it’s perfectly acceptable to do this more than once.
 

Q. Is it a good idea to have a cosigner for my refinanced student loan?
A.
This is a personal choice. With a cosigner, you’re more likely to receive approval for your application, so a cosigner can be helpful. You also may receive a better interest rate with a cosigner. However, with a cosigner, you may not receive as large of a bump in your credit score as you pay down the loan, so there are pros and cons to using a cosigner.

Our Top Picks