11 Best Banks to Refinance Student Loans: Up to $1,275 Bonus


Why refinance student loans? Because you want to get a lower interest rate, a lower monthly payment, or both on your existing student debt. Through Student Loan Planner, you could get a significant student loan refinance bonus too.

In this post, you’ll find the best student loan refinance deal for your private student debt, whether you should refinance at all, and a comparison of different refinancing companies. In general, we do not recommend refinancing federal student loans until September 2021. That’s because President Biden issued an executive order on January 20 that suspended the existing freeze on federal student loan interest until at least September 30, 2021.

1$1,000 for $100K or more, $200 for $50K to $99.999.99. For Earnest, if you refinance $100,000 or more through this site, $500 of the $1,000 cash bonus is provided directly by Student Loan Planner. Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Earnest disclosures. 2For Elfi, if you refinance over $150,000 through this site, $500 of the cash bonus listed above is provided directly by Student Loan Planner. Elfi disclosure. 3For Commonbond, if you refinance over $100,000 through this site, $500 of the cash bonus listed above is provided directly by Student Loan Planner. Commonbond disclosure.4For Credible, if you refinance over $100,000 through this site, $500 of the cash bonus listed above is provided directly by Student Loan Planner. Credible disclosure.

The only borrowers who might consider refinancing federal student loans before the interest freeze expires would be those who 1) want to lock in a low rate long term, 2) expect interest rates will rise by at least 0.5% between now and September, and 3) believe they can earn more investing than by paying their student loans off early. Borrowers who fit all three criteria and who can find a rate lower than 4% fixed for 20 years might consider this. Most borrowers should wait until the interest freeze expires.

The 5 lenders in the table above most frequently offer the best rates to our readers. If you want near certainty that you’ve found the best deal, then read the whole article and check all 11 refinancing companies that we mention.

Here’s how we determine what lenders to feature and where:

  1. How many readers successfully refinanced with this lender in the past few months? The higher percent of loans that a lender can close out of the applications they receive, the more important it is to apply with them.
  2. What are we hearing from applicants? Our readers’ feedback on a lender’s website, the application process, and rates needs to be excellent to receive prominent placement.
  3. How much does a lender pay us? Unlike most other websites, we accept lower commissions to offer better bonuses for those refinancing student loans through our site.

Should I Refinance Student Loans in 2021?

Since interest rates for student loan refinancing are near or at record lows, if you have a private student loan, you need to apply right now. Borrowers who refinanced even a few months ago are already finding better deals with this low rate environment.

Remember, you can refinance your private student loans as many times as you want as long as you find a lower interest rate.

For federal student loans, we recommend waiting to apply until at least one month before the federal student loan interest freeze expires. The only exception to that suggestion is if you believe interest rates are going to soar soon.

Could President Biden enact policies that make student loan refinancing less attractive where you might regret it? He could, but significant changes are unlikely due to Democrats having a narrow majority in Congress.

High income professionals in the private sector who will eventually have a debt to income ratio below 1.25 to 1 should expect to pay their debt back in full. That student debt will disappear faster with a record low interest rate by refinancing.

How to Get the Best Refinancing Deal

Here’s why you will get the best refinancing deal when comparing lenders on Student Loan Planner.

  1. We encourage you to shop around since it’s tough to predict who will offer you the lowest rate
  2. Our partner lenders account for the vast majority of the student loan refinancing market
  3. We take lower advertising fees to offer you bonuses that you can’t get elsewhere

If you find a better student loan refinancing deal somewhere else, please let us know because that should be pretty close to impossible.

Getting a Student Loan Refinance Bonus Along with a Lower Interest Rate

If you’ve already started an application with any of the companies above, you can still get the bonus if you apply with a new email you haven’t used before.

The paid referral relationship we have with our partners does not affect the rate you’re offered, which means that you get a better offer than if you applied directly.

Notice that for some of these companies, you need to refinance a minimum amount with that lender to get the bonus.

If you’re not sure which company to start with, take our quiz below to get a personalized recommendation.

When to Refinance Federal and Private Student Loans

After advising over a billion dollars in student debt, here’s what I tell borrowers when they ask if they should refinance.

  1. Refinance federal student loans if you:
    • Work in the private sector,
    • Have a solid emergency fund
    • Expect to owe federal debt less than 1.25 times your income
    • Are ready to give up forbearance, forgiveness, income driven repayment, and potential eligibility for the PSLF program  
  2. Refinance private student loans if you:
    • Can find a lower interest rate
    • Want a different monthly payment
    • Haven’t checked what lenders currently offer in at least six months (you’ll probably find something better)
    • Recently had a large increase in your credit score (you could be viewed more favorably by lenders)

Remember you can refinance private loans two, three, four or more times. The only thing that matters is if you find a better rate.

Choosing the Best Student Loan Refinance Company for You

Our research shows only 10% of borrowers will check more than three lenders.

That’s why we created the table at the top of the page so you can focus your search.

If you want to be assured of getting the best deal though, check all 11 of the best student loan refinance companies we list below.

Some companies, like Earnest, CommonBond, ELFI and Laurel Road offer rates directly.

Others, like Credible and LendKey, connect you to a network of lenders on their platforms that you probably wouldn’t check on your own.

What Are the Current Student Loan Refinancing Interest Rates?

Your interest rate on a refinanced student loan depends on your credit profile, income, debt to income ratio, and many other factors.

The table below shows the range of current fixed student loan refinancing interest rates reported to us in January 2021 by readers.

Articles to Make Your Student Loan Refinance Decision Easy

All 11 Student Loan Refinancing Companies Compared

Comparing the 11 lenders below will make getting a lower rate easier. We highlight the top reasons you would consider using each lender, the cash bonus terms available (some are specific to the amount refinanced), lender specific reviews if you want to learn more, as well as a star rating reflecting feedback we receive from our readers.

Earnest: Best student loan refinancing company for flexible repayment

  • PositivesFlexible repayment terms, custom loan payments
  • Allows cosignersNo
  • Deferment or forbearance availableYes. Up to 36 months
  • Interest ratesFixed APR starting at 2.98%. Variable APR starting at 1.99%.

  • Bonus$200 for refinancing 50k to $99,999. $1000 for refinancing 100k or more.

Payment flexibility and consistently low rates make Earnest the top lender Student Loan Planner readers use when refinancing student loans. Earnest also services its own loans. If you refinance $100,000 or more, you can get a $1000 bonus ($500 Earnest bonus + $500 from Student Loan Planner). *See disclosures

Earnest Student Loan Refinance Review

Our rating: 5.0 / 5.0

Laurel Road: Best for medical professionals

  • PositivesFlexible repayment terms, profession based discounts
  • Allows cosignersYes. Cosigner release available after 36 months.
  • Deferment or forbearance availableYes. Up to 12 months
  • Interest ratesFixed APR starting at 2.80%. Variable APR starting at 1.89%.

  • Bonus$300 for refinancing 50k to 99k, $500 for 100k to 249k, and $750 for refinancing over 250k.

While Laurel Road serves all borrowers, it is a must check for medical professions as well as Parent PLUS loan borrowers. They offer residency and fellowship refinancing and an additional 0.25% rate discount for certain professions. Laurel Road will automatically apply the best bonus available up to $750 or any discount you qualify for when you use our link to apply.

Laurel Road student loan refinance review

Our rating: 5.0 / 5.0

ELFI: Best for customer service

  • PositivesHighly competitive fixed rates
  • Allows cosignersYes, but no cosigner release
  • Deferment or forbearance availableYes. Up to 12 months
  • Interest ratesFixed APR starting at 2.79%. Variable APR starting at 2.39%.

  • Bonus$300 for refinancing at least $50,000. $575 for 100k to 149k, and $1,275 for refinancing 150k+ ($500 of this would come from Student Loan Planner)

Education Loan Finance, aka ELFI, excels with customer service and low rates for borrowers with the highest credit scores. There is no max loan size, and their fixed rates are very competitive historically. Expect about 5 minutes to get an initial rate estimate. Get up to a $1,275 bonus when you use our ELFI link.

ELFI student loan refinance review

Our rating: 4.5 / 5.0

Commonbond: Best refinancing company for customer service and Parent PLUS borrowers

  • PositivesOffers fixed, variable and hybrid rates.
  • Allows cosignersYes. Cosigner release offered after 36 months
  • Deferment or forbearance availableYes. Up to 24 months
  • Interest ratesFixed APR starting at 2.83%. Variable APR starting at 1.99%.

  • Bonus$300 for refinancing 50k to 100k. $1,050 for refinancing over 100k ($550 from Commonbond and $500 from Student Loan Planner)

CommonBond is one of few lenders not owned by a large company, and they are consistently one of our top 5 lenders. CommonBond is a must check for borrowers with six-figure balances as well as Parent PLUS loans. Get up to a $1,050 bonus when you use our CommonBond link.

CommonBond student loan refinance review

Our rating: 5.0 / 5.0

Splash Financial: Best new student loan refinancing startup

  • PositivesCompares multiple lenders, good customer service available
  • Allows cosignersYes. Cosigner release offered by some lending partners
  • Deferment or forbearance availableYes. Length varies based on lending partner
  • Interest ratesFixed APR starting at 2.63%. Variable APR starting at 1.89%.

  • Bonus$300 to $500 starting when you refinance over $50,000

Splash is similar to Credible and LendKey in that it searches multiple lenders, including many large credit unions. Splash refinances loans from borrowers with an associate, bachelor or grad degrees as well as loans from for-profit colleges. Get up to a $500 bonus when you use our Splash Financial link to apply.

Splash Financial student loan refinance review

Our rating: 4.5 / 5.0

Credible: Best for comparing many lenders with one application

  • PositivesStrong application experience
  • Allows cosignersYes
  • Deferment or forbearance availableYes with some lenders
  • Interest ratesRates starting at 2.79% for fixed-rates and 2.25% variable interest

  • Bonus$1,250 bonus for loans over $100k, $350 for loans below 100k

Credible presents offers from multiple lenders, which offer varying rates, terms and perks like unemployment protection. The application experience with Credible is one of the fastest of any refinancing company. Get a $1,250 bonus on refinances over $100k or $350 bonus for loans under $100k when you use our Credible link. (For the $1,250 bonus, $500 of this comes directly from Student Loan Planner).*Read rates and terms at Credible.com

Credible student loan refinance review

Our rating: 4.5 / 5.0

LendKey: Best search for community banks and credit unions

  • PositivesCompares many smaller lenders you might not apply to
  • Allows cosignersYes
  • Deferment or forbearance availableYes
  • Interest ratesFixed APR starting at 2.95%. Variable APR starting at 1.99%.

  • Bonus$100 to $750, depending on amount refinanced

LendKey offers refinancing through community banks and credit unions, which have offered unusually good deals during the economic contraction of 2020. LendKey also has some of the strongest unemployment protection. Get up to a $750 bonus when you use our LendKey link.

LendKey student loan refinance review

Our rating: 4.5 / 5.0

SoFi: Best if you want to invest and save at the same company where you refinance

  • PositivesCompetitive rates, member benefits, and unemployment protection
  • Allows cosignersYes. No cosigner release offered.
  • Deferment or forbearance availableYes in limited situations.
  • Interest ratesFixed APR starting at 2.99%. Variable APR starting at 2.25%.

  • Bonus$350 to $1,250 depending on amount refinanced (bonus paid through Credible + Student Loan Planner)

SoFi was one of the first companies to offer student loan refinancing. Borrowers in the medical, dental, and legal fields should check their rates. Additionally, SoFi offers residency, fellowship and Parent Plus refinancing. Get up to a $1,250 bonus bonus when you use our Sofi link to see if you qualify and refinance your student loans through Credible. For loans above $100,000, Student Loan Planner provides $500 of the total bonus amount directly.

SoFi student loan refinance review

Our rating: 4.5 / 5.0

Citizens Bank: Best traditional bank with student loan refinancing

  • PositivesCan refinance Parent PLUS loans in child’s name, possible to refinance without degree
  • Allows cosignersYes. Cosigner release available after 36 months.
  • Deferment or forbearance availableYes, with limitations.
  • Interest ratesFixed APR starting at 2.97%. Variable APR starting at 1.99%.

  • Bonus$350 to $1,250 depending on amount refinanced (bonus paid through Credible + Student Loan Planner).

Citizens Bank is a good option for borrowers with strong credit looking to refinance $50k to $100k and who don’t mind opening a debit or credit card account with Citizens Bank. Transferring Parent PLUS loans to your child and refinancing without a degree are unusual perks offered.
Get up to a $1,250 bonus when you use our Citizens Bank link to apply through Credible.

Citizens Bank student loan refinance review

Our rating: 4.0 / 5.0

College Ave: Low rates and flexible options

  • PositivesOffers many different repayment terms
  • Allows cosignersYes. Offers cosigner release after 24 months.
  • Deferment or forbearance availableYes
  • Interest ratesFixed APR starting at 3.34%. Variable APR starting at 3.24%.

  • Bonus$500 Amazon gift card for refinancing more than $100,000. Paid by Student Loan Planner

College Ave refinances up to $150k for undergrad and grad degrees and up to $300k for dentists, physicians, veterinarians and pharmacists. Get a $500 Amazon gift card when you use our College Ave link and refinance more than $100,000. To get the College Ave bonus email us at [email protected] as Student Loan Planner issues the bonus directly.

College Ave student loan refinance review

Our rating: 4.0 / 5.0

Best if you want to check non-profit borrowers in Texas

  • Positives40 years of experience, nonprofit status.
  • Allows cosignersYes, but no cosigner release.
  • Deferment or forbearance availableYes. Up to 12 months total
  • Interest ratesFixed APR starting at 2.70%. Variable APR starting at 1.93%.

  • Bonus$600

Brazos is a nonprofit lender only available to residents of Texas looking to refinance less than $400,000. The website requires patience to apply. Get a $600 bonus when you use our Brazos link and refinance. See disclosures

Brazos student loan refinance review

Our rating: 3.5 / 5.0

Best Lender for Each Occupation

We did a survey of over 1,600 readers in December 2019. They told us their occupation, if they had refinanced, and which company they used.

We list the first place lender below for each profession along with the market share of each profession the lender won, according to those survey results.

  • Dentists: Laurel Road (37%)
  • Physicians: SoFi (31%)
  • Lawyers: Earnest (33%)
  • Veterinarians: Credible (26%)
  • Pharmacists: Earnest (36%)
  • Physical therapists: SoFi (36%)
  • Physician assistants: Earnest (29%)
  • Corporate employees: SoFi (24%)

Student Loan Refinancing Guides for Professionals

Use a Refinance Calculator, See Potential Savings

To refinance student loans, you need to choose a repayment term (usually 5, 7, 10, 15, or 20 years).

It’s common to start with a 10 or a 15 year term, make a bunch of extra payments above what you owe, then refinance again in a couple years to a 5 or 7 year.

Check out these student loan refinancing calculators to see how much money you could save:

Common Refinancing FAQs

Here’s a list of some of the most common questions we get from readers who are thinking about refinancing.

Should I be refinancing in a period of economic uncertainty?

If you have private student debt and a stable paycheck, you could likely find a lower interest rate with another lender even now. Some lenders now require proof of current income or an extra year or two of tax returns. However, if you can find a lower rate you should take action and save money on your interest. You’ll also receive a cash bonus for refinancing.

How can you get a student loan refinance bonus?

You simply need to apply through the referral bonus links on Student Loan Planner. If you have a large enough loan size, you’ll get a cash bonus shortly after your loan funds. In some cases, Student Loan Planner offers additional $500 student loan refinance bonuses on top of what a lender offers.

Will refinancing hurt my credit score?

Your credit score might decline by approximately five points or less when you refinance. This is a temporary impact. If you are ever denied for a mortgage or business loan because of your student loans, it will be because your monthly payment is too high not because of a hit to your credit score from refinancing.

How much lower of an interest rate should I get to justify refinancing?

For federal student loans, aim for at least a 0.5% lower rate than what you have now to justify giving up income driven repayment and forbearance options. For private loans, a rate at least 0.25% below what you have justifies a refinancing.

Can I take on my parent’s loan in my name?

Yes, you can transfer a Parent PLUS or private cosigned loan to your name alone. Lenders that will do this include Commonbond and Laurel Road in the table above.

Is it possible to refinance both federal and private loans together?

Yes, you can combine federal and / or private student loans into one new loan with a private lender. We would not recommend including federal student loans until the interest freeze has ended.

Can I reverse the student loan refinance I did?

No, you cannot reverse a student loan refinancing decision. You can refinance with a new lender to move your loan to a new repayment term, but you cannot return to the federal student loan system.

Should I choose a variable or a fixed rate?

Variable interest rates can save you money through lower interest costs if you can afford to take the risk of your rate increasing. Consider a variable rate if you could afford to pay off your student loan rapidly and you get a rate offer at least 1% below the fixed rate offer. Most borrowers opt for the fixed rate.

Can I refinance my student loans more than once?

Yes. You can refinance your loans as many times as you can find a lower interest rate. You should check competing lenders at least once a year to see if you can lower your interest costs further. Many borrowers refinance two, three, four, or even five times.

Who qualifies to refinance student loan debt?

To qualify to refinance, you need to be a US citizen or permanent resident and have qualifying educational debt from an accredited college or university, a credit score of at least 650, and less than 36% of your income going to debt payments.

What protections do you have with refinanced student loans?

Most private lenders allow up to three months of forbearance. Check your promissory note to verify. Forgiveness of private student loan debt due to death or disability could be considered taxable income, so make sure you have good term life and disability coverage.

What happens to refinanced loans if you get a divorce?

The borrower whose name is on the loan is on the hook for all of the debt. Cosigning a student loan for a spouse is a risk in case of divorce. Additional considerations may apply in community property states.

How soon can you reapply to refinance after getting denied?

Most student loan refinancing denials happen due to a low credit score, high debt to income ratio, or an ineligible institution you attended. If you improve your credit score or debt to income ratio, you can reapply as soon as 30 days later so that this positive change shows up in your credit profile.

When should I refinance my student loans?

A good time to refinance is when you’ve determined student loan forgiveness will not benefit you, your career is stable, and you have an emergency fund.

Should I refinance or consolidate my student loans?

Consolidation means combining multiple federal loans into a single new Direct Consolidation loan through studentloans.gov. You consolidate for an easier path to loan forgiveness. Refinancing means moving your loans to a private lender. It is easy to confuse these two terms. Both consolidation and refinancing can reduce the number of loans you have.

What types of loans are eligible for refinancing?

Generally, any federal or private student loan you took out during school is eligible. Credit card debt, personal loans, residency relocation loans, or other debt you might have incurred during your education is not eligible for student loan refinancing.

Can you refinance a student loan after consolidation?

Yes, you can refinance a consolidated student loan since individual loans are always eligible to be refinanced. You would just apply normally as you would if you had not consolidated your loans.

How often should I refinance my student loans?

As often as you can find a lower interest rate. This is especially true when you receive a student loan refinance bonus each time you refinance with a new lender.

Can you refinance a defaulted student loan?

The default must be fixed before you are eligible to refinance. If you rehabilitate a federal loan, refinancing will be easier as the default comes off your credit report. If the default stays on your record after it is cured, then you will need a cosigner to access lower interest rates through refinancing.

How do I refinance private student loans with bad credit?

You can still refinance with bad credit as long as you have a qualifying cosigner. If you want to refinance in your own name, you should apply to a large number of lenders as some have looser underwriting requirements. You should also make efforts to increase your credit score by paying your loans on time and eliminating credit card balances.

How soon can I refinance my student loans?

You can refinance as soon as you have graduated and can prove your income, usually through a signed offer letter or contract showing your salary. Certain professionals like dentists and physicians may be able to refinance several months ahead of their higher post training salaries with signed offer letters.

Should I refinance my private student loans?

You should always apply to refinance your existing private student loans at least once a year. There is no good reason to pay extra interest income to a private lender, yet that is exactly what borrowers do when they do not shop for a better rate annually.

How are loan consolidation and refinancing similar?

Each option takes multiple loans and creates one new loan. Both are sold as the cure-all to student loans since both have the ability to lower your monthly payment. You need a strategy, not just a one-liner. There is no substitute for educating yourself beyond the promotional ads you see plastered all over the internet.

When is refinancing a bad idea?

If you are seeking student loan forgiveness, refinancing is a very bad idea. Generally, you need to owe less than two times your income and work in the private sector to even consider leaving the safety of the federal student loan system. If your loans are private though, the only risk of refinancing would be choosing a monthly payment that is too high for you to comfortably pay each month.

Testimonials from Readers Who Refinanced

These readers refinanced through Student Loan Planner and picked up a cash back bonus. We wanted to share some real world examples so you’ll feel confident that yes, refinancing and getting paid to do it is a real thing.

Experience Getting a Lower Interest Rate through Student Loan Planner

student loan refinancing bonus
Marisa, Dentist

Student Loan Planner gave me the best companies to look into and then after I did my research I chose which company worked best for me!! I am so glad that I did it and the cash back was a nice bonus too!

dental school loan refinancing
TJ and Lauren, Physicians

TJ and I were able to refinance with CommonBond. We each received a $500 Commonbond bonus…an extra $1000 for something we were going to do anyways!

Start Applying And Find the Lowest Rate

Please share these deals with your friends who are thinking about refinancing.

Maybe they’ll take you out to dinner with part of the bonus. Better yet, maybe they could put it to their principal and get out of student loan debt even sooner!

Refinance student loans, get a bonus in 2021

1$1,000 for $100K or more, $200 for $50K to $99.999.99. For Earnest, if you refinance $100,000 or more through this site, $500 of the $1,000 cash bonus is provided directly by Student Loan Planner. Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discountEarnest disclosures. 2For Elfi, if you refinance over $150,000 through this site, $500 of the cash bonus listed above is provided directly by Student Loan Planner. Elfi disclosure. 3For Commonbond, if you refinance over $100,000 through this site, $500 of the cash bonus listed above is provided directly by Student Loan Planner. Commonbond disclosure. 4For Credible, if you refinance over $100,000 through this site, $500 of the cash bonus listed above is provided directly by Student Loan Planner. Credible disclosure.

Not sure what to do with your student loans?

Take our 11 question quiz to get a personalized recommendation of whether you should pursue PSLF, IDR forgiveness, or refinancing (including the one lender we think could give you the best rate).

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