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Earnest is a private online lender that specializes in student loans and student loan refinancing. This popular fintech company offers competitive interest rates and flexible repayment terms to undergraduate and graduate students. Plus, it helps existing borrowers save money by refinancing their education debt.
Earnest especially stands out for its nine-month grace period on student loans, rate match guarantee, and unemployment protection benefit. Plus, it uniquely offers Precision Pricing, which helps you choose a customized loan term that works with your budget.
In this Earnest student loans review, we’ll take a closer look at Earnest student loans, including their interest rates, fees, repayment terms, and other features.
Earnest student loans review: Competitive rates and flexible terms
As you’re planning how to pay for school, it’s usually a good idea to max out your eligibility for federal financial aid before turning to private student loans. That includes grants and work-study, as well as federal student loans.
If you need additional funding, a private student loan could make sense — and Earnest is one lender that could help. Earnest offers private student loans for undergraduate and graduate students.
It also provides specific graduate student loans for MBA, medical, and law school, as well as student loans designed for parents and half-time students.
Here’s a closer look at each type:
Earnest’s undergraduate loans are designed for full-time students attending an accredited institution. Rates start at 4.45% APR if you apply with a cosigner (most undergraduates do), or 5.74% if you apply by yourself.
Earnest offers a rate match guarantee, meaning it will match the rate that a competitor offers you and offer you a $100 Amazon gift card. While you’re in school, you have four options for paying back your loans:
- Defer payments while you’re in school and for nine months afterwards. (Most lenders offer a six-month grace period, but Earnest offers a longer one at nine months.)
- Make interest-only payments while you’re in school
- Pay $25 per month while you’re in school
- Make full payments right away
Borrowers can choose from multiple repayment term options, ranging from 5 to 20 years. There are no origination fees or prepayment penalties.
Earnest’s graduate loans are designed for students who are enrolled in a master’s or doctoral degree program at an accredited school. These loans have fixed interest rates that start at 4.45% APR and variable rates from 4.99% APR.
Graduate loans also qualify for Earnest’s rate match guarantee. There are no origination or late payment fees.
If you’re pursuing your Master of Business Administration (MBA), Earnest has a student loan designed specifically for you. Earnest’s MBA loans come with fixed rates starting at 4.45% APR and variable rates from 4.99% APR.
You can choose from multiple repayment options and get a nine-month grace period.
Law School Loans
Earnest’s law school loans also have fixed APRs from 4.45% and variable APRs from 4.99%. They qualify for all the same benefits as Earnest’s other loan types, including multiple repayment options and a nine-month grace period.
Medical School Loans
Earnest’s medical school loans offer the same graduate loan rates (fixed from 4.45% APR and variable from 4.99% APR) and come with a nine-month grace period. You can also defer payments while you’re in residency.
Parents who want to help their kids pay for school can borrow an Earnest parent loan from $1,000 up to their child’s school-certified cost of attendance. Rates start at 4.45% APR fixed and 4.99% APR variable.
You can defer payments while your child is in school and for nine months after (or choose to make payments sooner). Depending on your credit, an Earnest parent loan may have better rates and terms than a federal parent PLUS loan.
However, as a private student loan, it won’t be eligible for federal benefits or repayment plans.
Loans for Half-Time Students
Finally, Earnest offers loans for students attending school half-time. You can get 100% of your school costs covered and qualify for rates starting at 4.45% fixed and 4.99% APR variable.
This half-time student loan qualifies for all the same benefits as the full-time student one, including flexible repayment options and a nine-month grace period.
Earnest’s Precision Pricing Feature
Earnest student loans stand out for their Precision Pricing feature, which helps you choose a customized loan term that works with your budget. To use this feature, you indicate how much you can afford to pay toward your student loans each month.
Earnest will suggest a rate and term that matches your budget. The lender offers terms at one to three month intervals, as long as the term falls between five and 20 years.
In effect, Earnest gives you 180 different repayment term options and helps you choose the one that works for you. Keep in mind that you can always choose to pay off your loan ahead of schedule without penalty.
Earnest Student Loan Refinancing
In addition to private student loans, Earnest also offers student loan refinancing. Refinancing your student loans can help you lower your interest rate and reduce your monthly payments. Refinancing multiple loans also helps you simplify loan repayment, since it involves combining several loans into one.
Here’s a closer look at Earnest’s student loan refinancing options:
- Interest rates: Earnest offers fixed interest rates that start at 4.96% APR and variable interest rates that start at 4.99% APR, as of April 2023. You can choose from multiple repayment term options, ranging from 5 to 20 years.
- Fees: There are no application fees, origination fees, or prepayment penalties with Earnest’s student loan refinancing.
- Eligibility requirements: To be eligible for refinancing with Earnest, you must have at least $5,000 in student loan debt and a minimum credit score of 650. You also have to be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident who has graduated from a Title IV accredited institution.
- Other Features: Earnest offers a few other features that make its student loan refinancing offers stand out. One is its Precision Pricing feature, which lets borrowers customize their repayment term based on their desired monthly payment. Earnest also offers unemployment protection, which lets borrowers pause loan payments if they lose their job. Through Earnest’s forbearance program, you can pause payments for up to 12 months, in three-month increments.
Refinancing your student loans with Earnest could help you access competitive interest rates and flexible repayment terms. The unemployment protection feature is also a great benefit for borrowers.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that refinancing federal student loans turns them private, meaning you lose access to federal programs. If you want to retain federal income-driven repayment plans or forgiveness programs, for instance, it wouldn’t make sense to refinance your student loans with a private lender like Earnest.
Pros of Earnest student loans
- Nine-month grace period: While a six-month grace period is common, Earnest offers a full nine months. This longer grace period gives you more time after graduation to find a job before your first student loan payment is due.
- Competitive interest rates: Earnest offers some of the lowest interest rates in the industry. You can also score a 0.25% discount on your rate by signing up for autopay.
- Flexible repayment terms: Borrowers can choose from multiple repayment term options, ranging from 5 to 20 years.
- Few fees: Earnest does not charge application fees, origination fees, or prepayment penalties.
- Precision Pricing: Earnest’s Precision Pricing feature allows borrowers to customize their interest rate based on their budget.
- Skip a Payment: Earnest’s Skip-a-Payment feature allows borrowers to skip one payment per year without penalty.
Cons of Earnest student loans
- Not everyone will qualify: To be eligible for Earnest’s loans, you must meet certain credit and income requirements or apply with a creditworthy cosigner.
- No co-signer release: Earnest does not offer a co-signer release option, which may be a drawback for some borrowers. Some other lenders let you apply to release your cosigner after a certain number of on-time payments.
- Limited loan amounts: Earnest’s loan amounts are limited to $200,000 for undergraduate loans and $500,000 for graduate loans, which may not be enough for some borrowers.
Federal vs. Private Student Loans
Before taking on debt for your education, it’s important to understand the differences between federal and private student loans. Federal student loans are provided by the U.S. Department of Education, specifically its Office of Federal Student Aid. They qualify for a a range of benefits, including fixed interest rates, income-driven repayment plans, and loan forgiveness options.
Private student loans, on the other hand, are provided by private lenders like Earnest. They often let you choose between fixed and variable rates and tend to have fewer repayment options. Private student loans are not eligible for federal repayment plans or forgiveness programs.
To borrow a private student loan, you must meet a lender’s underwriting requirements for credit and income. Federal loans don’t have this requirement. Most undergraduates apply with a cosigner, like a parent, to qualify for a private student loan.
Despite their limitations, private student loans can be helpful if you’ve hit your federal student loan limits and need additional funding for school. Most private lenders let you borrow at any time throughout the school year as much as you need.
Are Earnest student loans right for you?
Earnest has a range of borrower-friendly benefits that could make it the right choice of lender for you. Some of its unique features include Precision Pricing, a nine-month grace period, forbearance options, and a rate match guarantee.
You can learn more and check your rates with Earnest here.
At the same time, it’s always a good idea to shop around with multiple lenders to find the best offer. Many lenders, including Earnest, let you check your rates online through prequalification, which won’t impact your credit score.
For a closer look at some alternative options, check out our Credible review and LendKey review.
Want better rates? Here are the best banks to refinance student loans:
|Variable rates start at...||Fixed rates start at...||Repayment terms||Welcome bonus||Check your rates|
|4.54%||4.49%||5 - 20 years||$200||Visit LendKey|
|4.99%||4.47%||5 - 20 years||$200||Visit Earnest|
|4.22%||3.97%||5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 years||$120||Visit Laurel Road|
|4.53%||4.40%||5 - 20 years||$100 or $200, depending on the amount you refinance||Visit Credible|
|5.09%||4.74%||5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 years||$100||Visit SoFi|
|4.53%||4.83%||5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 years||$100||Visit ELFI|