Earnest Review: Private Student Loans

Our Take
TalkFinance rating
The bottom line: Earnest is an online lender that offers student loan refinancing and private student loans, as well as personal loans. Its refinancing loan is best for borrowers who want to customize their repayment schedule to pay off debt fast. Its private student loan is an option for borrowers who want flexible repayment.
Jump to: Full Review

on Earnest website


2.99 - 12.78%


0.99 - 11.44%



Pros & Cons
  • Option to skip one payment every 12 months.

  • No late fees.

  • Nine-month grace period is longer than most lenders offer.

  • You can’t see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

  • Loans aren't available in Nevada.

Compare to Other loans
TalkFinance rating
TalkFinance rating
TalkFinance rating




5, 7, 10, 12 or 15 years


5, 7, 10, 12 or 15 years


10 to 15 years







Full Review

Earnest is ideal for borrowers who want to refinance college debt and pay it off quickly. Its customizable repayment options make it easy to increase monthly minimum payments, make multiple extra payments at once and make same-day payments.

Founded in 2013, Earnest also stands out for an underwriting approach based on a borrower's earning potential and the financial accounts he or she connects. Typical Earnest borrowers save money regularly, have a drama-free payment history and have minimal credit card or personal loan debt.

Earnest at a glance

  • Customizable payments and loan terms.

  • No late fees.

  • Borrowers can’t apply with a co-signer.

How Earnest student loan refinancing could improve

Earnest, like other five-star lenders, isn't perfect. Earnest could improve by:

  • Letting borrowers apply with a co-signer.

  • Allowing borrowers to refinance their parents’ PLUS loans.

  • Refinancing loans for borrowers in all 50 states.

Earnest student loan refinancing details

Interest rates, fees and terms
  • Soft credit check to qualify and see what rate you’ll get: Yes.

  • Loan terms: 5 years to 20 years. Choose a precise loan term, down to the month.

  • Loan amounts: $5,000 to $500,000.

  • Can transfer a parent loan to the child: No.

  • Application or origination fee: No.

  • Prepayment penalty: No.

  • Late fees: No.

Compare Earnest’s range of interest rates with other student loan refinance lenders. Your actual rate will depend on factors including your — or your co-signer’s — credit history and financial situation. To see what rate Earnest will offer you, apply on its website.



Earnest has a unique underwriting approach that considers the earning potential for your career and data from the financial accounts you connect. At a minimum, you need to connect the checking account where your paycheck is deposited so Earnest can verify your income.

You can also choose to connect accounts for your savings, investments, credit cards and other loans to give Earnest more insight into your financial picture.

  • Minimum credit score: 650.

  • Minimum income: No minimum. Applicant must have a written job offer for employment starting within six months or have consistent income.

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: Did not disclose.

  • Typical income of approved borrowers: $135,000.

  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: 65%.

  • Can qualify if you’ve filed for bankruptcy: Yes, if you don’t have accounts recently in collection and after the bankruptcy drops off your credit report. This happens after seven years for Chapter 13 bankruptcy and after 10 years for Chapter 7.


  • Citizenship: Must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year, non-conditional green card.

  • Location: Not available to borrowers in Kentucky and Nevada. Variable rates aren’t available to borrowers in Alaska, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas.

  • Must have graduated: Yes, but you may be able to refinance in your last semester before graduating if you have an income or job offer.

  • Must have attended a school authorized to receive federal aid: Yes.

  • Percentage of borrowers who have a co-signer: Borrowers cannot apply with a co-signer.

Repayment options

Many lenders are offering relief related to COVID-19. Check this list of private loan relief options to see what this lender offers.

  • Academic deferment: Yes.

  • Military deferment: Yes.

  • Forbearance: Yes, borrowers can postpone payments in three-month increments, for up to 12 months total, if they have:

    • An involuntary decrease in income, such as a reduction in hours, unpaid leave and change from full-time to part-time employment.

    • An involuntary loss of employment at no fault of their own.

    • A significant increase in essential costs such as medical expenses, emergency home repairs or child care.

    • Unpaid maternity/paternity leave.

  • Skip a payment: Borrowers can skip one month’s worth of payments every 12 months — one if they’re making monthly payments, or two if they’re paying biweekly. The skipped payment amount will be spread out across the remaining loan payments, slightly increasing them. Skipping a payment also counts toward your 12-month forbearance limit.

  • Extend a payment date by seven days: Borrowers can push back the due date on an individual payment or change their autopay date through their online Earnest account.

  • Co-signer release available: There's no option to add a co-signer, but refinancing removes the original co-signer.

  • Death or disability discharge: Yes.

  • Loan discharge if co-signer dies or becomes disabled: No option for a co-signer.

Repayment preferences

  • Allows greater-than-minimum payments via autopay: Yes.

  • Allows biweekly payments via autopay: Yes.

Earnest also allows borrowers to make same-day payments and schedule multiple extra payments at once.

Customer service
  • Loan servicer: Earnest.

  • In-house customer service team: Yes.

  • Process for escalating concerns: No.

  • Borrowers get assigned a dedicated banker, advisor or representative: No.

  • Average time from approval to payoff: Did not disclose. Approval takes 20 minutes.

Longtime customers of Earnest may miss features that have been unavailable since Navient purchased the company in 2017, such as Earnest’s mobile app, the ability to adjust payment amounts and due dates online, and access to full payment history online.


Earnest stands apart from other student loan refinance lenders with these features:

  • Customize your monthly payment: Earnest’s precision pricing feature lets borrowers save on interest by choosing an exact monthly payment amount. It adjusts your repayment term to match the amount you choose — even if that results in a seven-year-and-two-month loan, for example.

  • Easily adjust your payments: You can call Earnest to increase your minimum monthly payment at any time to pay off the loan faster.

  • Referral bonus: You can receive $200 for each person you refer who successfully refinances their student loans with Earnest.

Before refinancing with Earnest

Before deciding on a student loan refinance lender, compare multiple student loan refinance options to make sure you’re getting the best rate you qualify for. In addition to interest rates, compare lenders’ repayment options and the flexibility they offer borrowers who are struggling to make payments.

If you aren’t eligible to refinance with Earnest

If Earnest denies your refinance application, the lender will let you know why. Depending on the reason, you may want to consider other lenders or need a co-signer.

Talkfinance recommends prequalifying with multiple refinance lenders before you apply. This will let you know which lenders you may be eligible with, without affecting your credit.