Earnest Refinancing and Private Student Loans: 2022 Review

Full Review

Earnest began offering private student loans in April 2019. It’s an alternative for borrowers who have exhausted their federal student loan options and need additional money to cover college costs.

Earnest stands out for its unique repayment options, including the ability to skip one payment per year. Its private student loan application is fully available on mobile.

Earnest private student loans at a glance

  • Option to skip one payment every 12 months.

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

  • Loans aren’t available in Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Hampshire, Texas or Virginia.

How Earnest could improve

Earnest could improve its private student loan product by:

  • Offering personalized rate estimates without affecting credit.

  • Offering more than 12 months of forbearance.

  • Lending to borrowers in all 50 U.S. states.

Earnest private student loan details

Interest rates, fees and terms

  • Soft credit check to qualify and see what rate you’ll get: No.

  • Loan terms: For cosigned loans: 5, 7, 10, 12 or 15 years. For solo borrowers: 5 or 7 years.

  • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to the school’s cost of attendance.

  • Application or origination fee: No.

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


  • Minimum credit score: 650.

  • Minimum income: None for independent student loans; $35,000 for co-signed loans.

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

  • Typical income of approved borrowers: Did not disclose.

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

  • Can qualify if you’ve filed for bankruptcy: No.


  • Citizenship: International students can qualify if they have a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The primary borrower must have a Social Security number.

  • DACA borrowers: Not eligible.

  • Location: Not available to borrowers in Nevada.

  • Must be enrolled half-time or more: Yes.

  • Loan can be used for past due tuition: Yes, up to 365 days past due.

  • Types of schools served: Any school authorized to receive federal aid.

  • Percentage of borrowers who have a co-signer: No information is available, but Earnest is targeting 90%.

In-school repayment options

  • Immediate repayment: Make full payments as soon as the loan is disbursed, while you’re still in school.

  • Deferred repayment: Don’t make any payments while you’re in school.

  • Fixed repayment: Pay $25 every month while enrolled in school.

  • Interest-only repayment: Pay interest every month you’re in school.

  • Full in-school deferment: Yes, borrowers can defer payments until their 9-month grace period has expired.

Post-school repayment options

  • Income-based repayment option: No.

  • In-school deferment: Yes, borrowers can ask to defer payments when returning to school.

  • Internship, residency or fellowship deferment: Borrowers can defer payments for up to 48 months during a medical residency, internship or fellowship program.

  • Forbearance: Borrowers can pause payments for up to 12 months.

  • Co-signer release available: No. Borrowers may refinance with Earnest and release their co-signer.

  • Death or disability discharge available: Yes.

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

Repayment preferences

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

  • Allows biweekly payments via autopay: Yes.

  • In-house customer service team: Yes.

  • Process for escalating concerns: Yes.

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

  • Average time from application to approval: Less than three days.

    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 offers these unique perks:

  • Skip one payment every 12 months.

Before applying for a Earnest student loan

Before taking out an Earnest student loan or any other private student loan, exhaust your federal student loan options first. Submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA, to apply.

Compare your private student loan options to make sure you’re getting the best rate you qualify for. In addition to interest rates, look at lenders’ repayment alternatives and the flexibility they offer to borrowers who struggle to make payments.

If you aren’t eligible for an Earnest student loan

If Earnest denies your student loan application, the lender will let you know why. Depending on the reason, you may want to consider other lenders or, if you haven’t already, try applying with a co-signer.


Our survey of more than 29 banks, credit unions and online lenders offering student loans and student loan refinancing includes the top 10 lenders by market share and the top 10 lenders by online search volume, as well as lenders that serve specialty or nontraditional markets.

We consider 41 features and data points for each financial institution. Depending on the category, these include the availability of biweekly payments through autopay, minimum credit score and income requirement disclosures, availability to borrowers in all states, extended grace periods and in-house customer service.

The stars represent ratings from poor (one star) to excellent (five stars). Ratings are rounded to the nearest half-star.

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