Navigating Your Student Loan Refinance Options

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earnest vs. sofi

Earnest and SoFi are two student loan lenders that give borrowers the option to refinance their student loans. Each company offers additional benefits, ranging from professional networking to taking a month off from making payments.

Student loan refinancing replaces your existing loans with a new loan. It can be a good way to lower your monthly payment or reduce your interest rate.

Is refinancing your student loans right for you? We’ll compare Earnest and SoFi while diving into some things you should consider before you do so.

Company Overviews

Earnest and SoFi are two popular student loan refinancing companies. Here’s how they stack up:

5, 7, 10, 15, or 20 years

Recommends a 670 or higher

Forbearance up to 12 months

Forbearance and deferment offered

Earnest

If you’re looking for a more personalized refinancing option tailored to your specific financial needs, Earnest might be the better option for you. It offers a “precision pricing” option that allows borrowers to pick their monthly payment. You can choose a loan term that aligns with your payment goals, helping you stay on track toward repayment.

You can also take advantage of Earnest’s interest-only option to reduce your monthly payments. This extends the length of the loan term but lowers your payment in the process. You have the option to make interest-only payments in six-month increments, giving you flexibility over how long you extend the length of your loan.

Borrowers will need a 665 credit score to apply for refinancing with Earnest. You’ll also need to show proof of income to qualify. If you carry too much consumer debt or aren’t current on your rent, that can negatively affect your chances of qualifying for a loan.

Earnest looks deeper into your personal finances than other lenders to make sure you’re spending within your means. You’ll also need to show you have an emergency fund of at least two months’ worth of expenses in savings. If you aren’t good with managing money or haven’t started saving yet, Earnest might not be the right company for you to refinance with.

Here’s our full Earnest student loan review. 

Sofi

SoFi – short for Social Finance – is a disruptor to traditional lending. While they started off offering just student loan refinancing, SoFi now offers a variety of traditional banking lending products including mortgages.

The main draw of SoFi is the non-financial benefits it offers like career coaching, access to networking events, and otherwise mundane financial services like estate planning. While these don’t directly affect the cost of your student loans, they can lead to new job opportunities that can help you pay off your loans much faster.

SoFi has strict eligibility standards but offers refinancing solutions for a wide variety of situations. If your parents took out PLUS loans to help you finance college, for example, refinancing those loans through SoFi allows you to transfer the loans into your name. SoFi also allows you to refinance with a cosigner which can improve your loan terms.

Borrowers will need a minimum credit score of 650 to apply but it’s recommended that they have at least a 670 to qualify for refinancing. They also need to show proof of income or employment as part of the application process.

SoFi is highly rated by borrowers. It has 4.6 stars on Trustpilot with borrowers commenting on the straightforward, easy loan process.

Here’s our full Sofi student loan review. 

Comparing Loan Features

$5,000 (may vary by state)

$5,000 (may vary by state)

Application Or Origination Fees

SoFi and Earnest have comparable loan terms. Both offer variable rate loans and the rates provided on their websites include a 0.25% reduction with autopay. Earnest offers customized loan terms compared to only five terms offered by SoFi. Both require borrowers to take out loans with a minimum of $5,000. Some states, like California, have higher requirements.

There are no prepayment penalties for paying your loans off early. SoFi charges a late fee while Earnest does not. Both offer forbearance if borrowers fall on economic hardship. Unlike federal student loans, neither SoFi nor Earnest charge application or origination fees.

Related: The Definitive Guide To Student Loan Debt

Borrower Eligibility And Requirements

To qualify for refinancing, borrowers will need a 665 credit score with Earnest and a minimum of a 650 with SoFi. Neither company discloses the exact criteria, however, the higher your credit score, the better chance of getting the lowest rate.

You’ll also need to show proof of income to qualify. If you carry too much consumer debt or aren’t current on your rent, that can negatively affect your chances of qualifying for a loan.

Earnest does look deeper into your personal finances to make sure you’re spending within your means. You’ll also need to show you have an emergency fund of at least two months’ worth of expenses in savings. If you aren’t good with managing money or haven’t started saving yet, Earnest might not be the right company for you to refinance with.

While SoFi is harder to qualify for, it might feel less invasive than Earnest. You don’t need to have savings and SoFi isn’t going to evaluate your spending habits as part of its underwriting criteria.

Repayment Flexibility And Options

When it comes to flexible repayment terms, Earnest offers greater flexibility. Borrowers can use precision pricing to choose a term between five to 20 years that fits within their budget. While SoFi offers similar term lengths, they are only available in fixed terms.

Earnest borrowers can also opt between bimonthly or monthly payments. This helps borrowers take advantage of lower monthly payments, making their loans more affordable.

Both Earnest and SoFi offer solutions for borrowers who have suddenly lost a job, are enduring financial hardship, or are making a big transition like going back to school. After making three months of on-time payments, Earnest borrowers are eligible for forbearance up to 12 months. SoFi also offers forbearance and deferment depending on your situation.

Related:
How To Select The Best Student Loan Repayment Plan

Additional Benefits And Features

Earnest allows borrowers to skip one monthly payment each year. This can come in handy if you’re facing an unexpected financial hardship. If you elect to skip a payment, it’s tacked onto the end of your loan. Interest will still accrue on the skipped payment, but it will be distributed across your remaining payments rather than being applied to the next payment that’s due.

Earnest also takes a deeper look into a borrower’s finances than other lenders. While this might seem invasive, it allows you to get a customized refinancing offer that meets your specific needs and goals.

SoFi takes a more holistic approach to borrowing. They want to make sure borrowers are set up for success to capitalize on their education. That’s why they offer exclusive networking events and career coaching.

SoFi offers flexible refinancing options for borrowers pursuing advanced degrees in medical or dental fields. While an individual is in residency – where their income is rather meager – SoFi offers $100 monthly payments. This can help future doctors and dentists work toward repaying their loans without being crippled by them.

Application Process And Customer Experience

When you’re ready to apply, start by getting your rate. Both SoFi and Earnest will do a soft pull on your credit. Your credit score will only be affected if you move forward.

After you receive your rate, you’ll be prompted to continue through the application process. You’ll have to provide information to verify your identity and income, as well as the loans you’d like to finance.

To finish your application choose your loan terms. While Earnest offers more flexibility, both lenders offer borrowers the option to choose a term length that fits within their budget.

SoFi offers customer support Monday through Thursday from 5am–7pm PT and Friday through Sunday 5am–5pm PT. Earnest also provides a number of calculators and tools borrowers can use to plan out how they’ll refinance their loan before applying.

Red Flags And Considerations

Before you refinance your student loans with Earnest or SoFi there are some things you’ll want to consider first.

Earnest is owned by Navient, a student loan servicer. A number of lawsuits have been filed against Navient, claiming the company misallocated student loan payments. By the end of 2024, Navient will no longer service federal student loans.

SoFi has also taken legal action. The company sued to block President Biden’s student loan payment pause arguing it adversely affected their refinancing business.

While both companies offer refinancing options, there are some conflicts of interest that borrowers may want to be mindful of before refinancing.

Earnest Vs Sofi: Which Is The Best Option For Student Loan Refinancing

Both SoFi and Earnest offer comparable loan terms, rates, and refinancing options. Choosing between the two will come down to different factors depending on your personal financial situation.

First, you want to determine whether or not you qualify. If you don’t have enough savings in the bank or are between jobs, one lender might be a better option than another.

Next, you want to evaluate your options. In many cases, your credit score will determine your interest rate. Compare your offering from Earnest, SoFi, and other lenders to see how they align with your goals before making a choice.

Last, look at the tradeoffs. While there are some benefits to refinancing with a private lender like SoFi, if you think you might need to take advantage of federal student loan repayment options in the future – like income-based repayment – refinancing with a private lender might not be the best decision.

Here are a few specific scenarios you’ll also want to consider.

You Are Looking To Transfer Parent Plus Loans

One of the challenges with federal student loans is that there are borrowing limits. For students who financed their education using Parent PLUS loans, refinancing can be a way to move the loans of their parents’ name into their name. SoFi allows borrowers to move PLUS loans into their name, however Earnest does not.

You Want To Have Some Flexibility In Repayment

Both SoFi and Earnest have repayment flexibility, especially if you face financial hardship and need to put your loans in forbearance. But Earnest is the better choice if you’re looking for greater flexibility. Not only can borrowers skip one payment per year, they can also customize their loan terms.

You Fear You Do Not Have Job Security

With layoffs on the rise, you might be concerned about job security. SoFi is the best option if you’re worried about this. You can put your loans in forbearance if you face sudden unemployment to pause your payments. SoFi also offers career coaching and networking events that can help you find your next job in the meantime.

Conclusion

Refinancing your student loans can be a good option to consider, especially if you want to lower your monthly payment or your interest rate. Doing so with a private lender can come with tradeoffs you’ll want to consider.

Start by evaluating your financial situation. Get a rate quote from both SoFi and Earnest to see what your options are. Select a custom loan term to help you stay within your budget. After you review your options, make the best decision for your personal financial situation that helps you achieve your goals.

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