Whether you have federal or private student loans (or both), refinancing or consolidating these loans can help you reduce your debt, save money, manage payments better, and focus on other goals.
Too much student debt can negatively affect your ability to qualify for other loans (like a car loan or a mortgage) and save for retirement.
In this article, I explain what it means to refinance or consolidate a student loan, and the best student loan refinancing companies you can choose.
Let’s dive in.
What does it mean to refinance or consolidate a student loan?
Refinancing a loan means getting a new (and lower) interest rate on a current loan. Consolidating student loans means merging multiple loans into a single monthly payment. Federal loans can be consolidated, but not refinanced, while private loans can be consolidated and refinanced.
When you consolidate your federal student loan, you get one monthly payment with a new loan term and a fixed interest rate, which is usually the average of all your previous rates.
When you refinance your student loans, a private lender repays your loans and gives you a new loan based on how high your (or your cosigner’s) income is and how good your credit score is. If you qualify for a lower interest rate, you will get lower monthly payments when you refinance the loans.
This helps you save money in the long run.
5 best student loan refinancing companies
Below are five of the best student loan refinancing lenders you can consider to refinance your student loans.
Rhode Island Student Loan Authority (RISLA)
Rhode Island Student Loan Authority (RISLA) distinguishes itself from other student loan refinancing companies because it offers competitive rates and great benefits to borrowers.
Despite having ‘Rhode Island’ in the name, RISLA is a great choice for students that attend(ed) colleges nationwide. In RISLA, there are no application fees and all refinancing loans have fixed interest rates.
Fixed interest rates: 2.69%+ (with 0.25% Autopay discount)
Loan term options: 5, 10, and 15 years
Loan amount: $7,500 – $250,000
RISLA offers a wide range of benefits to borrowers. These benefits include:
- Income-based repayment (IBR)
If, for some reason, you can’t afford your repayments, you can apply for RISLA’s IBR plan. If you are accepted, RISLA will base your monthly payment on your income and the size of your family, which can potentially reduce the amount you repay.
- Graduate school deferment
If you decide to go to graduate school, you can defer your payments for up to three years.
- Total and permanent disability
RISLA is one of the few student loan refinancing companies that offer loan discharges to borrowers who are unable to work as a result of a physical or mental disability.
If you are eligible for this benefit, your loan balance will be forgiven when you submit medical documentation to corroborate your claims.
If you are unemployed or facing an emergency that makes it unable to repay your loans on time, you can apply for forbearance. If you are accepted, you will be able to postpone your payments for up to three months at a time, for up to 12 months over the length of your loan.
CommonBond is one of the best student loan refinancing lenders. In addition to student loan refinancing, CommonBond also offers undergraduate, graduate, dental and Master of Business Administration (MBA) loans.
To get undergraduate and graduate loans, you need a cosigner. But you don’t need a cosigner for the other loan options.
After CommonBond approves your loan, it can take between five days to three weeks for your school to confirm your loan amount. There is an origination fee for dental, medical, and MBA loans, but the fees are generally low.
Interest rates: 1.98% – 6.74% (with 0.25% autopay discount)
Loan term options: 5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 years
Loan amount: $1,000 – $500,000
The benefits of choosing CommonBond include:
- Deferred payments
While in school, students can defer makeup or decide to make up to full payments every month, depending on which loan type they chose.
- Hybrid loans
With a hybrid loan, you get a fixed interest rate for the first five years. After that, the loan will have a variable interest rate. This is great if you want a low interest rate and pay your loans as fast as possible, but you also want a fixed rate loan because of security.
If you’re facing some financial difficulties because of unemployment or a medical crisis, you can postpone payments on loans for up to two years over the length of your loan, which is the longest forbearance option offered by any private lender.
Founded in 2011 by Stanford Business School students, SoFi was originally a student loan refinancing company before they started lending loans privately in 2019.
SoFi offers student loans for undergraduates, graduates, parents, and students in medical school, law school, and business school starting at $5,000. They also don’t charge any fees.
To be eligible for a loan, you have to be a graduate with an associate’s degree, at least. SoFi will also consider your income sources, financial history, and credit score when evaluating your application.
Interest rates: 1.74% – 6.94% (with 0.25% Autopay discount)
Loan term options: 5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 years
Maximum loan amount: Starts at $5,000 – No maximum amount
SoFi offers comprehensive benefits to its borrowers. Some of which include:
- Zero fees
With SoFi, you don’t have to pay application fees, origination fees, late fees or insufficient funds fees.
No matter the kind of loan you want, you and your cosigner can check the terms and rates before applying fully, without hurting your credit scores.
- Flexible repayment options
SoFi offers cosigners with release options. They also give borrowers experiencing financial hardship access to programs and benefits.
- Career coaching
SoFi gives borrowers access to a career coach to get advice on building your personal brand, asking for a raise, or preparing for a promotion.
- Unemployment protection
If you get laid off from your job, you can postpone your payments for three months at a time, for a maximum of one year.
- Financial planning
Borrowers can make appointments with a financial planner to get personalized advice on budgeting, investing, and saving for retirement.
When you refer a friend to SoFi’s loan program, both of you will earn $10 when your friend checks their rates. If they do apply for the loan and get approved, you’ll both get an extra $300.
Based in Cleveland, Splash Financial is a student loan refinance marketplace with its own network of banks and credit unions. They offer refinancing for federal, private and parent loans. Splash Financial gives borrowers quotes from their partner lenders with loans available across all 50 states in the U.S. They also have a specialized refinance program designed for doctors who are completing fellowships or residences.
Interest rates: 1.74% – 6.62%
Loan term options: 5, 8, 10, 12, 15, and 20 years.
Minimum FICO credit score: 640
Loan amount: $5,000 – No maximum amount
To refinance with Splash Financial, you must have at least $5,000 in student debt.
The benefits of refinancing with Splash Financial includes:
- There are no origination fees, application fees, or prepayment penalties.
- They work with a network of banks and credit unions to provide the best rate.
- They offer the lowest rates for student loans, and borrowers can choose between fixed and variable rates.
- Most of Splash’s lending partners offer cosigner release options after receiving 12 consecutive on-time payments on the loan.
Founded in the 1800s in Rhode Island, Citizens Bank is one of the biggest commercial banks in the U.S., with branches in New England, the Midwest and the mid-Atlantic.
Apart from refinancing, Citizens Bank offers loans to undergraduates, graduates, parents, and students who attend medical school, law school and dental school. They also offer loans to students doing an MBA and international students.
To qualify for refinancing with Citizens Bank, you must not be in school and your loans must be in repayment. If you did not graduate, then you must have made 12 consecutive, on-time payments on your student loans before you apply.
Interest rates: 1.99% – 9.15% (with 0.25% AutoPay discount)
Loan term options: 5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 years
Loan amount: $750,000 max.
The benefits of choosing Citizens Bank includes:
- If you have a checking or savings account with Citizens Bank, you can get a 0.25% reduction on your interest rate.
- International students can apply if they have a cosigner who is a permanent resident or U.S. citizen with good credit.
- You can qualify to have your cosigner removed from your loan after making 36 consecutive, on-time payments.
- Citizens Bank offers multiyear approval loans. This means that once you start, you will secure funding for the following years in school without going through a credit check every year.
- Citizens Bank allows borrowers to refinance their loans without a degree.
Wrapping it up
No student loan refinancing company is a great fit for all students. The lenders above are a great starting point for most borrowers, but you should read reviews and research each company to ensure that they’re the perfect choice for you.