Earnest Student Loans and Refinancing Review in 2020

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Earnest Student Loans and Refinancing Review in 2020

Earnest is an American online student loan provider, lender, and loan servicer that provides student aid and various financial advice to students and recent graduates. Founded in 2013, Earnest uses a data-backed approach to evaluate student loan debt and needs. The Earnest student loans and refinancing facilities are available to a wide range of individuals, whether they’re students or simply financially conscious individuals.

The organization has two primary offerings, namely the Earnest Private Student Loan and student loan refinancing. In addition, they provide personal loans to qualifying candidates.

Earnest Student Loans: Private Student Loans Review

Earnest Private Student Loans are a good option for students looking to finance their education. The loans are available for undergraduate, and graduate students looking for either partial or complete financial assistance.

Earnest student loans benefit students who have exhausted all of their subsidized and unsubsidized student loan options and need further help to cover their college costs. 

Borrowers have a number of repayment options at their disposal with Earnest’s private loans, such as being able to skip a full year of payment. In addition, Earnest offers a mobile app for private student loan administration and payment amount tracking.

Earnest Student Loan Details

The Earnest Private Student Loan requires a hard credit check to determine what interest rate the borrower will get and if they qualify for the loan at all. This check needs to be during the application process.

The loan terms are 5, 7, 10, 12, and 15 years for co-signed borrowers and 5 and 7 years for solo borrowers. The minimum loan amount is $1,000, with the upper cap depending on the school’s own cost of attendance.  There is no origination fee or prepayment penalty. There is also no late fee. However, just as with credit cards, extended failure to pay may incur fines.

Earnest Student Loan Eligibility Criteria

Here are the requirements for the Earnest Private Student Loan:

  • Minimum Income: $35,000 a year (regular monthly income is preferred).
  • Minimum Credit Score: 650 (higher for bigger loan amounts).
  • Typical Approved Borrower Income: Undisclosed (typically decided on a case by case basis).
  • Qualification Despite Bankruptcy: Applicants cannot qualify in case of bankruptcy.
  • Maximum Debt-to-Income Ratio: Undisclosed.
  • Citizenship: Applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents. International students need a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
  • Loan Availability Location: Currently, the loan is not available in Alaska, Hawaii, Connecticut, Nevada, Texas, New Hampshire, and Virginia.

In addition, students must be enrolled on, at least, a half-time basis in a school that is pre-approved by Earnest.

Earnest Student Loan Repayment Options

For in-school borrowers, the repayment term starts as soon as the loan is disbursed.

In case of a deferred payment, students don’t have to make payments while they are still in between their school term(s). If they have selected fixed repayments, students have to pay $25 every month while they are in school. Earnest also offers interest-only payments, which require students to pay only the interest amount each month, while they are in school.

All of the payment options are available with the loan terms mentioned earlier.

In the case of post-school repayment, there is a grace period of 9 months, during which you don’t have to make payments. There is an in-school deferment option that allows students to request deferred loan payments when going back to school. There is also a military deferment option for active-duty members.

Earnest offers a unique Internship/Residency/Fellowship deferment, as well. During these, borrowers can defer payments for up to 4 years. This is only in case of active medical residency, fellowship programs, and internships.

In terms of co-signer release options, Earnest only offers to release a loan co-signer through refinancing of the loan. Borrowers cannot release their co-signers during their principal loan terms.

Finally, there is a full discharge option in case of death or permanent disability.

Earnest Student Loans Pros and Cons

Here are some of the reasons why you should and shouldn’t take out an Earnest Private Student Loan:


  • No late fees on payments.
  • A full 9 month grace period.
  • The option to skip a single payment every year, without incurring a penalty.


  • Loans are not available all over the country.
  • Borrowers have to undergo a hard credit check to qualify.

Earnest offers a lot of flexibility in its loan repayment plans, which is great for students with financial restrictions.

The Verdict

As mentioned, the flexibility that Earnest offers makes its private student loan a viable option for the majority of borrowers. However, there are some restrictions with regard to state availability and co-signer release.

The grace period is also longer than most lenders, online or otherwise. This makes Earnest a better choice than most for students looking to explore their job options right after they graduate.

Earnest Student Loan Refinancing Review

Other than the primary student loan, Earnest also offers a student loan refinance option. Much like their regular loans, the Earnest Student Loan Refinancing package is popular among students looking for some payment ease.

The payment options are very customizable. Earnest lets you make minimum payments on the same day, as well as, extra payments during the monthly payment period.

It grants refinancing on an income-based repayment plan, and their total disbursed amounts are based on the account performance and earning potential of the borrower.

Earnest Student Loan Refinancing Details

Earnest allows you to qualify for student loan refinancing based on a soft credit history check. This makes it beneficial for students who have undergone hard credit report checks in the past.

The loan terms are between 5 and 20 years. Students can choose a precise loan term, but they will have to be accurate down to the month. Once decided, the term cannot be changed. The refinancing loan amounts range from $5,000 to $500,000.

Parents cannot transfer their loans to their children. However, their children can be added as co-signers if they have a steady income.

There is no origination or application fee, or a prepayment penalty. Finally, there is no late fee. However, if a student doesn’t make a payment for an extended period of time, they will incur fees.

Earnest Student Loan Refinancing Eligibility Criteria

Here are the requirements for Earnest Student Loan Refinancing:

  • Minimum Income: No set minimum. Applicants need to have a steady monthly income or a present written job offer from a potential employer.
  • Minimum Credit Score: 650 (slightly higher for bigger refinancing amounts).
  • Typical Approved Borrower Income: Undisclosed (typically decided on a case by case basis).
  • Qualification Despite Bankruptcy: Applicants can qualify after 7 years of Chapter 13 bankruptcy and 10 years for Chapter 7.
  • Maximum Debt-to-Income Ratio: Undisclosed.
  • Citizenship: Applicants must be U.S. citizens or in possession of a non-conditional, 10-year green card.
  • Loan Availability Location: Currently, the loan is available in all states except Nevada, Kentucky, and Delaware.

In addition, Alaska, Illinois, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Tennessee residents cannot get variable rates on their loan refinancing.

Earnest Student Loan Refinancing Repayment Options

Earnest allows for both academic and military deferment for active students and military personnel, respectively. In case of financial hardship, borrowers can choose forbearance, during which they can postpone repayment at the rate of 3-month increments, for up to a year.

Borrowers can also skip a full month’s payment, once a year. If they have been paying on a bi-weekly basis, they can skip two months a year (pending approval).

Earnest Student Loan Refinancing Pros and Cons

Here are some of the reasons why you should and shouldn’t apply for Earnest Student Loan Refinancing:


  • Customizable loan terms and payments.
  • Soft credit check for qualification.
  • Option to skip a payment every 12 months.


  • No co-signer application option.
  • Refinancing is not available in Kentucky, Nevada, and Delaware.

Earnest has a strong refinancing package for students looking to pay off their loans quickly and in easy payments.

The Verdict

Students and recent graduates have a better option with Earnest, but only if they live in one of the approved states. The flexible repayment facility and competitive rates make both the private student loan and refinance option very viable for students who want to take some time to look for a well-paying job.

However, the lack of presence in some states forces students to relocate, or apply with a co-signer in one of the approved states.

All in all, Earnest is a great lender for the vast majority of borrowers.