Earnest Student Loans Review

Earnest offers affordable student loan rates and custom repayment terms

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Earnest

Courtesy of Earnest

Earnest is a trusted student loan lender with over 124,000 clients. It offers both private loans and student loan refinancing and has refinanced more than $10.2 billion worth of educational debt. The online-only lender was started with the goal of using data to streamline the borrowing process and offer an affordable and personalized experience.

Borrowers with fair credit or better may be able to get approved for an Earnest student loan to pay for school or for a loan to refinance existing student debt. Borrowing from Earnest may be the right option if you:

  • Have a credit score of at least 650
  • Are employed with a steady income
  • Need to borrow at least $1,000 to attend school or want to refinance at least $5,000 in student loans
  • Pros and Cons
  • Undergraduate Loans
  • Graduate Loans
  • Co-Signed Loans
  • Business, Medical, and Law Loans
  • Student Loan Refinancing
Pros and Cons
Pros
  • Fast rate quote with no hard credit check

  • Eligibility determination also includes non-traditional factors

  • Precision Pricing lets you set your own monthly payments

Cons
  • No co-signer release

  • No in-person customer assistance

  • Loans not available in all 50 states

Undergraduate Loans
  • Fixed APR range: Starting at 3.49% (with autopay discount)
  • Variable APR range: Starting at 1.30% (with autopay discount)
  • Loan amount: $1,000, up to the cost of attendance
  • Loan terms: 5 to 20 years
Graduate Loans
  • Fixed APR range: Starting at 3.55% (with autopay discount)
  • Variable APR range: Starting at 1.24% (with autopay discount)
  • Loan amount: $1,000, up to the cost of attendance
  • Loan terms: 5 to 20 years
Co-Signed Loans
  • Fixed APR range: Starting at 3.55% (with autopay discount)
  • Variable APR range: Starting at 1.24% (with autopay discount)
  • Loan amount: $1,000, up to the cost of attendance
  • Loan terms: 5 to 20 years
Business, Medical, and Law Loans

Business

  • Fixed APR range: Starting at 3.55% (with autopay discount)
  • Variable APR range: Starting at 1.24% (with autopay discount)
  • Loan amount: $1,000, up to the cost of attendance
  • Loan terms: 5 to 20 years

Medical

  • Fixed APR range: Starting at 3.55% (with autopay discount)
  • Variable APR range: Starting at 1.24% (with autopay discount)
  • Loan amount: $1,000, up to the cost of attendance
  • Loan terms: 5 to 20 years

Law

  • Fixed APR range: Starting at 3.55% (with autopay discount)
  • Variable APR range: Starting at 1.24% (with autopay discount)
  • Loan amount: $1,000, up to the cost of attendance
  • Loan terms: 5 to 20 years
Student Loan Refinancing
  • Fixed APR range: 2.98% to 5.49% (with autopay discount)
  • Variable APR range: 1.99% to 5.34% (with autopay discount)
  • Loan amount: $5,000 ($10,000 in California) up to $500,000
  • Loan terms: 5 to 20 years

Pros of Earnest Loans

  • Fast rate quote with no hard credit check: Earnest will give you an estimated rate quote after you submit some basic information, including your first and last name, email address, citizenship status, educational status, desired loan amount or existing loan balance (for refinancing), annual income, assets, and rent or mortgage payment (if any). Earnest says the process takes only two minutes and doesn't require an inquiry on your credit report, so your credit score will not be affected. 
  • Eligibility determination goes beyond credit score alone: While Earnest requires a minimum credit score of 650, it also looks beyond that when determining loan approval and terms. It considers other factors such as your savings patterns, employment history, career growth potential, and the balance of your 401(k) or other investment accounts, if you have them. This allows you to get a more personalized rate. 
  • Precision Pricing lets you set your own monthly payments: Earnest offers 180 different loan repayment options as loan terms are set in one- to three-month increments between terms of five and 20 years. You start by determining the repayment amount that fits your budget and this sets your repayment timeline.

Cons of Earnest Loans

  • No co-signer release: Unlike many other student loan lenders, Earnest requires that co-signers remain on the loan for the entire repayment process. This can be a major financial burden, as co-signers are potentially liable for payment and the debt will remain on their credit report until it is fully repaid. 
  • No in-person customer assistance: Earnest offers support via phone, email, and online chat, but there's no local office you can visit if you need help applying or managing loan repayment. 
  • Loans not available in all 50 states: Earnest does not provide loans to residents of Kentucky or Nevada. And it doesn't offer variable-rate loans in Alaska, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Tennessee, or Texas. 

What Does Earnest Offer?

Earnest offers personal loans, private student loans, and student loan refinancing. Student loan options include:

  • Undergraduate private student loans
  • Graduate private student loans
  • Co-signed private student loans
  • Business school loans
  • Medical school loans
  • Law school loans
  • Student loan refinancing

Undergraduate Student Loan Rates & Terms

Loan amount $1,000, up to the cost of attendance
Fixed APR Starting at 3.49% (with autopay discount)
Variable APR Starting at 1.30% (with autopay discount)
Terms available 5 to 20 years
Recommended minimum credit score 650
Grace period 9 months
Origination fee None

Earnest student loans for undergraduates provide the ultimate flexibility, with a grace period of up to nine months after graduation and the option to skip one payment per year after repayment has started (which extends the final payoff date by a month). Borrowers can take loans for up to the school-certified cost of attendance and can keep costs low with an autopay discount. 

NOTE: Precision Pricing also gives borrowers ample choices for loan repayment terms so they can find a loan that fits with their budget. 

Graduate Student Loan Rates & Terms

Loan amount $1,000, up to the cost of attendance
Fixed APR Starting at 3.55% (with autopay discount)
Variable APR Starting at 1.24% (with autopay discount)
Terms available 5 to 20 years
Recommended minimum credit score 650
Grace period 9 months
Origination fee None

A fast approval process, a nine-month grace period, and flexible options for repayment terms set Earnest graduate student loans apart from competitors. It takes just two minutes to check eligibility, and borrowers who go forward with an Earnest loan for grad school will not face any fees for origination, loan disbursement, prepaying loans, or making a late payment. There's also the option to skip one payment per year after repayment begins.

Co-Signed Student Loan Rates & Terms

Loan amount $1,000, up to the cost of attendance
Fixed APR Starting at 3.55% (with autopay discount)
Variable APR Starting at 1.24% (with autopay discount) 
Terms available 5 to 20 years
Recommended minimum credit score 650
Grace period 9 months
Origination fee None

Co-signers can help students get loans at a much more affordable rate, provided they meet borrowing requirements, including a minimum 650 credit score. Unfortunately, Earnest does not offer co-signer release, so co-signers commit for the duration of repayment, which can be a big downside for those who wish to help students borrow. 

Business School Student Loan Rates & Terms

Loan amount $1,000, up to the cost of attendance
Fixed APR Starting at 3.55% (with autopay discount)
Variable APR Starting at 1.24% (with autopay discount)
Terms available 5 to 20 years
Recommended minimum credit score 650
Grace period 9 months
Origination fee None

Business school loans from Earnest provide fast eligibility confirmation, a nine-month grace period, and flexible options for repayment. Borrowers can choose a repayment term lasting between five and 20 years and have the chance to skip one payment a year after repayment has begun.

Medical School Student Loan Rates & Terms

Loan amount $1,000, up to the cost of attendance
Fixed APR Starting at 3.55% (with autopay discount)
Variable APR Starting at 1.24% (with autopay discount)
Terms available 5 to 20 years
Recommended minimum credit score 650
Grace period 9 months
Origination fee None

Earnest allows new health professionals to borrow up to the cost of attending school and to choose a loan repayment term that makes paying back educational debt affordable. They benefit from a nine-month grace period, the ability to skip one payment each year, and the choice to opt for a customized repayment timeline lasting as long as 20 years—although longer timelines for repayment mean added interest cost. 

Law School Student Loan Rates & Terms

Loan amount $1,000, up to the cost of attendance
Fixed APR Starting at 3.55% (with autopay discount)
Variable APR Starting at 1.24% (with autopay discount)
Terms available 5 to 20 years
Recommended minimum credit score 650
Grace period 9 months
Origination fee None

Law school loans are available at competitive rates for borrowers who meet minimum credit score requirements. A nine-month grace period and flexible options for a loan repayment timeline with Earnest's Precision Pricing may enable many students to get the funding they need to earn their Juris Doctorate degree. 

Student Loan Refinancing Rates & Terms 

Loan amount $5,000 ($10,000 in California) up to $500,000
Fixed APR 2.98% to 5.49% (with autopay discount)
Variable APR 1.99% to 5.34% (with autopay discount)
Terms available 5 to 20 years
Recommended minimum credit score 650
Grace period None
Origination fee None

Earnest's student loan refinancing is available only if you have at least $5,000 in current educational debt that you need to refinance. Both parents and student borrowers can refinance their loans, up to a maximum total amount of $500,000. And while there is no grace period before repayment begins when loans are refinanced, Precision Pricing at Earnest enables those who are borrowing to choose a repayment term that gives them a manageable monthly payment. 

How to Get a Student Loan From Earnest

Applying for a student loan from Earnest is fast and easy. However, you must be a U.S. citizen and have reached the age of majority in your state to successfully apply, and you must have a minimum credit score of 650 with at least three years of credit history to potentially qualify for a loan. 

You can find out loan rates and terms in two minutes or less by answering a few simple questions about your desired loan amount and your finances. Once you decide to move forward, the entire application process can be completed quickly online. 

Residents from Kentucky and Nevada aren't eligible to borrow with Earnest, and those who live in Alaska, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Tennessee, or Texas cannot obtain variable-rate loans from the company. 

Repaying Your Earnest Student Loan

Earnest offers loan repayment terms of between five and 20 years. With Precision Pricing, the lender sets a repayment timeline that's right for you, based on your desired monthly payment amount. Because Earnest repayment terms are set in one- to three-month increments within the five-to-20-year span, you'll have up to 180 different options for repayment. 

Earnest also offers a 0.25% interest rate reduction if you sign up for autopay and provides flexibility for borrowers through four different in-school repayment options as well as a nine-month grace period post-graduation before repayment begins. You even have the chance to request to skip one payment per year after you've made at least six on-time payments, as long as your loan is in good standing.

Final Verdict

Earnest's Precision Pricing sets it apart from other student loan lenders, as borrowers get unusually flexible repayment options. With a choice of fixed- or variable-rate loans and a grace period longer than that offered by most other lenders, many student borrowers would be well-served by Earnest's customized plans. 

However, the lack of co-signer release, as well as the 650 minimum credit score requirement, mean that Earnest may not be the right fit for everyone—especially for those who can't qualify on their own and who don't want to ask a co-signer to bear responsibility for the loan throughout the entire repayment process. If that sounds like you, consider other student loan options

Methodology

The Balance is dedicated to providing consumers with unbiased, comprehensive personal loan reviews. To do this, we look at dozens of factors across more than 15 lenders with multiple loan types—including interest rates, fees, loan amounts, and repayment terms—and analyze how each lender’s offerings stack up. This competitive analysis helps ensure that our content helps users make the right borrowing decision for their education needs.

Article Sources

The Balance requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy .
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  3. Earnest. "How We're Different." Accessed Aug. 13, 2020.

  4. Earnest. "Precision Pricing: Smarter Loans, More Savings." Accessed Aug. 13, 2020.

  5. Earnest. "Student Loan Refinancing." Accessed Aug. 13, 2020.

  6. Earnest. "Eligibility Guide." Accessed Aug. 13, 2020.

  7. Earnest. "Low-Interest Loans Designed for You." Accessed Aug. 13, 2020.

  8. Earnest. "What Are My Repayment Options and What If I Cannot Make a Payment?" Accessed Aug. 13, 2020.