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7 Best Banks To Refinance & Consolidate Student Loans

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7 Best Banks To Refinance & Consolidate Student Loans

7 Best Banks To Refinance & Consolidate Student Loans

Refinancing and consolidating student loan debt can be a great way to save money and take advantage of today’s low interest rates. Refinancing can save you money each month through lower payments, and save you money over the life of the loan through lower interest rates. Consolidating student loans with different payment amounts, due dates, and interest rates into a new loan with one payment, one amount, and one interest rate can make it easier to stay on top of your student loan obligation without a payment getting lost in the shuffle. There are plenty of banks out there that can refinance and/or consolidate your student loans, but finding the right bank can be time consuming and frustrating. To successfully navigate this often confusing process, you need to understand the pros and cons of refinancing, what to expect from the process, and what programs are offered by top lenders in the industry.

Student loans are a fact of life for most U. S.college students. Students who need assistance covering the cost of their college education often turn to federal or private student loans to pay their tuition and fees. Federal student loans come in two types: Direct Subsidized Loans or Direct Unsubsidized Loans. Students with demonstrated financial need are often awarded Direct Subsidized Loans which do not change interest as long as you are in school or in a deferment period. Direct Unsubsidized Loans do not require borrowers to have demonstrated financial need and start to accumulate interest as soon as they are awarded. Sometimes a federal loan isn’t enough to cover the entire financial need and borrowers will fill the gap through a private student loan. Private student loans can also come in handy for unexpected educational costs that aren’t covered by a federal loan. When you graduate or leave school, your student loan will go into repayment and you will need to assess whether or not your loan is really the best deal out there.

Banks that offer student loan refinance and consolidation products should have a transparent process that is easy to follow and understand. Most lenders will allow you to get a rate quote by pulling a soft credit check. While not a guarantee of the actual rate you will receive, the rate quote is a good indicator of the interest rate you can expect to receive if you decide to apply with the lender. If a borrower decides to go ahead and apply with a specific lender, an online application can be completed and a hard credit check will be run. This will show up as an inquiry on a credit report which can impact a credit score. Too many inquiries over a long period of time can lower a credit score, so you need to be certain you want to pursue refinancing and/or consolidating your student loan before completing the application process. Lenders will typically make a decision in a matter of minutes. Applicants who are denied on their own can reapply with a cosigner. If the cosigner has good credit and meets other requirements, the borrower may be approved for the loan. Once approved for a loan, the borrower is notified of their interest rate (both variable and fixed) and repayment length. Once a borrower makes their selections, they can sign off on the loan and the lender will payoff the existing loans and open a brand new loan for the customer.

When trying to make a determination whether or not it makes sense to refinance or consolidate your student loans, it is important to have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve. Some borrowers want to refinance their loan to get a lower interest rate than they have with their original loan. Some want to reduce their monthly payment to making budgeting easier. Borrowers with multiple loans may simply want to consolidate so they have one payment to make each month. Borrowers who needed a cosigner for their original loan may now be in a position to take on a loan themselves and can remove the cosigner from their financial obligation.

Most of the best places to refinance or consolidate student loan debt will work with borrowers to consolidate or refinance both federal and private loans into one convenient new loan. For borrowers with both types of loans, combining them into one simple loan through consolidation can be a big convenience. Borrowers who consolidate federal student loans through federal loan consolidation programs will have an interest rate that is equal to the combined average interest rate of the federal loans being consolidated. Borrowers who seek out private lenders to refinance or consolidate their student loan debt will get a brand new loan with a new interest rate dependent on creditworthiness. When private lender interest rates are lower than those offered by through the federal loan program, borrowers can achieve significant savings over the life of the loan. The new lender will payoff the old student loans and issue a new single loan. For borrowers used to making two (or more!) student loan payments to various lenders each month, the savings can be significant.

Lenders offering student loan refinance and/or consolidation programs typically don’t charge any application or origination fees for their loans. There should be no hidden fees associated with obtaining the loan. Borrowers should look for lenders that do not assess prepayment penalties. Lenders who charge for their services should be scrutinized closely. The best banks to refinance your student loan do not charge such fees. Lenders do charge late fees or fees for insufficient funds, but clearly communicate those fees to borrowers in advance.

The best banks to refinance and consolidate student loans look at a borrower’s creditworthiness when determining whether or not to approve them for a new loan. Most lenders will look at a borrower’s credit score and monthly income to determine if they are a good fit for the loan product they are applying for. Lenders like SoFi and CommonBond emphasize credit score as a key decision maker in whether or not an applicant is approved for a loan. Other lenders like Earnest use a borrower’s credit score as one piece of their overall financial health, choosing to weigh in education level, investments, and savings when making a decision. With almost all lenders, adding a cosigner with good credit can not only increase the chance of getting approved, but also all but guarantees a better interest rate. Cosigners are equally responsible for the loan being refinanced and/or consolidated so it is important to carefully consider whether or not to ask a parent or relative to take that risk.

Not all lenders require a borrower to have graduated with their degree in order to consolidate or refinance student loan debt. Some lenders will allow students in the their last semester to apply to refinance or consolidate their student loans as long as they have received a written job offer to begin work after graduation. Other lenders will allow borrowers who left school prematurely to refinance or consolidate their loans as long as they meet specific criteria such as making existing loan payments on time and a steady income and employment history. Borrowers who have been out of school for several years or more need to consider how much of their loan they have left to pay off before deciding whether or not to refinance. Extending the duration of the loan through refinance may not be the best option for a borrower who wants to be debt free in a few years. A borrower who wants to purchase a home in the near future but has too much of their income tied up in student loan payments may want to extend the term of the loan. This reduces amount of the monthly payments.

There are trade offs when refinancing and consolidating student loans. While borrowers may be focused on getting a lower interest rate or reducing their monthly payment, there are factors that need to be considered before jumping into a new loan. Borrowers of federal student loans have some unique benefits they may have to give up depending on which lender they use. Federal students are eligible for a variety of repayment options not typically found with other lenders including an Income Based Repayment plan and an Income Contingent Repayment plan. Borrowers who have an income that fluctuates from year-to-year can benefit from the Income Contingent Repayment plan where their payment adjusts depending on their income. For borrowers experiencing a financial hardship, the Income Based Repayment plan can lower payments to an affordable level depending on the size of the household, income, and loan amount. Other payment options available with federal student loans include a Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan, a Graduated Repayment plan and an Extended Repayment plan. Lenders through iHELP offer hardship benefits, while other lenders such as Darien Rowayton Bank only do so in case of job loss. It is important to consider these benefits when selecting a bank to refinance or consolidate your student loan.

Another consideration when selecting the best bank to refinance and/or consolidate your student loans is the minimum and maximum amounts that can be financed. Most lenders will have a minimum amount they will be finance that is between $5,000 and $10,000. For borrowers with significant student loan debt, it’s important to select a lender with a maximum loan amount that is greater than the amount the student needs to refinance or consolidate. Some lenders such as Citizens Bank will consolidate or refinance up to $90,000 for undergraduate degrees while iHELP can help borrowers with as much as $150,000 in undergraduate student loan debt. Lenders typically have higher amounts set for graduate and professional programs.

Most of the best banks for a student loan refinance and consolidation offer both variable interest rate products and fixed rate products. While variable interest rates can appear to be lower at first, they have the ability to adjust over time based on the market and can end up costing more in the long run. A variable interest rate loan may be a great choice for you if you need to have low payments initially and can still comfortably make your student loan payment if the amount were to adjust upward over time. Borrowers who prefer a predictable, stable, monthly payment over the life of the loan may benefit from a fixed interest rate loan. The rate may be slightly higher, but it is guaranteed not to adjust over time. The borrower may miss out on significant savings if interest rates drop over time. Borrowers stuck in a high interest rate loan can always apply to refinance their loan again to take advantage of current rates.

Borrowers also need to consider the length of time they will need to repay the loan they are refinancing and/or consolidating. Spreading loan payments out over 20 years will certainly lower your monthly payment, but you will end up paying more over the life of the loan in interest. In contrast, a five year loan will have higher monthly payments, but the borrower would have the loan paid off quickly and have additional funds to put toward a mortgage or investment opportunity. It’s almost impossible to anticipate interest rates over the next 20 years, so taking out a variable interest rate loan with a 20 year term could be financially risky. Some lenders such as CommonBond offer hybrid loans with a fixed interest rate during the first five years when the loan principal is highest and a variable interest rate during the last five years where the borrower faces less risk with a smaller principal. To make the best decision, tt’s important to understand your overall financial goals and purpose for refinancing or consolidating student loan debt.

Taking all of this consideration, we created a list of who we believe to be the best banks to refinance and consolidate your student loan. Banks included in our list offer low interest rates, flexible payment programs, and a variety of loan terms. It was important to us to include banks that could consolidate and refinance both federal and private student loans to provide maximum flexibility. Several lenders on our list are new to the student loan industry and are working diligently to change the way the process is perceived to give the customer best possible experience. We recognize that the student loan refinance/consolidation industry should not have a one-size-fits-all approach so we included lenders who are able to work with borrowers to determine which loan option will best meet their needs. Below is our list of the best banks to refinance or consolidate student loans for 2017.

DRB-Darien Rowayton Bank

DRB

Darien Rowayton Bank (DRB) is an FDIC-insured bank in Darien, Connecticut. Located just 45 miles from midtown Manhattan, DRB serves customers in traditional brick and mortar locations as well as online and over the phone. DRB specializes in serving professionals and executives, and consolidates/refinances student loans for a variety of graduates working in professional industries. DRB is able to consolidate/refinance student loans in all 50 states. It has refinanced/consolidated loans from lenders such as American Education Services, Federal Loan Serving, Great Lakes, Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority, Navient, Nelnet, and Sallie Mae.

Darien Rowayton Bank is one of the best banks to refinance or consolidate student loans. Loans are available to graduates of both undergraduate programs as well as graduate programs including MBA, law, medicine, dental, and engineering. The process is streamlined and the application can be completed online in just five minutes. Even if the borrower has applied to other lenders, they should consider applying to Darien Rowayton Bank to see if they can obtain a lower rate. Applying to multiple lenders for the purpose of student loan consolidation/refinance doesn’t hurt a credit score as long as the multiple inquiries are completed in a short period of time. Applicants to DRB need to authorize a credit check and once completed, they will determine if you are pre-qualified for DRB refinancing. The next step is to upload relevant documents requested by DRB. Those can be uploaded immediately to speed up the process. DRB will use the information to make a decision and determine an interest rate. Borrowers can accept the terms and sign a promissory note to accept the loan. Once accepted, DRB will pay off current student loans that were included in the consolidation or refinance and allow the borrower to set up automatic payments to receive an additional interest rate reduction of 0.25% Customers can save almost $20,200 over the life of the loan when they refinance their student loan.

Darien Rowayton Bank is known for having low interest rates and it offers the ability to refinance up to 100% of the outstanding loan balance. In order to qualify, students must have finance a minimum of $5,000. Students are able to consolidate both private and federal student loans and reduce their payment and interest rates. Both fixed and variable rates are available, with variable interest rates having a cap of 10% for those who finance 15 or 20 years. For students who can manage a shorter repayment duration, five, seven, and 10 year repayment terms are available with a variable interest rate cap of 9%. An interest rate reduction of 0.25% is available for customers who enroll in autopay and meet qualifications.

Variable interest rate options.  Using some sample figures using a variable rate APR, a customer borrowing $10,000 with a rate of 3.89% to 5.54% per year for a 5-year term, could expect to have a payment between $183.69 to $191.23 per month. By adjusting the term to 10 years with a rate of 3.99%  to 5.94% per year, the payment would be between $101.22 to $110.75. While the difference in monthly payments may not seem significant, it does add up over time. An additional $9.00 per month adds up to an extra $108 per year or an extra $1,080 over 10 years. Securing the lowest possible interest rate has benefits both short term and long term.

Customers who go with a fixed rate option can expect to see a range from 4.45% to 6.15% per year for a five year term loan, 4.55%  to 6.74% per year for a seven year term loan, 4.75%  to 7.00% per year for a 10 year term loan, and 5.40%  to 7.45% per year for a 20 year term loan. For a borrower financing $10,000 for a five year term with an interest rate between 4.45% and 6.15%, the payment is between $186.23 and $194.06.

Darien Rowayton Bank allows customers to begin the refinance/consolidation process while in their final semester or after graduation. Students in their final semester of study who have received a job offer to start working after graduation are eligible to apply. Law students will need to wait until they pass their bar exam before applying. DRB honors any previous grace or deferment period with the previous lender, so customers can refinance or consolidate and not miss out on that critical benefit. Customers who have loans with interest rates higher than those offered by DRB will benefit immediately from refinancing with DRB since once the approval process is complete, customers will start making lower payments.

Doctors in residency can also apply to refinance or consolidate their student loans with DRB. Payments may be deferred for up to six months after residency or fellowships. The total loan term is limited to 20 years (which includes the residency or fellowship period), and the request for deferment must be made with the application. If a fellowship is needed after the loan has closed, customers can apply to refinance their loan to reduce payments during the fellowship opportunity.

Customers interested in consolidating or refinancing their federal student loans will lose several key benefits, so it is important to weight the pros and cons of making this decision. Customers will no longer be eligible for repayment programs such as Income Based Repayment (IRB), Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), or Pay As You Earn plans. For students worried about giving up some of the payment assistance benefits associated with a federal loan program, DRB offers unemployment assistance. Students who meet specific conditions related to loss of income can apply for a forbearance to help them deal with short term economic hardships. Customers may receive one or more 3-month time periods where they can make reduced payments, or even postpone payments. Interest will still accrue during the forbearance period, and the borrower must resume making payments when the forbearance period is over. It’s important to note that customers do not have to consolidate or refinance all of their student loans with DRB and can decide which loans to include in the refinance/consolidation process.

Parents can also benefit from student loan consolidation or refinance programs with Darien Rowayton Bank. Once the child has graduated and is professionally employed, parents can apply to refinance or consolidate their Parent PLUS loan. Through the Parent PLUS loan refinance program, parents who have taken out student loans to fund their child’s education can refinance or consolidate their loan at a lower interest rate. DRB reports that their interest rates are significantly lower than most Parent PLUS rates. Graduates can consolidate their parent’s Parent PLUS loan with their own student loans, relieving the parent of their debt responsibility.

Benefits to refinancing/consolidating with Darien Rowayton Bank:

  • You can save over $20,000 over the life of the loan
  • Have the ability to refinance grad school loans or undergrad loans
  • Receive lower interest on your student loans
  • Refinance up to 100% of the outstanding balance on both private and federal student loans

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College Ave Student Loans

college-ave-student-loansRelatively new in the student loan consolidation/refinance business, College Ave Student Loans studied the complicated student loan industry and decided to simplify the process. College Ave Student Loans only deals in student loans, so it can focus on the details while making the process as simple as possible for the customer. College Ave was co-founded by Joe Depaulo and Tim Staley. Joe Depaulo was previously with Sallie Mae and served as both CFO and CMO, and also as CEO of Credit One Financial Services. Joe received his BA from Georgetown University and his MBA from Amos Tuck School at Dartmouth College.  Tim Staley is the former CIO and Sr. SVP of Technology at Sallie Mae and was also the co-founder and COO of Credit One Financial. College Ave understands how complicated refinancing or consolidating a student loan can be with other lenders and wants to ensure that customers, parents, and employees find College Ave different from other lenders out there.

College Ave Student Loans stands out from other banks offering student loan consolidation/refinance programs by offering 11 different loan terms, more than double what other banks offer. Customers can choose a variety of terms from five to 15 years and there is no prepaying penalty. College Ave Student Loans offers a unique repayment plan that lets the borrower pay just the interest charges for the first two years of the loan instead of both principle and interest. This payment option gives new graduates the opportunity to get their finances in order, while paying a lower amount on their student loans. This option has the overall highest cost, but may make sense to some borrowers depending on their overall financial position. Paying both the interest and principle for the duration of the loan is the lowest overall cost option but will result in a higher monthly payment in those first two years than with the interest only option.

Thinking your loan balances are too high to qualify for a refinance or consolidation? College Ave Student Loans will refinance/consolidate loans up to $150,000 for graduates of a Title IV eligible undergraduate or graduate program. Graduates of medical, pharmacy, veterinary, or dental programs may be eligible to refinance/consolidate up to $250,000. Already refinanced but want to take advantage of the low rates with College Ave? Student loans are eligible to be refinanced again with College Ave as long as they have not been converted to a personal loan.

College Ave is able to consolidate both federal and private student loans into one new loan, often resulting in lower payments and costs overall. Federal loans offer their own set of benefits including Income Based Repayment (IBR) and loan forgiveness in specific situation, so borrowers need to be comfortable giving up those benefits when they refinance. For borrowers with just one student loan, refinancing that loan at a lower interest rate may also result in lower payments and costs over the life of the loan.

Interest rates are a significant factor in the cost of a student loan, which is why it makes sense to refinance to a lower rate if available. College Ave offers some of the lowest rates in the industry in both fixed and variable interest rates. Borrowers can expect to see fixed rates between 4.74% and 8.5% APR and variable rates between 2.5% and 7.25% APR. These amounts include a .25% interest rate reduction for enrolling in autopay. For a borrower who refinances/consolidates $40,000 in student loans with a 6.75% fixed APR over five years, the payment would be $787.34.

Applying to refinance/consolidate student loans with College Ave is incredibly easy. The process takes only about three minutes to complete on a tablet, phone, or computer. College Ave speeds up the process for refinancing or consolidating student loans by pulling the overall balance due from the borrower’s credit report, rather than waiting for the borrower to fax or upload existing loan documents. Most decisions are made instantly without the need to wait for a loan officer to sort through and verify documents. The ability for a borrower to receive a quick decision saves both time and money. Existing loans can be refinanced/consolidated quickly, allowing the customer to begin saving money and headed toward greater financial stability.

College Ave will also reward those who want to help their friends and family save money on their student loan refinance/consolidation. The College Ave Refi Referral Program makes it rewarding to refer friends and family and get them started on a more secure financial future. Create your own referral link and share it with friends and family. For each successful referral resulting in a refinance, College Ave will pay a $250 referral bonus for making the referral and a $100 welcome bonus to the new customer.

With flexible payment options and competitive rates, College Ave Student Loans definitely stands out as one of the best banks to refinance or consolidate your student loans. The decision to consolidate or refinance student loans is not a decision to be taken lightly. College Ave works with graduates to secure the best possible rates and offer a payment plan that makes sense. It has more payment options than other top lenders in the industry, so borrowers can tailor their payment plans to meet their financial goals, both immediate and long term. Consolidating multiple student loans into one loan with College Ave eliminates multiple student loan bills, different payment amounts, and various due dates.

Benefits to refinancing/consolidating with College Ave Student Loans:

  • Apply in as few as three minutes
  • No application fees or early payoff penalties
  • Flexible repayment terms that fit your life
  • Borrow, refinance, or consolidate all in one place!

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SoFi-Social Finance, Inc.

sofiSoFi is a finance company that offers a variety of financial products including student loan consolidation/refinance, mortgages, personal loans, parent loans, and Parent PLUS loan refinancing. SoFi believes that by having multiple products in one place, they can open conversations that support overall wealth management. SoFi works to help their members not only save money, but work toward their individual financial goals resulting in financial stability and growth. Saving money on a student loan through consolidation/refinance is one way customers can benefit from the services provided by SoFi.

SoFi offers some of the most competitive rates in the industry. Fixed rates range from 3.5% to 7.74% APR with an autopay discount. Variable interest rates are between 2.22% and 6.02% with the autopay discount. Borrowers can check their rate online without affecting their credit score, making it easy to determine whether or not to consider applying for a loan consolidation or refinance. If a potential borrower decides to apply, a hard credit inquiry will be made at the time of application. With these competitive rates, borrowers save an average of $316.00 per month in payments and $17,208 over the life of the loan. Savings are calculated from SoFi members who graduated from UCLA and refinanced between 7/1/2015 and 6/30/2016 with assumptions that payments are on time. Members pay the full duration of the loan, and autopay is utilized. SoFi does accept cosigners to help borrowers get the best rate possible.

We used the calculator provided by SoFi to see how much we could save using some actual figures. For a borrower with $25,500 in student loan debt (the average amount of debt) with an APR of 9% and 10 years to pay on the loan, SoFi could save the borrower up to $10,929 over the life of the loan with its fixed rates. By adjusting the term to just five years and paying an extra $123 per month, the borrower would be out of debt five years sooner, resulting in significant savings.

Like all lenders, SoFi has specific criteria that borrowers must meet in order to consolidate or refinance their student loans. Borrowers must be a graduate of a Title IV accredited university and have over $5,000 in qualified student loans included in the refinance or consolidation. SoFi will consolidate or refinance the full amount of the borrowers qualified educational loans, resulting in a true “one stop shop” experience for borrowers with significant student loan debt. Borrowers must be a US citizen or permanent resident and must be in good standing on their current student loan. Approval odds will also depend on monthly cash flow, financial history and employment history. For recent graduates without a relevant employment history, a written offer of employment to start within 90 days is acceptable.

Borrowers have the opportunity to refinance or consolidate both private and federal student loans with SoFi. Federal loans offer a variety of benefits including Income Based Repayment Plans and some loan forgiveness programs, so it is important to make sure the benefits of consolidating or refinancing this type of loan makes sense to the borrower.  SoFi honors any existing grace period with the previous lender. Private student loans usually carry higher interest rates, so refinancing these loans to get a lower interest rate can save a borrower a significant amount of money.

SoFi also gives parents the opportunity to refinance the Parent PLUS loans they may have taken out to help their child finance their college education. Fixed rates are available ranging from 3.5% APR to 7.49% APR which includes the autopay discount. Parents interested in a variable interest loan can expect rates to fall between 2.22% APR and 5.72% APR which also includes the autopay discount. The autopay interest rate reduction is applied once the borrower agrees to make monthly payments through a savings or checking account. While the SoFi Parent Loan is a great option for borrowers who want to reduce their interest rate. The loan is not able to be discharged like the Federal Parent PLUS loan in the event of death or disability of the borrower or student who the funds were taken out for.

The world is full of uncertainties and sometimes borrowers can find themselves unemployed through no fault of their own, and unable to fulfill their student loan payment obligations. SoFi does provide its borrowers with unemployment protection, allowing the borrower to temporarily stop making loan payments, while offering job search assistance. This benefit is applied when borrowers lose their job through no fault of their own and are unable to make their student loan payments. Unemployment Protection is available in three month increments and is limited to a total of 12 months for the duration of the loan. Interest will continue to accrue during this forbearance period.

SoFi features several unique programs that can provide significant benefit to their customers. The Entrepreneurship Program is available to borrowers who have refinanced their student loans and entered repayment. SoFi supports graduates who are working to build their own innovative business on a full-time basis. Borrowers who want to take on such an endeavor can apply for the Entrepreneurship program which has several benefits including a six month loan deferment, mentoring, a professional peer network, and access to a wide network of investors for advice and potential funding opportunities. SoFi also offers a referral program that pays $100 to both the referrer and the referred borrower for each successful referral that results in the refinance of a student loan or personal loan. SoFi offers customer support seven days a week via chat, phone, email, and social media!

Benefits to refinancing/consolidating with SoFi:

  • Save an average of $316.00 per month and $17,208 over the life of the loan
  • No origination fees or prepayment penalties
  • Customer support seven days a week
  • Career support, unemployment protection, and wealth advisors are available

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Citizens Bank

citizens-bankCitizens Financial Group, Inc. is one of the oldest financial institutions in the country. Citizens was founded as High Street Bank back in 1828, and became Citizens Savings Bank in 1871. In November of 2015, Citizens Financial Group became an independently publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange. Citizens Bank offers a variety of financial products for personal, investing, small business, and commercial purposes including student loan refinancing and consolidation. Citizens was named by Money Magazine in both 2013 and 2014 as one of “The Best Banks in America.”

Citizens Bank offers an Education Refinance Loan that can be used to refinance a single existing student loan into a new loan with new terms, or can be used to combine multiple qualified existing student loans into one new loan. By refinancing/consolidating student loans into a new loan with Citizens, borrowers will have a new payment amount, interest rate, and repayment term. Students with multiple student loans who choose consolidation will benefit from having a simplified payment to a single lender. Borrowers are able to consolidate both federal and private educational loans. Citizens Bank is one of the best banks to consolidate student loans because it offers interest rates based on the market and the borrower’s credit score. This can often lead to lower rates and better terms, which can save the borrower a significant amount of money.

Borrowers who want to consolidate or refinance their student loans will find Citizens Bank to be more flexible than traditional lenders. Borrowers must have attended a federally accredited institution and be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Citizens Bank requires that borrowers have at least $10,000 in eligible student loans to apply for its program. Loan maximums are $90,000 for bachelor’s degrees and under, $225,000 for graduate degrees, and $300,000 for professional degrees (medicine, dental, law.) Borrowers do not have to have graduated from college to qualify for a refinance or consolidation. Borrowers who have not completed their bachelor’s degree and are no longer enrolled in school are still able to apply as long as they have made 12 on-time payments on the eligible student loans they want to include in their refinance/consolidation. Graduates of bachelor’s degree programs need to make at least three on-time payments on the loans they want to include in the consolidation/refinance before they can apply. Borrowers who have completed a graduate level program are able to apply to refinance/consolidate while still in their grace period. While Citizens Bank is able to refinance and consolidate both federal student loans and private loans, it is unable to refinance federal loans on payment plans including the Revised Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan, Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan, Income-Based Repayment Plan, and Income-Contingent Repayment Plan.

Borrowers who want to find the best bank to refinance or consolidate their student loans often look to interest rates to determine where they can obtain the best overall deal. Citizens Bank  offers some of the lowest rates in the industry. Using its online calculator, we were able to compare payment terms for both variable and fixed interest rate loans. If a borrower is a graduate of a bachelor’s level program, has a cosigner and brings $50,000 in student loan debt, they could expect to see variable interest rates of between 2.97% and 7.92% (with the autopay discount). Payments would range from $276.54 to $415.67 per month, making the total amount paid back between $66,366.76 and $99,757.81. Borrowers who prefer a fixed interest loan with the same criteria could expect rates to fall between 5.19% and 7.99% and monthly payments between $335.22 and $417.84. The total amount paid back would be between $80,449.39 and $100,280.87, which is, potentially, quite different than a variable loan. Customers save an average of $137 per month when they refinance or consolidate their existing student loans with Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank offers two different types of interest rate discounts to help keep its rates low. The Loyalty discount is a .25% interest rate reduction that borrowers can qualify for if they (or their co-signer) have an existing account with Citizens Bank. Borrowers who set up automatic deductions from a checking or savings account will also be eligible for a .25% interest rate reduction. If both conditions are met, borrowers could potentially save .50% off their interest rate, a considerable savings over the life of the loan.

Sometimes a borrower doesn’t have a significant credit history to qualify for a student loan refinance or consolidation on their own. Citizens Bank recognizes this can be an issue for new graduates or young adults just starting out on their own. Adding a cosigner can increase the chance of loan approval if the cosigner has a strong credit history and demonstrates creditworthiness. Borrowers who have a cosigner and make 36 consecutive monthly payments on time can apply to release the cosigner from their financial obligation. Borrowers who are considering adding a cosigner should discuss any questions they have with a Student Learning Specialist with Citizens.

Borrowers will need to look at their own personal financial situation to determine the refinancing option that makes the most sense for their specific needs. Citizens Bank, one of the best banks to refinance/consolidate student loans encourages borrowers to consider some important factors before deciding whether or not to apply with them. Borrowers should closely review their existing interest rates and length of repayment and compare them to rates and terms with Citizens. Customers who want to find the best deal but lack the income or credit score to get the best rates should consider whether or not they would feel comfortable with a cosigner to improve their chances for approval. Borrowers who have federal student loans on a traditional payment plan will need to compare the benefits they are afforded by their federal loan to those offered by Citizens Bank. While Citizens Bank is one of the best banks to refinance or consolidate your student loan, they do not offer student loan forgiveness or specific military programs that are found with federal loans. Potential borrowers can call, chat, or email a Student Lending Specialist to discuss their specific situation.

Citizens Bank makes the process as simple as possible. Borrowers need to complete a simple application form that includes questions about income and work history. Citizens Bank will run a credit check and then make a determination on approval. Borrowers are notified as to whether or not they are approved and the loan options they qualify for. Borrowers will then select whether they want a variable or fixed interest rate and the duration of their loan term. After closing, Citizens Bank will pay off the previous loans and the borrower will begin repayment of the new loan with Citizens.

Benefits to refinancing/consolidating with Citizens Bank:

  • Interest rate discounts including a Loyalty Discount and an Automatic Payment Discount
  • No origination fees, disbursement fees, or prepayment penalties
  • Flexible payment options
  • Reduce monthly student loan payments. The average customer saves about $137 per month!

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CommonBond Inc.

commonbondCommonBond was founded in 2011 by David Klein, Mike Taormina, and Jessup Shean, three Wharton MBA students who wanted to change the face of the student loan industry. Using their background in finance and their first hand experience with student loan debt, they set out to create a company that could deliver low rates, a simple experience for the borrower and excellent customer service. Investors include August Capital, nyca, Tribeca Venture Partners, Victory Park Capital, and The Social Capital Partnership. CommonBond launched nationally in 2013 and has become on of the best banks to refinance and consolidate student loans.

CommonBond offers the opportunity for graduates of Title IV accredited institutions to save money by refinancing and/or consolidating their student loans into a single new loan. Borrowers can refinance up to $500,000 in qualified student loan debt which can be a mix of private and federal student loans. Even borrowers who have refinanced their loans previously with another lender are eligible to apply with CommonBond to take advantage of potentially lower interest rates. CommonBond offers both a variable interest rate and fixed interest rate product to meet the diverse financial goals of the borrower. The interest rate in a variable rate loan will adjust over time depending on the market benchmark rate. Borrowers will benefit if that benchmark rate is decreases but take a chance that it may increase over time. Fixed rate loans, on the other hand, will remain with a consistent interest rate over time. Payments are predictable and stay the same for the duration of the loan.  CommonBond can help borrowers determine which option will best meet their needs.

With some of the lowest interest rates in the industry, CommonBond is one of the most affordable banks to refinance or consolidate student loans. Variable interest rate loans range from 2.22% APR to 6.02% APR (with an autopay discount) while fixed interest rate loans range from 3.50% APR to 7.74% APR (with autopay). Interest rates will depend on a variety of elements including credit score, employment history, and monthly income. Borrowers with an excellent credit history will qualify for the best rates.
A co-signer can potentially improve a borrower’s interest rate by reducing the overall risk to the lender.

As one of the most innovative banks for student loan refinance, CommonBond offers a hybrid interest rate option. Hybrid rates currently range from 3.81% APR to 6.25% APR (with an autopay discount.) When borrowers select the hybrid rate option, their interest rates are fixed for the first five years of the loan and then change to a variable rate for the last five years. This loan option would be a great choice for a borrower who tends to pay more than the minimum payment each month, thus reducing the amount of time of interest rate uncertainty. Borrowers who want to refinance and/or consolidate their student loans on a 10 year term would receive the benefits of lower fixed rate than a traditional 10 year term loan when using the hybrid product. Interest costs are less than traditional 10, 15 or 20 year terms. Payments are stable during the first five years of the loan, when the loan balance is highest and a fluctuating rate could take a big chunk out of your budget.

So how can CommonBond offer these incredibly low rates to borrowers who want to refinance and/or consolidate their student loans? CommonBond investors believe that borrowers should be rewarded for being creditworthy and deserve to have loans with low interest rates. Historically, traditional lenders haven’t been able to offer these rates, so CommonBond has come in to fill this need. It offers the best loans to the most creditworthy borrowers — those with the lowest risk of default. Borrowers win with lower payments and interest and CommonBond wins by serving borrowers who have demonstrated financial responsibility.

Borrowers with federal student loans will need to carefully consider the trade off between potentially lower rates with CommonBond and the benefits afforded to them through the federal loan program. Federal loans offer specific benefits such as income based repayment programs and loan forgiveness for specific lines of work. Once a federal loan has been consolidated into a new loan, those federal benefits are no longer available. Careful consideration should be made by borrowers who work in specific industries such as government or public service before giving up those federal loan benefits.

Borrowers may select from many different term options for their student loan when they consolidate or refinance with CommonBond. CommonBond offers five different loan terms to meet the financial needs of borrowers including a 5-year, 7-year, 10-year, 15-year, and 20-year term. Selecting a shorter term will reduce the overall total cost of the loan by paying less in interest, while borrowers pay a higher monthly payment. A longer term will result in lower monthly payments and a higher total cost since the borrower will pay more in interest over the life of the loan. The choice is ultimately up to the borrower, depending on short term and long term financial goals.

CommonBond put together some examples of monthly payments and overall total cost for each of its three rate options, assuming the borrower has a $10,000 loan and receives the autopay discount. A borrower who selects a 10 year term and gets the lowest variable-rate APR possible will pay $96.65 per month, with the total loan cost coming in at $11,598.37. By comparison, if the same borrower selected a fixed rate option and received the lowest interest available, they would pay $104.17 per month and a higher overall total loan cost of $12,500.34. A borrower who chose the hybrid option could expect to pay $101.53 per month for the first five years and $98.97 for the last five years, for a total cost of $12.029.74. Selecting a variable rate, fixed rate, or hybrid rate is a big decision for any borrower. Borrowers should carefully consider their financial situation and goals to determine which type of rate will best meet their needs.

Student borrowers aren’t the only ones who can benefit from one of the best banks to refinance and consolidate student loans. Parents who took out Parent PLUS loans to help their dependent child with the high cost of a college education can benefit from the same great interest rates and loan terms. CommonBond allows parents to transfer their loan to their child to be included with the child’s refinance and consolidation. Borrowers who want to apply to assume their parent’s Parent PLUS loan will need to have all the loan information relevant to the Parent PLUS loan in order to apply. Parents who want to keep their loan and take advantage of better terms can apply to refinance the loan with CommonBond.

CommondBond believes its business should promote positive change. Through CommonBond’s Social Promise, for every degree fully funded by CommonBond, CommonBond will fund one year of tuition for a student in need through Pencils of Promise. Pencils of Promise is a non profit created to increase access to quality education for children in countries such a Laos, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Ghana. Similar to the program offered by TOMS Shoes (TOMS donates a pair of its shoes for every pair purchased), CommonBond seeks to give back to the community and follow a 1:1 model for education. CommonBond is considered a for-profit company with a conscious striving to make the world a better place through finance and education.

Benefits to refinancing/consolidating with CommonBond:

  • No hidden fees. No application or origination fees!
  • Variable rate, fixed rate, and hybrid rate options
  • Member protection in case of job loss
  • Information is stored in a safe and confidential manner

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iHELP Student Loan Program-Student Loan Finance Corporation

ihelpiHELP is sponsored by the Independent Community Bankers of America in association with the Student Loan Finance Corporation. The Independent Community Bankers of America represents almost 5,000 banks around the country and sponsors iHELP through member banks. Loans are made by member banks of the ICBA and fund the loan through the Student Loan Finance Corporation, which services the loan for the lender. It sounds more complicated that it actually is. Borrowers can simply apply for a consolidation loan through iHELP and receive an instant online decision in a matter of minutes! This top student loan refinance and consolidation program can save borrowers money and offers many benefits not typically seen by other refinance and consolidation loan programs.

An iHELP Consolidation Loan is able to combine both federal and private student loans into one easy loan. Borrowers also have the opportunity to consolidate their Federal Parent PLUS loan and assume responsibility, relieving parents of their loan obligation. Borrowers with federal loans need to carefully consider the consequences of refinancing these loans with another lender. Any federal student loan benefits will be forfeited once the loans are refinanced with a new lender including the previous interest rate, deferment or forbearance agreements, and loan forgiveness for public service and government workers. Making an informed decision is key to a successful student loan refinance or consolidation, and iHELP offers fantastic customer support to answer any questions a borrower may have.

Borrowers often look at interest rates as a key indicator of whether a student loan refinance and/or consolidation will save them money in the long run. iHELP features competitive interest rates, making it one of the best banks to refinance or consolidate student loans. A fixed interest rate option is offered for both 10 and 15 year terms. The 10 year fixed interest rate ranges from 4.75% to 8.00%, while the 15 year fixed rate ranged from 5.5% and 9.00%. Borrowers who need more time to pay off their student loan refinance can also select a 20 year loan with a variable interest rate that currently ranges from 3.34% to 9.17% APR.

Monthly loan payments will vary depending on the interest rate and term of the loan. A borrower with a loan amount of $35,000 and excellent credit could expect to pay $366.96 per month on a 10 year fixed rate loan or $285.97 per month on a fixed rate 15 year term loan. A 20 year variable interest rate loan would offer the lowest payment for that borrower, $200.74 per month, but would have the highest overall cost due to the length of time the borrower would be in repayment. A borrower qualifying for the highest interest rates could expect to pay $424.64 per month for a 10 year fixed loan and $354.99 per month for a 15 year term loan. A 20 year variable interest rate loan would cost that borrower $323.39 per month. When making a decision about the length of the loan term, borrowers need to take many variables into consideration their both their short term and long term financial goals.

Borrowers interested in using iHELP to refinance or consolidate their student loan with one of the best banks to lower student loan payments need to meet several initial qualifications. Borrowers must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and have graduated from an iHELP eligible school. A list of eligible schools sorted by state is available on the iHELP website. Borrowers must have more than $10,000 in qualified student loans to refinance or consolidate and can borrow a maximum of $150,000 for undergraduate degrees and $250,000 for graduate degrees. One of the most important eligibility criteria is employment history and creditworthiness. The borrower needs to have at least two years of positive credit history and have had an annual income of at least $24,000 for the previous two years. If a borrower does not meet these criteria, they can use a cosigner which will assume financial responsibility for the loan along with the borrower. Cosigners can help a borrower secure a lower interest rate, which can result in significant savings on the life of the loan. Cosigners can be released from their loan obligations after the borrower makes 24 months of on-time loan payments and can meet credit requirements on their own.

iHELP consolidation loan borrowers can receive many benefits when their refinance and/or consolidate their student loans. Repayment options are flexible, including both an interest only payment option and a graduated repayment option. Borrowers who request interest only payments can make 24 months of interest only payments on their student loan if they are experiencing financial difficulty. A graduated repayment play allows borrowers to begin making interest only payments and gradually pay a higher payment until they are back to making a full payment which includes principal and interest. For borrowers meeting specific financial hardship criteria, there are forbearance options available that can assist borrowers short term. Borrowers with a temporary financial hardship can apply for a forbearance of up to 24 months. A partial payment forbearance option is also available to those experiencing financial hardship but are able to make a partial payment for up to 24 months. Administrative forbearance options also exist for those in military service or victims of natural disaster. These loan benefits make iHELP stand out as one of the best banks to refinance or consolidate student loans as they are not typically available through other lenders.

Ready to begin the process of refinancing and/or consolidating your student loan with iHELP? Applicants can go online and begin the process by answering a few questions. An initial decision will be made right away and if approved, the application process can then be completed. If the borrower is denied, they can choose to apply with a cosigner to increase the chance of approval. Once the application process has been completed (with or without a cosigner), a final loan decision will be made and you can select your terms. Borrowers typically begin loan repayment between 60 and 90 days after the loan has closed.

iHELP is well known for providing exceptional customer service. The iHELP website provides a wealth of information from explaining the different types of college financing options to which career paths provide the best return on investment. Borrowers can get questions answered through live chat or a customer care call center. Applicants can check the status of their application online at any time to stay informed at every step of the process. iHELP has a clear and transparent process making it one of the best banks to refinance or consolidate student loans.

Benefits to refinancing/consolidating with iHelp:

  • Consolidate both federal and private student loans into one new loan
  • Flexible repayment options
  • Loan terms of 10, 15, or 20 years
  • Maximum loan amount of up to $150,000 for graduates of undergraduate programs and $250,000 for graduate programs

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Earnest Operations LLC

earnestEarnest is a lender that is changing the way decisions are made in the financial industry when it comes to student loans and the refinance/consolidation process. Earnest seeks to restore trust in an industry often muddied with confusing fine print, difficult-to-follow loan terms, and snap decision making. Earnest reduces barriers to offer low interest rates to financially responsible borrowers so they can achieve their dreams and be in control of their financial future. Earnest is run by a team of experts in design, finance, math, and technology who have streamlined the process and used data science to offer a highly personalized customer experience. Through Earnest, borrowers have increased access to credit at a lower cost than other lenders. Earnest is backed by investors including Maveron, Accomplice, Andreessen Horowitz, Slow Ventures, and First Round. Fast Company named Earnest as one of “The World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies 2016.”

Where Earnest is most radically different than other lenders who offer student loan refinancing or consolidation is how rates are determined. Earnest conducts a data-driven evaluation of the borrowers overall financial picture instead of just using a credit score. This merit-based approach looks at credit score as only one piece of overall financial wellness. Earnest also takes into consideration a borrower’s education, employment history, and overall financial picture to determine how financially responsible a borrower is. Earnest understands that new graduates often don’t have a lengthy credit history to achieve the scores and background required by other lenders, so using only a credit score to make approval decisions is not always the best option. The application process is a bit longer than other lenders to allow Earnest the opportunity to understand the complete picture and offer a loan that is a win-win for both Earnest and the customer. Earnest takes a forward thinking approach by using predictive analysis to find borrowers who show great potential toward long term financial responsibility. This process results in less risk for Earnest, and Earnest passes their savings onto the customer.

So just what does it take to become an Earnest customer? Requirements to refinance or consolidate student loan debt with Earnest are similar to what other lenders require. Borrowers must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and have attended a Title IV accredited institution. An application can be completed either after graduation or during the final semester of school, but borrowers must have a job or a written job offer. Earnest in currently unable to offer loans in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Oregon, or Tennessee. While all borrowers need to meet requirements, Earnest has developed a set of guidelines borrowers usually align with after meeting basic requirements. Borrowers typically have savings to cover at least a month of expenses, show an increase in bank account balance over time, have consistent income to support loan payment, and do not carry significant non-mortgage debt. Borrowers with this top bank to refinance or consolidate student loans also do not have recent bankruptcies or collections and are not usually charged late fees or NSF charges.

 

Potential borrowers can complete the full application process online. In just two minutes, a borrower can answer a few basic questions and get their estimated quote without affecting their credit score. If the borrower is comfortable with the rate quote, they can complete a more thorough application online to secure their rate, potentially even getting a lower rate than they were quoted! Variable interest rate loans start at just 2.22% APR and fixed rates start at 3.5% APR (with an autopay discount.) The average borrower approved by Earnest saves $21,810 over the life of the loan by consolidating and refinancing their existing student loans.

Borrowers can save even more money using Earnest to refinance their student loans through Precision Pricing. Precision Pricing allows the borrower to tailor their monthly payment to their budget and personalize the interest rate to the exact loan term needed to repay the loan. Instead of traditional 5, 10, 15, and 20 year loan terms with tiered rates, Earnest offers lower interest rates for terms between the tiers. A borrower comfortable with a payment amount that would have the loan paid off in seven years wouldn’t have to select a 10 year term and pay 10 year interest rates. Their interest rate would be adjusted downward to save the borrower money and account for the actual time needed to repay the loan. Saving money is a simpler process using Prevision Pricing and results in the savings illustrated above for the average Earnest customer.

Earnest offers flexible repayment plans that make paying off a student loan a customer friendly experience. Borrowers are able to tailor their loan payment amount to meet their budget needs and long term financial goals. Payments can be made for greater than the minimum due in order to expedite the loan payoff. Bi-weekly payments can be set up to save money on interest and stay on track. Extra payments can be made without additional fees or charges allowing the borrower to pay off the loan sooner. Need to skip a payment? Borrowers have the ability to arrange to skip a payment and make it up at a later point in time.

Parents can also take advantage of the great rates provided through Earnest when they refinance their Parent PLUS loans. With the same low interest rates, customized loan terms, and shorter term lengths, Earnest can save parents thousands dollars in interest over the life of their loan. Transparent loan terms and rates with no fees make consolidating or refinancing a Parent PLUS loan a simple process. Borrowers can switch between fixed and variable interest rates to compare overall loan cost, payment amounts, and loan terms. Parents can choose to pay off their loan in fewer years, adjust their payment amount, or simply save money through lower interest rates offered by one of the best banks to refinance or consolidate student loans.

When borrowing with Earnest, customers never have to worry about their loan being passed off to a third party servicer. Earnest has an in-house “Client Happiness” team that handles any questions or concerns a borrow has during the life of the loan. Other lenders often pass loans off to a third party loan servicer after signing. This personalized approach allows Earnest to stand out from the pack and deliver unprecedented customer service. Borrowers can contact Earnest by phone or email and get their questions answered in a timely manner using a personalized approach.

Benefits to refinancing/consolidating with iHelp:

  • Lower rates through the use of personal data such as savings patterns and investments
  • Prevision Pricing model to save the borrower money
  • Seamless process start to finish
  • In-house customer service team

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inconclusion

Borrowers with student loan debt have a considerable number of options to refinance and/or consolidate their student loan debt. Choosing the best lender is largely a personal and financial decision that can only be made when the borrower has a clear vision for their financial future. Each lender has its own set of strengths. Some lenders such as SoFi offer multiple loan products in addition to student loan consolidation or refinance in order to be a one stop shop for a variety of financial needs. Other lenders such as CommonBond are passionate about social issues such as providing education accessibility to individuals in developing countries. It is important to select a lender with a transparent process and clear terms  to be successful and come away with a loan that you can feel good about.

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