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Earnest Review 2022: Is It the Best Place for a Student Loan?

10.0 / 10
Editorial Score
Ginny Dorn
Personal finance and mortgages specialist
July 3, 2022

Overview

Earnest is an online lender that provides student loans and student loan refinancing. There’s also a search engine for personal loans. Earnest offers flexible repayment options, including the opportunity to skip one payment every 12 months. It doesn’t charge application, origination, late, or early repayment fees. When you sign up for autopay, you get a 0.25% discount.

Earnest’s student loan refinancing comes with attractive rates, great customer service, and an easy online application process.

With the Federal Reserve about to increase its interest rates, the best time to refinance your student loan is right now.

Earnest’s loans range from $1,000 to $500,000, depending on the loan type. You’ll need a credit score of at least 650.

Earnest cannot provide student loans in Nevada or student loan refinancing in Kentucky or Nevada. While it services its student loan options, it does not service personal loans. Instead, it acts as a loan marketplace and connects you with potential lenders.

Earnest is best for you if you need flexible repayment options and want to avoid the fees that most other student loan providers charge. With over 174,000 clients served for student loan refinancing alone, Earnest is a credible company.

Interest Rates Are About to Rise! Refinance Your Student Loan Now!

OUR CHOICE 2022
10 / 10
Editorial Score
Earnest
Quick view:
Editorial Score
10 / 10
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Applications, Quote management, etc.
10 / 10
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10 / 10
Available in all states
10 / 10
Available loan types
6.0 / 10
Products
8.5 / 10

Products & Services

Unlike other lenders, Earnest limits its offering to just two products: private student loans and student loan refinancing. This allows it to provide lower interest rates, fewer fees, and more customized service.

Student Loan Refinance

You may want to refinance your student loans to get a better interest rate or to consolidate all of your loans and pay one monthly bill. Earnest has refinanced $15.5 billion dollars in student loan debt for over 174,000 people. You can find out if you’re a good fit by taking Earnest’s 2-minute assessment.

Earnest offers student loan refinance loans of $5,000 to $500,000. Terms range from 5 years to 20 years. Variable rates start at 1.74% APR and fixed rates start at 3.24% APR. Variable rates are not available in Alaska, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Tennessee, or Texas. It does not offer student loan refinancing in Kentucky or Nevada.

To be eligible for Earnest’s student loan refinancing, you must meet the following criteria:

  • 18 years old or older
  • A minimum credit score of 650
  • Are employed or possess consistent income
  • Not requesting new loans for future schooling
  • Debt is from your education
  • Debt is from paying for a Title-IV accredited school
  • Need to refinance at least $5,000 ($10,000 if you reside in California)
  • Debt must be from a completed degree or a degree that will be completed by the end of the current semester
  • If your degree is incomplete, you may still qualify if you haven’t attended school in over 6 years, have a credit score of 700 or above, and the school you attended was not a for-profit school

Once you have Earnest’s student loan refinancing, you can choose to pay monthly or bi-weekly. You can skip one payment every 12 months, which counts toward the forbearance limits. You can also make early or extra payments without penalty and adjust your payment date easily.

Interest Rates Are About to Rise! Refinance Your Student Loan Now!

Private Student Loan

Earnest’s private student loan offering may be right for you if you have expended all of your federal student loan options and want a flexible repayment plan that allows you to skip payments from time to time. You can apply with or without a cosigner, though a cosigner will increase your likelihood of approval.

You can check to see if you’re eligible for a student loan with Earnest in just a couple of minutes. Loans start at $1,000 and can go up to the cost of your school’s attendance. Variable rates start at 1.34% APR, while fixed rates start at 3.24% APR.

Earnest offers a 0.25% savings when you turn on auto-pay and allows you to skip one payment every 12 months. However, when you skip a payment, your monthly payments will go up to cover the difference. Earnest also allows a 9-month grace period before you must begin paying off the loan after completing your degree.

To be eligible for Earnest student loans, you must:

  • Be enrolled to attend or are currently attending an eligible 4-year Title IV institution as a full-time student
  • Have a minimum credit score of 650, or a cosigner who does
  • Live in the District of Columbia or any state other than Nevada
  • Be the age of majority in your state of residence
  • Be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or have a cosigner who is a permanent resident or U.S. citizen

Earnest also offers support for cosigners, like a shareable online application and quick cosigner invite. Cosigners must meet certain criteria, including:

  • 3+ years of good credit history
  • U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Minimum credit score of 650
  • Minimum yearly income of $35,000
  • Live in the District of Columbia or any state other than Nevada
  • No history of bankruptcy

Personal Loans

Earnest doesn’t provide student loans, but rather offers a search engine to connect you with potential lenders. The search engine is called Fiona and it can match with a loan option in just 60 seconds.

Searching for personal loans through Earnest does not impact your credit score. Loan terms range from 6 to 144 months, and loan amounts range from $1,000 to $250,000. APRs start at 2.49%.

Rates and Terms

Earnest’s rates and terms vary depending on the type of loan you get. Private student loan amounts will vary based on your degree and school, but are typically at least $1,000 and can go up to the cost of your school’s attendance. Variable rates start at 1.34% APR and fixed rates start at 3.24% APR. Terms are flexible and generally range from 5 to 20 years.

Student loan refinancing amounts can range from $5,000 to $500,000. Earnest offers variable rates starting at 1.74% APR and fixed rates starting at 3.24% APR.

For all types of loans, variable rates are not available in Alaska, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Tennessee, or Texas. Earnest does not offer student loan refinancing in Kentucky or Nevada. It also doesn’t offer private student loans in Nevada.

Earnest does not charge application, origination, disbursement, early payoff, or late fees. It offers a 0.25% discount when you enroll in autopay on both variable and fixed-rate loans.

Application Process and Qualifications

Regardless of which type of loan you’re interested in, you begin by filling out a quick questionnaire on Earnest’s website. The site will ask you for various personal and financial information, including:

  • Loan purpose
  • Desired loan amount
  • Approximate credit score
  • Personal information, including name, and date of birth
  • Whether you rent or own your home
  • Education level
  • Address
  • Employment status
  • Contact information, including email and phone number
  • Annual income
  • Pay frequency

The questionnaire allows you to quickly find out if you’re eligible for Earnest’s loan offerings. Eligibility requirements are different for each type of loan.

Earnest uses Fiona, a lender marketplace, to offer personal loans. Since Fiona shows you multiple lender options, the requirements to qualify and the application process will vary from lender to lender. The tool itself doesn’t charge any fees, but whichever lender you choose might. While there’s no minimum credit score to qualify, the higher your credit score, the better your interest rates will be.

Once you’ve qualified for a loan, you’ll complete the application by providing a little more information. The application process is completely online and only takes a few minutes. After submitting your application, you may be asked to add a cosigner or provide additional documentation that will verify what you’ve entered, such as a statement from your loan services or proof of income.

Customer Service

You can contact Earnest’s customer service team through a phone call, email, or live chat. Live chat and support via phone are available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST, excluding holidays.

I tested out the live chat function. The chatbot first tries to answer your questions by providing related articles on Earnest’s websites. I found that its suggestions weren’t really related to my question at all. However, it took just seconds to connect me with a live agent after that step.

The agent who helped me was knowledgeable and quick to respond. I asked three questions, each of which she answered in full within one minute.

Customer Service

Customer Service

Customer Service

I found Earnest’s customer service to be extremely fast and helpful. The entire conversation took under 5 minutes, and all of my questions were answered in a thoughtful manner. The person who helped me was friendly, polite, and clearly knew what they were talking about.

Summary

Earnest focuses on private student loans and student loan refinances. Thanks to this focus, Earnest is able to provide excellent customer service and personalized options. You can choose your repayment plan and term length. There are also bonus options, like a 9-month forbearance and the option to skip one payment every 12 months.

Loans start at $1,000 for personal and student loans or $5,000 for student loan refinancing. With an easy online application, you can find out if you’re eligible in minutes. You can compare options, add a cosigner, and submit your application easily, without ever leaving Earnest’s website.

Earnest is affordable, with no origination, application, disbursement, early payoff, or late fees. It offers a 0.25% autopay discount and both variable and fixed-rate options. If you live in any of the U.S. states, other than Nevada and Kentucky, and need a personal loan, private student loan, or student loan refinance, Earnest is a great option.

Interest Rates Are About to Rise! Refinance Your Student Loan Now!

FAQ:

Is Earnest a legitimate company?

Yes, Earnest is a legitimate company. It has been in business for 8 years and has a 4.7/5 star rating on Trustpilot. It has 95% great or excellent reviews. It has been trusted by over 174,000 people for student loan refinancing alone.

How long does it take Earnest to review an application?

Earnest takes 2 to 5 business days to review applications. Once a decision is made, you’ll receive an email. You can also view your application status on your account, under My Loans.

Are Earnest loans federal or private?

Earnest loans are private loans.

Is Earnest owned by Sallie Mae?

No, Earnest is not owned by Sallie Mae. Navient acquired Earnest in 2017 as an independent subsidiary. Although Navient was launched by Sallie Mae, it functions as a separate entity.

Ginny Dorn
Written by

Ginny Dorn is a freelance personal finance writer. She specializes in credit card debt, personal loans, and mortgages. She graduated from Western Illinois University with a bachelor's degree in family and consumer sciences.

Pros:
  • Flexible loan terms and payment options with 9-month deferment
  • No application, origination, disbursement, early payoff, or late fees
  • Accepts borrowers with fair credit scores of 650 and higher
Cons:
  • Strict requirements for refinancing if your degree is incomplete
  • Refinance not available in Nevada or Kentucky
  • No option to release co-signers without refinancing
Bottom Line

Earnest could be a good option for your student loan, especially if you want to avoid fees and utilize flexible repayment options. It allows you to customize your monthly payment and term length, with personal loans and student loans starting at $1,000 and student loan refinances starting at $5,000.

Earnest also allows you to skip a payment every 12 months. It doesn’t charge origination, application, disbursement, early payoff, or late fees, which makes it affordable for most.

It may not be for you if you live in Nevada or Kentucky, or if you need a federal student loan.