We are an independent, advertising-supported comparison service. Our goal is to help you make smarter financial decisions by providing you with interactive tools and financial calculators, publishing original and objective content, by enabling you to conduct research and compare information for free – so that you can make financial decisions with confidence. The offers that appear on this site are from companies from which TheSimpleDollar.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site including, for example, the order in which they appear. The Simple Dollar does not include all card/financial services companies or all card/financial services offers available in the marketplace. The Simple Dollar has partnerships with issuers including, but not limited to, Capital One, Chase & Discover. View our full advertiser disclosure to learn more.
Earnest Student Loans Review
Earnest student loans offer a ton of flexibility, great borrower perks and competitive rates, making the lender one of the best student loans out there. Whether you’re an undergrad, graduate, MBA, law student or medical student, Earnest loans are available to help you pay for your educational needs. The lender, based in San Francisco, has been helping borrowers with student loans, personal loans, student loan consolidation and refinancing since 2006.
Earnest student loans at a glance
|Lender||Loan Amount||Fixed APR||Variable APR||Standout Feature|
|Earnest||100% of costs||starting at 2.98%||1.49%–11.69%||9-month grace period and payment date change|
*Rates accurate as of October 2020 and exclude the lender’s autopay discount of 0.25%.
What we like about it
There’s a lot to like about Earnest student financing options. First, the company offers a 9-month grace period after graduation, absolutely no fees and the ability to skip up to one payment every year without penalty. Eligibility requirements are laid out, and you can get a personalized check to see if you qualify (with a rate quote) within two minutes.
[ More: 15 Ways to Deal With Student Loan Debt ]
Second, while you’re in school, you have flexibility in what and how you want to pay. You can choose between deferred payments, a small fixed $25 payment, interest-only payments or principal and interest payments. No matter what your in-school financial situation, Earnest student loans are set up to accommodate your needs. Note that the deferred payment option is only available if you select to make principal plus interest payments after the deferment period.
Things to consider
If you’re looking to get an Earnest student loan without a cosigner, there are several requirements that you’ll need to meet. You’ll need at least three years of credit history, a credit score of at least 650, an income of at least $35,000 per year, a history of on-time payments, no accounts in collections and no bankruptcies. For many people just starting in life, this may not be feasible. Many students attending undergrad won’t have three years of credit history documented. Luckily, Earnest allows cosigned private student loans in case you need the extra hand.
What you need to know
Earnest offers some of the most flexibility when it comes to private student loan options. To start, loans are available for undergrads, graduate programs, professional schools, refinancing and student loan debt consolidation. Within each of these options, you can choose from variable rate loans or fixed-income loans. Earnest student loan rates on variable loans start at 1.99%, and fixed rates start at 2.98%. Both rates can be dropped by 0.25% if you choose to use auto-pay. Funding up to 100% of your costs are available.
There are no fees ever on Earnest student loans, which is fantastic news. While you’re in school, you have four options of how you can pay — deferred payment, a $25 monthly payment, interest-only payments or principal plus interest payments. Each option offers a different level of interest cost savings and fits better with different financial situations.
Earnest student loans come with a few additional payment benefits to take note of. First, you get up to a nine-month grace period to make your first payment, which is three months longer than many other lenders. You will need to choose the principal plus repayment plan to qualify for this. Second, you can skip up to one payment every year. You’ll still accrue interest, but this can provide some short-term relief every year.
Applying for Earnest student financing is a simple online process.
1. Fill out the two-minute prequalification form. On the Earnest website, you can fill out a prequalification form that takes no more than two minutes. You’ll need some basic information about your financial situation, education plans and details about any cosigner you are planning to use.
2. Accept the loan terms that work for you. After you complete the prequalification form, you’ll get your loan offers. Select the offer that works best for you, and then go ahead and complete the full loan application paperwork.
[ Related: The Simple Dollar’s Guide to the FAFSA ]
3. Once completed, wait for the approval. When you receive the approval and your final loan details, review, sign and you’re all set.
Earnest vs. SoFi
SoFi is another quality student loan lender to consider when shopping for options to cover your educational costs. Loans are available for undergrads, grad school and professional schools. Rates on undergrad loans start at 4.23% for fixed rates and 1.87% for variable rates. As is the case with Earnest student loans, you can drop these rates by 0.25% by using autopay.
Much like Earnest, SoFi offers no fees, rate quotes in minutes and added member perks. One of these great perks is unemployment protection. If you happen to lose your job at no fault of your own, you can get job placement assistance and forbearance up to 12 months.
Ideally, your best bet is to complete pre qualification with both Earnest and SoFi to get competing rate quotes, as it does not negatively affect your credit score and only takes a combined five minutes.
Earnest vs. Discover
Popular credit card provider Discover also offers student loans for a whole host of different uses. The full list includes undergraduate, graduate, health professions, MBAs, law school, residency, bar exam, parent loans and debt consolidation loans. As opposed to Earnest, you see additions of other health profession loans, residency loans and coverage for the costs of bar exams. For anyone needing more than just an undergraduate loan, this is great.
[ More: Affordable Online Colleges ]
Rates on Discover undergrad student loans are competitive. The best rates are slightly higher on all other products, but some do have lower ceilings. Discover provides all rates on all products updated on the company website.