Best Credit Union Student Loans of 2020

There are lots of student loan options out there, like federal student loans, personal loans for bad credit and credit union student loans. A student loan credit union option may be a good choice for students who need to take out a private loan, but don’t want to lend with a traditional bank. Credit unions are nonprofit lenders, so a credit union education loan might provide better rates than a private loan from a national lender. There may also be credit union student loans bad credit options.

Around 69% of the college graduating class of 2018 took out student loans, so if you’re a student, it’s important to consider your options. We used our SimpleScore method to compare APRs, perks, transparency, loan amounts and fees for all major student credit union loan providers.

Lending Partner
Min. Loan
Fixed APR
Eligible Degrees
  • College Ave
    Min. Loan
    $1,000
    Fixed APR
    3.49%–12.99%
    Eligible Degrees
    Undergraduate & Graduate
    NEXT
    on lender’s secure website
  • Credible
    Min. Loan
    N/A
    Fixed APR
    N/A
    Eligible Degrees
    Undergraduate & Graduate
    NEXT
    on lender’s secure website
  • Discover, Member FDIC
    Min. Loan
    $5,000
    Fixed APR
    4.59%–12.39%
    Eligible Degrees
    Undergraduate
    NEXT
    on lender’s secure website
  • LendKey
    Min. Loan
    $5,000
    Fixed APR
    4.25%–12.35%
    Eligible Degrees
    Undergraduate & Graduate
    NEXT
    on lender’s secure website
  • Sallie Mae
    Min. Loan
    $1,000
    Fixed APR
    4.25%–12.35%
    Eligible Degrees
    Undergraduate
    NEXT
    on lender’s secure website
  • SoFi
    Min. Loan
    Varies
    Fixed APR
    4.23%–11.76%
    Eligible Degrees
    Undergraduate & Graduate
    NEXT
    on lender’s secure website
  • Splash Financial
    Min. Loan
    $5,000
    Fixed APR
    2.88%–6.72%
    Eligible Degrees
    Undergraduate & Graduate
    NEXT
    on lender’s secure website
  • College Ave
    Min. Loan
    $5,000
    Fixed APR
    3.99%–9.24%
    Eligible Degrees
    Undergraduate & Graduate
    NEXT
    on lender’s secure website
  • Credible
    Min. Loan
    N/A
    Fixed APR
    N/A
    Eligible Degrees
    Undergraduate & Graduate
    NEXT
    on lender’s secure website
  • Education Loan Finance
    Min. Loan
    Varies
    Fixed APR
    Starting at 2.75%
    Eligible Degrees
    Undergraduate, Graduate & Parent Loans
    NEXT
    on lender’s secure website
  • LendKey
    Min. Loan
    Varies
    Fixed APR
    2.99%–8.77%
    Eligible Degrees
    Undergraduate & Graduate
    NEXT
    on lender’s secure website
  • SoFi
    SoFi Logo
    Min. Loan
    $5,000
    Fixed APR
    3.24%–6.53%
    Eligible Degrees
    Undergraduate & Graduate
    NEXT
    on lender’s secure website
  • Discover, Member FDIC
    Min. Loan
    $5,000
    Fixed APR
    3.49%–6.99%
    Eligible Degrees
    Undergraduate & Graduate
    on lender’s secure website
In this article

    The 5 best credit union student loans of 2020

    Best credit union student loans at a glance

    ProviderAPRLoan AmountTermsKey Benefit
    Navy Federal Credit UnionStarting at 3.74% variable, starting at 5.75% fixed100% of costs10 yearsAll of college costs are eligible to be covered
    Tech First Federal Credit UnionStarting at 3.05% fixed100% of costsUp to 15 yearsRefinance your student loan for a lower rate
    Star One Credit Union4.00-7.00% variable, 4.50%-9.00% fixedUp to $75K for undergrad loans; $100K for grad school loansUp to 20 yearsVariety of repayment options
    Quorum Credit UnionBased on Prime rate (7.75%)Up to $75,000Up to 300 monthsNo co-signer required
    Langley Federal Credit Union4.00%–7.25% fixedUp to $250,000Up to 25 yearsLarge max loan amount

    *Rates accurate as of August 2020 and exclude autopay discounts

    Best for military families – Navy Federal Credit Union

    It’s smooth sailing to get a student loan from Navy Federal Credit Union, which provides college resources for navigating the job search waters.

    Fixed APR
    6%–13.09%
    Variable APR
    3.76%–10.02%
    Term
    N/A
    SimpleScore
    3.4 / 5.0
    close
    SimpleScore Navy Federal Credit Union 3.4
    Max Fixed APR 2
    Perks 4
    Transparency 5
    Loan Amount 1
    Fees 5

    Navy Federal Credit Union makes student loans available to members who are 18 years old and older and who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents. The credit union offers student loans covering all of an associate’s, bachelor’s or graduate degree program’s costs. There are flexible loan terms — get a semester, a year or all of school covered — and flexible rates, with both fixed and variable APR terms. Applicants will have to meet the credit union’s credit requirements. Once approved, borrowers get access to career resources for the after-college job hunt.

    Best for refinacing – First Tech Federal Credit Union

    Your diploma’s forever, but your student loan rates don’t have to be with First Tech Federal Credit Union refinancing.

    Fixed APR
    N/A
    Variable APR
    Starting at 3.05%
    Term
    N/A
    SimpleScore
    4.3 / 5.0
    close
    SimpleScore First Tech Federal Credit Union 4.3
    Fixed APR N/A
    Perks 4
    Transparency 4
    Variable APR N/A
    Fees 5

    If you aren’t stoked about your current student loan rates and terms, you may be able to refinance with First Tech. First Tech offers a low 3.05% fixed-rate APR and some unique pay-back structures. A Balloon Loan gives you lower monthly payments followed by a larger, one-time payment when the loan’s terms come to an end. The Interest-Only loan enables you to pay less expensive, interest-only payments for up to 10 years of the loan, followed by larger principal and interest payments. Approval for any refinancing loan will depend on factors like credit score and loan amount and terms.

    Best student line of credit – Star One Credit Union

    With Star One Credit Union, you get a nice chunk of change available to draw from whenever you need to throughout your college journey.

    Fixed APR
    6.25%–9%
    Variable APR
    4%–7%
    Term
    N/A
    SimpleScore
    4.2 / 5.0
    close
    SimpleScore Star One Credit Union 4.2
    Max Fixed APR 5
    Perks 5
    Transparency 5
    Loan Amount 1
    Fees 5

    If you’re a member of Star One Credit Union, you may qualify for a line of credit you can draw upon over several years. Both undergraduate and graduate student loans come in fixed-rate and variable rate options, with available discounts for automatic payment setup. You’ll have to qualify with your credit score and can choose from a variety of repayment options. These include interest-only payments while in school, deferred principal and interest payments until six months after graduation or full payments while in school. You can change your repayment option once every academic year.

    Best for no cosigner – Quorum Federal Credit Union

    You’re in charge with your Quorum Credit Union loan — no cosigner required.

    Fixed APR
    N/A
    Variable APR
    Starting at 7.25%
    Term
    N/A
    SimpleScore
    3.8 / 5.0
    close
    SimpleScore Quorum Federal Credit Union 3.8
    Variable APR 5
    Perks 4
    Transparency 1
    Loan Amount 5
    Fees 4

    The main benefit with Quorum Credit Union is you don’t need a cosigner to secure a student loan, though the lender does note having one could lower your rate and improve your chances of approval. Quorum’s student loan rate is variable based on the Prime rate, so it can fluctuate often. You’ll have to take out a minimum loan amount of $1,000, and you’re maxed out at $75,000. But you don’t have to make payments as long as you’re enrolled at least half-time, which might make this a nice option for Quorum Credit Union members.

    Best for graduate loans – Langley Federal Credit Union

    Cover all — and we mean all — school expenses with a hefty $250,000 line of credit from Langley Federal Credit Union.

    Fixed APR
    N/A
    Variable APR
    4%–7.25%
    Term
    N/A
    SimpleScore
    4 / 5.0
    close
    SimpleScore Langley Federal Credit Union 4
    Variable APR 5
    Perks 3
    Transparency 5
    Loan Amount 3
    Fees 4

    Langley offers student loans in the form of a line of credit for 1,687 active schools as of June 2020, with a minimum amount of $1,000 all the way up to $250,000. You only pay back what you owe and you can draw as much as you need up to the maximum amount. You’ll need to be enrolled at least half-time for fall and spring terms, and your school must be approved to qualify. You don’t need a cosigner, but using one may qualify you for a lower rate. You can also apply without being a Langley credit union member, though you’ll need to become one for the loan to be funded.

    What is a credit union student loan?

    A credit union student loan is a student loan lent to a student by a credit union. Since credit unions are nonprofit lenders, they can typically offer student loans at lower rates than for-profit lenders. The other features and processes of getting a student loan are the same. To get a credit union student loan, you’ll need to be a member of the credit union to receive student loan funds. You may be able to apply for a credit union student loan without membership.

    [Read: Do Student Loans Help or Hurt Your Credit Scores?]

    How credit union student loans work

    To get a credit union student loan, you’ll first apply. Some credit unions require you to be a member to apply, so that will be the real first step: obtaining credit union membership. To become a credit union member, you may need to live in a certain area or work in a related field, but you can contact the credit union about options and exceptions.

    Each credit union will have its own terms and stipulations regarding student loans. Some offer student loans for complete college costs. Others offer a line of credit with a limit. Typically, you won’t have to start making payments on your student loan until you’ve graduated college.

    Look into auto-pay discounts. Those can typically save you at least 0.25% off the fixed APR. Other student loans from credit unions will have variable APRs based on the Prime rate.

    Student loan APRs

    APR stands for annual percentage rate. This is the interest rate you’ll pay on your student loan, plus any potential fees. A fixed-rate APR means the APR will not change over the life of the loan. A variable APR means the rate will change over the life of the loan to reflect the Prime rate. A low variable APR may increase over time and end up costing more than a higher initial fixed rate APR. Overall, APR is important because it will affect how much you’ll pay for your student loan.

    Loan amounts

    The loan amount is the amount a borrower takes out with a credit union lender. Some lenders have no set maximum amount — the lender will pay whatever costs you accumulate in college. Others will set limits.

    You’ll want to anticipate your college costs when considering credit unions to borrow from so you secure a student loan that can cover all your expenses.

    Repayment

    Most student loans from credit unions don’t require repayment until after you’ve graduated school. Many will offer grace periods, such as six months after graduation before you have to make payments.

    Credit unions will offer a variety of repayment terms. You might be able to make payments while you’re in school or change your terms based on your income after graduation. There are interest-only repayment options, as well as options to make larger payments in full. Compare repayment options based on what you anticipate your needs will be.

    [Read: Will Consolidating Student Loans Help Your Credit Score?]

    Membership

    Credit unions are membership-based. It’s typically free to become a member of a credit union, but you’ll have to go through the membership process to get student loan funds from a credit union.

    Some credit unions will allow you to apply for a student loan before you become a member. Once you’re approved, if you decide the student loan is the right fit for you, you’ll have to become a member to get the funds.

    [Read: How to Take Out Student Loans Without a Cosigner]

    How to choose the best credit union student loan for you

    • Research credit unions you’re eligible for. Some credit unions restrict membership to a geographic area. If the terms look appealing but you’re not eligible for membership, contact the credit union, because it may be able to accept you.
    • Read all the terms. Look at APR (fixed versus variable), loan limits, credit score requirements, payment options and discounts available. Come up with a shortlist of the credit union student loans that make the most financial sense for you.
    • Apply for loans. Most credit unions don’t charge application fees. Apply for the loans you’re most interested in to see what you’re approved for and compare rates. This process may require an inquiry into your credit history, which could lower your credit score. So only apply for the student loans you’re most interested in.
    • Decide. You’ll want to work with a lender who has reliable customer service and whose terms and rates make the most sense for your unique situation. Look at testimonials to compare lenders and how they’ll work for you.

    Credit union student loan FAQs

    Nope. You have many other options, including federal student loans and student loans from other private lenders, like banks. If you want a student loan from a credit union, you may be able to apply for free, but you’ll need to become a member to get the student loan funds after you’re approved.

    It depends on where you’re comparing the rates. Compared to federal student loans, probably not. You should look at federal student loans first because those tend to offer the lowest rates and best terms. If you still need a student loan to bridge coverage for outstanding college expenses, a credit union tends to offer better rates compared to for-profit lenders.

    There’s no right answer to this. You might save money with a variable rate APR over time if the rate stays low. Typically, variable rates start low compared to fixed rates, but they can increase over time. It’s more a question of if you want the stability of a certain rate, or if you’re willing to take the risk you may pay higher rates in the future.

    We welcome your feedback on this article and would love to hear about your experience with the credit union student loans we recommend. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.

    Methodology

    SimpleScore

    The SimpleScore is a proprietary scoring metric we use to objectively compare products and services at The Simple Dollar.

    For every review, our editorial team:

    • Identifies five measurable aspects to compare across each brand
    • Determines the rating criteria for each aspect score
    • Averages the five aspect scores to produce a single SimpleScore™

    Here’s a breakdown of the five aspect scores and their rating criteria for our review of the best student loans of 2020.

    Max Fixed Rate

    Lenders who offered a lower maximum fixed rate were awarded higher scores.

    Perks

    We awarded higher scores for lenders that list more perks including services, discounts and special offers for their borrowers.

    Transparency

    Lenders that laid it all bare by publishing important data about products — APR, offered loan amounts, applicable fees and customer support contact links — scored higher for transparency.

    Loan Amount

    Lenders that offered higher loan amounts compared to others received higher scores. 

    Fees

    We awarded higher scores to lenders that have fewer loan fees for borrowers. 

    Nicki Escudero

    Contributing Writer

    Nicki Escudero is a freelance writer and journalist with more than 18 years of experience in the publishing industry, writing for international publications such as USA Today, Entrepreneur, Marketing Land, American Art Collector magazine and the Arizona Republic. She is passionate about helping readers discover helpful tips that lead to happier, healthier lives. A former Australian expat, Nicki has a passion for world travel and loves to learn about new cultures.