Choosing the best funding from the variety of student loans available is almost as important as picking the school — the lowest student loan rates can save you thousands of dollars over the life of the loan. But how do you know you’ve found the best student loan rates? The most effective way is by comparing several student loan companies and what they have to offer.

Finding the best student loan rates also means comparing fees, perks and maximum loan amounts. If your dream school is expensive, it’s important that your lender can cover 100% of the cost of attendance.

Discover Student Loans
Discover Student Loans
Learn More
CommonBond
CommonBond
Learn More
CollegeAve
CollegeAve
Learn More

The 8 best student loans of 2020

Provider Fixed APR Variable APR Loan Amount
Discover 4.49% – 12.39%1 1.49% – 11.49%1 100% of the certified costs of attendance
LendKey 5.35% – 8.74% 2.99% – 7.75% 100% of the costs of attendance
Sallie Mae 4.74% – 11.86% 1.25% – 9.44% 100% of the costs of attendance
CommmonBond 5.45% – 9.74% 1.70% – 7.68% 100% of the costs of attendance
Earnest 4.39% – 8.77% 1.78% – 8.72% 100% of the certified costs of attendance
Sofi 4.73% – 11.46% 1.57% – 10.23% 100% of the certified costs of attendance
PNC Bank 4.49% – 11.49% 4.41% – 11.41% Up to $225,000
College Ave 4.39% – 12.99% 1.49% – 11.98% 100% of the certified costs of attendance

Rates accurate as of May 2020


1. Lowest rates/APRs shown for Discover Student Loans are available for the most creditworthy applicants for undergraduate loans, and include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments.

The 8 best student loans of 2020

Best for cashback rewards: Discover

Discover

Students with good grades are eligible for a 1% cash reward.

Fixed APR
4.49% - 12.39%
Max loan amount
100% of costs
Fees
None
SimpleScore
4.6 / 5.0
close
SimpleScore
Discover
4.6
  • Rates
    5
  • Loan Size
    5
  • Customer Satisfaction
    4
  • Support
    5
  • Fees
    5
Although Discover is best known for its banking and credit card products, its student loan offerings are hard to beat. You can apply in just a few minutes for a loan to fund up to 100% of your certified school costs, as well as manage the whole process online, with customer service agents a phone call away to answer your questions.

Discover also provides plenty of educational resources and calculators to help you navigate the student loan process from an informed place. In addition, students can earn 1% of their student loan balance in cash back rewards each semester if they have good grades. Student loan rates are higher than some other student loan companies, but the no-fee structure and cash rewards may offset the higher rate.

Full review

Our Two Cents — Discover may not have the lowest student loan rates, but the difference may be minimal when you add up the loan origination fees and costs of other student loans. Choose Discover when you need a smaller loan amount that can be paid off during a shorter term.


Best for a lender network: LendKey

LendKey

Borrowers can choose from a list of the best student loans offered by LendKey.

Fixed APR
5.35% – 8.74%
Max loan amount
100% of costs
Fees
$25 or 5% of loan
SimpleScore
4.6 / 5.0
close
SimpleScore
LendKey
4.6
  • Rates
    5
  • Loan Size
    5
  • Customer Satisfaction
    4
  • Support
    5
  • Fees
    5
LendKey is a unique borrowing option when you’re in search of the best student loan rates. The short and simple online application will connect you with not-for-profit lenders who may offer lower interest rates than the larger banking institutions. You might find that a small regional bank or a credit union you’re not familiar with may provide you with the best terms and lowest student loan rate.

You don’t have to worry about choosing a student loan from a financial institution you’re not familiar with, which may not have the best online functionality. LendKey services all student loans, so you can manage and make payments from its easy to navigate website. You might have to join a credit union if you choose its loan offering, but the small fee is well worth the savings you’ll get over the life of the loan.

Full review

Our Two Cents — LendKey should be at the top of your list when you’re shopping around for the best student loans. You may get a great deal from a smaller lender you wouldn’t have considered.


Best for building credit: Sallie Mae

Sallie Mae

Funding for full and part-time students interested in building their credit score as they go.

Fixed APR
4.74% – 11.86%
Max loan amount
100% of costs
Fees
5% late fee
SimpleScore
4 / 5.0
close
SimpleScore
Sallie Mae
4
  • Rates
    5
  • Loan Size
    5
  • Customer Satisfaction
    4
  • Support
    5
  • Fees
    5
Sallie Mae started as a federal student loan provider but expanded into private student loans. It’s one of the few lenders providing loans to students unable to attend school full time — you’ll be able to qualify for a student loan even if you want to pick up just a few credits in the summer.

Borrowers also get the chance to learn more about your credit and track it with free quarterly FICO credit reports. The only drawback to Sallie Mae student loans is the comparison process — knowing if you qualify for a student loan and what rate you’ll get requires a hard credit check.

Full review

Our Two Cents — Sallie Mae is the best solution in our best student loans roundup for students needing the flexibility to choose whether to go to school full time or not.


Best for referral bonuses: CommonBond

CommonBond

Borrowers will earn $200 from CommonBond for every person you refer who signs up for a loan.

Fixed APR
5.45% – 9.74%
Max loan amount
100% of costs
Fees
$10 or 5% late fee
SimpleScore
4 / 5.0
close
SimpleScore
CommonBond
4
  • Rates
    5
  • Loan Size
    5
  • Customer Satisfaction
    4
  • Support
    5
  • Fees
    5
If you have a wide network of friends and colleagues, you can earn money to pay your loan. CommonBond will pay you $200 for every successful referral who signs up for a loan. Besides the referral offer, borrowing with the lender makes the world a better place. CommonBond covers the cost of a child’s education in a developing country for every student loan issued.

CommonBond is one of the top student loan companies. The only drawback is availability — the student loan provider doesn’t issue loans for residents of Nevada and Mississippi.

Full review

Our Two Cents — CommonBond is worth considering, especially if you need a co-signer. Your cosigner will be happy to know they’re off the hook if you manage to make your payments on time for three years.


Best mobile app: Earnest

Earnest

Use the mobile app or website to manage everything from start to finish.

Fixed APR
4.39% – 8.77%
Max loan amount
100% of costs
Fees
None
SimpleScore
4.8 / 5.0
close
SimpleScore
Earnest
4.8
  • Rates
    5
  • Loan Size
    5
  • Customer Satisfaction
    4
  • Support
    5
  • Fees
    5
Earnest is one of the best student loan providers. It has one of the lowest student loan rates — coupled with a user-friendly mobile app and website, Earnest leads the market in student loans. Borrowers can choose from four payment options, adjust their monthly payment and even get a break by skipping a payment once per year if needed.

Earnest has a longer deferment period than the average six-month term. You’ll get an extra three months for an overall nine-month deferment. However, arnest isn’t available in all states, limiting who can apply for a loan.

Full review

Our Two Cents — Earnest makes applying and managing your student loan easy when you download and use the mobile app. Make payments and receive a rate discount when you sign up for autopay.


Best for member perks: SoFi

SoFi

SoFi borrowers get exclusive discounts and deals on partner loans and banking products.

Fixed APR
4.73% – 11.46%
Max loan amount
100% of costs
Fees
None
SimpleScore
4.6 / 5.0
close
SimpleScore
SoFi
4.6
  • Rates
    5
  • Loan Size
    5
  • Customer Satisfaction
    4
  • Support
    5
  • Fees
    5
SoFi is one of the top student loan companies around. The lender made its mark as the first lender to refinance private and federal student loans into one package. Besides competitive interest rates, you’ll have access to other perks that can help you on your path in the future, such as job search assistance and career planning resources.

Beware of falling grades — SoFi asks schools to verify satisfactory academic progress before you’re approved for a loan. This could affect you at the beginning of the process or down the road if you need to borrow additional amounts.

Full review

Our Two Cents — SoFi provides borrowers with more than just a student loan. They’ll also have access to tools and resources that can help them on their career path after graduation.


Best for high rate discount: PNC Bank

PNC Bank

Simple online management of your student loan and a decision in as little as 15 minutes is available with PNC.

Fixed APR
4.49% – 11.49%
Max loan amount
100% of costs
Fees
$5/5% late fee
SimpleScore
3.8 / 5.0
close
SimpleScore
PNC Bank
3.8
  • Rates
    5
  • Loan Size
    5
  • Customer Satisfaction
    4
  • Support
    5
  • Fees
    5
If you’re enrolled at least half-time in school, you may qualify for a PNC student loan. If you select auto payments, you’ll earn a 0.50% discount. That’s double the average discount other student loan companies offer. If you’re looking for the maximum savings, you’ll be happy to know PNC student loans come with no fees, except for a late fee.

PNC Bank may provide a co-signer release, but it’s longer than average. Co-signers will have to wait for the student to make four years of timely payments before they’re no longer co-responsible for the loan.

Full review

Our Two Cents — Banking giant PNC provides traditional student loans. If you’re not swayed by mobile apps and memberships, the bank’s student loan funding may be all you need.

Best for flexible payment terms: College Ave

College Ave

If you need flexibility on your student loan payments, add College Avenue to the shortlist.

Fixed APR
4.39% – 12.99%
Max loan amount
100% of costs
Fees
$25/5% late fee
SimpleScore
3.8 / 5.0
close
SimpleScore
College Ave
3.8
  • Rates
    5
  • Loan Size
    5
  • Customer Satisfaction
    4
  • Support
    5
  • Fees
    5
Some borrowers may want to pay their student loans while in school. Others may want a non-standard term of six years. Both are possible when you choose College Avenue for your student loan. The lender has some of the most flexible loan options around.

You can select a flat-rate payment or interest-only payment schedule. You can go all-in by making a full interest and principal payment from the start. Or you may defer your loan to start six months after you graduate. Each has its own costs or savings, but the important part is, you have options.

Full review

Our Two Cents — Choose College Avenue when you have specific repayment requirements. The lender is one of the most flexible about your payment schedule.

Tips for saving on student loan rates

You can save on your student loans several ways. One of the ways depends on your credit score. If you have good credit, you’ll be eligible for the lowest student loan interest rates.

If you have little to no credit history, ask a parent or family member with good credit to apply as your co-signer. You’ll benefit from a lower interest rate based on your co-signer’s credit score instead of yours. Most lenders will let you release your co-signer from the loan responsibility after you make a certain number of on-time loan payments. Plus, you’ll build your credit as you pay your student loan, so make sure you’re responsible about your payments.

Other than a co-signer, elect auto pay for your monthly payments. Automatically scheduling your payments will get you a discount of 0.25% or more off the interest rate. In addition, the automatic payments will keep you from forgetting to make your payments or scheduling them late, improving your payment history and your credit score.

Avoid student loan deferrals if you can. It may sound like a good idea to get a six-month deferral after you graduate to land a post-graduate job. But it’s best to start paying your loan while you’re in school if you can afford it. Even if the monthly payment amount is small, it could save you on interest when you start paying your loan earlier.

Lastly, if you have more than one student loan you’re paying off, you may save money by consolidating your student loans into one lower-interest loan.

How to apply for a student loan

To apply for a student loan, you’ll need to round up some documents. You’ll need your Social Security number, financials (bank statements or tax returns) and in some cases, a satisfactory academic progress report from your school. If you’re applying with a co-signer, they’ll need the same documents and information. To apply online for a student loan:

  • Visit the lender’s website
  • Set up an account using an email address, user ID or password
  • Follow the website prompts to provide personal information, including name, date of birth, home address and Social Security number
  • Enter the requested financial information, such as monthly income
  • Answer verification questions
  • Choose the loan type and repayment terms
  • Provide your co-signer’s information and financials

Once you apply, you’ll receive an answer in a matter of minutes. Make sure you understand the application before you apply. Most student loan companies will prequalify you for a loan and provide you the interest rate and terms without a hard pull on your credit, so you can go with the offer or pass. But some other lenders will only tell you what you’re approved for after the loan application process is completed and they’ve done a hard pull on your credit score.

Refinancing your student loan

There are times when your student loan debt is more than you can afford. If you’re paying student loans with high interest rates and would like to benefit from a lower-interest offer, refinancing your student loan may be the answer. Even if you only have a small amount of student loan debt you’re responsible for, you may still want to refinance if current interest rates are lower than your loan’s.

Start by taking a look at what interest rates the lenders are currently advertising. If the rates are better than you’re currently paying, it’s probably time to refinance. Here are 7 steps to refinancing your student loans:

  1. Shop around for the best interest rate and terms. Make sure you can prequalify to know the rate you qualify for without a hard pull on your credit, which could affect your credit score.
  2. Once you have several offers to compare, decide on the right student loan company for you.
  3. If your credit score is limited or low, ask a family member or trusted friend to co-sign your student loan. If they have good credit, you’ll get a better interest rate.
  4. Make sure to examine the fine print of the student loan you’re interested in for any penalties or fees, which may affect the cost of your student loan.
  5. Apply for a student loan using the lender’s online application. In most cases, the process takes just a few minutes from start to approval.
  6. Once you’re approved, ask for your 10-day payoff amount from your current lender, so you can pay off the loan without incurring any new interest charges.
  7. Keep making payments to the original lender until the refinancing process is complete.

The bottom line

When scholarships, federal aid and grants don’t cover all your school expenses, private student loans bridge the gap. There are plenty of student loan companies providing competitive rates and flexible terms. Make sure you compare at least two or three to find the right student loan at the best rate for you.

Methodology

The SimpleScore was created with you in mind, to simplify the process of making complex student loans decisions, for your peace-of-mind – and wallet. We rated top student loan providers based on five different categories: rates, loan amount, transparency, fees and extra perks.

We also lean on our editorial expertise and industry knowledge to help choose and rank each company. Our ratings are meant to be a directional and helpful tool to help you in the process of choosing a student loan provider. Be sure to continue your research and shop around for the best student loans that fits your specific needs.


Discover Student Loans Disclosure
Lowest rates/APRs shown for Discover Student Loans are available for the most creditworthy applicants and include an interest-only repayment discount and Auto Debit Reward. The interest rate ranges represent the lowest and highest interest rates offered on Discover student loans, including Undergraduate Loans. The fixed interest rate is set at the time of application and does not change during the life of the loan. The variable interest rate is calculated based on the 3-Month LIBOR index plus the applicable margin percentage. For variable interest rate loans, the 3-Month LIBOR is 1.00% as of April 1, 2020. Discover Student Loans may adjust the rate quarterly on each January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1 (the “interest rate change date”), based on the 3-Month LIBOR Index, published in the Money Rates section of the Wall Street Journal 15 days prior to the interest rate change date, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of one percent (0.125% or 0.00125). This may cause the monthly payments to increase, the number of payments to increase or both. Our lowest APR is only available to customers with the best credit and other factors. Your APR will be determined after you apply. It will be based on your credit history, which repayment option you choose and other factors, including your cosigner’s credit history (if applicable). Learn more about Discover Student Loans interest rates.

Best Student Loans in 2020

Choosing the best funding from the variety of student loans available is almost as important as picking the school — the lowest student loan rates can save you thousands of dollars over the life of the loan. But how do you know you’ve found the best student loan rates? The most effective way is by comparing several student loan companies and what they have to offer.

Finding the best student loan rates also means comparing fees, perks and maximum loan amounts. If your dream school is expensive, it’s important that your lender can cover 100% of the cost of attendance.

Discover Student Loans
Discover Student Loans
Learn More
CommonBond
CommonBond
Learn More
CollegeAve
CollegeAve
Learn More

The 8 best student loans of 2020

Provider Fixed APR Variable APR Loan Amount
Discover 4.49% – 12.39%1 1.49% – 11.49%1 100% of the certified costs of attendance
LendKey 5.35% – 8.74% 2.99% – 7.75% 100% of the costs of attendance
Sallie Mae 4.74% – 11.86% 1.25% – 9.44% 100% of the costs of attendance
CommmonBond 5.45% – 9.74% 1.70% – 7.68% 100% of the costs of attendance
Earnest 4.39% – 8.77% 1.78% – 8.72% 100% of the certified costs of attendance
Sofi 4.73% – 11.46% 1.57% – 10.23% 100% of the certified costs of attendance
PNC Bank 4.49% – 11.49% 4.41% – 11.41% Up to $225,000
College Ave 4.39% – 12.99% 1.49% – 11.98% 100% of the certified costs of attendance

Rates accurate as of May 2020


1. Lowest rates/APRs shown for Discover Student Loans are available for the most creditworthy applicants for undergraduate loans, and include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments.

The 8 best student loans of 2020

Best for cashback rewards: Discover

Discover

Students with good grades are eligible for a 1% cash reward.

Fixed APR
4.49% - 12.39%
Max loan amount
100% of costs
Fees
None
SimpleScore
4.6 / 5.0
close
SimpleScore
Discover
4.6
  • Rates
    5
  • Loan Size
    5
  • Customer Satisfaction
    4
  • Support
    5
  • Fees
    5
Although Discover is best known for its banking and credit card products, its student loan offerings are hard to beat. You can apply in just a few minutes for a loan to fund up to 100% of your certified school costs, as well as manage the whole process online, with customer service agents a phone call away to answer your questions.

Discover also provides plenty of educational resources and calculators to help you navigate the student loan process from an informed place. In addition, students can earn 1% of their student loan balance in cash back rewards each semester if they have good grades. Student loan rates are higher than some other student loan companies, but the no-fee structure and cash rewards may offset the higher rate.

Full review

Our Two Cents — Discover may not have the lowest student loan rates, but the difference may be minimal when you add up the loan origination fees and costs of other student loans. Choose Discover when you need a smaller loan amount that can be paid off during a shorter term.


Best for a lender network: LendKey

LendKey

Borrowers can choose from a list of the best student loans offered by LendKey.

Fixed APR
5.35% – 8.74%
Max loan amount
100% of costs
Fees
$25 or 5% of loan
SimpleScore
4.6 / 5.0
close
SimpleScore
LendKey
4.6
  • Rates
    5
  • Loan Size
    5
  • Customer Satisfaction
    4
  • Support
    5
  • Fees
    5
LendKey is a unique borrowing option when you’re in search of the best student loan rates. The short and simple online application will connect you with not-for-profit lenders who may offer lower interest rates than the larger banking institutions. You might find that a small regional bank or a credit union you’re not familiar with may provide you with the best terms and lowest student loan rate.

You don’t have to worry about choosing a student loan from a financial institution you’re not familiar with, which may not have the best online functionality. LendKey services all student loans, so you can manage and make payments from its easy to navigate website. You might have to join a credit union if you choose its loan offering, but the small fee is well worth the savings you’ll get over the life of the loan.

Full review

Our Two Cents — LendKey should be at the top of your list when you’re shopping around for the best student loans. You may get a great deal from a smaller lender you wouldn’t have considered.


Best for building credit: Sallie Mae

Sallie Mae

Funding for full and part-time students interested in building their credit score as they go.

Fixed APR
4.74% – 11.86%
Max loan amount
100% of costs
Fees
5% late fee
SimpleScore
4 / 5.0
close
SimpleScore
Sallie Mae
4
  • Rates
    5
  • Loan Size
    5
  • Customer Satisfaction
    4
  • Support
    5
  • Fees
    5
Sallie Mae started as a federal student loan provider but expanded into private student loans. It’s one of the few lenders providing loans to students unable to attend school full time — you’ll be able to qualify for a student loan even if you want to pick up just a few credits in the summer.

Borrowers also get the chance to learn more about your credit and track it with free quarterly FICO credit reports. The only drawback to Sallie Mae student loans is the comparison process — knowing if you qualify for a student loan and what rate you’ll get requires a hard credit check.

Full review

Our Two Cents — Sallie Mae is the best solution in our best student loans roundup for students needing the flexibility to choose whether to go to school full time or not.


Best for referral bonuses: CommonBond

CommonBond

Borrowers will earn $200 from CommonBond for every person you refer who signs up for a loan.

Fixed APR
5.45% – 9.74%
Max loan amount
100% of costs
Fees
$10 or 5% late fee
SimpleScore
4 / 5.0
close
SimpleScore
CommonBond
4
  • Rates
    5
  • Loan Size
    5
  • Customer Satisfaction
    4
  • Support
    5
  • Fees
    5
If you have a wide network of friends and colleagues, you can earn money to pay your loan. CommonBond will pay you $200 for every successful referral who signs up for a loan. Besides the referral offer, borrowing with the lender makes the world a better place. CommonBond covers the cost of a child’s education in a developing country for every student loan issued.

CommonBond is one of the top student loan companies. The only drawback is availability — the student loan provider doesn’t issue loans for residents of Nevada and Mississippi.

Full review

Our Two Cents — CommonBond is worth considering, especially if you need a co-signer. Your cosigner will be happy to know they’re off the hook if you manage to make your payments on time for three years.


Best mobile app: Earnest

Earnest

Use the mobile app or website to manage everything from start to finish.

Fixed APR
4.39% – 8.77%
Max loan amount
100% of costs
Fees
None
SimpleScore
4.8 / 5.0
close
SimpleScore
Earnest
4.8
  • Rates
    5
  • Loan Size
    5
  • Customer Satisfaction
    4
  • Support
    5
  • Fees
    5
Earnest is one of the best student loan providers. It has one of the lowest student loan rates — coupled with a user-friendly mobile app and website, Earnest leads the market in student loans. Borrowers can choose from four payment options, adjust their monthly payment and even get a break by skipping a payment once per year if needed.

Earnest has a longer deferment period than the average six-month term. You’ll get an extra three months for an overall nine-month deferment. However, arnest isn’t available in all states, limiting who can apply for a loan.

Full review

Our Two Cents — Earnest makes applying and managing your student loan easy when you download and use the mobile app. Make payments and receive a rate discount when you sign up for autopay.


Best for member perks: SoFi

SoFi

SoFi borrowers get exclusive discounts and deals on partner loans and banking products.

Fixed APR
4.73% – 11.46%
Max loan amount
100% of costs
Fees
None
SimpleScore
4.6 / 5.0
close
SimpleScore
SoFi
4.6
  • Rates
    5
  • Loan Size
    5
  • Customer Satisfaction
    4
  • Support
    5
  • Fees
    5
SoFi is one of the top student loan companies around. The lender made its mark as the first lender to refinance private and federal student loans into one package. Besides competitive interest rates, you’ll have access to other perks that can help you on your path in the future, such as job search assistance and career planning resources.

Beware of falling grades — SoFi asks schools to verify satisfactory academic progress before you’re approved for a loan. This could affect you at the beginning of the process or down the road if you need to borrow additional amounts.

Full review

Our Two Cents — SoFi provides borrowers with more than just a student loan. They’ll also have access to tools and resources that can help them on their career path after graduation.


Best for high rate discount: PNC Bank

PNC Bank

Simple online management of your student loan and a decision in as little as 15 minutes is available with PNC.

Fixed APR
4.49% – 11.49%
Max loan amount
100% of costs
Fees
$5/5% late fee
SimpleScore
3.8 / 5.0
close
SimpleScore
PNC Bank
3.8
  • Rates
    5
  • Loan Size
    5
  • Customer Satisfaction
    4
  • Support
    5
  • Fees
    5
If you’re enrolled at least half-time in school, you may qualify for a PNC student loan. If you select auto payments, you’ll earn a 0.50% discount. That’s double the average discount other student loan companies offer. If you’re looking for the maximum savings, you’ll be happy to know PNC student loans come with no fees, except for a late fee.

PNC Bank may provide a co-signer release, but it’s longer than average. Co-signers will have to wait for the student to make four years of timely payments before they’re no longer co-responsible for the loan.

Full review

Our Two Cents — Banking giant PNC provides traditional student loans. If you’re not swayed by mobile apps and memberships, the bank’s student loan funding may be all you need.

Best for flexible payment terms: College Ave

College Ave

If you need flexibility on your student loan payments, add College Avenue to the shortlist.

Fixed APR
4.39% – 12.99%
Max loan amount
100% of costs
Fees
$25/5% late fee
SimpleScore
3.8 / 5.0
close
SimpleScore
College Ave
3.8
  • Rates
    5
  • Loan Size
    5
  • Customer Satisfaction
    4
  • Support
    5
  • Fees
    5
Some borrowers may want to pay their student loans while in school. Others may want a non-standard term of six years. Both are possible when you choose College Avenue for your student loan. The lender has some of the most flexible loan options around.

You can select a flat-rate payment or interest-only payment schedule. You can go all-in by making a full interest and principal payment from the start. Or you may defer your loan to start six months after you graduate. Each has its own costs or savings, but the important part is, you have options.

Full review

Our Two Cents — Choose College Avenue when you have specific repayment requirements. The lender is one of the most flexible about your payment schedule.

Tips for saving on student loan rates

You can save on your student loans several ways. One of the ways depends on your credit score. If you have good credit, you’ll be eligible for the lowest student loan interest rates.

If you have little to no credit history, ask a parent or family member with good credit to apply as your co-signer. You’ll benefit from a lower interest rate based on your co-signer’s credit score instead of yours. Most lenders will let you release your co-signer from the loan responsibility after you make a certain number of on-time loan payments. Plus, you’ll build your credit as you pay your student loan, so make sure you’re responsible about your payments.

Other than a co-signer, elect auto pay for your monthly payments. Automatically scheduling your payments will get you a discount of 0.25% or more off the interest rate. In addition, the automatic payments will keep you from forgetting to make your payments or scheduling them late, improving your payment history and your credit score.

Avoid student loan deferrals if you can. It may sound like a good idea to get a six-month deferral after you graduate to land a post-graduate job. But it’s best to start paying your loan while you’re in school if you can afford it. Even if the monthly payment amount is small, it could save you on interest when you start paying your loan earlier.

Lastly, if you have more than one student loan you’re paying off, you may save money by consolidating your student loans into one lower-interest loan.

How to apply for a student loan

To apply for a student loan, you’ll need to round up some documents. You’ll need your Social Security number, financials (bank statements or tax returns) and in some cases, a satisfactory academic progress report from your school. If you’re applying with a co-signer, they’ll need the same documents and information. To apply online for a student loan:

  • Visit the lender’s website
  • Set up an account using an email address, user ID or password
  • Follow the website prompts to provide personal information, including name, date of birth, home address and Social Security number
  • Enter the requested financial information, such as monthly income
  • Answer verification questions
  • Choose the loan type and repayment terms
  • Provide your co-signer’s information and financials

Once you apply, you’ll receive an answer in a matter of minutes. Make sure you understand the application before you apply. Most student loan companies will prequalify you for a loan and provide you the interest rate and terms without a hard pull on your credit, so you can go with the offer or pass. But some other lenders will only tell you what you’re approved for after the loan application process is completed and they’ve done a hard pull on your credit score.

Refinancing your student loan

There are times when your student loan debt is more than you can afford. If you’re paying student loans with high interest rates and would like to benefit from a lower-interest offer, refinancing your student loan may be the answer. Even if you only have a small amount of student loan debt you’re responsible for, you may still want to refinance if current interest rates are lower than your loan’s.

Start by taking a look at what interest rates the lenders are currently advertising. If the rates are better than you’re currently paying, it’s probably time to refinance. Here are 7 steps to refinancing your student loans:

  1. Shop around for the best interest rate and terms. Make sure you can prequalify to know the rate you qualify for without a hard pull on your credit, which could affect your credit score.
  2. Once you have several offers to compare, decide on the right student loan company for you.
  3. If your credit score is limited or low, ask a family member or trusted friend to co-sign your student loan. If they have good credit, you’ll get a better interest rate.
  4. Make sure to examine the fine print of the student loan you’re interested in for any penalties or fees, which may affect the cost of your student loan.
  5. Apply for a student loan using the lender’s online application. In most cases, the process takes just a few minutes from start to approval.
  6. Once you’re approved, ask for your 10-day payoff amount from your current lender, so you can pay off the loan without incurring any new interest charges.
  7. Keep making payments to the original lender until the refinancing process is complete.

The bottom line

When scholarships, federal aid and grants don’t cover all your school expenses, private student loans bridge the gap. There are plenty of student loan companies providing competitive rates and flexible terms. Make sure you compare at least two or three to find the right student loan at the best rate for you.

Methodology

The SimpleScore was created with you in mind, to simplify the process of making complex student loans decisions, for your peace-of-mind – and wallet. We rated top student loan providers based on five different categories: rates, loan amount, transparency, fees and extra perks.

We also lean on our editorial expertise and industry knowledge to help choose and rank each company. Our ratings are meant to be a directional and helpful tool to help you in the process of choosing a student loan provider. Be sure to continue your research and shop around for the best student loans that fits your specific needs.


Discover Student Loans Disclosure
Lowest rates/APRs shown for Discover Student Loans are available for the most creditworthy applicants and include an interest-only repayment discount and Auto Debit Reward. The interest rate ranges represent the lowest and highest interest rates offered on Discover student loans, including Undergraduate Loans. The fixed interest rate is set at the time of application and does not change during the life of the loan. The variable interest rate is calculated based on the 3-Month LIBOR index plus the applicable margin percentage. For variable interest rate loans, the 3-Month LIBOR is 1.00% as of April 1, 2020. Discover Student Loans may adjust the rate quarterly on each January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1 (the “interest rate change date”), based on the 3-Month LIBOR Index, published in the Money Rates section of the Wall Street Journal 15 days prior to the interest rate change date, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of one percent (0.125% or 0.00125). This may cause the monthly payments to increase, the number of payments to increase or both. Our lowest APR is only available to customers with the best credit and other factors. Your APR will be determined after you apply. It will be based on your credit history, which repayment option you choose and other factors, including your cosigner’s credit history (if applicable). Learn more about Discover Student Loans interest rates.