Earnest Student Loan Refinance Review

Last Updated: October 4, 2021 by Melanie Hanson

Our Rating: B+ (Compare)

Loan Limits $5,000 – $500,000
Fixed Rates 2.48% – 6.04%*
Variable Rates 1.88% – 5.89% (11.95% Cap†)
Terms 5 – 20 years
Min. Credit Score 650
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*Lowest rates always include the 0.25% interest reduction for enrolling in auto-pay.

The highest variable rate cap is for loans with terms exceeding 15 years. The rate cap for 11- to 15-year loans is 9.95%, while loan terms of 10 years or less are capped at 8.95%.

Skip to: Rates & Fees | Eligibility Requirements | Repayment Options | Consumer Reviews & Complaints | FAQ

Earnest Operations LLC (Earnest, Inc.) is a data-driven direct lender of private student loans and student loan refinancing. A subsidiary of Navient Corporation, Earnest claims its algorithms are designed to develop merit-based interest rates that aren’t necessarily based on credit scores and existing debt.

Loan Refinancing Options
Private student loans
Private parent loans (in parent’s name only)
Federal student loans
Federal Parent PLUS loans (in parent’s name only)

Earnest Refinance Rates & Fees

Earnest’s fixed rates are between 2.48% and 6.04%. Variable rates start between 1.88% and 5.89%.

Refinance Loan Rates
Term Fixed Rate Variable Rate
5 – 20 Year 2.48% – 6.04% 1.88% – 5.89%

Additional information about Earnest refinance rates:

  • Checking your rate with Earnest will not affect your credit score. They will conduct a soft, not hard, credit inquiry (learn the difference).
  • Earnest does offer a discount for setting up auto-pay: 0.25% interest rate reduction.
  • Variable rates are based on the 1-month LIBOR (0.08% as of this writing) as published in the The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day or the next business day of the preceding calendar month, plus a margin between 2.12% And 5.77%.
  • Variable rates are capped at 11.95% for loans with terms exceeding 15 years. The rate cap for 11- to 15-year loans is 9.95%, while loan terms of 10 years or less are capped at 8.95%.
  • Variable rates are unavailable in Alaska, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas.

Student Loan Refinancing Calculator

Based on advertised rates, use the calculator below to determine what your new monthly payment and potential savings may be if you refinance with Earnest.

Additional Fees

Beyond interest rates, there are a number of fees a refinance lender may charge up-front or during the loan servicing period. Below is a list of these fees that Earnest does or does not charge.

Fee Type Amount Charged
Application Fee Undisclosed
Loan Origination Fee None
Disbursement Fee Undisclosed
Prepayment Penalty None
Late Payment Fee None
Returned Payment Fee Up to $8
Collection Fee Undisclosed
  1. Application fee – fee to apply for rates & approval.
  2. Loan origination fee – fee to create the new loan.
  3. Disbursement fee – fee for distributing funds to lenders to pay off loans that have been refinanced.
  4. Prepayment penalty – fee for making extra payments to reduce a refinance loan balance or pay it off early.
  5. Late payment fee – fee for making a late payment.
  6. Returned payment fee – fee for failed payments due to insufficient funds, also known as a “bounced check”.
  7. Collection fee – fee for collection activity on a defaulted debt.

Current Promotions & Offers

Earnest offers a 0.25% interest rate reduction with enrollment in automatic payments.

Borrowers who refinance their student loans with Earnest in 2021 receive a $500 bonus.

Through Earnest’s referral program, referring and referred borrowers always receive a $200 bonus each for every new referral who refinances their student loans with Earnest.

Earnest Refinance Eligibility Requirements

To qualify for refinancing with Earnest, all borrowers must meet the criteria below.

  • Citizenship Requirement: U.S. citizenship or permanent residence.
  • Income Requirement: income required, no minimum specified.
  • Credit Score Requirement: 650 minimum FICO score.
  • Graduation Requirement: associate’s degree or higher -OR- a completed degree by the end of the current semester -OR- student loans in repayment while enrolled less than half-time.
  • Location Requirement: District of Columbia or one of 48 U.S. states (excluding Kentucky and Nevada).

Additional restrictions apply for specific individuals and loans.

  • Earnest stipulates that borrowers must be current on rent or mortgage payments.
  • Refinancing requires no history of bankruptcy or accounts recently in collection.
  • Earnest discloses the following factors for financial approval:
    • Enough savings to cover at least two months of normal expenses, including housing.
    • Increasing bank account balances.
    • No large amounts of non-student, non-mortgage debt (e.g. credit cards, personal loans).
    • History of history of making payments on time.
    • No history of regular charges for late, overdraft, or insufficient funds fees.

Earnest Student Loan Repayment Options

Lenders vary greatly on the benefits and options provided to borrowers during the loan servicing period. Additionally, benefits may only be available on a case-by-case basis. Earnest offers some relief options.

Deferment & Forbearance

Earnest does have some options for deferring payments. Note that refinance loans in deferment always continue to accrue interest.

See Earnest’s conditions for deferment and forbearance below.

Condition Coverage
Returning to grad school (more than half-time) Deferment, up to 36 months
Disability rehabilitation Unspecified
Active military duty Deferment, duration of active duty plus 180 days after demobilization
Involuntary unemployment Forbearance, up to 12 months
Economic hardship Forbearance, up to 12 months
Natural Disaster Unspecified
Temporary Hardship Forbearance, up to 12 months

Additional Options

Earnest may offer other opportunities for relief or contract modification.

  • Unpaid maternity/paternity leave is considered a temporary hardship for the purposes of forbearance.
  • Borrowers may apply to skip one payment every 12 months.
  • Death / disability discharge is available in the unfortunate circumstance that a borrower passes away or suffers total permanent disability.
  • Co-signer release is unavailable.

Earnest Reviews, Complaints & Lawsuits

Beyond our own findings, our team also collected the most genuinely insightful customer experiences we could find, including any instances of legal action against the company in which the details became public.

Earnest Online Reviews

Below are 3 samples of Earnest customer reviews we found on public forums, included here for their value as unedited, uncensored, and unsolicited user experiences. Note that these reviews are unverified, may include inaccuracies, and may provide outdated information (about rates, bonus offers, etc.).


“About one year ago I refinanced multiple student loans with Earnest and got a consolidated loan at a rate over 35% lower than the average of my prior loans. I’ve made aggressive payments towards the loan monthly, and have been nothing but happy and satisfied with my choice to use the company.

Other than the website, nothing else has changed in my opinion since Navient came along. Earnest maintains its own brand. Customer service is exactly the same – responsive and quick.”RPG_are_my_initials on reddit, 9/22/2019


“I have Earnest, who cares if their customer service is not as excellent as it used to be? Get the best rate, set auto-pay, forget it. I haven’t had any issue before or after the Navient takeover.”Dreamgiver on White Coat Investor, 6/14/2019


“I used Earnest a year ago to refinance. I chose variable instead of fixed, but had smaller loans. Earnest at the time offered the chance to change from variable to fixed at any time during repayment. The process was a breeze, and an Earnest employee sent me a text with his personal contact info in case I had any questions. I’ve seen the rate tick up from low 2’s to mid/upper 2’s (about .5% total, in line with short term rate rises). I was and am still very satisfied with them.”tanstaafl on Bogleheads.org, 4/26/2017


More (unfiltered) customer reviews of Earnest are available at TrustPilot.com (4.7 out of 5).

Earnest CFPB Complaints

As consumer finance companies, student loan refinancing lenders fall under the jurisdiction of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a federal agency. As part of its mission, the CFPB allows consumers to log official complaints. These complaints are publicly available on the CFPB official website.

Since 2015, consumers have submitted 78 complaints about Earnest’s student loan products to the CFPB for an average of one (1) complaint per month.

Earnest averages three (3) complaints for every five (5) corporate employees. Annually, Earnest averages 1 complaint for every $1.95 million of company revenue ($20.34 million total).

The allegations made in these complaints are unverified, are not necessarily representative of all consumers’ experiences with Earnest, and may contain outdated information (about rates, bonus offers, etc.). Note that a lender with a large customer base is likely to have a higher number of complaints when compared with smaller lenders.

Line Graph: Earnest Consumer Complaints, Public Complaints Filed with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, not necessarily related to student loan refinancing, from 2015 (2), 2016 (6), 2017 (11), 2018 (16), 2019 (19), and 2020 (15)

Below we’ve included the 3 most recent complaints (as of this writing) in which the consumer consented to share their details.


Complaint 4426100
6/2/2021
New York

“Earnest – the student loan refinancing company – is refusing to stop sending me mail offering their services. They are IGNORING my opt out notice which I have put in place three separate times. I have contacted the company to tell them this several times. They ignore my requests mostly and respond rudely when they choose to answer. They continue to harass me with mailers at my home address. XXXX CEO : XXXX XXXX”


Complaint 4398476
5/22/2021
New Jersey

“Earnest overcharged me by {$370.00} on XX/XX/XXXX. This was after repeated back and forth to try to customize the amount I would pay ( I wanted to pay off my loan on an accelerated schedule ). I asked XX/XX/XXXX and received confirmation on XX/XX/XXXX that I would be charged the monthly minimum gong forward starting with the next payment on XX/XX/XXXX. I was billed twice that day, once for monthly min. of {$730.00}, then the additional charge of {$370.00}. This was after months of aggravating back and forth with their support team. Not blaming the support team so much as a lack of proper investment by management in their systems ; it’s a highly antiquated system they force on their customers that lacks even basic features like same day verification of payments being received, or an ability to set auto-payments in a specific amount ( the amount must be coordinated through support, which can’t take any action with less than about three weeks notice – yet they are dependent on you adjusting the payment schedule from bi-weekly to monthly … which almost guarantees a misalignment if you desire to adjust the payment amount and cadence at the same time! ) I would have long ago abandoned their auto-pay … yet they force this to obtain the lowest interest rate … and then make it nearly impossible to manage. In my opinion, it’s an egregious failure to provide a basic level of service to enable customer to pay what they want, when they want to.”


Complaint 4380565
5/15/2021
New Hampshire

“I have been having issues now Earnest Student Loans now for several months. Starting XX/XX/2021 as my emails show, I contacted Earnest about canceling the {$7000.00} biweekly payment that I did initially set up/schedule several months prior. However, my financial situation changed, and therefore I wanted this canceled. I have numerous e-mails from XXXX stating that this has been taken care of, but unfortunately, on 4 separate occasions, they ATTEMPTED to take this out of my account. 1 time they were successful ( despite my being told that this was remedied, and set at {$2000.00} biweekly, per my request ) in taking this money out, leading to insufficient funds fees from my bank ; these were ultimately refunded by Earnest. I also recently ( XX/XX/XXXX ) was forced to make a {$30.00} stop payment against any future withdrawals, as yet again XXXX XXXX at XXXX ), well after the servicing manager confirmed with XXXX that {$7000.00} would not be taken from my account, it was still set to take that money from me. And, I was told in that same e-mail/sentence, that {$2000.00} would be taken out biweekly, beginning XXXX ( but this didn’t happen! ). So, now I’m paying more interest, because yet again Earnest can’t figure this out. There were also exactly 14 days where I had {$7000.00} taken out of my account ( unlawfully ) by Earnest, despite my repeated attempts to stop this ( and confirmation by Earnest that it was stopped/would NOT happen ). I did not receive interest in my bank account ( 3 % ), and did not receive a reduction in interest from Earnest ; they simply held this money for 14 days. I also have not received another {$15.00} in insuffiicient funds fees ” return ” from Earnest that this caused ( they refunded the initial one ). I have spent well over 6 hours on the phone with Earnest, e-mailing them, keeping close track of my account, talking to my bank, etc, dealing with this. I asked Earnest to credit me the lost interest on the {$7000.00} for 14 days, but they said regulations prevented them from doing this. But how were they ” allowed ” ( against my well-documented will! ) to take money from me without my consent, and in fact my direct lack of consent??!! No regulations at play there ; they simply did what they wanted, but then when the little consumer asked them to make things right, they boldly started talking about regulations! But no regulations were ever mentioned regarding protected the little consumer from being taken advantage of, as they clearly did.”


For a full list of the 78 complaints made against Earnest in the CFPB’s Consumer Complaint Database, click here.

Earnest Lawsuits

Earnest LLC and its sister company NaviRefi have not been implicated in ongoing lawsuits against their parent company, Navient Corporation, alleging violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.[1][2][3]

Note that while this information is updated regularly, ongoing legal action is subject to change.

Frequently Asked Questions

These are the most common questions consumers have about student loan refinancing with Earnest.

  • Is Earnest good for refinancing student loans?
    Earnest’s student refinance loans may benefit student borrowers who don’t necessarily have high credit scores but are otherwise in good financial standing.
  • What is the average APR for an Earnest refinance loan?
    Earnest has disclosed an average 3.03% APR.
  • Are Earnest loans federal?
    Earnest loans are not federal. Earnest has no affiliation with the federal government or the U.S. Department of Education.
  • Does Earnest charge a prepayment penalty?
    There are no penalties for early payments or for repaying a loan in full before its term is over.
  • Does checking your rates with Earnest hurt your credit score?
    For their prequalification process, Earnest performs a soft credit check, which will not hurt your credit score. If you proceed with an application, however, Earnest will perform a hard credit check that may affect your credit score.
  • Is Earnest a bank?
    Earnest is not a bank nor is it affiliated with any bank. Earnest was founded as a fintech company and now operates as its own brand under the Navient Corporation.
  • Can I refinance an Earnest loan?
    You can refinance an Earnest student loan or a student loan from another private lender. There is no limit to the number of times a borrower may refinance with Earnest. Note, however, that every new line of credit requires a hard credit check that may affect your FICO score.
  • Can I refinance just some of my loans with Earnest?
    Yes, you can refinance some, all, or just one of your qualifying student loans with Earnest. You may choose to refinance your private loans only or refinance private and federal loans together.
  • Can I refinance loans that have already been refinanced?
    Yes, you can refinance loans as many times as you want with Earnest. Note that each time you refinance, you will have to submit a new application; every application requires a hard credit check that may affect your credit score.
  • Can my spouse and I refinance our loans together with Earnest?
    No, Earnest only refinances loans from the borrower’s own education.
  • How long does it take to refinance with Earnest?
    Earnest does not disclose an average timeline for refinancing.
  • Who services Earnest refinance loans?
    Earnest does not sell its loans to other financial institutions or servicers.
  • Does Earnest offer a grace period?
    No, Earnest does not offer a grace period.
  • How often do variable rates change?
    Earnest’s variable rates change no more than once per month based on the 1-month LIBOR as published in the The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day or the next business day of the preceding calendar month.
  • Can I get any special rates or discounts with Earnest?
    Earnest offers a standard 0.25% rate reduction to borrowers who set up auto-pay.
  • What happens if I file for bankruptcy?
    If you file for bankruptcy, you may still be required to repay your Earnest student refinance loan.
  • Is Earnest a Credible lender?
    No, Earnest is not a Credible partner.

Compare Student Loan Refinance Reviews

Lender Rating
Advantage B+
BECU C-
Brazos A
Citizens Bank B-
College Ave A-
CommonBond A+
Discover D+
Earnest B+
EDvestinU B
ELFI A-
First Republic Bank B
First Tech Federal C-
iHelp D
Laurel Road A-
MEFA B-
NaviRefi D-
Navy Federal C+
Nelnet Bank D-
PenFed B+
PNC Bank C
RISLA A
SELF Refi C+
SoFi B-
UW Credit Union A

Sources

  1. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, CFPB Sues Nation’s Largest Student Loan Company Navient for Failing Borrowers at Every Stage of Repayment
  2. Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School Project on Predatory Student Lending, VILLALBA V. NAVIENT
  3. NavientClassAction.com, Navient Class Action Information
  4. Earnest, Eligibility Guide
  5. Earnest, Earnest Operations LLC Refinance Education Loan Variable Rate Application & Solicitation Disclosure
  6. CFPB, Consumer Complaint Database
  7. Dun & Bradstreet, Business Directory
  8. Better Business Bureau, Search Businesses and Charities