Earnest Student Loan Refinance Review

Last Updated: July 1, 2021 by Melanie Hanson

Our Rating: B+

Loan Limits $5,000 – $500,000
Fixed Rates 2.50% – 6.04%*
Variable Rates 1.88% – 5.89% (11.95% Cap†)
Terms 5 – 20 years
Min. Credit Score 650

*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 2.50% and 6.04%. Variable rates start between 1.88% and 5.89%.

Refinance Loan Rates
Term Fixed Rate Variable Rate
5 – 20 Year 2.50% – 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 (0.095% 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

Borrowers who refinance their student loans with Earnest in 2021 will 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 its founding in 2013, consumers have submitted 73 complaints about Earnest’s student loan products to the CFPB.

Earnest averages 3 complaints for every 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, 2013 to 2020

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


Complaint 4128057
2/9/2021
North Carolina

“To whom it may concern I am writing in reference to what I feel are unfair lending practices with Earnest LLC Operation Company. In the wake the financial difficulty in relation to the COVID 19 pandemic, companies should not be allowed to create financial hardship for those who are already struggling finically On XX/XX/XXXX I received an approval to refinance a XXXX loan that is in my ex-husbands name Prior to this approval, I never indicated that I was the primary borrower of loan, at the request of the companies representative provided the divorce decree as proof that although I was not the original borrower, I was legally responsible for repaying the loan and in no way misrepresented myself After reviewing the information provided the company extended a loan offer on XX/XX/2020 which I reviewed and signed in XX/XX/2020 The company is refusing honor the loan agreement post-approval because I am not the primary borrower I have spoken with several representatives with the company without success. I contend that if the situation has been reversed, this company would have consider this a legal and binding agreement.”


Complaint 4078924
1/19/2021
Illinois

“My daughter refinanced her XXXX XXXX Student Loan with Earnest with a loan approval date of XX/XX/2020. Earnest was supposed to payoff XXXX XXXX by XX/XX/2020. On XXXX XXXX she received notice from XXXX XXXX that she was in arrears on the loan. She inquired with Earnest via phone found that Earnest had a batch of checks that did not clear the bank and had to be resubmitted. Ernest had not contacted her about this delay. Previously they had told her that her XXXX XXXX loans had been paid. Her accounts with Earnest reflected that everything had been paid and disbursed to XXXX XXXX. On XX/XX/XXXX she received notice from XXXX XXXX that Earnest still had not received a payoff from Earnest and that I was 60 days in arears on the loan. To this day, Ernest has not contacted XXXX XXXX to take responsibility for the error. This is now affecting both her and my credit score ( as her co-signer ). Although Earnest paid XXXX XXXX as of XX/XX/2020, my credit score has not changed. I am respectfully requesting that you investigate Earnest and 1 ) request they contact XXXX XXXX Education Financial Services and take responsibility for the lateness of the payment and payoff, and 2 ) instruct earnest to request XXXX XXXX request a rapid rescoring of XXXX and my credit with each of the three credit bureaus. Please note that this new dispute relates to closed CPFB Cases XXXX and XXXX. XXXX XXXX Student Loan # XXXX XXXX XXXX Case Numbers XXXX and XXXX Earnest Request Number # XXXX.”


Complaint 4013987
12/16/2020
California

“On XX/XX/XXXX, I signed a student loan refinance with Earnest for approximately {$90000.00} to refinance a loan held by XXXX, XXXX. While they claim to have sent the payment to my prior servicer and began charging interest on the loan, my servicer has claimed they haven’t received the funds. Earnest has said they can’t do anything until after 40 days BUT continue to charge me interest on the loan thus I am accruing interest for the same amount with both servicers.”


For a full list of the 73 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 discloses 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
Education Loan Finance (ELFI) A-
First Tech Federal C-
iHelp D
Laurel Road A-
MEFA B-
NaviRefi D-
Navy Federal C+
PenFed B+
PNC Bank C
RISLA A
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