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LAST UPDATED: November 22nd, 2021

Earnest is a new and unique type of lender that uses data-intensive modern technology to predict financial reliability. The lender is merit based instead of credit based, using data points to predict the client's future and not focus on the client's financial past.

Earnest may request more financial information, specifically about assets, which the lender says helps borrowers get a better rate that's more individually customized. However, some may find the application and analysis process to be too invasive.

Read on for more information, as well as verified Earnest reviews from real customers.

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The Good

  • Refinancing for Various Student Loan Types
  • Merit-Based Loans
  • Repayment Flexibility
  • Competitively Low Rates
  • No Fees
  • Customizable Loan Terms
  • Grace Period 

Refinancing for Various Student Loan Types

Earnest student loan refinancing is available for the following loan types:

  • Private student loan
  • Federal student loan
  • Parent PLUS loan

The ability to refinance your student loans, both private and federal, is a common practice in the industry, but it is unique that borrowers can also refinance Parent PLUS loans.

Merit-Based Loans

This company is merit based rather than credit based. This is extremely useful for students just coming out of school who have little to no credit history. 

When prospective borrowers apply for refinancing, Earnest analyzes them on thousands of data points to understand their financial behavior. This process helps Earnest to predict future financial strength and reliability. The company requires a minimum credit score of 650 and does not require a minimum income amount, and borrowers need only $5,000 in student loans to qualify.

It is important to note that although Earnest consider more than your credit score for approval, you will likely be able to get a lower interest rate the higher your credit score.

Repayment Flexibility

Customers love the unique flexibility Earnest offers. Student loan borrowers can set their own monthly payment and change between a fixed interest rate and a variable interest rate without any fees when refinancing. They also have the ability to skip payments in some cases. 

For example, if borrowers pay six months of on-time payments, they can skip a payment every 12 months. This could be helpful when unexpected life events happen. The skipped payment's principal and interest is then spread out across the other monthly payments.

Competitively Low Rates

Earnest has lower than average rates in the industry, with variable rates starting at 1.88 percent APR and fixed rates starting at 2.59 percent APR. It is important to note that variable rates are not available in Arkansas, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas.

Earnest provides customers with the option to consolidate their private and federal loans into one payment. Borrowers can reduce their rates even more by signing up for bi-weekly auto payments through autopay. This autopay discount will reduce your rate by 0.25 percent.

No Fees

Earnest has no fees at all — no application fee, no loan origination fee, no forbearance fee, no prepayment penalty fee, and no late fee. 

Many other student loan refinance lenders also do not have an application, origination, or prepayment fee; however, many do have a late fee. Thus, refinancing your loans through Earnest could save you more money and also provide greater peace of mind if a payment is missed. However, late payments on a loan will affect your credit score, so it is important not to fall behind even if there is no late fee.

Customizable Loan Terms

Because the Earnest application process investigates several aspects of an applicant's financial outlook, it can offer more customized repayment terms than many other competitors. 

Student loan borrowers may find their terms to be more positively reflective of their circumstances than what another private lender could offer them.

Grace Period

The company conveniently offers a grace period option. Borrowers simply need to provide Earnest with grace period documentation from their previous servicer, and Earnest will match that period up to six months.

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The Bad

  • Not Available Nationwide
  • No Cosigner Option
  • Must Be Employed for Approval
  • Website Lacks Rate Information
  • Very Investigative Application

Not Available Nationwide

Earnest provides student loan refinancing in only 39 states, including Washington D.C. Earnest student loans and student loan debt solutions, such as refinancing, are not available in the following 12 states:

  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Texas

It is also important to note that variable rates are not available in the following states:

  • Arkansas
  • Illinois
  • Minnesota
  • New Hampshire
  • Ohio
  • Tennessee
  • Texas

If you don't live in one of the states that Earnest is licensed in, you'll need to look into other refinancing options. However, even if you qualify for Earnest student loan refinance products and services based on your location, you'll need to ensure that variable rates are available in your state if you are interested in a variable rate for refinancing your student loan debt.

No Cosigner Option

At this time, Earnest does not allow borrowers to apply with a cosigner for either student loan refinancing or personal loans. However, you can apply with a cosigner for Earnest's private student loan products, but there is no cosigner release option available.

Earnest is working to allow customers to apply with a cosigner on more products in the future.

Must Be Employed for Approval

Applicants must be employed or have a written job offer in order to be eligible for student loan refinancing.

This income requirement allows Earnest to look into more than your credit score for loan approval, which is helpful for borrowers who may have poor credit.

Website Lacks Rate Information

While the website provides the lowest available interest rate information for fixed and variable interest rates, it doesn't provide any additional information, such as loan terms and loan amounts.

However, Earnest's application process is fast, and you can usually get a rate with more specific qualifications within two minutes from the website.

Very Investigative Application

Since Earnest is a merit-based lender and does not rely solely on credit for approval decisions, the application process is very thorough and in depth, or in some borrowers' opinions, invasive. Many other companies in the industry do not require personal information beyond your name and address. To confirm financial reliability, Earnest researches prospective borrower's bank account information, education history, employment and salary information, and more.

The evaluation process looks at financial habits and analyzes all transactions. While the company required access to a potential customer's LinkedIn account in the past, this is no longer an application requirement. But, borrowers have the ability to connect their LinkedIn account to input information faster, if they choose. Earnest does emphasize the fact that client privacy is a priority and the company will not disclose your personal information to any other parties.


The Bottom Line

Earnest adds a fresh approach to student loan refinancing. The fact that it is merit based is ideal for those coming out of school with little to no credit, and/or a small paycheck. Earnest rates are low, and terms are among the most flexible in the industry, allowing borrowers to save more money on their private and federal student loans. 

Some feel that the application process is invasive and too thorough. Additionally, the company fairly new in the student debt industry and is still limited in the locations in which it offers services. However, the company's use of technology allows a wider range of borrowers to take advantage of its services.

Currently, Earnest reviews are limited. If you have refinanced your student loans through this company, please tell us about your experience by leaving a review.

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G Anniston, AL

The whole experience was fantastic from the time I started to the finish everything was made easy ,understandable, and attainable. Highly recommend

2 years ago


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Maria West Valley City, UT

This is a very personable company yet customer service where not so friendly and knowledgeable

3 years ago