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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.


The Good

  • Merit-Based Loans
  • Flexibility
  • Lower Rates
  • No Fees
  • Customized Loan Terms
  • Grace Period
  • Customer Service

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.


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.

Lower Rates

Earnest has lower than average rates in the industry, with variable rates starting at 1.99 percent APR and fixed rates starting at 2.98 percent APR. 

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 payments and also for auto payments through autopay(reduces the rate by 0.25%).

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.

Customized 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.

Customer Service

Earnest's customer service is a standout. The company is upfront about promising not to pass borrowers off to third-party clients, and representatives will assist borrowers every step of the way. Additionally, the company employs a Client Happiness team that is eager to answer all questions and solve any issues.

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The Bad

  • Limited Locations
  • Must Be Employed
  • Website Lacks Rate Information
  • New Company
  • Very Investigative Application

Limited Locations

The company provides loan refinancing in 47 states. Check if services are available in your state of residence with Earnest.

Must Be Employed

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 rate information for fixed and variable interest rates, it does not provide any additional information. Many of Earnest's competitors in the industry include the average variable and fixed interest rates for each of the offered terms directly on the websites.

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

New Company

Earnest was founded in 2013. However, other top student loan refinancing companies, such as Credible or Commonbond, were founded just a year or two before.

The benefit of Earnest being a newer lender in the loan refinance industry is its use of technology to make lending decisions. This provides greater flexibility in which borrowers will be approved because more variables can be taken into consideration instead of just an individual's credit score.

Very Investigative Application

Since Earnest is merit based and does not rely solely on credit, 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, education history, employment and salary information, and more.

The evaluation process looks at financial habits and analyzes all transactions. While the company used to require access to a potential customer's LinkedIn account, it no longer asks for this. Borrowers have the ability to connect their LinkedIn account to input information faster. Earnest does emphasize the fact that client privacy is a priority. The company will not disclose any personal information.


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 a small paycheck. The 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 is new to the industry and is still limited in the locations in which it offers services. Employed individuals with good financial habits should take advantage of the website's ability to check rates in two minutes. Earnest is a solid option to look into.

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Maria West Valley City, UT

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

6 months ago

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