Earnest Private Student Loan Review

Earnest Private Student Loan Review

Earnest Private Student Loan
Interest fees, rates and terms
Repayment options
Customer service
Best for
Affordable student loan refinancing and customizable payments
Getting qualified for a student loan without a hard credit check
Worst features
Co-signer required for many applications (a credit score of 650+ is needed) with no option for cosigner release
Loans aren’t available everywhere (including in Nevada and Kentucky)

When most students think about paying for college, the first thing that comes to mind is student loans.

It’s no secret that tuition rates are on the rise and scholarships don’t always cover the entire cost. So, more and more students are turning to private student loans to fill in the gaps. With features like income-based repayment plans, high approval percentages, and relatively low interest rates, it’s no wonder private student loans are so popular.

But before you take out a loan, it’s important to do your research and make sure you’re getting the best deal possible. In this post, we’ll give you a detailed Earnest Private Student Loan review so you can determine whether this lender is right for you.

About Earnest

Earnest is a technology-enabled student loan lender located in San Francisco, CA.

It was founded in 2013 by Louis Beryl and Benjamin Hutchinson. The company offers private student loans and loan refinancing options to borrowers along with other unique financing options, like credit cards and personal loans (not ideal solutions when it comes to paying for college, but still worth noting as part of Earnest’s line-up of offerings).

Like most student loan lenders, Earnest takes a close look at each applicant’s credit score in order to determine his or her eligibility. However, it takes a unique approach known as “merit-based lending” as well, looking at other factors like education, spending and saving habits, and income potential, too.

When you sign for a loan with Earnest, you’ll have access to an online dashboard that will give you tools to customize and control your loan payments by time, amount, and payment value.

What Types of Loans Does Earnest Offer?

Earnest offers loans for students who are seeking undergraduate, graduate, law, medical, and business degrees. You can qualify on your own or use a cosigner. You can also apply to refinance your student loans.

  • Credit-based student loan: If you’re borrowing independently as an undergraduate or graduate student, you’ll need at least three years of credit history and a credit score of 650+. You’ll also need zero bankruptcies, a history of making on-time payments, and a minimum annual income of $35,000.
  • Student loan with cosigner: Most students won’t qualify for a credit-based student loan on their own – the high credit score and income requirements get in the way. Cosigners will need to meet the same eligibility requirements but essentially, are promising to make payments on your loan if you default later on.
  • Refinanced student loans: There is no minimum income requirement to refinance with Earnest, but you must be employed. You can qualify even if you’ve filed for bankruptcy, in some cases.
  • Personal loans: One of the newest offerings by Earnest is a personal loan. It partners with Fiona to get you matched for a personalized loan with no impact on your credit score.

Earnest even offers a credit card through MasterCard. If you apply and are approved for the card, you’ll get up to 3% cashback with no annual fee. You can put the cashback you earn toward your student loan or redeem it for a statement credit.

How Does it Work?

Earnest offers a variety of options for private student loans as well as student loan refinancing. It’s a great option for borrowers who are looking for a flexible alternative to the other more rigid student loan providers out there.

Of course, federal student loans should be your first stop when you’re trying to pay for college (besides “free” money like grants and scholarships, naturally). However, if you’ve exhausted your federal student loan options and need more money to fill in the gaps, Earnest is a great option.

To apply, you must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Live in any state besides Kentucky or Nevada
  • Have a minimum credit score of 650 (or have a cosigner with a minimum credit score of 650)

You can upload all required documents from your phone, making the application process convenient and easy. You will have to submit the typical documents required as part of a student loan application process, such as demographic details, your Social Security Number, and your college information.

When you apply, you’ll hear back within 72 hours. Once you start attending school, you need to be enrolled full-time as a freshman, sophomore, or junior, while seniors and graduate students may be enrolled part-time. You can choose a payment plan or pay nothing at all while you’re in school.

If you’re denied by Earnest, you’ll be given the option to reapply with a co-signer. Earnest will let you know why your application was denied, but most of the time, it has to do with poor credit or insufficient credit history.

Don’t have a cosigner? Earnest might not be the right choice for you. You’ll need to consider a student loan lender that doesn’t require cosigners or that specializes in working with borrowers with limited or poor credit.

Credit Score

To qualify for a new private student loan or to refinance a student loan, you will need a credit score of at least 650. If you have poor credit, you may not qualify or will be forced to reapply with a cosigner.

The good news is that you can see if you qualify – and what kind of rate you might be eligible for – without Earnest having to perform a hard credit check.

Your credit score isn’t the only variable that Earnest uses to evaluate your application. They’ll also look at your debt-to-income ratio (usually, this needs to be around 65%), your past payment histories, and other variables.


Earnest has a phenomenal reputation among student loan lenders. It has an “A” rating with the Better Business Bureau and great customer reviews.

You can contact customer service easily by submitting an online request or by calling customer service at 888-601-2801.


The biggest advantage of working with Earnest has to do with its flexible repayment options. There are four ways you can choose to repay your loans. With each, you’ll be able to tap into several forbearance and deferment programs as well (more on this below).

With Earnest, you:

  • Won’t pay any fees – ever
  • Can pay biweekly or monthly
  • Have the option to skip a payment once per year with zero penalties or added fees
  • Can save .25% with an AutoPay option

You won’t have to start making payments until you’ve been out of school for nine months. This grace period is much longer than what is extended to federal student loan borrowers (who only get six months).

You can start making full payments as soon as the funds are disbursed, if you choose, or choose to pay just interest while you’re in school. You can also choose to pay just $25  a month while in school. The choice is yours!


Like many private student loan lenders, Earnest has a variety of deferment options.

You can apply for academic or military deferment, meaning you won’t have to pay anything while you’re in school or for up to nine months after graduation. You’ll also be able to skip a month’s worth of payments every 12 months or choose to extend a payment date by seven days.

Earnest allows borrowers with both refinanced and private loans to defer (or temporarily pause) payments for up to 12 months for any of the following reasons:

  • Your income has decreased (not by your own choosing)
  • You lost your job (through no fault of your own)
  • Your essential expenses have dramatically increased
  • You are on unpaid paternity or maternity leave

There is also a death and disability discharge option, though this is only for the original borrower and not for cosigners.


Interest rates and payment terms vary depending on which type of loan you take out and whether you want a variable or fixed interest rate. Your credit score and other elements of your personal financial profile come into play when determining the interest you’ll pay, too.

Currently, variable rates with Earnest are starting at .94% APR, including the 0.25% AutoPay Discount. Fixed rates start at 2.94% APR, including the 0.25% AutoPay Discount. Personal loans have an APR as low as 2.49%.

These rates are much lower than what you’ll find offered by many other private student loan lenders.

If you are refinancing with Earnest, you can get a loan ranging from $5,000 to $500,000. There is no application or origination fee. Interest rates start at a 1.74% APR variable rate with autopay or 2.44 APR fixed rate with autopay.

Final Words

Hopefully, this Earnest Private Student Loan review has been helpful to you on your journey toward funding your dreams of a college education.

Remember to consider all your options before taking on any debt – and shop wisely for the right student loans for your financial and educational needs.