Earnest Student Loans Review

Earnest was founded in 2013 by a team of self-confessed finance and technology geeks that noticed a lot of students just don’t really trust the student loans market. They wanted to restore that trust and create a new financial institution that actually worked towards making students’ lives better. You’ll find a range of private student loans and refinancing options on offer, and the lender aims to provide a hyper-personalized solution that works for your specific situation.

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    Why get a student loan from Earnest?

    Earnest has some of the lowest interest rates we’ve seen from any student loan provider, starting from just 1.24% on its variable rate loans. Students will be attracted by the flexible repayment options and can choose their own terms up to 20 years. You’ll also be able to choose how much you want to repay every month.

    Other benefits that might attract you to the provider include:

    • No origination, prepayment, disbursement or late fees are charged
    • You can choose to skip one payment each year if you’re in financial difficulty
    • Get a 0.25% discount to your interest rate if you repay using the auto-pay option
    • 100% of your school’s fees and accommodation costs are covered
    • Contact the Client Happiness Team at any point during your loan term if you have any issues

    What student loans does Earnest offer?

    You’ll find five different types of private student loans available, and the terms are very similar across each one. You’ll choose between a variable or fixed rate, and every loan can be applied for with a cosigner. All Earnest loans are free from any fees, come with the same interest rates, and allow you to make small monthly payments while you’re still at school.

    Undergraduate private student loans

    All of Earnest’s undergraduate loans will fund 100% of your school’s certified costs of attendance, and you’ll be able to decide your repayment terms yourself. You’ll also be given a 36 month grace period before you have to start making any repayments.

    Graduate private student loans

    The lender’s graduate loans have almost identical terms to its undergraduate offering. In addition, you’ll also be able to defer payments for a limited period once you graduate. This should give you the time you need to find a job and be in a comfortable position before repaying your loan.

    Business School loans

    You’ll get all the same benefits as you would with undergraduate and graduate loans. Where the business school loans differ is that you may be eligible for additional financial aid. This means you may be able to supplement your loan from federal financial aid programs. Your loan will also cover the cost of travel, books, and even any dependents who might be living with you while you study.

    Medical school loans

    Alongside the same terms you’ll find with other Earnest loans, anyone taking out a medical school loan will be able to defer any payments until they’ve completed their residency. 

    Law school loans

    Any student studying law will be eligible for The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. These are a range of grants and federally subsidized loans with very low interest rates. The lender recommends that all Law school applicants first max out their FAFSA loans (up to $20,500) before applying for an Earnest loan to cover the difference. This way, applicants will be getting the most money possible with the lowest rates available, whilst avoiding any fees.

    Student loan refinancing with Earnest

    Interest rates when refinancing are slightly higher than if you take out a new student loan, but are still impressively low when compared to other providers. Your final rate will be based on factors including yours; or your cosigner’s; credit rating, how long you choose to borrow for, and what you decide your monthly payments are going to be.

    Fixed rate

    Variable rate

    3.95% to 6.23%

    1.99% to 6.23%

    Refinancing is aimed at those who’ve been working for a number of years following graduation; a number of other benefits are opened up to you, including:

    • Combine multiple private and federal loans into one payment
    • Remove an original cosigner if your credit rating is strong enough to give you a lower rate
    • Change and customize your original loan terms. You can knock years from your original payment plan if you’re now financially stable
    • Choose monthly or bi-monthly payments
    • No overpayment or prepayment penalties

    To refinance you’ll need a credit score of at least 650, but the lender will also take into account your savings, earning potential, and degree when determining if you’re eligible.

    Private student loans 

    All the loans on offer at Earnest are private student loans, although it encourages you to seek federal support for eligible college courses in order to maximize your payments and get the lowest rates possible. The lender is quite generous with its funding and will cover the full cost of tuition, accommodation, books, transport and travel, and any dependents, while you’re studying.

    You’re encouraged to use a cosigner in order to access the lowest rates, but you’ll also be allowed to apply on your own. This might prove a little difficult for some, as single person applications are required to be employed and have a credit score of 650, which many younger students will struggle to meet. We’d definitely recommend applying with a cosigner if you can.

    Earnest rates and fees in September 2020

    You’ll pay no fees at all when you take out a student loan here. Its rates are kept very simple too, and will apply across all the different loan types on offer. The top-end rates for graduate students are, however, slightly lower than undergraduate rates

    Depending on the credit score of your cosigner, and a review of other eligibility factors, you can expect the following rates when taking out a new loan starting from: 

    Course type

    Fixed rate

    Variable rate







    Cosigned private loan



    Business school loans



    Medical school loans



    Law school loans



    Note that these above rates all include a 0.25% discount on the assumption payments will be made using monthly auto-pay.

    Repayment options

    Earnest probably has some of the most flexible repayment terms out of any student loan lender we’ve seen. You’ll be able to choose your own term length, how much you’d like to repay each month, and whether you’d like to pay either once per month or bi-monthly. 

    Deferred payment

    You won’t need to make any payments at all while you’re studying. Deferred payment periods can also be extended after you graduate depending on the course you’ve completed. If you’ve transferred your loan from another lender, you’ll be able to defer for an additional nine months.

    Those entering active military service after graduation can defer for an additional 36 months. Bear in mind that interest will still accrue during any deferment period.

    Interest-only payments

    If you can afford it, paying off your interest while still at school is a smart decision. This means you’ll be able to keep on top of your loan so you won’t have four year’s worth of extra of compounded interest to pay off when you graduate.

    Principal and interest payments

    If you’re able to, you’ll be allowed to make full payments of both the principal and interest from day one of your loan. This can be a good option for those who have paid positions and internships as part of their university course.

    Fixed $25 interest payments

    Whilst studying, Earnest will also allow you to make a fixed $25 per month payment to your interest. This helps reduce the accrued debt, giving you lower payments at the end of the deferment period.

    Customer service

    Earnest has a range of customer service options available. If you have any questions before you apply, you can send customer services an email, or call the helpline.

    Once you’re signed for a loan, you’ll have access to the “Client Happiness Team” which will be able to resolve any specific issues you might have with your loan. This is also the team you’ll contact if you need a hardship break on your payments due to a job loss or change in financial situation. 

    A number of guides and blogs are also available via the website, providing advice on the best ways to pay back your loan

    Earnest pros and cons


    • Low interest rates
    • Flexible repayment options
    • No origination, late or prepayment fees
    • The full cost of your education, including tuition, accommodation, books, travel, and dependents is covered
    • Get a 0.25% discount to your rate when paying via auto-pay
    • Fast online application
    • Good customer service


    • Strict credit score requirements if you don’t have a cosigner
    • Not all courses will get you a deferment period following graduation
    • Loans aren’t available to those in Delaware, Kentucky or Nevada

    How to apply for an Earnest student loan

    You can only apply for loans via the online application form. However, it’s easy to complete and should only take you a few minutes. Earnest doesn’t say how long it might take to approve your loan, though.

    You’ll also need to meet the following criteria before you apply:

    • You’re a US citizen, or have been a permanent resident in the US for at least 10 years
    • You must be aged 18 or older
    • Your debt must be for a Title IV-accredited not-for-profit school
    • Your debt must be held at an institution in the US

    In addition, either you or your cosigner will need to meet to following financial requirements:

    • A credit score of at least 650
    • Three years of clean credit history with no missed payments
    • An income of $35,000 per year
    • You have no bankruptcies on your credit report


    It’s difficult to argue against Earnest when we see interest rates as low as this, and an easy application process and such flexible repayment terms only sweeten the deal. Whether you’re a brand new student or looking to refinance current debt, it’s definitely worth putting an application in.

    If we had to pick a downside, it would be the strict financial and credit rating requirements you need to meet before being accepted. This means new students will almost certainly need a cosigner to help them out, leaving less well off families, or those with poor credit, looking for another lender.