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Earnest Review

Monday, June 17th

2024 Student Loan Provider Reviews

Earnest Review 3.5 Star Rating


3.5 Star Rating
  • Undergraduate and graduate loans available in all states but Nevada
  • Must be enrolled full-time for college freshman, sophomores, juniors and at least half-time for seniors
  • 9-month deferral period available after graduation plus Skip-a-Payment once a year
  • 4 repayment plan types
  • No origination fees, late fees, or prepayment penalties
  • Minimum loan of $1,000, up to 100% of your cost of attendance for the academic year
  • Loans available: undergraduate, graduate, medical/business school, cosigned, parent
  • Competitive loan interest rates, which includes a 0.25% discount for making automatic payments
  • Both fixed- and variable-rate loans available
  • "A" rated and accredited by the BBB

More than 125,000 people have used Earnest to borrow funds for education or for personal reasons. The company aims "to make higher education accessible and affordable for everyone" , with lower-than-average interest rates and a helpful "Client Happiness" customer service team.

Most students need to be enrolled full-time

What are the eligibility requirements to get a student loan through Earnest? If you're a college freshman, sophomore or junior, you have to be enrolled full-time at a Title-IV qualified, not-for-profit four-year institution (no associate's degree programs). The enrollment requirement drops to "at least half-time" if you're a college senior. You have to borrow at least $1,000, and either you or your cosigner (if you have one) must have a FICO score of 650+ and at least three years of credit history, among other financial criteria. Finally, Earnest student loans are available in Washington DC and in all states but Nevada.

Needs to be more direct

We wish that Earnest were more forthcoming with specifics about their student loans. For example, looking in the FAQ for more details about their interest rates, all you'll see is a generic "we try to be competitive" non-answer. The same goes for the question of how much applicants can borrow when using Earnest: a lengthy description of how much can be gotten through federal loans and then another "generally speaking" about all private student loans. Why not just come out and say it - or at least give a ballpark - without making prospective clients click on the "Apply Now" button? On the undergraduate student loans page, even the "Today's Rates" section only gave a "starting at" rate, that's it.

Look around to see current rates

It was only on the "Cosigned or Independent?" page of that application process that we found their complete rates: they advertise different ranges for both cosigned loans (which are lower), and independent student loans. All of those rates include a 0.25% discount that assumes you'll make your payments automatically. We also dug around in the Earnest Help Center and eventually found out that their loans have a minimum of $1,000 borrowed and go up to 100% of your cost of attendance for the school year.

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No actual rates without hard credit pull

But, here's where we got really aggravated: throughout the process, Earnest reassures you that your credit score won't be affected by checking your rates. Great! But there's no point during the application that lets you see any possible loans: once you enter the amount you want to borrow, the last page asks for your phone number, your social security number, and then consent to a hard credit inquiry. Um, what? That's a serious disadvantage compared with many of Earnest's rivals, who more often than not will tell you what loan rates and terms you prequalify for, and who only use a soft credit pull to do so.

Some unique benefits here

However, there are still some upsides to Earnest that stop us from kicking this lender to the curb, so to speak. While many student loan providers only offer a 6-month grace period after graduation where no repayments are required, Earnest gives you 50% more (nine months). Also, once you've made six consecutive, on-time payments, you're eligible for their once-a-year Skip-a-Payment option. So, if you've had a costly car repair or there's a slowdown in your income, you've got some breathing room here.

Surprisingly positive reputation

Beyond that, borrower feedback tends to be much more positive than we expected. There were nearly 4,000 Earnest clients who gave them a perfect five-star rating, saying that on both loans and loan refinancing they were able to get extremely low interest rates. Almost every review said that the experience was seamless, and many students have used Earnest from one year to the next to get their educational expenses covered. The BBB concurs, giving this lender an "A" rating and accreditation.

Room for improvement but not bad overall

Out of all of the student loan providers we evaluated, Earnest left us feeling the most conflicted. Clients tend to love them, and if you qualify for a low interest rate you could save thousands of dollars over the life of your loan(s). But, you have to get there first - and Earnest makes that much harder to do without having a hard inquiry on your credit report. With more transparency prior to the formal loan application process, Earnest could easily jump in our rankings. Until or unless that happens, Earnest gets a "maybe, maybe not" ranking here.

Where Can You Find the Best Student Loans?

With 45% of high school graduates finding it necessary to take on student debt to finance their higher learning, that's an important question to answer. While most student loan debt comes from federal loans, some people discover that their government loans just aren't enough to cover the full costs of tuition, room and board, expensive textbooks, and everything else necessary for their college education.

If you find yourself in that situation - for your studies or your children's - you might get overwhelmed trying to figure out where the money will come from. And even once you've selected a lender, you still need to decide what repayment terms are best. Fixed- or variable-rate? Interest-only or small fixed repayments while still in school or fully deferred for 6-9 months after graduation? Repaying over five years or twenty? There are a lot of factors to consider that are unique to you.

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Student Loan Provider FAQ

Most students need a loan to fund the full cost of their college education. While the majority of student loans in the United States come through federal programs, there are also private loans available. You usually have to start making repayments on student loans six months after your last semester, though you can start sooner if you wish. Student loans often have repayment terms of at least 10 years.
Yes, very easily. If you're applying for federal student loans, you'll complete the FAFSA online. For private student loans, there are several ways to apply: either directly with a financial institution, like Discover or Wells Fargo, or using a platform that connects you with multiple lenders using a single quote request or application.
Unlike many other types of borrowing, student loans are designed to be affordable - it's rare to be charged an application or origination fee, and you should be able to pay off your loan early with no penalties. Interest rates are also much lower than credit cards and personal loans, and you'll usually have very long repayment terms: starting 6 months after your last semester and often stretching 10 years into the future. Expect interest rates between 1% and 6%, but watch out for fixed vs. variable APRs.
Your student loan will probably be disbursed directly to your school, not deposited to your personal bank account. That's a good thing if you want to ensure that your loan money actually gets used for your education! Because the process requires your school to certify the loan amount, the process can take a few days or more. It's a wise idea to start the loan application process early, to make sure there's plenty of time to meet your school's payment deadlines.
If you have a financial hardship or other eligible circumstance, you can request to defer your student loan repayments. Most lenders allow you to suspend your payments for up to three years if you qualify. Contact the servicer of your student loan to find out what requirements you need to meet to defer your loan.
Forbearance is similar to deferring your student loan payments. If you don't qualify for a deferral but still can't pay your student loan, you might be able to get your payments reduced or suspended temporarily, for up to 12 months. You'll need to get in touch with the servicer of your student loan to see if you're eligible for a forbearance arrangement.
In limited circumstances, yes. It usually depends on the type of student loan you have, the lender, and your situation. Student loans may be forgiven (or, essentially, written off) in the event of the disability or death of the borrower; issues with the school, like closure, error or fraud; income-driven repayment plans or employment-based forgiveness programs.
Yes, most of the time. Tax laws are changing constantly, but in the past students have been able to reduce taxable income by as much as $2,500 based on student loan interest paid, as long as they meet eligibility criteria (like having a qualified student loan that was used exclusively for educational expenses).
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Continued from above...

Fortunately, there are quite a few providers of student loans that can help you not only figure out those answers but also connect you with the money you need to pay for school. Many of them can even prequalify you for a loan with just your name, address and birthdate, with no impact on your credit report. Rest assured that millions of students (and many of their parents) have successfully navigated this process - and you can too.

Here are several aspects of student loan providers to keep in mind as you decide which ones merit further consideration:

  • Referral service or direct lender: Some sites serve as a comparison shopping platform, allowing you to get preliminary information about what loans might be available to you. These referral services may or may not use your information to complete some of the first steps of the application process. Other student loan sites directly connect you with the funding you need.
  • Interest rates. Don't be overly impressed by the super-low interest rates posted by any student loan provider: they almost always come with the caveat that only the "most qualified" candidates qualify for the best rates (and we've yet to find anyone that actually got a loan with rates that low). Just make sure that the rate you're offered is reasonable and competitive with other loans.
  • Repayment options. There are so many different ways to configure a student loan, like repayment terms ranging from 5-20 years, fixed and variable rates, and repayments either while still in school or deferred until after graduation. The more choices available to you, the more likely it is that you'll get loan terms you can afford.
  • Loan servicing. Getting a student loan is just the beginning. Take into account what other students have said about the experience after the application has been approved. Are funds disbursed quickly? Does the customer service team handle issues well? Can you expect any unpleasant surprises (like payments not being recorded accurately or not being able to reach support)?

To help you get the funds you need for your education, TopConsumerReviews.com has evaluated and ranked the best options for student loans today. We're confident that this information will make it possible to find the right way to cover the costs of your tuition, books and more!

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