Is Earnest's Alternative Approach to Student Loan Refinancing Worth Considering?

06/01/2015 04:16 pm ET | Updated May 31, 2016

As an independent, transparent marketplace for student loan refinancing, Credible will be producing a series of articles profiling lenders in the refinancing space.

Earnest is a new breed of lender, offering merit-based loans to individuals who can prove they are financially responsible, even if their credit score reflects otherwise. Earnest student loan refinancing uses a unique system and a hyper-personal underwriting model, which enables them to provide personal loans and extend student loan refinancing offers at rates borrowers can comfortably afford.

Earnest Student Loan Refinancing Highlights

  • 5-20 years, rates as low as 1.90 percent (including AutoPay discount)
  • No set credit score or income requirement, unemployment protection
  • Not available in all states
  • Graduates looking for a flexible repayment terms

Background

Earnest was founded by Louis Beryl, a previous partner at venture firm Andreessen Horowitz, who was denied an affordable loan after returning to school from a career on Wall Street. Earnest entered the loan market in 2014 by offering small merit-based personal loans to young professionals at rates lower than credit cards to help with "life milestones". This model was extended to student loan refinancing and instead of relying on credit scores, developed a software that looks at a potential borrower's as a financial picture, rather than just a number.

Once you apply for student loan refinancing, Earnest will look at many different factors such as education history, current and past income, savings and debts, and your employment background. For example, Earnest uses data from your LinkedIn profile to learn more about your education history and assess potential career growth.

Student Loan Refinancing Product Offerings

To borrow from Earnest, applicants must have completed an undergraduate or graduate degree, or must be ready to graduate within six months. Earnest loans are only available in 29 states and Washington D.C., to borrowers having at least $5,000 in student loans. Once an agreement is signed, Earnest will send payment to your current loan servicer and your new loan can be managed on their platform.

Rates (Valid as of June 1, 2015): For student loan refinancing, Earnest's fixed interest rates range from 3.50 percent APR to 7.25 percent APR (with 0.25 percent AutoPay) and variable rates range from 1.90 percent APR to 5.75 percent APR (with 0.25 percent AutoPay).

Payments are flexible and can be adjusted for when you have extra cash or for when you need an extra month to get back on your feet. Earnest does not advertise standard set loan terms on their site and instead focuses on the monthly payment amount the borrowers wishes to pay.

Benefits

Earnest offers many unique benefits that are not common amongst lenders. Their software allows borrowers to change their student loan repayment to fit their financial needs by showing borrowers how much money they save in interest by increasing their monthly payments. Another feature for those eager to pay off their student loans is the bi-weekly payment cycle to repay their debts faster and reduce overall interest paid. Borrowers can also switch between a fixed and variable account every six months. Therefore, borrowers can benefit from the lowest APR through a variable term and switch to a fixed term if rates begin to rise.

Earnest also offers benefits such as forbearance, unemployment protection, and up to a three-year deferment for returning to an approved postgraduate school. Earnest manages all payments and services, no middlemen, and potential borrowers will also benefit from no hidden fees, prepayment fees, or origination fees.

Who should explore Earnest?                    

Earnest is a potential fit for graduates looking for a customized repayment process with tools to better understand where their money is going. If you do not have a strong credit score, Earnest looks at thousands of data points in order to qualify you for the best rate possible.

If you are interested in exploring refinancing options from other great lenders, visit Credible to see what options may be available to you.