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About Earnest

Earnest is a lender offering private student loans, student loan refinancing, personal loans and credit cards. The company has student loans for both undergraduates and graduates, including students in MBA programs, medical school and law school. Earnest has worked with more than 164,000 clients and refinanced more than $14.5 billion in student loans.


  • Fixed and variable interest rates
  • Free estimates
  • Refinancing available


  • 650+ credit score required
  • No loans for international students

Bottom Line

Earnest offers student loans, personal loans and refinancing. If you qualify, its loans might be a good option. However, it has relatively strict requirements, so it may not be a viable choice for every situation.

Starting college this year?

See our recommended student loan offers for 2021

Get started

What is Earnest?

Earnest is a loan provider specializing in private student loans and student loan refinancing. However, it also offers personal loans and credit cards. You can use its online application process to see if you’re eligible.

It’s worth noting that Earnest doesn’t offer federal student loans. Students need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to see what financial aid they may qualify for from the government. Earnest has a checklist on its website you can use to see some other financial aid options before applying for one of its loans.

How does Earnest work?

Earnest’s private student loans provide money for college students, and they do this without some of the restrictions that can come with federal student aid, like maintaining Satisfactory Academic Progress.

You can borrow up to 100% of your school’s cost of attendance. Once your application is approved, Earnest disburses the money directly to your school. After you leave school, you have up to nine months before you have to start repaying your loan.

Earnest’s personal loans work more like other loans, letting you borrow $1,000 to $100,000. Repayment begins immediately, and terms range from 24 to 48 months.

As an Earnest customer, you also receive access to its customer service department. You can reach these professionals by chat, phone or email.

How to apply for an Earnest loan

With Earnest, you’re able to receive personalized loan amounts and rates based on your information. It takes as little as two minutes to get your rate or check your eligibility. To apply, start by filling out the form on Earnest’s website. The process is simple, and Earnest walks you through the application.

Earnest assesses each applicant’s credit score to create an estimate. These estimates don’t utilize a hard credit pull, so they don’t impact an applicant’s credit score. However, borrowers or cosigners must have a score of at least 650, which is relatively high. Borrowers must also be citizens or U.S. permanent residents, and loans are not available for students seeking associate degrees.

After going through the process, you should start to see what types of options are available to you. Once you choose your loan and proceed with the application, Earnest will do an actual credit check and finalize the process.

Earnest fees

Earnest’s rates vary by borrower and application:

  • For private student loans, Earnest’s variable rates start at 2.70% APR.
  • Fixed rates on student loans start at 3.22%.
  • Variable interest rates for student loan refinancing start at 3.24%.
  • Fixed rates for student loan refinancing start at 3.99%.
  • Personal loan APRs start as low as 4.99%.

All of the rates above (excluding the personal loan APR) include a 0.25% automatic payment discount.

Earnest does not charge origination, prepayment or late fees. However, it does charge an $8 returned payment fee in the event that your payment does not go through and must be sent back to your bank. Other fees may also apply, depending on your state.

Earnest FAQ

Is Earnest loan interest tax deductible?

Yes, it is deductible up to a certain point for most people. However, some individual tax situations may not let you deduct it, so it’s important to understand your unique case.

Does Earnest accept credit card payments?

No, students cannot pay for their loans with credit cards. However, you can connect your bank account to your Earnest account for easy payments.

Are Earnest student loans private?

Yes, Earnest student loans are private. Public loans are loans offered through the government.

How long does it take to get approved for an Earnest loan?

The process takes two to five weeks on average. This timeline also depends on how fast a school certifies the loan on its end.

Does Earnest report to the credit bureaus?

Yes, Earnest reports to credit bureaus. It also may run a hard credit pull during the application process. However, the pre-qualification process should not impact your credit score.

Is Earnest legit?

Yes, Earnest is a good option for students who want to easily compare their rates and options online. With no fees and a quick pre-qualification process, this company is also relatively convenient to work with. If you prioritize efficiency and simplicity, Earnest is worth checking out. Just be sure to shop around for the best rate and make sure you can afford to repay your loan.

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