Student loan debt can be overwhelming, especially if the borrower has multiple lenders and both private and federal loans. Consolidation allows students to combine all their loans into a single loan, with one monthly payment to a single lender.
Consolidation companies and programs can offer several benefits in additional to simplifying the repayment process. Borrowers should thoroughly research the interest rates for their existing loans and any forgiveness or deferment benefits attached to their existing loans before consolidating loans.
Top 9 Best Rated Student Loan Consolidation Companies
Student Loan Hero provides customers with the support they need to organize, manage and repay their student loans. Based in Austin, Texas, the company has helped more than 60,000 Americans to get out of debt faster.
|Read 11 Reviews|
Credible Labs, Inc., founded in 1972, is a website dedicated to providing personalized student loan offers from top private lenders. Comparison shoppers can compare loans 24 hours a day for free.
|Read 9 Reviews|
Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping students finance their education and borrow responsibly. It works with the Department of Education as well as private lenders.
|Read 149 Reviews|
Wells Fargo is one of the largest banks in the United States. It backs a variety of federal student loans as well as offering private loans to students who need additional financial aid beyond the maximum federal allowance.
|Read 104 Reviews|
Based in San Francisco, Earnest offers merit-based student-loan consolidation to financially responsible individuals. Customers can request a free interest rate estimate in 2 minutes, without affecting their credit score.
|Read Expert Review|
Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loan helps customers consolidate their private and federal student loans. Borrowers do not incur penalties for paying more than the minimum monthly payment or for paying off their loan early.
|Read Expert Review|
LendKey has been matching borrowers with community financial institutions offering low-cost student-loan consolidation since 2007. Once approved by a lender, customers can choose either a level or graduated repayment plan.
|Read Expert Review|
Rhode Island Student Loan Authority is a nonprofit state authority offering student-loan consolidation to borrowers nationwide. Qualifying loans may include federal loans, private loans, Stafford loans and parent PLUS loans.
|Read Expert Review|
Founded in 2012 and headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif., SimpleFi works with corporations to develop customized financial-wellness programs to help employees get out of debt and manage their money more effectively.
|Read Expert Review|
What features matter most?
Consolidating student loans may lower interest rates, but potential borrowers need to be aware of the different types.
- Fixed rate: A fixed interest rate gives customers a chance to keep the same low rate the entire life of the loan. While fixed rates are usually higher than variable rates, they provide the security of a consistent payment amount that remains the same during the life of the loan.
- Variable rate: A variable rate is an interest rate that starts out low, and then adjusts according to pre-determined criteria. The rate may increase or decrease in the future. The borrower must understand the range of possible future interest rates for their loan before accepting a variable rate loan.
Flexible payment options
Some lenders provide flexible payment options that fit different circumstances. Buyers may be able to change terms or miss a payment under pre-determined conditions.
- Income-sensitive payments: Income-sensitive payments allow those who are experiencing financial difficulties to adjust their payment amounts to fit their budgets. Once the borrower’s finances improve, they resume repaying their normal amount or choose another option.
- Graduated payments: Graduated payments start at one level, then increase slowly as time passes. In most cases, graduated payments may last up to 10 years.
- Extended payments: Extended payments are similar to graduated payments, but may extend up to 25 years for eligible candidates.
Student loan companies provide valuable customer service through a variety of options.
- Live chat: Although websites contain a wealth of information, live online chat is a handy feature for quick questions. The online customer service representative is available with a click on your keyboard.
- Telephone support: All student loan consolidation companies offer phone support. Check the hours to ensure they are compatible with your schedule.
Many student loan companies offer a streamlined loan application process. Some companies provide customers with a loan pre-approval within minutes of filing.
In addition to lower rates, some student loan consolidation companies provide discounts. Review the website and ask the customer service representative for further details regarding discount offerings.
- Payment discount: Some companies provide a payment discount for those who select a feature such as auto pay.
- Skipped payment: Companies may allow their borrowers to skip a payment if the consumer has made 12 or more on-time payments in a row.
While consolidating student loans may be their main function, certain companies also want to help their borrowers become more financially stable. A few student loan consolidation firms extend their reach and provide additional guidance such as career counseling and more through their suite of services.
- Financial counseling: Whether it's to improve a credit rating or save for retirement, financial counseling gives borrowers the tools they need to make sound financial decisions.
- Career counseling: For those who aren't sure what job to pursue, career counseling can help recent graduates focus on their goals, potential job titles and industries for their job search.
What are different types of student loan consolidations?
Student loan consolidation
Student loan consolidation is the process of combining multiple loans into one. The purpose is to make the loan more manageable with only one student loan payment.
When refinancing, borrowers take out a new loan with a lower interest rate and payoff their existing higher rate loan. This may help lower the consumer’s monthly payments.
Who's it for?
Recent college graduates
Recent college graduates may want to take advantage of consolidation if they have multiple lenders or a large amount of debt.
Graduates with Older Debt
Even those who have been out of college for a while can consolidate or refinance their student loans and get their debt under control.
Parents of graduate’s
Certain lenders assist parents of students to refinance or consolidate loans for their children’s education.
What does the expert have to say?
Student Loan Hero was created by a former indebted graduate who was motivated to provide an unbiased solution to help former graduates manage, organize and repay their loans. Student Loan Hero helps borrowers understand their loans and make smart repayment decisions.
- Best for Recent and former college students with a large amount of student debt, those who have multiple lenders and wish to consolidate and those who need to pay back their loans.
SoFi is a modern finance company with a suite of money solutions including student loan refinancing. SoFi strives to provide the best tools for the individual.
- Best for SoFi is useful for individuals looking for student loan consolidation plus broad financial guidance, former students who wish to refinance their student loans, people who are seeking a mortgage, people who want to refinance their mortgage, people looking for a simple way to begin investing, graduate students who want to save on their loans and those seeking a network for career advice.
Earnest claims to offer better refinancing rates through data analysis. The company uses a data-driven evaluation of the consumer’s complete financial profile to give qualified borrowers lower, more personalized interest rates than those available through traditional lenders.
- Best for Borrowers who meet the qualification requirements. Requirements include U.S. citizenship, debt from a Title IV accredited school, graduation from school, employment and status as primary borrower.
Citizens Bank is part of Citizens Financial Group, one of the oldest and largest financial services firms in the United States. Included in the Citizens Bank portfolio of offerings is their student loan refinancing product.
- Best for Individuals who are seeking a company which offers a range of financial solutions, in addition to student loan consolidations and Graduates who want to combine multiple loans.
LendKey offers a unique platform that offers consumers a method to consolidate and refinance student loans through credit unions and community banks.
- Best for Recent college graduates who want to consolidate multiple loans, former college students who want a lower monthly payment on their student loans, people looking for competitive offers from different lenders, borrowers looking for flexible repayment terms and those who want a no-hassle process.
SimpleFi is a financial portal designed to give member employees access to a suite of financial wellness, debt, credit and personal finance tools. Whether students want to ease their debt or are experiencing unexpected circumstances, SimpleFi is determined to help alleviate the stress that massive debt can cause. SimpleFi believes everyone should have access to credit that is tailored to personal needs. They do this by either partnering with a company to provide programs for their employees or by working with the employees themselves.
- Best for Employers who want to improve productivity and engagement, employers who don't want their employees withdrawing from their 401(k), employees with access to SimpleFi’s services who wish to relieve their student loan debt.
Credible partners with multiple lenders to give consumers the opportunity to receive competitive student loan consolidation or refinancing solutions. The portal helps students determine the best options for refinancing and/or consolidating their student loan debt by comparing loan offers online for free. Putting information from a variety of reputable private lenders in one place, Credible brings transparency to the student loan selection process.
- Best for College grads looking for loan consolidation and refinancing options from a variety of lenders, current student and student’s parents with PLUS loans.
Information in this guide is general in nature and is intended for informational purposes only; it is not legal, health, investment or tax advice. ConsumerAffairs.com makes no representation as to the accuracy of the information provided and assumes no liability for any damages or loss arising from its use.