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Going to college is an investment in your future. It will provide you with the necessary skill sets as you step into the next phase of life – as well as substantially increase your earning potential.
But college isn’t a cheap investment. In fact, statistics tell us the average cost of undergraduate attendance in America was $20,770 for the 2017-2018 school year – and that U.S. students collectively owe $1.56 trillion in student loan debt.
There are two main types of student loans available to prospective students: Federal and Private.
There are several types of federal student loans and repayment programs which can save you serious money over the course of your loan.
But if your federal student aid isn’t enough to cover your college costs, you may consider taking out a private student loan.
If you choose to go this route, be sure to compare current offers to ensure you’re getting the best possible deal on fees and APR. To learn more about each of the best private student loans you can check out our detailed reviews below, or to save time you can simply click through to the providers we recommend in the chart below.
Best Private Student Loans of 2020
Credible is a unique company because it doesn’t offer student loans. What it does, however, is getting various companies to compete for your business.
You fill in a single application form through Credible, which then gets rates from up to eight student loan providers at once.
This saves you time and money because Credible shops around for you.
The Highlights of a Private Student Loan with Credible:
- Personalized Interest Rates in Minutes: With Credible, you can access rates from up to 8 lenders once so that you can compare the best options on the market in real-time.
- Compare Rates and Lenders: Seeing all the numbers on one dashboard allows you to compare multiple options at once. You can easily adjust filters to narrow your choices, too.
- Loans From: Citizens Bank, Sallie Mae, Discover, iHELP, EDvestinU, Raise private student loans, INvestEd, SunTrust, and other companies.
Learn more by reading our Credible Student Loan Review.
Credible We love Credible because you can comparison shop between all major (and not-so-major) banks at once. Through Credible, you will have access to vetted lenders who can save you money while putting you in control of your student loans.
If you’re planning on studying part-time, Sallie Mae may be an excellent financing option for you.
Not only are loans open to part-time students, but Sallie Mae also offers great flexibility when it comes to repayment.
You can start making payments while you’re in school, reducing the amount of interest you pay overall.
The Highlights of a Private Student Loan with Sallie Mae:
- Current Variable Rates: 3.25% – 10.65% APR
- Current Fixed Rate: 4.74% – 11.35% APR
- Origination Fees: None
- Loan Amounts: Total cost of education and related miscellaneous expenses minus any financial aid, including any federal student loans.
- Free Tutoring: As a borrower with Sallie Mae, you get access to four months of online tutoring from Chegg for free.
- Free Credit Score Tracking: Access your credit score for free.
Learn more by reading our Sallie Mae Review.
College Ave is an online lender offering customizable student loans, It has plenty of tools to help you design a loan that works for you.
Moreover, you can see whether you qualify, and what rates you’d get, without a hard credit check – meaning that it won’t impact your scores.
The Highlights a Private Student Loan with College Ave:
- Current Variable Rates: 3.70% – 11.98% APR
- Current Fixed Rate: 4.72% – 12.94% APR
- Loan Amounts: 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance minus any financial aid.
- Free Eligibility Checker: See what rates you’d get if you qualify without a hard credit check.
- More Repayment Options: Full or partial interest-only payment plans which help you pay back your loan sooner at a reduced cost.
Learn more by reading our College Ave Student Loans Review.
Commonbond was one of the first online lenders offering private student loans.
It continues to offer fairly competitive interest rates – as well as excellent repayment options.
The Highlights of a Private Student Loan with CommonBond:
- Current Variable Rates: 3.52%-9.50% APR
- Current Fixed Rate: 5.45%-9.74% APR
- Origination Fees: None
- Loan Amounts: 100% of the cost of attendance with a lifetime borrowing limit of$500,000.
- Social Promise: Every time Commonbond funds a loan, they also cover the cost of a child’s education in the developing world.
- Forbearance: Up to 24 months of forbearance over the life of your loan.
Learn more by reading our Commonbond Student Loan Review.
LendKey is one of the few loan services for private loans.
It can connect you with post-secondary funding including loans offering extended forbearance for longer loan terms.
The Highlights of a Private Student Loan with LendKey:
- Current Variable Rates: 4.27%-11.59% APR
- Current Fixed Rate: 5.36%-11.24% APR
- Loan Amounts: Varies depending on end lender.
- Refinancing Options: LendKey connects you with community lenders who can potentially refinance your loans and lower your interest rate.
- Forbearance: 18 months for 15- and 20-year loan – which is longer than offered by many other providers.
Learn more by reading our full review on LendKey.
Ascent offers competitive rates, but the thing that makes it stand out most is its 1% cashback offer which you can secure upon graduation if you set up automatic payments.
The Highlights of a Private Student Loan with Ascent:
- Current Variable Rates: 3.63% and 12.90% APR
- Current Fixed Rate: 3.97% and 12.93%
- Loan Amounts: Ascent covers up to 100% of your costs of attendance minus any financial aid. There is a $200,000 aggregate limit at any given time.
- No Fees: There are no application fees.
- 1% cashback: Start earning 1% cash back at graduation!
- Flexible Repayment: Loans with co-signers have multiple in-school repayment options – including interest-only, deferred, and flat-fee.
- Forbearance: 24 months – longer than offered by many other lenders.
Learn more by reading our full review on Ascent.
Ascent Along with offering competitive rates, Ascent offers NO application fee and will cover up to 100% of your costs of attendance minus any financial aid you receive. Millennial Money readers get $100 bonus for closing a loan with Ascent.
Social Finance’s – or SoFi’s – signature product is student loan refinancing, but it also offers some excellent unsecured private student loan options.
In 2012 it became the first company to refinance private and federal student loans together.
It has grown over the years into one of the most well-known student loan companies on the market – and continues to offer competitive rates.
According to Forbes, it has a 98% referral rate among existing customers.
The Highlights of a Private Student Loan with SoFi:
- Current Variable Rates: 3.52% – 11.12% APR
- Current Fixed Rate: 5.05% – 11.71% APR
- Origination Fees: None
- Loan Amounts: The full cost of attendance.
- Refinancing Options: Refinancing student loans is SoFi’s forte. There are plenty of low-interest refinancing options – and often offer bonuses to new clients.
- Flexible Repayment Options: Start repaying your student loan as soon as you start your first semester.
- No Hard Credit Check: You can see whether you’ll qualify and the rate you’d get without a hard credit check. A hard pull will be performed when you officially apply.
- Additional Perks: SoFi also offers extra perks like job search, career planning, and entrepreneurship support.
- Forbearance: 12 months
SoFi SoFi is one of the most well-known student loan companies on the market – and continues to offer competitive rates. Along with their well known refinancing options, they offer some excellent unsecured private student loan options.
Online lending company Earnest prides itself on being the loan provider that brings “low-interest loans to high-potential people.”
The company does offer some very competitive rates, though, like SoFi, you’ll have to meet potential high-income requirements in order to qualify.
The Highlights of a Private Student Loan with Earnest:
- Current Variable Rates: 3.35% – 11.44%
- Current Fixed Rate: 4.69% – 12.78%
- Loan Amounts: Up to 100% of your school’s certified cost of attendance.
- Origination Fees: None
- Free Eligibility Checker: Earnest allows you to do a quick eligibility check online without impacting your credit score.
- Nine-Month Grace Period: That’s 3 months more than most other lenders.
- Skip a Payment Once a Year: If an unexpected event strikes and you need to skip a payment – you can do so once a year with Earnest.
Discover is most well-known for its wide range of credit cards, but it also offers an excellent range of student refinancing options with competitive rates.
Discover offers various student loan types, including undergraduate, graduate, MBA, health care, dental, law, Bar exam, and international.
The Highlights of a Private Student Loan with Discover:
- Current Variable Rates: 3.37% – 11.87%.
- Current Fixed Rate: 4.74% – 12.99%
- Origination Fees: None
- Loan Amounts: 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance.
- Multi-Year Approval for Loans: Apply once, then request the funds you need every year.
- Rewards for Good Grades: If your GPA is 3.0 or better, you could get a one-time 1% cash reward on each new Discover student loan.
Citizens Bank has been around since 1828, but it’s one of the new entrants to the student loan market.
Citizens Bank offers several fixed- and variable-rate private student loans and parent loans.
The Highlights of a Private Student Loan with Citizens Bank:
- Current Variable Rates: 3.24% – 11.35% APR
- Current Fixed Rate: 4.72% – 12.04% APR
- Origination Fee: None
- Loan Amounts: Up to $150,000 for undergraduate loans.
- Free Credit Score: You can access your credit score at no additional charge.
- Multi-Year Approval for Loans: You only need to apply once, then request the funds you need every year.
What to Look For in a Private Student Loan
When you’re searching for a private student loan, there are a few main things to look for.
- APR: The first number likely to catch your eye is the APR. If you are offered a fixed rate, the APR will stay consistent over the course of your loan. If you are offered a variable rate, it is likely to start lower, but can change periodically throughout the course of repayment.
- Fees: You will also want to take note of any application or origination fees. Most of the top student loan lenders won’t – so you should keep that in mind when reviewing options. Also, check whether there are late payment fees – it would be good to know you wouldn’t be penalized if something unexpected happened and you were late with a payment.
- Credit Score Needed: Private student loans often require good credit if you’re applying without a co-signer. If you do apply with a co-signer, they can sometimes be released after you have proven your ability to reliably pay off the student loan debt on your own.
- Repayment Options: You should also see if you qualify for a student loan with a lender who offers flexible repayment options. For example, some may allow you to begin making payments earlier than normal, reducing your principal balance and the interest you would pay on it.
- Additional Perks: Marketplace lenders, in particular, are more likely to offer additional perks. Some companies will give you cashback or additional support in career planning – make sure you’re aware of these benefits!
Is a Private Student Loan Right For You?
Is a private student loan really the best way for you to fund your college degree? That’s going to vary on a few factors.
Private loans provide a great funding resource to those who can’t afford to pay for college themselves – and that’s the majority of college students.
According to research, only 29% of parents plan to fully cover the cost of their children’s college fees – meaning that the majority of kids will be on their own.
However, these loans often but not always come with higher APR offerings than federal loans. You can usually borrow more with private lenders while federal loans come with lower borrowing limits.
When you’re planning to take out a private student loan, the question you need to ask yourself is – will you be able to pay it back once you’ve graduated? Will your income be sufficient?
Before you take out any student loan, do a return-on-investment calculation.
Paying back hundreds of thousands in student debt will be impossible if you choose a career path that doesn’t guarantee a career with a high-income threshold.
On the other hand, if you decide to use a private loan to attend medical school, you know that your expected salary over the years is likely to help you cover these costs.
The key is to only borrow what you’ll be able to pay back. For a better idea of what that amount might be, check out the estimated salaries by occupation on the U.S. Department of Labor’s website.
Another thing to consider is that your ability to take out a private student loan will depend on your creditworthiness. If you’re taking out a private student loan, you will need to have a good credit score and history, unless you are aided along by a qualified co-signer.
If your credit isn’t the best, your application for a loan may not be approved, or you could end up paying the APR listed at the top of your lender’s range.
Will You Get a Private Student Loan?
Private student loan options from private organizations may charge you a higher interest rate compared to federal borrowing options.
These private loans will provide fewer repayment options and opportunities for cancellation or forgiveness; be sure to intimately familiarize yourself with your federal loan options before considering an offer on the private market.
While private student loans may not be the preferable form of borrowing, they can be a useful tool to help you complete your education and secure a higher income over the course of your career under the right circumstances.
Handled responsibly, the right student loan can help you achieve your academic goals.