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Earnest Review
Earnest offers extremely flexible repayment options, including the industry’s longest grace period.
Earnest Review
Earnest offers extremely flexible repayment options, including the industry’s longest grace period.
January 04, 2023 / Nadav Shemer
Earnest Review
Earnest offers extremely flexible repayment options, including the industry’s longest grace period.
January 04, 2023 / Nadav Shemer
Flexible Repayment Options
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In a Nutshell

Earnest is a fast-growing fintech lender specializing in private student loans. Earnest offers a range of flexible repayment options with its student loans, the highlight being the industry-leading 9-month grace period¹ after graduation.

Pros

  • Flexible repayment options
  • 9-month grace period
  • Option to skip a payment once per year²

Cons

  • Not available in Nevada
  • No co-signer release option

Earnest at a Glance

Loan types: Undergraduate, graduate, MBA, medical, law

APRs: 4.79% - 13.55% Variable, 4.79% - 13.85% Fixed³ (includes Auto-Pay discount³)

Repayment terms: 5-15 years⁴

Loan amount: Up to 100% of cost of attendance

Origination fees: No

Loan Rates and Fees

Earnest has variable and fixed-rate loans starting from 4.79%* APR (with auto pay³), ranking it among the lowest-interest student loan providers in America. Earnest offers loans for undergraduates, graduates, and MBA, medical, and law students. It only advertises rates on a general basis and doesn’t offer a breakdown of how rates differ between loan types. An automatic 0.25% APR rate discount applies when using auto pay to make monthly payments.

*Our lowest rates are only available for our most credit qualified borrowers and contain our .25% auto pay discount from a checking or savings account.

Repayment Options

Earnest offers a choice of five repayment terms: 5, 7, 10, 12 or 15 years (see loan cost example disclosure⁴).

Additionally, it offers a choice of four repayment options while you’re still in school.

  • Full principal and interest. Make full principal and interest payments while in school to save on your total loan cost.
  • Interest only. Make interest payments but defer payments (0.25% APR Auto Pay discount is not available while loan payments are deferred) on the principal amount while enrolled in school and during the interim period, to strike a balance between loan cost and reduction of monthly payments during school.
  • Fixed. Make fixed $25 monthly payments while in school helps reduce the interest you accrue.
  • Deferred. Make no payments while in school to free up cash in your budget (0.25% APR Auto Pay discount is not available while loan payments are deferred).

Earnest offers a 9-month grace period after graduation before you must begin making full principal and interest payments. This is the best grace period in the industry, beating the 6-month grace period or no-grace period options offered by other lenders.¹

Additionally, borrowers have the option of skipping one payment each year for the duration of the repayment term.²

Discounts and Rewards

Earnest scholarship: all borrowers are eligible to apply for a $5,000 share of the $250,000 Earnest Scholarship Fund. There are no essay or GPA requirements to apply. Simply share a few facts about yourself and you’re set.⁵

Application Process

Earnest lets you apply for your private student online or on your phone (the website is optimized for mobile). Simply apply and upload all your documents and review the loan options. Most approved borrowers get a final decision within 72 hours.

Eligible students must be:

  • Attending, or enrolled to attend, full-time at an eligible 4-year Title IV institutions;
  • Living in the United States (all states except Nevada);
  • The age of majority in their state of residence; and
  • A US citizen or permanent resident or have a co-signer who is a US citizen or permanent resident.

Co-Signer Options

More than 90% of approved Earnest borrowers have a co-signer on their loans. Checking co-signer eligibility only takes two minutes. When applying to Earnest, you have the option of opening an application yourself and then requesting that Earnest send an email to your co-signer with instructions on what to do at their end.

Unfortunately, Earnest doesn’t offer a co-signer release. This means your co-signer must have their name on the loan until it has been repaid in full.

Customer Service

Judging from the 4.7-star Trustpilot rating, Earnest is a hit with the vast majority of student borrowers. Check out the Help Center on the Earnest website for contact info and answers to frequently asked questions. Earnest Operations LLC is based in San Francisco.

About Earnest

Earnest was founded in San Francisco in 2013 by Louis Beryl, a former partner at Silicon Valley VC firm Andreesen Horowitz, and Benjamin Hutchison, former head of commercial finance at BBC. In 2017, Earnest was acquired by Navient Corp, a Delaware-based financial services company which was born from the split of Sallie Mae into two entities – Sallie Mae Bank and Navient. Navient continues to operate Earnest as a separate brand.

Summary

Earnest stands out on several different points. Its interest rates are among the lowest in the private student loans market. Its grace period¹ is the most generous we’ve seen. And its fintech-powered platform means you get a quick decision. The eligibility requirements are fairly restrictive, but borrowers can increase their chances of approval with a cosigner.

Earnest Disclosures:

¹Grace Period

Nine-month grace period is not available for borrowers who choose our Principal and Interest Repayment plan while in school.

² Skip-A-Payment Disclosure

Earnest clients may skip one payment every 12 months. Your first request to skip a payment can be made once you’ve made at least 6 months of consecutive on-time payments, and your loan is in good standing. The interest accrued during the skipped month will result in an increase in your remaining minimum payment. The final payoff date on your loan will be extended by the length of the skipped payment periods. Please be aware that a skipped payment does count toward the forbearance limits. Please note that skipping a payment is not guaranteed and is at Earnest’s discretion. Your monthly payment and total loan cost may increase as a result of postponing your payment and extending your term.

³ Student Loan Origination Interest Rate Disclosure:

Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 5.04% APR to 14.10% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 5.04% APR to 13.75% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Earnest variable interest rate student loan origination loans are based on a publicly available index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The variable rate is based on the rate published on the 25th day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month, rounded to the nearest hundredth of a percent. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Although the rate will vary after you are approved, it will never exceed 36% (the maximum allowable for this loan). Please note, Earnest Private Student Loans are not available in Nevada. Our lowest rates are only available for our most credit qualified borrowers and contain our .25% auto pay discount from a checking or savings account. It is important to note that the 0.25% Auto Pay discount is not available while loan payments are deferred.

⁴ Loan Cost Examples (Student Loan Origination)

These examples provide estimates based on principal and Interest payments beginning immediately upon loan disbursement. Variable APR: A $10,000 loan with a 15-year term (180 monthly payments of $XX) and a 11.69% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $21,290.40. For a variable loan, after your starting rate is set, your rate will then vary with the market. Fixed APR: A $10,000 loan with a 15-year term (180 monthly payments of $XX) and a 13.03% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $22,827.79.

These examples provide estimates based on interest only payments while in school. Variable APR: A $10,000 loan with a 15-year term (180 monthly payments of $XX) and a 11.69% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $26,173.03. For a variable loan, after your starting rate is set, your rate will then vary with the market. Fixed APR: A $10,000 loan with a 15-year term (180 monthly payments of $XX) and a 13.03% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $28,186.67. Your actual repayment terms may vary. Other repayment options are available.

These examples provide estimates based on fixed $25 payments while in school. Variable APR: A $10,000 loan with a 15-year term (180 monthly payments of $XX) and a 11.69% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $30,584.74. For a variable loan, after your starting rate is set, your rate will then vary with the market. Fixed APR: A $10,000 loan with a 15-year term (180 monthly payments of $XX) and a 13.03% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $33,915.55. Your actual repayment terms may vary. Other repayment options are available.

These examples provide estimates based on deferred payments. Variable APR: A $10,000 loan with a 15-year term (180 monthly payments of $XX) and a 11.69% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $31,462.16. For a variable loan, after your starting rate is set, your rate will then vary with the market. Fixed APR: A $10,000 loan with a 15-year term (180 monthly payments of $XX) and a 13.03% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $34,874.28. Your actual repayment terms may vary. Other repayment options are available.

⁵Scholarship Disclosure (may be subject to change)

EARNEST SCHOLARSHIP SWEEPSTAKES. NO PURCHASE OR LOAN OBLIGATION NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A PURCHASE/LOAN WILL NOT IMPROVE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING. Participation limited to legal residents of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia, 17 years of age or older. Void where prohibited. Sweepstakes begins 12:00 AM ET on 2/18/2021 and ends at 11:59 PM ET on 6/30/2021. Limit one (1) entry per person. Fifty (50) $5,000 scholarships are available to be won. Odds of winning depend upon the number of eligible entries received. To be eligible to receive a scholarship, entrant must be enrolled as a full-time student at a Title IV accredited U.S. college or university for the Fall of 2021 at time of notification and will be required to provide proof of enrollment. For complete details see Official Rules at www.earnest.com/scholarship. Sponsor: Earnest LLC, 535 Mission Street, Suite 1663, San Francisco, CA 94105.

Loan Eligibility Criteria: Eligible students must: 1) For college Freshmen, Sophomores and Juniors, attend, or be enrolled to attend, a Title IV school full-time. For college Seniors and Graduate students, attend, or be enrolled to attend, a Title IV school at least half-time; and 2) be pursuing a Bachelor’s or Graduate degree. Earnest private student loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application, verification of application information, self-certification of loan amount, and school certification.

Lender Identification: Earnest Private Student Loans are made by One American Bank, Member FDIC. One American Bank, 515 S. Minnesota Ave, Sioux Falls, SD 57104.

Earnest loans are serviced by Earnest Operations LLC, 535 Mission St., Suite 1663 San Francisco, CA 94105, NMLS #1204917, with support From Navient Solutions, LLC (NMLS #212430). One American Bank and Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by agencies of the United States of America.

© 2022 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved.

THIS IS AN ADVERTISEMENT. YOU ARE NOT REQUIRED TO MAKE ANY PAYMENT OR TAKE ANY OTHER ACTION IN RESPONSE TO THIS OFFER.

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By Nadav Shemer
Nadav Shemer specializes in business, tech, and energy, with a background in financial journalism, hi-tech and startups. Nadav writes for beststudentloancompanies.com. He enjoys writing about the latest innovations in financial services and products.