Citizens Bank vs Earnest for Student Loan Refinancing

Kathryn Morstad

Maybe you’re thinking about how you can save money on your student loans. You may be one of the many people who are researching top student loan refinance companies in an effort to find the best opportunity for a new student loan with a lower interest rate, a lower monthly payment, or even both.

There are a lot of private lenders out there who are advertising to win your business and refinance your student loans. Two top-tier lenders, Citizens Bank and Earnest, are worth taking a deeper dive with regards to their industry standing, current rates, terms, and features for special programs.

Let’s see what each has to offer and who comes out on top.

Refinancing student loans: Citizens Bank or Earnest?

When you are looking for the best student loan refinancing companies, both Citizens Bank and Earnest have a long history of successfully refinancing undergraduate and graduate student loans. But which one rates higher on things like customer service, loan options, and ease of their application process?

Between Citizens Bank and Earnest, there are a lot of similarities. Both lenders consolidate federal and private student loans, as well as parent PLUS loans. They both offer loans to students currently attending classes. And they both offer variable and fixed interest rates to their customers.

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Overview of Citizens Bank student loan refinancing

Founded in 1828, Citizens Bank has a enjoyed a long-time stellar reputation in the industry. According to their own website, they can offer an average savings of $2,664 per year (or $222 per month) on all refinanced loans.

And they offer, as mentioned above, both fixed and variable interest rate loans that can be structured with loan terms for 5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 years. That’s one of the most generous term options available in the private lending industry for student loan refinances.

What about fees?

Like Earnest, Citizens Bank has no fees for the consumer when refinancing loans. That includes no application or origination fees, and no prepayment penalty if you choose to make early payments or pay your loan off early. This is a real savings, since federal student loans have an origination fee that adds to the cost of funding an education.

Can you apply with a cosigner?

Citizens Bank welcomes cosigners for all the student loan refinance products. They also have a Cosigner Release Program where you can release your cosigner following 36 months of on-time consecutive payments. This is especially nice for people who want to help out their child or grandchild but are also nearing retirement age and want the flexibility and spending power that comes with an unencumbered financial portfolio.

Ways to save on interest

Both Citizens Bank and Earnest give a 0.25% interest rate reduction when you sign up for auto pay. However, Citizens Bank will give you an additional 0.25% discount if you open a checking or savings account with them. That’s a full half a point which can make a big difference depending on your refinance interest rate.

What does it take to qualify?

To qualify for a refinance loan at Citizens Bank, you will need a healthy credit score above 670-700, your degree and school information, any current income and expenses, and your student loan balances for all your current student loans.

Qualifying at Citizens Bank means you must also have already graduated and have at least a minimum of $10,000 in loans (the maximum is based on your competed degree program, e.g., $100K for undergraduate up to $295K for physicians and $350K for parent loans). If you are not a graduate, you may still be eligible if you have at least 12 on-time and consecutive payments under your belt.

You also need to be a US citizen, permanent resident, or a registered alien with a valid social security number.

Also, Citizens Bank requires a minimum household income of $24,000, and that your student loans are not part of an income-driven repayment plan.

Citizens Bank is the best option for international students who aren’t yet US citizens. The only additional requirement is that you apply with a creditworthy US citizen or a permanent resident as your cosigner. This is unique since Citizens Bank is one of a very few private lenders that will consider refinancing student loans for non-US citizens.

Overview of Earnest student loan refinancing

Now let’s take a look at Earnest.

Earnest has developed a solid reputation as a high-tech lender with a super streamlined application process making it easy to apply and get approved. They also have a state-of-the-art proprietary loan service platform with a corresponding mobile app to make paying and getting support super simple on the go.

Earnest offers highly competitive rates for both fixed and variable loans and unique rewards and benefits that give them an edge in the student loan refinance market.

Virtually no fees at all

Like Citizens Bank, Earnest has no fees to refinance your student loans — no application or origination fees or prepayment penalty and no late fees if your payment is a few days late. The only fee is an $8 fee for checks returned for having insufficient funds in the account. We don’t recommend you send your payments in late routinely or you can end up damaging your credit, but it sure is nice to know there is a cushion in the event of a unique situation.

What are the terms like at Earnest?

Earnest quotes terms on loans from a minimum of $5,000 to a maximum of $500,000 with qualifying financial history and income. They also offer terms from 5 to 20 years, and once approved – a broad range of monthly payment options.

Also, you need to be a graduate or graduating at the end of the current semester.

What if you didn’t finish your bachelor’s degree?

So, you’re out of school, but didn’t finish your bachelor’s degree? No problem. As long as you have an associate degree and meet the financial eligibility requirements, you can refinance with Earnest. This is a rare opportunity in the student loan refinance market. Most lenders will only consider a refinance if you have a completed degree program.

How do you qualify?

At Earnest, you will need a minimum credit score of at least 680, as well as no bankruptcy or recent collections activity. This is based on their unique way of looking at candidates through a more expanded lens that includes potential future growth and saving behaviors.

Additional qualifying terms include being employed or having other consistent verifiable income or having a written offer to start at a job within 6 months. Your current student loans have to be in good standing. You should be current on your rent or mortgage payments. Last, you have to be a US citizen or permanent resident. Earnest does not refinance for international students.

Earnest is available to residents in 48 states, except Kentucky and Nevada.

What about cosigners?

Earnest has opted to not accept cosigners. If you don’t qualify on your own and need a cosigner, you may want to look at other refinance options.

See How Much You Can Save

Student Loan Refinance Calculator

View Details


Student loan refinancing combines your current loans into a single loan with a new rate and term. See how much you can save by entering your loan information below, or by getting quotes from multiple lenders using Purefy’s rate comparison tool.

Step 1: Enter Current Loan Information

Loan Balance
Your remaining student loan debt to be repaid.
Interest Rate
The amount that the lender charges in interest, expressed as a percentage.
Current Monthly Payment
The total amount of your monthly student loan bill.
Add Multiple Loans to Calculate

Step 2: Enter New Loan Information

New Interest Rate
Your updated interest rate after refinancing student loans.
The length of time you have to repay your student loan debt in full.

Add Multiple Loans

Insert additional loan

Step 3: See How Much You Can Save


Lifetime Interest


New Monthly



Current Loan New Loan Savings
Rate 6.7% 4.2% 2.5%
Lifetime Interest $37,520 $22,210 $15,310
Monthly Payment $1,146 $1,018 $128

Like what you see? Check your actual prequalified rates from the industry’s top lenders in just 2 minutes or less.

Citizens Bank vs Earnest: Student loan refinance rates

At both Citizens Bank and Earnest, student loan refinance rates are based on your personal credit and financial profile. The better your credit report and score and the higher your salary, the lower your proposed interest rate.

Right now, interest rates are at historic lows as reflected in the current rates. However, the Fed has signaled that there could be up to three rate increases in 2022 with another three in 2023. This is to ‘cool’ the economy in the face of rising inflation concerns.

Both companies offer fixed and variable rates but remember that variable rates start out lower and adjust annually based on the prevailing interest rates. That means that variable rate loans can cost more over time and are not well suited for long-term loans.

Most companies have a maximum interest rate for variable loans which is often 25%.

Fixed interest rates

Citizens Bank is currently offering fixed rate loans at 2.44% to 7.83% APR Fixed as of January 18, 2022.

Earnest is offering rates at 2.44% to 5.79% APR Fixed as of January 18, 2022.

Variable interest rates

Citizens Bank has variable rate loans between 1.99% to 7.58% APR Variable as of January 18, 2022.

Earnest has their current rates at 1.74% – 5.64% APR Variable as of January 18, 2022.

Keep in mind – variable rate financing isn’t available in Alaska, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Tennessee, or Texas.

Citizens Bank vs Earnest: Student loan refinance terms

Citizens Bank offers refinancing for student loans with a minimum of $10,000. The maximum loan amounts are based on your degree program and fluctuate from $100,000 for bachelor’s degrees to $295,000 for doctors and $350,000 for parent loans.

Citizen also offers very flexible terms at 5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 years.

Earnest student loan refinancing offers loans from $5,000 to $500,000. They also have highly customizable loan terms from 5 to 20 years. With Earnest, you the flexibility in choosing your preferred payment amount that’s based on your budget and you can easily adjust payment dates or increase your payment amount if you want to speed up your loan.

Customers at Earnest are allowed to skip one payment per year at no penalty. You just have to have six months in consecutive and on-time payments and not currently be in a deferred status to request the skipped payment. After six more months of on-time payments, you can submit another request.

Another benefit at Earnest is the ability to set up biweekly autopayments that allow you to make two extra payments per year to pay off that loan more quickly.

Citizens Bank vs Earnest: Customer service and experience

Both lenders are full-service banks that offer loans, refinances, credit cards, and personal loans among other services. Each has a well-defined customer service apparatus that supports its customer base.

Citizens Bank has a solid reputation and boasts a 4.5-star rating at NerdWallet and for outstanding customer service and support. At, Citizens Bank has a 3.2/5-star rating with 261 ratings tallied.

At Citizens Bank, they feature an on-shore US-based customer service call center that is available for extended hours including evenings and weekends.

They also offer a 0.25% interest rate discount when you open a checking or savings account. This provides a full-service experience for the customer and makes bill payments and transfers easy.

Earnest boasts originating over $16.4 billion in refinanced student loans with 179,000+ satisfied clients. They have achieved those incredible numbers by providing refinanced student loans, student loans, and personal loans through their flexible application process that rewards comprehensive money management, and not just your credit score.

That makes Earnest a great option for people with new credit or fair credit since they use a more thorough review process that takes into account numerous other financial and behavior indicators.

When it comes to the customer experience, Earnest’s Client Happiness Team has been recognized for providing top-notch customer service and industry-leading support that has garnered them an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

Additionally, gives Earnest a 9 out of 10 rating with perfect scores for their fees, loan amounts, and flexibility.

Citizens Bank vs Earnest: Online reputation and awards

For online reputation, both companies rate high. However, Earnest takes the lead with their high-tech application process and easy-to-navigate website presence.

Citizens Bank garners more press and ratings based on its banking services and online checking and saving accounts. In fact, on TrustPilot, Citizens Bank only gets 1.5 stars out of 5 with 45 verified reviews. To be fair, many of the reviews seem to be based on their banking line of business.

In terms of Citizens Bank student loan refinancing review, they were named Best Student Loan Refinance Company 2021-2022 by US News & World Report. They were also named Best Traditional Bank with Refinancing by and awarded a 4-star rating.

When it comes to online reputation, Earnest has established itself as a top-tier refinance lender garnering places on many of the ‘Top 10’ lists each year.

An Earnest student loan refinancing review quickly shows the 2021 NerdWallet Best-Of Award for Best Student Loan Refinancing – Overall, as well as a 5-star rating on NerdWallet – a premier personal finance and student loan website.

Continuing, Earnest was named Best Student Loan Refinancing Company for Flexible Payments by and given a 5-star rating. Earnest was also voted the best refinance option for attorneys, physical therapists, pharmacists, veterinarians, and physician assistants.

And on Trustpilot, Earnest rates a 4.7-star rating with 4,800+ verified customer reviews. Overall, Earnest leads the way with stellar ratings and a great online reputation.

Key additional features of Citizens Bank student loan refinancing

Citizens Bank offers a full-service banking experience and ranks high for their student loan refinancing options.

They have a special focus on refinancing medical school loans. Citizens Bank offers a low-payment Medical Residency Refinance Loan that allows doctors in residency to enjoy $100 monthly payments until six months after the completion of the residency or 4.5 years after disbursement, which ever happens first. Keep in mind that accruing interest not covered by the monthly payments is capitalized at the end of the loan.

Additionally, Citizens Bank rewards parents with simplified payments when refinancing federal and private student loans and up to a 3.84% discount on refinanced loans.

Citizens Bank also offers deferment options that include returning to school and active-duty military service. They also have a hardship forbearance that is up to 12 months in two-month increments.

Key additional features of Earnest student loan refinancing

Earnest takes a much broader view with its unique approach to creditworthiness. While other companies use your income and credit report and score to determine your financial profile, Earnest uses a more innovative approach.

They factor in your established savings patterns, long-term employment history, 401(k) and investments, and growth potential. It requires some additional information during the application process but pays off if you are someone with only fair credit.

Like Citizens Bank, Earnest also offers deferments for those heading back to school or for active-duty military.

There is also the possibility of forbearance for financial hardship if you have involuntary income reduction or an involuntary loss of employment. As with most lenders, interest will continue to accrue in either situation.

Free eBook: How to Conquer Student Loans

Free eBook: How to Conquer Student Loans

Why choose Earnest student loan refinancing?

In the end, Earnest takes the lead with several industry-forward programs and top-notch technology. To summarize:

  • High tech presence with a state-of-the-art website and application process, as well as a mobile app to enhance the customer experience.
  • Innovative approach to creditworthiness, including a multi-factor approval process that expands on the traditional credit score and income view.
  • Flexibility in choosing your preferred payment amount based on your budget and your monthly payment due date.
  • Bi-weekly autopayments that are especially good for people that get paid every two weeks and allow you to make 26 payments per year.
  • Easily adjust payment dates and increase payment amount when the time is right.

Another consideration worth mentioning is Earnest’s quality reputation and outstanding reviews in the online community. You want to trust the lender you work with, and Earnest continually rates extremely high for customer services, innovation, and technology.

The one drawback — Earnest doesn’t offer cosigned loans. So, if you need to use a cosigner, you will need to consider a different lender.

How to get quotes for prequalified Earnest student loan refinancing rates

What if there were a way that you could get a pre-approved quote from Earnest and several other lenders that you could compare and find just the right refinance package for your circumstances?

There is using Purefy’s Comparison Rate Tool. It’s free and there are no obligations. There is also no impact to your credit report because it uses a ‘soft pull’ when accessing your credit information for the initial quoting process.

Later, when you select a lender and complete the full official application process, there will be a ‘hard pull’ that shows up on your credit report as you would expect.

You also have the option of using a direct link to Earnest if you are ready to go directly to the source.

So, how does it work?

It’s simple, straightforward, and should only take about two minutes. Just fill out the information in the Purefy quote engine. It will include some information about you personally, as well as some financial and current loan information and details about the school you attended and your degree.

Once you press the submit button, it will only take about 15 seconds to receive a sortable report that details each of the highly vetted lenders and their best offer for your refinanced student loans.

These are actual quotes and not enticement rates and should be very close to the finalized rate once you complete your application process.

Whether you go directly to Earnest or use the Quote Comparison Tool, there has never been a better time to score the low interest rates available today. And you better hurry, 2022 may bring increasing rates that will impact the money you pay for a new refinanced loan down the road.

To sum up

Earnest student loan refinancing is an excellent solution – even compared to other top lenders – because of their top-notch reputation, fast and user-friendly refinance application, and extremely competitive fixed and variable rates. Right now, the student loan refinance market is extremely competitive with lenders fighting to get your business. Take the time to learn about the process or talk with one of the Purefy Student Loan Advisors who are available to help answer your questions and walk you through the application process today.

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ELFI Rate Disclosure

4 ELFI Rate Disclosure:

Education Loan Finance is a nationwide student loan debt consolidation and refinance program offered by Tennessee based SouthEast Bank. ELFI is designed to assist borrowers through consolidating and refinancing loans into one single loan that effectively lowers your cost of education debt and/or makes repayment very simple. Subject to credit approval. See Terms & Conditions. Interest rates current as of 01/01/2023. The interest rate and monthly payment for a variable rate loan may increase after closing, but will never exceed 9.95% APR. Interest rates may be different from the rates shown above and will be based on the term of your loan, your financial history, and other factors, including your cosigner’s (if any) financial history. For example, a 10-year loan with a fixed rate of 6% would have 120 payments of $11.00 per $1,000 borrowed. Rates are subject to change.

SoFi Rate Disclosure

3 SoFi Rate Disclosure:

Fixed rates range from 4.49% APR to 8.99% APR with a 0.25% autopay discount. Variable rates from 5.09% APR to 8.99% APR with a 0.25% autopay discount. Unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law, Variable Interest rates on 5-, 7-, and 10-year terms are capped at 8.95% APR; 15- and 20-year terms are capped at 9.95% APR. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on the term you select, evaluation of your creditworthiness, income, presence of a co-signer and a variety of other factors. Lowest rates reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. For the SoFi variable-rate product, the variable interest rate for a given month is derived by adding a margin to the 30-day average SOFR index, published two business days preceding such calendar month, rounded up to the nearest one hundredth of one percent (0.01% or 0.0001). APRs for variable-rate loans may increase after origination if the SOFR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. This benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit lowers your interest rate but does not change the amount of your monthly payment. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance. Autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi.

Earnest Rate Disclosure

2 Earnest Rate Disclosure:

Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 4.64% APR to 9.24% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 4.64% APR to 9.19% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Earnest variable interest rate student loan refinance 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. The maximum rate for your loan is 8.95% if your loan term is 10 years or less. For loan terms of more than 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95%. Please note, we are not able to offer variable rate loans in AK, IL, MN, NH, OH, TN, and TX. 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.

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ISL Rate Disclosure

5 Iowa Student Loan Rate Disclosure:

Fixed Rate Loan Terms: 5 years/60 monthly payments, 7 years/84 monthly payments, 10 years/120 monthly payments, 15 years/180 monthly payments, or 20 years/240 monthly payments. Annual Percentage Rate [APR] is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. This rate is expressed as an APR. Fixed APRs range from 6.94% to 11.58% APR [low to high range with 0.25% auto-debit rate reduction]. Rates are subject to change without notice. Fixed rates will not change during the term. Since there are no fees associated with this loan offer, the APR is the same percentage as the actual interest rate of the loan including a 0.25% auto-debit rate reduction. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. All estimates are based on information provided by you and are for informational purposes only, accuracy is not guaranteed and may not reflect actual rates or savings and do not constitute an offer of credit. Your actual rate, payment and savings may be different based on credit history, actual interest rate, loan amount, and term, including your cosigner [if applicable]. If applying with a cosigner, we use the higher credit score between the borrower and the cosigner for approval purposes. All loans are subject to credit approval.

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