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Custom Choice Student Loans Review

Ben Luthi
custom choice student loans review
custom choice student loans review

If you’re in the market for a private student loan, it’s important to shop around and consider multiple lenders before you settle. Custom Choice student loans offer competitive interest rates and flexible repayment options, so you can get the repayment plan that works best for you.

If you’re considering a Custom Choice student loan, here’s what you need to know about the lender and how to determine if it’s the right private loan option for you.

Custom Choice student loans: Company overview

The Custom Choice Loan is powered by Cognition Financial and funded by Citizens Bank, and has been in the market for over 10 years. Custom Choice is not a company, but a loan program available through the partnership of these two companies. 

Prior to July 2020, Cognition Financial offered the loan program in partnership with SunTrust Bank.

Cognition Financial provides the sales, marketing, origination, underwriting, and portfolio management for the loan program, while Citizens Bank is the lender.

Cognition Financial has helped lenders facilitate more than $23 billion in private student loans over the past 30-plus years.

Is Cognition Financial a reputable company for private student loans?

Cognition Financial has been in business for more than 30 years, working with different major lenders to provide private student loans to undergraduate and graduate students. Additionally, Citizens Bank can trace its roots back to 1828 and is one of the largest retail banks in the United States.

There are also very few complaints about Cognition Financial in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau database — only four in over a decade. Citizens Bank also has relatively few complaints about its student loan program, with just 243 complaints since December 2011.

So, if you take out a Custom Choice Loan, you don’t have to worry about getting scammed. It also appears that there aren’t many customer service issues, though you should research Custom Choice student loan reviews online before you apply.

Pros of getting a Custom Choice private student loan

As with any financial product, there are both benefits and drawbacks to consider. Here are some of the pros of the Custom Choice Loan:

  • Flexibility: You’ll have four different repayment options to choose from, which can help you limit your total costs over time.
  • Eligibility: If you are enrolled less than half-time in a degree-granting program at an eligible educational institution, you are still eligible to apply for an Custom Choice Loan. 
  • Offers a principal reduction: The lender will automatically reduce your principal balance by 2% if you can provide proof of graduation.
  • No fees: A lot of private student loan companies advertise no hidden fees, but with a Custom Choice Loan, you won’t pay any fees at all.
  • Get prequalified: As with most other private student loan companies, you can get prequalified with just a soft credit check to see if you’re eligible.
  • Returning borrower advantage: If you already have a completed Custom Choice Loan,
    when you come back to apply again, your new application will be pre-filled and
    income verification will be waived.

Cons of getting a Custom Choice student loan

While there are some clear benefits that can make a Custom Choice loan worth getting, it’s also important to consider the potential pitfalls that could negatively impact your experience:

  • No transparency with eligibility: While you can get prequalified with just a soft credit check, specific eligibility requirements are not provided up front, such as the minimum income or credit score.
  • Limited repayment terms: You can choose between three repayment terms ranging from seven to 15 years. If you want more flexibility, consider other lenders that may offer ranges between five and 20 years.
  • No parent loans: While undergraduate and graduate students can add a parent to their application as a cosigner, parents can’t apply on their own to help pay for their child’s education. If you want a parent loan, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
  • Limited forbearance: You can get up to 12 months of forbearance, but only in two-month increments, and you need to have at least 12 months of on-time payments between incremental forbearance periods. You also can’t have more than two forbearance plans over a five-year period.

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Unique features of Custom Choice Loans

A lot of the features of the Custom Choice Loan are similar to what you can get from popular private student loan companies. However, there are also some benefits that make a Custom Choice Loan stand out from the competition:

Principal reduction

Once you graduate from college, your principal balance will be reduced by 2% when you provide proof of graduation. Depending on your total loan balance, this may not be a significant amount of savings, but every reduction counts when you’re talking about student loans.

Flexible repayment options

Similar to many competing private student loan options, Custom Choice Loans offer four repayment options:

  • Deferred: You won’t have to start making payments until six months after you graduate or fall below half-time status.
  • Flat: You can opt to pay $25 per month while you’re in school to reduce the interest that’s accruing on your student loans. Then, you’ll start making full payments after you graduate. This option is only available if you borrow $5,000 or more.
  • Interest only: You can also opt to pay the full amount of interest that accrues every month while you’re in school, after which you’ll make full payments upon graduation.
  • Immediate: If you can afford it, you can make full principal and interest payments immediately upon disbursement of your loans. This may be a viable option if you are enrolled less than half time while working your way through school.  

Deferred payments are standard for college students, but the interest that accrues while you’re in school and your payments are deferred will be capitalized when you graduate and added to your student loan balance.

In other words, if you can afford one of the other repayment options, it could potentially save you a lot of money in the long run.

College scholarship

College students can apply for a $1,500 scholarship, which is offered once a month through September 30, 2022. Simply provide a few details about yourself and consent to receive information about the Custom Choice loan, and you’ll be entered in the Paying for College Scholarship Sweepstakes.

Other features of a Custom Choice Loan

As you consider whether a Custom Choice Loan is right for you, here are some of the other features to keep in mind during your comparison process:

  • Loan amounts: Borrow between $1,000 and $99,999 annually and up to $180,000 in aggregate student debt.
  • Repayment terms: You can choose between seven, 10 and 15 years for your repayment plan. The 15-year plan is only available if you borrow $5,000 or more.
  • Interest rates: Custom Choice loans can come with either fixed or variable interest rates. In most cases, it’s best to go with a fixed rate because it won’t change over time. The lender also offers a 0.25% interest rate discount if you set up automatic payments.
  • Fees: The Custom Choice Loan doesn’t have any fees at all, including late fees.
  • Cosigner release: You may be able to qualify to release your cosigner after you’ve made 36 consecutive on-time payments, and you can meet the lender’s eligibility criteria on your own.
  • Forbearance: The loan comes with disaster and unemployment forbearance in two-month increments, up to a total of 12 months. However, you need to make at least 12 monthly payments between incremental periods, and you can’t have more than two of them in a five-year period.

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Who should get Custom Choice student loans?

As with any financial product or service, it’s crucial that you take the time to shop around and compare multiple options before deciding on one. Generally, it’s best to focus on federal student loans first and turn to private student loans only after you’ve exhausted your federal aid allotment.

A Custom Choice Loan may be worth considering for college students who have excellent credit (or a cosigner with excellent credit) and want flexible repayment options.

That said, if you’re concerned about a lack of forbearance options, make that a priority as you consider all of your options.

Their credit and income requirements are not publicly disclosed, but the following criteria are provided:

  • You must be a U.S. citizen, or a permanent resident or an eligible non-citizen with documentation that’s valid through the academic period.
  • You must be enrolled in a degree-granting program at an eligible educational institution.
  • You must be the legal age of majority in your state or at least 17 years old if you have a cosigner who meets the age requirements.

If you’re not certain whether you’re eligible, go through the prequalification process to check eligibility and potential rate quotes.

How to find Custom Choice private student loan rates and compare them with other options

You can obtain a rate quote directly for a Custom Choice Loan by filling out the prequalification form. You’ll need to provide some basic information about yourself, your cosigner (if applicable), your school, your anticipated graduation date, the loan amount you’re seeking, and monthly housing costs.

If you want to compare your Custom Choice Loan rate with other options, you can research other private student loan companies and go through a similar prequalification process to obtain rates from them.

In addition to rates, make sure you also compare repayment options, forbearance and deferment plans, cosigner release and other features that are important to you.

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Earnest Rate Disclosure

Rates displayed include the 0.25% Auto Pay discount. You can take advantage of the Auto Pay interest rate reduction by setting up and maintaining active and automatic ACH withdrawal of your loan payment from a checking or savings account. The interest rate reduction for Auto Pay will be available only while your loan is enrolled in Auto Pay. Interest rate incentives for utilizing Auto Pay may not be combined with certain private student loan repayment programs that also offer an interest rate reduction. For multi-party loans, only one party may enroll in Auto Pay. It is important to note that the 0.25% Auto Pay discount is not available while loan payments are deferred.

Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 4.24% APR to 13.03% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 4.24% APR to 12.44% 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. 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.

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

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.

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.

Responsible borrowing tip: Explore all scholarship, grant and federal options before applying for a private loan.

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.

ELFI Rate Disclosure

Education Loan Finance is a nationwide student loan provider offered by Tennessee based SouthEast Bank. ELFI is designed to assist students financially with receiving their education. Subject to credit approval. See Terms & Conditions. Interest rates current as of 10-24-2022. Variable interest rates may increase after closing but will never exceed 18.00%. Interest rates may also differ from the rates shown above. The term of your loan, financial history, and other factors, including your cosigner’s (if any) financial history can affect the interest rate. For example, a 10-year loan with a fixed rate of 7% would have 120 payments of $11.61 per $1,000 borrowed. Rates are subject to change.

College Ave Rate Disclosure

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through Firstrust Bank, member FDIC, First Citizens Community Bank, member FDIC, or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC.. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
Rates shown include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
Minimum loan amount $1,000, as certified by your school and less any other financial aid you might receive.
This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.
Information advertised valid as of 12/01/2022. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Approved interest rate will depend on the creditworthiness of the applicant(s), lowest advertised rates only available to the most creditworthy applicants and require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.

Ascent Rate Disclosure

Ascent Student Loans are funded by Bank of Lake Mills, Member FDIC. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions. Certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. For Ascent Terms and Conditions please visit: www.AscentStudentLoans.com/Ts&Cs.

Rates are effective as of 12/01/2022 and reflect an automatic payment discount of either 0.25% (for credit-based loans) OR 1.00% (for undergraduate outcomes-based loans). Automatic Payment Discount is available if the borrower is enrolled in automatic payments from their personal checking account and the amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized back account each month. For Ascent rates and repayment examples please visit: www.AscentStudentLoans.com/Rates.

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