As mentioned in the last post, we consolidated the couple of outstanding student loans. To start the process, I looked to where most people turn to when looking for answers. Prof. Google. A quick search revealed some lenders who were consistently coming in top in most rankings: Nerdwallet, USNews, LendEdu, and StudentLoanHero.
On top of that, a few years ago MMM had published a post on how great SoFi was, at that time.
Decided to start off the process with SoFi, Earnest, and CommonBond. Tried LendKey as well, but they were pointing me to some Credit Unions implying the rates that were being offered were by Credit Unions rather then LendKey being the lender and servicer, so I dropped them from consideration.
Earnest: Their online interface is the best I've seen. Not only is it pleasant to look at, the guiding questions were relevant and intuitive. They asked more questions, gathering information about me to build up a holistic profile. Whereas SoFi and CommonBond (it seemed as if) treated me as a typical graduate, coming out of grad school, Earnest saw that I was part time student with a full time job. They took into account the steady source of income; the meaty bank, 401(k), and brokerage accounts. They offered me 3.25% 5-year fixed.
Pros: Lowest rate; quick turnaround; great customer support; approved loan
Cons: Can't think of any. Might have got a better rate if I'd gone for variable (as we intend to pay it in a few months) but that is mostly a call I took
Verdict: Clear winner
SoFi: Simple online process. They offered me a 4.125% 5-year fixed. That seemed to be high, but ok. I didn't take them out of consideration. Then they started asking for additional documents. I complied. Then they started sending out texts and emails about how they need the degree to process the loan. I told them I don't have the degree yet. The coursework is complete but I'll only get the degree in June of this year. I uploaded my official transcripts which clearly indicated all my course requirements have been met. I eventually mailed the CEO about my unhappiness with the process and the rate they offered. Someone called me back in an hour apologizing that I was frustrated enough to reach out the CEO. But they couldn't offer any solution to the impasse. No degree, no consolidation. I asked them to withdraw my application.
Pros: Nice interface; would have got $300 bonus by using the MMM referral; fast turnaround
Cons: Highest rate; rigid rule; more documentation than others; pushy
CommonBond: Similar steps as SoFi, though the interface is not quite as polished. I had problems logging in a couple of times. The page uses a lot of CSS. They offered a 3.65% 5-year variable. But here again the dreaded degree-rule reared it's head.
Pros: Lower rate
Cons: Slow turnaround; rigid rule; not a very pleasant interface; they ran my credit check as soon as I applied even before they could guarantee an approved loan (this pissed me off)
Verdict: Joint last
If you are interested to apply for loans at Earnest, I have a code where you get a $200 sign-up bonus and I get $200 referral bonus. Please indicate in the comments section and I will reach out to you directly.