Best private student loans of 2023

Written by Dori Zinn / January 13, 2023
Reviewed by Jamie Young

If you’ve exhausted all your federal student aid options and you still need to cover some funding gaps, you can explore private student loans. While federal student loans are disbursed from the federal government, private student loans come from private lenders. 

There’s no universal standard with private student loans, which means they aren’t all managed equally. We’ve weeded through lenders to find the best ones based on eligibility, customer experience, application process and more.

Inside this article

  1. Best private student loan lenders
  2. Best overall: Ascent
  3. Best for customer experience: SoFi
  4. Best bank lender: Citizens Bank
  5. Best for flexible repayments: College Ave
  6. Best not-for-profit lender: MEFA
  7. Best for no fees: Discover
  8. Best for competitive interest rates: RISLA
  9. Compare the best private student loan lenders
  10. Why some lenders didn’t make the cut
  11. Methodology
  12. Frequently Asked Questions

Best private student loan lenders

  • Best overall: Ascent

  • Best for customer experience: SoFi

  • Best bank lender: Citizens Bank

  • Best for repayment options: College Ave

  • Best not-for-profit lender: MEFA

  • Best for no fees: Discover

  • Best for competitive interest rates: RISLA

Best overall: Ascent

4.1 stars

Fixed APR: 4.62%-16.43%

Variable APR: 5.31%-15.32%

Ascent offers private student loans to both creditworthy borrowers and students who have bad credit or no credit at all. While the interest rates are higher compared to other lenders, these options help borrowers who otherwise wouldn’t be able to get a loan and need one to pay for school.

Pros

  • Loans available to DACA recipients and those without credit

  • Many repayment options available

  • Co-signer release available after just 12 months

Cons

  • High minimum APR for non-cosigned loans

  • Not all terms available for all plans

More details

  • Rates available: Fixed and variable.

  • Loan terms: 5, 7, 10, 12 and 15 years.

  • Perks: Autopay discount (0.25%) and refer-a-friend discount (up to $525 for each friend that signs up).

  • Fees: None.

  • Requirements: Some income and credit history requirements depending on the plan you choose. 

Best for customer experience: SoFi

3.95 stars

Fixed APR: 4.49%-14.75%

Variable APR: 4.62%-13.82%

Why it’s the best

SoFi is one of the leaders in private student loan lending. They cover up to the cost of attendance and don’t charge fees—not even late payment fees—and let you choose between a fixed or variable APR. SoFi offers unemployment assistance or hardship programs in case borrowers are having trouble making payments on their loans—something that’s rare among private lenders.

Pros

  • No fees

  • Prequalification available

  • Hardship assistance and unemployment protection

  • Multiple repayment options

Cons

  • High maximum APR

More details

  • Rates available: Fixed and variable.

  • Loan terms: 5, 7, 10 and 15 years.

  • Perks: Autopay discount (0.25%), unemployment assistance in case you lose your job, hardship protection, personalized career advice and more.

  • Fees: None.

  • Requirements: There’s no minimum income or credit score required, although both are considered as part of your eligibility along with the rest of your application. If you have a co-signer, they’ll need to provide these details as well.

Best bank lender: Citizens Bank

3.8 stars

Fixed APR: 4.99%-14.25%

Variable APR: 4.59%-14.25%

Citizens Bank is one of the few banks that offer private student loans. Students who are enrolled at least half time are eligible for private student loans. If you want to keep your accounts in one place, Citizens Bank might have the right private student loan for you.

Pros

  • Low minimum borrow rate so you can cover small funding gaps

  • Available to international students who have a co-signer that’s a U.S. citizen or permanent resident

  • Higher maximum amounts for business, law and healthcare degrees

Cons

  • Co-signer release not available until after 36 months

  • High maximum interest rate

  • No prequalification available

More details

  • Rates available: Fixed and variable.

  • Loan terms: 5, 10 and 15 years.

  • Perks: Autopay discount, available to international students and no minimum income requirement.

  • Fees: No application, origination or prepayment fees.

  • Requirements: There’s no minimum income or credit score required, but both are measured when you complete your application. You’ll need to provide proof of income, school information, and any other financial aid you’re receiving.

Best for flexible repayments: College Ave

3.6 stars

Fixed APR: 3.99%-14.96%

Variable APR: 3.99%-14.86%

College Ave offers some of the lowest interest rates among private student loan lenders. Aside from traditional undergraduate loans, College Ave offers loans for graduates, parents of undergrads, professional degree loans, and more.

Pros

  • Prequalification available

  • Many loan options available

  • Offers a six-month grace period on undergrad loans

Cons

  • Co-signer release only available after half the repayment term is up

  • High maximum APR

More details

  • Rates available: Fixed and variable.

  • Loan terms: 5, 8, 10, and 15 years.

  • Perks: Lots of different repayment options and an autopay discount. Scholarships available to help boost loan repayment.

  • Fees: None.

  • Requirements: Some income and credit history requirements depending on the plan you choose. Must borrow at least $1,000 to take out a loan.

Best not-for-profit lender: MEFA

3.6 stars

Fixed APR: 4.89%-6.99%

Variable APR: N/A

Many private student loan lenders are for-profit institutions. But some, like the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority (MEFA) are not-for-profit lenders. They put less emphasis on capitalizing earnings and focus more on borrowers who need money to pay for school.

Pros

  • Low interest rates even for those who don’t have excellent credit

  • Low income requirements

  • No fees

Cons

  • Good credit required to qualify

  • No prequalification available

  • Co-signer release not available until after 48 months

More details

  • Rates available: Fixed only.

  • Loan terms: 10 to 15 years.

  • Perks: Autopay discount 0.25%.

  • Fees: None.

  • Requirements: You or your co-signer will need at least good credit to qualify for a MEFA loan. You’ll need to be enrolled at least half-time at an accredited non-profit college or university. 

Best for no fees: Discover

3.55 stars

Fixed APR: 5.49%-14.99%

Variable APR: 5.87%-15.12%

Fees can quickly add up when it comes to paying your student loans. If you miss a payment or face a return payment, you could rack up fees that capitalize on top of what you already owe. But, luckily, Discover doesn’t charge any fees. 

Pros

  • Borrow up to the cost of attendance

  • No fees

  • Extra perks for borrowers who make good grades while in school.

Cons

  • No prequalification available

  • No co-signer release

  • Only one loan term available

  • High maximum APR

More details

  • Rates available: Fixed and variable.

  • Loan terms: 15 years.

  • Perks: Autopay discount 0.25% plus a one-time 1% cash reward of the total loan amount for students who have at least a 3.0 GPA.

  • Fees: None.

  • Requirements: You need to be at least 16 years of age, a U.S. citizen and pass a credit check (or find a co-signer who does).

Best for competitive interest rates: RISLA

3.35 stars

Fixed APR: 4.99%-6.99%

Variable APR: N/A

RISLA—a not-for-profit lender just like MEFA—offers some of the lowest interest rates available among private lenders. While fully named the Rhode Island Student Loan Authority, RISLA operates across the country and gives out loans nationwide.

Pros

  • Some of the lowest interest rates available

  • Flexible repayment plans for every type of borrower

  • Income-based repayment plan allows you to repay up to 25 years

Cons

  • Cosigner release only available after 24 months and not offered in every state

  • Low maximum borrow amount

  • High income threshold to qualify

More details

  • Rates available: Fixed only.

  • Loan terms: 10 to 15 years.

  • Perks: Autopay discount (0.25%).

  • Fees: Late fee (6% of the loan amount), $10 returned check fee.

  • Requirements: Must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Must earn at least $40,000 to qualify.

Compare the best private student loan lenders

Fixed APRVariable APRLoan terms (years)
Ascent4.62% to 16.43%5.31% to 15.32% 5, 7, 10, 12, 15
SoFi 4.49% to 14.75%4.62% to 13.82% 5, 7, 10, 15
Citizens Bank 4.99% to 14.25% 4.59% to 14.25% 5, 10, 15
College Ave 3.99% to 14.96% 3.99% to 14.86% 5, 8, 10, 15
MEFA 4.89% to 6.99% N/A 10 to 15
Discover 5.49% to 14.99%5.87% to 15.12%15
RISLA 4.99% to 6.99% N/A 10 to 15

Why some lenders didn’t make the cut

Of the 13 private student loan lenders that we reviewed, only a fraction made the cut. The lenders that didn’t have high enough scores to be included received lower ratings due to higher interest rates and lower maximum loan terms as well as having no hardship options and fewer customer service options.

Methodology

Our expert writers and editors have reviewed and researched 13 popular lenders to help you find the best private student loans. Out of all the lenders considered, the seven that made our list excelled in areas across the following categories (with weightings): loan details (10%), loan cost (40%), eligibility and accessibility (30%), customer service experience (15%),  and ease of application (5%).

Within each major category, we considered several characteristics, including available loan repayment terms, APR ranges, and applicable fees. We also looked at minimum credit score requirements, whether each lender accepts co-signers and if they offer co-signer release. Finally, we evaluated each provider’s customer support options, borrower perks, and features that simplify the borrowing process like mobile apps.

All rates include autopay discounts where noted by the lender and are accurate as of Jan. 12, 2023.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is the best place to get a student loan?

The best place to get a student loan is from a lender that offers you the lowest interest rate, fewest fees and best repayment terms for your budget. If you’re having trouble qualifying, the best place to get a loan is with a lender that welcomes a co-signer without too many income and credit score requirements.

How do I get the best rate on a private student loan?
What month should you apply for private student loans?

About the Authors

Dori Zinn

Dori Zinn

Dori has covered personal finance for more than a decade. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Forbes, CNET, TIME, Yahoo, and others.

Full bio
Jamie Young

Jamie Young

Jamie Young is an authority on personal finance who has been writing and editing for online media for 10 years. Her work has appeared on some of the best-known media outlets including Forbes, Time, CBS News, Huffington Post, Business Insider, AOL, MSN, and more.

Jamie is passionate about finance, technology, and the Oxford comma. In her free time, Jamie takes care of her two crazy cats and ever-growing collection of plants. She’s also an avid gamer who watches way too many true crime documentaries. 

Full bio

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