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Last update: February 28, 2024

8 minutes read

What Credit Score Do You Need to Refinance Student Loans? A Comprehensive Guide

Find out the credit score you need to refinance student loans, understand the process, explore alternatives, and navigate college finances better.

By Brian Flaherty, B.A. Economics

Edited by Rachel Lauren, B.A. in Business and Political Economy

If you’re looking for ways to lighten the load of your loans, one way to do it is by refinancing them. But you might be wondering: “What credit score do I need to refinance my student loans?” The quick answer is typically a credit score of at least 650. In this post, we'll dive into the details of how your credit score influences your refinancing options and explore alternatives to consider if your credit isn't high enough.

Key takeaways

  • Private lenders generally require a credit score of 650 or more to qualify for student loan refinancing
  • Your credit score is a key factor in determining eligibility for refinancing, but it’s only one factor among others, like income, employment history, and debt-to-income ratio
  • Refinancing federal student loans can result in a loss of federal benefits like IDR plans and loan forgiveness programs

    What credit score do you need to refinance student loans?

    For student loan refinancing, most private lenders require a credit score of 650 or higher. However, you'll see the most competitive interest rates with a credit score above the upper 600s - for example, Earnest and ELFI require a credit score of at least 680.

    How does your credit score affect student loan refinancing options?

    Your credit score is a key factor in the student loan refinancing process. It acts as a snapshot of your creditworthiness to lenders. Here's how it affects your chances:

    1. Qualifying for refinancing: Higher credit scores generally increase your likelihood of qualifying for student loan refinancing. A credit score of at least 650 is typically the threshold for many private lenders.
    2. Interest rates: Your credit score also plays a huge role in the type of interest rate you'll receive. The higher your credit score, the more likely you are to get competitive interest rates. For instance, lenders like Earnest and ELFI usually seek applicants with credit scores no less than 680.

    Is credit score the only factor in student loan refinancing?

    While your credit score is a big factor in determining your eligibility for student loan refinancing, it’s not the only factor. Lenders consider other aspects of your financial status:

    • Income: Your income can play a key part. A high and stable income might make you an attractive borrower even if your credit score isn't perfect.
    • Debt-to-income ratio: This is how much debt you have compared to your income. The lower your DTI, the more likely you are to qualify for refinancing.
    • Employment history: Stable employment over time can paint a picture of financial reliability.
    • Payment history: How consistently you've made payments on your current loans can also sway lenders.

    Some lenders even consider your college field of study and profession when evaluating your loan refinance application.

    Is refinancing worth it with bad credit?

    Deciding whether to refinance with bad credit is a personal choice that depends on your financial situation. Here are a few steps that can help guide you:

    1. Calculate potential savings: Start by figuring out the possible cost savings from refinancing. They'll likely be small unless you face a very high interest rate currently.
    2. Assess refinancing costs: Consider the costs of refinancing, including new loan terms and monthly payments. Make sure the new monthly payment fits well within your budget.

    Be aware that a lower loan payment could mean a much longer term and higher cumulative interest.

    What are some alternatives to refinancing?

    If your credit isn’t great, or if you're having trouble qualifying for refinancing, don’t worry! There are many alternatives that can help manage your student loan repayment. Let's dive into some:

    1. Income-Driven Repayment Plans (IDR): If you have many federal student loans, IDR Plans may be a good choice. Your payments are calculated as a percentage of your income (often 5-10%) and household size. After 20 or 25 years, any remaining balance on your loans is forgiven. Unlike refinancing, your credit score doesn't determine your eligibility for these plans.
    2. Consolidation: With federal loans, you can choose a direct consolidation loan. This allows you to combine all your federal loans into one manageable payment but doesn’t always reduce your interest rate.
    3. Forbearance: Forbearance temporarily pauses student loan payments without impacting your credit score. Both the federal government and some private lenders offer this option, which can be a lifeline if you’re facing short-term financial hardships.

    Always remember that it’s possible to improve your credit over time, potentially opening up student loan refinancing options down the road. For years after I left school, my credit wasn’t exactly in tip-top shape. But by paying down my loans on time and practicing financial responsibility, I was able to improve my score gradually.

    Dos and don’ts of refinancing student loans

    Refinancing student loans can help you get lower interest rates and set up a repayment plan that better fits your current financial situation. But the decision depends on many factors, making it crucial to understand the do’s and don'ts of this process.


    • Do research lenders to make sure you meet minimum credit requirements.

    • Do calculate potential savings before making a decision.

    • Do consider the term of the loan. Reducing your monthly payments might extend the term of the loan.


    • Don't ignore the impact on federal loan benefits if you decide to refinance.

    • Don't neglect other aspects of your financial profile, such as income, employment history, and DTI.

    • Don't rush into a decision without considering other options like IDR plans, consolidation, or forbearance.

    When it comes to student debt, it's surprising how much your credit score can impact your refinancing options. Here’s some interesting data to help illustrate the connection.

    The following table captures different credit score groups and the resulting average potential interest rate, as of October 2023, if you were to refinance. To note, these rates are fairly high, and so it may be worth waiting for them to fall. Also, bear in mind these rates are calculated for 10-year terms, and different term lengths will have different average rates.

    Credit Score

    • 680-719

    • 720-779

    • 780 and above

    Average Potential Interest Rate

    • 8.84%

    • 8.06%

    • 6.99%

    Advantages and disadvantages of refinancing student loans

    Weighing the pros and cons of refinancing student loans is key before making any decisions. It’s important to have a clear understanding of how this can have a big positive or negative effect on your future finances.

    Advantages of refinancing student loans

    • Lower interest rate: If you qualify, refinancing could help you get a lower interest rate.
    • Change loan term: Depending on your financial situation, extending or shortening the loan term is a possibility.
    • Single monthly payment: If you’re dealing with multiple student loans, refinancing can consolidate all these payments into a single one.

    Disadvantages of refinancing student loans

    • End of federal benefits: Refinancing federal student loans with a private lender means saying goodbye to federal benefits, including access to IDR plans and loan forgiveness programs.
    • Credit check: Private lenders will do a credit check, and this might impact your credit score.
    • Potentially extended debt timeline: While refinancing might mean lower monthly payments, it could also mean extending the timeframe to be debt-free. Extended terms mean paying more in interest overall.

    How TuitionHero can help you

    We know college finances can be confusing. At TuitionHero, we're here to help you figure it out. We offer many services like Private Student Loans, Student Loan Refinancing, Scholarships, FAFSA Help, and Credit Card Offers.

    Refinancing student loans is just one of many things we can help you with. We'll provide tools and resources to help you understand what refinancing involves, such as its impact on your credit score and monthly payments. We're committed to helping you make smart choices to make sure you have a healthy financial profile after college.

    Final thoughts

    Jumping into student loan refinancing is a big step, and being well-informed before doing it is important, especially when it comes to credit score requirements. Keep in mind that it's a complicated process, but with careful consideration and the right knowledge, it can benefit you. At TuitionHero, we're here to be your co-pilot, providing you with all the information you need to help you with the process. Start exploring our Student Loan Refinancing services today and turn your dream of financial freedom into a reality.

    Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

    Yes, refinancing student loans can impact your credit score. When you apply for refinancing, the lender will do a hard credit inquiry to check your creditworthiness. This can cause a temporary dip in your credit score. However, it’s usually short-lived and can improve as you make regular payments.

    Technically, you can’t refinance federal student loans with a low credit score since most private lenders require a credit score of at least 650. But don’t lose hope just yet! There are plenty of other repayment options you can explore, including Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) Plans and consolidation of federal loans. Check out our FAFSA Help at TuitionHero for more information on these options.

    Boosting your credit score requires consistent effort over time. Make sure to pay your bills on time, keep your credit utilization low, and regularly check your credit reports for errors. Over time, with responsible financial habits, you'll see your credit score improve.

    Yes, you can refinance your student loans more than once. If your credit score has improved or interest rates have dropped, refinancing again could help you get even better terms. However, it's important to look at the total costs involved each time you refinance. Our Student Loan Refinancing page can give you more details about when refinancing can benefit you.



    Brian Flaherty avatar

    Brian is a graduate of the University of Virginia where he earned a B.A. in Economics. After graduation, Brian spent four years working working at a wealth management firm advising high-net-worth investors and institutions. During his time there, he passed the rigorous Series 65 exam and rose to a high-level strategy position.


    Rachel Lauren avatar

    Rachel Lauren is the co-founder and COO of Debbie, a tech startup that offers an app to help people pay off their credit card debt for good through rewards and behavioral psychology. She was previously a venture capital investor at BDMI, as well as an equity research analyst at Credit Suisse.

    At TuitionHero, we're not just passionate about our work - we take immense pride in it. Our dedicated team of writers diligently follows strict editorial standards, ensuring that every piece of content we publish is accurate, current, and highly valuable. We don't just strive for quality; we aim for excellence.

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