10 Best Private Student Loans

students holding binders walking to class
Minerva Studio / Shutterstock.com

When pursuing higher education goals, a common challenge students often face is how to pay for college tuition and other expenses. One option is to apply for two different student loan types: federal and private. Pursuing a federal loan first might be the right choice if you need financial aid for college expenses. Afterward, a private loan can help fill in the gaps. Learn about the different types of loans so you can apply for the best student loan for you.

Federal Loans vs. Private Loans

Federal student loans, which are funded by the federal government, offer perks such as low, fixed interest rates and income-based repayment plans — but the amount you can borrow each year is limited. Unlike private loans, some federal loans are subsidized, which means that you aren’t responsible for paying any interest on the loan while in school or during the grace period or deferment

Private student loans — which are offered by banks, credit unions, schools and state agencies — offer both fixed and variable interest rate options. But, unlike federal loans, private loans aren’t subsidized and can require students to begin repaying while still in school. Additionally, private loans usually feature higher student loan rates than federal loans and require a credit check before funding.

Here’s an at-a-glance view of the 10 best private student loan options:

10 Best Private Student Loans
Loan Provider APR Range Loan Amounts How to Apply
Sallie Mae 3.25% to 11.85% $1,000+ Learn More
Discover Student Loans 3.87% to 12.49% $1,000+ Learn More
Citizens Bank 3.14% to 11.90% $1,000 to $295,000 Learn More
College Ave Student Loans 3.69% to 12.52% $2,000+ Learn More
Rhode Island Student Loan Authority 4.24% to 5.99% $1500 to $40,000 per year Learn More
SoFi Student 3.25% to 7.13% $5,000+ Learn More
Wells Fargo 3.87% to 11.26% Up to $120,000 undergraduate Learn More
Commerce Bank 3.25% to 11.85% $1,000+ Learn More
iHelp Student Loans 3.77% to  9.20% $1,000-$150,000 Learn More
CommonBond 3.07% to 9.21% Up to $110,00 per year Learn More
Save for Your Future

Best Private Student Loans

So you can better decide on the right private student loans for your financial needs and situation, take a closer look at some of the best options available. Here are the 10 best private student loans:

Sallie Mae Smart Option Student Loan

Interest Rates: 3.25% to 11.85% APRLoan Amounts: $1,000 and upFees: None

The Sallie Mae Smart Option Student Loan is available to U.S. citizens and permanent residents or non-U.S. citizen borrowers who have a creditworthy co-signer. Borrowers who need help paying for college have the option of choosing between variable and fixed interest rate loans.

After graduation, you can defer payments for up to six months with the deferred payment option or request to make 12 monthly interest-only payments with the interest repayment option. Additional perks include the ability to check your FICO score quarterly and receive up to 120 minutes of free tutoring.

Discover Student Loans

Interest Rates: 3.75% to 11.61% APRLoan Amounts: $1,000 and upFees: None

Discover Student Loans allow U.S. citizens, permanent residents or international students with a co-signer to apply for a variable or fixed-rate student loan, and borrow up to the amount of the school-certified cost of attendance. Borrowers must be at least 16, enrolled at least half-time and pass a credit check. Perks include a 1 percent cash back option when you get at least a 3.0 GPA and a 0.25 percent interest rate reduction with auto debit and no late fees.

Don’t Miss: The Ultimate Guide to Dealing with Student Loans You Can’t Afford

Citizens Bank Student Loans

Interest Rates: 3.14% to 11.90% APRLoan Amounts: $1,000 to $295,000Fees: None

Save for Your Future

Citizens Bank Student loans have competitive private student loan interest rates for students who are enrolled at least halftime. To be approved, you must meet creditworthiness standards and be the age of majority in your state of residence or have a co-signer.

Additionally, you have the option of multiyear approval, which means you don’t have to apply for student loans annually, which can help protect your credit score. You can also save money with a loan interest rate reduction of up to 0.50 percent when you have a combined Citizens Bank’s Loyalty Discount and automatic payment discount.

College Ave Student Loans

Interest Rates: Never to exceed 25% APR on variable loansLoan Amounts: $2,000 and upFees: No origination fee

To be eligible for College Ave student loans, borrowers must be a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident, attend school at least half-time and meet credit and income guidelines. A co-signer, if needed, must also be a U.S. citizen. College Ave offers borrowers the flexibility of choosing their loan term, which ranges from eight to 15 years.

Additionally, auto debit is available — which ensures you won’t miss a payment — plus a 0.25 percent auto-pay interest rate reduction applies. As you consider how much to borrow, think about student loan repayment strategies. Four payment options are available, one of which will allow you to defer payments until you graduate.

Rhode Island Student Loan Authority

Interest Rates: 4.24% to 5.93% APRLoan Amounts: $1,500 to $40,000 per yearFees: None

Save for Your Future

To qualify for a loan from RISLA, you must be a U.S. citizen, enrolled in a college located in Rhode Island or be a resident of the state and meet income requirements. Students can receive a 0.25 percent interest rate reduction by enrolling in the automatic debit program. RISLA also offers income-based repayment plans, which create a manageable monthly payment based on the annual income and family size of the borrower and co-borrower.

SoFi Student Loans

Interest Rates: 3.250% to 7.125% APR for fixed-rate loans when you enroll in autopay; 2.560% to 7.400% APR when you enroll in autopayLoan Amounts: $5,000 and up; minimum loan amount might be higher in some statesFees: None in most states

SoFi allows you to refinance private and federal student loans at fixed and variable rates. To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen and meet credit and income requirements. Because SoFi offers some of the lowest private student loan rates, this lender might help you to save money over the life of the loan.

Another way to save money is to enroll in auto debit and receive a 0.25 percent interest rate reduction. Plus, SoFi offers career counseling as a perk to its clients.

Wells Fargo Student Loans

Interest Rates: 3.87% to 11.26% APRLoan Amounts: Up to $120,000 including federal loansFees: None

Wells Fargo offers loans with fixed or variable interest rates to degree-seeking students. To qualify, you’ll need to meet credit, employment and debt-to-income requirements. Otherwise, a co-signer can help you qualify.

To save money, there’s a 0.25 percent interest rate reduction for setting up an automatic payment, and an additional 0.25 percent reduction if you’ve had a prior Wells Fargo student loan or you have a qualified Wells Fargo consumer checking account.

Save for Your Future

Commerce Bank Student Loans

Interest Rates: 3.25% to 11.85% APRLoan Amounts: $1,000 and upFees: No origination fee

Commerce Bank offers student loans to U.S. citizens, or non-U.S. citizens with a U.S. citizen co-signer, who are enrolled and seeking a degree. The loan offers deferred payments until graduation. Borrowers who chose to pay small payments each month while in school can receive a rate that’s 0.50 percentage points lower than the deferred payment option and those who make monthly interest payments can receive a rate that’s 1 percent lower.

You can further reduce the interest payment by 0.25 percent by enrolling in auto debit. Other perks include free quarterly FICO credit scores and up to 120 free minutes of live online tutoring.

Find Out: How Student Loans Can Save You Thousands

iHelp Student Loans

Interest Rates: 3.77% to 9.20% APRLoan Amounts: $1,000 to $150,000Fees: None

iHelp offers instant preapproval for its variable-rate student loans. U.S. citizens or permanent residents of legal age who are enrolled in eligible schools are welcome to apply.

To qualify, borrowers or cosigners must meet income requirements of earning at least $24,000 over the last two years and have a favorable credit history. Additionally, a cosigner’s debt-to-income ratio cannot exceed 45 percent. Both in-school and after graduation repayment options are available to borrowers. Additionally, iHelp offers free college planning services.

CommonBond Student Loans

Interest Rates: 3.08% to 9.21% APRLoan Amounts: Up to $110,000Fees: 2 percent loan origination fee

CommonBond offers student loans with fixed and variable rates and flexible repayment options. To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident who is at least 16. You also must be an attendee or a graduate of a Title IV college. Additionally, there tools on the site to help you determine how much to borrow and which repayment option is best for your needs.

Save for Your Future

Plus, CommonBond allows you to postpone payments to help you get back on track if you run into financial difficulties. And, with every loan, CommonBond offers a one-to-one promise for educational help directed at children in developing countries.

Up Next: 10 Creative New Ways to Pay Off Your Student Loans

Rates accurate as of Nov. 1, 2017.


See Today's Best
Banking Offers