8 of the best private student loans in 2020

Need financial aid? These are some of the best private student loan vendors out there. (Shutterstock)

Are you concerned about paying for college? Don't worry, there are dozens of student loan lenders to choose from to help — each with their own unique loan programs, terms, interest rates, monthly payments and eligibility requirements.

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Sorting through all those financial aid options to find the most cost-effective loan amounts for you, though? That can be difficult, time-consuming and even a little confusing. Fortunately, the student loan marketplace Credible has made the process a little easier by giving a more detailed look at private lenders, each one's student loan rate and other offerings.

Here are some of the best private student loan vendors (offering some of the lowest rates or rate discounts), according to Credible’s resident experts.

Credible evaluated loan and lender data points in 10 categories to identify some of the “best companies” for private student loans. They looked at interest rates, repayment terms, repayment options, fees, discounts and eligibility.

Ascent

Ascent offers two loan options: one for students with a co-signer and another for those without one. Borrowers can take out up to their school’s official cost of attendance, and no application, origination or disbursement fees are necessary. An Ascent student loan also offers a 1 percent cash-back reward at graduation and a 0.25 percent discount on your interest rate if you enable automatic payments.

The downside of Ascent is that its repayment options are limited, and loans are only available for juniors, seniors and graduate students. If you choose the Ascent Independent Loan (no co-signer), deferred payments are the only available Ascent student loan repayment option you’ll have.

Ascent’s options for rates and terms are more plentiful, though. You can choose a rates range — from both fixed and variable rates, and terms range from five to 15 years. There are no fees, and you need a 2.5 GPA and a minimum 660 credit score to qualify. If you opt for a co-signed loan, your co-signer may be released after 24 months of on-time loan payments.

  • Loan amount: $1,000 - $200,000
  • Loan terms (years): 5, 10, 15 (depending on loan type)
  • Discounts: 0.25 percent automatic payment discount, 1 percent cash back graduation reward
  • Cosigner release: After 24 months

Compare Ascent and other top private student loan lenders through Credible.

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Citizens Bank

Student loan options abound at Citizens Bank, which offers loans for undergraduates and graduates and even parents of students. There are also program-specific loans for students studying law, healthcare and other fields. Additionally, the loan lender offers autopay discounts (0.25 percent off your interest rate) and another 0.25 percent loyalty discount.

The only real drawback of Citizens Bank is its limited forbearance options, which only go up to 12 months.

Rates come in both fixed and variable form, and loan terms of five, 10, and 15 years are available. Borrowers in all 50 states are eligible, and a soft credit pull is required when applying. Co-signers can be released after 36 months of payment.

  • Loan amount: $1,000 - $350,000 (depending on degree)
  • Loan terms (years): 5, 10, 15
  • Discounts: Autopay, loyalty
  • Cosigner release: After 36 months

Compare Citizens Bank and other top private student loan lenders through Credible.

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College Ave

Online lender College Ave offers a wide range of loan programs and repayment options. You can borrow up to the full cost of your school’s attendance, and there’s no application, disbursement or origination fee charged. There’s even a 0.25 percent interest rate reduction if you set up autopay.

The big drawback of a College Ave loan affects co-signers. If you have a co-signer on your loan, they cannot be released from the agreement until you’ve reached the halfway point in your repayment term, which could be as much as 7.5 years.

College Ave’s loans come in four terms (five, eight, 10, and 15 years), and there are both fixed-rate and adjustable-rate options available. The loan lender also offers a number of repayment options, including full deferral, interest-only loan payments, forbearance and more.

  • Loan amount: $1,000 up to 100 percent of the school-certified cost of attendance
  • Loan terms (years): 5, 8, 10, 15
  • Discounts: Autopay
  • Cosigner release: After 24 months

Compare College Ave and other top private student loan lenders through Credible.

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Discover Bank

Offered through Discover Bank, these private student loans come with a wide variety of discounts. Get rewarded for good grades, setting up auto payments and pay zero fees during the application, origination and disbursement phases. You can borrow up to 100 percent of your school’s cost of attendance.

If you choose a Discover Student Loan that requires a co-signer, there is no option for them to be released at any point in the loan’s term. Discover offers a limited selection of repayment options, so keep this in mind as well.

Discover’s student loan options come in fixed-rate and variable-rate form and run for 15 and 20 years. There are no fees to apply, though a soft credit check is required.

  • Loan amount: Up to 100 percent of the school-certified cost of attendance
  • Loan terms (years): 15, 20 (depending on degree type)
  • Discounts: Autopay, good grade discount, cash reward for on-time graduation
  • Cosigner release: No

Get personalized private student loan rates from multiple lenders in 2 minutes through Credible.

EDvestinU

EDvestinU offers fee-free private student loans up to $200,000. They come with a wide array of repayment options, and you even get 0.50 percent off your interest rate just for enabling automatic payments.

The biggest downside of EDvestinU is the lender’s eligibility requirements. EDvestinU requires a minimum income of $30,000 and a credit score of at least 750.

For qualifying borrowers, loans are offered in both fixed- and variable-rate forms, with terms of five, 10 and 15 years. Co-signers may be released after 24 months of loan payments.

  • Loan amount: $1,000 - $200,000
  • Loan terms (years): 5, 10, 15
  • Discounts: Autopay
  • Cosigner release: After 24 months

Compare EDvestinU and other top private student loan lenders through Credible.

HOW TO FIND A COSIGNER FOR A LOAN

INvestED

For Indiana residents, INvestED is a top choice. The lender offers no-fee student loans up to 100 percent of a school’s attendance costs. There’s a 0.25 percent autopay discount, and you even get 2 percent of your balance wiped clean if you graduate on time.

The obvious drawback here is that only Indiana residents or students at Indiana universities qualify. Co-signers are also locked in for longer than with most other lenders (four full years).

Loans are available in terms of five, 10 and 15 years, and there are both fixed-rate and variable rate options. The minimum credit score to qualify is 670, and repayment options are numerous.

  • Loan amount: $1,001 up to 100 percent of school-certified cost of attendance
  • Loan terms (years): 5, 10, 15
  • Discounts: Autopay, reward for on-time graduation
  • Cosigner release: After 48 months

Compare INvestED and other top private student loan lenders through Credible.

MEFA

Despite its name, the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority offers private student loans to students across the country. There are no fees to apply, and no origination or disbursement fees either.

MEFA’s loans are only offered in fixed-rate options, and terms are limited to 10 and 15 years. For graduate students, only 15-year loans are available.

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In a credit check, you must meet a minimum credit score of 670, and all borrowers must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. For co-signed MEFA loans, the co-signer can be released after 48 months of on-time loan payments.

  • Loan amount: $1,500 or $2,000 up to school’s certified cost of attendance (depending on school type and minus other aid received)
  • Loan terms (years): 10, 15
  • Discounts: None
  • Cosigner release: After 48 months

Compare MEFA and other top private student loan lenders through Credible.

Sallie Mae

Sallie Mae is a well-known private student loan company that offers loans to students, parents, and medical/dental residents. There are also loans for law students studying for their state bar exams. Like many other loan providers, Sallie Mae offers a 0.25 percent autopay discount, and you can borrow the full cost of your school’s attendance. There are no fees associated with applying for, originating, or disbursing a Sallie Mae loan.

The one drawback is that Sallie Mae’s forbearance options are limited to just 12 months, which could pose a problem if you find yourself in serious financial hardship.

Borrowers can opt for a fixed or variable interest rate, and loans have either five- or 15-year terms. Co-signers may be released after just one year of timely payments.

  • Loan amount: Up to 100 percent of the school-certified cost of attendance
  • Loan terms (years): 5, 15
  • Discounts: Autopay
  • Cosigner release: After 12 months

Get personalized private student loan rates from multiple lenders in 2 minutes through Credible.

The bottom line

Of course, this is not a definitive list. These are only a small portion of the best private student loans out there. To make sure you get the best private student loan for your needs, always shop around first. The terms and rates range can vary widely by lender, and researching thoroughly — from loan limits, repayment plans, repayment term, rate discounts and more — can save you significant money in the long run.

No matter which stage you're at (undergraduates and graduate students or beyond), it may also be helpful to use loan calculators to determine which programs best fit your needs.

Credible has also analyzed multiple other, non-partner private student loan lenders. Lenders like Power Financing, PNC and SoFi offer loan terms of 5, 10 and 15 years. Wells Fargo offers 15 and 20-year terms while common bound offers three terms (5, 10 and 15 years). iHelp offers a 20-year term while earnest offers a series of terms (5, 7, 10, 12, 15 and 20 years). LendKey doesn't disclose their loan terms.

Frequently asked questions about student loan debt