Citizen's/Charter One Bank
Citizen's Bank is one of the last of the major banks offering student loan consolidation. The rates are not terrible; but better options exist.
Updated on 8/7/16 to include the latest interest rate information.
Charter One Bank, along with parent company Citizens Bank, recently jumped into the student loan consolidation/refinancing market. Though these are technically two different entities, the loan rates and terms appear to be exactly the same. Based upon their advertised interest rates, their loans may be among the best options available. Like many lenders, there are some reasons for concern with these loans, but overall Charter One/Citizens seems to have a very competitive program.
Interest rates start at 2.24% for variable interest loans and the current highest rate is 8.94% (because these are variable rate loans the rates could go up or down over the life of the loan). The fixed rate loans start at 4.74% and peak at 9.39%. One the lower end, these rates are excellent, but the higher rate loans are pretty abysmal. Whether or not Citizens/Charter One ends up being the best deal will depend upon your credit score and income.
Citizens does get high marks for the length of time available to repay the loans. With up to 20 years to repay your loans, Citizens has one of the longest repayment plans in the market. Smart borrowers know that paying the minimum over the life of the loan is a recipe to spend a lot on interest, but by stretch out repayment so far, the minimum is much more manageable for months when the budget is tight.
One thing we don’t like is Citizens emphasis on co-signers. While co-signing may be a necessity for some, it is something that most borrowers would be wise to avoid. The mandatory 36 month waiting period for a co-signer release is also one of the longest we have seen. Many co-signers will want to be able to be removed from the loan within a year or two.
Citizens and Charter One seem to be targeting people with federal loans for their refinancing. Here at the Student Loan Sherpa, we think private consolidation of federal loans can be a huge mistake. In fact, we call it breaking the Golden Rule of Student Loan Consolidation.
However, Citizens and Charter One do a better job than most companies at pointing out some of the risks associated with private loan consolidation.
The Bottom Line
This new loan consolidation program vaults into the top six of our Student Loan Consolidation Rankings, based largely on the low interest rates advertised. Due to the large range of possible interest rates, borrowers would be wise to apply to several different companies in order to find the lowest rate actually available. By working with multiple companies, potential customers also get the opportunity to directly compare the companies and how they interact with their customers before any contracts are signed. Please note, if you do decide to go this route, be sure to apply to all of them in a short period of time in order to prevent any damage to your credit report.
Readers: Have you done business with Citizens or Charter One Bank before? Would you recommend their services?