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CommonBond Student Loans Review

Michael Lux Student Loan Blog, Student Loan Reviews, Student Loans 0 Comments

CommonBond Private Student Loans

Interest Rates
Repayment Options
Co-signer Policy

Good Option

CommonBond has a variety of repayment plans and offers low interest rate loans.

(Editor’s Note: This article is about the private student loan review, if you have existing student loans you want to consolidate, be sure to check out our reviews on CommonBond consolidation and refinance)

CommonBond has been in the consolidation and refinancing business for a number of years now, but they only recently started directly lending private student loans to borrowers.

The CommonBond approach to private student loans seems to be to make an alternative better than the Parent PLUS loans offered by the federal government.  In some ways they are successful, but in other ways they fall short of what borrowers should expect.

CommonBond Basics

CommonBond offers private loans with 5, 10, and 15 year repayment terms.  They offer both fixed-rate loans as well as variable-rate loans.  Interest rates start at 3.32-9.73% on the variable-rate loan while the fixed-rate loan range is currently 4.49-9.64%.  There are no pre-payment fees associated with the loan.

As far as repayment is concerned, borrowers have four options.  They can deferment payment until they have been out of school for six months, they can make a fixed payment of $25 each month, they can make interest-only payments during school, or they can immediately begin repayment from the time they borrow the loan.

Finally, CommonBond requires all applicants to apply with a co-signer for undergraduate loans.  MBA, Medical and Dental borrowers are eligible to apply without a co-signer, but then CommonBond will charge a 2% origination fee on the loan.  Otherwise there is no origination fees.  CommonBond does specify that the borrower is eligible to apply for a co-signer release after 2 years of on-time payments.

Loan Origination Fees and APR

Many private student loan lenders offer student loans without an origination fee.  Comparing a loan with an origination fee and one without can be difficult, but looking at the APR on both loans is the closest to an apples to apples comparison.

APR math can quickly get complicated, but the idea behind it is that if you factor in the fees, and make all of the scheduled payments over the life of the loan, the APR is the actual interest rate you will pay.  In theory this allows borrowers to compare a CommonBond student loan to a rival student loan where their is no origination fee.

The problem with this approach is that it assumes you will make minimum payments over the life of the loan.  Upon graduation, many borrowers elect to pay off their loans quickly to reduce the amount they spend on interest.  Borrowers who go this route would be better off opting for a no origination fee loan if the APRs on two rival companies are identical.

If you are someone who plans on quickly repaying their student loans, origination fees should be avoided if possible.

Ultimately, if two loans have very close APRs, we would encourage the borrower to opt for the loan without an origination fee.

In the case of CommonBond, the lack of origination fees is nice, but charging a borrower a 2% origination fee for not getting a co-signer seems excessive.  Most lenders either charge an origination fee for all borrowers or none at all.  CommonBond is somewhat unique in that they only do for certain borrowers.

CommonBond vs. Parent PLUS loans

As we initially noted, CommonBond is setting this loan up to be an alternative to a Parent PLUS loan.  On a Parent PLUS loan, the origination fee is currently 4.276%, so CommonBond jumps out to an early lead.

CommonBond also offers interest rates much lower than those offered on a Parent PLUS, so from a dollars and cents perspective, CommonBond may be the better option.

However, we should note that their are certain borrower protections that come with Parent PLUS loans that CommonBond does not offer.  This would include Income-drive repayment and loan forgiveness.  The only income-drive plan that a Parent PLUS loan can qualify for is the ICR plan, and it is the most expensive of all the income-driven plans.  That being said, if both the Parent and child are unable to make payments, ICR does offer some borrower protections.  We explored this topic in more detail in our article on Private Student Loans vs. Parent PLUS loans.

Ultimately, for parents with no doubt about their ability to repay the loan per the borrower agreement, CommonBond does compare favorably.

CommonBond vs. Other Federal Loans

Most students are better off with traditional federal government loans over any private loan, including CommonBond.  Private lenders simply cannot compete with the repayment plan flexibility and forgiveness protections that come with federal government loans.

Unfortunately, federal lending comes with tight borrowing limits.  Borrowers who are not able to fund their education entirely through private loans should carefully consider both Parent PLUS loans and private lenders like CommonBond.

Co-signer Thoughts

The co-signer requirement for undergraduate borrowers is reasonable at first glance.  Most college students have a limited credit history and little or no income, so requiring a co-signer makes sense.  While this logic may hold up for traditional students, this rule makes little sense for working adults returning to school to finish their degree or to pursue a new area of study.

CommonBond also advertises that co-signers can be released after 2 years of consecutive payments by the borrower.  This policy is in line with what most other lenders offer.  However, it is important for co-signers to plan to be on the loan until it is paid off in full, as the borrower has to be independently creditworthy in order for the co-signer to be released.  Often the best way to release a co-signer is to simply refinance the loan with a new lender after graduation.

Bottom Line

While CommonBond may stack up nicely against a Parent PLUS loan, borrowers cannot look at this comparison in a vacuum.  If someone is considering a private loan in place of a Parent PLUS loan, there are a number of private lenders out there, and each lender has a different formula for determining the interest rate they will offer.  In order to find the best student loan option, borrowers should shop around, to find the best rate available.  That being said, the rates offered by CommonBond are quite competitive and they have a variety of repayment plan options, so checking your rate with CommonBond is time well spent.

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