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Laurel Road vs. Earnest Student Loan Refinance Showdown

Earnest and Laurel Road are two top refinance lenders, but they target borrowers using very different strategies.

Written By: Michael P. Lux, Esq.

Last Updated:

Affiliate Disclosure and Integrity Pledge

Laurel Road and Earnest are big names in student loan refinancing, but they are very different companies.

The borrowers who understand the critical distinctions between the two lenders will better position themselves to find the best deal.

Basic Terms from Laurel Road and Earnest

Laurel RoadEarnest
Variable-Rate Loans5.49% - 9.95%5.89% - 9.74%^
Fixed-Rate Loans5.44% - 9.75%5.09% - 9.74%^
Loan Terms5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 Years5 - 20 Years
Minimum Loan$5,000$5,000
Signup BonusNA$150^

^ The lowest listed rate for Earnest is a 5-year variable rate loan, and rates for both lenders are listed as an APR. Please see the Earnest Disclosure for more details on rates and bonus terms.

At first glance, there isn’t much separating these two lenders. Both variable and fixed-rate loans appear in similar ranges.

However, things get interesting as we dig deeper into the two lenders.

Key Differences Between Lenders

Laurel Road and Earnest approach student loan refinancing from two unique perspectives.

Earnest, at its core, is a tech company. They believe that with the information provided in a short application, they can understand a borrower’s finances far more comprehensively than a traditional lender. Credit score and income are still important factors, but Earnest looks beyond these conventional metrics. For example, If you diligently save for retirement each month, it may help your cause with Earnest.

Laurel Road, however, is a product of a traditional bank. At first glance, this might seem like a negative, but it does have some benefits for borrowers. The majority of the major refinance lenders are tech-driven companies. Interest rates with tech-focused lenders tend to move very quickly with the broader market. The lenders backed by a bank tend to change rates a little slower. During times of inflation, traditional banking lenders often have the lowest interest rates.

Finally, Laurel Road places a big emphasis on doctors and those in the medical field. They seem to understand that a young physician’s starting salary is likely to increase considerably in the future. As a result, many recent medical school graduates find the best deal with Laurel Road.

Interest Rates Offered and Reader Feedback

The strategies used by the two lenders are interesting, but ultimately, the interest rates are the most important details.

More specifically, the interest rates actually offered by the two lenders are the most important details. In many cases, the lenders that advertise the lowest interest rates are not the lenders that offer the lowest interest rates.

In the case of Earnest, borrowers have reported a wide variety of interest rate outcomes. Many readers of this site have found the best deal with Earnest. Others have been insulted by surprisingly high rates. This is likely attributable to the unique formulas employed by Earnest.

Laurel Road tends to offer rates pretty close to their advertised rates in various loan categories. Unfortunately, Laurel Road tends to be in the middle of the road regarding approvals. They are not terribly strict, but a rejection at Laurel Road doesn’t necessarily mean a borrower can’t get approved anywhere.

Deciding Between Laurel Road and Earnest

These two lenders sit at the top of the student loan refinance rankings. Additionally, they have both been towards the top for many years.

If you are a borrower who is very responsible financially, but you don’t have a long credit history, or you have a lower income, Earnest should probably be the first company you check out.

However, Laurel Road should be your first stop if you are in the medical field.

If you don’t fit into either of these small boxes, both companies merit serious consideration. Checking rates with both lenders is often well worth the 10-15 minutes required to get an offer.

Finally, Earnest offers a $150 bonus to borrowers who refinance using the links on this page.

Other Lenders to Consider

Splash FinancialSplash is extremely focused on interest rates. They consistently have the lowest rates in numerous loan categories. Read more...
ELFIELFI is a traditional bank with a major focus on quality customer service. Getting approved is hard for some borrowers, but those that do get approved receive excellent interest rates. Read more...
SoFiSoFi is the biggest name in the student loan refinance space. They consistently offer excellent rates with high approval numbers. Read more...
LendKeyLendKey partners with smaller banks and credit unions across the country. This approach results in higher approval numbers and competitive loan terms. Read more...
About the Author

Student loan expert Michael Lux is a licensed attorney and the founder of The Student Loan Sherpa. He has helped borrowers navigate life with student debt since 2013.

Insight from Michael has been featured in US News & World Report, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and numerous other online and print publications.

Michael is available for speaking engagements and to respond to press inquiries.

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