Article Updated October 1, 2019, to include the latest available interest rate information and lender bonus programs.
SoFi and ELFI — two student loan refinance companies with very millennial friendly-sounding names. Both companies offer very low interest rates and target the same demographic. Which one is better? Is there any difference between the two lenders?
When comparing SoFi and ELFI, very little separates the two companies. However, the edge probably goes to SoFi as they are the biggest lender in the refinance business and offer several extra perks to their members.
Both of these lenders rank towards the top of our student loan refinancing rankings, so no lender is clearly better than the other. Borrower circumstances may dictate which lender ends up being the better deal.
SoFi vs. ELFI – The Company Basics
ELFI, short for Education Loan Finance, is one of the newest national lenders offering student loan refinance. The ELFI strategy seems to be targeting borrowers with large amounts of debt, excellent credit, and high incomes. While ELFI is a new name on the student loan marketplace, it is a product of SouthEast Bank, a longstanding regional bank. As we noted in our ELFI Review, this makes ELFI a compelling option.
SoFi is the established giant in the student loan refinance marketplace. Even though the company was founded less than ten years ago, SoFi now refinances more student debt than any other lender. Our SoFi Review explains how SoFi has grown so quickly.
Loan Terms Compared
SoFi currently gets the edge in interest rate offerings. ELFI rates currently start at 2.39% for their five-year variable-rate loan, while SoFi is just ahead at 2.05%. The gap in five-year fixed-rate loans favors ELFI at 3.29% versus SoFi’s 3.46%. Rates for both lenders tend to be close in nearly all loan categories. To compare these lenders across different loan types and lengths, be sure to check out our best student loan refinance interest rates page.
Neither lender caps maximum borrowing, but SoFi is willing to take on smaller balances starting at $5,000. To refinance with ELFI, you need student debt of at least $15,000.
Finally, both SoFi and ELFI have comparable new customer bonus programs. SoFi started offering a $150 new customer bonus, and ELFI followed with its offer of $150. The $150 is a nice perk for signing up, but the interest rates offered will be the numbers that matter in the loan run.
SoFi and ELFI Approval Rates
As a newer lender, it is hard to make any definitive statements about the ELFI lending policy. That being said, the early feedback we have gotten from our readers seems to indicate that ELFI is one of the more strict lenders. This makes sense given the extremely low interest rates offered by ELFI.
SoFi, on the other hand, is starting to shed its reputation as being extremely difficult to get approval. Over the past couple of years SoFi has grown, not by lowering interest rates, but by expanding the pool of borrowers that they accept.
Ultimately, getting loan approval requires good credit and income no matter what lender you select. The only way to know for sure what lender has the best interest rate is to apply with ELFI and then check your rate with SoFi.
SoFi and ELFI Perks
SoFi and ELFI each offer a consumer perk that is unique to the student loan refinance market.
SoFi Job Placement – Unlike any other lender, SoFi will help you find a job if you find yourself out of work or underpaid. Their calculation seems to be that by helping borrowers find jobs, they will spend less time and money chasing down borrowers who default on their loans. It is a bold strategy. We hope to see other lenders copy in the future.
ELFI Customer Support – Several lenders, including SoFi, have customer support entirely based in the United States. What makes ELFI special is that each borrower is assigned a single point of contact for handling questions and issues. This means you have a direct number to the same person who is handling any questions or concerns. The result is more personalized customer service and less time explaining the same problem over and over.
Which Student Loan Refinance Lender is Better: SoFi or ELFI?
Separating these two lenders is a bit of a challenge. ELFI has slightly better rates, but SoFi is the biggest lender for a reason.
In our student loan refinance rankings, we put SoFi in second place and ELFI in sixth. Even though ELFI offers some of the very best rates to consumers with excellent credit scores and high income, SoFi seems to be a more willing lender but still able to offer excellent interest rates.
That being said, how we rank these two lenders should be of little significance to someone looking for the best deal on student loan refinancing. For a perspective borrower, the deciding factor should be the lender who offers the lower actual rate. The good news is that it takes less than 15 minutes total to check your rate with SoFi and to check your rate with ELFI.
Readers: Did you look into both of these companies? How did the rates they offered compare?