LendKey Review: Prioritizing People Over Profits
- Written by Candice Elliott
If you are struggling with student loan debt, you may have considered refinancing. Today we bring you our LendKey review. LendKey will refinance your loans to lower your interest and save you money.
What is LendKey?
LendKey brings together borrowers and community banks or credit unions to refinance student loans. It differs from other student loan refinancing companies like SoFi or CommonBond who lend money directly.
LendKey lets borrowers compare the refinancing terms of more than 300 community banks and credit unions, and it’s those institutions that make the loans. These kinds of lenders offer better customer service and often lower interest rates than traditional banks. LendKey currently works with more than 59,000 borrowers.
The two most significant expenses in life are interest and taxes. The less you can pay off both, the better. Saving money on interest is the reason people refinance. Even a 1% difference in interest rates can save thousands of dollars over the life of a loan.
Refinancing can also lower your monthly payments. If you consolidate loans, using a single loan to pay off multiple loans, it simplifies your finances. You can also select different loan terms when you refinance. You can change the length of the loan and the type of interest rate, fixed or variable when you refinance.
You can use LendKey’s calculator to see how much you’ll be saving when you refinance your loans through them.
How it Works
You can consolidate and refinance both federal and private student loans and some of the lenders on who work with LendKey will combine both loans into one payment. Though LendKey is not the entity loaning you money, that would be a community bank or credit union LendKey works with, LendKey does handle all aspects of the loan.
You apply through their platform, and the loan is serviced by them. If you have questions or problems, LendKey’s customer service will help you.
Advantages of Community Banks and Credit Unions
A community bank is a bank that is locally owned and operated, kind of like a mom and pop bank. That’s why it’s in their interest to help members of their local community. A credit union is a not for profit business; it’s owned by the members who bank there and not by shareholders demanding profits.
Why does LendKey choose to match borrowers with community banks and credit unions over traditional banks? You can find all of the services at these institutions that traditional banks offer; online bill pay, debit and credit cards, checking and savings accounts, and loans but on average the smaller organizations offer better interest rates both on checking and savings accounts and on loans. When you refinance through one of these lenders, you will have access to all of their other products.
When you apply for a loan with a big bank, you’re just a set of criteria that have to be met for the bank to give you a loan. If you don’t meet them, the loan is denied. In community banks and credit unions, employees have relationships with their customers, and it’s a much more personal experience.
Even if a borrower is not a perfect candidate on paper, the person making the decision knows that person and can take personal information and extenuating circumstances into account when making a decision.
Big banks don’t have a stake in local communities. The decisions are made in faraway places. Regional banks are invested in their communities when the people in those communities prosper, so does the bank.
Be aware that not everyone will be eligible to work with all community banks and credit unions. Some have geographic requirements and specific criteria like being in a particular career or a member of an association.
Borrowers with $5,000-$250,000 in student loan debt can refinance through LendKey. The loans offered 5, 7, 10, 15, and 20-year terms at both variable and fixed APR’s. The variable rates start at 2.67% and fixed at 3.25%.
A variable rate loan has an interest rate that can change each month based on current interest rates. Interests rates have been low for some time making variable loans a win for borrowers. If you choose a variable rate loan, you’re taking a risk. Interest rates won’t stay this low forever and if they rise substantially, so will your monthly payment. A fixed rate loan is one that keeps the same interest rate for the life of the loan.
Which is better? If you like certainty, the fixed rate is better. Your monthly payments will remain the same over the life of the loan, so you know exactly how much to budget every month. Variable rate loans are seductive because the rate can be substantially lower than a fixed rate at the time of the loan. If you’re willing to take some risk to get that initial lower rate or you are certain you will be able to pay off your loans very quickly, you might consider a variable rate loan.
The minimum requirements to be accepted are a credit score of at least 660 (Fair), and an income of at least $24,000. If you don’t know your credit score, you can get a ballpark figure at Credit Karma.
There is no application or origination fee, and there is no penalty for early payments. You must also have completed an undergraduate or graduate degree to qualify for refinancing.
LendKey makes the entire process fast and easy. It only takes about 15 minutes. You can get started by providing LendKey some basic information including your annual income, the type of loan, federal, private or both you have and the amount. Once you’ve submitted this information, you’ll be able to see your preliminary loan offers.
If you choose to continue the process, LendKey will do a soft credit check. This does not affect your credit score. Based on the soft check, LendKey will show you the refinancing offers you’re eligible for. You can filter the choices by interest rate, the type of rate (fixed or variable), or repayment plan.
Review your choices and select an offer. To finish the application, you’ll create an account and provide your date of birth and social security number. LendKey will ask for your permission to run a hard credit check. This does affect your credit score, but you can’t move forward without consenting. It’s a small reduction on your score though, only about 5 points.
You will be required to submit documents that verify the information you provided. Lenders want to see pay stubs and official statements from your current student loan lender that show the outstanding balance and your repayment history. If the lender you are going to be working with has residency requirements, you may need to provide proof of address. This is typical for community banks.
LendKey will review the submitted documentation and contact you if they need additional information. Once your loan is officially approved, you will receive notification from LendKey.
LendKey offers so much choice! You can instantly see a variety of loans and choose the best one for your situation. There are so many lenders out there; it’s crazy to be limited to only a handful of well-known ones who don’t necessarily offer the best terms.
The whole reason you refinanced your loan was to get a lower interest rate because of the lower the interest, the cheaper the loan and the more quickly you can pay it off. LendKey goes one step further in offering customers lower interest rates. After you’ve paid off 10% of your loan, you will receive a further 1% reduction in your interest rate!
If you are required to have a co-signer for your loan, you know how hard and awkward it can be to convince someone to take on that responsibility. LendKey has a great perk that allows the co-signor to be removed from the loan once you have made 12 consecutive payments, in full and on-time.
This may help persuade a reluctant co-signor to help you, knowing they’re released from obligation after a certain point. LendKey does do a new credit check and will ask for updated information on your income before approving this step.
Unlike some consolidators, LendKey does not charge any fees to use their service or an origination fee. An origination fee is a fee that covers the cost for things like doing a credit check, verifying information, and underwriting a loan.
The origination fee is based on the borrower’s credit score so if it’s less than perfect, expect to pay more with a traditional lender. The fee usually a percentage of the borrowed amount, generally between one and six percent.
There is no penalty for paying off your loan early.
Loans taken through LendKey come with a return policy! If for some reason you are unhappy with the new loan, you can cancel it within 30 days of disbursement without penalty or interest.
This is not specific to LendKey but true of all student loan refinancing no matter whom you go through, you will lose some protections that federal loans offer like income-based repayment and forgiveness programs.
That understood, LendKey does offer some protections. In the event you become unemployed, you can pause your payments for up to 6 months at a time, up to three times over the life of the loan. This 18-month deferment is the longest in the industry.
If you are having trouble making the monthly payments, you can pay only the interest due for up to four years (this option is only available on the loans with 15-year terms.)
Not everyone will be eligible to work with the institutions LendKey partners with. Community banks have residency restrictions, and you must be a member of a credit union (which have membership requirements as we mentioned previously) to use their services.
Because LendKey is not the lender, there isn’t a lot of fine print to read, but you do need to read all of the details of the agreement you make with the community bank or credit union that will be your lender and understands what you agree to.
Is LendKey Right For You?
Reducing your interest rate is always a good thing. Because there is no commitment or hard credit check to see your preliminary offers through LendKey, there is no downside to seeing what loans you are eligible for.
LendKey is also a great way to simplify your finances. You make one payment and deal only with LendKey rather than sending multiple payments to multiple lenders. Go to LendKey now and see how much money they can save you.