Education Loan Finance (ELFI) Review: Student Loan Refinancing
Education Loan Finance (also known as ELFI) is a division of SouthEast Bank, and has been widely acclaimed as one of the first institutions to allow borrowers to consolidate a variety of loans into a single loan with better repayment terms. As such, ELFI is a great option for lawyers who have taken out multiple loans to finance their way through undergraduate programs and law school. Just some of the benefits ELFI provides are: (1) expert loan advisors; (2) personalized options, and (3) co-signers allowed.
Expert loan advisors. If you’ve shopped around for the best way to refinance your law school loans, you’ve probably noticed that 99% of institutions don’t offer advisors. You’re expected to make all the decisions yourself, even if you don’t have enough information. ELFI is different. They connect you with advisors who will guide you through every step of the process and help you refinance your debt as soon as possible.
Personalized options. After you upload your information, you’ll get prequalified rates and offers in a matter of minutes. ELFI offers plenty of repayment options so you can choose the right one for your needs. You can also consolidate and/or refinance loans such as: private and federal loans, Grad PLUS, Parent PLUS and so on. They’ve got something for everyone. ELFI will also replace your loan servicer with MOHELA or AES.
Co-signers allowed. Just because your credit score isn’t ideal, that doesn’t mean you can’t refinance your student loans. With ELFI, you can bring a co-signer on board. And if you demonstrate the ability of regularly paying your instalments, they’ll release the co-signer. This makes ELFI a great option if you’ve started working recently and know you can handle the payments, but your credit history isn’t brilliant. With ELFI, you don’t have to wait (and consequently, lose money). You can simply get a co-signer and start reshaping the way you think about student debt.
- Soft credit check to get rates.
- No prepayment penalty if you want to pay off your loans at any time during the life of the loan.
- No origination fee or application fee.
- ELFI provides a student loan advisor that will help you evaluate which student loan refinancing plan makes sense for you.
- If you refinance using our links, you’ll get a $350 cashback bonus from Education Loan Finance, thanks to the referral bonus we’ve been able to negotiate with them for readers of the Biglaw Investor.
- Exists in a competitive marketplace, so may not always be able to offer the lowest rate.
- To qualify for the best rates, you will need excellent credit.
- Does not offer an autopay discount as they require payments with an electronic transfer so the autopay discount is reflected in the approved interest rate.
How Education Loan Finance student loan refinancing works
ELFI is a student loan refinancing lender owned by Southeast Bank. If you refinance your loans with ELFI, they'll be responsible for dictating the loan terms, monthly payments, etc. and you'll work with American Education Services as your servicer to repay your student loan balance.
Here’s the steps you'll go through to refinance with Education Loan Finance:
- Get Your Personalized Rate Estimate
- Review Rate and Decide on Next Steps
- Complete Full Application
Fill out a short form on ELFI's website and answer personal information questions related to your education history, financial situation and the total loan amount that you want to refinance to start the loan application process. ELFI will refinance both private student loans and federal student loans. You need to be a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident client without conditions and with proper evidence of eligibility. Nothing in this process results in a hard credit check, so you don’t have to worry about negatively affecting your credit score. Initially ELFI will verify your identity and credit history to determine the loan products they can offer you, as well as if they're able to offer you a lower interest rate. As with most nine lenders, ELFI is looking for low credit card debt (or a low debt-to-income ratio generally), consistent income, full-time employment and a general good standing in order to provide you competitive rates.
Next, you’ll be shown a dashboard with the variable interest rates and fixed interest rates available to you based on the soft credit check, along with the loan terms. You'll see that the variable rate loans are generally a better deal than the fixed rate loans and that the longer loan terms (i.e. the repayment period), the higher the interest rate. You'll almost always get the best interest rate if you're willing to accept a five-year repayment term with a variable rate.
Now that ELFI has provided loan options, loan payments and any eligibility requirements, you can compare the proposal from ELFI to your existing student loans. Since ELFI does not charge an origination fee or a prepayment penalty, so long as the student loan refinance rate is lower than your current rate, it's likely going to save you money to refinance. After you’ve compared the loan rates to your existing student loans, if you decide to proceed with ELFI you'll need to fill out a complete application which will result in a hard credit check and a credit report to confirm your rate. As long as you've entered the information correctly when doing the rate check, you should expect to receive the same rate once the hard credit check is complete.
Bottom line: What we look for when evaluating a student loan refinancing company
Refinancing your student loan debt is a significant investment of time and energy. You have to spend time filling out forms, waiting for an offer, evaluating repayment terms and monthly payments and then ultimately picking a lender. A solid student loan refinancing company can make your life better, not more difficult. Here's what we look at to arrive at our decision.
- Low interest rates. Nobody wants to waste their time completing an application only to find that you can refinance your loans for 0.05% savings on your interest rate. The number one priority of a student loan refinancing company should be offering you the lowest rate possible, thus saving you thousands of dollars. If a student loan refinancing company can't offer you a low rate, the rest doesn't matter. In particular, we look at how they handle graduate students (primarily law students, mba students and medical students) and whether they can offer you a better deal for your graduate student loans, since most of the readers of this site have a bachelor's degree and some type of graduate education and are primarily looking to find a lower interest rate on their graduate student loans after paying large sums to their graduate school (both in terms of tuition and cost of attendance numbers).
- Ease of use. For many people, refinancing student loans is a necessary evil. You know you're paying too much interest. You know you'll save thousands once you get it done. But you'd rather be outside playing than stuck inside entering your home addresses for the 10th time. If you're going to put in the effort to refinance your student loans, a pleasant and easy-to-use interface can make the chore more enjoyable.
- Borrower protections. You're giving up the federal loan protections by refinancing your loans, so you want to be sure that the lender you're using has similar protections in place (e.g. economic hardship, deferment, cosigner release, grace periods, etc.). Thankfully most lenders offer decent protections for things like unemployment or financial hardship, but it's important criteria that we review.
- Flexible repayment options. Depending on where you are in your career, you may want to double down and pay everything off with a five-year variable rate or you might prefer to apply with a co-signer and get the lowest payment possible over a 25-year term while you figure out your next career move. Regardless, flexibility in repayment options (whether it's term length or the ability to switch between variable and fixed interest rates) is an important factor to consider when evaluating a student loan refinancing company.
Who are ELFI's competitors?
ELFI is a solid student loan refinancing company with a legitimate chance of giving you a great deal but to get a full sense of the interest rates available to you it's a good idea to check out the competition. The list below includes the other student loan refinancing private lenders that you may want to consider when searching for the lowest interest rate.
- Earnest. Flexible repayment plans allows you to pick your own term. Financially backed by Navient, giving them some of the lowest interest rates available in the current market.
- First Republic Bank. This is a traditional bank looking to build a long-term customer relationship with you and is willing to refinance your student loans at below-market rates to build the relationship. You'll be required to open up a checking account, initiate direct deposit of your paycheck, and jump through other hoops, but if you're willing to do so they offer the lowest rates available.
- CommonBond. With their Pencils for Promise program, CommonBond offers a social mission to student loan refinancing. They have a dedicated law firm group located in NYC, which means a team is available to specifically help you through the refinancing process.
- SoFi. SoFi is by far the largest lender in the student loan refinancing market. They may not be able to offer you the best rate as they can rely on their brand name to bring in borrowers but there are lots of other perks when you refinance with SoFi and they are actively expanding their products if you're interested in keeping your financial life with one company.
- Credible. Known as the "Kayak of student loan refinancing", Credible offers you access to a marketplace of lenders. Fill out a form once and Credible will pre-qualify you with a bunch of lenders to get rates (soft credit check). To confirm the actual rates, you'll have to continue the application with the individual lender.
- LendKey. If you're looking to borrow from a local credit union, LendKey is the lender for you. They partner with local banks and credit unions to offer you student loan refinancing in your neighborhood.
- Splash Financial. Splash Financial is based in Cleveland and one of the newest players in the refinancing space. Originally they only offered loans to medical residents and fellows but have recently been expanding thanks to a partnership with Pentagon Federal Credit Union (PenFed).
- Laurel Road. Primarily a good option for medical professionals (which seem to be their target audience), Laurel Road is an option for parents that want to refinance Parent PLUS loans in their child's name.
Is ELFI legit?
ELFI is a relatively new player in the student loan refinancing market but is a legitimate way for student loan borrowers to save thousands of dollars in interest payments. ELFI has established itself as a solid choice for student loan borrowers looking to refinance into lower rates.
Does checking interest rates with ELFI hurt your credit score?
No. ELFI will perform a soft credit check using just your name, address and date of birth. Soft credit checks do not negatively affect your credit score, no matter how often they take place. If you proceed with a full application after getting pre-qualified, all lenders will perform a hard credit check which will have a minimum impact on your credit score.
Who owns ELFI?
ELFI is owned by SouthEast Bank, a Tennessee-based full service retail bank. South East Bank operates branches throughout East and Middle Tennessee.
What does ELFI stand for?
ELFI stands for Education Loan Finance, a division of Tennessee-based SouthEast Bank that offers student loan refinancing and private student loans for undergraduates, grad students and parents.
Can I refinance my existing ELFI loan?
Yes. ELFI student loans have no prepayment penalty, so you can refinance your existing ELFI student loans with ELFI or with another student loan lender.
Is ELFI a private loan?
ELFI provides a private student loan refinancing product that is still considered a student loan for tax purposes.
Does ELFI charge late fees?
If Education Loan Finance does not receive any part of a payment within ten days after the due date, it may assess a late fee of 5% of the past due amount or $50, whichever is less. You may be charged $30 for any payment (including electronic payments) that is returned unpaid for any reason.
Does ELFI have a minimum credit score requirement?
ELFI requires a minimum credit score of 680. (i.e. "good credit" or better)
Does ELFI have a minimum income requirement?
ELFI requires a minimum income of $35,000. You may need to verify this information with a W-2 or pay stub.
Does ELFI have a minimum loan amount?
ELFI requires a minimum loan balance of $10,000 to participate in their refinancing program.
- Fixed APR From: 5.08%
- Bonus Cashback: $350
- Loan Types:
- Loan Terms:
- Rating: 7/10
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