If you’ve exhausted your federal student aid options and need additional financing for school, private student loans can play an important role in your education. However, finding a private lender can be overwhelming. There are many different companies out there, and comparing your options can be challenging. 

LendKey aims to simplify the process. It’s different from other private student loan lenders in that it’s not a lender itself. Instead, it partners with hundreds of nonprofit credit unions and banks to fund loans. When you apply for a loan through LendKey, it will try to connect you with one of its partners, saving you from having to shop around on your own. 

While LendKey’s loan process may be easier for some, there are some drawbacks to this approach. Here’s what you need to know about LendKey student loans.

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Pros

  • You may borrow up to the total cost of attendance.

  • Interest rates are potentially low.

  • There are no application or origination fees.

Cons

  • Payments are required while you’re in school.

  • Loan policies vary based on partner lender.

  • Eligibility requirements also vary based on partner lender.

Pros Explained

  • You may borrow up to the total cost of attendance. With some federal and private student loans, there are caps on how much you can borrow per year, but with LendKey may be able to borrow up to the total cost of attendance of your school’s program. However, LendKey does have lifetime borrowing limits. 
  • Interest rates are potentially low. By working with nonprofit credit unions and banks, LendKey is able to offer competitive interest rates on private student loans. Variable rates start as low as 2.99% and fixed rates as low as 4.86% (including autopay discounts). 
  • There are no application or origination fees. LendKey loans don’t have application or origination fees, but there are late payment fees.

Cons Explained

  • Payments are required while you’re in school. LendKey private student loans require you to make payments while you’re in school; you don’t have the option of deferring payments until you graduate. You either have to pay $25 per month or make interest-only payments while in school. 
  • Loan policies vary based on partner lender. Because LendKey works with partner lenders, loan policies can vary widely. Each partner has its own practices regarding such things as co-signer releases and forbearance, so you won’t be able to find out the particulars until you’re connected with a lender. 
  • Eligibility requirements also vary based on partner lender. Eligibility criteria, such as minimum credit scores, vary by partner lender. As such, it’s hard to tell if you qualify for a loan without submitting an application and undergoing a credit check. 

Student Loans Offered by LendKey

LendKey has private student loans for undergraduate and graduate students enrolled at least half time in a degree-granting program from an eligible school. The loans have no application or origination fees and no prepayment penalties. Borrowers can choose between variable and fixed interest rates, which range from 2.99% to 6.95% and 4.86% to 8.49%, respectively, as of May 12, 2020. LendKey does offer a 0.25% interest rate discount if you sign up for automatic payments, which is included in the lowest rate here. 

While students can borrow up to the total cost of attendance, there is a maximum aggregate limit they can borrow from LendKey. For undergraduate students, the limit is $120,000, and for graduate students, it is $160,000.

LendKey Student Loans Rates and Terms as of May 12, 2020
Variable Rates 2.99% to 6.95%
Fixed Rates 4.86% to 8.49%
Loan Amounts $1,000 up to total cost of attendance (subject to aggregate limit)
Loan Terms Five, 10, and 15 years
(Lowest rates include 0.25% autopay discount.)

Loan Eligibility

To qualify for a private student loan with LendKey, you must meet certain criteria. 

  • You’re enrolled at least half time in a degree-granting program at an eligible school.
  • You are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
  • You have a GPA of at least 2.0 and meet your school’s guidelines for satisfactory academic progress.
  • You or your cosigner must have an income of at least $24,000.

If you are connected with a partner lender that is a credit union, you must become a member of the credit union before you can qualify for a loan. To join the credit union, you may have to pay a fee or open a bank account. 

Is Loan Prequalification Available? 

LendKey doesn’t offer loan prequalification. To find out if you’d qualify for a loan and figure out what interest rate you’d receive, you have to submit a loan application and go through a hard credit inquiry, which can affect your credit score. 

Loan Fees

LendKey doesn’t charge origination or application fees. In addition, there are no prepayment penalties if you pay off your loan early. However, there may be late fees if you miss your payment due date. 

Loan Discounts 

With LendKey you can qualify for a 0.25% interest rate reduction if you sign up for automatic payments. 

Repayment Options

Under LendKey’s loan terms you’re required to make payments while you’re in school. There are two options: 

  • Flat Payments – You can opt to pay $25 per month. 
  • Interest-Only Payments – You can make full interest payments. 

Rewards

While other lenders offer perks such as graduation rewards or good grade discounts, LendKey doesn’t offer these benefits. It does, however, have a referral bonus program, but it’s only for student loan refinancing; private student loans aren’t eligible. If you refer a friend who takes out a refinancing loan through LendKey, both you and your friend will get a $200 bonus. 

Are Cosigners Required? 

LendKey doesn’t require co-signers, but having one does increase your chances of getting a loan and a lower interest rate. Because LendKey works with many different partners, co-signer release policies can vary. Some partner lenders may allow you to request a co-signer release after making a set number of on-time payments, but others may not. If that’s an important factor for you, check with the partner lender before accepting the loan. 

Forbearance and Loan Discharge Options

LendKey doesn’t have a central forbearance or discharge policy. Terms can vary according to the partner lender, so be sure to review the lender’s policies before moving forward with the loan. 

Length of Time for Loan Approval and Disbursement

LendKey recommends that borrowers apply for a loan at least one month before the funds are needed to allow time for the loan to be approved, processed, certified, and disbursed. Your initial application can be approved quickly. However, it’s not final, as you may be asked to provide additional documentation. Once that process is complete, the lender will reach out to your school to certify the loan, which can take several weeks. 

Is Student Loan Refinancing Available? 

Yes. LendKey offers refinancing for both federal and private student loans. It has loan terms ranging from five to 20 years in length, with both variable and fixed interest rates starting as low as 2.70% and 3.39%, respectively. Before submitting a loan application, make sure you check out the best student loan refinancing companies

Customer Service

While LendKey works with partner lenders, it acts as the loan servicer for loans made through its platform. It is not included in the latest Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Student Loan Ombudsman Report. 

LendKey’s customer service team is available by phone or email. 

Customer support is available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. EST. 

Apply for LendKey Student Loan

While private student loans can play an important role in financing your education, it’s still a good idea to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). It will help you get all the financial aid to which you’re entitled, including grants and federal loans. 

If you decide to proceed with your LendKey private student loan application, be ready to provide the following information: 

  • Name
  • Address
  • Social Security Number
  • Employer Name
  • Income
  • Loan Amount Requested
  • School Name
  • Cost of Program
  • Expected Financial Aid
  • Co-signer Information (if applicable) 

Verdict

If you’re overwhelmed by the idea of shopping around for a private student loan, LendKey can streamline the process for you. By connecting you to hundreds of nonprofit credit unions and banks, it can help you find a lender quickly and easily. 

However, some people may find its process frustrating. Without knowing who your lender is ahead of time, you won’t know its exact policies about major issues. When it comes to specifics about cosigner releases and forbearance, that can be a big problem. Before submitting a loan application with LendKey or any other lender, compare offers from multiple private student loan companies to find the best loan for your needs. 

Methodology

Investopedia is dedicated to providing consumers with unbiased, comprehensive reviews of student loan lenders. We collected over 45 data points across more than 15 lenders—including interest rates, fees, loan amounts, and repayment terms—to ensure that our content helps users make the right borrowing decision for their education needs.