ELFI Refinance Review
Education Loan Finance, also known as ELFI, offers a wide range of college-related financial solutions, including refinancing plans for both students and parents. The company offers low rates on refinancing loan terms ranging from 5 to 20 years, and the application process is fast, easy, and free. According to ELFI’s website, its typical customer reduces monthly payments by $272 and enjoys total loan lifetime savings of nearly $14,000.
In this guide, we’ll explain what ELFI offers, how their refinancing plans work, and weigh in with our take on how the company compares to its competitors.
Commonly known as “ELFI,” Education Loan Finance is an operating division of SouthEast Bank, which is based in Tennessee. The bank’s parent company is a not-for-profit organization with more than 25 years of history in the higher education vertical. ELFI is a relatively new venture, but it has quickly assumed a leadership position in the industry due to its low interest rates and strong reputation for customer service.
Thanks to the company’s structure, ELFI is able to offer unusually strong assurances to its customers. All of its loans and refinancing plans are bank products, since they are issued through SouthEast Bank. This means they are subject to much higher levels of regulatory scrutiny than many other finance upstarts. Clients enjoy added protections, all while benefiting from ELFI’s highly competitive rates.
Student loan refinancing options
ELFI extends eligibility for its refinancing plans to both students and their parents. Federally issued or private undergraduate and graduate student loans qualify, and residents of all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia can take advantage of ELFI’s offers.
Here’s how their refinancing plans break down, as of October 2020:
- Loan amounts: $15,000 and up
- Repayment periods: 5, 7, 10, 15 or 20 years
- Interest rates: Fixed or variable
- Fixed APR range: 2.58% to 5.99%
- Variable APR range: 2.39% to 6.01%
As you’ll note, one of the biggest advantages of ELFI is that they will refinance student loans of any amount over $15,000 as long as the borrower qualifies. So, no matter how much student debt you’re carrying, the company will help you manage it more easily and at a lower interest rate.
To obtain quotes, you’ll need to visit the ELFI website, create a profile, and provide the requested information. Your submission will then be routed through ELFI’s pre approval process, after which you will receive firm offers that match your loan criteria.
If you decide to proceed, you will be assigned a dedicated personal loan advisor, who will walk you through your various options and help you choose the one that best protects your long-term financial interests.
In most cases, qualified applicants receive approval for their refinancing loans in two to three business days.
How to qualify for refinancing with ELFI
ELFI is accessible to both students and their parents, but the company is known for having eligibility and qualification standards that are slightly higher than usual. ELFI’s refinancing programs are available to people who meet the following basic criteria:
- You must be a U.S. citizen, or a legal permanent resident with an unrestricted visa and full immigration documentation
- You must be of the age of majority in the state or jurisdiction where you live (18 or 19 years of age)
- You must have at least a bachelor’s degree, and the degree must have been issued by a school on ELFI’s list of approved institutions
ELFI recognizes virtually all accredited colleges and universities that comply with Title IV regulations.
Additional standards related to your credit history and financial situation also apply:
- You must have a FICO credit score of at least 680 (“good”) and a credit history that extends back at least 36 months prior to the date of your application
- You must be seeking to refinance a minimum of $15,000 in student loans
- Your annual income must be $35,000 or more
- You must have a debt-to-income ratio of 50% or less
Like many other leading student loan refinancing providers, ELFI does not allow primary borrowers to qualify with the help of a cosigner. To get an ELFI refinancing loan, you must be eligible on your own.
What should you know before applying to ELFI?
There are three caveats you should know about before you take the time to apply for a refinancing loan with ELFI.
First, many customers have reported that ELFI performs what is known as a “hard pull” of your credit data. This means that your credit score will go down temporarily, as these kinds of credit inquiries always cause ratings to take a small dip.
Second, ELFI does not appear to offer guaranteed or standardized deferral or forbearance programs. If you need to defer your payments or seek forbearance, ELFI will consider your request on a case-by-case basis.
Finally, remember that you enjoy certain deferment- and forbearance-related protections if you hold student loans issued by the federal government. If you refinance these loans through a company like ELFI, your loans are considered private from that moment forward and you will no longer qualify for these benefits.
Pros and cons of ELFI
Professional and user-generated reviews yielded several trends we’d like to spotlight in examining the relative advantages and drawbacks of refinancing your student loans with ELFI.
The company’s pros include:
- ELFI offers some of the lowest interest rates on the market
- It provides excellent customer service and assigns dedicated expert advisors to every client
- Parent PLUS student loans are eligible for refinancing (in the primary ELFI borrower’s name)
- There are no origination fees, application fees, or prepayment penalties for borrowers who pay off their loans ahead of schedule
Common complaints and downsides include:
- If you decide to return to school while you have an active loan with ELFI, there is no option to defer or postpone your ongoing payments
- The $15,000 minimum in relatively high for the student loan refinancing industry
- Borrowers must have high credit scores and cannot qualify with the help of a cosigner
ELFI offers considerable advantages, but some of its downsides can be a problem for certain borrowers. In particular, you should proceed with care if an eventual return to school might be in your future.
ELFI is accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and currently holds an A+ rating. The company is also a member of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).
On Trustpilot, ELFI sports a very impressive average rating of 4.9 out of 5 with more than 1,000 reviews. In compiling these impressive marks, ELFI earned perfect 5 out of 5 ratings from 90% of respondents and scores of 4 out of 5 or better from an incredible 97%. These metrics indicate much higher levels of customer satisfaction than practically every other one of ELFI’s competitors.
Our take: If you qualify for ELFI refinancing and do not plan to return to school, you could save thousands of dollars thanks to the company’s fantastic interest rates. However, carefully review the eligibility guidelines and perform your own research to ensure you qualify before you apply, as ELFI performs hard credit checks.