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Having bad credit isn’t the best predicament to be in, but luckily there are programs and loans available that can help:

Find out which option is right for you and your credit.

Federal student loans

Your first and best option for bad credit is to look into federal student loans. When you fill out the FAFSA to apply for financial aid, you can receive many different types of aid. This includes grants, scholarships, work-study opportunities, and student loans. The different types of student loans may include:

  1. Direct Subsidized Loans: These are available if you showcase financial need. In your financial aid award letter, you’ll know your expected family contribution. A Direct Subsidized Loan is when the government covers interest costs while you’re in school. Credit checks aren’t required for this type of loan, and you can receive on without having an established credit history.
  2. Direct Unsubsidized Loans: These are available for undergraduate, graduate, and professional students and aren’t based on need. Anyone who needs a federal loan that doesn’t qualify for a subsidized one can get an unsubsidized one. But an unsubsidized loan is when you’re responsible for interest costs while you’re in school. A credit check or an established credit history isn’t required for this type of loan.
  3. Direct PLUS Loans: These types of loans are for graduate and professional students or parents of dependent undergraduate students. You can get this type of loan without demonstrating financial need, but a credit check is required. If your parent is taking out a loan to help you pay for school, their credit will be checked, not yours.
  4. Direct Consolidation Loans: These are available after you’ve graduated or dropped below half-time enrollment. If you have many different federal loans, you can consolidate them into one manageable payment. Consolidation loans are usually taken out after you’ve graduated with many federal loans.

Though not always, federal loans typically have lower interest rates compared to private student loans. So keep that in mind as you figure out what works best for you.

Private student loans

If you’ve exhausted all your federal student loan options and you still need money to pay for school, private student loans can be a good option, too.

Many different financial institutions offer private student loans, including:

  • Banks
  • Credit unions
  • Online lenders

While most federal student loans don’t require a credit check, private student loans do require one. Credible lets you compare private loans from multiple lenders without affecting your credit. So you can decide whether or not the lender or loan is right for you before a hard credit pull.

Then if you decide to move forward with an offer and complete an application, the lender will take your credit score, income, and employment into consideration.

Find Your Student Loan

Private student loans with a cosigner

If you don’t have strong enough credit to qualify on your own, many private student loan lenders allow you to use a cosigner. A cosigner signs onto the loan with you and agrees to pay back your loan if you can’t. In fact, over 90% of private student loans are cosigned.

Having a cosigner can help you qualify for a lower rate than you could on your own, so it’s worth considering. Be mindful that the lower your credit score, the higher your interest rate. Even if you qualify for a private student loan with bad credit, you won’t have the lowest interest rate available. This could impact your monthly payments as well as your total repayment amount. So this could be a good reason to use a cosigner.

Best private student loans for bad credit

Some of the best private student loans allow you to qualify with or without a cosigner, and Credible makes it easy to compare the lenders below without impacting your credit. You can even compare different cosigners to see which one would get your the best rate.

LenderFixed Rates From (APR)
Variable Rates From (APR)Get Rates Through Credible
ascent

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4.09%+3.52%+Get Rates
Ascent review

  • Loan terms: 5 or 10 years (Ascent Tuition loan, 15-year term also available with variable-rate loans); 10 years (Ascent Independent loan, 15-year term also available with variable-rate loans)
  • Loan amounts: $2,000 minimum, up to school's cost of attendance within $200,000 cap
  • Repayment plans: Defer payments or make interest-only or $25 minimum monthly payment while in school
  • Application fees: No application, origination, or disbursement fees
  • Discounts: 0.25% automatic payment discount, 1% cash back graduation reward Cosigner release option: Cosigner release available after 24 months of consecutive monthly on-time payments
  • Eligibility: Ascent Tuition: Minimum FICO 600 (borrower with cosigner) and 660 (cosigner). Cosigner not required for Ascent Independent loan. No minimum income or credit score requirement for borrowers with less than two years of credit history. Borrowers with two years of credit history need 680 credit score and $24,000 annual income.
  • Loan servicer: University Account Service (UAS)
citizens

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4.40%+¹3.08%+¹Get Rates
Citizens Bank review

  • Loan terms: 5, 10, 15 years
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 minimum, school’s cost of attendance up to $150,000 for undergraduates and graduate degrees; $225,000 MBA and law; $350,000 medical school and parent loans)
  • Repayment plans: Pay immediately, pay interest only, or defer payments
  • Application fees: No application, origination, or disbursement fees
  • Discounts: 0.25% loyalty discount available (if you have another qualifying account with Citizens Bank) as well as a 0.25% automatic payment discount
  • Cosigner release option: Cosigner release available after 36 months of consecutive monthly on-time payments
  • Eligibility: U.S. citizens or permanent residents; international students can apply with a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident cosigner
  • Loan servicer: Firstmark Services
collegeave

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4.72%+2
3.58%+2Get Rates
College Ave review

  • Loan terms: 5, 8, 10, 15 years
  • Loan amounts: Up to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance ($1,000 minimum)
  • Repayment plans: Make full principal and interest, interest only, or flat payments while in school; or defer payments until six months after leaving school
  • Application fees: No application, origination, or disbursement fees
  • Discounts: 0.25% rate deduction with autopay
  • Cosigner release option: Cosigner release available once more than half of the scheduled repayment period has elapsed.
  • Eligibility: Available to all U.S. residents attending an eligible undergraduate or graduate school
  • Loan servicer: University Accounting Service LLC
edvestinu

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4.50%+
4.02%+
Get Rates
EDvestinU review

  • Loan terms: 7, 10, 12, 15 and 20 years
  • Loan amounts: Minimum loan amount of $1,000 up to school-certified cost of attendance with $200,000 cap
  • Repayment plans: Full deferment, interest-only payments, and principal and interest payments
  • Application fees: No application, origination, or disbursement fees
  • Discounts: 0.5% autopay discount
  • Cosigner release option: Cosigner release available after 24 months of on-time payments
  • Eligibility: Borrower or cosigner (if applicable) must have a minimum income of $30,000. Must be U.S. citizen or permanent resident, admitted to or enrolled at least half-time at any title IV degree-granting college and university when applying.
  • Loan servicer: Granite State Management & Resources (GSM&R)
invested

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4.63%+3.38%+Get Rates
INvested review

  • Loan terms: 5, 10, 15 years
  • Loan amounts: Up to 100% of school certified cost of attendance (minimum $1,001)
  • Repayment plans: Full principal and interest, interest only, and full deferment
  • Application fees: No application, origination, or disbursement fees
  • Discounts: 0.25% autopay discount; 2% principal reduction upon graduation
  • Cosigner release option: Applications accepted after 48 consecutive monthly principal and interest payments
  • Eligibility: Indiana residents enrolled in college and U.S. residents attending an eligible Indiana school
  • Loan servicer: American Education Services
mefa

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3.95%+n/aGet Rates
INvested review

  • Loan terms: 10 or 15 years
  • Loan amounts: Minimum $1,500 (public school) or $2,000 (private school). Maximum up to school’s certified cost of attendance (minus other aid received)
  • Repayment plans: Immediate, interest-only, or deferred
  • Application fees: No application, origination, or disbursement fees
  • Discounts: None
  • Cosigner release option: Cosigner release available after 48 on-time payments and meeting credit requirements
  • Eligibility: U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Loan servicer: American Education Services (AES)


View details
4.74% - 11.35%9
3.25% - 10.65%9
Get Rates
Sallie Mae review

  • Loan terms: 5 to 15 years
  • Loan amounts: Up to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance
  • Repayment plans: Make interest-only or fixed monthly amount while in school, or defer payments until six months after leaving school
  • Application fees: No application, origination, or disbursement fees
  • Discounts: 0.25% autopay discount
  • Cosigner release option: Available after making 12 on-time principal and interest payments and meeting credit requirements
  • Eligibility: U.S. Citizen or U.S. Permanent Resident. Non-U.S. citizen students, including DACA students attending a school located in the U.S., are eligible to apply with a creditworthy cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or U.S. permanent resident.
  • Loan servicer: Sallie Mae


View details
3.82%
2.90%
Get Rates
SunTrust Bank review

  • Loan terms: 7, 10, or 15 years
  • Loan amounts: $1,001 - $65,000 (up to $95,000 for graduate students)
  • Repayment plans: Immediate or make partial, interest-only or deferred payments while in school.
  • Application fees: No application, origination, or disbursement fees
  • Discounts: 0.25% autopay discount; 0.25% loyalty discount; other special rewards may include principal reduction at graduation, rate reduction for on-time payments, or zero interest for six months
  • Cosigner release option: Cosigner release after 36 months of consecutive on-time payments
  • Eligibility: U.S. citizens or permanent resident, not available to permanent residents of Iowa or Wisconsin. Union Federal Private Student Loan available to international students with an eligible cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Loan servicer: American Education Services (AES)
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Lowest APRs reflect autopay, loyalty, and interest-only repayment discounts where available | 1Citizens Bank Disclosures| 2,3College Ave Disclosures | 9Sallie Mae Disclosures | 6Discover Disclosures


Citizens Bank Student Loan Rate Disclosure

Variable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate ("LIBOR") published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of October 1, 2019, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.05%. Variable interest rates range from 3.08%-11.41% (3.08%-11.26% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Fixed interest rates range from 4.40%-12.19% (4.40% - 12.04% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Lowest rates shown requires application with a co-signer, are for eligible applicants, require a 5-year repayment term, borrower making scheduled payments while in school and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of the loan.

You can also work to improve your credit

If you’re in need of student loans with bad credit, but have exhausted all your options above, don’t worry. There are many things you can do to improve your credit score so you can qualify for student loans in the future:

  1. If you have debt, pay it off. Start lowering your credit utilization and increasing your positive payment history by paying off your debt. Even minimum payments made on time every month can increase your score in a few months.
  2. Become an authorized user. Rather than attempt to take out credit on your own, ask a parent or other relative with great credit if you can become an authorized user on one of their credit cards. You don’t have to use the credit card but your score will go up from their strong creditworthiness.
  3. Report your other expenses to credit bureaus. You can use things like Experian Boost to get your utility bills and phone bill on your credit report. These don’t require a credit check and can show you’re responsible with credit.
About the author
Dori Zinn
Dori Zinn

Dori Zinn is a student loan authority and a contributor to Credible. Her work has appeared in Huffington Post, Bankate, Inc, Quartz, and more.

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