With so many banks, credit unions and companies offering low student loan refinancing rates, it can be difficult to differentiate one from another. That’s why it’s wise to take a deeper look to find top lenders’ distinguishing characteristics.
As you consider the various perks on offer, here’s an oldie but goodie available at some lenders: receiving personal banker support as you decide whether refinancing is right for you.
How a personal banker could help with student loan refinancing
If you’re thinking of refinancing your student loans with a bank, you might be offered the services of a financial professional, rather than just a run-of-the-mill customer service agent.
At First Republic Bank, for example, you can schedule a conversation with a personal banker before you decide to apply. If you like what you hear, you could apply online at your convenience. You could also check in with your banker, peppering them with any questions you might have.
In the case of First Republic, the lender ensures that your personal banker is located in your region, according to James Herbert, First Republic’s managing director of student loan refinancing. Personal bankers might invite their borrowers to local client-networking events or offer their help in more routine ways — you might be alerted to a pending loan payment, for instance.
“The goal of a [lender’s] customer service rep is to mediate whatever you proactively called in for, and that’s kind of it,” Herbert said. “The goal of our bankers is to be anticipatory to what your needs may be, to watch out for you as a client.”
For instance, a personal banker might ask you about your timeline for having a family. After all, it could affect your deadline for loan repayment — and as a result, the banker might suggest a loan term.
“If you go apply with [another lender] online, you’re not going to have anyone to ask those questions of. Or if you go online and your application is declined, you don’t always know why,” Herbert said. “We actually have conversations all the time with people who come in and aren’t qualified just yet. We actually talk with them … and say, ‘Here’s what we recommend.’”
What to keep in mind when working with a personal banker
Like other lenders, First Republic trains its bankers internally. They’re familiar with all of the bank’s products, not just student loan refinancing.
Note that banks like First Republic don’t offer their one-to-one service just to help you with your education debt — they also want to solve your banking, home mortgage and wealth-building questions too.
As Herbert said: “The goal of our bankers is to bring the full bank to you, when you need it.”
Because of this, you might have to field (or ward off) an occasional sales pitch from some lenders with this service.
How to get by without a personal banker
If your top-choice lenders don’t offer direct service from a financially-savvy professional, that doesn’t mean their customer service is unhelpful. The quality of your experience can vary from lender to lender, regardless of whether you get a bonafide personal banker to work with.
EdvestinU, for example, says its “expert loan counselors” are highly knowledgeable in the scope of federal student loans. After all, the nonprofit lender services federal loan borrowers, so it can advise borrowers about federal repayment and deferment options, not just about EdVestinU’s suite of products.
“Because our team does both … we can speak holistically about what may or may not be good things for [borrowers] — versus just saying, ‘Sure, refi with us, because that would be good for our bottom line,’” Rich Neilsen, EdVestinU’s loan program manager, said.
For example, a loan counselor would go over how refinancing federal loans means yielding government-exclusive protections like income-driven repayment plans, mandatory deferment and access to loan forgiveness or cancellation.
It’s also worth noting that, just like First Republic and other banks, other similar lenders also can serve local borrowers in person, if that’s your preference — for example, EdVestinU welcomes local residents to visit its Concord, N.H. headquarters. If you’re considering refinancing but would prefer to talk it through first, you might prioritize a lender with such a brick-and-mortar branch. (That’s also one of the pros of borrowing or refinancing from credit unions.)
“For some people, it’s not all about the dollars [saved],” Neilsen said. “It’s about the ability to have a person that they can continually go back to and ask questions throughout the process. … I know I give my [telephone] extension out all the time to call me back directly. There’s no general queue where whoever picks up picks up.”
Choose the right lender — with or without a personal banker
A personal banker could be useful if your student loan debt is an obstacle to achieving personal finance goals, such as buying a home. For instance, First Republic’s Herbert said his bank offers mortgage discounts and incentives to its student loan refinance customers.
One-on-one support at the bank or credit union of your choice could also prove to be a boon if you’re looking for a knowledgeable professional with whom you can brainstorm solutions — just ensure that they’re an expert in student loan debt, not only their employer’s products.
But in the end, having a personal banker is just one of the many factors that go into your decision on where to finance. And regardless of your preference, make sure to shop around among different lenders so you can find the one that’s the best match for you.
Interested in refinancing student loans?
Here are the top 6 lenders of 2019!
Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.