Citizens Bank Student Loan Review: Low Rates, Many Repayment Options


Tracing its origins to nearly 200 years ago, Citizens Bank is one of the largest and oldest financial institutions in the country. It offers a variety of financial products to more than 5 million customers nationally.

The Citizens Bank student loan refinancing and in-school student loan programs cater to borrowers with good credit (or a creditworthy cosigner) but are also accessible to noncitizens, nongraduates and parents.

Both products — refinancing and in-school loans — come with helpful discounts if you already have or plan to open another account at the bank.

Citizens Bank student loan refinance review

Citizens Bank student loan refinancing customers net an average annual savings of $2,628, according to the publicly traded company’s 2021 review of nearly 22,000 loans. So if you’re anxious to pay off your student loans as soon — and as cheaply — as possible, Citizens Bank might be worth a review.

Citizens Bank student loan refinancing is a good fit for creditworthy applicants who want to keep their finances under one roof to benefit from loyalty rate discounts. The lender is a worthy option for nontraditional borrowers, such as nongraduates or noncitizens who have a Social Security number. Thanks to its high debt limits, Citizens Bank refinancing is also geared toward borrowers with high outstanding loan balances.

Citizens Bank student loan refinance review: The basics

Citizens Bank stands out for its accessibility, as any former student or parent borrower who has a Social Security number could be eligible for refinancing. With that said:

  • Non-bachelor’s degree-holders must make 12 payments on their loans after leaving school to qualify for refinancing.
  • You (or your cosigner) must also have a credit score of at least 700 and $24,000 in annual income.
APRs ● Student loan refinancing: 2.84% – 8.27% (fixed), 1.99% – 8.02% (variable)
● Parent loan refinancing: 2.84% – 7.20% (fixed), 1.99% – 6.95% (variable)
Basics ● Refinance a minimum of $10,000 and as much as $750,000, depending on your type of degree
● Fixed and variable interest rates available
● Earn up to 0.50 percentage points in interest rate discounts with autopay and loyalty discount
Eligibility ● 700 credit score
● $24,000 income
● Citizenship, permanent residency or those with a Social Security number
● Bachelor’s or advanced degree
● Associate degree-holders and nongraduates must make 12 monthly payments before applying
Applying ● Option to apply with a cosigner
● No application, origination, disbursement or prepayment fees
● Charges late payment fees
Repayment ● No prepayment penalties
● Reduce your interest rate by 0.50 percentage points if you enroll in autopay
● Three in-school repayment options, including full deferment
● Repayment term option: Up to 20 years
● Release your cosigner after 36 months of prompt payments (and meeting other criteria)
● Forgiveness offered only in the case of the primary borrower’s death or permanent disability
Support ● Citizens Bank offers economic hardship forbearance on a case-by-case basis, but the requirements for qualifying aren’t publicly shared.

What to like about Citizens Bank refinance for student loans

Whether you’re an ex-student or the parent of one, Citizens Bank refinancing options could be beneficial because of the following considerations.

Available to nongraduates, noncitizens with a Social Security number

Some banks, credit unions and online lenders limit refinancing to U.S. citizens with at least a four-year degree. Citizens Bank is more flexible on both fronts.

U.S. citizens, permanent residents and noncitizens with a Social Security number (SSN) are eligible to apply. However, noncitizens will need to have a resident cosigner to complete the application. (If you don’t have a SSN, consider a lender like MPOWER Financing.)

Citizens Bank is one of the few lenders that offers refinancing even if you didn’t graduate. Many people who left school early may feel like they’re out of options — but, by refinancing through Citizens Bank, you can save on your debt even without a degree.

The only hard-and-fast rule is that you must no longer be attending school, and you need to have started making payments on the debt. If you earned an associate degree or did not graduate, you simply need to have made at least 12 full, on-time payments in order to refinance.

What you need to begin the refinancing process with Citizens Bank
To apply for refinancing with Citizens Bank, you’ll need the following documents and information:
● Social Security number or USCIS number
● Gross monthly income
● Employer information
● Monthly rent or mortgage payments
● Information on current lender including account number, loan balance, monthly payments, due dates and interest rates

Competitive APRs and discounts

The interest rate you’ll receive is typically the most important part of your loan agreement, as it determines how much you’ll save from refinancing.

Citizens Bank’s rates are competitive, offering APRs as low as 2.84% (variable) and 1.99% (fixed), corresponding to your loan amount, repayment term, degree level and other factors. Just be sure you weigh the pros and cons of fixed and variable rates.

In addition, the bank also offers incentives to reduce your interest rate even more. If you or your cosigner have a Citizens Bank savings or checking account, you can get 0.25 percentage points off your interest rate. Plus, if you sign up for automatic payments, you can get another 0.25 percentage point discount.

Dropping your rate by as much as 0.50 percentage points could be a significant money-saver, over time.

Easy-to-use online platform

Citizens Bank will give you a personalized rate and savings quote (if you qualify) in as little as two minutes. This prequalification process also won’t ding your credit, as it triggers only a soft credit pull. And if you’re satisfied with the rate and choose to complete your application, the bank will then makes a hard inquiry.

You and your cosigner, if you have one, can use the tool separately to gauge your potential refinancing options.

Citizens Bank also has a robust mobile banking app for iOS and Android devices. You can check your balance, make payments and review your account history after you download the app.

What to keep in mind about Citizens Bank refinance for student loans

Low rates, flexible eligibility requirements and ease of use are all benefits of Citizens Bank student loan refinancing. However, you should also keep the following drawbacks in mind as you shop around.

Relatively high minimum borrowing amount

Citizens Bank student loan refinancing allows you to privately consolidate your federal and/or private education debt — but it also requires you have at least five figures of it.

If you have less than $10,000 in student loans to refinance, keep in mind that many top-rated lenders set their minimum borrowing requirement at $5,000. And if your balance is especially low, consider refinancing with LendKey, which sets its threshold at $2,000.

Few student loan refinancing perks

The 16th largest retail bank in the U.S., Citizens Bank has been around since 1828. It allows you to potentially house your personal finances under one roof, offering savings accounts and credit cards as well as personal loans, mortgages and more. If you live close to one of its nearly 1,000 branches, you have the option to hash out your financial plan with a banker.

If those features aren’t relevant to you, however, you might find competitors’ more modern perks to be more enticing:

  • SoFi offers unemployment protection and career guidance during repayment.
  • CommonBond funds the education of an underserved student abroad when you refinance.
  • Earnest lets you choose from as many as 180 repayment term options, spanning five to 20 years.

Limited repayment protections

Before selecting a refinancing lender, compare the safeguards it provides to protect you in repayment. Being able to press pause on your monthly payment because of a job loss, for example, would help you avoid student loan default.

For its part, Citizens Bank awards forbearance on a case-by-case basis for borrowers experiencing financial hardship. This allows you to postpone your monthly payment for up to 12 months.

But while it also delivers deferments for borrowers returning to school and serving in the military, Citizens Bank could improve its product by offering more transparency about how to qualify for forbearance. SoFi’s unemployment protection program, for example, spells out how you could qualify for relief.

How Citizens Bank student loan refinance compares

There is no shortage of options when it comes to student loan refinancing banks, credit unions and online companies. Here’s how Citizens Bank compares to two other reputable lenders.

Citizens Bank College Ave SoFi
SLH rating 4.56/5 Not yet rated Not yet rated
Products ● Student loan refinancing
● Parent loan refinancing
● Student loan refinancing
● Parent PLUS Loan refinancing
● Student loan refinancing
● Parent PLUS Loan refinancing
● Medical resident and professional refinancing
● Law and MBA refinancing
Eligibility requirements ● 700 credit score
● $24,000 income
● Citizenship, permanent residency or have a Social Security number
● Bachelor’s or advanced degree
● Associate degree-holders and nongraduates must make 12 monthly payments before applying
● 680 credit score
● $65,000 income
● Citizenship or permanent residency
● College degree
● Good or excellent credit score
● No minimum income
● Nonpermanent residents without eligible visas can apply with a permanent resident cosigner
APRs Variable: 1.99% – 8.02%
Fixed: 2.84% – 8.27%
Variable: 2.94% – 6.74%
Fixed: 2.99% – 6.84%
Variable: 1.74% – 7.24%
Fixed: 2.49% – 7.59%
Minimum loan amount $10,000 $5,000 $5,000
Repayment terms available Up to 20 years 15 years Up to 20 years
Apply with a cosigner Yes Yes Yes

Is refinancing student loans with Citizens Bank right for you?

If student loan refinancing is the right measure for your education debt, it’s wise to shop around for the right bank, credit union or online lender.

And thanks to its low rates and easy-to-use platform, Citizens Bank should be among your options. It could be worthwhile to consider if you’re a nongraduate or a noncitizen who hasn’t found a refinancing lender elsewhere, or if you’ve graduated with six figures of student loans.

As you compare Citizens Bank with competitors, however, keep in mind that you must have a strong credit profile — or a cosigner with one — to qualify. Citizens Bank also might not meet your needs if you’re attracted to online lenders with more perks or stronger repayment protections.

To make a thorough comparison, review our recommended lenders in the student loan refinancing marketplace.

How to apply for refinancing with Citizens Bank

Since Citizens Bank allows refinance applicants to prequalify for loans, you can apply to refinance your student loans with this lender without hurting your credit. Here’s what you need to do to apply:

  1. To start, you’ll need to create a profile with Citizens Bank, then fill out an application where you’ll provide your personal and financial information — this typically includes your Social Security number, gross monthly income and rent or mortgage payments.
  2. You’ll then need to verify your information by uploading documents such as pay stubs.
  3. Once you’re approved, you’ll receive an official offer which you’ll need to sign.
  4. If you accept the offer from Citizens Bank, the lender will disperse your loans funds and pay off your original debts.

Citizens Bank student loans review

For students and parents who need to take out private student loans, Citizens Bank is worth circling back to, though only after you’ve shopped around with other lenders. That’s because the institution doesn’t allow you to confirm eligibility and check rates without completing a full application and submitting to a hard credit check.

Citizens Bank student loans are a good fit for borrowers with good credit (or a good cosigner) who are pursuing a bachelor’s degree or higher, and could envision needing funds for future years. The lender is an especially keen choice for international students who have a U.S.-based cosigner, but be aware of the long path toward cosigner release.

Citizens Bank student loans reviews: The basics

Citizens Bank offers funding for three types of borrowers: undergraduates pursuing a bachelor’s degree, graduate students and parents. Even international students can apply so long as they have a stateside cosigner who can prove citizenship or permanent residency.

Other eligibility requirements include a minimum 700 credit score, but don’t worry if your credit history is thin: You do have the option to apply with a cosigner.

APRs ● Undergraduate student loans: 3.23% – 11.70% (fixed), 3.22% – 6.81% (variable)
● Graduate student loans: 4.64% – 11.23% (fixed), 1.99% – 7.14% (variable)
● Parent loans: 4.55% – 7.58% (fixed), 1.97% – 7.06% (variable)
Basics ● Borrow as little as $1,000 and as much as your cost of attendance (with an aggregate limit depending on the level of education)
● Fixed interest rates available
● Trim your rate by 0.25 percentage points each with autopay, loyalty discounts
Eligibility ● Must be pursuing bachelor’s, master’s, graduate or professional degree or be a parent of a student
● 700 credit score
● Must have a cosigner with U.S. citizenship or residency if you are an international student
● Students seeking associate’s degree not eligible
Applying ● Option to apply with a cosigner
● No application, origination, disbursement or prepayment fees
● Charges late payment fees
Repayment ● Standard six-month grace period
● No prepayment penalties
● Reduce your interest rate by 0.25 percentage points if you enroll in autopay
● Two in-school repayment options, as well as full deferment
● Repayment term option: 5, 10, 15 years
● Release your cosigner after 36 months of prompt payments (and meeting other criteria)
Support ● Apply to postpone or pause payments if you return to school or suffer a hardship
● Loan forgiveness in the case of the borrower’s death or permanent disability

What to like about Citizens Bank student loans

Any time you evaluate student loan lenders, it’s wise to consider the pros and cons of working with a given financial institution. Here are a handful of pros of Citizens Bank student loans.

International students are eligible with cosigner support

Unlike many lenders, Citizen Bank’s underwriting criteria leave the door open for international students. If you’re studying in the U.S. on a visa away from your home country, for example, you would just need to find a cosigner with either citizenship or residency with the U.S.

Low variable and fixed interest APRs

Citizens Bank keeps up with industry competitors in the most important category you should evaluate: interest rates. The lender’s APRs are helped by a lack of fees, but they’re low in the first place. Variable rates start at 3.22%, while fixed rates bottom out at 3.23%. Just do your homework before picking a variable rate over a fixed option.

You might be able to lower your quoted APR even further once you begin repayment, by shaving up to 0.50 percentage points off your rate by enrolling in autopay and opening a Citizens Bank account. Estimate your potential long-term savings using our monthly payment calculator.

Various in-school repayment options

It’s always smart to make even small in-school payments on your student loans, if you can. Doing so can ensure your balance doesn’t balloon while you’re focused on your studies. Citizens Bank provides three in-school repayment options:

  • Interest-only payments
  • Full principal-and-interest payments
  • Defer payments until you leave school

To be fair, Citizens Bank doesn’t offer one in-school repayment option that’s common among other lenders — that’s the ability to make small, fixed monthly payments (usually $25) toward their debt. If you like that option, consider a competitor like College Ave Student Loans.

Multiyear approval simplifies future borrowing

If you’re a couple years or more away from earning your degree, you might like the idea of avoiding the whole student loan application process next time you need funding. That’s what Citizens Bank’s multiyear approval program is all about: Without incurring any fees, you can more easily receive loan approval for next semester — or next year — without being locked into borrowing.

But while Citizen Bank helped in pioneering the idea of multiyear loan approval, competing lenders Sallie Mae and Discover have since started offering the same benefit.

Can’t find a U.S. citizen or permanent resident or permanent resident cosigner? Prodigy Finance is among lenders assisting international student borrowers
Not attending an eligible degree-granting school? Check out options for non-degree-seeking student loans
Not attending classes at least-half time? There are lenders with part-time student loan options

What to keep in mind about Citizens Bank student loans

Citizens Bank student loans are a great option for some borrowers and their families, but may not be the ideal fit for everyone. Here are some reasons why you might be better off borrowing with a competitor.

Unavailable to students seeking an associate degree

Yes, Citizen Bank student loans are available to undergraduate, graduate and professional students as well as parents — but not if you’re pursuing anything besides a bachelor’s degree or beyond.

Citizens Bank customer service confirmed to Student Loan Hero that it only works with four-year colleges and universities. So if you’re seeking an associate degree, certificate or another atypical diploma, you’ll have to borrow elsewhere.

Fortunately, there are top-rated lenders with loans for students pursuing an associate degree — and there are even student loan options for non-degree programs.

You can’t check rates without a hard credit check

Citizens Bank has a fairly straightforward application process that won’t send you running all over the place to gather paperwork. You or your cosigner will just need to supply recent pay stubs, other proof of income and information about your monthly living expenses. (International students and borrowers who are in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will also be asked to hand over documentation relating to their immigration status.)

And yet, you have to go through the full application process, submitting to a hard credit check, before you know whether you’ll qualify and at what APRs.

This is a staid process that other reputable lenders have left behind. If you want to prequalify without causing potential harm to your (or your cosigner’s) credit report, check out lenders like Earnest.

Cosigner release takes three years to achieve

If a parent or another creditworthy adult agrees to cosign your Citizens Bank student loan, ideally you’d get to thank them by sending them on their merry way in record time. Unfortunately, Citizens Bank requires that you make 36 on-time monthly payments on your debt before you can remove your cosigner.

If you (and, likely, your cosigner) care about a faster route to release, check out Sallie Mae and its industry-best 12-month policy.

Thin menu of repayment protections

Like with its refinancing product, Citizens Bank is somewhat cagey about its menu of repayment protections. If you borrow a student loan and run into trouble with making payments, you’ll want to be with a lender that is likely to grant you a reprieve.

Citizens Bank and its loan servicer Firstmark don’t explicitly define its deferment and forbearance options, which would allow you to postpone or pause repayment in the event of hardship. It only says that it approves such measures on a case-by-case basis, as it did en masse early on during the coronavirus pandemic.

How Citizens Bank student loans compare

Even if Citizens Bank sounds like a great option for your borrowing purposes, it’s smart to shop around. Here’s how the longstanding lender contrasts with other well-known companies with similar products.

Citizens Bank College Ave SoFi
SLH rating 4.31/5 Not yet rated Not yet rated
Loans for… ● Undergraduate and graduate students
● Parents
● Undergraduates and graduate students
● Career school students
● Business, law, medical, dental and health professional program students
● Parents
● Undergraduate and graduate students
● Business and law school
● Parents
APRs Variable starting at 3.22% and fixed starting at 3.23% Variable starting at 0.94% and fixed starting at 2.99% Variable starting at 1.10% and fixed starting at 3.22%
Ability to prequalify without affecting credit No Yes Yes
Borrowing amount $1,000 to 100% of your cost of attendance $1,000 to 100% of your cost of attendance $5,000 to 100% of your cost of attendance
In-school repayment options 3 4 4
Repayment terms 5, 10, 15 years 5, 8, 10, 15 years 5, 10, 15 years
Cosigner release available Yes — after 36 months of timely payments (and meeting other criteria) Yes — after half the repayment term has elapsed Yes — after 24 months of timely payments

You’ll very likely be better off if you shop around beyond a few lenders. Make sure you learn all about the best options for your specific needs.

Are Citizens Bank student loans right for you?

The best private student loans carry the lowest interest rates but don’t stop there. They also provide additional support and rewards that you might find useful in the short term or years into repayment.

Citizens Bank student loans carry attractive APRs, few fees and a pair of valuable rate discounts. The lender also stands out for its multiyear approval benefit as well as a nice variety of in-school repayment plans.

On the downside, Citizens Bank could improve by clearly outlining its repayment protections and shorten the time required to release a cosigner.

Because Citizens Bank also lacks a prequalification process, it’s wise to revisit the lender once you’ve already shopped around and are ready to submit to a hard credit check. If you’re not yet at that point, visit our private student loan marketplace to learn about more borrowing options.

How to apply with Citizens Bank

If you decide to apply with Citizens Bank, you’ll need to do the following steps to apply. Keep in mind when you apply, however, that this lender does not offer prequalification services so when you apply, Citizens Bank will do a hard-credit pull that may temporarily put a dent in your credit score.

  1. First, you’ll need to visit Citizen Bank’s website and create a username and password for the site. Once you’ve finished creating a profile, you’ll need to complete Citizens Bank’s application form. For this, you and your cosigner (if you have one) will need to give your personal and financial information.
  2. Next, you’ll need to verify your personal and financial information by uploading documents, such as a pay stub and a form of government-issued ID.
  3. After you’ve submitted your application, you’ll have to wait to hear whether you’re approved for a loan. If you’re approved, you’ll need to select your preferred loan term and how you want to repay it.
  4. Finally, you and your cosigner will both need to officially accept the offer by signing the loan documents sent by Citizens Bank.

How to contact Citizens Bank

Though your repayment will be managed by Citizens Bank’s loan servicer, Firstmark Services, you can always contact the lender directly with questions or concerns:

  • For questions about borrowing: 888-411-0266
  • For questions about financial assistance: 866-259-3767

Frequently asked questions about Citizens Bank student loans

If you didn’t find your question answered in our Citizens Bank review, see the following FAQs.

Are Citizens Bank student loans federal or private?

Citizens Bank offers private student loans. However, it’s generally best to first borrow federal loans, which feature a much stronger safety net, before resorting to private education debt.

If you’re looking to refinance your existing balance, you might be glad to know that Citizens Bank refinances federal and private loans. Just be sure it’s a good idea to refinance your federal loans — the process is irreversible and would remove government-exclusive safeguards like the ability to pause, postpone or lower your monthly payments.

Is Citizens Bank a good option for student loans?

Like all private lenders, Citizens Bank has its pluses and minuses. If you’re considering applying for student loan refinance or are borrowing for the first time, Citizens Bank is worth a look, particularly for financially stable borrowers who won’t miss stronger repayment protections found among other private lenders. Just be sure you meet eligibility requirements and would stand to benefit from the advantages it offers.

How much can I borrow in student loans from Citizens Bank?

Whether you’re considering Citizens Bank student loan refinancing or new, in-school loans, maximum borrowing allotments apply. Your aggregate limit will depend on the degree you’ve earned (in the case of refinancing) or the one you’re seeking (new loans).

Student loan refinancing Bachelor’s degree: $300,000
Graduate degree: $500,000
Professional degree: $750,000
Student loans Undergraduates: $150,000
Graduate students: $150,000
Business and law students: $225,000
Health care professionals: $180,000 or $350,000, depending on the degree

Methodology for ratings

To come up with our shield rating for student loan refinancing lenders and companies/private student loan lenders and companies, Student Loan Hero asks hard questions — 20 of them, in fact. These questions span three categories: Accessibility, Rates & Terms and Repayment Experience. That’s because we want to judge financial institutions on their products and services from start to finish: when our users are shopping around, filing applications and paying down their debt. A top-rated lender, for instance, has inclusive eligibility criteria, allows you to prequalify and check rates without harming your credit score and is supportive as you face monthly payments.

The answers that we get to our 20 questions — either from the lenders themselves or by combing through their fine print — determine their overall rating. We score answers consistently, sometimes awarding partial points, to ensure that you can make equal comparisons between all lenders that we put under the microscope.

Student Loan Hero isn’t paid for conducting these reviews, and lenders don’t have a say in their content. The goal with our reviews and ratings, along with everything else we do, is to give our users the most comprehensive and up-to-date information available to make the best decisions according to their borrowing needs.

Student Loan Hero has independently collected the above information related to Citizens Bank student loans, which is current as of Jan. 19, 2022, unless otherwise noted. None of the financial institutions named has either provided or reviewed the information shared in this article.



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