ELFI Review: Student Loans and Refinancing (Pros & Cons)

Written by: Kristyn Pilgrim
Updated: 3/04/20
Lender nameEducation Loan Finance (ELFI)
Loan assessedUndergraduate Student Loan
Eligibility
Enrollment requirementAt least half-time
Minimum FICO score680
Average credit score of approved applicantsDoes not disclose
Minimum income35000
Average income of approved applicantsDoes not disclose
Highest allowed debt-to-income ratioDoes not disclose
Available for international student borrowers?Not unless you’re a permanent resident alien
Available throughout the US?Yes
Application process
Online only?Yes
Phone applications available?No
Interest rates
Structures availableFixed, variable
APR range3.95% up to 18% (It will not go higher than this percentage, guaranteed.)
Interest rate based on an underlying index?LIBOR
Rate quote available with a soft credit pull?Yes
Loan limits
Minimum loan amount10000
Maximum loan amountDetermined by your school
Repayment options
Grace period6 months
Terms available5, 10, or 15 years
Repayment optionsImmediate, fixed, interest-only, or deferred
Prepayment penaltyNo
Deferment optionsDoes not disclose until loan application is complete
Forbearance provisionsDoes not disclose until loan application is complete
Death or disability dischargeNone
Cosigner releaseDoes not disclose
Customer service
Lender have own customer serviceYes
Loan servicerAmerican Education Services
Other issues
Fees5% or $50 (whichever is less) for late payments; $30 for returned payments
Borrower benefitsReferral bonus of $400, financial counseling
Related productsParent loan, grad school loan, refinancing

Education Loan Finance, commonly known as ELFI, is part of a Tennessee-based bank. The founders knew a lot about loaning money to people in need, but they spotted some vulnerabilities in the student loan market they thought they could fill. 

ELFI believes in offering a quick and painless application process to students and their parents, and the company promises to customize loans so no student has to deal with a one-size-fits-all approach. 

We dug into the company’s student loans for undergraduates. Here’s what we found out.

ELFI Undergraduate Student Loan at a Glance 

This loan is designed for students enrolled at least half-time in a program that will result in a bachelor’s degree. You can borrow as little as $10,000 or as much as you’ll need to pay your entire school bill for the year. 

ELFI is different than the competition due to:

  • Clear requirements. To get this loan, you’ll need a credit score of 680 or higher. You must make at least $35,000 per year. And you must have a credit history that’s at least 36 months long. ELFI states all of those rules clearly, so you don’t have to guess. 
  • Prepackaged discounts. Every student is enrolled in automatic payments, and that comes with a discount. You don’t have to ask for it or remember if it’s included in your loan to save money. The company takes care of that for you. 
  • Financial counseling. Every borrower is matched to a personal loan advisor. Together, you’ll explore what your loan documents mean. You can also lean on this person as you work to make smarter financial decisions in the future.

Undergraduate students can borrow as little as $10,000. The company works with your school to determine the certified cost of tuition, fees, and supplies. If you need more than $10,000, you can borrow up to this certified limit. 

Choose from variable interest rates that start at 3.95% APR, or select a fixed rate that starts at 4.99% APR. You can start paying back your loan while you’re in school, or you can defer your payments until six months after your enrollment dips below half-time. 

If you can’t qualify for an ELFI loan with your credit history (or lack of it), you can ask a trusted person to help you. This person applies for your ELFI loan as a cosigner. It’s not clear if you can release the person from that obligation even if you make all of your payments on time. 

ELFI Pros & Cons 

ELFI is just one of many companies that offer loans to undergraduate students. But this company offers transparency about qualifications others can’t match, and terms are favorable. But you may miss a few perks other providers offer. 

Pros

  • Quick eligibility check: Determine if you can qualify for a loan in just a few minutes. Your credit score won’t take a hit, as this is a soft pull. 
  • No fees: Pay nothing to apply, get your money, or pay it back early. 
  • No cosigner required: If you meet eligibility requirements, you can apply for this loan on your own. 

Cons

  • Not available to foreign students: If you’re not a permanent resident of the United States or you can’t prove that you are, you can’t apply for this loan. 
  • You must make progress. ELFI requires students to move toward graduation. That means you must have good grades and complete enough classes to demonstrate that you’re completing your degree. 

How to Apply for a Student Loan With ELFI

ELFI’s founders believe that the traditional student loan application process takes too long, and they think some of the terminology is too confusing for some students. They’ve taken steps to amend these issues, and they offer an online-only experience to students who want to borrow money.

Begin by heading to the ELFI website, and check your eligibility for a loan. You can fill in the data manually, or you can sign in with your PayPal account. That could save you time, as linking your account means fewer boxes for you to fill in. 

With your eligibility check, you’ll create an account within the ELFI system. That ensures you can check back on the progress of your loan whenever you want to do so. 

Provide the company with information about yourself, your school, and your finances. Make decisions about:

  • Interest rates. Decide whether you want a loan with an interest rate that fluctuates, or select a fixed-rate version. 
  • Repayment. Do you want to make payments while you’re in school? Or would you prefer to skip them until after you graduate? 
  • Terms. Do you want to repay your loan in 5, 10, or 15 years?

When you’re done, your financial advisor will contact you to talk about the loan and what you should do next. You’ll have papers to sign and then the money will move directly to your school.

What Other Student Loan Options Are Available?

ELFI offers student loans for undergraduates, but they aren’t the only products the company provides for students in need. 

ELFI also provides loans for:

  • Graduate students. Interest rates start at 3.95%, and you can borrow as little as $10,000. Meet eligibility requirements, and you won’t need a cosigner to help you qualify for the help you need. 
  • Parents. Some students can’t get all the help they need on their own. Parents must borrow too. ELFI offers loans for parents just like this. Interest rates start at 3.95%. Pay back the balance in 5, 7, or 10 years. 

ELFI also offers two types of refinancing. These products help you bundle plenty of small loans into one big loan. There are products for:

  • Students. Interest rates start at 2.39%. This among one of the lowest in the industry. The company says customers save an average of $309 per month
  • Parents. Parents who take out multiple loans for their kids can refinance those. Interest rates start at 2.39%, and you can pay back the balance in 5, 7, or 10 years. 

All products from ELFI come with extensive customer service, including financial counseling. Applications for any loan are quick, efficient, and comprehensive.