International Student Loans: Best Lenders & What to Consider

Updated on April 10, 2024

At a Glance

  • Some lenders, such as MPOWER and Prodigy Finance, offer international student loans without requiring a cosigner.
  • MPOWER considers academic success and career potential, while Prodigy Finance provides loans for specific graduate degrees.
  • Other lenders like Ascent, Citizens Bank, Discover, and College Ave may require a creditworthy cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
  • Consider factors like loan amount, interest rates, repayment terms, and documentation requirements when exploring international student loans.

Studying at a US university presents exciting prospects for international students. However, the cost of US college education can be quite steep for both domestic and international students. While US citizens have access to federal student loans, international students face a more complex process, as they are ineligible for federal loans and may find it challenging to secure private ones. This article will guide you through acquiring a student loan as an international student, exploring top lenders and key factors to consider.

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6 Best International Student Loan Lenders

The allure of U.S. higher education attracts a vast array of international talent each year. Navigating the financial landscape as an international student can be daunting, with varying criteria and requirements. However, there’s a silver lining. A number of lenders are attuned to the unique needs of international students, offering financial solutions that cater specifically to this diverse group:

AmOne (Best for Okay to Good Credit)

AmOne understands the challenges faced by international students in the U.S. when navigating the loan process. With a commitment to catering to students who possess an okay to good credit profile, AmOne acts as a connector between potential borrowers and a vast array of lenders. International students who have begun to establish a U.S. credit history, or those fortunate enough to have a creditworthy U.S. co-signer, can leverage AmOne’s platform to simplify their loan application journey and secure favorable terms.

AmOne Personal Loans

4.5
Stilt’s lender ratings reflect the findings and opinions of our editorial staff. Our scoring methodologies consider a wide array of factors and data points for every lender, offering, and financial solution.
Min. credit score

600

Fixed APR

3.99%-35.99%

Variable APR

N/A

Overview

  • Minimum credit score: 600.
  • Fixed APR: 3.99%-35.99%.
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 to $50,000.
  • Repayment: 1 to 7 years.

Qualifications

  • Must be at least 18 years old.
  • Must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
  • While there’s no specific income requirement, a consistent source of income is essential for the applicant.

Pros

  • Suitable for individuals with lower credit scores.
  • No cost for the matching service.
  • Attractive loan rates.

Cons

  • Acts as an intermediary, not a direct lender.
  • Risk of multiple contacts from prospective lenders.
  • Lack of clarity on lender details.

Spring Loans (Best for Bad and No Credit)

For international students new to the U.S. or without an established credit footprint, Spring Loans offers a lifeline. Recognizing that traditional credit scores aren’t always indicative of a student’s ability to repay, Spring Loans uses broader financial assessments. International students either without a U.S. credit history or those who haven’t had the best start can look to Spring Loans for more adaptive lending options. While a U.S.-based co-signer can offer better terms, Spring Loans is particularly supportive of students unfamiliar with the U.S. credit landscape.

Spring Loans Personal Loans

4.2
Stilt’s lender ratings reflect the findings and opinions of our editorial staff. Our scoring methodologies consider a wide array of factors and data points for every lender, offering, and financial solution.
Min. credit score

None

Fixed APR

27.00%

Variable APR

N/A

Overview

  • Minimum credit score: None.
  • Fixed APR: 27.00%
  • Loan amounts: $3,000.
  • Repayment: 48 months.

Qualifications

  • Demonstrate a recurrent income.
  • Minimum age prerequisite: 18 years.
  • Validate U.S. citizenship status with an SSN.
  • Provide a legitimate U.S. driver’s license or a state identity card.
  • Establish a functional bank account for incoming deposits.
  • Adhere to any specific demands by the loan provider.

Pros

  • Open to applicants with any credit background.
  • Four-year loan period aids in structured financial management.
  • The $3,000 offer addresses several short-term financial challenges.
  • Wide-reaching eligibility criteria invite a broad spectrum of applicants.
  • The focus on dependable income over job title benefits varied income sources.

Cons

  • The set 27% APR is higher than many alternatives.
  • Restriction to a $3,000 loan might not cover all financial outlays.
  • Possessing specific IDs is mandatory, sidelining some applicants.
  • A prerequisite for an ongoing bank account may limit certain users.

First Premier Lending (Best for Bad Credit)

First Premier Lending acknowledges that everyone’s financial journey is unique, especially for international students who might face unforeseen challenges. Catering predominantly to individuals with bad credit, First Premier Lending provides these students a chance to secure loans despite past credit missteps. A creditworthy U.S. co-signer can certainly boost one’s chances, but First Premier Lending remains an accessible choice for those international students aiming to rectify their credit situations.

First Premier Lending Personal Loans

4.2
Stilt’s lender ratings reflect the findings and opinions of our editorial staff. Our scoring methodologies consider a wide array of factors and data points for every lender, offering, and financial solution.
Min. credit score

None

Fixed APR

27.00%

Variable APR

N/A

Overview

  • Minimum credit score: None.
  • Fixed APR: 27.00%.
  • Loan amounts: $3,000.
  • Repayment: 48 months.

Qualifications

  • Maintain a consistent source of income.
  • Must be at least 18 years of age.
  • Possess valid U.S. citizenship and a legitimate social security number.
  • Hold a current U.S. driver’s license or state-issued ID.
  • Keep an active bank account for direct deposit.
  • Satisfy any lender-specific criteria, such as credit rating, borrowing history, or place of residence.

Pros

  • No minimum credit score requirement allows accessibility for those with varied credit histories.
  • 48-month term provides clarity and allows for long-term financial planning.
  • Specific loan amount of $3,000 can meet many short-term financial needs.
  • Broad set of qualifications make the loan accessible to a wide range of people.
  • Emphasis on consistent income, not necessarily employment type, allows flexibility for borrowers.

Cons

  • A fixed APR of 27% is relatively high.
  • Loan amount is capped at $3,000, which might not cater to larger financial requirements.
  • Requirement of a U.S. driver’s license or state-issued ID could exclude some individuals.
  • Mandatory active bank account could be limiting for those who are unbanked.

College Ave (Best for Good Credit)

College Ave is a beacon for international students who have taken the time and effort to cultivate a strong U.S. credit standing. With competitive rates and versatile loan terms, College Ave rewards those who’ve demonstrated financial responsibility. International students boasting a good credit history can find an ally in College Ave. While the addition of a creditworthy U.S. co-signer can further smoothen the loan acquisition process, the lender’s offerings remain appealing for those with commendable financial profiles.

College Ave Undergraduate Private Student Loans

4.8
Stilt’s lender ratings reflect the findings and opinions of our editorial staff. Our scoring methodologies consider a wide array of factors and data points for every lender, offering, and financial solution.
Min. credit score

600 or better

Fixed APR

4.07% - 15.48%

Variable APR

5.59% - 16.69%

Overview

  • Minimum credit score: 600 or better.
  • Fixed APR: 4.07% – 15.48%.
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 – $150,000.
  • Repayment: 5, 8, 10, 15, and 20 years.

Qualifications

  • U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
  • For undergraduate loans: Part-time enrollment at an accredited college/university.
  • International students: Need a Social Security number and a co-signer.
  • For refinance loans: Must be 18 years or older.
  • For refinance loans: Graduation from an eligible school is required.

Pros

  • Prequalify with a soft credit check
  • Flexible repayment options
  • Offers co-signer release for private loans

Cons

  • Charges late fees
  • Must have graduated to be eligible to refinance
  • Half of repayment term must have passed to release co-signer

Sallie Mae (Best for Very Good Credit)

International students who’ve achieved outstanding credit in the U.S. will find Sallie Mae to be a prime option. With a rich history in student loans, Sallie Mae extends its premium loan terms and rates to borrowers exhibiting very good credit profiles. A U.S. co-signer can always enhance one’s chances, but international students who have excelled in their financial undertakings in the U.S. will find Sallie Mae’s provisions particularly beneficial.

Sallie Mae Undergraduate Private Student Loans

4.5
Stilt’s lender ratings reflect the findings and opinions of our editorial staff. Our scoring methodologies consider a wide array of factors and data points for every lender, offering, and financial solution.
Min. credit score

Mid-600's

Fixed APR

4.50-15.49%

Variable APR

6.37-16.70%

Overview

  • Minimum credit score: Mid-600’s.
  • Fixed APR: 4.50-15.49%
  • Variable APR: 6.37-16.70%
  • Loan amounts: Minimum of $1,000 per year.
  • Repayment: 10 to 15 years.

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: Does not disclose.
  • Minimum income: Did not disclose.
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to 100% of the school-certified expenses.

Pros

  • One of the few lenders to provide loans to part-time students.
  • Non-U.S. citizens, including DACA students, can apply with a U.S. co-signer.

Cons

  • You can’t see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

Upgrade (Ideal for Good to Excellent Credit)

Although Upgrade doesn’t offer specific student loans, our personal loans can be a valuable resource for international students navigating the complexities of financing their education in the U.S. Whether it’s tuition, books, or living expenses, our efficient digital platform and swift loan approvals ensure students can focus on their studies without financial stress.

Upgrade Personal Loan

5.0
Stilt’s lender ratings reflect the findings and opinions of our editorial staff. Our scoring methodologies consider a wide array of factors and data points for every lender, offering, and financial solution.
Min. credit score

560

Fixed APR

8.49% - 35.99%

Variable APR

N/A

Overview

  • Minimum credit score: 560
  • Fixed APR: 8.49% – 35.99%
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 to $50,000
  • Repayment: 3 to 5 years (7 years on some larger loans)

Qualifications

  • Possess an active bank account.
  • Able to provide a legitimate email address.
  • Minimum age requirement: 18 years (19 for Alabama residents).
  • Credit score of 600 or higher.
  • Annual income of $25,000 or more.

Pros

  • Willing to accommodate borrowers with a credit score as low as 560.
  • Offers flexibility with a range of loan amounts from $1,000 to $50,000. This can be suitable for both small and large financial needs.
  • Provides options for repayment, allowing borrowers to choose a timeline that best suits their financial situation.
  • Once approved, borrowers can access funds in just one day, which is useful for urgent financial needs.

Cons

  • Origination fees can go as high as 9.99%, which might add a significant cost to the loan.
  • Apart from the origination fee, there are fees for late payments and failed payments, which can add up if one is not careful.
  • While there is an option to extend repayment for larger loans up to 7 years, it’s not standard for all loan amounts.

What to Consider With Student Loans for International Students

The process of getting a student loan can be intimidating, especially if you are new to the United States. Throughout the rest of this article, we hope to alleviate any fears and help you find the perfect student loan for you.

There are several things to consider when choosing a student loan, some of which may be more important for you depending on your situation.

1. How big of a student loan should I get?

At first glance, a loan might seem like an awesome way to get a huge sum of money to spend however you want. But don’t forget—you will have to pay this money back eventually. The interest on a large loan will add up very quickly as well.

When on the hunt for the perfect international student loan—a good place to start is determining how much you need and how much you can afford. This will help make sure that you don’t take out too much which could be a very expensive mistake.

This is not meant to discourage you but simply to make you aware. Don’t forget, the idea of student loans is that the education you are seeking will make paying these loans off both possible and well worth it in the long run!

2. What are the interest rates like on international student loans?

As with all types of loans, the interest rate that you get on a student loan will depend on a few different factors. The first and often biggest variable is whether it is a federal or private loan. Federal student loans usually offer lower interest rates but are not available for non-citizens.

Other things that come into play are your and your cosigner’s credit history and credit score. Lenders also consider the level of study the loan is for (undergraduate, graduate, etc.). There are, however, student loan options without cosigners.

Credit does not usually come into play for international students, as they have no credit upon coming to the US. As for the level of study, undergraduate loans tend to charge higher interest rates than those for graduate study.

Taking all of these things into consideration, the average student loan interest rate falls somewhere between 2 and 14%, with the lower the rate the better.

If you’re going to take out a student loan, you should also understand capitalized interest as a concept.

3. Type of interest

You may have the choice of a fixed or variable interest rate.

Fixed rates stay the same over the life of the loan while variable rates fluctuate based on the market.

There is no right answer to whether a fixed or variable-rate international student loan is better.

If you like the security of knowing your rate will always remain the same, go with a fixed rate. If you like the idea of having a lower rate upfront, a variable rate may be the better option.

4. What are the terms and conditions of student loans?

Student loans can sometimes be complicated, but the basics are the same across the board and are relatively simple to understand.

Each loan has repayment plan options. These are some general types that will be helpful to know in conducting your search.

Standard and Extended Repayment

Standard repayments are just a fixed amount that you will pay each month, typically over 10 years or less. An extended repayment plan works the same way, just over a longer period, such as 15 to 20 years.

Graduated Repayment

On a graduated repayment plan, your monthly payment will slowly increase over time. The hope is that you can afford higher and higher payments as you graduate and advance in your career.

Income-Driven Repayment

Though these are typically only offered for federal student loans, you may find a private lender offering them.

Income-driven repayment plans are similar to a graduated plan but required payments go up or down depending on your income.

There is much more security with these repayment plans, as your required payments will go down if you lose your source income at some point.

The Process of Getting an International Student Loan

Applying for loans of any kind can seem like a long and confusing process that will leave many wondering where to begin.

Don’t worry!

There are several steps that you have to take to get an international student loan, but lenders continue to make it easier and easier with advancements in technology.

Timeline – When Should I Apply for a Student Loan?

When it comes to applying for a student loan, the sooner, the better.

Once you are accepted to a school, you should start your search. Simply being accepted isn’t in and of itself a binding agreement, so you are always free to back out if you decide to go another route.

Once you have been accepted and provided all the necessary documentation (discussed below), the loan funds are usually dispersed within a week to 2 months.

You will want to have your funds in plenty of time, but if something does happen, don’t panic. Most colleges have some leeway when it comes to paying tuition.

What Documentation Do I Need for an International Student Loan?

As with most of the topics discussed, you would guess that the necessary documentation is going to depend on the lender and the loan.

This part of the process should be relatively easy as they will usually not require anything you haven’t already provided to your school.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • College acceptance: Most lenders will require that you be accepted and enrolled at an institution and be seeking a degree.
  • Visa: Your student visa, (F-1 visa) will need to be valid at the time of application
  • United States Address: You are not expected to have a permanent residence, but you will have to provide the address of the location you plan on staying in the US.
  • Other supporting documents: Instead of a Social Security card, international students can usually supply one of the following visas: F-1, H1-B, L-1; OR Forms DS-2019, I-20, I-766, or I-797

What is a Cosigner? Do I Need One for My Loan?

A loan cosigner is someone who is agreeing to accept liability for your loan if you can’t make payments. They are usually required to have a good credit score and be a US citizen or permanent resident.

Finding a cosigner that meets all of these requirements can be next to impossible for someone who is coming to the US for the first time.

Luckily, there are international student loans for those without cosigners available—including both federal and private options.

Reviewing All Financing Options for International Students

Outside of loans for international students, there are some other ways to pay for college that you should consider:

1. University Scholarships

College scholarships provide funding for any number of areas of your program education. Scholarships are usually provided by private organizations, companies, universities, or individuals and can be for any amount. Scholarships are usually based on merit, meaning academic, social, athletic, or any other exceptional quality that someone wants to award.

Scholarships may be applied directly towards tuition and expenses, or simply be a check written to you to spend however you see fit during your studies. Merit-based scholarships may require that you continue to show excellence in the area in which you earned it, i.e., a scholarship for a 3.5 GPA may require that you maintain a 3.5 GPA each year.

Scholarships can be challenging to earn, and there is no guarantee, but the good news is that there are thousands to apply for. You can find scholarships specifically for single moms, chess players, race, location, and even most creative sandwich maker. Another big positive is that scholarships do not have to be paid back — just earned.

There are tons of places online where you can find scholarships. Here’s a list of just a few sites where you can search for scholarships that you may qualify for:

2. University Grants

Student grants are very similar to scholarships and people often use the terms interchangeably. Although they are alike in that neither must be paid back, they differ in that most grants are need-based rather than merit-based.

The Federal Pell Grant is just one example of a need-based grant—and is one of the most popular grants for US students. However, to qualify for the Federal Pell Grant, you must be a permanent resident. Unfortunately, this means that most international students will not qualify for the Pell Grant.

Grants can still come from public and private organizations but are generally awarded through the federal and state governments or the university itself. Grants are usually based on economic status and income and are designed to provide additional relief for lower-income students. They typically do not have tough academic requirements but may have minimum standards that students must maintain.

There are some merit-based grants, and these are usually more typical for grants that apply to international students. One of the most popular merit-based grants for international students is the Fulbright Education Exchange Program. Students who receive this grant are given funding by the US Department of State for transportation and full or partial tuition. You can check the Fulbright Scholars website for a list of countries from where international students can apply for this grant.

Many other grants are available such as state grants, military grants, and private grants. Here are just a few other grant opportunities:

3. Student Loans

Of these three financing options, a student loan is the one that stands out the most from the other two. Loans are often the last option that students resort to for one big reason: the money has to be paid back eventually. And not just the amount that you borrow, but interest as well.

Most students would prefer scholarships or grants over loans. These options are indeed more desirable, but in reality, even the students who are awarded them often need additional financial assistance. Scholarships and grants can be awarded in a variety of amounts and could be lost or reduced throughout your time in college.

Loans do come at a price, but they are a more widely available and reliable source of funding. This is especially true for international students, as you are ineligible for most US federal scholarships and grants.

Should I Refinance My Student Loan?

Refinancing is a common term that you have probably seen numerous times throughout your research. At this stage, this probably isn’t something you really need to worry about, but we will discuss it briefly so you know all of your options.

Simply put, student loan refinancing is when one lender pays off your current loan and gives you a new one at a lower interest rate.

For students pursuing extended degrees (law, medicine, etc.), the savings can be in the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

To qualify for refinancing, you will have to show good credit history, income, and a strong debt-to-income ratio.

>> Learn More: Guide to Refinancing International Student Loans

Read More

Wrapping It Up

After reading this article, you should possess all of the necessary information that you need to make a good, informed decision about student loans and other funding.

Since there are a limited number of lenders that are specifically designed to help international students, it will probably not take you long to find the right choice for you.

Good luck in the United States and good luck studying! And if you’re need funding in a rush, check out our guide to emergency student loans!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Who Offers International Student Loans?

International student loans are offered by various lenders including banks, credit unions, private financial companies, and organizations that specialize in education loans for international students.

What are the Best Lenders for International Student Loans?

The best lenders for international student loans often include Sallie Mae, Discover, Citizens Bank, and other specialized lenders that offer loans to students studying abroad or in the U.S. without a U.S. cosigner.

What Should International Students Consider When Choosing a Loan?

International students should consider interest rates, repayment terms, the necessity of a U.S. cosigner, loan limits, and whether the lender covers their specific school and program.

Do International Student Loans Require a U.S. Cosigner?

Many international student loans require a U.S. cosigner, but there are some lenders who offer loans without a U.S. cosigner. The terms and conditions may vary for loans without a cosigner.

How Do Interest Rates Compare for International Student Loans?

Interest rates for international student loans can vary widely. They may be higher compared to loans for U.S. students, especially if a U.S. cosigner is not involved.

Can International Students Get Loans Covering Full Tuition?

Some international student loans may cover full tuition, but it depends on the lender’s policies, the student’s school, program, and their creditworthiness or that of their cosigner.

What is the Typical Repayment Period for International Student Loans?

The repayment period for international student loans can range from 5 to 20 years, depending on the lender and the loan terms. Some loans offer grace periods or deferment while the student is in school.

Are There Any Additional Fees Associated with These Loans?

International student loans may come with additional fees, including origination fees, application fees, or early repayment fees. It’s important to read the loan terms carefully.

How Long Does the Application Process Take?

The application process duration varies by lender. It can range from a few days to several weeks, especially if additional documentation or a cosigner is required.

Can International Students Prepay Their Loans Without Penalty?

Some lenders allow international students to prepay their loans without penalty, but this can vary. It’s important to check if there are any prepayment penalties before signing the loan agreement.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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