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Citizens Bank Student Loan review

Citizens Bank is one of the few private student loan providers in our review that has physical locations

Our Verdict

Citizens Bank offers multiple repayment lengths and gives students all the options they need when picking a private student loan, including loan consolidation, fixed and variable interest rates and a generous 12 months of forbearance. This makes it a top choice among private student loan lenders.

For

  • Has physical branches so you can talk to someone in person
  • 12 months of forbearance
  • Hard credit check not needed for qualification
  • Multi-year borrowing option

Against

  • Cosigners remain tied to a student loan until after 36 months of on-time payments
  • Repayment options aren't as flexible as other student loans'

Citizens Bank Student Loans: What you need to know

Citizens Bank is one of the leading providers of student loans, perhaps best known for its unusually low interest rates. Although not one of the largest entities to manage finances, it as a relatively large footprint in New England, particularly in Rhode Island, where it was established. 

Citizens Bank: key features

Loan type: Undergraduate, Graduate, MBA and Law, Healthcare degrees; Student Loan for Parents 

Rate type: Fixed or variable

Loan term: 5 - 20 years

Loan amount: $1,000 minimum. Maximum $150,000 to $350,000 depending on the degree earned

Application and origination fees: No application, origination, disbursement or prepayment fees 

Discounts: 0.25% reduction on the loan if the borrower or their co-signer has a qualifying account with Citizens Bank; take an additional 0.25% reduction for autopayments

Repayment options: Immediate payment (you start paying off both the principal and interest while in school), interest-only payments until after grace period, or deferment (no payments until after grace period)

Deferment or forbearance hardship options: Yes, but considered on a case-to-case basis and only mentioned in the fine print

Co-signer release: After 36 on-time principal and interest payments 

Grace period: 6 months

Perks: None

Citizens Bank Student Loans: Common questions

Does Citizens Bank offer student loan refinancing? 

Yes. Citizen's Bank offers the Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loan, which is meant to help you both refinance and consolidate all of your student loans, both federal and private. This should, in theory, lower your interest rate and reduce the amount you pay every month, but this is needs to be evaluated on a case-to-case basis. However, depending on the lender, you may lost some perks that come with your different loans. Citizens Bank also offers student loan refinancing options for parents. 

Does Citizens Bank offer student loan consolidation?

Yes. The Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loan can be used to consolidated your student loans, both federal and private, regardless of the level of education. 

What are Citizens Bank's student loan rates?

Citizens Banks fixed rates range from 3.45% to 9.49% and the variable rates range from 2.34% to 9.33%. While the obvious benefit of fixed rates is that the rate will remain constant throughout the life of the loan, Citizens Bank suggests that there is a possibility of lower rates and lower monthly payments with this option. 

If you're not sure what your best option is, Citizens Bank also offers an online calculator with different variables so you can input the amount you anticipate borrowing, the loan term, the rate type, and other factors to see both the minimum and the maximum total amounts you could end up paying. 

Citizen's Bank student loans

(Image credit: Citizens Bank)

Citizens Bank Student Loans: Advantages

Citizens Bank offers fairly standard student loan packages, but borrowers and their families are attracted to a few main selling points. 

Application

Citizens Bank also has a multi-year borrowing option, which streamlines the process of procuring a loan for the next academic year. Furthermore, there is no hard credit check needed, which takes away the risk that their credit will be negatively affected by the application alone, and not just the loan itself. 

The loan

There are no application, origination, disbursement or prepayment fees associated to the loan - the borrowers is only subject to late payment and returned payment fees, which are applied to most, if not all loans. 

Citizens Bank has great interest rates which are considered to be lower than the interest of most other lenders, including those of federal student loans. 

Repayment

While the loans' grace period and repayment options aren't exceptional, the institution offers a generous 12 months of forbearance in 2-month increments in case the borrower finds themselves unable to make payments, which can be a big seller to families and borrowers who anticipate tough financial times. 

Citizens Bank also has flexible repayment terms: borrowers can choose between 5, 10, and 15 year loan terms, as well what kind of payments they'd like to make (Immediate payment, interest-only payments until after grace period ends, or deferment). 

Citizens Bank Student Loans: Disadvantages

While Citizens Bank is a worthy choice as a private student loan lender, there are some potential disadvantages that borrowers should be aware of. The first is in regards to repayment assistance: while the fine print indicates that forbearance options are offered, these options are not emphasized - the lender may consider these requests for deferment on a case-to-case basis, which may no inspire confidence in a lot of borrowers. 

Secondly, while no hard credit check is needed, Citizens Bank does stress the importance of the borrower's credit score. As young, college-aged borrowers don't often have good or established credit history, this means that most students will need a co-signer. 

Finally, while Citizens Bank has physical locations, these locations are almost exclusively located in parts of New England, meaning that only students of certain school will be able to talk to someone face-to-face. For an idea of where these branches are located, you can type in the borrower's school zip code in the branch locator. This may not be deal breaker for most, considering that big lender Sallie Mae doesn't have physical locations at all, but you may not want to be misled by the promise of face-to-face interaction with a representative. 

Qualification highlights: How to qualify for a Citizens Bank student loan

Citizens Bank is fairly straightforward about its student loan eligibility criteria on its websites, and the criteria isn't surprising for a private lender. It's a little more strict than Sallie Mae's, for example - the biggest takeaway is that most students who want to borrow from Citizens Bank will bee a co-signer. International students are also welcome to apply, as long as they have a "creditworthy" U.S. citizen or permanent resident as a co-signer. Citizens Bank's eligibility requirement are as follows, per its website:

  • "U.S. citizens or permanent residents. International students can apply with a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident cosigner
  • The student must be enrolled at least half time in a degree-granting program at an eligible institution
  • Have good credit or have a qualified cosigner
  • Have attained the age of majority in your state of residence or if you have not met the age of majority in your state of residence, a cosigner will be required
  • Have no prior student loan defaults"

(Image credit: Citizens Bank)

Applying for a Citizens Bank student loan

Applying for Citizens Bank student loan is fairly easy and straightforward, as long as you have the necessary information at hand. Such information includes basic personally identifying data such as your name as address, but you will also need information from your school's financial aid award letter and your co-signer's information. Here, Citizens Bank makes it clear that you have a higher chance of approval and a higher chance of getting a lower rate if you have a co-signer who meets the institution's criteria. 

Citizens Bank Student Loans: User experience and customer service

Unfortunately, while Citizens Bank student loans look good on paper, many users and borrowers say that they have had a horrible customer experience with Citizens Banks: customer service is somewhat unhelpful or unwilling to help, and sometimes even hard to reach. Some customers even report being charged twice in the same month for their monthly payment. 

However, unlike some lenders, Citizens Bank offers over-the-phone customer service every day, 24 hours a day. You can also choose to email them, visit a branch if able to, or even reach out via social media. 

Citizens Bank Student Loans: What happens if I can't pay my student loan?

It is somewhat unclear what happens if you can't pay your student loans if you have a loan with Citizens Bank. 

If you are late by 15 days or more on a payment, the lender will charge you 5% of the outstanding balance. This is relatively normal. 

However, in terms of repayment assistance in the event of financial hardship, Citizens Bank is unclear as to whether or not you will be granted deferment or forbearance. It appears that it is not out of the question, but the bank may offer deferment or forbearance on a case-by-case basis. If you are seriously thinking about taking out a Citizens Bank student loan, then this should be one of your main inquiries. We suggest you talk to a representative before sending a loan application, especially is you anticipate possible financial hardship during the years you will be paying off your student loan. 

Citizens Bank Student Loans: What borrowers and co-signers have to say

Many borrowers and co-signers who have looked into Citizens Bank student loans strongly encourage reading the fine print before signing on the dotted line: not only would you miss details about deferment or forbearance, but this may also prevent the headache of reaching customer service. Many borrowers report slow response times and inefficient customer service. 

What type of borrower is Citizens Bank student loans best for?

Citizens Bank student loans can be suitable for anyone, but may be particularly attractive to those who will live, work, or go to school near a Citizens Bank branch. That way, you will be able to have a timely, face-to-face chat with a representative or banker. 

Citizens Bank student loans are also good for borrowers who plan on have a co-signer which excellent credit - this is increase the odds of getting approved with a lower interest rate. 

Citizens Bank student loans versus federal student loans

We highly encourage any potential borrower to look into federal student loans before looking into student loans from private lenders. Generally, you will get better perks with federal student loans. 

That being said, Citizens Bank makes the bold claim that their Student Loan for Parents has an average savings of $640, and that this makes it a better alternative to the Federal Direct PLUS Loan. In a footnote that the bottom of the webpage, Citizens Bank clarifies that this savings pertains to the origination fee - the Federal Direct Plus Loan has, in fact, an origination fee of over 4% - at least for loans dispersed within a certain time frame, and for an assumed loan of $15,000. This is a very specific case to cite, and may not be the case to a majority of borrowers. Despite this, this specific loan for parents is still worth looking into and may end up to be a better deal than the federal government's loan for parents. 

Citizens Bank Student Loans: Verdict

Citizens Bank student loans are a worthy and solid choice for many student borrowers. While having a co-signer is almost necessary, Citizens Bank has competitive rates that may have you paying less in the long term, even compared to federal student loans. We recommend Citizens Bank parent student loans because them seem to be the best bang for your buck, especially if parents plan on helping their children pay for their education. We also recommend that student borrowers who opt for Citizens Bank have co-signers with great credit and with whom they have a more stable relationship due to the amount of time the co-signer is attached to the Citizens Bank student loan.