Discover Student Loans | Review

·10 min read
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With private student loans, it’s important to pay attention to the fine print. Many lenders charge added fees, such as origination fees or late fees, that can add to your overall cost.

Discover is an exception. It charges no fees at all: It doesn’t have application or origination fees, and it doesn’t even have a late fee. With Discover’s competitive interest rates and lack of fees, it’s a good choice for borrowers looking for private loans to cover their remaining education costs.

Table of Contents:

  • Discover Student Loans Overview

  • Discover’s Services

  • Discover’s Credentials

  • Discover’s Accessibility

  • Discover’s Customer Satisfaction

  • Discover FAQ

  • How We Evaluated Discover

  • Summary of Money’s Discover Review

Discover Student Loans Overview

Although Discover is well known for its credit cards and home loans, it’s also a popular student loan lender. According to the company’s annual report, it works with over 2,400 schools and issued over $10 billion in student loans in 2021.

Pros

  • Cash reward for earning good grades

  • No application, origination or late fees

  • No loan maximums for most loan options

Cons

  • Does not offer cosigner releases

  • Only one repayment term

  • Does not offer loans for career training or certificate programs

None of Discover’s loans charge origination fees, application fees or late fees. You never have to worry about prepayment penalties either, so you can pay off your loans early and save money on interest.

While some private lenders have caps on how much you can borrow, Discover doesn’t have loan limits; you can borrow up to the total cost of attendance at your school. Repayment terms vary based on the type of loan you take out — undergraduate loans have a 15-year term — but you can choose from three different repayment options to manage your loans while you’re in school. Repayment options include interest-only, flat monthly and deferred payments.

Because students tend to have limited credit histories, most student borrowers will need a cosigner on their loan application to qualify. However, be aware that Discover doesn’t offer co-signer releases. The cosigner remains responsible for the loan if you fall behind on your payments until the loan is paid in full. The only workaround is if you refinance the loan and qualify for it to be solely in your name.

Discover’s Services

Discover offers loans for undergraduates, graduate school, medical school, law school, healthcare profession residencies, bar exam study and parent student loans. Other useful products for students include student loan refinancing options and student credit cards.

What they offer: Private student loans

Discover Student Loans

Loan Types

Loan Amounts

Loan Terms

Repayment Options

Variable Rates

Fixed Rates

Undergraduate student loans

$1,000 to total cost of attendance

15 years

Deferred
Interest-only
Flat Monthly

2.99% to 12.59%

4.99% to 13.99%

Grad

$1,000 to total cost of attendance

20 years

Deferred
Interest-only
Flat Monthly

3.49% to 13.99%

4.99% to 14.99%

Law

$1,000 to total cost of attendance

20 years

Deferred
Interest-only
Flat Monthly

3.49% – 12.99%

4.99% to 13.99%

MBA

$1,000 to total cost of attendance

20 years

Deferred
Interest-only
Flat Monthly

3.74% – 10.99%

4.99% – 11.99%

Medical school

$1,000 to total cost of attendance

20 years

Deferred
Interest-only
Flat Monthly

3.49% – 8.59%

4.99% – 9.59%

Healthcare residency

$1,000 to $18,000 (amount varies by profession)

20 years

Deferred
Interest-only
Flat Monthly

4.49% – 7.24%

5.99% – 8.24%

Bar exam

$1,000 to $16,000

20 years

Deferred
Interest-only
Flat Monthly

4.99% – 12.99%

5.99% – 13.99%

Parent

$1,000 to total cost of attendance

15 years

Immediate

7.99% – 13.49%

8.99% – 14.49%

Rates current as of July 11, 2022. Lowest-possible rates include interest-only repayment discount and auto debit reward

All of Discover’s loan options can have variable or fixed interest rates. You can get an interest rate reduction of 0.25% by enrolling in autopay, and borrowers that opt for interest-only repayment can qualify for an additional 0.35% rate discount.

With most of Discover’s loans, you can select one of the three following payment plans:

  • Deferred: The most costly of the three plans, deferred repayment allows you to postpone making payments until after you graduate or leave school. You’ll also have a short grace period before monthly payments are required.

  • Interest-only: With the interest-only plan, you make payments against the interest that accrues each month. You don’t start paying against the principal until after you leave school.

  • Flat: The flat monthly payment option allows you to pay just $25 per month while you’re in school. After you graduate, your payments will increase to include the principal and interest.

However, parent student loans aren’t eligible for any of those payment options. All of Discover’s parent loans are on immediate payment plans, so you’ll have to start making full monthly payments immediately after the final loan disbursement.

Discover does have repayment options for borrowers experiencing financial issues. For example, borrowers may be eligible for a temporary loan deferment or payment extension. And Discover offers loan discharges for borrowers that pass away or become totally and permanently disabled.

What they don’t offer

If you’re considering a loan from Discover, consider these drawbacks:

  • No loan prequalification tool: Most student loan lenders have prequalification tools that allow you to check your rates without damaging your credit. However, Discover doesn’t have that feature, so you have to start the application process and consent to a hard credit check to view your loan options and check your eligibility.

  • No cosigner releases: Most private student loans will require a cosigner. Many companies allow you to apply for a cosigner release after making your payments on time for two or three years, but Discover doesn’t have cosigner releases.

  • No loans for certificate or career training programs: Discover student loans can only be used to pursue degrees. If you want to attend a coding bootcamp or complete a certificate program, you’ll have to work with another lender.

Discover’s Credentials

Unlike other companies that partner with banks to issue their loans, Discover is its own lender. It also services all of the loans it issues. Discover is a member of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).

Licenses and Registrations

Discover is licensed to issue private student loans in all 50 states, so borrowers nationwide can apply for its loans.

Awards and Certifications

Discover is regularly a top pick in student loan rankings. It was selected by Forbes as the “best no-fee lender” in 2021.

Third-Party Ratings

Like other student loan companies, Discover hasn’t been ranked by a third-party consumer agency for its student loan products. However, Discover has been highly ranked for its other financial products, including its credit cards and loans. J.D. Power ranked Discover second in both categories in its 2021 consumer lending and credit card studies.

Regulatory Actions

In 2020, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued a consent order against Discover. The order stated that Discover violated a 2015 consent order that was based on the CFPB’s findings that Discover misrepresented minimum loan payments, the amount of interest consumers owed and other material information. The order required Discover to pay at least $10 million in consumer redress and a $25 million civil penalty.

Regulatory action against a lender of Discover’s size isn’t uncommon, but it highlights the importance of carefully reviewing loan documents and ensuring you understand the terms and fees before signing a contract.

Discover’s Accessibility

Discover stands out from other lenders because of its customer service. Its support team is available around the clock, and Discover also provides educational guides online.

Availability

Unlike other lenders, Discover’s customer service team is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Contact Information

Discover’s support staff is accessible via phone, online chat or secure message:

User Experience

While other companies rely on third-party loan servicers to handle borrower issues after the loan is disbursed, Discover services its own loans. Discover is the company to reach out to if you have difficulties affording your payments or if you have questions about your account.

Limitations

Discover has robust educational resources about student loans on its sites, but it doesn’t have a prequalification option. To check your eligibility for a loan and view your rates, you must consent to a hard credit inquiry.

Discover’s Customer Satisfaction

Discover is a huge company that offers a range of financial products. Customer complaints tend to focus on its other products, such as its credit cards or mortgages, rather than its student loans.

Customer Complaints

On TrustPilot, Discover has a 1.8 out of five TrustScore. Although Discover is accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) with an A+ rating, it has a 1.16 out five rating based on a limited number of customer reviews.

Third-Party Ratings

Like other student loan lenders, Discover has not been rated by third-party organizations for its customer service.

Discover Student Loans FAQ

What credit score is needed for a Discover student loan?

Discover doesn't disclose its minimum credit score requirement for its student loans. But you will need good credit to get the lowest rates. The company's 2021 annual report shows that 94% of Discover student loan borrowers -- or their co-signers -- had credit scores of 660 or above. A score in that range is in the good to excellent category.

Is it possible to consolidate student loans with Discover?

Yes, Discover offers student loan consolidation, also known as student loan refinancing. However, keep in mind that refinancing federal student loans with Discover -- or any student loan refinancing company -- has some drawbacks. Your loans will no longer be part of the federal loan program, so you won't be able to take advantage of perks like loan forgiveness or income-driven repayment plans.

Can you pay off Discover student loans early?

You can make extra payments or pay off the balance on your Discover student loans at any time, without penalty.

Can Discover loans be forgiven?

Because Discover student loans are private, they aren't eligible for federal loan forgiveness programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). However, Discover does offer loan forgiveness if the borrower dies or becomes permanently disabled.

How We Evaluated Discover

To evaluate Discover, we compared it to 18 other student loan companies. We looked at Discover’s available loan options, repayment terms, loan amounts, customer support and financial hardship programs. We particularly focused on available in-school repayment options and alternative payment plans when choosing the top lenders.

Summary of Money’s Discover Review

Whether you’re entering your first year of college or are preparing for your medical residency, Discover has loan options for you. Unlike other lenders, Discover doesn’t charge any fees, so you never have to worry about origination fees, late fees or prepayment penalties.

However, borrowers should be aware that Discover doesn’t offer cosigner releases, nor does it have loans for certificate programs or coding bootcamps. If you’re looking for other education financing options, check out our picks for the best student loans of 2022.

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