Student Loan Referral Bonus Programs: How to Benefit

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A student loan referral bonus can be a great way to help your friends find the best refinancing loan while earning you some cash. A referral bonus can often put money in your pocket or take money off your balance for every person you refer who ends up refinancing with the lender.

Here’s what you need to know about how student loan referral bonus programs work and what you can do to benefit:

What is a student loan referral bonus program?

You may be familiar with referral bonus programs already: the gym that gives you a free month for every friend you refer; the insurance company that reduces your premium for each referral; or the employer that offers you cash for each referral you make that leads to a new hire.

Student loan referral bonus programs are a similar type of perk offered to borrowers. Some student loan refinancing companies will offer a referral bonus as a promotion to encourage you to invite friends to refinance their education debt. If your friend uses your referral to refinance with a participating lender, you’ll receive a financial bonus. In some cases, both you and your friend will receive a bonus.

4 refinancing lenders that offer referral bonuses

Here’s how the process specifically works with four lenders that offer student loan refinancing — and a referral bonus program. For each program, you don’t need to be an existing customer to refer a friend and receive the bonus.

Brazos, ELFI, and LendKey are Credible partners, while SoFI isn’t.

1. Brazos

The Brazos Referral Program offers you $200 each time someone you refer successfully takes out a Brazos Refinance or Parent Loan using your unique referral link. Your $200 bonus will arrive via check to the address you provide to Brazos. Referrals are meant to be for those personally known to you, and Brazos specifies that referrers must not use the program for solicitation.

To receive the referral bonus, the person you refer has to complete the application, get approved for the refinance or parent loan, and receive the first disbursement of the loan. Also, if there is any kind of loan cancellation period, your bonus will not be issued until after that period has elapsed.

You can only receive one bonus per successfully referred refinance or parent loan borrower. However, there is no limit to the number of referrals you can make. Just know that Brazos does specify that you may need to provide a W-9 form if your accrued bonuses add up to more than $599 in any one calendar year. You do not have to have an account with Brazos to be eligible for the referral program.

2. ELFI

ELFI wants to benefit both you and the person you refer to their student loan refinance. This lender sends you a $400 check for the referral bonus and gives your friend $100 off their student loan balance.

Here’s how the program works: When you sign up to be a referrer, you’ll receive a unique referral code. If someone you refer uses the code, you’ll each receive the bonus once your friend completes a loan with Education Loan Finance within 90 days of registration. Within six to eight weeks of the loan disbursement, you’ll receive your check in the mail. ELFI requires all referrers to fill out a W-9.

There’s no limit to the number of friends you can refer, although a referred person can’t be a current Education Loan Finance customer or have held an Education Loan Finance account within the past 24 months.

3. LendKey

Refer a friend to LendKey student loan refinancing, and both you and the friend will earn $200 each. You don’t have to be a LendKey borrower yourself to make referrals. However, any referred borrowers must be friends, family, or personal acquaintances.

The $200 bonus is paid to you via PayPal. LendKey does not specify how the $200 bonus for the referred borrower will be provided — whether as cash or as a balance reduction on their loan. To receive your bonus, the borrower must be a first-time borrower with LendKey, use your referral link, and be approved and accepted. The $200 bonus will be transferred to your PayPal account within four weeks of loan approval or funding.

4. SoFi

Refer a friend to SoFi’s student loan refinancing, and you’ll each receive $300. The bonuses will be deposited into your and your referred friend’s SoFi Bank Checking or Savings accounts. SoFi may provide the bonus money in another way if you don’t qualify for an account with them.

SoFi has a bonus referral cap of $10,000 per calendar year and requires that you have a direct personal relationship with anyone you refer. To refer a friend, you’ll provide them with your unique referral link to the student loan refinancing product. Your friend must use the referral link within 120 days of receiving it from you. You and your referred friend will receive your bonuses 60 days after the loan disbursement date.

Common eligibility requirements

Beyond the lenders listed above, student loan referral bonus programs generally require both you and your referred friend or family member to meet several eligibility requirements to qualify for the referral bonus. These criteria typically include the following:

  • The referrer must be a legal resident of the U.S. and can’t reside in any state that the lender does not service.
  • Some lenders, such as Credible partner lender Brazos, will allow anyone to make a referral, whether or not you have an account or loan with them. Others require the referrer to maintain an account with the lender.
  • The lender will provide you with a personalized referral link. You’ll only receive the bonus if the person you refer uses that specific referral link.
  • You can generally only make a referral to someone you know personally (but you can’t get the referral bonus for “referring” yourself). However, Credible partner lender ELFI suggests sharing your referral link via a blog, website, or social media, which may imply they are a little more open to a nonpersonal connection between you and your referral.
  • The referred person generally has to be a new customer who doesn’t already have a loan or account with the lender.
  • You won’t receive the bonus unless the referred person qualifies for, is approved, and accepts and receives the refinancing loan with the lender.
  • Your referral bonuses are taxable, and you’re responsible for paying taxes on them.

Good to know: If you’re eligible to receive more than $599 in referral bonus cash in any one calendar year, you’ll generally have to fill out an IRS W-9 form so the lender can issue you a 1099-MISC form in January of the following year.

What should you do with your student loan referral bonus?

Some of the best uses this “extra” money might include:

  • Making an extra student loan payment. Sending extra money to your student loan means reducing your principal, shaving a little time off your repayment schedule, and reducing the total amount of interest you pay over time.
  • Paying rent or mortgage. Putting the referral bonus toward your monthly rent or mortgage payment can free up other money in your budget.
  • Paying down debt or other financial obligations. The bonus could help you clear another debt or financial obligation, which can help you reach your money goals sooner.
  • Putting it into an emergency fund. If you don’t already have money set aside in case of an emergency (or rainy day), your bonus could kickstart or add to your emergency fund. It will give you peace of mind for the next financial surprise.
  • Investing in retirement. It can be tough to find money to put into your 401(k), IRA, or other retirement account for your future. This bonus money could help grow your retirement nest egg.

Frequently asked questions

How do student loan referral bonuses work?

While the specific process for a student loan referral bonus program may vary from lender to lender, you can generally expect to follow these steps:

  1. Sign up for the referral program, and receive your referral link.
  2. Refer friends and family via your link.
  3. If the referred party is approved for, accepts, and receives the refinancing loan, you’re eligible to receive the bonus.

Why should you pursue a referral bonus?

Getting a referral bonus not only lets you help a friend or family member find a good student loan refinancing option, but you can also put some extra cash in your pocket. Everyone loves getting some money they didn’t have to go to work to earn. And there are a number of ways to use the referral money to help further your financial goals (see examples above).

What other types of student loan refinancing bonuses are there?

Referral bonuses are only one kind of reward offered to borrowers. Some additional types of bonuses you may qualify for include:

  • Autopay discounts: Many lenders offer an interest rate reduction in exchange for setting up autopay. These rate reductions are typically worth 0.25 percentage points and can save you money over the life of your loan.
  • Loyalty rewards: If you refinance your student loan with a lender who you already have a relationship with — because you have another loan or account with them — you’ll likely qualify for a loyalty reward bonus. These bonuses could be a rate reduction, a reduction in your student loan balance, or a cash payment.

About the author

Emily Guy Birken

Emily Guy Birken is a Credible authority on student loans and personal finance. Her work has been featured by Forbes, Kiplinger’s, Huffington Post, MSN Money, and The Washington Post online.

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