Citizens was founded in the late 1800s in Rhode Island. Today it is one of the largest commercial banks in the United States. Branches are concentrated in the New England, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions.
- Citizens offers multi-year endorsement loans, which means once you’ve started, you can continue to get funding for subsequent years in school without having to go through a credit check every year.
- Borrowers who are citizen customers who sign up for automatic payments can reduce their interest rates by 0.5 percentage points.
- International students can apply if they have a co-signer who is a US citizen or permanent resident with good credit.
- Citizens only offer student loans for four-year Title IV-eligible public and private institutions. In other words, if you attend a two-year institution, including most community colleges, or a for-profit school, you are not eligible.
- There is no pre-approval or instant request. You must go through a credit check to see if you are approved.
Find the best student loans for you
Citizens offers loans for undergraduates, graduates and parents. The company also offers refinance loans for student and parent loans.
Citizens do not disclose minimum FICO credit score, minimum credit history, or maximum debt-to-income ratio requirements for loan approval. It also has no pre-approval or “instant” application available. You will need to apply before you can find out the approval and loan terms. Co-signers are accepted.
Citizens offers fixed and variable rate student loans with terms ranging from five to 15 years.
You can apply for a loan from $1,000 to $350,000. For undergraduate and graduate degrees, the overall lifetime limit is $150,000, while MBA and law degrees cannot exceed $225,000. Loans for healthcare degrees have limits of $180,000 or $350,000, depending on the degree you choose.
There are no application, set-up or disbursement fees.
If you already have a Citizens account such as a checking account or an existing student loan, you will receive a loyalty discount of 0.25 points on your interest rate. Borrowers who allow automatic payments for their loans will receive another 0.25 interest rate reduction.
To qualify for a loan, you will need to complete an online application. The company will determine your eligibility using information such as credit score, income, credit history, and work history.
Although co-signers are not required, you may need them to qualify for a loan if you do not have a sufficient credit history.
If you plan to use the funds to study abroad, you will need to ensure that the program is run by a US college, as citizens will not contribute funds to schools outside the United States.
Citizens does not disclose a minimum credit score, as it bases its lending decision on several factors such as your credit score, credit history, and debt-to-equity ratio. The company has a minimum household income requirement of $12,000 per year for the borrower or co-signer.
In some cases, the decision on the student loan application can be immediate or within three to five business days. But the average application process takes about two to four weeks.
Citizen student loan borrowers can decide whether or not to make payments while in school. Refund options include:
- Interest-only payments while in school
- Full payments during studies
- Deferred payment, no payment to school required
Citizens does not disclose specific requirements or policies regarding abstention or deferment due to financial hardship.
Borrowers can reduce their student loan interest rate by 0.25 percentage points when they are enrolled in automatic payments and another 0.25 if they are Citizens customers.
The company has a chat feature on its website that instantly connects you to a live representative as well as a hotline to speak with a live agent. Phone hours are 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, and 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Saturday. The company also has an email question answering option where you can search for previously submitted questions and answers or ask your own question. Email questions are usually answered within one business day.
US News gave Citizens 4.3 out of 5 stars overall for its student loans. The median of lenders rated by US News was 4.3.
Citizens has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau and is BBB accredited.
In 2020, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau received 26 student loan complaints about citizens. The most common issues were related to:
- Dealing with the Lender or Service Agent
- Struggling to repay the loan
Citizens provided quick response to CFPB for any issues.
- Four-year undergraduate or graduate students who wish to complete the application process only once
- International students with a US-based co-signer
- Students who do not want to pay the loan fees