iHELP Review of Student Loans and Refinancing (by Zuntafi)
Reunion Student Loan Finance Corporation changed its name to ZuntaFi student loans in August 2020. ZuntaFi still offers the same iHELP student loans that you may have heard of, though the South Dakota-based company is a loan servicer (not lender), partnering with community banks to offer education financing.
iHELP student loans are only available in four to 11 states, depending on your product choice. Offerings run the gamut, from funding for undergraduate and graduate students to refinancing. You might be attracted to its federal loan-like repayment protections, such as graduated and income-sensitive repayment plans.
iHELP student loan refinance review
iHELP student loan refinancing is available in four states: Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. Through refinancing your education debt, you could consolidate and change the terms of your federal and private loans, as well as transfer parent PLUS loans.
iHELP student loan refinancing is a good fit for regional borrowers who are ready to make a final decision on a lender (prequalification isn’t possible for ZuntaFi student loans). It might also be ideal if you prioritize one of the unique features offered, such as repayment plan adjustments or hybrid interest rates.
|What to like:||What to keep in mind:|
iHELP student loan refinance review: The basics
Students and parents with education debt could be eligible to refinance their accounts into one new iHELP student loan, hopefully with better repayment terms. These terms include:
|APRs||Fixed: 3.92%-5.60% |
Fixed hybrid: 3.34%-3.93%
|Basics||Refinance any amount between $10,000 and $250,000 |
Fixed, variable and hybrid rates interest rates available
Rate discounts of 0.25 percentage points for enrolling in autopay
No loan origination fee
|Eligibility||U.S. citizenship or permanent residency |
Two years of positive credit history
Minimum annual income of $24,000
No degree required
|Applying||No prequalification process available: A hard credit check is needed to receive a quote |
Option to apply with a cosigner
No prepayment penalty or origination fee
|Repayment||5, 8 or 12 years (for fixed rates); 20 years (variable or hybrid) |
Cosigner release may be available after 24 months of repayment
|Support||Deferment may be available if you return to school |
Forbearance may be available if you experience “financial difficulty,” especially if it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic
Gradual and income-sensitive repayment plans are available if you suffer a financial hardship
What to like about iHELP refinance for student loans
ZuntaFi’s rebranding included a sleek new website and borrower portal. That’s one of a few characteristics that are benefits of refinancing with this lender.
Fixed and variable — and hybrid — APRs offered
Fixed and variable interest rates are the norm among companies and financial institutions that refinance student loans. Very few lenders also offer hybrid rates, which are a mixture of fixed and variable.
Also known as hybrid loans, these rates start out as fixed before becoming variable (or adjustable) over time. iHELP student loans have the option of a “fixed hybrid rate” that could see your APR increase or decrease every five years that you remain in repayment.
More repayment protections than most lenders offer
No private loan companies offer the same menu of deferments and forbearances as well as repayment plan options that come with federal loans. But iHelp student loans come closer than most industry competitors. Its deferment (for going back to school) and forbearance (for economic hardship) don’t have clear-cut criteria, however, meaning you’re not guaranteed to receive approval.
During the coronavirus pandemic, ZuntaFi also offered a national emergency forbearance in case COVID-19 caused borrowers to need health care or changed their employment.
For its part, iHELP student loans also feature the potential option of changing the repayment plan outlined in your master promissory note. There are two repayment plans available:
|Graduated||Your monthly payment starts out lower and gradually increases over time (hopefully, as your income increases)|
|Income-sensitive||Your monthly dues hinge on your gross monthly income (income verification required to qualify)|
Transfer parent PLUS loans into your name
If your mom or dad borrowed federal loans on your behalf, you might like to “take over” their repayment. ZuntaFi makes that easy by allowing you to refinance and consolidate parent PLUS loans along with any federal or private loans in your name. The ability to transfer parent PLUS loans is available among other lenders, too.
Graduation not a part of eligibility requirements
ZuntaFi imposes some strict eligibility requirements, such as being a citizen or permanent resident of legal adult age. Credit history and income criteria also limit access to some borrowers. On the bright side, however, non-graduates are welcome to apply. This is a departure from many competing lenders that require you to have finished your academic program before you can refinance.
Experienced customer service
iHELP Student Loans claims 40 years industry experience, having serviced more than $9 billion in loans belonging to more than 875,000 borrowers.
ZuntaFi also says that it separates itself by handling “the entire journey of the loan” in-house, from your application to the end of repayment. Just keep in mind that the company is your servicer, not your lender.
What to keep in mind about iHELP refinance for student loans
Aside from iHELP Student Loans having limited availability – refinancing is possible in just four states – its position as a non-lender could be quite problematic.
Checking eligibility, rates requires hard credit check
The only way to confirm your eligibility and view potential APRs for iHELP student loans is by completing a full application that requires a hard credit inquiry.
With other refinancing companies, some of which handle both lending and servicing, you can prequalify — that is, provide some basic information about yourself and submit to a soft credit inquiry that won’t impact your credit score. For this reason, it’s wise to only apply with ZuntaFi at the end of your shopping-around process, once you’re ready to make a final decision.
ZuntaFi is a servicer, not a lender
It might appear that ZuntaFi isn’t as transparent as it could be. On some topics, such as with cosigner release, the company merely says certain features could be available. This could be less about forthrightness and more about the fact that ZuntaFi doesn’t originate loans, only services them.
In any case, it can be difficult to evaluate ZuntaFi as a refinancing option when the servicer doesn’t share more information about its partner lenders. Policies are not clear on important issues, such as whether iHELP loans are discharged in the case of the borrower’s disability or death.
How iHELP student loan refinance compares
As with any financial product, student loan refinancing should involve browsing before buying.
|SLH rating||4.1/5||Not yet rated||Not yet rated|
|Products||Student loan refinancing|
Parent PLUS loan refinancing
|Student loan refinancing|
Parent PLUS loan refinancing
Medical resident refinancing
|Student loan refinancing |
|Eligibility requirements||Two years of positive credit history|
Minimum annual income of $24,000
U.S. citizenship or permanent residency
No diploma required
|Good or excellent credit score|
No minimum income
Nonpermanent residents without eligible visas can apply with a permanent resident cosigner
|660 credit score |
No minimum income requirement
Citizenship, permanent residency or eligible visa-holder
College degree from lender network university
|APRs||Fixed: 4.00% - 8.00%|
Variable: 3.94% - 9.80%
Fixed hybrid: 3.34%-3.93%
|Variable starting at 5.74% and fixed starting at 4.99%||Variable starting at 4.44% and fixed starting at 4.49%|
|Minimum loan amount||$35,000||$5,000||$5,000|
|Repayment terms available||20 years||5, 7, 10, 15, 20 years years||Up to 20 years|
|Apply with a cosigner||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Is refinancing student loans with ZuntaFi right for you?
ZuntaFi’s iHELP student loans have a lot going for them, from unique features to experienced customer service staff. It also offers a competitive range of interest rates, which is typically the most critical factor when comparing offers.
ZuntaFi’s refinancing experience could be improved, however. Just to check your potential rate and repayment term, you’d have to file a full application.
If you live in one of the four states where ZuntaFi refinancing is available, it could still be worth considering, particularly if you’re drawn to hybrid rates or repayment protections. Still, it’s also worth your time to check out other student loan refinancing options first.
Best student loan refinancing options for…
|Parent PLUS loan consolidation||Refinancing with a credit union|
|Job loss protection||Refinancing without a college degree|
|Consolidating six figures of student loan debt|
How to apply for refinancing with ZuntaFi
ZuntaFi doesn’t offer prequalification, but it says that its application process is straightforward. Expect to go through these steps to apply:
- Complete an application that calls for your personal and financial information (and that of your cosigner, if you have one).
- Verify the information you provide by uploading documentation, such as your ID and tax returns or pay stubs, to the ZuntaFi website.
- Receive your finalized loan offer, comprising the terms and conditions of your debt.
- If you accept the loan, ZuntaFi will redirect the loan funds to your current loan servicers to pay off your original student loans.
iHELP Student Loans review
ZuntaFi’s iHELP student loans can be used by students and their parents for undergraduate, graduate, medical and flight school, though they’re only available in up to 11 states (see basics, below). Once you select your loan type and school on the ZuntaFi website, you can review potential rates and terms.
iHELP student loans are a good fit for regional borrowers who have already compared rates and terms elsewhere (ZuntaFi doesn’t offer prequalification) and are willing to give up a fixed APR in exchange for more repayment protections than most private lenders offer.
|What to like:||What to keep in mind:|
iHELP Student Loans review: The basics
Because iHELP student loans aren’t available nationally, your first step should be to confirm the lender works where you plan to attend school.
|Availability||Undergraduate: MA, MD, NY, PA, SD, VA and WV |
Graduate school: CA, FL, GA, ID, MA, MD, NY, PA, SD, UT, VA and WV
Medical school: CA, FL, GA, ID, PA, UT and VA
Flight school: AZ, CA, CO, FL, GA, KS, MN, NC, OH, TX and UT
|APRs||Undergraduate: 2.09%-6.77% (variable), 4.12%-7.78% (hybrid) |
Graduate school: Rates vary by state, school (variable, hybrid)
Medical school: Rates vary by state, school (variable, fixed and hybrid)
Flight school: Rates vary by state, school (variable)
|Basics||Borrow $1,000 to $100,000 (for undergraduate), $1,000 to $150,000 (graduate) |
Automatic payment discount of 0.25 percentage points
|Eligibility||U.S. citizenship or permanent residency |
3 years of positive credit history
$18,000-$24,000 minimum income
Enrolled at least half time at a participating school
|Applying||Applying with a cosigner is not required but could help you qualify |
No application, origination or other fees (there is a 1% origination fee for medical and flight school loans)
|Repayment||Standard six-month grace period (60 days for flight school loans) |
No prepayment penalties
Three in-school repayment options, including full deferment
Repayment term option: Varies by loan type, school and state
Release your cosigner after 24 months of prompt payments (and meeting other criteria)
Forgiveness offered only the case of the primary borrower’s death
|Support||ZuntaFi’s graduated and income-sensitive repayment plans could be a useful alternative if you need a lower monthly payment |
Deferment (for returning to school) and forbearance (economic hardship) could be available to pause your repayment
What to like about iHELP Student Loans
Besides having loans for four different types of higher education, ZuntaFi stands out in the following ways.
Three in-school repayment options, including deferment
Though the vast majority of students defer payment on their loans until after leaving campus, making in-school payments can stop interest from accruing onto your balance while you’re busy studying.
iHELP student loans feature three in-school repayment options:
- Standard: Full principal-and-interest payments
- Deferred: Skip payments until after your post-school grace period ends
- Interest-only: Partial payments, covering only the accrued interest
Two-year path to cosigner release
Borrowing student loans with cosigner support is the norm, particularly for undergraduate students who can’t qualify for funding on their own. Cosigner release allows you to thank your cosigner and send them on their way, releasing their name and responsibility from the loan agreement.
iHELP student loans allow you to release your cosigner after 24 full and prompt monthly payments.
Deferment, forbearance and alternative repayment plans
Private student loans pale in comparison to federal loans in the category of repayment safeguards. And yet, iHELP Student Loans offers a few federal loan-like programs, including:
- Deferment: Request to pause your loans if you return to school down the road.
- Forbearance: Request to postpone monthly payments if you suffer an economic hardship, or during a national emergency like the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Alternative repayment plans: Request to lower your monthly dues via a graduated or income-sensitive repayment plan until you can improve your cash-flow.
Just keep in mind that, unlike with federal loans, these programs aren’t guaranteed. ZuntaFi awards them on a case-by-case basis and doesn’t share explicit eligibility criteria.
Four decades of industry experience
ZuntaFi promises to assign you a specific customer service contact for your whole borrowing experience, and it’s likely that that person will know what they’re talking about. The company has been around since 1978 with an average staff tenure of more than a decade.
What to keep in mind about iHELP student loans
Even if iHELP student loans are available for your state and school, there are a few other lender characteristics to be aware of.
No prequalification process in place
ZuntaFi’s student loans require a full application and hard credit check off the bat. If you’re just starting to browse lenders, you’re better off prequalifying with competing companies to confirm your eligibility and review rate quotes.
Rate options are few for some borrowers
It’s a real plus that iHELP student loans can be repaid with hybrid rates, as that option could be appealing to borrowers who want to start off their repayment with a consistent (fixed) rate before seeing it fluctuate (variable). But unfortunately, ZuntaFi doesn’t offer all three rate options to all of its customers.
Most notably, fixed rates aren’t an option for undergraduate and graduate students. That could turn you off if you like the idea of a rate that won’t change for the life of your loan.
Not accessible for nontraditional students
Given that iHELP student loans are for borrowers and cosigners who are citizens or permanent residents, undocumented and international students are excluded. Part-time students are also left out of the mix, as ZuntaFi customers must be borrowers who are attending class at least half time.
If you’re a nontraditional student, there are other lenders out there that may cater to your needs.
|Not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident?||Prodigy Finance is among lenders assisting international student borrowers|
|Not attending classes at least half time?||There are lenders with part-time student loan options|
How iHELP student loans compare
Browsing for rates and terms among multiple private student loan companies can help ensure you secure the best loan possible.
|ZuntaFi’s iHELP||Sallie Mae||SoFi|
|SLH rating||4.2/5||Not yet rated||Not yet rated|
|Loans for...||Undergraduate and graduate students|
|Undergraduate and graduate students|
Career school loans
Business, law, medical, dental and health professions loans
Bar study and medical residency loans
|Undergraduate and graduate students |
Business and law school
|APRs||Variable starting at 2.09% and fixed starting at 4.12%||Variable starting at and fixed starting at||Variable starting at 5.16% and fixed starting at 4.49%|
|Ability to prequalify without affecting credit||No||No||Yes|
|In-school repayment options||3||3||4|
|Repayment terms||10, 20 years||, 15 years||5, 10, 15 years|
|Cosigner release available||Yes — after 24 months of timely payments (and meeting other criteria)||Yes — after 12 months of timely payments||Yes — after 24 months of timely payments|
Information on iHELP interest rates and loan amounts is current as of Jan. 13, 2022.
You’ll very likely be better off if you shop around beyond a few lenders. Make sure you learn all about the best options for your specific needs.
|Borrower||Programs||Other degrees||Personal situation||Lender feature|
|Adults returning to school||Community college||Associate degree||Applying without a cosigner||Credit unions|
|Graduate students||Trade school||Non-degree programs||Bad or no credit||Cosigner release|
|Parents||Nursing school||Economic hardship forbearance|
Are iHELP student loans right for you?
For students (and their parents) attending college, graduate, medical or flight school in certain states, iHELP student loans could be a boon. They feature competitive interest rates and a fairly expansive safety net should you struggle in repayment.
On the other hand, ZuntaFi’s student loans aren’t for everyone. Nontraditional students like non-permanent residents or part-time enrollees will have to find funding elsewhere. And even if you can meet the lender’s eligibility requirements, you might prefer working with another company that will quote you a fixed APR for the life of your loan.
Regardless of your impression after reading this ZuntaFi review, it’s wise to shop around with other private student loan options before choosing a loan.
How to apply with ZuntaFi
If you’re ready to apply for an iHELP student loan, here are the steps of the process:
- Register on ZuntaFi’s website and complete the application
- Upload documents, such as your ID or financial records, to verify information
- Upon approval, wait for ZuntaFi to certify your potential loan amount with your school
- Formally accept (or decline) the terms of the loan, and funds will be disbursed to your school
How to contact ZuntaFi
ZuntaFi originates new loans Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. CST. It services existing loans Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CST. Its toll-free number is 800-645-8272.
Otherwise, contact information for iHELP student loans varies depending on what you’re trying to do:
|To ask about student loan products||Email: [email protected] |
|To ask about your current student loan||Email: [email protected] |
|To mail student loan payments||ZuntaFi |
PO Box 4500
Aberdeen, SD 57402-4500
Methodology for ratings
To come up with our shield rating for student loan refinancing lenders and companies/private student loan lenders and companies, LendingTree asks hard questions — 20 of them, in fact. These questions span three categories — accessibility, rates & terms and repayment experience — because we want to judge financial institutions on their products and services from start to finish: when our users are shopping around, filing applications and paying down their debt.
A top-rated lender, for instance, has inclusive eligibility criteria, allows you to prequalify and check rates without harming your credit score and is supportive as you face monthly payments.
The answers that we get to our 20 questions — either from the lenders themselves or by combing through their fine print — determine each lender’s overall rating. We score answers consistently, sometimes awarding partial points, to ensure that you can make equal comparisons between all lenders that we put under the microscope.
LendingTree isn’t paid for conducting these reviews, and lenders don’t have a say in their content. The goal with our reviews and ratings, along with everything else we do, is to give our users the most comprehensive and up-to-date information available to make the best decisions according to their borrowing needs.
LendingTree has independently collected the above information related to ZuntaFi student loans, which is current as of Jan. 14, 2022, unless otherwise noted. None of the financial institutions named has either provided or reviewed the information shared in this article.
Frequently asked questions
If you didn’t find your question answered in our Zuntafi reviews, see the following FAQs:
iHELP student loans are privately financed products available from ZuntaFi, a South Dakota-based service provider. iHELP loans are lent by community banks that partner with ZuntaFi.
iHELP student loans are worth considering if you’ve exhausted all other forms of financial aid for higher education, including federal student loans. Private loans, like iHELP’s, lack the benefits that are largely exclusive to federal loans. With that said, an iHELP loan could bridge any remaining gap in your school’s cost of attendance and may offer better rates or terms than you’d find elsewhere.
ZuntaFi student loans, also known as iHELP loans, are private loans lent by community banks in select states. Federal loans, on the other hand, are lent by the federal government’s Department of Education and require completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
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