About six months ago I began seeing comments on posts about student loan refinancing mentioning a mysterious bank that was offering ridiculously low rates. As you all know, every time I find a company doing awesome things for doctors and other high income professionals, I try to bring them on as a site sponsor. It’s a win-win-win. The company makes money, I make money, and readers get an awesome service in exchange for their money. In the case of student loan refinancing, that often mean saving literally tens of thousands of dollars in interest. This “mysterious bank” is doing something so awesome that it is worth dedicating an entire post to what they’re doing. But lest there be any doubt about my ulterior motives (with this post and this for-profit site), if you refinance your student loans with this bank through the process described in this post, I make money.

Awesome Rates

The bank is First Republic Bank and the reason they’re awesome is that they’re offering incredibly low rates compared to everyone else in the space. All the rates are fixed, but they’re basically at the same rates that other banks offer variable loans to their very best customers. Take a look at their current rate chart (as of March 2016):

  • 5 Year Fixed: 2.25%
  • 7 Year Fixed: 2.95%
  • 10 Year Fixed: 3.75%
  • 15 Year Fixed: 4.10%

If you follow this stuff closely, you know why I’m so excited about this. If you don’t, let me spell it out in detail:

# 1 The rates are super low. For example, the best 5 year fixed rate with CommonBond, CredibleSoFi, and DRB right now is 3.5%. The best 5 year variable rate with SoFi, DRB, Credible, and CommonBond is 2.13%. First Republic is offering a fixed rate that is 1.55% lower than anyone else. In fact, it’s 0.18% lower than anyone else’s VARIABLE rate.

# 2 There is only one rate. No range of rates like you see with most refinancers. For example, the 5 year fixed rate with most good companies ranges from 3.5%-6%, and with some companies, the range is even higher. With First Republic, if you qualify, you get the rate.

Excited yet? I am. This means even if you have already refinanced, it probably makes sense to do it again with First Republic.

What’s the Catch?

If you’ve been reading WCI for a while, you know there’s going to be a catch. In fact, there are a few catches. But many of you, perhaps as many as 1/3 of you, are still going to be interested. Here’s the main catch: You have to live in some very specific geographic areas. Here they are:

  • California, specifically San Francisco, Palo Alto, Newport Beach, Palm Desert, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Santa Barbara
  • New York, NY
  • Boston, MA
  • Portland, OR
  • Palm Beach, FL
  • Greenwich, CT

That’s it. If you don’t live in any of those areas, they’re not interested in refinancing your loans. That’s because what they are really interested in isn’t refinancing your loans, but starting a life-long private banking relationship with you. So if you don’t live where they have bank branches, they’d just as soon have you refinance with someone else. I knew some of you would be curious, so I asked what it really meant to live there. Here was the answer:

We don’t ask for proof of where they live, however they will need to show us paystubs, bank statements and a driver’s license; and if the address they gave us doesn’t match those documents, it would be a red flag.

Sorry if I just broke your heart. But finally, finally, there is something good for doctors practicing in California, Manhattan, and Boston- some of the highest tax and cost of living areas in the country.

Minor Issues

There are a few other relatively minor catches. I’ll list them here:

You Must Qualify

Like with anybody besides the federal government, you have to qualify financially. [Update 3/21/16- You’ll need to contact them to see if you qualify.]

No Resident Refinancing

While they don’t specifically say residents can’t refinance, there is no program to allow you to refinance based on your future projected income nor a way for you to keep your in-training payments low (like you see with DRB and Link Capital.) Basically, they make you wait until you have the necessary income and liquidity to be able to qualify for the loan.

You Should Bank With Them

The rates offered include a discount for having a banking relationship with them. It’s a really, really big discount such that you probably don’t want to refinance with them unless you’re going to bank with them. What does a banking relationship mean? It means depositing your main source of income there and auto debiting the loan payments out of it. You get a personalized, dedicated banker and reimbursement of your ATM fees, but there are monthly fees if you don’t keep $3,500 in the account.

This Isn’t a Student Loan

This loan is a personal, unsecured loan with all that entails. It’s not a student loan.  It doesn’t qualify for ICR, IBR, PAYE, RePAYE, or PSLF and probably not for any state or employer offered student loan repayment program. It doesn’t go away if you die (and will be assessed against your estate.) Of course, if you go bankrupt, it does go away, unlike student loans. There are no provisions made for unemployment, underemployment, death, or disability. So be sure you have enough life and disability insurance to cover the amount borrowed.

$300K Limit

Their general limit for this loan is $300K. I know many of you have a larger loan burden than this. There is a minimum too- $60K. Even if they don’t approve you for more than $300K, at least you can refinance the highest interest $300K as long as you otherwise qualify.

What Is the WCI Deal?

Want an extra $200 in your pocket (or better yet, put toward your loans?) This is how you get the special, negotiated WCI deal. You have to email cindy@whitecoatinvestor.com (not me) with the words “First Republic Referral” in the subject line for a direct referral or contact my banker Kerry Berchtold at 339-235-0419 or kberchtold@firstrepublic.com and let her know you were referred by WCI. Also, you would do well to remember what has happened with other student loan refinancers in the past once their services were widely publicized- they got really busy and sometimes even ran out of money requiring them to stop taking new applications or delay loan disbursement for a few weeks or even months until they could get more money to loan out. So you would do well to hurry up and apply! If you are an attending with student loans not going for PSLF, and live in one of the above mentioned areas, stop reading now and send Cindy an email.

What if First Republic Doesn’t Work For You?

Even if First Republic can’t refinance your loans, this is still an awesome development in this space because it puts pressure on all the other refinancing companies to keep rates as low as they can while staying profitable. There are plenty of other companies who have refinanced the loans of WCI readers. Use the links below to get the special WCI deals (and to help support this site):

Lend Key $300 back to you

All loans funded by community lenders.

CommonBond – $300 back to you

Long-time player, no maximum loan amount, they do Parent PLUS loans too.

SoFi – $300 back to you*

One of the top two lenders for WCI readers. Literally hundreds of satisfied customers. Disclaimer

Credible – $350 back to you

The “Kayak” of student loan refinancing- apply with eight companies with a single application.

Earnest – $300 back to you

You get to choose custom terms- pick your payment and switch between fixed and variable rates without charge.

Darien Rowayton Bank (DRB) – $300 back to you

One of only two companies that will refinance residents and one of the top two lenders for WCI readers. Not the fanciest website, but often very low rates.

First Republic Bank$200 back to you

The lowest rates out there but only available to those who live in California, New York City, Boston, Portland (OR), Greenwich,  and Palm Beach. Email Cindy at cindy@whitecoatinvestor.com with the words “First Republic Referral” in the subject line or contact my banker Kerry Berchtold at 339-235-0419 or kberchtold@firstrepublic.com and let her know you were referred by WCI.

LinkCapital – $150 back to you

One of only two companies that will refinance residents.

Do you bank at First Republic Bank? Have you refinanced your loans there? What was your experience like? Will you be applying now that you’ve read this? Comment below!