I'm a freelance writer with several years experience writing about finance.
What Is SoFi?
SoFi is a private financing company that offers student and personal loans to qualified applicants. Their tagline is confusing at best and condescending at worst: "Great loans for great people." This can only mean that if you are approved for a loan through SoFi, you are a great person, and you are getting a great loan (which, to me, would be interest-free). Otherwise, you are a bad person, or you are only capable of getting bad loans.
I suppose one could delve into the argument that if somebody isn’t great, then they are merely "good," but c’mon, man. If you get rejected for a loan, are you really going to say to yourself, "I must not be great, but I’m still pretty good"? No. You will think you’re bad. And when you think you’re bad, you do bad things to people and their property.
The process of getting a loan through SoFi is simple enough, but then again, I am basing this on my experience as a great person who was approved for a great loan (sarcasm noted). After creating an account and submitting a few details, such as my annual salary, birthdate, etc., I was immediately pre-approved for a loan amount that was not what I wanted but was still reasonable. That was it, though—no waiting, no hassle, nothing. You answer a few items, and based on these details, you are pre-approved. I understood why it worked so fast (pre-approval and all). I was just so used to being strung along by brick-and-mortar banks where so much as requesting a role of quarters requires you to take paid time off from work. SoFi might as well have handed me the money at that point!
After pre-approval, you’re asked to submit a few documents: a copy of your previous year’s taxes, an up-to-date paystub, and a photocopy of your driver’s license. Once submitted, that’s it, folks. Your loan goes through SoFi’s review process, which can literally take infinity to finalize. I say this because I called SoFi the next day to inquire about the status of the loan. Let me just break it down into a dialog:
Me: I would like to know the status of my loan.
Customer Service Rep. (CSR): Ok, let me just pull up your information . . . it looks like your loan has been pre-approved and is under review.
CSR: Did you have any other questions today?
Me: Well, I mean, I know the loan is under review. I was just wondering if you knew how long that was going to take.
CSR: No, I’m sorry. We can’t give a definitive timeline.
Me: I understand.
CSR: Our reviewers have been swamped the last few weeks, and they look at the applications as they receive them.
Me: That’s fine. You guys ran a Super Bowl ad and are probably flooded with calls.
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Me: But is there a window of when the review process will finish?
CSR: Like I said, they look at the applications in the order they are received so . . .
Me: Like two weeks?
CSR: I’m sorry, I can’t say.
Me: I understand that you can’t say a date because you can’t be held to that. I just want a ballpark figure because I don’t know how long it takes.
CSR: Again, it all depends on how fast the review team can process it.
Me: Is there a number of days for review that you have seen historically? From experience?
CSR: No, I can’t say.
Me: Not even a general idea?
Me: Like four months? Two years? A decade?
CSR: I can’t say.
Two days later, the loan was approved, but you can bet in those two days, there was a lot of uncertainty. The fact that she couldn’t even tell me a basic guesstimate was a bit upsetting. I don’t believe there was any legal bond if she just offered a general window with all of the ifs covered. Either way, in the event that your loan is approved (thereby validating your status as a great person, regardless of your personal struggles), you will be notified via e-mail that your loan is ready for your signature. This is it! Time to get your money!
Not quite—the last stage of this rather speedy process is verifying that you are who you say you are, which isn’t as easy as it seems. You will be asked four questions which are generated by Experian, the third-party credit-checking group that works with SoFi. These four questions will be based on the details of your credit report and cover material from as far back as you can remember (and further). Each question is multiple choice, which is great . . . especially when you can’t remember who financed that car you picked up for a few months between trade-offs in your sophomore year of college. Or if you actually set up your Macy’s card in May of 2006 (or was it March of 2007?). Or the start date of your first mortgage.
You see, without your credit report handy or without a pile of paperwork beside you, there is a good chance one or more questions will trip you up. It happened to me all because I have two student loans, both of which were listed, but it wanted to know which one was started on a specific date. I chose poorly, as the old templar in Indiana Jones would say, and had to try again.
Well . . . it's not that easy. You only get two chances to answer the questions correctly, and having blown your first attempt, you’re left with no room for error. Then there is the fact that if you answer incorrectly, you must wait 72 hours before you can attempt the questions again. Three days! And that is only if the 72 hours end on a weekday because SoFi must manually reset the system to allow you back into the questions. Hopefully, you don’t need that loan tomorrow.
But SoFi doesn’t directly tell you about the 72-hour wait period. No, they just tell you to call their customer service department to try again. I did so four hours after failing an exam about myself and had a young man set it up to let me answer once again. I logged on, clicked on the link to answer the questions, and . . . the browser froze up and kicked me out. Moments later, I received an e-mail telling me that my loan application was declined; so on and so forth. Apparently, if you do not wait 72 hours after messing up, even though it specifically requires the assistance of SoFi to try again, the system will reject you, count it as a failed test result, and decline your loan.
Imagine the pain of knowing that you are a great person, only to be reminded that you are not. It was like Bane giving people hope before destroying them.
(Just so you know, that customer service rep’s name was Jovanny and, yes, you can request for him personally when you call. I’m telling you, this guy did everything in his power and then some to ensure that my loan process was handled properly. He even reset the questions for me after the 72-hour wait period and called me later in the day of his own accord to ensure everything was okay. Even after I was approved, he called to congratulate me, thank me, and offer a few additional details. I am certain that he did not have to do any of this—with his attitude, he deserves recognition and will likely one day receive a promotion, as well).
My story takes a turn for the bizarre at that point, and hopefully your own will not (just answer the questions correctly, and you’ll be safe). I ended up having to reapply for a new loan (same amount) but was able to talk to a person in customer service who actually did something I’ve never seen in all my years on this planet: he served the customer. He went out of his way to assist me. Considering the first review process took four business days, I thought for sure I’d have to wait another week, but no, not with this guy. He explained to the reviewers that afternoon what was going on—that the new loan was identical to the first in every way—and had the new loan approved by that afternoon. I still had to wait out the remainder of my 72-hour "security" window, but that is a small price to pay to take on some huge debt. Yes!
I was told that the funds would be distributed to my bank account in 7 to 10 business days, but I found a heap of digital money at my disposal two days later. The turnaround time with this company is remarkably fast. Within one week, from start to finish (including my own error), I had the loan I requested. The money has already been spent, and I now owe SoFi a sizable chunk of money every month, but the interest rate is pretty low—lower than anything any bank has ever offered me. It’s still seared into my brain that I had to pay $6,000 interest on a $5,000 bank loan back in 2005 (too bad that wasn’t one of my security questions). Thanks, SoFi!
So to conclude, my overall experience was exceptional. I did deal with some other customer service reps throughout the process who were wholly ineffective, so my story wasn’t all sunshine and cute kittens . . . but the overarching theme was one of expediency and politeness, so I can't much complain. Would I recommend SoFi to others? Based on my experience, yes.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
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Brian Rock from New Jersey on December 15, 2017:
Interesting story. I recently refinanced a loan through SoFi as well, and my experience was much smoother. However, I did have an issue with them verifying my income (I have several sources of supplemental income above my regular salary), and this led to a slight increase in my rate. But SoFi was a much smoother experience and a better rate than both CommonBond and LendKey. I ended up refinancing all of my loans through Credible, and that yielded the best rate and the smoothest overall experience.