Do you feel overwhelmed by your student loan payments?
It can be time-consuming and tedious to keep track of all of them. And are you really sure you have the best interest rate you can get? Or maybe the rate is reasonable, but the monthly payments feel like more than you can afford.
That’s where student loan refinancing comes in. Refinancing can be a great way to snag a better interest rate and eliminate a bunch of headaches in the process. You can also lower how much you pay each month — or even raise the amount if you’re looking to pay off your debt more quickly.
Here are some of the best reasons to refinance your student loans.
1. Lock in a lower interest rate
When you refinance your student loans, you combine all your federal and private loans into one new loan with a private lender. This private lender could be a bank, credit union or an online institution like SoFi or CommonBond.
Before giving you an offer, the lender reviews your income and credit score. If you have a steady job and strong credit, you could qualify for excellent interest rates, since these factors show that you’re not a risky candidate for a loan.
Most lenders look for a credit score of 650 or higher. If your score falls below that mark, applying with a cosigner could net you a better interest rate. Adding a cosigner to your application can be another way to reduce risk in the eyes of the lender.
The lender will offer you a variety of loan terms with both fixed and variable interest rates. Currently, variable rates tend to be lower than fixed rates at the beginning, but they could go up (or down) over time. Whatever you choose, lowering your interest rate could save you lots of money over the life of your loan.
Let’s say you have $50,000 in student loan debt with an average interest rate of 6.80%. Through refinancing, you lock in a new fixed interest rate of just 4.99%. After 10 years of repayment, you would save over $5,438 on interest.
You can game out different interest rates for your own situation with our student loan refinancing calculator.
2. Reduce your monthly payments
Refinancing your student loans may mean a lower interest rate, but it can also change your repayment terms if you qualify.
Most federal and private loans come with a 10-year repayment term. Although student loan refinancing options vary by bank, most range from five to 20 years.
If your current loan has a 10-year repayment term and you refinance to a 20-year term, your monthly payments will of course drop significantly. This can help add room in your monthly budget if you need it.
Let’s reconsider that example of $50,000 in debt at a 4.99% interest rate. On a 10-year term, you’d pay $530 per month. But if you lengthen your repayment term to 20 years, you’d pay just $330 every month. That $200 in monthly savings could be just what you need to make rent or buy groceries.
The federal government also offers some income-driven repayment plans, such as Pay As You Earn (PAYE) and Income-Based Repayment (IBR), but they only apply to federal student loans — and you also might not even qualify if you don’t meet the income requirement.
Student loan refinancing helps grads who don’t qualify for income-based repayment but also don’t make enough money yet to manage their student loan payments comfortably.
Keep in mind, though, that a longer payment term can mean more interest paid over time — so pay attention to the total cost of the loan and consider paying it off early when your finances improve. Often, there’s no penalty for prepaying your loans before the term is up, but always check with your lender to be sure.
3. Take advantage of a flexible repayment plan
Banks and other private lenders aren’t usually known for their flexibility, but some do offer helpful repayment options if you go back to school or run into financial hardship.
SoFi, for instance, lets you defer your monthly payments if you return to school on at least a half-time basis. CommonBond offers temporary forbearance in the case of economic hardship.
Some private lenders (SoFi and Laurel Road, among them) also honor an existing six-month grace period if your current loan has one. So if you refinance right after graduation, you may not have to start paying until your grace period is up.
That said, refinancing your student loans with a private lender means you lose access to federal repayment plans. Some of these plans include IBR, Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR) and Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE).
Plus, you won’t have access to federal loan forgiveness programs, such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). So before refinancing, make sure you won’t need these federal programs.
4. Release a cosigner from your student loan
Sometimes if your parents are cosigners on your current student loans, it can add stress to your relationship with them. What’s more, your loan impacts your cosigner’s credit and their ability to borrow additional funds.
When you refinance with a private lender, you could be eligible to release your cosigner. Some lenders remove your cosigner from the loan after you make on-time payments for a certain number of months. Two banks that currently offer cosigner release are LendKey and Citizens Bank.
Once released, your cosigner can improve their credit score. As a result, they’ll gain access to new lines of financial capital if they need to buy a big-ticket item like a home or car.
If you’re looking to release a parent or other cosigner from your student loans, find out which lenders will work with you. If you have good credit and a steady income, it will be a lot easier to release your cosigner.
Similarly, refinancing could allow your mom and dad to transition a federal parent PLUS loan into your name.
5. Switch to a lender offering better service
Some borrowers find themselves unhappy with their student loan lender or servicer — student loan refinancing gives you the opportunity to switch to a new one with better customer service, if that’s an issue.
Many new lenders in the refinancing space offer extensive online and phone-based customer service. Plus, they help you throughout the application process.
6. Consolidate student loans for easier management
If you borrowed money to pay for college, it’s likely you have more than one student loan you need to repay. On top of that, student loan servicers buy and sell loans. That means you could end up sending your payments to new places every few years. This becomes confusing and hard to manage after a while.
Student loan refinancing allows you to combine multiple student loans into one, making your debt easier to organize, track and repay.
Rather than riding herd over multiple payments and interest rates each month, you only have to worry about making one payment — with one potentially lower interest rate.
A direct consolidation loan through the federal government would also combine your debt, although it would leave you with about the same interest rates. Refinancing solves both problems.
If you’re tired of dealing with multiple student loans with various terms, research your student loan refinancing options. You could save money, time and a whole lot of hassle.
Still wondering if refinancing is a good idea for you? Answer a few questions, and we’ll help you find the right solution.
Still wondering if refinancing is a good idea for you? Answer a few questions below, and we’ll help you find the right solution.
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Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.