Refinancing your student loans can be a smart strategy. You can secure a lower interest rate, reduce monthly payments, or otherwise renegotiate the terms of your debt.
But like most money moves, refinancing student loans should be carefully thought out to ensure it’s the best option. Ask these 10 questions as you refinance your student loans to make the best decision.
1. What is my main goal for refinancing student loans?
The first thing you need to decide is what outcome you’re hoping for by refinancing student loans.
There are some great reasons to refinance student loans. You can lock in lower interest rates, reduce monthly payments, or get rid of debt faster.
It’s important to be clear on which benefits are most important to you. Your overall goal will dictate your refinancing decisions and help you choose the loan that will best meet your needs.
This student loan refinance calculator can help you compare refinance terms and see which gets you closest to what you want.
2. What interest rates can I get?
If you want to get a lower interest rate, you need to first figure out what your current rates are. Interest rates on federal student loans can range from just under 4% to over 7%, depending on the type of loan. Private student loan rates can be even higher, averaging around 9% to 12%.
When you refinance your loans, you replace existing student loans with a new one. This gives you a chance to shop for a lower interest rate.
The higher your current interest rate, the more you’ll benefit from refinancing to a lower rate. A lower student loan rate will save you money as it charges less interest and will reduce monthly payments. The best lenders that refinance student loans offer rates starting as low as 1.87%.
3. What are my student loan payoff amounts?
When researching the interest rates on your current loans, you should also note the payoff amount. This is the amount you owe to pay off student loans in full. It’s higher than the current balance because it includes any interest you still owe.
The total payoff amount for all the student loans you hope to combine through refinance will be the balance of your refinanced loan.
If you have higher student loan balances, you might want to choose a longer repayment period to keep monthly payments manageable. With a lower balance, a shorter term could help you save on interest.
Wondering if refinancing is a good idea for you? Answer a few questions below and we’ll help you find the right solution! Otherwise, scroll down to read on.
4. How much can I afford to pay each month?
Whether new student loan payments will be affordable will depend mostly on your income. The more you earn each month, the more you can afford to pay.
Under federal guidelines, affordable monthly payments are equal to 10 percent of your discretionary income.
Take a look at your budget and add up your bare-minimum monthly living costs. Any money left over is discretionary income, which you can decide what to do with. Calculate 10 percent of that amount and you’ll get an idea of the monthly student loan payment you can afford.
Of course, borrowers’ abilities to repay will also depend on their unique circumstances.
The payments you’ve already been making can give you a baseline of what’s affordable for you. If it’s been a struggle to make payments, consider refinancing under terms that will lower the payments and give you more room in your budget.
5. What is my credit score?
When heading into the refinancing process, you need to know what your credit score is and what it means to private lenders.
If you know your credit score, you can see what kind of interest rates and terms you might qualify for. Hopefully, your credit score has improved since you first took out student loans. It’ll be easier to qualify for a refinance and get favorable terms if you have good credit.
6. Do I need a cosigner? Is cosigner release an option?
If your income or credit score is too low, your new lender might require a cosigner to insure your student loans in the case of default. Learn more about refinancing with a cosigner here.
Alternatively, you might want to refinance a student loan in order to release a cosigner from your original loan.
Perhaps your parents cosigned a student loan with you when you first entered college, for instance. If you now have a reliable job and a good financial history, it might be a good idea to remove them as a cosigner. Refinancing can allow you to do that.
7. Can I combine both federal and private student loans?
If you’re planning to refinance both federal and private student loans, you’ll want to make sure that’s possible.
There wasn’t always the option to consolidate federal and private student loans together, but some lenders like Laurel Road and SoFi are now refinancing both types of loans bundled together. This can ultimately help you get a lower interest rate to save money.
Check with the private lenders you are interested in to see how they handle consolidating federal student debts with private loans.
8. Will I need federal student loan repayment options in the future?
If you’re looking into refinancing federal student loans funded through the Federal Student Aid office, you should know what you’re giving up. Federal student loans offer many options and protections that won’t be available if you refinance.
If you refinance a federal student loan with a private lender, you could lose out on options like:
- Income-based repayment plans
- Loan forgiveness programs
- Deferment or forbearance under federal rules
You should be confident that you can keep up on payments both now and in the future before giving up these protections.
9. Does this lender offer flexible repayment options?
While refinancing student loans means you’ll lose access to federal repayment plans, your lender might still provide flexible payment options.
Check to see if they have policies that allow you to adjust your payments if you’ve hit a rough financial patch. You should also ask about their policies and willingness to work with borrowers who are struggling to repay.
SoFi, for example, offers community-funded loans that have flexible options including forbearance and alternative payment plans. Many private lenders will also agree to honor your grace period, so even if you refinance right after graduating you’ll still have those first six months payment-free.
10. What type of support and customer service does the lender provide?
At Student Loan Hero, this is the most important question we ask our banking partners.
As student loan borrowers ourselves, we have worked with banks that provide terrible customer service. A lender like that will add to your student loan stress and make managing this debt a miserable experience.
You will be working with your new bank or lender for the next five to 20 years. Be sure to do your research before refinancing your student loans to ensure that you save money and have no regrets.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 9 lenders of 2021!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|1.88% – 6.15%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.88% – 5.64%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.88% – 5.64%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.50% – 6.85%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.25% – 6.39%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.90% – 5.25%6||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.89% – 5.90%7||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.39% – 6.01%||Undergrad |
|2.13% – 5.25%8||Undergrad & Graduate|
|Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.
Splash Financial Disclosures
Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount
The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.
To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.
Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of June 1, 2021.
2 Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Important Disclosures for Earnest.
Interest Rate Disclosure
Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 2.59% APR to 5.79% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 1.88% APR to 5.64% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 36% (the maximum allowable for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate student loan refinance loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 2.04% and 5.8% to the one month LIBOR. Earnest rate ranges are current as of 6/8/2021, and are subject to change based on market conditions.
Auto Pay Discount Disclosure
You can take advantage of the Auto Pay interest rate reduction by setting up and maintaining active and automatic ACH withdrawal of your loan payment. The interest rate reduction for Auto Pay will be available only while your loan is enrolled in Auto Pay. Interest rate incentives for utilizing Auto Pay may not be combined with certain private student loan repayment programs that also offer an interest rate reduction. For multi-party loans, only one party may enroll in Auto Pay.
Student Loan Refinancing Loan Cost Examples
These examples provide estimates based on payments beginning immediately upon loan disbursement. Variable APR: A $10,000 loan with a 20-year term (240 monthly payments of $72) and a 5.89% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $17,042.39. For a variable loan, after your starting rate is set, your rate will then vary with the market. Fixed APR: A $10,000 loan with a 20-year term (240 monthly payments of $72) and a 6.04% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $17,249.77. Your actual repayment terms may vary.Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest. com/terms-of-service, e-mail us at [email protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
Earnest Loans are made by Earnest Operations LLC or One American Bank, Member FDIC. Earnest Operations LLC, NMLS #1204917. 535 Mission St., Suite 1663, San Francisco, CA 94105. California Financing Law License 6054788. Visit earnest.com/licenses for a full list of licensed states. For California residents (Student Loan Refinance Only): Loans will be arranged or made pursuant to a California Financing Law License.
One American Bank, 515 S. Minnesota Ave, Sioux Falls, SD 57104. Earnest loans are serviced by Earnest Operations LLC with support from Navient Solutions LLC (NMLS #212430). One American Bank and Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
© 2021 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved.
3 Important Disclosures for Navient.
4 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 0.15% effective Jan 1, 2021 and may increase after consummation.
5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
Fixed rates from 2.74% APR to 6.74% APR (with autopay). Variable rates from 2.25% APR to 6.39% APR (with autopay). All variable rates are based on the 1-month LIBOR and may increase after consummation if LIBOR increases; see more at SoFi.com/legal/#1. If approved for a loan your rate will depend on a variety of factors such as your credit profile, your application and your selected loan terms. Your rate will be within the ranges of rates listed above. Lowest rates reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers, or may become available, such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp. or an affiliate (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license #6054612; NMLS #1121636 (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org). Additional terms and conditions apply; see SoFi.com/eligibility for details. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.
6 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of 5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.
As of 04/07/2021 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.90% APR – 5.25% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.95% APR – 7.63% Fixed APR with AutoPay.
7 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
All credit products are subject to credit approval.
Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.
As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.
Assumptions: Repayment examples above assume a loan amount of $10,000 with repayment beginning immediately following disbursement. Repayment examples do not include the 0.25% AutoPay Discount.
Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.
Interest Rate: A simple annual rate that is applied to an unpaid balance.
Variable Rates: The current index for variable rate loans is derived from the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) and changes in the LIBOR index may cause your monthly payment to increase. Borrowers who take out a term of 5, 7, or 10 years will have a maximum interest rate of 9%, those who take out a 15 or 20-year variable loan will have a maximum interest rate of 10%.
KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.
This information is current as of April 29, 2021. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.
8 Important Disclosures for PenFed.
Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Fixed Rates range from 2.89%-4.78% APR and Variable Rates range from 2.13%-5.25% APR. Both Fixed and Variable Rates will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. For Variable Rate student loans, the rate will never exceed 9.00% for 5 year and 8 year loans and 10.00% for 12 and 15 years loans (the maximum allowable for this loan). Minimum variable rate will be 2.00%. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.