10 Essential Things to Ask Before Refinancing Your Student Loans

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Refinancing with Earnest

Refinancing rates from 1.81% APR. Checking your rates won’t affect your credit score.

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Refinancing your student loans can be a smart strategy. You can secure a lower student loan rate, reduce monthly payments, or otherwise renegotiate the terms of your debt.

But like most money moves, refinancing needs to be carefully thought out to ensure it’s the best option. While it might benefit some borrowers, it won’t make sense for everyone.

So if the question “Should I refinance my student loans?” is on your mind, here are 10 other questions you should ask yourself first to make the best decision.

1. What is my main goal for refinancing student loans?

The first thing you need to think about 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 get clear on which benefits are most important to you. Your central student loan refinancing goal will guide your decision 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 figure out what your rates are. Over the past 10 years, interest rates on federal student loans have ranged from 3.40% to 8.50%, depending on the type of loan and the rates offered at the time of origination. Private student loan rates have an even wider range, from about 4% to about 15%.

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 and get a better deal.

The higher your current interest rate, the more you’ll probably benefit from refinancing to a lower rate. You’ll also need to have good credit and to meet the underwriting criteria of the best lenders that refinance student loans.

A lower student loan rate can save you money since it reduces both your monthly payments and the amount of interest you’re assessed over the life of the loan.

3. What are my student loan payoff amounts?

When researching the interest rates on your loans, also note your loan payoff amount — the payment you’d need to make to pay off your student loans in full. It will be higher than the balance displayed on your loans because it includes any interest you still owe.

The total payoff amount for all the student loans you hope to combine through refinancing will be the balance of your new loan.

Refinancing student loans can change your loan terms and monthly costs. If you’re considering refinancing student loans, you’ll want to make sure your new payments will be manageable.

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?

Once you have your payoff amounts, you can use our student loan payment calculator to see what your monthly costs could look like.

Depending on your needs, you’ll want to decide on the right student loan repayment period:

  • A longer student loan term will result in lower monthly payments, which could be important if you have a low income, high living costs, a high student loan payoff amount, or a combination of these.
  • A shorter repayment term will help you get out of debt faster and often comes with a lower student loan rate, helping you get out of debt while paying less.

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 you’re already making extra payments, that’s a good sign you could afford to switch to a shorter repayment period to save even more.

But 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. Will I need federal student loan repayment options in the future?

Are you struggling with payments, do you have an unstable income, or is your financial situation otherwise uncertain? These could be signs that refinancing isn’t right for you, at least not if you have federal loans.

That’s because refinancing with a private lender pays off federal student loans and replaces them with a new private student loan. This action is irreversible and will mean losing access to several important protections granted to federal student loan borrowers.

If you’re looking to refinance federal student loans, you should know what you’re giving up. Federal student loans offer many protections that won’t be available if you refinance:

  • Alternative repayment plans, including affordable income-driven repayment options
  • Federal student 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.

6. Do I have good enough credit to refinance my student loans?

Your credit history will be a core factor that lenders will consider when deciding whether to approve or deny your student loan refinance application. Reviewing your own credit can help you see if you have a good credit score to refinance student loans.

It’ll be easier to qualify for a refinance and get favorable terms if you have good credit. A good-to-excellent credit score is required by most lenders, with minimum score requirements typically set at 650 to 680. Most lenders also tie refinancing rates to credit scores, with the lowest rates extended to borrowers with excellent credit (in the mid-700s and above).

If you know your credit score, you can see the interest rates and terms for which you might qualify. You can view your credit score on sites such as Mint, CreditWise, or Credit Sesame.

Many refinancing lenders will also provide a free soft credit check. This option will generate a student loan refinance rate offer without triggering a hard inquiry on your credit report, which could lower your score by a small margin.

7. Do I meet lenders’ income requirements?

Generally, lenders will want to see that you have a steady income, which will allow you to afford monthly payments and repay your student loans.

Most lenders have income requirements but don’t publish them. As a general rule, an annual income in the range of the national median household income of $61,372 (per the U.S. Census Bureau) will give you a decent chance of qualifying for refinancing, with higher incomes viewed even more favorably.

But income isn’t the only factor that lenders look at to decide if you can afford your student loans. Many will be interested not only in how much you make, but also in how much you owe relative to your pay. This is measured with a debt-to-income (DTI) ratio that finds what percentage of your monthly income goes toward minimum payments on existing debt.

The lower your DTI, the better — a 43% DTI is typically the highest you can go to be considered for new credit, but most lenders prefer a DTI of about 30% or lower.

Use our DTI calculator to find out whether this factor will work in your favor or against you when applying to refinance student loans.

8. Do I need a cosigner? Is cosigner release an option?

If you’re rejected for student loan refinancing, or think that your income or credit score is too low to qualify, don’t give up.

Many lenders will allow you to refinance student loans with a cosigner who meets their lending requirements. Adding a cosigner can also help you snag a better student loan refinance rate than what you’d be offered on your own.

Alternatively, you might want to refinance a student loan to release a cosigner from your original student loan, replacing it with a new loan that doesn’t include the person. 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.

9. Does the refinance lender offer flexible repayment options?

Even if you are confident in your ability to repay your student loans, there are no guarantees in life. It could still be wise to consider refinancing with lenders that offer borrower protections, such as deferment and forbearance.

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, provides unemployment protection on its student loans, allowing borrowers to pause payments in the case of a job loss.

Many private lenders, such as Laurel Road, will also agree to honor your grace period — which, for federal loans, covers the first six months after you leave school. So even if you refinance right after graduating, you’ll still have some payment-free time to get on your feet.

10. What type of support and customer service does the lender provide?

It’s important to get the initial terms and rates right on your student loan refinance. But you should also consider the kind of experience each lender offers.

As student loan borrowers ourselves, we have dealt with loan servicers or lenders that provide poor customer service. A lender like that will add to your student loan stress and make managing this debt a miserable experience.

But a lender with solid customer service can help you manage your student debt more effectively and quickly resolve any issues that might arise.

You’ll be working with your new bank or lender for the next five to 20 years. Be sure to do your research and shop around before refinancing your student loans to ensure that you save money and have no regrets.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 7 lenders of 2019!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.

Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.45% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.99% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.81% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.49% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate 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 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of November 6, 2019, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.

Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.

The information provided on this page is updated as of 11/06/2019. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at hello@earnest.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.

© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.


2 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance: Fixed rates from 3.46% APR to 5.98% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 1.81% APR to 5.98% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 1.81% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 1.81% minus 0.15% margin minus 0.25% ACH discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. See eligibility details. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score. Terms and Conditions Apply. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.

3 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

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. Mortgage lending is not offered in Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association.
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.

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.

FEE INFORMATION

There are no origination fees or prepayment penalties associated with the loan. Lender may assess a late fee if any part of a payment is not received within 15 days of the payment due date. Any late fee assessed shall not exceed 5% of the late payment or $28, whichever is less. A borrower may be charged $20 for any payment (including a check or an electronic payment) that is returned unpaid due to non-sufficient funds (NSF) or a closed account.

LOAN AMOUNT

For bachelor’s degrees and higher, up to 100% of outstanding private and federal student loans (minimum $5,000) are eligible for refinancing. If you are refinancing greater than $300,000 in student loan debt, Lender may refinance the loans into 2 or more new loans.
For eligible Associates degrees in the healthcare field (see Eligibility & Eligible Loans section below), Lender will refinance up to $50,000 in loans for non-ParentPlus refinance loans. Note, parents who are refinancing loans taken out on behalf of a child who has obtained an associates degrees in an eligible healthcare field are not subject to the $50,000 loan maximum, refer to https://www.laurelroad.com/refinance-student-loans/refinance-parent-plus-loans/ for more information about refinancing ParentPlus loans.

ELIGIBILITY & ELIGIBLE LOANS

Borrower, and Co-signer if applicable, must be a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident with a valid I-551 card (which must show a minimum of 10 years between “Resident Since” date and “Card Expires” date or has no expiration date); state that they are of at least borrowing age in the state of residence at the time of application; and meet Lender underwriting criteria (including, for example, employment, debt-to-income, disposable income, and credit history requirements).

Graduates may refinance any unsubsidized or subsidized Federal or private student loan that was used exclusively for qualified higher education expenses (as defined in 26 USC Section 221) at an accredited U.S. undergraduate or graduate school. Any federal loans refinanced with Lender are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment.

All loans must be in grace or repayment status and cannot be in default. Borrower must have graduated or be enrolled in good standing in the final term preceding graduation from an accredited Title IV U.S. school and must be employed, or have an eligible offer of employment. Parents looking to refinance loans taken out on behalf of a child should refer to https://www.laurelroad.com/refinance-student-loans/refinance-parent-plus-loans/ for applicable terms and conditions.

For Associates Degrees: Only associates degrees earned in one of the following are eligible for refinancing: Cardiovascular Technologist (CVT); Dental Hygiene; Diagnostic Medical Sonography; EMT/Paramedics; Nuclear Technician; Nursing; Occupational Therapy Assistant; Pharmacy Technician; Physical Therapy Assistant; Radiation Therapy; Radiologic/MRI Technologist; Respiratory Therapy; or Surgical Technologist. To refinance an Associates degree, a borrower must also either be currently enrolled and in the final term of an associate degree program at a Title IV eligible school with an offer of employment in the same field in which they will receive an eligible associate degree OR have graduated from a school that is Title IV eligible with an eligible associate and have been employed, for a minimum of 12 months, in the same field of study of the associate degree earned.

INTEREST RATES

The interest rate you are offered will depend on your credit profile, income, and total debt payments as well as your choice of fixed or variable and choice of term. For applicants who are currently medical or dental residents, your rate offer may also vary depending on whether you have secured employment for after residency.

DISBURSEMENT OPTIONS

The repayment of any refinanced student loan will commence (1) immediately after disbursement by us, or (2) after any grace or in-school deferment period, existing prior to refinancing and/or consolidation with us, has expired.

POSTPONING OR REDUCING PAYMENTS

After loan disbursement, if a borrower documents a qualifying economic hardship, we may agree in our discretion to allow for full or partial forbearance of payments for one or more 3-month time periods (not to exceed 12 months in the aggregate during the term of your loan), provided that we receive acceptable documentation (including updating documentation) of the nature and expected duration of the borrower’s economic hardship.

We may agree under certain circumstances to allow a borrower to make $100/month payments for a period of time immediately after loan disbursement if the borrower is employed full-time as an intern, resident, or similar postgraduate trainee at the time of loan disbursement. These payments may not be enough to cover all of the interest that accrues on the loan. Unpaid accrued interest will be added to your loan and monthly payments of principal and interest will begin when the post-graduate training program ends.

We may agree under certain circumstances to allow postponement (deferral) of monthly payments of principal and interest for a period of time immediately following loan disbursement (not to exceed 6 months after the borrower’s graduation with an eligible degree), if the borrower is an eligible student in the borrower’s final term at the time of loan disbursement or graduated less than 6 months before loan disbursement, and has accepted an offer of (or has already begun) full-time employment.

If Lender agrees (in its sole discretion) to postpone or reduce any monthly payment(s) for a period of time, interest on the loan will continue to accrue for each day principal is owed. Although the borrower might not be required to make payments during such a period, the borrower may continue to make payments during such a period. Making payments, or paying some of the interest, will reduce the total amount that will be required to be paid over the life of the loan. Interest not paid during any period when Lender has agreed to postpone or reduce any monthly payment will be added to the principal balance through capitalization (compounding) at the end of such a period, one month before the borrower is required to resume making regular monthly payments.

KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.

This information is current as of November 8, 2019 and is subject to change.


4 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.


5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). 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 1.9299999999999997% effective October 10, 2019.


6 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

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 11/07/2019 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.79% to 8.65% Variable APR with AutoPay and 3.49% to 7.75% Fixed APR with AutoPay.

 


7 Important Disclosures for College Ave.

College Ave Disclosures

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.

1College Ave Refi Education loans are not currently available to residents of Maine.

2All rates shown include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.

3$5,000 is the minimum requirement to refinance. The maximum loan amount is $300,000 for those with medical, dental, pharmacy or veterinary doctorate degrees, and $150,000 for all other undergraduate or graduate degrees.

4This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a refi borrower with a Full Principal & Interest Repayment and a 10-year repayment term, has a $40,000 loan and a 5.5% Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $434.11 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $52,092.61. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.

Information advertised valid as of 09/23/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.

1.81% – 6.49%1Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Earnest

1.81% – 5.98%2Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit SoFi

1.99% – 6.65%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Laurel Road

2.43% – 7.60%4Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Splash

2.02% – 7.09%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit CommonBond

1.79% – 8.65%6Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Lendkey

2.74% – 6.24%7Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit College Ave

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality. 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 to help you understand what you are buying. Be sure to consult with 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.